« السابقةمتابعة »
ed as a people; or for the sake of injuring the feelings of your brother, who is my particular antagonist in this controversy. His salvation and yours are of great worth, and ought to lie near my heart, like my own salvation, and that of my own people. And how can I close, without reminding you; that if you were of our own denomination, and of our own fa milies, and made such opposition to what we esteem to be fundamental truths of the gospel, we could not but say stand in doubt of you."
ON THE GOODNESS OF GOD, MANIFESTED IN GOVERNING THE HEARTS OF HIS ENEMIES.*
EZRA vii. 27.
Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.
THESE are the words of Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven. The connexion between the text and the context will come into view, under some of the following divisions of the subject. I. We shall inquire into the character of this king. II. It will be shown what he did to beautify the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. III. It will be next in order, to show that it was the God of Israel who put this thing into the king's heart. IV. It will then be proper to notice the feelings which Ezra entertained towards the God of his fathers, in view of the part which He acted in this important affair.
I. Our first inquiry is concerning the character of the king, who is spoken of in the text. The name which the inspired writer gives to this king, is Artax
*This subject is touched upon in the first section of the preceding work but as Mr. B. made the matter concerning divine efficiency, a very capital objection to our scheme of doctrine; and as there are many among Calvinists, who do not appear to have equally clear views on this, as on other points of doctrine, it was thought it would not be improper, and that it might be subservient to the cause of truth, to subjoin the following Sermon to the preceding Vindication.
erxes. He was one of the kings of Persia. This was a heathen kingdom, and they doubtless had a heathen prince. I conclude that none of us has obtained an idea, that Artaxerxes was a man. of grace. There is nothing in sacred or profane history, to lead to the conclusion, that he had been born of the Spirit. And if he was not born of the Spirit, he was never actuated by a holy motive in any thing which he ever did. If he was not a real saint, he was a real sinner. If he did not possess holy love to God, he must have been possessed of nothing better than a carnal mind, which is enmity against God. "They who are in the flesh," (i. e. in a state of unregeneracy)" cannot please God." "Without faith," (even that faith which worketh by love,) “it is impossible to please Him."
II. It will be shown what this Persian king did to beautify to house of the Lord at Jerusalem. The second temple had been finished, and dedicated in the reign of one of his predecessors; but it still needed much improving and beautifying. The Jews were still in a low and dejected state, and needed help. Artaxerxes helped them much. He turned his attention very directly to their religious state, and granted them such aid as they needed to enable them to maintain the worship of the God of heaven. More money was then needed, to set up and maintain divine worship, than under the present dispensation. And money for this object, was by this monarch very liberally bestowed. He threw open his treasuries to the subjugated and despised people of the God of Israel. He exempted all the ministers of the house of God from taxation. He furnished them with sacrifices and offerings in great abundance, for the temple worship. In addition to all this, he sent them the best man which he had in his kingdom-the man whom they most needed; and who mightily helped forward the re-establishment of the captive church. I proceed
III. To show, that it was the God of Israel, who put this thing in the king's heart. So says the inspired scribe of the law of God: Blessed be the God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart. It is important that we carefully inquire what is to be understood by God's putting this thing in the
king's heart. It ought undoubtedly to be understood, that God did every thing which it was consistent for Him to do. Much of the property of the high Possessor of heaven and earth, was at this time in the hands and at the disposal of the Persian monarch. This wealth of the sinner was laid up for the just. The way which now seemed good to the God of Jacob to take, to draw the silver and the gold from the treasuries of this heathen kingdom, into his own treasury, with a view to beautify his house at Jerusalem, was to incline the heart of the reigning monarch to do it as a matter of bounty. The Almighty could have wrested this treasure out of his hands without his consent. But He chose rather to make him willing to bestow it of his own accord. Therefore He put this thing in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the Lord at Jerusalem. This must be understood to mean,
To move without
First, That God so ordained things in his providence, that the motives which influenced the king to do this, should be presented to his mind. Artaxerxes did not act without motives. No moral agent acts without a motive, in any thing which he does. motive, is the motion of a machine, and not of a free agent. Every rational being, whether holy or sinful, when he acts, proposes to himself some object. This object is the motive which influences him to act in such a manner as he does. One motive leads to one action, and another motive leads to another action. According to the perfect counsel of the Most High, He has a way devised to bring to pass all that which He designs should be brought to pass. He has a motive planned out, which will be successful in bringing into existence every moral action which is ever to exist. The king of Persia had a motive for laying out so much expense on the worship of the God of Israel. His governing motive is perhaps found in this verse: "Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven; for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons 2" A fear of God's wrath and not a love of his unspotted holiness, was the thing which probably induced this heathen prince, to beautify his holy temple, and grant relief to his afflicted people. The provi
dence of God was concerned, in placing this motive before his mind. Whatever were the means used to excite a dread of the wrath of Jehovah, the God whom the pious Jews adored, Ezra was disposed to acknowledge the divine hand in presenting the motive. Had not the great Disposer of events presented this, or some other sufficient motive, to his mind, the thing which he did would not have been done.
Secondly. The Lord's putting it in the king's heart, to beautify his house at Jerusalem, must be understood to mean, that He directly inclined his heart to do this thing. That so much must be understood will appear by attending to the following arguments. 1st. This was necessary to his acting at all; for there is no independent action in a dependent creature. "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think any thing as of ourselves: but our sufficiency is of God." 2 Cor. iii. 5. 2dly. This was necessary to insure his acting in this particular manner, so as to accomplish this most desirable object. Other kings upon the same throne had treated the Jews in a very different manner. The same motives for the same treatment still existed. One of the kings, in issuing his decree, to hinder them from rebuilding their city and temple, says, "Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?" This king's heart was no better, and yet he helps the Jews, saying, "For why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?" The motives were both selfish; but it was far from being a matter of indifference to the cause of God, which of these motives should inAuence Artaxerxes. Such a matter it would have been unwise to have left to chance; and there was no way to take it out of the hands of chance, only for God to direct his heart into such a channel as it pleased Him. It was He who inclined the heart of this king, to be gov erned by motives which were favorable to his people. In this way we are to account for his issuing a favorabie, instead of an unfavorable decrec-God put it in his heart-He inclined or disposed his heart to do this thing. In this way also we are to account for it, that he did just so much as he did. The Lord needed just so much done by this heathen prince, to restore his sinking church. Now if the motive, of avoiding the wrath