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persecution.

How some were thereby fitted to bear their fiery trial, and others accumulated their guilt, are plain to all in the lealt conversant with the history of those times. God grant, that a furnace may not be a-heating for covenanters in this finning land; or, if it mult needs be, that covenanting may be blessed to prepare for that evil day.

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I
SHALL pursue our subject, in this Transac-

tion, by attending to the following particulars : I. The Character of the Covenanters.

II. The Minister, by whose ageney they entered into this Covenant-III: The Matter of the Covenant.-IV. The Occasions of it. --V. Its Confirmations.--Then make fome Reflections on tlie whole.

FIRST, I Mall consider the CHARACT E R of the Covenanters: The account of them, which is afforded in the inspired history, is to the following purpose : " They were persons returned from the Babylonish captivity, and engaged in repairing the city of Jerusalem ; but not sufficiently wcaned from connection with Ooo

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the nations : Hence, guilty of affinity to idolaters, so as to expose themselves unto the wratír of God. They were not so hardened in fin, however, as to contemn the warning which was given them from the word of God; but, when they heard the threatening it denounced againīt such an offence, they TREMB LED AT God's WORD. The persons affected at these threatenings were, “ A VERY GREAT CONGREGATION, out of all Israel, of men women, and children ; even such as had rendered themselves obnoxious to them, and these were the Princes and Rulers, the Priests and the Levites, and the people of Israel.” Had not these got enough of the people of the land? Yes, more than enough; but how often have perfons formed connections to their hurt! How often have those who were separated to God affociated with his eneinies? This people, then, were the offspring of covenanting Jews, but chargeable with acting a part altogether wworthy of their solemn engagements, and of their peculiar privileges.-A people, however, that had been endued with the grace of repentance; as well as enabled to make suitable profeflions of it.

SECONDLY, I shall attend unto the ChaRACT ER of Ezrah, who was the Minister in this Transaction. The first notice we have of him is at the Persian Court: Having preferred 2 petition into the king, he found favour be

fore

fore Artaxerxes, his counsellors, and all his mighty princes; and got an edict, authorismg him to lead unto Jerusalem such of the people of Israel, and of the Priests and Levites as had a willing mind for the journey; at the same time, the king was induced to contribute liberally for the service of the temple, and to grant full authority, that whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, be done for the house of the God of heaven. Ezrah bimself was of the facerdotal line ; being the, fon, or grandson of Seraiah, the high-priest, who was Alain by Nebuchadnezzar, when he stormed Jel'ufalem. He was also a person of distinguished gifts and uncommon learning; hence, he was styled a READY SCRIBE of the law of Mofes, which the Lord God of Israel had given *.

Nor

† Scribes appear to have been a particular order of men among the Jews, devoted to literature. Their origin, however, is not easily investigated. Some make it as ancient as the giving of the Law : Others fix it in the days of David ; but Spanheim the elder thinks it was by no ineans fo ancient. Others have brought it as low as the days of Jeholhaphat; while fome carry it still lower, even to the days of Ezrah. But, wliatever be the æra at which this order formally commenced, yet it was always necessary that some persons thould execute this office, even from the time at which the law was committed to writing. The Scribes have been properly enongh distributed into two clafles ; namely, Civil and EccleSIASTIC. The Civil Scribe is inentioned as early as the days of David, 2 Sam. viii. 17. Nor is the Sacred one of a later date, i Chron. xxvii. 32. Of the former there were various ranks, from the common notary to the Ooo 2

piincipal

Nor was his zeal inferior to his abilities. He gave proof of his inclination and capacity, not only in risking a petition to the Persian monarch, but also in taking the lead of the returning captives in a journey of several hundred miles, with out a guard, and in a country infested with robbers and ravenous beafts: And he displayed bis zeal for the interests of religion, by fanctifying a fast at the river Ahavah *, in recommending himself and all his fellow-travellers to the protection of heaven,—their, circum Stances rendering human protection ineligiblet.

principal Secretary of State, who executed civi} deeds according to their dignity and degree. The profeflion of the Sacred Scribe was to make out correct copies of the Scriptures, and to read and explain it to the people. It has been disputed among the learned, If Scribes and Lawyers were of the same order ; or, if they were different ? Spanheim the elder makes them the fame ; Camero, Drufius, and Trigland, as well as Forrester and Chemnetius, make them distinct offices. After all, as the inspired writers ufe the terms promiscuously, this feems to be a distinction without a difference, compare Matth. xxii. 35. with Mark xii. 28. Ezrah got the epithet of a READY SCRIBE. The phrase is analogous to that in Pfal. xlv, J. He was ready to bring forth things both new and OLD; dexterous in declaring the will of God anto the people. It was the duty of Scribes to instruct the people : Hence, the phrase imports the gift of knowledge, and the gift of utterance, which two prehend APINESS to teach.

* Ahavah is a river in the land of Aflyria.

+ Ezr. viii. 22. " For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of foldiers, and horfemen, to help ys against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The land of our God is upon all them for good that seek him ; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake hiin.”

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