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setting forward of the workmen in the house of the Lord—the laying of the foundation of the temple—and the different effect it produced on those present, according to their experience; then (in chap. iv.) the various acts of opposition of the adversaries, round about, to the workmen by feigned friendship (2-4); by hired counsellors (5); by accusations (6); then by accusation of the city, as a rebellious and bad city (7-16); with the king's answer, and its result, the work stood still.
In chap. v., we have Haggai and Zechariah prophesying (verse 1); Zerubbabel and Jeshua beginning to build the house of God (verse 2). This moves fresh difficulty, but it could not cause them to cease, for the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews. The opposition of Tatnai, the governor, had, however, tried their faith. His letter to Darius drew forth, from the God of faith, an answer from Darius (other than the adversary desired) that the people did well to build, and were to be helped in every way:
Note, here, that Tatnai did but his duty as caring for his master's interest; and that the sanction of Darius, as given, while it spoke of present mercy from God, told of Israel's failure and captive state (chap. v. 3, to chap.
The power and value of the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah is again referred to (verse 14); as, also, the building and finishing of the House, “according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes” (verse 14). The dedication of the house is kept (ver. 16, 17); and the passover and feast of unleavened bread (19–22).
Here in chap. vii.) Ezra is introduced in full, with his description and commission from Artaxerxes. In chap. viij. we have his deliberate gathering of the chief fathers (1-14); of the people and priests; his seeking and obtaining Levites (15--20). Then, his renewal of strength in humiliation and confession, " Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. For
I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him. So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated of us.” His giving in charge what had to be conveyed (24—30); with the record of their journeying mercies, safe arrival, etc. (31—36).
This brings us down to chap. ix.
“Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons : so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.”
This gives the burden of the confession. The effect upon the prophet is very deep; as ever ought to be the case, on the discovery to a holy mind of an ưngrateful return having been made to the God of mercy (see ver. 3—5).
The confession follows.
“And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens. Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day. And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage. For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem. And now, 0 our God, what shall we say after this ? for we have forsaken thy commandments, which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness. Now, therefore, give not your daughters unto their sons, neither také their daughters unto your sous, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever. And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this; should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations ? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping? O Lord God of Israel, thou art righteous : for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in our trespasses : for we cannot stand before thee because of this.”
And the prayer was heard, and the confession accepted: for in chap. x, we find the hearts of the people brought to recognise the evil and to seek to remedy it.
What distinguishes each of these four prophets' testimonies to the value of confession is plain enough.
EZEKIEL, Prophet of God's Strength. He sighs and cries for abominations wrought in the temple in Jerusalem; prays for a remnant to be spared.--No direct answer in full till chap. xi. 17–21.
DANIEL, Prophet of God's Judgment. His confession takes in the sins of all, whithersoever scattered; prays for restoration of the sanctuary, city, and people. Answer: The end of the evil is decreed and measured.
NEHEMIAH, Prophet of God's Comfort (in the restoration of the city). Confession, in a resumé of the detailed thread of God's goodness, and their sins from the beginning till then; the covenant signed with the Lord.
EZRA, Prophet of God's Help. The temple rebuilt; confession of the defilements; the strange wives and mixed seed put away.
The confession in these four cases is not “of” man or to" nan; neither is it the bewailing of the individual
inconsistencies of the confessor. It is in each case the simple and heartfelt sympathy with both the glory of a gracious God and the sorrows of a failed erring testimony, in which their own lots were respectively inseparably bound up; the utterance of a spirit-led servant, or servants, of God. Had they been walking carelessly and heedlessly themselves, they never could have breathed such thoughts; and because occupied with God's glory and their companions blessing, their own hearts were kept from wandering; for both may be true. Present failure unfits for present sympathy with God and His people; and present sympathy with God and His people preserves from individual failure.
(To be continued.)
FRAGMENTS. PROVIDENCE does not guide us—it guides things, and thereby controls us : very precious as regards the hand of God over us ; but this is not the guidance of the Spirit.
TAE white stone and the name written on it, serve to point to a secret communion with Christ, in which none other partakes. Christ knows all His sheep by name, though He makes a flock of sheep.
INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY TO GOD AND CO-OPERATION. When a man's own will is at work, it leads to diversity : when the Holy Ghost is at work, He leads, it may be, different individuals in very diverse ways, yet all in harmony ; and the glory of Christ is the object.
The great secret of guidance is to have the eye really to God.
PROTESTANTISM has made no advance beyond the Council of Trent, as concerns the person, and presence, and work of the Holy Ghost.
RECEIVING BLESSING FROM ABOVE, THROUGH EACH OTHER. Thus the dew of Hermon might hang on each leaf, thereby ministering to the refreshment of the whole tree, whilst the sap was circulating within the branches.
CHRIST is not only the root and offspring of David, the source and the fulfiller of all promises in connection with the earth ; He is also the bright and morning star ; giving us the dawn of the heavenly day.
My desire is to collect from Scripture the instruction afforded in it with respect to heaven, whether we regard it as the present home of our affections, or as our future actual habitation. “ Partakers of the heavenly calling," it is surely well for us to know what is revealed as to the place to which we journey. Already made to "sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus," we are but looking round at the objects amid which abounding grace has already in spirit, and as one with Christ, placed us, in thus meditating on what Scripture reveals of heaven. It is not intended to confine our attention to the passages in which the word "heaven” occurs, or to notice all those in which it does. May the blessed Spirit of God himself direct and control both those who read, and the poor sinner saved by grace, and waiting for God's Son from heaven, who attempts to write on such a theme.
“ In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” These are the words with which the volume of inspiration opens. It is not till we reach the heart of the book, however, that we learn for what ends respectively these separate spheres were formed.
“ The heaven, even the heavens are the Lord's : but the earth hath he given to the children of men” (Ps.cxv. 16). But while such was the general and ostensible design of God, we learn from another Scripture, that what seems an exception to this, viz., the raising of the saints to a placeand such a place !--in heaven, was really the purpose of God before all worlds. In Eph. iii. 9-11, we read of “God, who created all things by Jesus Christ : to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by (or by means of] the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he hath purposed in Christ Jesus.” Thus we see that while, as one has observed, "neither heaven