Ezra 1:4
Dualities are everywhere seen. Amongst these are things passive and active; things ruled over and things ruling. The mechanical heavens are active and rule the passive earth. In animated nature rulers and subjects are individualized; most remarkably so in the kingdom of men. Passing into the spiritual world, we still find order and rule; "principalities and powers in the heavenlies" - amongst angels of light, also amongst angels of darkness. But behind all these sovereignties and over them is the glorious sovereignty of God.


1. "The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus."

(1) This he did by means. Josephus says that Cyrus was shown the places in Isaiah where he was mentioned by name and his exploits indicated about a century before he was born (see Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1-5). Possibly Daniel, who was in Babylon when Cyrus entered it, and the fame of whose wisdom was far-reaching, may have pointed them out to him.

(2) By his Spirit God made the means he employed effective. "The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus." "He can turn the hearts of princes as the rivers of the south." Means are ineffectual without his blessing. That blessing should be sought upon all our undertakings.

2. By means of Cyrus God moved the Persian empire.

(1) The royal edict was issued.

(2) It was vocally proclaimed. Hebrews, caused a voice to pass, etc. This form of proclamation is for the multitude. For the multitude God causes his gospel to be preached.

(3) It was also written. This was for the magistrates. Also for reference. The word of the truth of the gospel is also written. This fixes its certainty.

3. The sequel shows how cordial was the response. As the exodus from Egypt was a figure of the emancipation of the believer in Christ from the bondage of sin, so was the return from the captivity of Babylon.


1. He rules the world according to a grand plan.

(1) This fact is seen in the Scriptures of prophecy. Broad outlines of future history of the world drawn (see for example Genesis 9:25-27). Here consider "the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah" (see Jeremiah 25:12; Jeremiah 29:10).

(2) Further seen in the conversion of prophecy into history. Examples abound. Example before us in the restoration of Judah from the captivity of Babylon. The time was "in the first year of Cyrus." This was B.C. 536. Add to this the seventy years of Jeremiah's prophecy, and we have the year B.C. 606, the very year in which "Nebuchadnezzar carried Jehoiakim and the vessels of the house of the Lord to Babylon (see 2 Chronicles 36:6, 7).

2. The plan of Providence includes the means to be employed for the accomplishment of his purposes.

(1) Stirs up the spirits of men to study his word (see Daniel 9:2). Stirred up the spirit of Cyrus also. Daniel was stirred up to pray; Cyrus, to act. It is God's order that his people should pray for their blessings (see Ezekiel 36:37). There is often a connection between the prayers of the good and the better actions of the wicked.

1. Learn that there is no such thing as chance.

(1) Afflictions do not spring out of the dust.

(2) See the hand of God in our deliverances.

2. Learn that providences are often retributive.

(1) The seventy years of captivity were in retribution for seventy sabbatic years in which selfishness refused the land her rest, and consequently the poor their privileges (comp. Leviticus 25:1-6, and 2 Chronicles 36:21).

(2) If we open our eyes we may see the operation of retributive providences every day. "Be sure your sin will find you out." - J. A. M.

Let the men of the place help him with silver.
"Not many years since," writes a clergyman, "I had occasion to solicit funds to aid in the prosecution of a work of benevolence. I stepped into the office of a Christian friend, with whom I had a partial acquaintance, and incidentally mentioned the unpleasant business before me, and inquired of him for the residence of a certain benevolent individual, and added that I hoped to get one dollar of him. After receiving directions, I turned to go out. 'But stop,' said this brother, 'suppose you let me have the privilege of contributing a little of the money which the Lord has lent me to this cause. Put down £20 for me.' I expressed my surprise that he should contribute so liberally, and remarked that I should feel myself in duty bound not to call on him very soon on a similar errand. 'Well, then,' said he, 'my brother, I think you will very much mistake your duty. If you knew how much pleasure it gave me to contribute of my substance to the Lord, you would feel no reluctance in calling again. And now let me charge you, when engaged in similar business, never to pass me by. Call, and I think I shall be able to do something; and if not, my prayers shall go with you.'"


Two weeks ago I told you that three thousand dollars had got to be raised to pay for the repairs of this house. The plates were sent round, and about six hundred dollars were raised. I was heartily ashamed, and have not got over it yet. Last week the trustees came, and asked me if I would name the matter again, and I said, "No, I will not." But this week, upon their renewed application, I have consented to speak once more. If this don't do, you may pay your debt how you can, for I will never mention it again. I'm not going to be a pump to be thrust into men's pockets to force up what ought to come up freely. When the surgeon comes to a place where he must cut, he had better cut. For more than a year I've seen that our plate collections grew meaner and meaner. I didn't want to face you with such things as I've got to say to-day, and I put it off as long as I could. Now I shall speak plainly once for all, not having the face to bring the matter up again. This debt has got to be paid, and will you meet it honourably, and pay it like men, or will you let it drip, drip, drip out of you reluctantly, a few dollars st a time? You can take your choice. I'm not going to try to drill money out of you as I would drill stones. The amount of meanness among respectable people is appalling. One needs to take a solar microscope in order to see some men.

(H. W. Beecher.)

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