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of Isracl's God, without any direct agency on the heart, would account for a decree in favor of Israel, siill is would not make it certain that just so much would be given, as the exigency now required. But if the king's heart was in the hand of the Lord, so that he could turn it whithersoever he would, then he could, not only make him give, but also make him give as much as his people needed.
3dly. The Lord's putting the thing in the king's heart, must include as much as what has been stated, clse unsanctified men would do good, more indepenrently of God than the saints.
There is a passage, 2 Cor. viii. 16, which is similar to the text, thanks he to God which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.” Is it not a general belief anorg'us, that God did something more than to present a motive to the mind of Titus? Was not his heart the seat of divine operation ? Did not God by his invisible agency move upon the heart of Titus, to cause him to exercise an earnest care for the church at Coiinth ? And did not the same Gud move upon, and incline the heart of the Persian monarch, to lay himself oui to beautify the temple of Jeru:alem ? Can heathen princes do good to Zion, more independently than the children of Zio:: ? When these do good, it is God who works in then both to will and to do. He is to have the glory of disposing their hearts to do good. Thus David viewed it, when he and his people made their liberal and willing offering, for the building of the first temple. lle viewed himself indebted to God for the offering, and also for the heart with which to give it. Was not this just as true in application to what Artaxerxes did for the second temple? What he gave was the Lord's, and it was of the Lord that he had a heart to give it. We are now prepared,
IV. To take notice of the feelings which Ezra entertained towards the God of his fathers, in view of the pait which He acted in this important affair. What įhe Most High did in this affair, was evidently the means of brightening, and exalting his characi l', in the view of this goori man. He was filled with a grateful sense of the divine goodness. With a heart full of gratitude, he exclaims, Blessed be the Lord God jour
futhers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart. If the king had been actuated by a holy zeal for the honor of the true God, he would have deserved esteem and thanks. But this would not have diminished
aught of the glory due to God, who, in this case should i have been praised for giving him this holy zeal. If the
king had no real disinterested regard for the church, (which is the supposition we have gone upon,) still the God of Israel was no less worthy of being praised ; for it is certain that lle loved his church, and that in the exercise of love He inclined this heathen monarch, to help it forward when it was in a low state. In this view of the matter, Ezra, this discerning scribe who was instructed to the kingdom of heaven, was prepared to bless, and praise the God of his fathers, because he had put such a thing as this in the king's heart.
The divine agency, which was very apparent in this matter, served to impress upon the mind of this pious instructor in Israel, the perfect suprem.cy of Israel's God He was now in a kingdom where the irue God was not acknowledged; but he saw, to a demonstration, that the kings of Persia were as perfectly under the control of Israel's God, as the kings of Israel.
He saw that their hearts were in the hand of the God of his fathers, and were turned at his pleasure. It no doubt impressed this pleasing truth upon his mind, "The carth is the Lord's, and the fullness thercof; the world, and they that dwell therein," It was calculated to make this declaration appear true : « And he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth."
The view which Ezra had of the merciful agency of God, displayed in his inclining the Persian king, to do so much for the prosperity of the church, served as a stimulous to him. He may be supposed to have reasoned thus ; 6. If the God of our fathers, in remember. ance of his covenanted mercy, is inclining the hearts of heathen princes who are his enemies, to pity us, and 10 issue proclamations in our f..vor, and bestow much of their treasure upon us, how does it become us, his chosen people, to be devoted to his service." This good inan fult, that God had laid him under peculiar obliga(jon to be devoted to the good cause, by putting it inte the king's heart to give him a commission, with such ample powers of exerting himself to revive the sinking church. The good of the church lay near his heart, and the more he saw the power and mercy of God manifested, in causing cren “the earth to help the woman' llie more was he stimulated to holy activity.
From the case ii bich we have considered, we learn, That the friends of God, when they rightly understand the attcr, are pleascd that He governs the hearts, even of his onenica. Ezra was one of the choisest friends of the living and true God : And he had adoring views of Je. liovais, because He had put such a thing into the king's hearicuecause He had influenced and inclined bis heart to make this liberal offering to the house of God. His joy was not abated, nor was his confidence in the goodjess of the divine character in the least degree shaken, hy any doubt arising in his mind, whether it was con. sistent for Godterinio o! the litari of a graceless
It has been taken for granted, that this heathen prince had an unregenerate heart. If so, all his voli. tors were evil, for the vickedness of man in his unregeneracy is so great, that every imagination of the Thoughts of his heart is only evil continually. [Gen. vi. 5 ] If he had not licen recovered by special grace, from the entire depravity of lis nature, the great Searcher of hearts saw nothing in all his costly offerings to his sanctuary, which in any degree delighted Him. He saw that all his motives were wholly selfish; that he had none of that faith, without which it is impossible to please God, and none of that preferring of Jerusalem to his chief joy, without which, all that is done for the building up of the holy city, is totally unacceptable to the great King. And yet Ezra viewed the God of his futhers as moving, and inclining the wicked heart which was evil only and continually, without feeling at all dis. pleased with Him on this account.
He did not say, God cannot be good, if He moves upon the heart of a wicked man,-if He is the efficient, or effectuating cause of sinful exercises.' No, he blessed and praised
the God of heaven, for being the efficient cause of these exercises, without waiting to know that they were holy, as they existed in the heart of the king. If he had been infallibly assured, that Artaxerxes had no disinterested motive in doing what he did, it would not have altered his feelings towards the Lord his God : It would not have abated his love, nor prevented his giving thanks. If he knew, that Artaxerxes did not grant this aid to the afflicted Jews, from any unseigned love to them, or to the God whom they worshipped, but from motives which were wholly selfish, he must feel very differente ly towards him, from what he would have done, if he had believed him to do it heartily to the Lord : But as. coming from God, it made no difference ; for whatever instrument He used to bestow the benefit, whether benevolent, or selfish, the goodness of His motive in bestowing, could not for å moment be doubted. God is good, and the goodness of God endureth con. tinually.
Some of my readers may think, that the reason wly Ezra was not perplexed with the idea, of God's being the efficient cause of sinful exercises in the heart of the Persian king, was owing to his not pausing 10 consider the consequences of such a sentiment. Perhaps he did not think, some will say, that this implied, That the holy God was the efficient cuuse of moral evil.
Let us pause ther, and consider the consequences ; let us see if there be any thing in this sentiment, which will not bear serious thought and investigation. There are but two difficulties that I know of, which are supposed to attend this subject. The first is this; How can God cause these exercises, and yet they be the exercises of another being, and that other being be accountable for them? The second difficulty attending the subject, is this ; That it seems to impeach the character of God, tu suppose Him to be the efficient cause of sinful exercises. To the first difficulty it may be replied:
1. That with God all things are possible. His wisdom and power infinitely transcend the wisdom and power of creatures. It is not among the possibles, to make contradictions harmonize. It i. Bol Lecause the power of the Almighty is in the least we ce limited,
that he cannot perform contradictions. It is not an object of power, to cause a thing to be, and not to be, at the same time. No increase of power has the least iendency to produce this contradiction. But every ihing which is not absolutely contradictious, can be effected by Him who alone doeth wonders. God cannot make vegetables and stones into moral agents, they still remaining vegetables and stones. But it is undoubtedly within the compass of the skill and power of the all. wise Creator, to form a free moral agent. Why should it he thought a thing incredible with us, that God should bring into existence an intelligent being, who should be dependent on Him for his knowledge ; and a voluntary agent, who should be dependent for bis volitions ?What less than this can be meant by his making men after his own image and likeness?
Does it not niean, that Ile brought man into existence an intelligent beins, and that with a character ? But surely, in the first instance, le must have been dependent on his Creator, boil for his intelligence, and his character.Yet it was his intelligence, and his character.
It was Adam who know, and who loved bis Creator. If he could commence his existence with a character, for which he must of necessity be entirely dependent, there is no absurdity in supposing, that he should continue to be dependent for bis character during the whole period of his existence. But to this difficulty we reply,
2. That it is a point which has been understood, and generally consented to, by the people of God from the begivning; That God does work in their hearts to svill ;--that all the holy exercises and desires of their hearts are caused by Him : Yet they have always understood it ; yea, they have been conscious of it, that these exercises and desires were their own. They know that while it is God, who has granted them repentance unto life, it is they who have repented. They know that tho' faith is the gift of God, it is they who have believed; and that tho' the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, it is they who love. They know that it is they who pray; and yet they all consess their dependence on Him to whom they pray, to prepare their hearts. The harmony be