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or eighth year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, who came to the throne immediately after him. Such a long space of public tranquility, and the countenance and protection of the civil powers, could scarcely fail of producing confiderable corruption of manners. It feldom happens, at least, that such a long scene of prosperity has been suitably improved. We find the Jews greatly funk in various corruptions when Ezrah came to Jerusalem. They • are charged with mingling themselves with the people of the land, and doing according to their abominations,-taking of the daughters of the land for themselves, and their fons, for wives : So that the holy feed was greatly corrupted; and the hand of the 'princes was high in the provocation. Such universal corruption rendered a reformation highly proper ;-such finful mixtures rendered a separation absolutely necessary.
7. THE Lord, in divine sovereignty, had conferred recent favours upon this sinning people. Artaxerxes Longimanus, who is probably the Ahasuerus mentioned in Scripture, granted unto Ezrah, and the whole Church and nation of the Jews, an edict, attended with greater solemnity than usual; being given by the Persian monarch and his seven counsellors, the highest authority of the empire; and containing more ample grants than those of any former monarch, empowering Ezrah to celebrate the Jewish worship at the public expense; and also, to set up courts of the last resort, according to the Jewish constitution *. Thus was Jerusalem built, not in respect of its walls and bars, indeed; but in respect of its polity, laws, and governours: For it is rule and government that constitute a city. This was the BUILDING OF THE CITY foretold by Gabriel, I prefune; and the commencement of the seventy weeks, or four hundred and ninety years, which should elapse prior to the excision of the Mesfiah.
brate Ezr. vii. 25, 26.
FIFTHLY, The CONFIRMATIONS of this Covenant is the next branch of our subject. And it will be found to have been ratified,
1. By folemn promise, « And Ezrah the priest stood up and said unto them, Ye have transgressed, and taken strange wives, to en: crease the trespass of Israel. Now, therefore, make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers, and do his pleasure, and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives. Then all the congregation answered, with a loud voice, As thou haft said, so must we do t."
2. It was a swORN Covenant, « Then Ezrah arose, and made the Chief Priests, and the Levites, and all Israel, to s WEAR, that they should do according to this word; and they s WAR E.”
f Ezr. x. 10, 11, 12,
3. As Ezrah was well acquainted with the example of the Church in former times, we have reason to conclude, that it was a WRITTEN Covenant, as well as former ones; but, as this circumstance is not recorded, 'we shall not insist on it.
It is now time to finish this subject with a very few REFLECTIONS.
1. THE Church may, -and ought to covenant with the living God, when many genuine faints neglect, or hesitate as to this duty, on the one hand; and enemies make great oppoSition to it, on the other. Not a few of the Jews preferred a place in Babylon unto their own possession in the promised land; and, by this means, deprived themselves of an opportunity of joining in this work: Yea, more Jews probably staid in Babylon than those who returned.
2. GREAT deliverances call for suitable improvement, and grateful remembrance. If persons are delivered by God, is it too much for them to be devoted to him? It was long before the Jews made this return; but providence compelled them to do it at the last.
3. SOLEMN COVENANTING may be perforin<d, when the civil powers of that people who
covenant are of a religion different from that which is sworn to in the facred bond; and
yet . these covenanters may, and ought to be strictdy loyal; giving ready obedience to such magistrates in their lawful commands. This is a case so much in point to present covenanting, that it deserves to be carefully surveyed on all fides. The enemies of the Jews forged an accusation against them, which has frequently been of great service to their succeffors : Said they, If this people be permitted to carry their designs into execution, they will foment rebellion; they will not pay toll, tribute, and custom: But these covenanters gave a practical confutation of this calumny; Thewing, that there is an eternal difference between the caufe of God and that of rebellion ; though the former has been often branded with the name of the latter. A people may be so circumstanced, as to continue under the same engagements to God as did their fathers, tho' they be widely different from them as to their political state. Such was the case of the Jews at this time; and such is our case. In both Churches, tho' the covenanters are sprung froin covenanting ancestors; yet both yield obedience to non-covenanied magistrates; and also proceed in the line of duty by covenant-renovation, altho' they have not the concurrence of the fupreme magistrate. In both cases, covenanters are under great bondage; yet strictly loyal, not for fear of wrath, but for conscience fake.
HIS is the last Transaction transmitted to
us in the Old Testament; but by no means the least signal. The sacred historian ascertains, -I. The Persons Covenanting.-11. The Character of the Minister, by whose inftrumentality they were brought to perform this duty.--III. The Matter of this Covenant. IV. The Manner in which they performed it. -V, The Occasions of this Transaction.-VI. The Solemn Confirmations of it. After a short survey of each of these, we shall subjoin some Improvement.
FIRST, I shall attend unto the PERSONS Covenanting