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cured without resenting it, endeavouring to remove it, and Iabotrring to the utmost to promote his glory.
4. It is a great satisfaction to good men that the Lord reigneth; since the greatest of men are easily imposed upon, and liberty stands but on a weak foundation. This idle, false letter answered the end designed by it: the king of Persia ordered the buildings to cease, because the city had an ill name, and several hundred years before there had been mighty kings in it. Kings must often see with other men's eyes, and therefore are liable to judge wrong: false representations of things are often made to them, and therefore appear in a partial light. Let us therefore rejoice in God's universal government and influence over the spirits of princes j and seek to him for the continuance of our liberties, civil and religious, and in the enjoyment ef them endeavour to lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty.
In the last chapter the Jews -were discouraged from building the temple, through the misrepresentations of their enemies j but here we find the work going on again'.
1 r | ^ HEN the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah
JL the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that [wore] in
2 unto them.* Th«n rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealliel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which [is] at Jerusalem: and with them [were] the prophets of God helping them ; attending the building every day, assuring them of God's protection, and animating them by pious distourses and predictions. Upon this it is probable the Samaritans renewed their complaints against them to Tatnai, who was governor ef this province under the Persian king.
3 At tl>e same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this
4 house, and to make up this wall? Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building I The meaning of this is, we told them not only of our commission, but of the persons who were employed, and gave them
5 a list of their names. But the eye of their God, his particular providence, was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then
. they, Darius and his council, (ch. vi. 6.) returned answer by let. ter concerning this [matter.]
• Artaxerxcs was dead, yet they neglected the building; ut*>n which Gnd smote Them with barrenness in the land; the harvests and the vineyards failed; God salt his prophets Haggai and Zechariah to inform them of the cause of this calamity *, and to quicken them ta the worK, they assured them of Gsi'i presence andfavour. and of prosperity both in the builds uiji lull Ul tu» country.
■ 6 The copy of the letter that Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and his companions the Apharsachitcs, which [were] on this side the river, sent unto Darius the king. It contains no slander or misrepresentation, butftlain information of a matter of fact, and an honest inquiry about their commission:
7 They sent a letter unto him, wherein was written thus; Unto
8 Darius the king, all peace. Be it known unto the king, that having heard complaints that the Jews were building and fortifying their city, we went into the province of Judea, to the house of the great God, which is builded with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goeth fast on, and prospereth
9 in their hands. Then asked we those elders, [and] said unto them thus, Who commanded you to build this house, and to
10 make up these walls? We asked their names also, to certify thee, that we might write the names of the men that [were]
11 the chief of them. And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up; this was a particular and a modest answer, without any complaint of the oppositions and s/an
12 ders of their enemies. But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven unto wrath, he gave them into the hand ©f Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house, and carried the people away into Babylon.
13 But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon, [the same]
14 king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God. And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house ef God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that [was] in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those did Cyrus the king take out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto [one,] whose name [was] Sheshbazzar, whom he
15 had made governor; And said unto him, Take these vessels, go, carry them into the temple that [is] in Jerusalem, and let
16 the house of God be builded in his place. Then came the same Sheshbazzar, in consequence of this decree, [and] laid the foundation of the house of God which [is] in Jerusalem. And since that time even until now Hath it been in building, and [yet] it is
IT not finished. Now therefore, if [it seem] good to the king, let there be search made in the king's treasure house, which [is] there at Babylon, whether it be [so,] that a decree was made ©f Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter.*
1. rT,HE prophets of God should be very solicitous to build bis
J. house, and animate others to it. Thus Zechariah and
Haggai did. When the number of worshippers, especially of those
• Here it will be proper to read the whole prophecy or FUffrai, and the beginning ofZccfc* viah, which are the beu ouuncnti on this piU of the hittoiy.
•who join themselves to the Lord in covenant, increases, when religion revives, and sinners are converted, and saints grow in knowledge and piety, then the building of the spiritual temple goes on and prospers. God's ministers should be greatly concerned about this themselves, and every one should join hand in hand to promote it; thos^ in private stations of life, by exhorting one another daily, end animating each other to every good word and work.
2. The zeal of one or two good men employed in the service of Cod, may be of extensive and lasting benefit; the zeal of these two prophets brought the work about. And this answers those objections generally made against such zealous attempts, that we are too few, and that it will signify nothing. It is our duty to exert ourselves; we know not what God may do for us or by us. The greater negligence there is in others, the greater zeal we ought to show. We shall probably be successful ; but if not, we shall in no vast loose our reward; for God will remember all our works of faith, and labours of love.
3. Success in all our undertakings, especially in those for the divine honour, must be ascribed to the eye of God upon us. He restrains our enemies, turns their hearts, quickens our own spirits, and makes the work prosperous. If we thrive in business, if our fortune grows, it is to be ascribed to God ; especially if religion increases in our souls, or families, or neighbourhood, divine grace is to be thankfully owned. Let us be sensible of our dépendance upon God; abound in prayer, and seek assistance and success from him, who is the author of every good and fier fee t gift.
4. We are taught to speak of God in expressions of humble veneration, and never be ashamed of doing this before strangers or enemies. The Jews here did so, saying, T ht great God, the God of hesven and earth. It is a prevailing iniquity of the present day that the name of God is profaned, and used very lightly, or irreverently, even by some who would dread an oath. It is good to keep up a continual reverence of him, and to teach our children to use his name with awe and solemnity ; for he is great, and greatly to te feared.
5. The servants of God should never be ashamed to own their relation to him. The Jews here acknowledged themselves to be so before these men. We have no reason to be ashamed of it; for it is indeed our greatest honour. Sinful shame is the greatest enemy to our own progress in religion, and the support of it in the world; and therefore should be diligently guarded against. When the honour of God is concerned, the righteous shtulcl be bold as a ficn.
6. An humble sense of those sins which have brought afflictions upon us, should be retained when the afflictions-are graciously removed, as the Jews did, т». 12. It is good to remember former follies and iniquities, in order to keep «is humble, and thankful for divine goodness in removing our afflictions, and to teach us to be candid and compassionate to others.
7. Let us, as St. Peter exhorts, be vrillmg to give a reason for our feligious conduct and Ao/ie viith mccknctt andftar. With meekness и opposed to resentment, and with fear as opposed to rashness and •buse, and thereby giving our enemies an handle against us. The Jew» here give a particular account of their principles, their relation to God, the intent of their building, &c. and thus should we be ready to do, endeavouring to understand our religious principles, the rea« eon of our faith and hope, and conduct, and give them with all meekness and charity, without abusing and reviling others. This will be to the honour of our profession, and give those who differ from us a better opinion of our principles and practice.
8. We learn to report the principles and actions of others with great candour, however their religious sentiments may differ from ours. Thus Tatnai, though a heathen, was an equitable, generous man, and made a fair representation of the state and principles of the Jews; neither reviling, nor 'slandering, nor misrepresenting them. It is much to be wished that all Christians were as careful Bot to misrepresent their differing brethren. The plague of the church, and the ruin of charity and good neighbourhood, has been occasioned in a great measure by misrepresenting those who differ from us, and ascribing to them principies or consequences which they do not hold. It is lamentable that the zealots of all parties haVe got such a trick of lying for the truth. Let us avoid and abhor this ; speak the truth in love, and be always ready to do to others, as we would have them do to us.
We had an account in the former thaftter of T'aima1» letter to Darita> and have htre the effect of it.
\ rTHHEN Darius the king made a decree, and search was made JL in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up
2 in Babylon. And there was found at Achmetha, or, Ecbatant, in the palace that [is] in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein [was] a record thus written. It via» an instance of Da-* i ¡u.' wisdom and goodnctt, that he did not presently issue a decree against them) but, as the roll was not found at Babylon, he ordered
Z further inquiry to be made. In the first year of Cyrus the king-, [the same] Cyrus the king made a decree [concerning] the bouse of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid ; the height thereof three score cubits, [and] the
4 breadth thereof three score cubits; [With] three rows of great stones, pillars to tufifiort the building, or the apartments adjoining, and a row of new timber; and let the expenses be given out of
5 the king's house :• And also let the golden and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took forth out of
• It appears from hence that Суп» ordered it to be baut at hi» own charge ; botth* ]«« did not make use of his bounty, kst they should offend ihe Samaritans. It was carried ««Uicir own cotí till Uwiiis renewed the grant cut ol the public revenue.
tbe temple which [к] at Jerusalem, and brought unto
Ъе restored, and brought again unto the temple which [i»} at
Jerusalem, [every one] to his place, and place [them] in the
6 house of God. Now [therefore,] Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which [are] beyend the river, be ye far from thence:
Т Let the work of thie house of God alone ; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place; gfvt the Jews no disturbance, but suffer, yea and assist
Л them, to hiatrl the house on the old spot. Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews, whose name* had been given in to the king, for the building of this house of God : that of the king's goods, [even] of the tribute beyond the rivsr, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they
9 be not hindered ; furnish thtm with materials and money. And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which [are] at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day with
10 out fail: That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons; which, no doubt they did; and it is remarkable that the reign of this king was a long one, thirty six: ytars, and very firos
\ \ fierous; and the croron continued long in his family. Also I have made a -decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this; •whoever acted contrary to this decree, Vms to be hanged at his опт
12 Лог, and his house destroyed and never rebuilt. And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people that shall put to their hand to alter [and] to destroy this house of God which [is] at Jerusalem- I Darius have made a dccree; let it be done with speed.*
13 Then Tatnaî, governor on this side the river, Shetharboznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the
'14 king had sent, so they did speedily. And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Idclo; these flrofhets encouraged them by representing the wonderful goodness of God in exciting the king of Persia to she-w them such favour. And they bttilded, and finished [it,] according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cy15 rus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. And this house was finished он the third day of the month Adar, whîch was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king, about four years after the decree; they were in all near twenty yeqr* about it, the work being retarded by the treachery of the Persian
* This ¡i a very remarkable addition ; he pronounce« an imprecation on those ktnp arA giecplr 'Ьд should obstruct the work, \vhom he could not restrain by his authority , *nd be «hciyiic bound bu »accesión to observe his decree, und encourage the« people.