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DEATH AND ETERNITY NEAR AT HAND
Ezekiel 12:23. The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision.
EXCEEDINGLY diversified were the ways by which God communicated his mind to his ancient people. At Mount Sinai he spake to them by an audible voice, and by legible characters engraven on tables of stone. To the high-priest he imparted the knowledge of his will, by means of the Urim and Thummim, which constituted his breast-plate. To the prophets he revealed himself by dreams, and visions, and inward inspiration. The Prophet Ezekiel was favoured with many and most extraordinary visions; some of which were very obscure; whilst others were either manifest in themselves, or were made clear by a special revelation of their import. On many occasions the prophets were directed to make use of some significant actions, which were to convey to the people knowledge of the events which awaited them. Of this last kind was the revelation now made to them by the Prophet Ezekiel. Many of the Jews had been carried captive to Babylon. But, because there yet remained in Judζa a king of their own nation, the people who lived under him thought that he would protect them from any fresh invasion, and even liberate their captive brethren also from the Chaldean yoke. But they continued to rebel against God as much as ever; and God therefore warned them, that all of them, both king and people, should go into captivity. Such warnings they had often received from the mouths of other prophets; and because God had exercised forbearance towards them, they thought that the threatened judgments should never be executed, or, at all events, not be executed in their day. This even passed into a proverb among them; so that it became a common saying among them, “The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth [Note: ver. 22.].” But, in opposition to this, the prophet was ordered to exhibit before them, in his own person, a representation of the impending judgments; and to announce to them God’s determination to inflict them speedily: “Say unto them, The days are at hand, and the effect of every vision.”
In improving this subject, there are two things to be noticed:
The tidings here announced—
These, as I have observed, were, that “the proverb which they had used should cease;” and that all the judgments which God’s servants had from time to time denounced against that people should speedily be accomplished.
Now, similar tidings I have to announce to you. Concerning you, also, have many visions been revealed—
[You have been warned, times without number, that God hateth, and will punish, sin. You have been told, that death will arrest you, and carry you into the presence of your God; that, according to your state before him, God will deal with you in a way of judgment or of mercy; and that the state in which you will then be fixed, will abide for ever — — —]
But you have disregarded them, even as the Jews of old did—
[Some will go so far as to say, that “these visions will fail,” and never be accomplished. Others of a less daring habit, who would not venture thus flatly to contradict the word of God, will yet divest it of all its power, by supposing that it refers to other times and other persons, rather than to themselves at this time: “The vision that he seeth is for many days to come, and he prophesieth of the times that are afar off [Note: ver. 27.].” If a man, duly authorized, were to come and arrest us for any crime, we should feel a personal interest in all that he said: but when the plainest and most pointed truths are spoken to us from the Lord, we hear them as if we had no personal concern in them whatever; and are no more affected with them, than we should be with a relation of some events which had occurred, or were about to occur, in some foreign nation with which we were personally unconnected — — —]
I must however declare to you, that “the days are at hand, for every vision of God’s word to take effect”—
[Death and judgment are not far off from any of us: for what is the longest life, when viewed in connexion with eternity? But how few, in comparison, live to an advanced age? yea, what multitudes are cut off in the very prime of life! And what a change in a congregation does a few years effect! and, when “our day is come, has not every vision its full effect?” Go, and see whether God’s word was not verified towards the Jews in Babylon. God himself put it to their descendants, in a way of solemn appeal, “My words, and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? To which they were constrained to reply, “Like as the Lord of Hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us [Note: Zechariah 1:6.].” And so also shall his every word take hold of you, and be fulfilled in you. Think what ye will of his long-suffering and forbearance, if ye continue to disregard his warnings, know of a surety, that “your judgment lingereth not, and your damnation slumbereth not [Note: 2 Peter 2:3; 2 Peter 3:9-10.]” — — —]
But these tidings will appear in all their force, if we mark,
The sign by which they were confirmed—
The prophet was commanded to dig through the wall of his house, and carry out his furniture upon his shoulders in their sight, and, as through excess of grief, to cover his face, so as not to see the ground; in order to shew the people what should be done by them, both king and people, in their approaching siege and captivity [Note: ver 3–12.]. Thus “he was to them as a sign [Note: ver. 6, 11.].”
And have we no sign, confirming God’s word to us?
[Yes, (the departed year is a sign to us; or our departed brother is a sign to us;) every person who dies around us, and every sound of his funeral knell, is a sign to us, that the visions of God are taking effect, and that soon they shall take effect with respect to us. We may, in our imagination, “put the evil day far from us;” but every day and hour brings it nearer to us: and when “the day is fully come,” not all the universe can arrest the hand of death, or protract our existence here one single moment. Then, whatever be our age, whatever our rank, or whatever interest the whole nation may have in our life [Note: It was preached in Jan. 1827, on account of the death of the Duke of York.] — — — we must obey our summons, and go into the presence of our God. Prepared or unprepared, we must stand naked before him, and receive from him that doom which his word has taught us to expect — — — I say again, therefore, to you, that every person that is called into the eternal world is precisely such a sign to you as Ezekiel was to the Jews—a sign that the visions of God are true, and that “every one of them, in due season, shall take effect.”]
And now, what encouragement had the prophet to discharge his painful office? It was but a peradventure: “It may be they will consider [Note: ver 3.].” With that humble, but feeble hope [Note: 2 Timothy 2:25-26.], I address you, my Brethren.
It may be that some of you will consider—
[O that God would incline your hearts to consider all the visions which from time to time are set before you! Truly, not one has ever been kept back from you: no; “I have declared unto you, as far as I have been able, the whole counsel of God.” Your lost estate has been set before you with all fidelity; and the way of salvation proclaimed to you, in all its freeness, in all its fulness, in all its excellency: and that record has been explained to you in an infinite diversity of ways, that “He who hath the Son, hath life, and he who hath not the Son of God, hath not life [Note: 1 John 5:11-12.].” “The effects, too, of these visions” have been set before you, by an exhibition, so far as I was able, of all the blessedness of heaven, and of all the misery of hell. Now, then, consider these things, I pray you. Consider your own personal interest in them. Consider in what light you will view them the very instant that your soul is separated from your body: and now, so lay them to heart, that they may prove effectual for your conversion to God, and for the everlasting salvation of your souls — — —]
It may be, however, and I fear will be, that the great mass of you will not consider—
[When I look back, and see how little fruit all my past instructions have produced, I cannot but fear that this will share the same fate as they; and in the space of one hour, or, at all events of one day, be altogether forgotten. Not that they will be forgotten by God, in whose name they are delivered: for they are all recorded in the book of his remembrance, and will rise up in judgment against those who have failed to improve them. Why, my Brethren, will you make so light of these things, which yet you believe to be of everlasting moment, and which God makes known to you by me for the eternal welfare of your souls? I tremble to think, that, at this very instant, whilst I am addressing these things to you for your good, I am eventually only sinking many of you into deeper perdition. O that God would awaken you to a sense of your condition, ere it be too late [Note: See Zephaniah 1:12. with Ezekiel 7:5-9. which, though primarily applicable to temporal judgments, may be addressed to a soul in this state.]! O that so much as one of you would arise from his stupor, and “recover himself out of the snare of the devil, by whom he is led captive at his will!” Let me not, my Brethren, be disappointed of this hope: but go home, and fall upon your knees before God, and pray to him, that, whatever other “rebels” may do, you may “be wise, and consider your latter end.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Ezekiel 12". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany