Page images


I hear the clicking hoofs of the horse on which Nehemiah rides, as he guides it this way and that, into this gate and out of that, winding through that gate amid the debris of once great Jerusalem. Now the horse comes to a dead halt at the tumbled masonry where he cannot pass. Now he shies off at the charred timbers. Now he comes along where the water under the moonlight flashes from the mouth of the brazen dragon after which the gate was named. Heavy-hearted Nehemiah! Riding in and out, now by his old home desolated, now by the defaced Temple, now amid the scars of the city that had gone down under battering-ram and conflagration. The escorting party knows not what Nehemiah

Is he getting crazy? Have his own personal sorrows, added to the sorrows of the nation, unbalanced his intellect? Still the midnight exploration goes on. Nehemiah on horseback rides through the fish gate, by the tower of the furnaces, by the king's pool, by the dragon well, in and out, in and out, until the midnight ride is completed, and Nehemiah dismounts from his horse, and to the amazed and confounded and incredulous body-guard, declares the dead secret of his heart when he says: "Come, now, let us build Jerusalem.” “What, Nehemiah, have you any money?" "No."

"Have you any kingly authority?" "No." "Have you any eloquence ?" "No." Yet that midnight, moonlight ride of Nehemiah resulted in the glorious rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem. The people knew not how the thing was to be done, but with great enthusiasm they cried out: “Let us rise up now and build the city.” Some people laughed and said it could not be done. Some people were infuriate and offered physical violence, saying the thing should not be done. But the workmen went right on, standing on the wall, trowel in one hand, sword in the other, until the work was gloriously completed. At that very time, in Greece, Xenophon was writing a history, and Plato was making philosophy, and Demosthenes' was rattling his rhetorical thunder; but all of them together did not do so much for the world as this midnight, moonlight ride of praying, couragecus, homesick, close-mouthed Nehemiah.

My subject first impresses me with the idea what an intense thing is church affection. Seize the bridle of that horse and stop Nehemiah. Why are you risking your life here in the night? Your horse will stumble over these ruins and fall on you. Stop this useless exposure of your life. No; Nehemiah will not stop. He at last tells us the whole story. He lets us know he was an exile in a far distant land, and he was a servant, & cupbearer in the palace of Artaxerxes Longimanus, and one day, while he was handing the cup of wine to the king, the king said to him, “What is the matter with you ? You are not sick. I know you must have some great trouble. What is the matter with you?Then he told the king how that beloved Jerusalem was broken down; how that his father's tomb had been desecrated; how that the Temple had been dishonored and defaced; how that the walls were scattered and broken. "Well," says King Artaxerxes, " what do you want!” “ Well," said the cup-bearer Neliemniah, “I want to go home. I want to fix


the grave of iny father. I want to restore the beauty of the Temple. I want to rebuild the masonry of the city wall. Besides, I want passports so that I shall not be hindered in my journey. And besides that," as you will find in the context, “I want an order on the man who keeps your forest for just so much timber as I may need for the rebuilding of the city," "How long aba!! rop he gone?” nəid the king. The time of ahsence is arranged. In hot haste this seeming adventurer comos to Jerusalem, and in my text we find him on horseback, in the midnight, riding around the ruins. It is through the spectacles of this scene that we discover the ardent attachment of Nehemiah for sacred Jerusalem, which in all ages has been the type of the church of God, our Jerusalem, which we love just as much as Nehemiah loved his Jerusalem. The fact is that you love the church of God so much that there is no spot on earth 80 sacred, unless it be your own fireside. The church has been to you so much comfort and illumination that there is nothing that makes you so irate as to have it talked against. If there have been times when you have been carried into captivity by sickness, you longed for the Church, our holy Jerusalem, just as much as Nehemiah longed for his Jerusalem, and the first day you came out you came to the house of the Lord. When the temple was in ruins, as ours was five years ago, like Nehemiah, you walked around and looked at it, and in the moon. light you stood listening if you could not hear the voice of the dead organ, the psalmo of the expired Sabbaths. What Jerusalem was to Nehemiah, the Church of God is to you. Sceptics and infidels may scoff at the Church as an obsolete affair, as a relic of the dark ages, as a convention of goody-goody people, but all the impression they have ever made on your mind against the Church of God is absolutely nothing. You would make more sacrifices for it to-day than for any other institution, and if it were needful you would die in its defence. You can take the words of the kingly poet as he said: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning." You understand in your own experience the pathos, the ḥomo-sickness, the courage, the holy enthg.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Hiasm of Nehemiah in his midnight moonlight ride around the ruins of his beloved Jerusalem.

Again, my text impresses me with the fact that, before reconstruction, there must be an exploration of ruins. Why was not Nehemiah asleep under the covers? Why Wis not his horse stabled in the midnight? Let the police of the city arrest this midnight rider, out on some mischief. No. Nehemiah is going to rebuild the city, and he is making the preliminary exploration. In this gate, ont that gate, east, west, north, south. All through the ruins. The ruins must be explored before the work of reconstruction can begin. The reason that so many people in this day, apparently converted, do not stay converted is because they did not first explore the ruins of their own heart. The reason that there are so many professed Christians who in this day lie and forge and steal, and commit adultery, and go to the penitentiary, is because they first do not learn the ruin of their own heart. They have not found out that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” They had an idea that they were almost right, and they built religion as a sort of extension, as an ornamental cnpola. There was a superstructure of religion built on a substratum of unrepented sing. The trouble with a good deal of modern theology is that instead of building on the right foundation, it builds on the debris of an unreregenerated nature. They attempt to rebuild Jerusalein before, in the midnight of conviction, they have seen the glastliness of the ruin. They have such a poor fouudation for their religion that the first north-east storm of temptation blows them down. I have no faith in a man's conversion if he is not converted in the oldfashioned way-John Bunyan's way, John Wesley's way, John Calvin's way. Pan!'s way, Christ's way, God's way,

A dentist said to me a few days ago, “Does that hurt?" Said I, “Of course it hurts. It is in your business ag in my profession. We have to hurt before we can help.” You will never understand redemption until you understand ruin. A man tells me that some one is a member of the church. It makes no impression on my mind at all. I simply want to know whether he was converted in the old-fashioned way, or whether he was converted in the new-fashioned way. If he was converted in the oldfashioned way he will stand. If he was converted in the new-fashioned way he will not stand. That is all there is about it. A man comes to me to talk about religion. The first question I ask him is, “Do you feel yourself to be a sinner? If he say, “Well, I--yes,” the hesi. tancy makes me feel that that man wants a ride on Nehemiah’s horse by midnight through the ruins-in by the gate of his affections, out by the gate of his will; and before he has got through with that midnight ride he will drop the reins on the horse's neck, and will take his right hand and smite on his heart and say, "God be merciful to me a sinner;" and before he has stabled his horse he will take his feet out of the stirrups, and he will slide down on the ground, and he will kneel, crying, “ Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness, according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies; blot out my transgressions, for I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sins are ever before thee." Ah, my friends, you see this is not a complimentary gospel. That is what inakes some people so mad. It comes to a man of a million dollars, and impenitent in his sins,

“i You're a panper.” It comes to a woman of fairest cheek, who has never repented, and says, "You're a sinner.” It comes to a inan priding himself on his ipdependence, and says, “ Yomre bound hand and foot by

and says,

« PreviousContinue »