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life was, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? But there is another empire which he exercises over mankind-it is by the agency of his providence. History is full of this. He can give another heart, when he does not give a new one. Where he does not convert, he can check; he can raise up a diversion; he can indispose the mind by dejection; he can disorder the body; and in consequence of the movement of one of those circumstances which are all dependent upon his pleasure—the whole state of things will be changed. Jacob was convinced of the dominion and influence of God over the affairs, and even the dispositions of men; and therefore, when he was returning home, and had to meet his exasperated brother Esau-though he used all the means which prudence could suggest, he trusted in God for his safety and success: he therefore retired and prayed-he earnestly committed the whole concern to God and behold the result:Though Esau set off with a determination to kill his brother, his heart was softened upon
the road; and he fell upon Jacob's neck, kissed him, and wept. For, “When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him."
IV. It is worthy of our notice, how Nehemiah speaks of the governor of one hundred and twenty-seven provinces—this man. Artaxerxes, it is probable, seldom thought of himself in a manner so humiliating. Grandeur threw around him a lustre which dazzled him; and a thousand flatterers were employed to make him believe he was more than human. But he was really no more than a man. He had only five senses: he was made of the same dust with his slaves; he was
vulnerable, frail, mortal. A pain in the tooth would tell him so; an accident or a sickness would speak out; death and worms would end the dispute. “I said ye are gods, but ye shall die like men."
It would be well for those who are placed above others in circumstances, to remember in how many respects of far greater importance they are only upon a level with them. And it would be weỦ for us all to remember it; for we are prone to idolatry: we are always making flesh our arm; and this leads to a succession of disappointments, by which God says to us, “Cease from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?"
Let us not, however, suppose that Nehemiah “despised dominion, or spake evil of dignities." We are far from supposing that the destruction of the various ranks in society would increase human happiness; and it is certain that the scripture takes these distinctions as they are, and even requires us to "render to all their due: honour to whom honour is due, fear to whom fear, and tribute to whom tribute." It commands us to fear God and to honour the king; and to be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. But Nehemiah was now before the God of heaven and earth: and what is the greatest monarch in the world compared with him? Less than nothing, and vanity. This is the way to reduce worldly impressions: the world strikes and conquers you, when it meets you absent from *God-bring it into his presence-view it thereand what is it? What are the smiles of men to the favour of God? What are their frowns to his anger? What can drive you back from duty while he is near to support you? “I, even I, am he, that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man, who shall be made as grass? and forgettest the Lord thy Maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy: and where is the fury of the oppressor?” When Ahab and Jehoshaphat were going up to Ramoth Gilead to battle, they sat each upon his throne arrayed in their robes. Four hundred prophets appeared before them—but the god of this world had blinded their minds; they could not see afar off: they only beheld these two monarchs, and therefore feared and prophesied smooth things—but Micaiah is called in--and he dares to speak the truth, And what imboldened him? He 6 saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left:” and in view of hiin-what were these two men." Had Moses seen only Pharaoh armed with power and rage, he would have shrunk from the execution of his commission-but he saw a greater than Pharaoh: “By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing him who is invisible,” And what was this man to him? " And I say unto you, my friends, be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: fear him, who, after he hath killed, hath power to cast inte hell; yea, I
unto you, foar him.” Finally, observe how this good man characterizes himself and his brethren-thy servants, who
desire to fear thy name. This is striking--and it teaches us, that modest, diffident language best becomes us, especially before God. Even an Abraham says, “I, that am but dust and ashes, have taken upon me to speak unto the living God.” Jacob
says, "I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies. Asaph says,
So foolish was I, and ignorant, I was like a beast before thee:" and Paul, “I am less than the least of all saints: I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest, having preached to others, I myself should be a castaway
I would rather hear a person expressing an humble hope, than a towering as
Zion's travellers are represented as coming with weeping and supplication. We are now in a world of action and of trial—not of rapture and triumph.
6. Blessed is the man that feareth always.” Even Nehemiah only speaks of his desiring to fear God's name.
Indeed, there are many who must derive their satisfaction from their desires rather than any thing else. They cannot say they do fear him, or love him, or depend upon him-but they know they desire to do it. Well, for all such there is a most encouraging promise: “Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." These desires are proofs of something good, and pledges of soinething better: they are evidences of grace, and forerunners of glory. Desires are the pulse of the soul, by which we may judge of our spiritual life and health. In some respects they are more decisive than actions; actions may be counterfeited, desires cannot: we may be forced to act, but not to will. And therefore let us have recourse to this. Let us observe the prevailing bias of our minds; the direction in
which, and the objects towards which our desires move. Let us examine whether we are not restless after the friendship and image of God. Let us see whether we cannot make the language of David our own: “ As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God! My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation! that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance >>
We may add, that all the people of God, while here, must place their religion in desires rather than action. Let me not, however, be misunderstood. I do not mean to intimate that the desires of the Christian are not active ones-for they are; and in proportion to their degree they will necessarily excite him to strive, to wrestle, to fight, and to use all the means which lead to the end he has in view. And I am sorry to say, that, for want of knowing this, many individuals are deceived to their everlasting ruin_imagining that they have gracious desires, while they are strangers to Christian diligence. Even Balaam could say,
"Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his:" but he had no concern to live their life. Herod wished to see our Saviour work a miracle, but would not take a journey for the purpose. Pilate asked, “What is truth?” and would not stay for an answer. There are many languid, occasional, temporary desires, which are far from indicating the existence of divine grace in the heart. The desire of many is like that of the sluggard, of whom it is