Andrew Fuller Friday: On the Union of Public and Private Interest in the Service of God

“From above the horse-gate repaired the priests, every one over against his house. After them repaired Zadok the son of Immer over against his house. After him repaired also Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the east gate. After him repaired Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph, another piece. After him repaired Meshullam the son of Berechiah over against his chamber.”—Neh. 3:28–30.

I have no desire, my friends, to amuse you with curious speculations on a difficult passage; but you will readily admit that all Scripture is profitable, and is designed to convey some important instruction to us. The zeal and diligence of these good people, in rearing the walls of Jerusalem, are far from being uninteresting. Were you to read the whole book, you would find your hearts warmed with a view of the ardour with which they undertook and finished it. Sixty or seventy years before this, the captives had returned from Babylon, and had rebuilt the city, and after that the temple; but still there was a wall wanting, and the city and temple were exposed to the depredation of enemies. Nehemiah, a godly Jew, at that time resident at the court of Persia, hearing how Jerusalem was circumstanced, was in great affliction that the gates thereof were burned, that the walls thereof were broken down, and the city under great reproach. He wept, he fasted, and went in unto the king, and obtained a commission to go and rear these broken and desolated walls. He met with great impediments: there were deep-rooted enmities amongst some of the Samaritans, especially Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the Ammonite; and some of his companions did all in their power to hinder the good work; but Nehemiah had his heart right, and was continually offering up his prayer, “Think upon me, O my God, for good;” and having his heart in the work, he communicated his design to his friends and brethren, and they set to work and wrought mightily with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other, and they laboured from the dawn of day till the stars appeared—in short, the wall was begun, and the wall was finished; for “the people had a mind to work.” I think, in this ardour, this zeal on the part both of Nehemiah and of the people, there was not only an amiable patriotism, but a portion of real piety. It was not merely the city of their fathers—it was not merely their own city—the walls of which they were thus zealous to repair; it was the city of God, the city of Zion. It was for the protection of the worship of God: and here lay the piety of this zeal.

I cannot now go over the chapter—you may read it at your leisure. It gives an account of the various persons and families who were engaged in this work of building the wall. I will only offer a few remarks.

Observe, in the first place, how the work was divided amongst them. You will read all along that every man and body of men, or family of men, had all separate work appointed them. All were set at work; one built this part, and one that, and thus, by every one taking his proper part, the whole was reared—by union the whole was accomplished. By a number of individuals setting their hands to the same work, uniting in it with all their heart, the work will rise, the wall shall not only be begun, but completed.

A second remark that offers itself, from this history, is, that though their work was separate, yet they had not separate interests. The place on which each laboured was separate—each had his own peculiar spot appointed him to labour on; but the object in which all were engaged was the same. Every man by rearing a part of the wall contributed to the finishing of the whole. It was one city, one wall, one great object, and, by every one accomplishing a part, the whole was completed. This teaches us that there is in the service of God a union of private and public interest, and that, while we each separately attend to our specific duty, we all contribute to that great object, the glory of God, the good of his church, and the good of mankind.

Once more, It is worthy of notice, and indeed this is the thought for which I read this passage, that things were so contrived that each man and body of men should, as far as possible, build over against his own dwelling Nay, we are told in the thirtieth verse of one man who was only a lodger, that is, he inhabited a chamber; and we are informed “that he built the wall over against his own chamber;” so that the smallest apartment served as a ground to excite all to unite in the general work of rearing the wall. I think, without any forced interpretation, this teaches us the importance of union of public and private interests in the service of God. Things are so devised, that, by thus acting in our own particular charge, we contribute to the general work; by building the wall, so to speak, against our own houses or our own chambers, we help to rear the wall around the city of God—we contribute to the building of the church, to the building of society, to the good of mankind, to the glory of God. You see, by this time, the sentiment on which I mean to enlarge.

I need not say, my brethren, that we are all engaged in a work analogous to that of the Jews. It is our business to build God’s house: it is our highest honour to build up society, to be blessings in our generation; and what we are here directed to, as a means, is to attend immediately to those things which are our especial charge—to build, as it were, over against our own houses.

God requires that we be of a large heart. We are enjoined to cherish largeness of heart, to seek the good of mankind, to embrace within our affections, and good wishes, and efforts, and prayers the well-being of the whole human race. Undoubtedly this is the case; yet the whole human race do not come within our province. We may pray for them, we may wish them well, we may long for their salvation, we may do something perhaps towards it; but the main part of our labour lies within our reach—it is over against our own apartments.

Fuller, A. G. (1988). “Importance of the Union of Public and Private Interest in the Service of God,” Sermon LIX. The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.; Vol. 1, pp. 469–470). Sprinkle Publications.

By |April 19th, 2024|Categories: Andrew Fuller Friday, Blog|

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