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itself the name of THE CHURCH—the only Church on earth, that it has locked up the precious treasure of the holy Scriptures in an unknown tongue; and a dreadful anathema hano-s over the head of him who dares to
peep into this sacred depositum. The dark times of Popery and the reigns of Manasteh and Amon were, in some respects, analogous j particularly in ignorance of the Scriptures: And the reading of the Scriptures produced' a similar effect in Josiah's time with that at the Reformation from Popery. It was blessed, at both, for awakening unto a dread of'sin, and for exciting unto formal covenanting.
4. God sometimes brings his people into formal covenanting with himself, as the means of preparing them for the day of affliction. He makes some take the faster hold of him, in order to their taking him along with them into the furnace: And others are permitted to aggravate their iniquities by a pretending to take hold of him, when, in fact, they are about to renounce him, and he is about to punish them for their apostacy and deceit, that they may fill up the measure of their iniquity. This people was just on the brink of the Babylonish captivity: And the people of our own land covenanted but a little before they were cast into the furnace of a long and grievous
persecution. How some were thereby silted to bear their fiery trial, and others accumulated their guilt, are plain to all in the least conversant with the history of those times. God grant, that a furnace may not be a-heating for covenanters in this sinning land; or, if it must needs be, that covenanting may be blessed to prepare for that evil day.
ON THE COVENANT
Between God And His Church,
IN THE DAYS OF EZRAH.
I SHALL pursue ovtr subject, in this Transaction, by attending to the following particulars :—I. The Character of the Covenanters. —II. The Minister, by whose agency they entered into tbis Covenant.—III: The Matter of the Covenant.—IV. The Occasions of it.—V. Its Continuations.—Then make some Reflections on the whole;
FIRST, I shall consider the Character. of the Covenanters." The account of them, which is aiforded in the inspired history, is to the following purpose: "They were persons returned from the Babylonish captivity, and engaged in repairing the city of Jerusalem j but not sufficiently weaned Jirom connection with # Ob© the the nations: Hence, guilty of affinity to idolaters, so as to expose themselves unto the wrath of God. They were not so hardened in iin, however, as to contemn the warning which was given them from the word of God; but, when they heard the threatening it denounced against such an offence, they Trui-b1,ed At God's Word. The persons affected at these threatenings were, "a Very Great Congregation, out of all Israel, of men women, and children -y even such as had rendered themselves obnoxious to them, and these were the Princes and Rulers, the Priests and the Levites, and the people of Israel." Had not these got enough of the people of the land? Yes, more than enough j but how often have persons formed connections to their hurt! How often have those who were separated to God associated with his enemies? This people, thcnT were the offspring of covenanting Jews, but chargeable with acting a part altogether unworthy of their solemn engagements, and of their peculiar privileges.—A people, however, that had been endued with the grace of repentance; as well as enabled to make suitable professions of it.
SECONDLY, I shall attend unto the ChaRAct Er of Ezrah, who was the Minister in this Transaction. The first notice we have of him is at the Persian Court: Having preferred a. petition unto the king, he found favour before fore Artaxerxes, his counsellors, and all his mighty princes; and got an edict, authorising him to lead unto Jerusalem such of the people of Israel, and of the Priests and Levites as had a willing mind for the journey; at the fame time, the king was induced to contribute liberally for the service of the temple, and to grant full authority, that whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, be done for the house of the God of heaven. Ezrah himself was of the sacerdotal line; being the. son, or grandson of Seraiah, the high-priest, who was stain by Nebuchadnezzar, when he stormed Jerusalem. He was also a person of distinguished gifts and uncommon learning; hence, he was styled a Ready Scribe of the law of Moses, which the Lord God of Israel had given*.
\ Scribes appear to have been a particular order of inen among the Jews, devoted to literature. Their origin, however, is not easily investigated. Some make it as ancient as the giving ot" the Law: Others six it in the days of David; but Spanheim the elder thinks it was by no means so ancient. Others have brought it as lowas the days of Jehosliaphat; while some carry it still lower, even to the days of Ezrah. But, whatever be the sera at which this order formally commenced, yet it was always neceilary that some persons should execute this oflicc, even from the time at which the law was committed to writing. The Scribes have been properly enough distributee! into two clafles; namely, Civu. and EccleSiastic. The Civil Scribe is mentioned as early as the days of David, 2 Sam. viii. 1 7. Nor is the Sacred one of a. later date, 1 Chron. xxvii. 32. Of the former there *y&rc--yarious ranks, from the common notary to the O o o 2 principal