But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable to the people, and had taken of them bread and wine…
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.
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God.
WEB: But the former governors who were before me were supported by the people, and took bread and wine from them, besides forty shekels of silver; yes, even their servants ruled over the people: but I didn't do so, because of the fear of God.