« AnteriorContinuar »
observe it were confirmed. At their request, Ezra, with his several coadjutors,“ read in the book of the law of God distinctly, from the morning until mid-day, before the men and the women, and those that could understand, and gave the sense, and caused to understand the reading; and the ears of the people were attentive unto the book of the law. When Ezra opened the book all the people stood up; and Ezra blessed the Lord the great God; and all the people answered Amen and Amen, with lifting up of their hands; and they bowed their heads and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” The people were deeply affected with the scene, and they wept when they heard the words of the law. Assured of the sincerity of their repentance, and firmness of their resolutions, Nehemiah, Ezra, and the Levites who taught the people, intimated to them their conviction that the days of lamentation were now passed ; for they were re-admitted into the divine favour, and therefore it was a day for exultation and joy. “ This day is holy unto our Lord ; neither be ye sorry ; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
To-confirm these favourable impressions, and
to render them indelible, a general fast was afterwards appointed and religiously observed. “ The seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquity of their fathers.” The Levites enumerated, in a devout address to their God, the extraordinary blessings and deliverances by which the nation had been distinguished, from the call of Abraham to their return from captivity ; acknowledged the numerous transgressions of their ancestors, and their own ; extolled the patience and long-suffering of the God of mercy, and earnestly prayed that the various dispensations of Providence towards them might not be in vain.
- Now therefore our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all the people, since the times of the kings of Assyria unto this day.” This devout act was succeeded by their public assent to a written covenant to which Princes, Levites, and Priests, had set their seal, “ that they would walk in God's law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and that they would observe and do all the commandments of the Lord their God, his judgments and his statutes ;" that they would break through every evil habit, and resist every future temptation.
They afterwards proceeded to regulate their civil concerns, and to appoint the respective abodes both of priests and people. The rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem. Nine tenths were destined by lots to inhabit the other cities of Judah, and one tenth to continue in Jerusalem. This being the post of the greatest danger, " the people blessed all the men that willingly ottered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem." The walls of Jerusalem were solemnir dedicated with great festivity, and with every mark of grateful joy. They separated also from the Ammouites and Moabites, upon discovering that, by the law of Moses, they were conmanded to be a distinct people. This command was founded upea the refusal of these nations to grut the assistance solicited by the Israelites. upon obeir first approach to the land of Cadzan; but its moral teodency is most obvious. See miai, belog côüged to visit the court of traxerxes ac toe sapu ateu time, the above spartaca vas 200 so complete as the lay had
enjoined; for Eliashib the priest, manifested a partiality for Tobias who was an alien, because by marriage he became related to him. This was resented by Nehemiah at his return to Jerusalem, with great indignation. He corrected other abuses respecting the priesthood, and the observance of the sabbath. He reclaimed also some who had intermarried with the neighbouring nations.
Thus finally was a new æra introduced among this wonderful people. Their religion was restored to its primitive purity. Their former sufferings, and their encouragements to expect future
peace and prosperity, by an observance of the divine laws, at length subdued their minds to obedience; and they made every sacrifice required of them by those pious leaders, Ezra and Nehemiah. As a people they did not return to a state of independence, nor was the royal dignity immediately restored. They were tributary to foreign powers, and they had various connexions with the neighbouring nations; but as a people they remained stedfast to their religious principles. The general propensity to the worship of Idols was totally subdued ; and they became Monotheists in the strictest sense of the
term. To this point all the Dispensations of God were directed; and it is precisely at this point that the sacred history terminated.
The whole current of profane history bears, witness to the permanency of this wonderful change! A people whose ancestors were ignominiously prone to idolatry, through a series of ages, in opposition to every principle of common sense, to the express prohibitions of Jehovah, and to every motive of gratitude or of interest, have continued firm in their abhorrence of idolatry, and in their adherence to pure Monotheism, under every persecution. They have carried their principles with them wherever they were dispersed. They have submitted to every indignity which ignorance or bigotry could inflict, and resisted every temptation to adopt the customs of the nations among whom they. dwelt; and they are, to this day, a monument of the final and permanent efficacy of those means which the Supreme Director employed, completely to separate them from an idolatrous world.*
* See Note L.