Imágenes de páginas

thority; and in the doctrinal opinions and arguments I have, as far as possible, founded my statements upon the opinions of the most learned and enlightened divines.

I have made use of no tedious exordium or introduction, but have at once entered upon the narrative, in conformity with my intention of attracting the attention of the youthful reader, and to prevent any distaste for what may follow.

If my exertions should prove satisfactory to those friends alone who have honoured me with their wishes, my immediate design will be fully answered: but if they eventually should chance to be more extensively beneficial than I dare venture to conclude, great indeed will be my unfeigned satisfaction, and liberal my reward for whatever trouble I may have incurred. If I fail, I am at least sanguine in trusting that a candid mind, on account of the very subject, will impute the blame to inability and not to inclination.

7, Portman Place,

Edgeware Road,





IN the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes,* king of Persia, Ezra, or Esdras, (a learned and pious Jew, and chiefly distinguished by his great knowledge of the Scriptures, it being said of him, "that he was very ready in the law of Moses that was given by the God of Israel,”) was empowered by a commission from this king and his seven counsellors to return to Jerusalem, with all such Jews as were willing to follow him; the motive of which journey was, to settle the

* He was surnamed Longimanus. Strabo says, it was from the extraordinary length of his hands; but Plutarch affirms that it was from his right hand being longer than his left, or he would have been the most graceful man of his age. This appellation is derived from two Latin words, longus, long; and manus, a hand.


Jewish religion and government agreeably to their original laws. Esdras was descended from Seraia, who was the high-priest of Jerusalem, when it was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, and was put to death by his command. He took with him from Babylon the gifts and offerings which the king, his courtiers, and the Israelites that preferred remaining in Babylon, had entrusted to him for the service of the temple, and which he deposited with the priests upon his arrival in Jerusalem. It is supposed that this Artaxerxes was the same with Ahasuerus, who took Esther to be his queen, in the place of Vashti, and so became friendly to the Jews her people. This supposition appears highly probable from the commission given by this prince to Esdras; for it appears by this, that he had a high veneration for the God of Israel, as, after having charged his officers to furnish the Jews with all things necessary for their worship, he adds, "Let all things be performed after the law of God diligently, unto the most high God, that wrath come not upon the kingdom of the king and his son." Esdras exercised the authority with which he was invested by the commission, faithfully for thirteen years, at the lapse of which time Nehemiah came with a new commission

from the Persian court. These commissions authorized the settling of the religion and government, as directed by the laws of Moses; the appointing magistrates and judges to punish evil doers by imprisonment and confiscation, by banishment, and even by death, according as the extent and heinousness of the crime might render requisite.

Nehemiah was also a Jew that had rendered himself remarkable by his merit and piety, and likewise one of the king's cup-bearers. The privilege of being often near the king's person, and the having it in their power to choose for their addresses the moments in which the king might be best inclined to lend a favourable ear to their requests, whatever they might be, rendered this office of great importance in the Persian court. Nehemiah took advantage of this privilege, not as too many would and have done in similar situations, to satisfy their own lust of power and riches, but to gratify his earnest zeal and love for the country and religion of his ancestors. Some Jews came from Jerusalem, by whom he was informed of its melancholy condition, and the desolating inroads made by its enemies ; that its walls were in a ruinous state, its gates burnt to the ground, and its inhabitants exposed

« AnteriorContinuar »