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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Nehemiah 6

 

 


Verse 3-4

DISCOURSE: 442

NEHEMIAH’S FIRMNESS

Nehemiah 6:3-4. I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.

NEVER can we be sufficiently thankful for the records which are given us respecting the saints of old. When we are put into arduous circumstances ourselves, and see the line of conduct which is required of us, we are ready to think that the requisition is impracticable. But when we behold others, in similar circumstances, approving themselves faithful to their God, we are encouraged, and emboldened to undertake whatever may come before us in the path of duty. Nehemiah, having received from the Persian monarch authority to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, addressed himself to the work with zeal and diligence. But he was not suffered to proceed any long time unmolested in his career. A conspiracy was formed against him, and every effort which malignity could suggest was used to impede him in his sacred course. How he baffled the attempts of his enemies we are told in the passage now before us: from whence I shall take occasion to shew,

I. What efforts men will make to divert us from the service of our God—

It may be asked, What have we to do with the facts which are here recorded? I answer, They were all of a typical nature, intended to shadow forth the opposition which would be made to the cause of God in every age. The city of our God is erecting continually; and the builders are continually obstructed in their work by the enemies of our God and his Christ: and, as in the instance before us, those enemies will endeavour to prevail,

1. By artifice—

[Four different times did Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arabian propose to Nehemiah some artifice whereby they might ensnare him to his destruction. And every species of device will the enemies of Christ contrive and execute, to divert his servants from the duties in which they are engaged. Proposals, in appearance the most friendly, shall be made, to draw them aside, and to ensnare their feet. Those who never took any interest about them in their unconverted state, will now express great anxiety to recover them from their supposed errors, and to restore them to the ways which they have forsaken — — —]

2. By intimidation—

[Parents and governors, who never offered so much as a word of advice to us to serve and honour God, will interpose their authority to keep us from serving him, the very instant that we should shew ourselves on the Lord’s side. Even at this present hour, notwithstanding the liberality which men profess on the subject of toleration, it is no uncommon thing for those who are possessed of power to use their influence, in an arbitrary and tyrannical way, for the suppression of religion: and the more nearly they are related to us, the more decided will they be in their efforts: “our greatest foes will generally be those of our own household” — — —]

3. By ridicule—

[This is a weapon capable of being used by all: and all will have recourse to it, in order to expose to derision the most sacred characters. The enemies of Nehemiah ridiculed his efforts, saying, that “if but a fox should run up the wall which the Jews were constructing, he would throw it down.” Thus will every thing that can bring odium upon us be reported concerning our principles and conduct: nor will any rank in society, any eminence of attainments, any wisdom of deportment, or any purity of manners, screen us from the envenomed shafts of ridicule and contempt — — —]

But in the example of this holy man we see,

II. In what manner we should withstand them—

Two things in particular I would notice:

1. His wisdom—

[He saw through the veil by which these hypocrites sought to cover their designs: but he forbore to bring any accusation against them, lest he should only inflame and irritate their minds, which he wished rather to soothe and to compose. But he appealed to them respecting the importance of prosecuting without intermission the work in which he was engaged: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.”

And are not we “doing a great work?” What, in the whole world, can be compared with that in which we are engaged, and on which an eternity of happiness or misery altogether depends? — — — If it be said, that a compliance with the habits of the world will not impede our spiritual progress, I utterly deny it: for if that be the case, why are we forbidden to be conformed to this world [Note: Romans 12:2.]? Why is it said, that “if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him [Note: 1 John 2:15-16.]?” What truth would there be in this assertion, that the friendship of the world is enmity against God; and that whosoever even desires to be the friend of the world, he is thereby constituted the “enemy of God [Note: James 4:4. The Greek.]?” The person who duly improves “the cross of Christ, is crucified to the world [Note: Galatians 6:14.].” To “serve God and mammon” too is impossible [Note: Matthew 6:24.]: and therefore the answer of Nehemiah is exactly suitable for us: “Why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” — — —]

2. His firmness—

[Four different times did these crafty enemies renew their attempts; and Nehemiah answered them continually to the same effect. He would not enter into disputations with them, but contented himself with such an answer as they could most easily appreciate, and such an one as ought to satisfy their minds. Thus it becomes us also to act. However frequent or continued the efforts of men are to turn us from God, we must withstand them all: and it will be well to keep in our stronghold, and not to descend into the field of controversy with them. Here is a plain fact, which they easily comprehend, and cannot possibly deny: the work of salvation is, beyond all comparison, more important than any other that can be proposed to us; and nothing under heaven ought to be suffered to interfere with it. This is so plain and acknowledged a truth, that no one can withstand it. Men may dispute about the principles of the Gospel; but this admits of no dispute. Here, therefore, we should do well to take our stand; and, by whomsoever we are assaulted, to maintain our ground. An appeal, so made, must at last carry conviction with it, and silence our most inveterate opposers.]

Let us learn from hence,

1. What we are to expect, if we will serve our God—

[“All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” It is in vain to imagine that we shall escape. Ungodly men hate the light as much as ever: and as, in the days of Ishmael, he who was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now, and ever will be, as long as there shall be an ungodly man upon earth. If, then, you will set yourselves to serve the Lord, prepare your souls for temptation [Note: Ecclesiastes 2:1.] — — —]

2. How we must act, if we will approve ourselves to him—

[We must yield to no artifice, no intimidation whatever. Whether persons come to us in the garb of friends or of foes, our plain answer must be, “Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye [Note: Acts 4:19.].” If we “love even life itself” in comparison of Christ, “we shall lose it” for ever [Note: Matthew 10:39.]: “We must be faithful unto death, if ever we would attain a crown of life [Note: Revelation 2:10.]” — — —]


Verse 11

DISCOURSE: 443

CHRISTIAN FIRMNESS

Nehemiah 6:11. And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.

WHOEVER examines the character of the primitive saints, will see, without fail, how religion dignifies and ennobles the mind of man. It gives to its possessor a superiority above all the common interests of time and sense, and enables him, under the most trying circumstances, to act as in the immediate presence of his God. His efforts to honour God will necessarily involve him in difficulties: but these difficulties will only elicit his true character, and display the efficacy of the grace he has received.

Nehemiah had engaged in the arduous work of rebuilding Jerusalem. In this he was opposed by the enemies of the Jews, who sought, by every artifice, to weaken his hands, and divert him from his purpose. At last a person, from whom he might have hoped better things, Shemaiah by name, and who, it should seem, professed himself a prophet, concurred with his enemies in a plot against him, and, under a specious plea of consulting his safety, proposed to hold converse with him in the temple, where he would be out of the reach of those who sought his life. But Nehemiah, either suspecting treachery, or, at all events, seeing what advantage such a measure would give to his enemies to reproach him for cowardice, and for a distrust of God, indignantly rejected the proposal in the terms which I have just read.

Now, without confining myself to this particular occurrence, I will take occasion from it to set before you,

I. The subtlety with which our great adversary will assault us—

You cannot but see how specious was the proposal made to Nehemiah. It was an undoubted fact, that his enemies sought his life: and to go into the temple for safety seemed a very prudent measure. But it was a temptation cast in his way by the enemies of God. And thus, our great adversary endeavours to take advantage of us in a great variety of ways, if by any means he may prevail upon us to act in a way unworthy of the Christian chamber. He will propose to us,

1. To neglect our social duties, with a view to the furtherance of our spiritual welfare—

[This is a common temptation; and extremely specious. For, who can doubt the superior importance of eternal things above those which are merely temporal? Consequently, it may be thought that the less important duties may give way to those which are of paramount consideration. Thus many, especially in younger life, will vindicate their neglect of those offices which their station in society has imposed upon them, thinking it a sufficient excuse to say that they were seeking the advancement of their eternal interests. The apprentice or the servant will be attending upon religious ordinances in public or private, when he should be executing the business of his own particular calling; imagining that his zeal for the one employment will justify his neglect of the other. Nor is it uncommon for students to inquire, whether their desire to qualify themselves for the ministerial office by one line of study will not justify their neglect of those studies which their collegiate course marks out for them, and academic discipline indispensably requires. But all such desires are founded in error. They proceed on the idea that our social and religious duties oppose each other; whereas activity in temporal concerns will not at all abate or interfere with fervour of spirit in the Lord’s service [Note: See Romans 12:11.]: on the contrary, in discharging our duty to man, we do, in fact, fulfil our duty to God: and whilst, in relation to one set of duties, we say, “These ought ye to have done,” we must with equal decision add, in reference to the other, “These ye are not to leave undone [Note: Luke 11:42.].”]

2. To conform to the world, with a view to conciliate their regard—

[This also is specious, and very commonly proposed. But it is as erroneous as the former; for, however much we may conform to the world, we can never draw them to the love of true religion: on the contrary, we shall rather confirm them in their persuasion, that religion does not require that measure of spirituality which the saints of old maintained. Our Lord says; “If ye were of the world, the world would love its own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you [Note: John 15:19.].” But, whilst he here acknowledges that a conformity with them will disarm a measure of their enmity, does he recommend the adoption of such a plan? No: he inculcates the very reverse. Whether men will hate us or not, our walk must be the same: we must not accommodate ourselves to their wishes, but to God’s commands: and he says, “Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed in the renewing of your minds, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God [Note: Romans 12:2.].”]

3. To use undue means with a view to the attainment of some desirable end—

[Safety was desirable to Nehemiah: but, to secrete himself in the temple was not a right method of obtaining it. Such a step would have argued a distrust of God’s power to preserve him in the way of duty, and would have given great occasion of triumph to his enemies [Note: ver. 13.]. Thus there may be many objects which may be desirable in themselves, which yet we must not seek by any sacrifice of duty or conscience. Let it be granted, that there is some great danger to be avoided, or some valuable blessing, say, the preservation of life itself, to be acquired; still the maintenance of strict integrity and of a good conscience must be preferred: nor must we suffer ourselves to be diverted so much as an hair’s breadth from the line of duty, for the attainment of any object under heaven. Uzzah has taught us this. To keep the ark from falling was good: but he, not being a Levite, had no right to touch it: and God, in striking him dead upon the spot, has shewn us, that, on no occasion whatever, are we at liberty to “do evil, that good may come [Note: Romans 3:8.].” Our answer to every temptation must be, “Shall I go into the temple to save my life? I will not go in.”]

The greater the subtlety of Satan is, the greater should be our vigilance, and the more immovable.

II. The firmness with which we should resist him—

The direction given us is, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you [Note: James 4:7.].” And, as a pattern of firmness, we cannot have a better example than that before us: “Shall such a man as I flee?” a man invested with authority? a man engaged for the Lord? a man in whom any act of cowardice will be productive of the most injurious effects? “I will not go into the temple, even though it be to save my life.” Now, thus should we set the Lord ever before us; bearing fully in mind,

1. Our relation to him—

[Shall such a man as I yield to temptation of any kind? I, a servant of the living God? I, who profess myself to be a child of God? Nothing shall ever induce me to violate my duty to my heavenly Father, or to walk in any respect unsuitably to the relation I bear to him. God helping me, I will walk worthy of my high calling: and whoever he be that would seduce me from my duty, even though he were my dearest friend, I will spurn at his advice with honest indignation, and reject it with the utmost abhorrence [Note: Genesis 39:9.].]

2. Our obligations to him—

[What do I owe to Almighty God, who gave his only-begotten Son to die for me, and to reconcile me to himself by his vicarious sacrifice upon the cross? And shall I, for any temporal advantage, offend his Divine Majesty? Shall I distrust his care of me, or be afraid to suffer for his sake? Abhorred be the thought! Let me only know the path of duty; and no consideration under heaven shall divert me from it. Let those who know nothing of redeeming love please themselves, if they will: but so will not I: I will strive only to please my God, and to “render unto the Lord according to the benefits he has conferred upon me.”]

3. Our expectations from him—

[Here am I, not only a candidate for heaven, but, through grace, an expectant of it. I see crowns and kingdoms reserved for me in a better world. And shall I cast them all away? What carnal gratification can ever be put in competition with the glory that is prepared for me? or what temporary gain be weighed in the balance against an everlasting inheritance? Tell me of what dangers you will, they shall not appal my spirit; and tell me of what joys you will, they shall never allure my soul. For eternity I have been begotten, redeemed, and sanctified; and for eternity alone will I both live and die.]

4. The interest which God himself has in the whole of our conduct—

[This in particular pressed on the mind of this eminent saint. He saw that his enemies laboured to draw him into sin, that they might have occasion for reproach against him, and might cast reflections upon God himself. And, under this conviction, he would risk life itself rather than comply with the solicitations of his friend. And thus it is that God’s enemies endeavour to beguile us, in order that they may triumph over us, and exult in our shame. Only let them draw us into sin of any kind, and they will immediately exclaim, “There, there, so would we have it:” yea, if they can prevail to the extent they would, they will even “blaspheme the very name of God on our account.” But who, that is aware of this, will not rather die than dishonour God? If we only consider how God’s honour is involved in our conduct, we shall need no other motive for steadfastness in his holy ways: and if tempted to leave them, even for a moment, we shall reply, “Shall a man, situated as I am, be driven from his post, and go into the temple to save his life? No: I will not go in: nor shall all the powers of earth or hell ever induce me to relax my diligence in the service of my God.”]

What, then, shall I say to you, my Brethren? This I say,

1. Expect temptation—

[In the Book of Ecclesiasticus this advice is given: “My son, if thou come to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation [Note: Ecclesiastes 2:1.].” You must not expect that Satan will suffer his vassals to cast off his yoke, without many earnest endeavours to reduce them to their former bondage. And he has “wiles and devices” innumerable, whereby to assault our souls. He can even put on the aspect of an angel of light, in order the more effectually to beguile unstable souls [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:14.]. He will even make use of your own friends, yea, and of pious persons too, to draw you aside from the path of duty. It was no other than Peter, the bold and zealous Peter, whom he instigated to dissuade our blessed Lord from subjecting himself to the pains which were necessary for the redemption of a ruined world. But our Lord withstood him, saying to this favoured disciple, “Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men [Note: Matthew 16:23.].” So be ye also on your guard not to follow implicitly the advice even of good men; but weigh every sentiment in the balance of the sanctuary, and conform yourselves in every thing to the mind and will of God.]

2. In every circumstance place your entire confidence in God—

[This was Nehemiah’s excellence. He knew in whom he had believed; and that, whatever conspiracies might be formed against him, he was safe in God’s hands; “nor could any weapon that was formed against him prosper.” Thus then do ye. “Say not, A confederacy to all them that say a confederacy: neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid: but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread [Note: Isaiah 8:12-13. See also Psalms 11:1-4.].” This your holy profession indispensably requires. When Ezra went from Babylon to Jerusalem with all the vessels of gold and silver which had been carried thither by Nebuchadnezzar, and was in danger of being plundered by robbers who infested the road, “he was ashamed to ask from Artaxerxes a guard of soldiers for his protection; for, says he, I had said to the king, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him [Note: Ezra 8:22.].” And do not ye profess the same truth, that God is the protector, and friend, and portion of all that seek him? Whom then will ye fear? or what will ye desire for your comfort, when ye have such an all-sufficient Friend ever at hand? “If He be for you, who can be against you [Note: Romans 8:31.]?” or, if He be your Shepherd, what can you want [Note: Psalms 23:1.]? Only “be strong in faith, giving glory to God;” and “you shall be kept in perfect peace;” “nor shall so much as a hair of your head perish.” Your trials may be multiplied to the most fearful extent: but “you shall not be ashamed or confounded, world without end.”]


Verse 15

DISCOURSE: 444

THE EXPEDITION WITH WHICH THE WALL OF JERUSALEM WAS BUILT

Nehemiah 6:15. So the wall was finished in fifty and two days.

A MERE historic record of the time occupied in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem appears at first sight to be an uninteresting subject for a popular discourse: but it will be found replete with interest, when the circumstances connected with it are taken into the account. The extremely dilapidated and ruined state of the fortifications at that time, the weakness and poverty of those who undertook to rebuild them, and the opposition which they met with from numerous and potent enemies, combine to render the record in our text almost incredible. For the completion of such a work, two and fifty weeks would have been a very short time; but two and fifty days seem utterly insufficient for it: such expedition appears perfectly beyond the physical powers of the persons engaged in it: yet in that time the wall was finished: and it will be very profitable to inquire,

I. How it was completed in so short a time—

To enter fully into the subject, the six first chapters of this book should be carefully read. In them we shall find that the means whereby this great work was accomplished, were,

1. The wisdom and energy of the governor—

[In every step which Nehemiah took, we are struck with his consummate wisdom. When first he made known to the Persian monarch his desire to undertake the work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, he kept out of sight every consideration which might tend to create jealousy in the monarch’s mind, and mentioned only such as were likely to produce in him a favourable impression. With this view he speaks of Jerusalem, not as the city of the great God, which had been so great and powerful in former times, and was yet ordained of God to become the capital of an independent nation, but simply, as “the city of his fathers’ sepulchres [Note: Nehemiah 2:5.].”

Having obtained permission to execute his purpose, and come to Jerusalem for that end, he again shewed his wisdom in concealing from the people the reason of his journey, till he had personally himself inspected the walls, and was thereby qualified to obviate all objections which indifference or despondency might suggest [Note: Nehemiah 2:12-18.].

The way in which he counteracted all the plots of his enemies, still further marked the depth and solidity of his judgment. He forbore to use any irritating expressions, notwithstanding the multiplied provocations which he met with: and whilst his enemies wasted their time in plotting how to arrest his progress, he occupied himself in the prosecution of his work, augmenting his exertions in proportion as they increased their efforts to impede him [Note: Nehemiah 2:19-20; Nehemiah 4:8-9; Nehemiah 4:13-14.]. Yet it is worthy of particular observation, that he neither trusted to his own exertions, nor yet neglected them under an idea that he should be protected by his God: but he combined a dependence on God with a diligent use of all proper means of self-defence [Note: Nehemiah 4:9.]; thereby setting us an example which we shall do well to follow in every difficulty which we may be called to encounter.

Nor was the energy of Nehemiah less admirable than his wisdom: we see throughout the whole of his conduct as much promptitude as consisted with sound discretion, and an invincible firmness in executing whatever his deliberate judgment had dictated. So intent was he on the prosecution of his purpose, that neither he, nor those under his immediate influence, ever put off their clothes for several weeks together, except for the purpose of their being washed [Note: Nehemiah 4:23.]. And when a proposal was made to him to hold a conference with some adversaries in an adjacent village, his reply was, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you [Note: Nehemiah 6:2-3.]?” Yea, when the same message was sent four times, he repeated the same answer: and when at the fifth time it was accompanied with a letter containing many accusations against him, he contented himself with exposing the falsehood of them, and more determinately than ever besought the Lord to strengthen his hands for the work in which he was engaged [Note: Nehemiah 6:5-9.].

On the failure of that device, his enemies sought to intimidate him by reports of a conspiracy against his life, and advised him to take refuge in the temple: but he, with a fortitude worthy of his high character, answered, “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in [Note: Nehemiah 6:10-11.].” It is in connexion with this anecdote that our text informs us, “So the wall was built in fifty and two days:” and certainly to this extraordinary combination of wisdom and energy in him we must ascribe it, that the wall was erected in so short a time.]

2. The union and perseverance of the people—

[An individual, however good and great, can do little, unless he is seconded by those who are under his direction: but in this case Nehemiah found instruments well fitted to his hands. No sooner did he make known to the rulers of Jerusalem the commission which he had received from the king of Persia, and call for their assistance in the execution of it, than they said, “Let us rise up and build:” and “immediately they strengthened their hands for this good work [Note: Nehemiah 2:17-19.].”

It is true, there were some exceptions, some who were too proud and fond of ease to work [Note: Nehemiah 3:5.]; and others, who yielded to despondency [Note: Nehemiah 4:10.]; and others who actually carried on a treasonable correspondence with Nehemiah’s most inveterate enemies [Note: Nehemiah 6:17-19.]: but, on the other hand, there was such a zeal amongst the great mass of the people, that some performed double the work allotted them [Note: Nehemiah 3:5; Nehemiah 3:27.], and even ladies of the highest rank combined their utmost efforts to assist in building the wall, not accounting any service either derogatory to their honour, or unsuited to their sex, if they might but encourage their brethren, and advance the glory of their God [Note: Nehemiah 3:12.]. And to this union is the success expressly ascribed: “So built we the wall; for the people had a mind to work [Note: Nehemiah 4:6.].”

There was also among them astonishing perseverance: for when they were menaced with a sudden assault, and were told ten times over, that an armed host would come suddenly upon them to destroy them, they persisted resolutely in their work, arming themselves for their defence, setting alternate watches for their preservation, and working with a trowel, as it were, in the one hand, and a sword in the other, determining rather to sacrifice their lives, than be deterred from the service in which they had embarked [Note: Nehemiah 4:11-13; Nehemiah 4:16-18; Nehemiah 4:21.]. Had they yielded to indolence or fear, the work could never have been carried forward: but by this zealous co-operation of all ranks and orders among them, all difficulties were overcome, and the wall was built with an expedition almost incredible.]

3. The peculiar blessing of their God—

[To this above all must the success be ultimately ascribed; for to this were owing the desire of Nehemiah to rebuild the wall [Note: Nehemiah 2:12.], the consent of Artaxerxes to the plan proposed [Note: Nehemiah 1:11. with 2:4, 8.], the wisdom and energy with which Nehemiah was inspired [Note: Nehemiah 2:18.], the cordial co-operation of so many people, and the defeating of all the plots which were devised to retard the work [Note: Nehemiah 4:15.]. Even the very enemies themselves were so convinced that the work exceeded all the power of man, that they were constrained to acknowledge God himself as the author of it [Note: Nehemiah 4:1-3. with 6:16.], since none but God could have carried them through such labours, or delivered them from such perils, or given a successful issue to such hopeless exertions.

It is of infinite importance that we notice this; for otherwise we shall be ready to give to the creature the honour that is due to God only. Throughout the whole work, application was made to God for his direction and blessing: it was not undertaken without prayer [Note: Nehemiah 1:4-11.], nor carried on without prayer [Note: Nehemiah 2:4; Nehemiah 4:4-5; Nehemiah 4:9; Nehemiah 6:9; Nehemiah 6:11.]: but a reliance was placed on God as an all-sufficient Helper [Note: Nehemiah 2:20.]; and he shewed himself worthy of the confidence reposed on him: he shewed that “none who trust in Him shall ever be confounded.”]

Having thus traced Nehemiah’s success to its true cause, we proceed to set before you,

II. The important lesson which we are to learn from it—

We might with great propriety direct your attention to those wonderful events which occupy the attention of the public at the present hour [Note: June 23, 1814, a day or two after peace had been proclaimed.]: for certainly, whether we consider the union which has been produced amongst all the allied powers, or the wisdom and energy with which their efforts have been combined, or the rapid and complete success with which their labours have been crowned, there never was an occurrence which more strongly marked the hand of God, or more strictly corresponded with that which we have been considering, than that which we now commemorate, the reestablishment of peace amongst all the powers of Europe. We may almost literally say, in reference to it, “The wall has been built in fifty and two days.”

But we will direct your attention rather to that which will be of importance, not to the present age only, but to all people to the end of time.

Behold, then, in what way we should all engage in the Lord’s work

[To every man in the universe is a work assigned, namely, To erect an house that shall be an everlasting habitation for our God. The walls of Jerusalem reduced to heaps of rubbish do but faintly represent the desperate state of the world around us; whilst the number and malice of those who obstructed the rebuilding of that wall give us a very inadequate idea of the enemies with whom we have to contend whilst executing the work which God has given us to do. Every one indeed must begin at home, and work before his own door [Note: Nehemiah 3:10; Nehemiah 3:23; Nehemiah 3:28; Nehemiah 3:30.]; for it is by getting the work of God advanced in our own souls that we shall best contribute to the good of the Church around us. But in the whole of our work we must cultivate wisdom. It is lamentable to reflect how often men defeat their own purposes by not attending to the counsels of wisdom. Many give great advantage to their adversaries by not considering what is the peculiar line of conduct which the particular time and circumstances call for, and how they may best overcome the difficulties with which they are surrounded. We are told to “walk in wisdom towards them that are without,” and to unite “the wisdom of the serpent with the harmlessness of the dove:” and it is of absolute and indispensable necessity that we attend to these directions, if we would walk honourably before God ourselves, or be instrumental to the advancing of his work in the souls of others — — —

But to wisdom we must add energy. There is no time to be lost: “Whatever our hand findeth to do, we must do it with all our might.” We must be “fervent in spirit whilst serving the Lord:” and, if any one would divert us from our purpose, or tempt us to relax our diligence, we must make this our uniform and steady answer, “I am doing a great work, and cannot come down” — — —

In this kind of conduct there should be an union amongst us all; ministers and people should all work together: yea, and women also should engage in the good work; for they, in their place and station, may be as helpful as any. Even the Apostles owed much to the labours of women [Note: Romans 16:1-4; Romans 16:12.]; and the most eminent ministers have been helped forward by their pious and well-regulated zeal [Note: Acts 18:26.]. Let all of us then be of one heart and one mind in relation to this great matter; for it is surprising how much more rapidly the work of God advances in the souls of men, where many are engaged in strengthening each other’s hands, and in encouraging one another’s hearts. There are a thousand works which may be carried on in concert, which an insulated individual can never accomplish: and whoever engages in such works for the good of others, will find that he himself is the most profited by his own exertions: “Whilst watering others, his own soul will be watered” also — — —

Nor must we draw back through fear or weariness. We must be men of fortitude and self-denial. We should scarcely find time, as it were, for relaxation, any further than absolute necessity requires: and if menaced with assaults, we should put on the panoply of God, and stand ready for the contest: and if by a temporary desertion of our post we may even preserve our lives, we should be willing rather to lay down our lives than dishonour our God by cowardice in his service — — — “Should such a man as I flee?” must be our answer to every suggestion of our great adversary, and to every unbelieving fear that may arise in our own hearts — — —

But above all, we must go forward in dependence on God. He must teach us, and guide us, and prosper us, in all our way. “Without him we can do nothing:” but, on the other hand, “through Christ strengthening us we can do all things.” We need not despond on account of the greatness of the work, nor be discouraged through the number and malignity of our enemies: “if God be for us, none can effectually be against us:” “He will perfect that which concerneth us,” and “carry on to the end the work he has begun.” If only we “be steadfast, immovable, and always abounding in the work of the Lord, he has pledged himself to us, that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord” — — —]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Nehemiah 6:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/nehemiah-6.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, August 13th, 2020
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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