« AnteriorContinuar »
ON THE COVENANT BETWEEN GOD AND HIS CHURCH,
IN THE DAYS OF NEHEMIAH.
Nehemiah ix. 38. X. I — 39.
THIS is the last Transaction transmitted to us in the Old Testament; but by no means the least signal. The sacred historian ascertains,—I. The Persons Covenanting.—II. The Character of the Minister, by whose instrumentality they were brought to perform this duty.—III. The Matter of this Covenant.— IV. The Manner in which they performed it. —V. The Occasions of this Transaction.—VI.
The Solemn Confirmations of it After a short
survey of each of these, we fliall subjoin some Improvement.
FIRST, I fliall attend unto the Persons Covenanting.
Q^qq 2 1, The
1. Th E first order of persons is, " Our Princes*." This is the fame order with these mentioned Dissertation VI.
2. The "Levites." The whole tribe of Levi, except the family of Aaron. The peculiar constitution of this tribe deserves more particular consideration than I can here undertake. Let it suffice, in this place, to observe, That God took them instead of ,the first-born, and set them apart to the service of the temple; as also, assigned them their talk in instructing the rest of the tribes,—appointing them cities to live in,—tythes for an honourable maintenance, feeing they were excluded from having any inheritance among their brethren. As this tribe was devoted to God's service, Ib it was proper they ssiould be forward in his work. They were divided into three clasies: The first waited on the Priests, the sons of Aaron, to purify the holy things,—to prepare the sliewbread, flour, wine, oil, and every thing else for the sacrifice; and to kill the sacrifices, if there \\ere more work of this kind than the Priests could accomplish. The next class formed the temple choir, consisting of both singers and
• players on instruments. The third are styled poi ters, who kept the doors of the" temple, and had the charge of it; and probably received such oblations as were offered at it.
* Neb. ix. 38.
3- A Third order of persons covenanting at this time are, "Our Priests." This comprehended the whole family of Aaron, even to the exclusion of that of Moses: For, though lie was the first man in the kingdom^ he fullered his seed to link down among the rest of the Lcvites.
■ >•• > ■■ ■ ■ i
4. The next order specified is that of " Nethinims *." This destination is not to he found but in books written after the captivity; for such, I presume, are the books of Chronicles. The order of persons unto which it belonged, however, was much more ancient. They were originally the Gibeonites, who, by fraud, obtained a league with the Israelites soon after they came into the land of Canaan: For which Joshua condemned them to the most laborious offices of the tabernacle; such as, hewing of wood and drawing of water for the sacrifice. But it is conjectured that David added some other strangers to their number, when he appointed them unto the service of the Levites. Those Ncthinims who returned, were certainly the best of that order: The rest having preferred a place in Chaldea unto the service of ■ J . v • • r ■• . >
* Cyrro, Dediti. "Erantque Gibeonita:, qui ob fraudem populo Israelitico facta a Josua servi publici constituti Jos. ix. 21. Et postea Davide ad ininilleriiitn Lcvitarum Deditj, Ezr viii. 2Q." Henjuc. Opitit. in vocem.
the temple; but thofe Nethinims choofe rather to ferve God, in a ftate not greatly different from that of flaves, than (land on an equal footing with the reft of the children of the captivity in Babylon. . Few, comparatively, were of this fpirit, as Jofephus declares.*: The better part being the fmaller number in almoit every order of men.
5. The Nobles of Judah are another order of perfons covenanting at diis time. They appear to have taken the lead in this duty: The reft are faid to cleave unto their brethren the Nobles. This is a deftgnation of g-eneral import; if we confult the Scripture ufe of the term, we will find it applied to a vaft variety of objects. Here it may denote the principal Jews; for it appears that the nobles of Judah, at that time, were ringleaders, like our nobles at the Reformation from Popery, in the ■work of the Lord.
6. Again, the facred hiftorian mentions fuch as " had feparaied themfelves from the people of the land." Their fin conlifted in mixing with them, and learning of them their way: Hence, there was a particular article in this co-venant reflecting their feparation from them. This people entered into covenant with God,
• Joseth. De Bcllo Judaico, Lib. II. cap. xvii.
male and female, their sons and their daughters, w ho had arrived at the exercise of their reason, even such as were capable of doing it with knowledge and understanding.
SECONDLY, I (hall now attend unto the Character of the Minister, by whose instrumentality they entered on this work. The ministers administering it were the Lcvites, indeed; but Nehemiah had a principal stiare in the reformation, and cotenant-renovation which followed it. The congregation was assembled by his orders, and animated by his example. Nehemiah was probably of the tribe of Levi j but, as far as I hav# been able to judge, his genealogy cannot be reckoned. There are other things, however, of which we may be abundantly certain: He filled an high office at the Persian court} and, at the fame time, poflelsed a qualification rarely to be met with in courtiers: He .was frequently employed in ejaculatory prayer, even in the presence of the Persian monarch: He is the most signal example of this duty in all the book of God: His ardour for the welfare of the Church was equal to his piety j and this made him improve his high station for her benefit and advantage. Having obtained leave from Artaxerxes Loirgimanus to go unto Jerusalem, and authority to govern the returned captives, he gave equal proof of his courage and diligence, as well as