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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Ezekiel 20

Verse 37

DISCOURSE: 1108
CONVERSION, IN ITS COMMENCEMENT AND PROGRESS

Ezekiel 20:37. I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant.

THE precise import of these words is not clear at first sight. If we take them in connexion with the preceding context, they must be considered as a continuation of the threatening denounced against the Jews for their abominable idolatries. Then their meaning will be, ‘I will inflict upon you the judgments which your violations of my covenant demand:’ or, as God had said by Moses, “I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant [Note: Leviticus 26:25.].” If, on the other hand, the words be taken in connexion with the following context, then they must be regarded as a promise, that, notwithstanding the judgments that should be inflicted on them, God had mercies in reserve for them, and would, at a future period, restore them to his favour. And this is the sense to which I rather incline. The obstinately rebellious amongst them, indeed, he would give up to their own lusts, and utterly destroy them [Note: ver. 38, 39.]: but he would take out a chosen people from among them, and bring them to his holy mountain, and accept all their offerings, and make himself known to them as their reconciled God and Father, and give them repentance to salvation, not to be repented of [Note: ver. 40–44.]. This exactly accords with what the prophet had spoken in a preceding chapter: “Thus saith the Lord God: I will even deal with thee as thou hast done, which hast despised the oath in breaking the covenant. Nevertheless, I will remember my covenant with thee in the days of thy youth; and I will establish unto thee an everlasting covenant [Note: Ezekiel 16:59-60.].” In this view the words have a singular beauty; and will lead us to some extremely profitable reflections.

It was customary with shepherds, as it is also at this day, to make their flocks pass under their pastoral rod, in order that he might number them, or separate some from the rest [Note: Leviticus 27:32.Jeremiah 33:13; Jeremiah 33:13.]. In this way God promises to make Israel pass before him, in order to select from them a people unto himself, and to bring them into the bonds of his everlasting covenant. And, in conformity with this view, we might well direct your attention to the future conversion of the Jews, who shall assuredly be restored to the favour of their God. But, waving this part of the subject, I will rather speak of conversion generally; the process of which is the same, whether in them or in us. We may notice, then, this work of conversion, as here described,

I.

In its commencement—

“The Lord,” we are told, “hath set apart him that is godly for himself [Note: Psalms 4:3.].” This he accomplishes in a variety of ways:

1.

By the dispensations of his Providence—

[Sometimes things which, humanly speaking, we should call accidental, are ordered with a special view to the awakening of immortal souls, and leading them to the knowledge of himself. In our Saviour’s progress from Judea to Galilee, “he must needs go through Samaria; and, being wearied with his journey, he stopped at a city called Sichar, and seated himself by a well called Jacob’s well. Whilst he was there, a woman of Samaria came thither to draw water.” In all this there appears nothing but an ordinary occurrence: but it was God’s appointed way of bringing her, together with many others, under the rod, and eventually into the bond of his covenant [Note: John 4:3-7; John 4:25-26.]. Not unfrequently he is pleased to make use of some afflictive dispensation; as in the case of Manasseh, upon whom “God brought the armies of the king of Assyria, who, as his instruments, took him among the thorns, and bound him in fetters, and carried him to Babylon:” the effect of all which was, that, “when he was in affliction, this monster of impiety besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers [Note: 2 Chronicles 33:11-13.],” and obtained mercy at his hands. Multitudes of others also, in every age, have found reason to say, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept thy law.”]

2.

By the conversion of some pious friend—

[We see not, in general, any thing remarkable in an accidental interview with a pious person; whilst yet it may, perhaps, have been as particularly ordained of God for a special end, as the meeting of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. God especially directed Philip to join himself to the eunuch’s chariot, and to explain to him a passage of Scripture which he was not able to comprehend. By this was the eunuch guided to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, and made a partaker of everlasting salvation. Thus, persons sent to us, though they received not their commission in so plain and direct a way, have come to us under the same Divine guidance, and have been made alike successful in their efforts for our good. For similar benefits was Peter indebted to his brother Andrew, and Nathanael to his friend Philip [Note: John 1:40; John 1:45.]: and perhaps many amongst ourselves must trace our first awakenings to some event of this kind, even to a friendly suggestion from some pious or benevolent instructor.]

3.

By the public ministry of the word—

[It is by this, for the most part, that God is pleased to separate, and seal us up, for his own. He sends home his word with power to the heart of one and another, just as he did to the heart of Lydia; and causes them to surrender up themselves to him, as his redeemed people. A whole assembly is present: but a discrimination is made by God, according to his sovereign will and pleasure; who makes “the same word to be to some a savour of life unto life, whilst to others it becomes only a savour of death unto death [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:16.].”]

4.

By the secret operation of his Spirit upon the soul—

[We see not the rod in the hand of the great Shepherd; but he is using it every moment, for the purpose of separating a people for himself. By his good Spirit he imparts a sensation to the soul, a heavenly touch, of which the person himself perhaps, at first, is scarcely conscious. By that he enlightens the eyes, and draws the heart; and prepares a person for fuller discoveries of his power and grace. Job says, “God speaketh once, yea, twice; yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, that he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man [Note: Job 33:14-17.].” Doubtless, whatever is done by the Holy Spirit, is, and must ever be, in perfect accordance with the word: but his motions are not confined to means or instruments of any kind: yet, in his operations, he always deals with us as rational creatures; drawing us, not by force, as inanimated beings, but “with the cords of a man, and with the bands of love [Note: John 6:44. with Hosea 11:4.].”]

This, then, is the preparatory work, whereby “God causes us to pass under the rod:” and this is the commencement of that conversion, which we are next to mark,

II.

In its progress—

God’s ultimate view, in these diversified dispensations, is, to bring us into the bond of his covenant, because it is only by virtue of that covenant, and through an interest in it, that sinful man can be saved. When, therefore, he has made us to pass under the rod,

1.

He reveals that covenant to us—

[Previous to a work of grace upon our souls, we are altogether ignorant of the covenant which God has made with us, and with his only-begotten Son in our behalf. We have, perhaps, some general notions about repentance and faith; but we have no distinct view of the Saviour undertaking for us to expiate our guilt by the sacrifice of himself, and to work out a righteousness for us by his own obedience unto death. We see not our need of such a covenant: much less do we so behold its excellency, as to “comprehend the breadth and length and depth and height of his love” displayed in it. But, when God, in tender mercy, arrests us in our course, and directs our attention to eternal things, he opens and unfolds to us this covenant, in all its merciful provisions: he shewn us, that in this covenant there is abundant security, both for the honour of God and the happiness of man; inasmuch as, by the provisions of it, all his perfections are glorified, and every want of man is supplied. Thus “his secret is with us, and he shews us his covenant [Note: Psalms 25:14.].”]

2.

He enables us to lay hold on it—

[There is much reluctance in us, at first, to embrace this covenant. It is too humiliating for us; in that it requires us to abandon all self-dependence, and to look for acceptance with God solely through the merits of his dear Son. But when once we have passed under the rod of our divine Shepherd, and been set apart for him, then comes “the day of his power; and we are made willing” to be saved on any terms which it has pleased God to prescribe. The salvation of our souls is then, in our estimation, “the one thing needful:” and, without any wish to stipulate for ourselves, we cry, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Then, as the man-slayer sought a city of refuge, and fled to it with all earnestness from the pursuer of blood, so do we most thankfully lay hold on this covenant, and “flee for refuge to the hope that is set before us.” In truth, this way of salvation appears precisely such as our necessities require. The covenant makes over to us every thing, as the free gift of God for Christ’s sake: and, deeply conscious that we have nothing, and can do nothing, whereby to merit even the smallest of its blessings, we are glad to receive them all “without money and without price.”]

3.

He confers upon us all the blessings—

[“This covenant is ordered in all things, and sure:” it makes over to us all that we can ever need, for body or for soul, for time or for eternity. Accordingly, from the time that we are brought to “lay hold upon it,” God showers forth his blessings upon us in rich abundance; “he blots out all our iniquities, as a morning cloud;” and pours down upon us the riches of his grace, whereby we are enabled to mortify all our corrupt affections, and to walk before him in newness of heart and life. He makes known himself to us as a Covenant God, that is engaged to fulfil to us all his promises, and to “perfect in us the work he has begun.” In short, he gives us to see that heaven itself is our inheritance; and that, whilst “that is reserved for us, we also are kept by his mighty power for it [Note: 1 Peter 1:4-5.].” His faithfulness then becomes no less an object of our affiance than his mercy; and we are enabled, with confidence, to say, “There is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me,” at the great day of his appearing.]

We cannot but remark from hence,
1.

How sovereign God is, in the dispensations of his mercy—

[If a shepherd separate any sheep for his own peculiar use, it is probable that he has some reference to their intrinsic worth, as the ground of his preference. But our heavenly Shepherd has respect to nothing but his own sovereign will and pleasure. This remarkably appears in the passage before us; where the promise of God’s mercy is so interwoven with the denunciations of his wrath, as to involve a doubt in which of the two lights it is to be viewed. And in this way it is that God’s promises are frequently introduced. By the Prophet Isaiah, God says of his Church, “For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth, and smote him: I hid me, and was wroth; and yet he went on frowardly in the way of his heart.” Now, what might we expect to follow this? What, but some heavy denunciation of his wrath? Yet, behold, he adds, “I have seen his ways, and will heal him, and will restore comfort to him and to his mourners [Note: Isaiah 57:17-18.].” It was in this sovereign way that Saul was “made a chosen vessel to the Lord:” and I doubt not but that every individual amongst you, who has ever experienced conversion in his own soul, will trace it altogether to the same source, and say, “By the grace of God I am what I am [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:10.].”]

2.

How mysterious are his dealings with the children of men—

[Sheep, when undergoing the process referred to in my text, are usually full of fear and terror, expecting nothing but evil, whilst their shepherd designs them nothing but good. So it is also, most generally, with the children of men, at their first awakening: they apprehend nothing but vengeance at the hands of an offended God; and regard the rod as held over them only for their ruin. But at no distant period their fears are turned into joy: and it is delightful to contemplate what shall soon be the issue of those convictions which perhaps at this time may be filling the souls of some amongst you with terror and dismay. Could you but see what is really passing in reference to you at this moment, you would behold, perhaps, your heavenly Shepherd standing over you, and by his word and Spirit marking you for his own. O, beloved, lift up your hearts to him in earnest prayer, and say, “Take me, Lord, even me, the least and meanest of thy flock!” and learn to regard all his dispensations as means to this blessed end.]

3.

How you may best answer all the purposes of his grace—

[You have heard what God’s gracious purpose is towards all the objects of his love: he seeks “to bring them into the bond of his covenant.” Trouble not then ourselves about the abstruse doctrines of election; but seek to have the ends of electing love accomplished in you. Lay hold on God’s covenant; embrace the salvation there offered you; go to the Mediator of the New Covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ; and seek all the blessings of it, in and through him. Then shall you have in yourselves an evidence of that, which you never can discover but by its fruits. It was “from their works of faith, and labours of love, and patience of hope,” that St. Paul knew the election of his Thessalonian converts [Note: 1 Thessalonians 1:3-4.]: and from our laying hold of God’s covenant, we may assuredly ascertain that he has “chosen us to salvation,” and loved us with an everlasting love. Again, therefore, I say, perplex not yourselves about what no man can know, except from its effects; but do that which will at once ensure all the blessings of salvation, and demonstrate that God is your God for ever and ever.]


Verses 40-44

DISCOURSE: 1109
RESTORATION OF THE JEWS, AND THE CONVERSION OF A SOUL, COMPARED

Ezekiel 20:40-44. In mine holy mountain, in the mountain of the height of Israel, saith the Lord God, there shall all the house of Israel, all of them in the land, serve me: there will. I accept them, and there will I require your offerings, and the first-fruits of your oblations, with all your holy things. I will accept you with your sweet savour, when I bring you out from the people, and gather you out of the countries wherein ye have been scattered; and I will be sanctified in you before the heathen. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for the which I lifted up mine hand to give it to your fathers. And there shall ye remember your ways, and all your doings, wherein ye have been defiled; and ye shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for all your evils that ye have committed. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have wrought with you for my name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord God.

THE history of the Jews, whether retrospective or prospective, is extremely interesting; not only as abounding in events more wonderful than all the histories of the whole world beside, but particularly as illustrating the dealings of God with the souls of men, at the present day, and in all ages, to the very end of time. Of the retrospective part, such as their bringing out of Egypt, and their sojourning in the wilderness, and their introduction into the promised land, we shall have no occasion to speak at this time: but to the things predicted concerning them, all of which are as certain as if they were already past, and which therefore may be called their prospective history, we would now direct your attention, and especially with a view to illustrate from them the conversion of our souls to God.
Let me, then, point out,

I.

The effect which the restoration of the Jews will hereafter produce on them—

They shall assuredly be restored to God, and to their own land, in due season—
[“From all the countries, whither they have been driven, shall they be gathered:” and they shall, in their own land, be restored to the worship, and the favour, of their God — — — The terms in which their services are foretold, correspond with the ordinances which are prescribed by the Mosaic Law — — — But they are intended to express only that spiritual worship, which, under the Christian dispensation, we render unto God. These they will render from their inmost souls; and from God will they receive, as formerly, the most favourable tokens of his acceptance — — —]
The effects produced on them by their restoration will be truly blessed—
[They have been the most stiff-necked of any people; and even at this day are remarkable for the hardness of their hearts: but at that day they will be broken-hearted, and contrite in a very extraordinary degree. The recollection of their having “crucified the Lord of Glory” will pre-eminently lead to this [Note: Zechariah 12:10.]: and their views of their own extreme baseness will be exceeding deep [Note: Compare Ezekiel 16:63; Ezekiel 36:31. with ver. 43.] — — —

Their knowledge of God, too, will be proportionably enlarged. Their opportunities of knowing God have been hitherto most unprofitably employed: but in that day, when they shall see all the predictions concerning them so wonderfully fulfilled, they will be made to acknowledge, with more genuine feeling than ever, that God’s grace has been magnified towards them; and that they themselves are, above all people upon earth, the most wonderful monuments of his grace — — —]

In all this are shadowed forth,

II.

The effects which the conversion of our souls will infallibly produce on us—

There is a considerable resemblance between the restoration of the Jews, and the conversion of a soul to God—
[From a dark and wicked world is every soul brought in its conversion to God [Note: John 15:19; John 17:14.] — — — And from that moment it enjoys sweet communion with God, in all the exercises of prayer and praise [Note: 1 John 1:3.] — — — Then does “God manifest himself unto the soul as he does not unto the world [Note: John 14:22.],” and communicates unto it all the blessings both of grace and glory [Note: 1 John 5:14-15.] — — —]

And in the effects produced on them is there also a very strict resemblance—
[From conversion flows such a deep humiliation of soul as was never experienced before. The need of a broken and contrite spirit may have been long acknowledged; but the reality of it is never felt, till the soul is brought to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus. Then the wonders of redeeming love are seen; and all the evils of the heart and life are felt as heightened and aggravated by the consideration of them: so that the soul actually lothes and abhors itself as a very mass of iniquity [Note: Job 40:4; Job 42:6.] — — —

From it also is derived such a knowledge of God as the soul never before had any conception of. The perfections of God may have all been acknowledged before, in a speculative way; but now the soul realizes them, and feels itself a living witness and monument of them all — — — Especially does it then see the sovereignty of God, as exercised in the communications of his grace to men. Once, perhaps, the idea of God’s sovereignty was painful to the mind: but now it comes with a power and sweetness that cannot be described. The believer needs not now be told that he has not been dealt with according to his deserts: he knows full well where he should have been, if God had not been exceeding abundant in mercy towards him: and from his inmost soul he gives all the glory of his salvation to God alone — — — The one subject of thanks giving amongst the heavenly hosts is the continued subject of his song on earth [Note: Revelation 1:5-6.] — — —]

Let me, then, urge you all to seek this conversion:
1.

It is that by which God is to be glorified on earth—

[To the Jews, God says, “I will be sanctified in you before the heathen.” They, when converted to God, will be most distinguished monuments of God’s power and grace; yea, and of his truth and faithfulness also. And such, brethren, are ye to be, at this time: ye are to be “as lights shining in a dark world.” And such should be the change visible in you, as persons turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that all who behold you may “glorify God in you.” Especially let them see, that the mercies vouchsafed to you, so far from puffing you up with pride, are the means of humbling you in the dust before God, and of filling you with the most self-denying love to man — — — Ye are to be “epistles of Christ, known and read of all men [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:2-3.]:” and so is your light to shine before men, that all who behold you may glorify your Father who is in heaven [Note: Matthew 5:16.]”]

2.

It is that by which alone your souls can be saved—

[There must be in you a separation from the world, from worldly maxims, worldly habits, and worldly company. “All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world; and is utterly to be renounced; since, if you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you [Note: 1 John 2:15-16.].” To God, also, must you be brought: so as to “walk before him,” and to seek all your happiness in communion with him. You must also, to your latest hour, be abased before him in dust and ashes; and maintain upon your souls such a sense of his excellency, as must be to you a very foretaste of heaven itself. True, indeed, all this is not learned at once: but, as a child, at its first coming into the world, possesses all the parts of a man, so must all these things be begun in you, if ever you would approve yourselves as children of the living God — — — O, seek of God that grace that shall be sufficient for you; and know, that, as his future mercies to the Jews will not be obstructed by their past obduracy, so neither shall the descent of his grace on you be prevented by any unworthiness of yours, if only you will cry to God in his Son’s name, and “flee to Christ for refuge, as to the hope that is set before you.” “Of those who come to God in the name of Christ, not one shall ever be cast out.”]


Verse 49

DISCOURSE: 1110
MEN’S TREATMENT OF THE GOSPEL

Ezekiel 20:49. Then said I, Ah Lord God! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?

THE word of God, by whomsoever spoken, should be received with reverence and godly fear. Great care indeed should be taken to examine whether the word which is spoken in his name be agreeable to the sacred oracles; but when that point is ascertained, then we should bow before it, and submit ourselves wholly and cheerfully to its directions. This is the plain dictate of reason and common sense: but yet it is far from being the regulating principle of men’s actions; for at the very time that men acknowledge the divine authority of the word delivered, they set themselves in a variety of ways to invalidate its force, and to withstand its influence. The Jews who came to inquire of Ezekiel had no doubt of his being a prophet, inspired of God to declare unto them his holy will. Yet when he did deliver to them the messages sent by his divine Master, they poured contempt upon them, and said, “Doth he not speak parables?”
From hence we shall take occasion to shew,

I.

How the messages of God are treated—

The import of the observation made by the Jews on Ezekiel’s ministrations seems to have been, that his word was altogether so figurative and unintelligible as to be unworthy of any serious attention. It may be thought perhaps that this was a singular case; but it is, in fact, a just specimen of the way in which the messages of God have been treated from the beginning of the world—
[When Noah preached to the antediluvian world, he was regarded as a weak alarmist, who merited only their pity and their scorn. When Lot warned his family of the impending judgments that would soon fall on Sodom and Gomorrha, “he seemed,” we are told, “as one that mocked to his sons-in-law.” When Jehu was informed by a prophet that God had destined him to assume the royal authority, the messenger was designated by the title, that mad fellow; “What said that mad fellow unto thee?” If we come to the New-Testament dispensation, we find our blessed Lord himself, who “spake as never man spake,” treated in the same contemptuous manner: many of the Jews said of him, “He hath a devil, and is mad: why hear ye him [Note: John 10:20.]?” and again, “Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil [Note: John 8:48.]?” The name, “that deceiver,” seems to have been given him by his enemies as a common appellation [Note: Matthew 27:63.]. His Apostles met with precisely the same reception. St. Paul was accounted a babbler; and when speaking most unquestionably “the words of truth and sober ness,” was thus reviled; “Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning hath made thee mad [Note: Acts 17:18; Acts 26:24.].” And is it not thus at the present day? Is not every one who delivers the word of God with fidelity and boldness represented as a fanatic, and a deceiver? Some condemn the matter of his discourses, as visionary, as erroneous, as unnecessarily strict, or as lax even to licentiousness. Others condemn the manner: if it be firm, it is harsh; if affectionate, it is canting; if written, it is dull; if unwritten, it is enthusiastic, and devoid of sense. In a word, it is now as in the days of old: when John came, neither eating nor drinking, it was said he had a devil; and when our Lord came with condescending freedom, “eating and drinking,” it was said of him, “Behold a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners:” and in like manner we, “whether we pipe or mourn,” are equally unacceptable to our hearers, and obnoxious to their censure [Note: Matthew 11:16-19.].

It is worthy of observation too, that the opposers of the Gospel seem never to entertain a doubt but that they are quite correct in all the censures which they pass upon those who minister the word unto them. “Doth he not speak parables?” was in the apprehension of Ezekiel’s hearers an obvious fact; and the inference which they drew from it, namely, That he was unworthy to be regarded, was in their estimate perfectly legitimate and undeniable. So now the folly of all who preach the Gospel, and the consequent propriety of disregarding every thing they say, are considered as so plain, that none but persons equally weak with themselves can entertain a doubt upon the subject.]
If such be indeed the treatment generally given to the Lord’s messages, it will be useful to inquire,

II.

Whence it is they are so treated—

Doubtless persons who mean well may both speak and act with considerable indiscretion, and may by their injudicious conduct cause the way of truth to be evil spoken of. But as the treatment of God’s messages is the same by whomsoever they are delivered, we must look for the reason of it, not so much in the messengers, as in those to whom they are sent. There are then in the hearers of the Gospel many obstacles to a just reception of it;

1.

A pride of understanding—

[Men think themselves qualified to sit in judgment upon the word of God, just as much as upon any human composition; and, when it accords not with their pre-conceived opinions, they do not hesitate to pronounce it foolishness [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 2:14.]. To receive it with the docility of little children they would consider as a degradation to them. They account it not indeed a degradation to children to receive instruction from their parents, or their authorized instructors; but they see not any such distance between the mind of God and theirs, as to call for any such submission to him on their part, though “they are born like a wild ass’s colt.” Hence it must necessarily arise that they will stumble, and be offended, at the great mysteries of redemption.]

2.

An independent spirit—

[“Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?” is the reply, which, not Pharaoh only, but the whole host of rebels, make to the commands of God. It is awful to observe how little weight the authority of God has in influencing the conduct of the world. Tell them how much their interest will be affected by this or that line of conduct, and they will give a patient attention to your advice: but speak of God’s judgments, and they will “puff at them” with sovereign contempt [Note: Psalms 10:5.]. Such treatment they themselves would not endure, for a moment, from a child or servant of their own: but they offer it to God without any self-reproach, or any fear of his displeasure. They will not indeed confess that they thus oppose themselves to their Maker: they will maintain, that the word spoken to them is no just expression of his will: but this is a mere cover to their rebellion: they will not comply with his commands, and therefore they will deny altogether that they proceed from him, or else wall so interpret them as altogether to change their import, and evade their force.]

3.

An inveterate aversion to holiness—

[To a formal and external righteousness many are not at all averse; they rather love it, as a substitute for spiritual obedience. But bring to their view the requisitions of God’s law, and they cry out against them, as unreasonably severe, yea, as utterly impracticable and absurd. Our Lord himself informs us, that this is the true source of their rejection of his word: “They love darkness rather than light: they even hate the light, and will not come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved.” No wonder that they cry, “Doth he not speak parables?” when they are determined beforehand not to understand the plainest declarations.]
Before any determine thus to reject the messages of Heaven, it will be well for them to consider,

III.

What consequences must ensue from this treatment of them—

Certainly,

1.

All the ends of our ministry among them must be defeated—

[It is in vain to speak to those who will not hear: the invitations, the promises, the threatenings of Scripture can be of no avail to those who will not acknowledge the authority of God in them. What a melancholy reflection is this, that God should send ambassadors to men with messages of peace and love, and that men should “make light of them,” and recompense with hatred and contempt every effort that is made for their salvation. Well might Paul “have continual heaviness and sorrow in his heart,” when he reflected on the state of such persons, and that, instead of having to present them to God as his joy and crown, he should have to appear as a swift witness against them in the day of judgment,]

2.

Their guilt and condemnation must be greatly aggravated—

[No man leaves the house of God as he came into it: the ordinance which he has attended has either brought him nearer to heaven, or prepared him more as fuel for the tire of hell. If the word be not “a savour of life unto life, it is savour of death unto death.” Our blessed Lord told his hearers, that “if he had never come and spoken unto them, they would comparatively have had no sin:” but that in consequence of their rejection of his proffered mercies, “the state of Sodom and Gomorrha would be more tolerable in the day of judgment than theirs.” In like manner we must say to our hearers, that every opportunity of instruction which they have enjoyed is a talent to be accounted for; and that their hiding of it in a napkin will be a ground of their condemnation [Note: John 3:19.].]

Application—

[And now what account must we carry to our God concerning you? He has sent us to deliver his messages; and he will require of us some account of the manner in which they have been received amongst you. And what shall we say? Must we not, in reference to the greater part of you, say, “Ah! Lord God,” we come with a painful report: we would have rejoiced to have told thee, that thy word had had “a free course, and been glorified amongst them;” but we are constrained to declare, that, if not in word, yet at least in spirit, they say of us, “Doth he not speak parables?” Some do really think that the message we deliver is no other than “a cunningly-devised fable;” whilst others, acquiescing in it as coming from thee, are too busy, or too careless, to pay any respect to it. Some, it is true, take a pleasure in hearing thy word, just as Ezekiel’s hearers did; but, like them, they will not comply with any one of thy commands: their cares, their pleasures, their desire of earthly things, carry them away, and entirely engross their minds: they are hearers of thy word, but not doers of it: and though they sometimes are made to see their face as in a glass, they go away, and presently forget what manner of men they are. Thus, though they differ from one another in many things, they agree in this, namely, to refuse subjection to thy blessed word, and to follow the imaginations of their own hearts.
This however is not the case with all: there are some who receive the word, “not as the word of man, but, as it is in truth, the word of God.” Some there are that say of us, We have been messengers of glad tidings to their souls, and instruments in thy hands for their eternal welfare. The Saviour whom we have announced to them is precious to their souls; they look to him; they trust in him; they rejoice and glory in his salvation; and they shew forth their faith by their works. “O Lord God, what thanks can we render unto thee for all the joy where with we joy before thee on their account!” truly “they are our glory and joy.” O blessed Lord, increase their number a hundred fold; and “establish all their hearts unblameable in holiness unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ!” that when we shall be summoned to thy judgmentseat to give up our account to thee, we may do it with joy and not with grief. Let not one of them turn back again to perdition; but keep them all steadfast in faith and love and holiness, that we may have the joy of presenting them perfect before thee in that day, saying, “Here am I, and the children thou hast given me!”]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Ezekiel 20". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/ezekiel-20.html. 1832.