Nehemiah 5:15
The governors before me had heavily burdened the people, taking from them bread and wine plus forty shekels of silver. Their servants also oppressed the people, but I did not do this because of my fear of God.
Sermons
A Motto for a Manly LifeHomiletic CommentaryNehemiah 5:15
An Ancient NonconformistA. Maclaren, D. D.Nehemiah 5:15
Fear Expels FearF. B. Meyer.Nehemiah 5:15
Nehemiah's Master PrincipleHugh Stowell, M. A.Nehemiah 5:15
PrincipleT. Robson.Nehemiah 5:15
Resistance to EvilF. J. Chavasse.Nehemiah 5:15
SingularityJohn H. Goodman.Nehemiah 5:15
So Did not IA. Maclaren, D. D.Nehemiah 5:15
The Christian in CommerceA. G. Morris.Nehemiah 5:15
The Fear of GodJ. M. Randall.Nehemiah 5:15
The Fear of GodW. Bridge.Nehemiah 5:15
The Fear of God a Real Principle of LifeJ. M. Randall.Nehemiah 5:15
The Fear of God the TouchstoneHenry Melvill, B. D.Nehemiah 5:15
The Fear of the LordHomilistNehemiah 5:15
Uprightness in DealingHugh Stowell, M. A.Nehemiah 5:15
An Example of Successful Activity for GodR.A. Radford Nehemiah 5:1-19
A Man of Public SpiritJ.S. Exell Nehemiah 5:14-19
Self-Regard and MagnanimityW. Clarkson Nehemiah 5:14-19


I. THAT HE HAS MORE REGARD FOR THE PUBLIC WELFARE THAN FOR PERSONAL REMUNERATION. "Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor" (ver. 14).

II. THAT HE HAS MORE REGARD FOR NECESSARY REFORMS THAN FOR TRADITIONAL CUSTOMS. "But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people" (ver. 15). Men are chargeable to their fellows -

1. In the state.

2. In morals.

3. In society.

4. In the family.

5. In the Church.

Men have often to pay and suffer for their governors.

III. THAT HE HAS MORE REGARD FOR POPULAR LIBERTY THAN FOR OPPRESSIVE EXACTIONS. "Yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God" (vers. 15, 18). Nehemiah would not allow the few to oppress the many; he made his servants work (ver. 16).

IV. THAT HE HAS MORE REGARD FOR EARNEST INDUSTRY THAN FOR LUXURIOUS INDOLENCE. "Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall" (ver. 16).

1. Personal work.

2. Continuous work.

3. Effective work.

4. A good example.

V. THAT HE HAS MORE REGARD FOR WISE BENEFICENCE THAN FOR A MEAN POLICY. "Now that which was prepared for me daily was one ox and six choice sheep; also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days store of all sorts of wine: yet for all this required not I the bread of the governor, because the bondage was heavy upon this people" (ver. 18).

VI. THAT HE HAS MORE REGARD FOR THE DIVINE BENEDICTION THAN FOR HUMAN PRAISE. "Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people" (ver 19).

1. The Divine contemplation of man.

2. The beneficent regard of God for man.

3. God will reward those who aid his people.

4. The measure of the Divine favour not according to what we have done, but according to what Christ has done in, by, and for us. - E.







But so did not I, because of the fear of God.
Homiletic Commentary.
I. THE SELF-REGULATIVE POWER OF A MANLY MOTIVE. "The fear of God"; "the love of Christ"; "religious principle"; "conscience"; "the sense of duty"; "the instinct of right," are all variations of expressions of the same motive.

II. THE COURAGE TO BE SINGULAR IS HERE IMPLIED.

III. APPLICATIONS OF THIS PRINCIPLE TO THE COMMONPLACE LIFE OF ALL MEN.

1. To himself a man must say, "No!"

2. To the world a man must say "No!"

3. This is the motto for youth.

IV. THE SIMPLICITY AND DIRECTNESS OF THIS LIFE-MOTTO,

V. THIS MOTTO IS OUR GUIDE IN DOUBTFUL MATTERS.

(Homiletic Commentary.)

Homilist.
I. WHOLESOME SELF-RESTRAINT. There is always a temptation to run with the multitude. It was particularly so with Nehemiah.

1. His superiors were evil. A man is fain to follow his employers or masters.

2. His surroundings were evil. A person gets his tone from his surroundings.

3. His temptations were to evil. He would have gained the applause of his fellows by sinning.

4. He was singular in his convictions, also almost alone in an idolatrous land.

II. AN ALL-POWERFUL MOTIVE. "Because of the fear of the Lord." All the more powerful because unseen — the mightiest forces are those the eye cannot trace. The fear of the Lord is —

1. A safe .guide. It is sure to be right.

2. A powerful incentive. He has power to cast into hell, and He will reward.

3. A plain directive. The wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein. Men who are independent in their purpose of rectitude .are, earth's true nobility. Learn to stand alone for the cause of truth.

(Homilist.)

The religion of the Bible is not a sickly plant which requires the forcing-house to keep it alive. It is a hardy tree which flourishes best in the open field. The servant of God anywhere is the servant of God everywhere. Few notions have done more mischief than the imagination that godliness belongs to the closet and sanctuary, the cloister and the cell, and that it is too ethereal to be interfused into the occupations of secular life. To refute such fallacies nothing is more effectual than holy example. Example shows what can be done, and at the came time points out the way in which it may be accomplished. For those occupied in the busy pursuits of the world there is no more appropriate example in the Scriptures than that of Nehemiah.

I. HIS RULING MOTIVE. The whole tenor of his conversation bespoke the supremacy of the fear of God in his soul. This chapter contains an impressive exercise of this principle. Of those returned from the captivity, many were destitute and distressed; their poverty made them a prey to their richer brethren. Nehemiah's predecessors were most rigorous in their exactions, and failed to let mercy temper justice. Nehemiah, on the contrary, not only refrained from oppression, but did not even require his dues. Had he not disclosed the principle which actuated him, we might have filled up the blank in this way: Because of the promptings of generosity; or because of my high sense of honour; or because of the patriotism that fired my breast; or because of the compassion which melted my heart. Thus, however, spake not Nehemiah, but he said, "So did not I, because of the fear of God." This gave the character of godliness to his conduct; this transmuted what would otherwise have been no better than fair tinsel into the fine gold of the sanctuary.

II. THE NATURE OF THE FEAR OF GOD. The fear of God in the Old Testament is equivalent to the love of God in the New. The former indicates the severer aspect of the one economy as compared with the more gracious aspect of the other. What viewed in one light is love viewed in another is godly fear. They are but different aspects of the same principle. If there be genuine love of God, there cannot fail to be s holy fear of offending Him. This fear is therefore the beginning of wisdom; the guardian of holiness; the seal of adoption. What need there is for this principle to pervade the mercantile world! Examined in the light of Scripture, the morals of that world, even in our own favoured land, would be found to be fearfully faulty. Along with much that is honourable and of good report among our merchant princes, if you penetrate into the recesses of commerce, you will frequently detect a low and shifting standard of equity — you will discover that a thousand practices are connived at and pass current in business which when in the balances of the sanctuary are found utterly wanting.

III. THE SALUTARY EFFECTS OF THE FEAR OF GOD. It gives to mercantile morality —

1. Intrinsic worth.

2. Strength.

3. Stability.

4. Universality.(1) Taking the morality of the commercial world at the highest, how much of it is genuine? If men are upright in their dealings merely because they have a conviction that honesty is the best policy, and that fairness will answer better than fraud, or if they act justly simply from a sense of honour or from a pride which raises them above being guilty of a low and disgraceful transaction; or if they do right because they instinctively recoil from all that is base and equivocal, from whatever would degrade and disturb their mind, then all their imposing array of mercantile virtues are after all of the earth earthy, hollow at the core and unprofitable in the sight of God. It is the fear of God alone which can impart to mercantile morality its intrinsic worth.(2) Even the virtuous qualities which exalt men in the commercial world must lack reality and consistency when they rest on a lower ground. Hence it is no uncommon thing to find a man who was at one period distinguished for honour and integrity at another period making utter shipwreck of character; whilst his barque glided along in smooth water and his sails were filled with prosperous gales, he steered an undeviating course, but when storms arose and his vessel drifted among quicksands and shallows, he soon abandoned the compass of honesty and yielded himself to the force of the current. His rectitude was the creature of circumstance: sustained by success, with success it fell. Fragile at best are the virtues which spring from the unregenerated heart.(3) The energy of this principle will exert strength and universality of influence which nothing else can command. God, being everywhere, the man who fears Him will fear Him everywhere. It is impossible to delineate fully the breadth and expansiveness of this principle of action. It will go with a man into the little as well as the great, into the hidden as well as the open; it will tell upon him with equal force whether others dissent from or concur in his course of conduct. It will elevate him to freedom and independence of character. He will not be like the sundial, useless save in the light; but he will be like the timepiece, which keeps the tenor of its way alike in the shade as in the sunshine. The saint, like the sunflower, owns the centre of attraction when clouded as well as when clear.(a) It will keep a man undefiled amid the defilements of public life like the pure stream that is said to pass through the salt lake and yet retain its freshness. It is a safeguard against the tone, the spirit, and the practices of business, and it will prevent compliance with the expedients, manoeuvres, and subterfuges of trade.(b) A trying ordeal for a godly tradesman is to be reputed soft and behind the age because he will not overreach his neighbour. When he sees competitors prospering by doubtful expedients, or hears them glorying in their equivocal gains, his reflection and joy will be, "So did not I, because of the fear of God."(c) It will restrain from the unhallowed indulgences of worldlings,(d) It will guard against the desecration and profanation of the ordinances of the Lord's Day.

(Hugh Stowell, M. A.)

If you wish to apply a touchstone to character, take this as the most searching — the exercise of those graces which a man is most tempted to neglect, and the eschewal of those iniquities which a man is most tempted to indulge. He who can stand this test is sterling in the sight of God. Consider —

I. SOME GREAT PRINCIPLES WHICH OUGHT TO OBTAIN IN MERCANTILE TRANSACTIONS.

1. A Christian tradesman ought to love his neighbour as himself.

2. "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." This is a code of morals condensed into a sentence.

3. You must be faithful in the little, even as in the great.

II. SOME OF THE LESS OBVIOUS DEVIATIONS FROM THESE PRINCIPLES WHICH PASS CURRENT IN THE MERCANTILE WORLD.

1. How common is it for men to defraud society by idleness and self-indulgence!

2. By selfish extravagance, or rash speculations, what numbers subject themselves to liabilities which their resources do not warrant, or plunge into debts which they have no prospect of discharging!

3. How diversified the deceptions practised in trade for the purpose of taking advantage of the purchaser!

(Hugh Stowell, M. A.)

A few principles, realised in the heart, will generate this blessed fear. Let us consider —

I. God's majesty, and this will provoke the fear of REVERENCE.

II. God's providence, and this will induce a fear of DEPENDENCE.

III. Our advantages, and this will induce a fear of DIFFIDENCE.

IV. Our obligations, and this will induce a fear of GRATITUDE AND LOVE.

(J. M. Randall.)

It puts a difference between the world and the servant of God —

I. As it regards CHOICE.

II. As to SERVICE.

III. As to WORSHIP.

IV. As to AFFLICTION. The worldly man will fret and murmur; not so the godly.

V. As to THE PRACTICAL CONDUCT OF DAILY LIFE.

(J. M. Randall.)

I. Let me put the main principle that lies here in these words: NOTHING WILL GO RIGHT UNLESS YOU DARE TO BE SINGULAR. "So did not I." How soever common the practice, howsoever innocent and recognised the source of gain, the multitude that approved it, and adopted it, was nothing to me. Everything will be wrong where a man has not learnt the great art of saying, "No." Resolute non-compliance with common practice should be exercised —

1. In the field of opinion. If we are building on traditional opinion, we have really no foundation at all. Unless the word received from others has been verified by ourselves and changed, as it were, into part of our own being, we may befool ourselves with creeds and professions to which we fancy that we adhere, but we have no belief whatsoever.

2. In the daily conduct of life. There are many beckoning hands and enticing voices that seek to draw us away. Sturdy resistance is necessary —(1) From the very make of our own natures. There is a host of inclinations and desires in every man which will hurry him to destruction unless he has a strong hand on the brake. "God gave them to thee under lock and key," and it is at our peril that we let them have sway.(2) From the order of things in which we dwell. We are set in the midst of a world full of things which are both attractive and bad, and which are sternly prohibited and lovingly forbidden by God. And if you go careering among the flowers and fruits that grow around you in the life that is opening to you, like town children turned loose for a day in the woods, picking whatever is bright, and tasting whatever looks as if it would be sweet, you will poison your selves with nightshade and hemlock.(3) From the fact that every one of us is thrown more or less closely into contact with people who themselves are living as they should not, and who would fain drag us after them. For us all, then, in every period of life, the necessity is the same. We must learn to say, "No." Like Joseph, like Daniel, like the three Hebrew youths, like Nehemiah, we must dare, if need be, to be singular.(4) Non-resistance or compliance is in itself weak and unworthy. What a shame it is that a man possessed of that awful power which, within limits and subject to conditions, God has given him, of shaping and deter mining his character, should let himself be shaped and determined by the mere pressure of circumstances and accidental associations! What a shame it is that a man should have no more volition in what he does and in what he refrains from than one of those gelatinous creatures that float about in the ocean, which have to move wherever the current takes them, though it be to cast them on the rocky shore with an ebbing tide. That "circumstances make character" should have its vindication in the actual lives of the great bulk of men is only another proof of the weakness and depravity of humanity, in which the will is paralysed, and the conscious choice is so seldom exercised, and a man lets the world do what it likes with him.(5) Vigorous non-compliance with the temptations that are around us is enforced by the remembrance of what a poor excuse for wrong-doing they will be found to be at last.

II. CONSIDER THAT YOU CANNOT RESIST THE EVIL AROUND YOU UNLESS YOU GIVE YOURSELVES TO GOD. No man will ever for a lifetime resist and repel the domination of evil unless he is girded about with the purity of Jesus Christ, as an atmosphere in which all poisonous things fade and die, and through which no temptation can force its way. The only means for steadfast resistance is a steadfast faith in Jesus as our Saviour.

1. In Christ we have an all-sufficient pattern. The one command which contains the whole of Christian duty, the whole law of moral perfectness attainable by man, is — "Be ye imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk as Christ walked."

2. That fear of God which is all transfused and mingled with the love of Him, gives us next an all-powerful motive. Love delights to please; fear dreads to disobey.

3. The fear of God strengthens us for resistance, because it gives us an omnipotent power within ourselves whereby we resist. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Nehemiah is an illustrious example of a courage that is within reach of us all, a courage that dares to be true when truth is unpopular, and to do that which is right when right is scorned. Like some unfailing river which defies the heat and the drought of the longest summer because its sources lie on the margin of perpetual snow, this courage in its noblest form is independent of circumstances because it has its spring in the presence of God.

I. WHY SHOULD WE DARE TO STAND ALONE, and to say to evil, "So will not I"?

1. Because in the end it is the safest course. Life is a probation and an education. None of us can escape temptation. It moulds and tests our character and fits us for service. There are but two courses open — compliance or resistance. Many a man makes shipwreck on the very verge of manhood for the want of courage to say, "No," and of the resolution to stand alone.

2. It is the manliest course. What do we think of one out on a wide sea in an open boat who, when the storm gathers and the waves run high, drops his oars, fastens up his helm and lets himself drift. He is the brave man who, undaunted by the dark sky and the angry waves, toils at the oar and makes for the land. And he who, caught by sudden and sharp temptation, allows himself to drift helplessly with the tide, excites only scorn and compassion, while he who, like Nehemiah, faces the temptation in the strength of God, and cries, "So will not I," is a true man, a real hero, and a worthy follower of Jesus Christ.

3. It is the wisest course. We escape thereby the consequences of sin, and the very temptation we resist becomes the means of strengthening our character.

II. THE SECRET OF THIS COURAGE "So did not I, BECAUSE OF THE FEAR OF GOD." In the realisation of the Divine presence Bishop Latimer forgot his fear of the King of England, and spoke brave and strong and faithful words of warning and remonstrance. In the fear of God lived Lord Lawrence, the great British Pro-Consul as he has been called, who saved India in the day of mutiny, and his marble in Westminster Abbey tells us "He feared man so little because he feared God so much."

(F. J. Chavasse.)

1. Our text contains the regulative spring of a noble life. The words mean most to the young. Will the coming generation prefer conscience and convenience and make God the pole-star of their life? Every one of us is important to God, and the consciousness of this is the parent of virtue and the inspiration of heroism. God wants us. When was in disquiet of mind, he said, "Soul, what aileth thee?" And he seemed to hear a Divine voice within answer, "Look above." Turning upward and noting the stars looking down on him, he said, "Stars, can you tell me the meaning of my unrest?" And the stars whispered, "Look above." Remembering the angel-hosts of God marshalled for service or watchfulness, Augustine cried, "Ministers of God, can ye minister to a restless mind? "And they chanted, "Look above." "Maker of all things," said the reverent though unabashed inquirer, "tell me the meaning of this unsatisfiedness?" And God responded, "I have made thee for Myself, and thy soul can find no rest till it find rest in Me." When Samuel Webster was asked, as he sat at dinner, what was the most formative influence that entered his life, he replied, "The greatest influence that ever touched my life was the sense of my responsibility to God."

2. Doing right means sometimes being unfashionable. A business man died the other day. Writing to his travellers, he was accustomed to add a sentence like "Go straight." He knew that both right and wrong doing were contagious. Dr. Bushnell said to a young man who was consulting him as to the calling he should pursue, "Grasp the handle of your being." Your taste or fitness is as a handle to your faculties. Find your course and go right ahead in the teeth of opposition, in spite of the stings of sarcasm or the bitterness of temporary forsakenness. Remember Him who said, "I am alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me."

3. The power of numbers is magical, and we are so often bidden to do as others do. Said an avowed and educated infidel to a Christian apologist. "Let the final issue be what it may, the majority is against you, and I go with the majority." But the world has not always been saved by majorities. Reformers, statesmen, saints, singers, prophets, priests, believers in God and duty — these have been the saviours of society.

4. It is a moment of moral victory when a young man dares to say, "I cannot afford it."

5. A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of things that he possesseth, nor in the outward success of his noblest efforts; it does consist in his harmony of conscience with the fear of God, in the peace that is born of obedience. Whitfield and a companion were much annoyed one night by a set of gamblers in a room adjoining that in which they slept. Their clamour and their horrid blasphemy so excited Whitfield that he could not rest. "I will go and reprove their wickedness," said he. His companion remonstrated in vain. His words of reproof were apparently powerless. His companion asked him, "What did you gain by it?" "A soft pillow," he said, and soon fell asleep. Duty looks upward; duty implies God. Jesus Christ incarnated duty. Duty is the minister of heaven. This prayer was found in the desk of a schoolboy after his death: "O God, give me courage to fear none but Thee."

(John H. Goodman.)

I. WHAT IT IS TO FEAR GOD.

1. In general it is a passion of the soul whereby a man doth flee from imminent evil.

2. In particular it is —

(1)Servile.

(2)Filial.

II. THAT A MAN WHO FEARS GOD WILL NOT DO AS OTHERS DO.

1. In the matter of their choice (Matthew 14:7, 8; Hebrews 11:25).

2. In the matter of their worship (Joshua 24:15).

3. In their business calling.

4. In what they are entrusted with.

5. In their refreshments.

6. In their afflictions.

7. In their right and propriety.Lot would not let Abraham have his right, though it was his right, yet Abraham, because he feared God and for peace sake, gives up his right.

III. WHAT IS THERE IN THIS FEAR OF GOD THAT SHOULD BALANCE THE SOUL, AND CAUSE IT NOT TO DO AS OTHERS DO. A man that fears the Lord —

1. Has different ends from others.

2. Has a tenderer conscience.

3. Has different restraints.

IV. WHAT IS THE ISSUE AND CONSEQUENCE OF THE FEAR OF THE LORD?

1. God deals well with the man who fears Him (Psalm 50.; 112:6-8).

2. God will delight in him.Conclusion: If you would fear the Lord in truth —

1. Be humbled for the want of it.

2. Ask God to fulfil His promise, "I will put My fear into their hearts."

3. Observe what that is that is nearest and dearest to you, and give it up.

4. Worship God according to His own appointment.

5. Take heed of sinning when you have the opportunity.

6. Labour to strengthen your love to God.

7. Live much in and study much upon dependence wholly upon God. H a man be upon a high tower, and another holds him from falling by the hand only, he will certainly be very fearful of offending him that holds him so.

8. Use the world as not abusing it. Deal with men as in the presence of God.

9. Labour after more communion with Him. We used to say, "Too much familiarity breeds contempt"; but here it is not so, for by familiarity and communion with God we shall have more sweetness and more delight in His ways, more strength in His service, more comfort in our afflictions.

(W. Bridge.)

I. THAT IN THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION IT IS THE MOTIVE THAT GIVES WORTH TO THE ACTION.

II. Nehemiah here ascribes his own conduct to THE MOTIVE FROM WHICH EVERY ACTION MUST SPRING THAT OBTAINS THE APPROVAL OF GOD. He might have displayed the same absence of self on quite a different principle.

1. Patriotism.

2. Desire for popularity.But his refusal of the emoluments of office was "because of the fear of God." This is a kind of summary of character which includes the various features of spiritual excellence. It is a Divinely implanted principle which makes Christ the motive and God the end of every particular of conduct. The man that fears God labours to act up to the measure of the revelation with which he is favoured; to appropriate the privileges, to act upon the motives, and to perform the duties of the dispensation beneath which he is placed. A fear such as this cannot subsistunless there be a consciousness that "now are we the sons of God." It may have been through "the terror of the Lord" that we were first brought to serious thoughts, earnest resolutions, and fervent supplications, yet when we have felt somewhat of the consciousness of danger there will be a thousandfold more motive to us to strive after holiness, in the love and grace exhibited on Calvary.

III. SOME PROMINENT INSTANCES OF THIS GENERAL TRUTH. No action can be approved in God's sight which may not be traced to His fear.

1. Attention to the outward duties and forms of religion may arise from, the custom of society, the mere force of habit, compliance with the wishes of friends, or the desire of setting an example to others, without there being the slightest vestige of vital Christianity.

2. When we tell the man of high morals and unflinching integrity and high generosity, but who is a stranger to Christ, that he can no more be saved in his present condition than one of the worst profligacy, we are not representing morality, integrity, and generosity as things to be dispensed with by the inheritor of the kingdom of heaven; we are simply affirming that they are of worth only as fruit of a Divinely implanted principle, and that if they have any other origin, they may indeed be beneficial to society, but they cannot promote salvation. Who knows not that there is in many men a kind of philosophical sense of the beauty and dignity of virtue, a native repugnance to what is gross and dishonourable, and a fine sympathy with suffering, which will go far to the producing what is regarded as exemplary in character, although there may be at the same time an utter ignorance, and even contempt, of the doctrines of Christianity? We must be good on good principles.

(Henry Melvill, B. D.)

I. THE GUIDING PRINCIPLE OF NEHEMIAH'S CONDUCT — THE FEAR OF GOD.

1. The fear of God, as a principle of action, is at once simple and potent. Look at the machinery in some of your mills. You have there a forest of shafts, an army of wheels, a perfect maze of cunningly invented instruments requisite for carrying out the various processes of manufacture. But how simple and how mighty the power which moves and controls the whole machinery — the power of steam! How immensely superior to any other motive power as yet brought into general use! What steam is in this relation, so is the fear of God to morals. The religious principle in its influence on this complicate mechanism termed man, and on these intricate and bewildering human affairs, has a simple efficacy not only unsurpassed, but with which no other principle can vie.

2. The superiority of this principle appears also in its wide-reaching sphere of action. This sphere comprises every thing great and small that relates to human conduct. It embraces life in all its aspects. We cannot thus speak of other principles of action which men acknowledge. Take public opinion, for instance. If it be this which influences us in the course we pursue our morality may prove a very precarious thing. A life regulated by the opinion of one's fellow-creatures is likely to be well-ordered only so far, and for so long, as it shall be under the public eye; whereas the fear of God affects us as truly in the gloom of night as in the brightness of meridian day; affects us as really when remote from the city's hum and the crowded mart as it would in the midst of them; affects us as powerfully in mountain solitudes and on watery wastes as when the gaze of assembled thousands is upon us. "The morality," says a writer previously quoted, "the morality that is based upon self interest or the opinion of men, will not endure the severest tests. For what if a man should be beset by a temptation so great as to buy over his supposed self interest, and render it in his view more profitable to defraud than to be honest?

II. THE OPERATION OF THIS PRINCIPLE AS SEEN IN THE CHAPTER BEFORE US. It impelled Nehemiah to rectify abuses. Nehemiah discharged a disagreeable duty with all fidelity. "I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them," etc. Hitherto the fear of God has acted on Nehemiah as an impelling principle. We come now to the incident with which the text stands immediately connected, and we see the operation of this principle as a restraining force. "So did not I, because of the fear of God." It held Nehemiah in check.

(T. Robson.)

The words that I have read are a little fragment of his auto biography which deal with a prosaic enough matter, but carry in them large principles. When he was appointed governor of the little colony of returned exiles in Palestine, he found that his predecessors, like Turkish pashas and Chinese mandarins to-day, were in the habit of "squeezing" the people of their government, and that they requisitioned sufficient supplies of provisions to keep the governor's table well spread. It was the custom. Nobody would have wondered if Nehemiah had conformed to it; but he felt that he must have his hands clean. His religion went down into the little duties of common life, and imposed upon him a standard far above the maxims that were prevalent round about him.

I. THE ATTITUDE TO PREVALENT PRACTICES. That non-compliance with customary maxims and practices is the beginning, or, at least, one of the foundation-stones, of all nobleness and strength, of all blessedness and power. Of course, it is utterly impossible for a man to denude himself of the influences that are brought to bear upon him by the circumstances in which he lives, and the trend of opinion, and the maxims and practices of the world, in the corner, and at the time, in which his lot is cast. But, on the other hand, be sure of this, that unless you are in a very deep and not at all in a technical sense of the word "Nonconformists," you will come to no good. It is so easy to do as others do; partly because of laziness, partly because of cowardice, partly because of the instinctive imitation which is in us all. Men are gregarious. A great many of us adopt our creeds and opinions, and shape our lives, for no better reason than because people around us are thinking in a certain direction, and living in a certain way. Now, I ask you to take this plain principle of the necessity of non-compliance and apply it all round the circumference of your lives. Apply it to your opinions. There is no tyranny like the tyranny of a majority in a democratic country like ours. "What everybody says" — perhaps — "is true." What most people say, at any given time, is very likely to be false. Truth has always lived with minorities. If you have honestly thought out the subject to the best of your ability, and have come to conclusions diverse from those which men like me hold dearer than their lives, that is another matter. But I know that very widely there is spread the fashion of unbelief. So many influential men, leaders of opinion, teachers and preachers, are giving up the old-fashioned, evangelical faith, that it takes a strong man to say that he sticks by it. It is a poor reason to give for your attitude, that unbelief is in the air, and nobody believes those old doctrines now. An iceberg lowers the temperature all round it, and the iceberg of unbelief is amongst us to-day, and it has chilled a great many people who could not tell why they have lost the fervour of their faith. On the other hand, let me remind you that a mere traditional religion, which is only orthodox because other people are, and has not verified its beliefs by personal experience, is quite as deleterious as an imitative unbelief. It is no excuse for shady practices in your trade to say, "It is the custom of the trade; and everybody does it." Nehemiah might have said: "There never was a governor yet but took his forty shekels a day's worth" — about £1,800 of our money — "of provisions from these poor people, and I am not going to give it up because of a scruple. It is the custom, and because it is the custom I can do it." "Oh," but you say, "that involves loss." Very likely! Nehemiah was a poorer man because he fed all these one hundred and fifty Jews at his table, but he did not mind that. It may involve loss, but you will keep God, and that is gain. Do not be tempted to follow that multitude to do evil. Unless you are prepared to say "No I" to a great deal that will be pushed into your face in this great city, as sure as you are living you will make shipwreck of your lives.

II. THE MOTIVE THAT IMPELS TO THIS STURDY NON-COMPLIANCE. NOW, my point is this, that Jesus Christ requires from each of us that we shall abstain, restrict ourselves, refuse to do a great many things that are being done round us. I need not remind you of how continually He spoke about taking up the cross. I need not do more than just remind you of His parable of the two ways, "Enter ye in at the strait gate, for strait is the gate." Just because there are so many people on the path suspect it, and expect that the path with fewer travellers is probably the better and the higher. But to pass from that, what did Jesus Christ mean by His continual contrast between His disciples and the world? Society is not organised on Christian principles; we all know that. And until it is, if a man is going to be a Christian he must not conform to the world. "Know ye not that whosoever is a friend of the world is an enemy of God?" I would press upon you that our Christianity is nothing unless it leads us to a standard, and a course of conduct in conformity with that standard which will be in diametrical opposition to a great deal of what is patted on the back, and petted and praised by society. Now, there is an easy-going kind of Christianity which does not recognise that, and which is in great favour with many people to-day; and is called "liberality" and "breadth," and "conciliating and commending Christianity to outsiders," and I know not what besides. Well, Christ's words seem to me to come down like a hammer upon that sort of thing. Society does not think much of these trimmers. It may dislike an out-and-out Christian, but it knows him when it sees him, and it has a kind of hostile respect for him which the other people will never get.

III. THE POWER WHICH ENABLES US TO EXERCISE IT. "The fear of God," or, taking the New Testament equivalent, "the love of Christ," makes it possible for a man, with all his weakness and dependence on surroundings, with all his instinctive desire to be like the folk that are near him, to take that brave attitude, and to refuse to be one of the crowd that runs after evil and lies. Christ will enable you to take this necessary attitude because, in Himself He gives you the example which it is always safe to follow. The instinct of invitation is planted in us for a good end, and because it is in us examples of nobility appeal to us. He makes it possible for us, because we have the strongest possible motive for the life that He prescribes. As the Apostle puts it, "Ye are bought with a price, be not the servants of men." There is nothing that will so deliver us from the tyranny of majorities, and of what we call general opinion and ordinary custom, as to feel that we belong to Him because He died for us. Jesus Christ being our Redeemer is our Judge, and moment by moment He is estimating our conduct, and judging our actions as they are done. The servant of Christ is the master of all men. "All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas — all are yours, and ye are Christ's."

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

How often we see fear expel fear. The fear of being burnt will nerve a woman to let herself down by a water-pipe from the upper storeys of a house in flames. The fear of losing her young will inspire the timid bird to throw herself before the steps of a man, attracting his notice from them to herself. Oh! for that Divine habit of soul which so conceives of the majesty, and power, and love of God, that it does not sin against Him, but would rather brave a world in arms than bring a shadow over His face.

(F. B. Meyer.)

It is a noble sight to see a man, moved simply by religious considerations, departing from customs sanctioned by society; going against the tide of opinion and practice; foregoing worldly profits; deaf to the pleas that satisfy the multitude, meekly asserting a spiritual independence; silently rebuking the sinfulness and servility of the times; only careful of acquitting himself to God, and realising his ideal of moral integrity. He is like a spring in an arid desert. He is like a star shining brightly amid dark clouds. Our subject is, "The Christian in commerce." The Christian tradesman must assume the attitude of Nehemiah. His principles must take the form of reform and opposition. Consider —

I. WHAT CHRISTIANITY REQUIRES OF A MAN IN HIS DEAINGS WITH HIS FELLOW-MEN.

1. The most rigid adherence to the principles of moral integrity in commerce.(1) Truth. This is the basis of all intercourse; society would be impossible without it. Truth is a most comprehensive virtue. It takes in far more than the literal statement of the fact. It condemns —

(a)All positive misrepresentations.

(b)All the arts by which one thing is palmed off for another.

(c)All deficient scales and measures.

(d)All pretences, when unfounded, of special bargains, etc.

(e)All promises which cannot be or are not meant to be kept.And on the part of the purchaser it condemns all pretences —

(a)That what is wanted is not wanted.

(b)That it has been purchased more cheaply elsewhere.

(c)That it is very inferior to what it really is. "It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer, but when he is gone his way he boasteth."(2) Honesty. This involves the meeting of all equitable claims, the fulfilment of all engagements voluntarily undertaken or assumed, the most rigid respect for the rights of property.

2. The exercise of love and kindness in commerce. This will preserve from exclusive dealing, etc.

3. That a man should preserve his soul in peace and patience in commerce.

4. That commerce should be consecrated and elevated by the spirit of holiness.

II. WHY THIS CONDUCT IS NECESSARY IN COMMERCE.

1. Commerce is a most important part of our life.

2. Commerce is a most influential part of our life.

3. Commercial holiness is imperatively required by the character and temper of the times,

(A. G. Morris.)

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