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Nehemiah was a choice soul, a man of a brave public spirit, a man that spent his time, his strength, and his estate for the good and ease of his people. Moreover, says he, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor. Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall, and all my servants were gathered thither unto the work. Moreover there were at my table an hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers, beside those that came unto us from among the heathen that are about us. Now that which was prepared for me daily, was one ox and six choice sheep, also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days stores of all sorts of wine: yet for all this required not I the bread of the governor, because the bondage was heavy upon this people. Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people, Neh. v. 14—19. So Daniel was a man of a brave public spirit; Then the presidents and princes souyht to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom, but they could find no occasion nor fault, forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerninging the law of his God, Dan. vi. 4, 5. Christ had a public spirit; he laid out himself, and laid down himself for a public good. O never leave looking and meditating upon these precious and sweet examples, till your souls are quickened and raised up to act for the public good, more than for your own particular advantage. Many heathens have been excellent at this. Macrobius writes of Augustus Caesar, in whose time Christ was born, that he carried such an entire and fatherly affection to the commonwealth, that he called it his own daughter; and therefore refused to be called the lord or master of his country, and would only be called the father of his country, because he governed it not by fear, but by love; the senate and the people of Rome jointly saluting him by the name of father of his country. The people very much lamented his death, using this speech, ' Would he had never been born, or never died.' So Marcus Regulus, to save his country from ruin, exposed himself to the greatest sufferings that the malice and rage of his enemies could inflict. So Titus and Aristides, and many others, have been famous for preferring the public good above their own advantage. My prayer is and shall be, that all our rulers may be so spirited by God, that they may be willing to be any thing, to be nothing, to deny themselves, and to trample their sinful selves under feet, in order to the honor of God and the public good, that so neither saints nor heathens may be witnesses against them in that day, wherein the hearts and practice of all the rulers in the world shall be open and bare before him that judges the world in righteousness and judgment.
Rem. 6. Seriously consider that self is a great let to divine things; therefore the prophets and apostles were usually carried out of themselves, when they had the clearest, choicest, highest, and most glorious visions. Self-seeking blinds the soul that it cannot see a beauty in Christ, nor an excellency in holiness; it distempers the palate, that a man cannot taste sweetness in the word of God, nor in the ways of God, nor in the society of the people of God; it shuts the hand against all the soulenriching offers of Christ; it hardens the heart against all the knocks and entreaties of Christ; it makes the soul as an empty vine, and as a barren wilderness; Israel is an empty vine, he bringethforth fruit unto himself, Hos. x. 1. There is nothing that bespeaks a man to be more empty and void of God, Christ, and grace, than self-seeking. The pharisees were great self-seekers, and great undervalues of Christ, his word, and Spirit. There is not a greater hinderance to all the duties of piety than selfseeking. O this is that which keeps many souls from looking after God and the precious things of eternity; they cannot wait on God, nor act for God, nor abide in those ways wherein they might meet with God, by reason of self, Self-seeking is that which puts many a man upon neglecting and slighting the things of his peace. Selfseekers will neither go into heaven themselves, nor suffer others to enter that are ready to take the kingdom by violence,as you may see in the scribes and pharisees. O but a gracious spirit is acted quite other ways, as you may see in that sweet scripture, Cant. vii, 13; At our gates are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and old, which I have laid up for thee, O my beloved. All the church has and is, is only for him. Let others bear fruit to themselves, and lay up for themselves; gracious spirits will hide for Christ and lay up for Christ. All the divine endeavours and productions of saints fall into God's bosom, and empty themselves into his lap. As Christ lays up his merits for them, his graces for them, his comforts for them, his crown for them, so they lay up all their fruits, all their loves, all their graces, all their experiences, and all their services, only for him who is the soul of their comforts, and the crown and top of all their royalty and glory. Dev. 2. The second device that Satan has to ensnare and destroy the great and honourable, is by engaging them against the people of the Most High, against those that are his jewels, his pleasant portion, the delight of his eye, and the joy of his heart. Thus he drew Pharaoh to engage against the children of Israel, and that was his overthrow. So he engaged Haman against the Jews, and so brought him to hang upon that gallows that he had made for Mordecai. So he engaged those princes and presidents against Daniel, which was the utter ruin of them and their relations. So in Rev. xx. 7—9. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison. And he shall go out to deceive the na* tions which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and destroyed them.
Now the remedies against this device, are these,— Rem. 1. The first remedy against this device is, £kh lemnly to consider, that none have engaged against the saints, but have been ruined by the God of saints. Divine justice has been too hard for all that have opposed and engaged against the saints, as is evident in Saul, Pharaoh, Haman. He reproved kings for their sakes, saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm. When men of Balaam's spirit and principles have been engaged against the saints, how has the angel of the Lord met them in the way, and jostled their bones against the wall. How has he broken their backs and necks, and by his drawn sword cut them off in the prime of their days, and in the height of their sins! O what a harvest has hell had in our days, of those who have engaged against the Lamb, and those who are called chosen and faithful! O how hath divine justice poured out their blood as water upon the ground! How has he laid their honour in the dust, who, in the pride and madness of their hearts, said as Pharaoh, We will pursue, we will overtake, we will divide the spoil; our lusts shall be satisfied upon them. We will draw our sword, our hand shall destroy them, Exod. XV. 9. In the things wherein they have spoken and done proudly, justice has been above them. History abounds in nothing more, than in instances of this kind.
Rem. 2. Dwell some time every morning upon these following scriptures, wherein God has engaged himself to stand by his people and for his people, and to make them victorious over the greatest and wisest of their enemies. Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries; gird yourselves and ye shall be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand ;for God is with us, lsa. viii. 8—10. Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the Lord, and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth; thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them, and thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel, Isa. xli. 14—16. No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment, thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of, the Lord, and their righteousness is of
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me, saith the Lord, Isa. liv. 17. Now also many nations are gathered against thee, that say, Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. But they know not the thoughts of the Lord, neither understand they his counsel; for he shall gather them as sheaves into the floor. Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion, for I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass, and thou shalt beat in pieces many people, and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth, Mic. iv. 11—13. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people; all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it, Zech. xii. 2, 3.
Rem. 3. Consider that you cannot engage against the saints, but you must engage against God himself, by reason of that near and blessed union that is between God and them. You cannot be fighters against the saints, but you will be found, in the casting up of the account, to be fighters against God himself: and what greater madness, than for weakness itself to engage against an almighty strength? The near union that is between the Lord and believers, is set forth by that near union that is betwixt a husband and his wife. They two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones, "says the apostle. This near union is set forth by that union that is between the head and the members, which make up one body; and by that union that is betwixt the graft and the stock, which are made one by incision. The union between the Lord and a believer is so near, that you cannot strike a believer, but the Lord is sensible of it, and takes it as done to himself. Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Acts ix. 4. In all their afflictions he was afflicted, Isa. lxiii. 9. Ah, souls, who ever engaged against God, and prospered? who ever took up the sword against him, but perished by it? God can speak you to hell, and nod you to hell at pleasure. It is your greatest concern