Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge, by R.A. Torrey, [ca. 1880], at sacred-texts.com
Of Nehemiah, the author and principal actor in the events recorded in this book, the Jews speak as one of the greatest men of their nation. His concern for his country entitles him to the character of the first patriot that ever lived. Descended, according to some, of the family of Aaron, or according to others, of the tribe of Judah and allied to the royal family of David, in the course of Divine Providence, he was a captive in Babylon, but there his excellences were so apparent, that he was chosen by the Persian king to fill an office the most respectable and the most confidential in the whole court. Here he lived in ease and affluence. he lacked no good thing; and here he might have continued to live, in the same affluence, and in the same confidence; but he could enjoy neither, so long as he knew his people distressed, the sepulchres of his fathers trodden under foot, the altars of his God overturned, and his worship either totally neglected or corrupted. He sought the peace of Jerusalem; prayed for it; and was willing to sacrifice wealth, ease, safety, and even life itself, if he might be the instrument of restoring the desolations of Israel. And God, who saw the desire of his heart, and knew the excellences with which he had endowed him, granted his request, and gave him the high honour of restoring the desolated city of his ancestors, and the pure worship of their God. The opposition of Sanballat and the Samaritans, and the firmness and zeal with which he repelled their insults and ineffectual efforts cannot be read without the liveliest emotions; and will afford to the latest times, a noble and animating example of distinguished patriotism, united with the sincerest devotion to the interests of religion. The virtue and piety of this great and good man, appear with equal lustre in the numerous and important reformations he effected. He relieved the people from their hardships and oppressions, by abolishing the harsh and usurious practices of the nobles and rulers; gave up his own revenue, as governor of the province, for the benefit of the people; and, as a further means of conciliating their affections, exhibited an example of the most princely hospitality. As the best security for good morals, and the better observance of the laws of God, he re-established the offices of public worship, and prevented the profanation of the sabbath, which had arrived at a shameful excess; he furnished the returned captives with authentic registers, and enabled them, in the best manner possible, after so long and calamitous an interval, to trace the genealogies, and claim the inheritance of their respective families; and further, he accomplished the separation of the Jewish people from the mixed multitude, with which they had been incorporated, and annulled the numerous marriages which they had made with heathens and idolaters of every description. For disinterestedness, philanthropy, patriotism, prudence, courage, zeal, humanity, and every virtue that constitutes a great mind, and proves a soul in deep communion with God, Nehemiah will ever stand conspicuous among the greatest men of the Jewish nation; and an exemplar worthy of being copied by the first patriots in every nation under heaven.