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NEHEMIAH VI. 3.
I AM DOING A GREAT WORK, SO THAT I CANNOT COME DOWN.
This was the answer of Nehemiah, to those who would hinder him from finishing the walls of the holy city. The time had come, when Jerusalem must be rebuilt. Its walls must be completed, and the worship of God again established on Mount Zion. Much had already been done. But, on account of the greatness of the work, the weakness, and timidity of its friends, and the number and strength of its opposers, it was not completed.
Nehemiah was, in the providence of God, raised up to finish it. And, as God, when he raises up instruments, fits them for their work, Nehemiah was exactly such a man as was, at that time, needed. He was pious, wise, bold, active, and persevering. His ruling passion was love to God; and his distinguishing characteristicks were confidence in him, regard for his glory, and devotion to his will. When he looked over the desolations of Zion, he was pained to the very heart. And, although surrounded with the splendours of a court, he could not rest, till he had made a grand effort to restore her prosperity.
By deep repentance, and humble prayer, he secured
the guidance, and blessing of God. He then took an extended view of the work, and of the means by which he could accomplish it. He also examined the difficulties which he must encounter, and the means by which he could overcome them. He then communicated his designs to his brethren, and persuaded them to engage, with him, in the work. He believed that it was the work of God, and that it ought to be done. He believed that it could be done. And, in the strength of God, he resolved to do it. Under his skilful guidance, his daily prayers, and active labours, the work went forward, and prospered.
But the enemies of this work, when they saw that it prospered, were exceedingly enraged, and resolved, if possible, to hinder it. The means which they, at first, selected, were ridicule, and reproach.
They laughed them to scorn ; and said, “What do these feeble Jews ? Will they fortify themselves ? Will they sacrifice ? Will they revive the stones out of the rubbish, and build the walls of a city? If a fox go up on their wall, he will break it down.'
But Nehemiah went forward with his work. All the ridicule and contempt which they could pour upon him, only increased his ardour. He saw new evidence that the work was of God. And he said to his companions, 66 The God of heaven will prosper us."
His enemies, then, determined to frighten him. They accused him and his companions, of rebellion, threatened to come up and kill them, and thus cause the work to cease. But Nehemiah was not afraid. He could say, “ They that be with us are more than they that be with them.” “ Be not afraid of them,” said he to his companions,“ but remember the Lord, which is great and terrible.” He was not afraid, when engaged for God, to rely
on his protection ; and, in the path of duty, to go forward, and leave the consequences with him. And his enemies saw that all their counsels came to naught.
They then attempted to accomplish their object, by stratagem. They expressed a great desire to have an interview with Nehemiah ; and see if the matter could not, in a friendly manner, be adjusted. They sent messengers, and earnestly entreated him to come down, and meet them in some one of the villages, in the plains of Ono; supposing that if they could only persuade him to come down, they could cause the work to cease. But he knew too well the effect of parleying with enemies, to think of yielding to their request. He therefore sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.” And they sent to him again ; but he returned the same answer. And they sent to him again, and again ; but he returned the same answer.
And the hand of his God was upon him for good, and upon all that laboured with him. He heard their prayers, and blessed their exertions. No obstacles could hin der them, from going forward with their work; and no efforts of enemies could prevent their progress. They continued diligently employed; and the work continued to prosper, until it was finally completed. Then their enemies were cast down in their own eyes ; for they too perceived that the work was of God. One important truth is here illustrated.—A good man, when engaged in a great work, will not leave it.
Let us apply this truth to the present occasion. .
A work is truly great, and in the noblest sense, which has for its object, the glory of God, in the salvation of men : and which, if pursued, will promote this object. And a work is great, just in proportion, as it promotes this object.
Measured by this standard, the work in which the Auxiliary Education Society of the young men of Boston are engaged, is truly a great work.
Its grand object is the glory of God, in the salvation of men.' It is more intimately connected with this object, than was the work in which even Nehemiah himself was engaged. You are raising up instruments, not indeed for the building of an earthly city, although the city of God, and the place of his habitation ; but you are raising up instruments for the building of the New Jerusalem, that holy city, which St. John saw coming down from God, out of heaven, prepared as a bride, adorned for her husband. A voice said unto him, “ Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.” “And he was carried away, in the spirit, to a great high mountain, and he saw that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, and her light was like unto a stone, most precious, clear as crystal. Her wall was great, and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. And the wall had twelve foundations, and in them, the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And the city was twelve thousand furlongs; the length, and breadth, and height were equal. And the wall was of jasper, and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. And the foundations of the wall were garnished with all manner of precious stones. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was paved with pure gold, as it were transparent glass.And he saw no temple therein, for the Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple of it. And it had no need of the sun, nor of the moon; for the glo
ry of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
Such is the city which the members of this Society are building. It is a city which hath foundations ; and of which, the Jerusalem built by Nehemiah, was only a shadow. It is a city which is built of living stones ; and which, when all the cities of this world shall have crumbled into ruins, will stand, in all its magnificence, and glory, " an habitation of God through the spirit.”
The grand object of this Society, is, to increase the number of pious, able, and faithful ministers of the gospel; who shall spend their days, in preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ to their fellow men; ministers who, in temper, and conduct, shall resemble Paul, and all who, in every generation, have followed his example; who have themselves been born of the spirit, who glory in the cross, and by it, are crucified to the world, and the world crucified to them; who determine not to know any thing among their hearers, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified ; and who count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus; ministers who will be able to teach others, with the same teaching which they receive from God; who will not shun to declare all his counsel ; will keep the faith; not count even life dear to them; and, as the Lord shall open the way, will go forth, into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
To increase the number of such ministers is a great work, because,
I. The labours of ministers are the grand means which
II. Of these means, a vast portion of men are destitute.