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erxes. He was one of the kings of Persia. This was a heathen kingdom, and they donbiless had a heathen prince. I conclude that none of us has obtained an idea, that Artaxerxes was a man of grace. There is nothing in sacred or profane history, to lead to the conclusion, that he had been born of the Spirit. And if he was not horn of the Spirit, he was never actuated by a holy motive in any thing which he ever did. if he was not a real saint, he was a real sinner. If he did not possess holy love to God, he must have been possessed of nothing better than a carnal mind, which is enmity against God. “They who are in the flesh,” (i. e. in a state of mregeneracy) “ cannot please God.” « Without faith," (even that faith which worketh by love,)“ it is impossible to please Him."
Il. It will be shown what this Persian king did to beantify to house of the Lord at Jerusalem. The second temple had been finished, and dedicated in the reign of one of his predecessors ; but it still needed much improving and beautifying. The Jews were still in a low and dejected state, and needed help. Artax. erses helped them much. He turned his attention very directly to their religions state, and granted them such aid as they needed to enable them to maintain the worship of the God of heaven. More money was then needed, to set up and maintain divine worship, than un. der the present dispensation. And money for this ob. ject, was by this monarch very liberally bestowed. He threw open his treasuries to the subjugated and despised people of thé God of Israel. He exempted all the min. isters of the house of God from taxation. He furnish. ed them with sacrifices and offerings in great abundance, for the temple worship. In addition to all this, he sent them the best man which he had in his kingdom-the man whom they most needed ; and who mightily helped forward the re-establishment of tủe captive church. I proceed
III. To show, that it was the God of Israel, who put this thing in the king's heart. So says the inspired scribe of the law of God: Blessed be the God of our fa. thers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart. It is important that we carefully inquire what is to be understood by God's putting this thing in the king's heart. It ought undoubtedly to be understood, that God did every thing which it was consistent for Him to do. Much of the property of the high Possessor of heaven and earth, was at this time in the hands and at the disposal of the Persian monarch. This wealth of the sinner was laid up for the just. The way which now seemed good to the God of Jacob to take, to draw the silver and the gold from the treasuries of this heathen king. dom, into his own treasury, with a view to beautify his house at Jerusalem, was to incline the heart of the reigning monarch to do it as a matter of bounty. The Almighty could have wrested this treasure out of his hands without his consent. But He chose rather to make him willing to bestow it of his own accord. Therefore He put this thing in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the Lord at Jerusalem. This must be understood to mean,
First, That God so ordained things in his providence, that the motives which influenced the king to do this, should be presented to his mind. Artaxerxes did not .act without motives. No moral agent acts without a motive, in any thing which he does. To move without motive, is the motion of a machine, and not of a free agent. Every rational being, whether holy or sinful, when he acts, proposes to himself some object. This object is the motive which influences him to act in such a manner as he does. One motive leads to one action, and another motive leads to another action. According to the perfect counsel of the Most High, He has a way devised to bring to pass all that which He designs should be brought to pass. He has a motive planned out, which will be successful in bringing into existence every moral action which is ever to exist. The king of Persia had a motive for laying out so much expense on the worship of the God of Israel. His governing mo. tive is perhaps found in this verse : “ Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven ; for why should there be wrath against ine realm of the king and his sons ?" A fear of God's wrath and not a love of his unspotted holiness, was the thing which probably induced this heathen prince, to beautify his holy temple, and grant relief to his afflicted people. The provi. dence of God was concerned, in placing this molire be. fore his mind. Whatever were the means used to excite a dread of the wrath of Jehovah, the God whom the pi. ous Jews adored, Ezra was disposed to acknowledge the divine hand in presenting the motive. Had not the great Disposer of events presented this, or some other sufficient motive, to his mind, the thing which he did would not have been done.
Secondly. The Lord's putting it in the king's heart, to beautify his house at Jerusalen, must be understood to mean, that He directly inclined his heart to do this thing. That so much must be understood will appear by aitending to the following arguments. Ist. This was necessary to his acting at all ; for there is no independent action in a dependent creature. “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think any thing as of ourselves': but our sufficiency is of God;" 2 Cor. ïi. 5. 2dly. This was necessary to insure his acting in this particular manner, so as to accomplish this most desira. ble object. Other kings upon the same throne had treated the Jews in a very different manner. The same motives for the same treatment still existed. One of the kings, in issuing his decree, to hinder them from rebuilding their city and temple, says, “Why should damage grow to the hurt of the kirg ?” This king's heart was no better, and yet he helps the Jews, saying, -66 For why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons ?” The motives were both selfish ; but it was far from being a matter of indifference to the cause of God, which of these motives should inAuence Artaxerxes. Such a matter it would have been unwise to have left to chance ; and there was no way to take it out of the hands of chance, only for God to direct his heart into such a channel as it pleased Him. It was He who inclined the heart of this king, to be gov. erned by motives which were favorable to his people. In this way we are to account for his issuing a favorabie, instead of an unfavorable decrec-God put it in his heart :-He inclined or disposed his heart to do this thing. In this way also we are to account for it, that he did just so much as he did. The Lord needed just so much done by this heathen priace, to restore his sinking church. Now if the motive, of avoiding the wratis of Israel's God, without any direct agency on the heart, would account for a decree in favor of Israel, still it 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, else unsanctified men would do good, more independently of God than the saints. There is a passage, 2 Cor. viii. 16, which is similar to the text, « But thanks be to God which put the same earnest care into the heart of Titus for you.” Is it not a general belief among 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 io cxercise an earnest care for the church at Corinth ? And did not the same God move upon, and incline the heart of the Persian monarch, to lay himself out to beau. tify the temple of Jerusalem ? Can heathen princes do good to Zion, niore independently than the children of Zion? When these do good, it is God who works in them both 10 will and to do. He is to have the glory of disposing their hearts to do good. Thus David view. ed it, when he and his people inade their liberal and willing offering, for the building of the first temple. He viewed hiinself 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 part which He acted in this important affair. What the Most High did in this affair, was evidently the ineans of brightening, and exalting liis character, in the view of this good 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 of otr
fathers, 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 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 ile 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 supremacy of Israel's God. He was now in a kingdom where the true 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 earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof; 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 Fzra 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 rea. soned thus ; 6. If the God of our fathers, in rememberance of his covenanted mercy, is inclining the hearts of heathen princes who are his enemies, to pity us, and to issue proclamations in our favor, and bestow much of their treasure upon us, how does it become us, his chos. on freople, to be devoted to his service.” This good man selt, that God had laid him under peculiar obliga. tion to be devoted to the good cause, by putting it into