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OUT-POURING OF THE SPIRIT ON THE JEWS
Ezekiel 36:24-28. I will take you from among the. Heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes: and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.
IT will appear strange to say to a Christian assembly, that the true nature of Christianity is but little understood: but it is even so: for almost all persons regard it only as a code of laws, or a system of restraints: whereas, in truth, it is a mine of promises, of “exceeding great and precious promises,” which are made to every one who feels his need of them, and desires to embrace them. I say not that it does not also contain precepts; for no doubt it enjoins a total surrender of ourselves to God: but there is not any thing which it requires, which it does not also make over to us as a free gift of God for Christ’s sake. Take, for example, the passage before us. It is delivered to the Jews in their present dispersed state: and it provides for them all the blessings which they stand in need of, both in this world and in the world to come.
Let us consider these promises,
As delivered more immediately to the Jewish people—
Whatever reference these promises might have to the period of their return from Babylon, it is manifest that they did not receive at that time a full accomplishment; and, consequently, that we must look forward to the future restoration of the Jews as the period fixed for their final completion.
The Jews are destined to be restored to their own land—
[Of this, I conceive, there can be no reasonable doubt. The prophets speak so fully and so plainly on this subject, that we must divest language of all force and certainty before we can set aside the hope of their restoration to their own land. Whether that event shall precede or follow their conversion, I presume not to determine.
It should seem, from the writings of Moses, that the conversion of some, at least, will precede their return to Palestine: “When thou shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and obey his voice, then the Lord thy God will turn thy captivity [Note: Deuteronomy 30:1-3.].” The Prophet Jeremiah, on the other hand, represents both events as simultaneous: “They shall come with weeping; and with supplications will I lead them [Note: Jeremiah 31:8-9.].” But in the passage before us, the prophet speaks of their conversion as subsequent to their restoration: “I will bring you into your own land: then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean.” All of these testimonies doubtless are true; and they are easily reconciled, by only referring them to the different stages of their conversion, as viewed in its commencement, its progress, and its consummation. But, whatever be determined with respect to this, their future restoration to the land of their fathers is as certain as any event which yet remains to be fulfilled.]
It is, however, not to this, but to the conversion of their souls, that I would chiefly draw your attention—
[This is indisputably promised to them in the words of my text. And it is surprising how universally this view of the passage has been overlooked by the Christian world. There are few passages of Holy Scripture that are more frequently cited by the preachers of the everlasting Gospel than this: but, as though we were determined to rob the Jews of their interest in them, we have always omitted the first and last verses of the text, and applied the remainder altogether to ourselves: thus cutting off, as it were, the head and the feet, which marked the promise as belonging to the Jews, that we might seize upon the body as our own exclusive property. It is surprising that benevolence, which certainly is characteristic of the Christian world, should never have led us to contemplate and delight in the prospects here set forth for the comfort of God’s ancient people. But we have been as unmindful of their spiritual interests as if no such promise had been ever made to them, yea, and as if no such people existed in the world. And this is the more remarkable, because the same connexion between their conversion to God and their restoration to their own land is generally marked in the prophetic writings, and especially in places where these peculiar promises are made to them [Note: See Eze 11:17-20 and Jeremiah 32:37-39.]. But it is certain that God will bestow upon them all the blessings which are here specified; sanctifying them wholly to himself, and making them, as in the days of old, his own peculiar people. The gift of God’s Holy Spirit was declared, upon the day of Pentecost, to be reserved, not for the Jews of that day only, but “for them, and for their children, and for all that were afar off, even as many as the Lord their God should call [Note: Acts 2:39.].”
In the promise which is made to them in my text, there is an especial reference to the consecration of the Levites under the Mosaic Law. They were separated from all the other tribes, to wait upon God in the more immediate services of his sanctuary: and for this purpose they were consecrated to the Lord with peculiar solemnity: “Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. And thus shall thou do unto them, to cleanse them: sprinkle water of purifying upon them..…Then let them a young bullock with his meat-offering..…and another young bullock shalt thou take for a sin-offering and the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks: and thou shalt offer the one for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering, unto the Lord, to make an atonement for the Levites [Note: Numbers 8:6-8; Numbers 8:12.].” Thus will God take that whole people for priests and for Levites [Note: Isaiah 66:21.]” in the latter day, and sanctify them wholly to himself as his peculiar people. He will, by the atoning blood of Christ, and by the influence of his Holy Spirit, cleanse them from all their filthiness, and from all their idols: he will altogether renew them, also, in the spirit of their minds, and cause them to walk as holily as any of their most eminent ancestors in the days of old. In the presence of the whole world shall they be thus exalted: and whereas their name is now “Lo-ruhamah, arid Lo-ammi,” as disowned, and cast off from God; they shall again be recognised as “Ammi, and Ruhamah;” that is, as his people who have obtained mercy at his hands; and “God will say unto them, Thou art my people, and I am your God [Note: Hosea 1:6-8; Hosea 2:1; Hosea 2:23.].” Would you see them in the very act of returning; and behold their reception with their reconciled God, the Prophet Jeremiah, in a fore-cited passage, exhibits them before you, “coming to their God with weeping and with supplications;” and God, with paternal tenderness, declaring to them, “I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born [Note: Jeremiah 31:8-9.].”
The Jews, it is true, think but little of these prospects; (they, alas! are occupied rather with expectations of a temporal Messiah, under whom they shall attain the summit of worldly aggrandizement:) but it becomes us to look forward to far higher things in their behalf, and to anticipate with delight their actual enjoyment of them.]
Whilst we rejoice in the prospects held forth in this prophecy to the Jewish people, let us consider it also,
As applicable to the Church of God in all ages—
The promises here given are those of the new covenant [Note: Hebrews 8:8-10.]; and all who lay hold on that covenant, whether Jews or Gentiles, and whether now or in the millennial age, are alike interested in them. From the time that the Holy Spirit was sent forth by our ascended Saviour, have these blessings been poured out, in the richest abundance, on Gods Church and people; and, to every contrite and believing soul, God here promises his Holy Spirit,
To cleanse from sin—
[To cleanse from the guilt of sin is, in the first instance, the office of Christ, by the sprinkling of his blood. But it is the work of the Holy Spirit also; because it is he who reveals Christ to the soul, and enables us to apply to ourselves his precious blood. And, in fact, it is by implanting in our hearts the principle of faith, that he renews and sanctifies us after the Divine image: “He purifies our hearts by faith [Note: Acts 15:9.].” To what an extent we need his gracious influences, it is scarcely in the power of language to declare. Both “the flesh and the spirit of man” are altogether polluted and corrupt; as the Psalmist expresses it, “Our inward parts are very wickedness [Note: Psalms 5:9.].” Were all the thoughts and workings of our hearts as visible to men as they are to God, who is there amongst us that would not often be constrained to hide his face with shame and confusion? The idols, too, which we set up in the secret recesses of our hearts, alas! how numerous they are, and how fearfully have they provoked the Most High God to jealousy! But “from all our filthiness, and from all our idols, shall we be cleansed,” through the operation of the Spirit of God upon our souls; according as it is said by the Apostle, “Christ has loved the Church, and given himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish [Note: Ephesians 5:25-27.].” O! hear this, all ye who are weary and heavy laden with the guilt and burthen of your sins; and know assuredly, that if this is promised to the Jews in the Millennial age, it is no less promised to the Christian Church, and shall be fulfilled to all who will believe in Christ.]
To renew the heart—
[Verily, in every unregenerate man is “an heart of stone.” Who does not feel this? Who has ever addressed himself to the work of repentance, and not found how insensible his heart is of sorrow. or of shame, even on a review of a whole life of sin? With earthly concerns we are easily moved; but not with the concerns of the soul, even though we know that the wrath of Almighty God is revealed against us, and that we are justly obnoxious to his everlasting displeasure. But God promises to “take away from us the heart of stone, and to give us an heart of flesh,” tender, contrite, abased before God in dust and ashes. Shall the Jews, on their restoration, “look on Him whom they have pierced, and mourn, and be in bitterness, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born [Note: Zechariah 12:10.]?” Shall they, in the day to which my text refers, “remember their own evil ways, and their doings which were not good, and lothe themselves in their own sight for their iniquities and abominations [Note: ver. 31.]?” And shall not such be the effects wrought on our souls, if the Spirit of God be truly poured forth upon us? Our hearts shall be altogether renewed; so that we shall be, as it were, “a new creation:” “old things shall pass away, and all things become new.” Our dark understanding shall be enlightened; our rebellious will be subdued; our earthly and sensual affections be “purified, even as God is pure.” Together with our views, our desires shall be renovated; and all our hopes and fears, and joys and sorrows, be brought into an accordance with them. In a word, we shall “be renewed, after the Divine image, in righteousness and true holiness.” O! what a blessed change! Who will not from this hour seek to be a partaker of it, through the abounding mercy of our promise-keeping God?]
To sanctify the life—
[What has been before spoken metaphorically, is here delivered in plain terms: “God will put his Spirit within us, and cause us to walk in his statutes, and do them.” Adverse as we are by nature to God, and ready to complain of “his commandments as grievous,” we shall be made to “delight in his law after our inward man,” as soon as he has put his Holy Spirit within us: for “his law will then be written on the fleshy tables of our hearts.” There will be a constraining influence of our souls, which shall overcome all our natural reluctance, and make us the willing servants of our God. To state precisely how this work shall be wrought in us, is beyond our power: but methinks there is some analogy between the first creation of all things and this new creation which takes place in the soul of man. As an impulse was given to all the heavenly bodies, which are kept in their respective orbits by the attractive influence of the sun, around which they move, and whose radiance they reflect; so is there a divine impulse given to the soul of the regenerate man, who, from the first commencement of his course, yields to the attractions of “the Sun of Righteousness,” and fulfils his destined offices, to the praise and glory of his God. It is by his circuit only that the laws by which he acts are discovered; and they are known to proceed from God, because they lead him invariably to God: the effects produced upon his heart and life are decisive evidences that God is with him of a truth: they shew, that “He who hath wrought him to this self-same thing is God, who hath given unto him of his Spirit [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:5.].”]
Lay hold on these promises yourselves—
[You see how freely, and with what sovereign grace, God makes these promises unto you: for, if they are made to the Jews under their present state of degradation and wickedness, there is no one so debased or sinful, but that he may well appropriate them to himself, and seek an interest in them. You will take especial notice, that here are no conditions imposed in order to obtain an interest in them: nothing is required, but that we seek for these blessings in humble and fervent prayer [Note: ver. 37.]. As to the blessings themselves, every part proceeds from the unmerited love and mercy of God: in every clause, God’s will is pointed out as the one source of all the benefits. And when God is thus saying, “I will,” “I will,” “I will,” do these things for you, shall there be any reluctance shewn on our part? Shall it be said of us, as of the Jews of old, “How often would I have gathered you, as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, but ye would not?” O, brethren, let me rather entreat you, in reference to every clause, to add your hearty “Amen,” “So be it unto me, O Lord, according to thy will.” And I the rather urge this; because, without an experience of the things here promised, no soul from amongst you can ever behold the face of God in peace. Say, I pray you, can you “be the Lord’s people, and Jehovah be your God,” whilst these things are disregarded by you? Can you ever be exalted to thrones of glory, if you be not first cleansed by the blood and Spirit of Christ from all your filthiness, and from all your idols? Must not your heart of stone be changed, and your ungodly life be rectified, before you can enjoy the felicity of heaven? Your own consciences will attest, that this change is necessary: and therefore let all of you, whatever your present character may be, lay hold on these promises, as the one ground of your hopes, and as the only means of securing the blessedness to which they lead.]
Endeavour to promote the acceptance of them among the Jews—
[It is a shame and a scandal to the Christian world, that they have shewn such indifference to the welfare of the Jews for so many centuries. And surely it is high time that we awake at last to some sense of our duty. Remember, I pray you, what is the object which you are called to effect: it is not the restoration of the Jews to their own land: that you may well leave to the providence of God to accomplish in his own time and way: it is rather the conversion of their souls to God which calls for your aid; and I appeal to you, whether that do not deserve your most active co-operation. You may say, perhaps, That is God’s work, and may also be left to him. But it was not thus that the Apostles judged, in reference to us Gentiles. They could not, by any power of their own, convert a single soul: but did they therefore decline to use the means which God himself had appointed? No: they preached Christ to all to whom they could gain access: and it was in confirmation of their word that the Spirit of God descended on their hearers. St. Peter, when speaking to Cornelius and his company, said, “To Christ give all the prophets witness, that, through his name, whosoever believeth on him shall receive remission of sins.” And then it is particularly said, “While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word [Note: Acts 10:43-44.].” Thus, in concurrence with your efforts, God in his mercy will return to his deserted people; and again “take them as his people, and be their God.” Surely, the very hope of this is sufficient to animate you in your exertions: and if only in a few instances you may be instrumental in effecting this blessed end, it will richly repay you for all the liberality that you can exercise, and all the labour you can bestow.]
THE DUTY OF SELF-LOTHING
Ezekiel 36:31. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lathe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.
IT should seem, that the more excellent any man became, the higher thoughts he would have of his own excellence: and the more he was conformed to the will of God, the more he would be filled with self-complacency. But the very reverse of this is the truth. Men’s humiliation will always increase in proportion as they know the extent of their duty, and are made sensible of their defects; and consequently, the more they advance in holiness, the more they will lament their past, and remaining, iniquities. The words of our text confirm this. They are addressed, not to persons living in wilful and deliberate sin, but to persons “cleansed from their filthiness,” and possessed of “a new spirit, whereby they are enabled to walk in God’s statutes:” even to them is the injunction given, to “lothe themselves for their abominations.”
We shall consider,
The duty enjoined—
Repentance, though an universally acknowledged duty, is but little understood. It implies,
A calling of our evil ways to remembrance—
[However tenacious our memory may be of evils committed by others against us, we are very forgetful of the evils which we ourselves commit against God. But we should go back to the earliest periods of our life, and review the transactions which then took place: we should then prosecute our inquiries through each successive year, till our reason was expanded, and our judgment informed with respect to the nature and consequences of sin: we should advance in this way through the different stages of our existence, till we arrive at the present time. Much evil will doubtless have passed away, and left no trace behind: but much may be recalled to our minds, sufficient to shew, that the whole bias of our souls has been towards wickedness, and that, in proportion as our faculties of body and mind have been enlarged, we have devoted them to the service of sin and Satan.
Having brought our examination down to the present time, we should enter more deeply into the qualities even of our best actions: we should search into the motives from which they sprang; the manner in which they were performed; and the end at which we aimed in the performance of them: we should do this, not with a view to find our good deeds, but “our doings that were not good:” not to furnish ourselves with grounds of self-approbation and self-complacency, but rather of humiliation and contrition.]
A lothing of ourselves on account of them—
[The calling of our ways to remembrance is only preparatory to that more essential part of true penitence, “the lothing of ourselves on account of them.” To this it must lead: if it stop short of this, it is of no avail. It is in vain that we are alarmed and terrified with a sense of our guilt; for Pharaoh [Note: Exodus 10:16-17.], and Judas [Note: Matthew 27:3-5.], confessed their sins under a sudden impression of fear and remorse: nor will it suffice to express a considerable degree of sorrow on account of our state; for even in Ahab’s humiliation this was found [Note: 1 Kings 21:27.]: we must be brought to self-lothing and self-abhorrence.
The Scriptures illustrate sin by “a dog returning to his own vomit,” “and a sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire [Note: 2 Peter 2:22.]. “It must be confessed that the former of these metaphors is most disgusting: but the more disgusting it is, the more suited is it to the occasion; since the conduct of the sinner, like that of the dog, argues an unspeakably filthy and depraved appetite. Let us apply this metaphor, not to gross sins only, but to sin in general; and then consider, that sin has been, not merely a morsel swallowed under some violent temptation, but our daily food, yea, the only thing towards which he had any real appetite: and what filthy creatures shall we then appear! What disgusting objects must we be in the sight of God; and how ought we to lothe and abhor ourselves! The latter metaphor also is a just representation of our conduct; and shews, that no terms are too degrading, no images too disgusting, to represent the filthiness of our habits, and the depravity of our hearts.
Nor let it be thought that this representation is too strong; for it accords, not only with the text, which is frequently repeated [Note: Ezekiel 6:9; Ezekiel 20:43.], but with the confessions of the most eminent saint [Note: Genesis 18:27. Isaiah 6:5.], and justifies fully that declaration of Job, “Behold, I am vile! I repent, therefore, and abhor myself in dust and ashes [Note: Job 40:4; Job 42:6.].”]
That this is the duty of all, without exception, will appear by considering,
When it is to be performed—
We must not limit this repentance to the time of conversion merely; we must, as the context shews us [Note: “Then.” See ver. 25–27.], continue it after our conversion: indeed the period subsequent to our conversion is that wherein this duty is more particularly required. For,
Conversion qualifies us for it—
[Till we are converted, we see but very few of our sins; because we have very defective views of the law of God. Being ignorant of the demands of the law, we must of necessity be ignorant of the multitude of our transgressions against it. Moreover we see but little of the malignity of sin; because we are unacquainted with the immense obligations which we owe to God, against whom our sins are committed. An act of unkindness in a fellow-creature, though trifling in itself, may be an exceedingly heinous offence, if done in return for many and great favours. What then must sin be, when committed against God, who has not only loaded us with temporal blessings, but has given his only dear Son to die for us, and his Holy Spirit to instruct us; yea, and has followed us all our days with intreaties, expostulations, promises, seeking nothing so much as our eternal welfare! This is the view of sin which conversion gives us; and it is this alone which can ever dispose and induce us to lothe ourselves.]
We need it as much after conversion as before—
[A converted person will certainly not indulge sin: but he still carries about him a sinful nature, that is bent to backslide from God, and that still operates to the wounding of his conscience, and the offending of his Maker. Now every sin committed in this state is incomparably more heinous than it would have been in his unrenewed state, because it is committed against more light and knowledge, more mercies and obligations, more vows and professions. Even smaller sins involve him now in deeper guilt than his more heinous trespasses before; and therefore they demand a suitable humiliation and contrition. Hence then it is evident, that, while we carry about with us a body of sin and death, we ought incessantly to lothe ourselves, and to be crying with St. Paul, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me [Note: Romans 7:24.]?” Indeed this is the very frame to which God’s pardoning mercy is designed to bring us. And the more we abase ourselves before him, the more evidence we have of our acceptance with him [Note: Psalms 51:17.].]
How opposite to a Christian state is self-righteousness!
[If contrition be a state pleasing to God, and self-lothing be a necessary constituent of it, then self-righteousness must be most hateful to God, and most injurious to our souls; because it necessarily leads to self-approbation and self-complacency, which are as opposite to self-lothing as darkness is to light. Would to God that this were duly considered! Men profess to repent, and yet make a righteousness of their repentance! a manifest proof that they know not what repentance is! Know, my Brethren, that “all our own righteousnesses are as filthy rags [Note: Isaiah 64:6.]:” that our very tears need to be washed, and our repentances to be repented of; and, that we must disclaim our best deeds in point of dependence, as much as the vilest sins we ever committed. We may indeed “rejoice in the testimony of a good conscience:” but we shall find cause for self-abhorrence, even in our best frames, and our holiest actions.]
How dear must Christ be to every true penitent!
[A certain kind and degree of repentance may arise from fear: but that which is spiritual and saving, partakes richly of love. Nothing advances it so much as a sight of the love of Christ in dying for us [Note: Zechariah 12:10.]. Now exactly as a sense of the Saviour’s love causes us to lothe ourselves, so does a sense of our own vileness cause us to admire him. Let not any imagine that self-lothing will lead us to despondency: the viler we see ourselves to be, the more will Christ be exalted and magnified in our eyes. Our vileness, as well as our weakness, will only illustrate the riches of his grace, and render him unspeakably precious to our souls.]
GOD’S MERCIES NOT GIVEN FOR OUR MERITS
Ezekiel 36:32. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.
THERE is not any gift, whether of nature or of grace, from which the pride of man will not take occasion to exalt itself. But the design of God in his Gospel is, to counteract this propensity, and to make his creatures sensible of their obligations to him, and their entire dependence upon him. Hence, having declared, in the preceding context, what he intended to do for his Church and people, he particularly cautions them not to imagine, that he was influenced by any goodness which he saw in them; or that, after having received his blessings, they would have any thing to boast of: for to their latest hour they would have in themselves cause for nothing but shame and confusion.
From this caution the following observations naturally arise:
God, in imparting his blessings to us, has not respect to any good in us—
There is not in us any thing meritorious, to which he can have respect—
[Let our actions be weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, and every one of them will be found wanting. If we had done all that is required of us, we should still be only unprofitable servants [Note: Luke 17:10.]. But we have not done all; nor have we done any part as we ought: and therefore instead of having any merit whereon to found a claim of blessings from God, we have need of mercy and forgiveness for our very best actions [Note: Isaiah 64:6.].]
Nor would it consist with his honour to make our goodness the ground of dispensing his favours—
[Whatever the measure of our goodness were, if it were considered in any degree as founding a claim for the Divine blessing, or as inducing God to impart his benefits to us, it would instantly become a ground of glorying before God. The possessor of that goodness might ascribe to himself some portion of the honour, instead of giving the glory of his salvation to God alone. But this would be to subvert the whole design of the Gospel, which is, to exclude boasting [Note: Romans 3:27. See also Ezekiel 36:21-23.], and not to give God’s glory to another.]
Experience alone sufficiently shews that God is influenced by no such motive—
[If God had respect to any thing that is good in us, the most moral people would always be stirred up to embrace the Gospel, and the most profligate be left to reject it. But this is by no means the case: yea, the very reverse is more generally true, namely, that “publicans and harlots enter into the kingdom, before the more decent Scribes, or self-righteous Pharisees [Note: Matthew 21:31.].” God is indeed sometimes said to do things for the sake of Abraham, David, and others: but it was not for their righteousness’ sake, considered as meritorious, that God vouchsafed blessings to them or their posterity; but either to testify his love to obedience, or to manifest the immutability of his counsel [Note: Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Deuteronomy 9:4-6.].]
The text goes yet further, and shews that,
There is in us nothing which is not a ground rather for shame and confusion—
Doubtless the Jews were a peculiarly “stiff-necked people:” yet, if we have not the same sins to deplore, we have enough to justify the application of this passage to ourselves.
The sins of our unregenerate state may well fill us with confusion—
[Time may efface many things from our remembrance; but it cannot alter the nature of them, or blot them out of the book of God. Our sins are all in his sight, as if they were transacted but yesterday: and whatever degree of malignity they had formerly, that they retain at this moment: and consequently we should feel on their account all the shame, and sorrow, and confusion that they either did occasion, or ought to have occasioned, at the time they were committed. Yea, the whole mass of evil that ever passed through our minds ought to lie with a weight upon our consciences, so far at least as to produce an abiding sense of our extreme sinfulness.]
The infirmities of our regenerate state also should humble us in the dust before God—
[Who is not conscious of innumerable evils working in his heart? Who does not at some time feel the workings of pride, anger, worldliness, impurity, and various other corruptions? Who does not feel that these are properly “his own ways,” and that the exercise of contrary dispositions is the fruit of divine grace?
But let us take the best actions of our lives, and the holiest dispositions of our hearts: what are our prayers and our praises, when compared with the importance of the blessings we have received, or that we desire at God’s hands? What is our repentance, when compared with the number and heinousness of our transgressions? What is our trust in God? What our love to the blessed Saviour? What our zeal in his service? Do they bear any proportion to the occasions that call for them? We know that a godly person would be utterly ashamed of such services as a mere formalist makes the ground of his boast and confidence: and would not a perfect Being, if sent down to serve his God on earth, lothe himself, if he were to render no better services than ours? Surely then we ought to blush and be confounded before God, not only for the remains of evil that are within us, but for the very best actions we have ever performed.]
The emphatic manner in which these things are delivered, leads us to notice,
The importance of being reminded of these things, and of having them deeply fixed in our hearts—
We are apt to take credit to ourselves, and to think ourselves as high in God’s estimation as we are in our own. But God would have us know, that there is no just ground for our vain conceit: it is even with considerable indignation that he reminds us of it in the words before us. We need to be well instructed in this matter,
That we may be led to humility—
[The knowledge of ourselves is indispensably necessary to the attainment of humility: but we must be ignorant indeed of ourselves, if we imagine that there either is, or can be, any thing in us to merit the Divine favour. The truth is, that no words can adequately express the unparalleled deceitfulness, and desperate wickedness, of our hearts [Note: Jeremiah 17:9.]. If we know any thing of ourselves, we cannot but lothe and “abhor ourselves,” as Job did, “in dust and ashes [Note: Job 42:6.].” And we need to have our extreme vileness and baseness frequently set before us, in order that we may know what we are, and “not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think [Note: Romans 12:3.].”]
That we may be excited to thankfulness—
[While we entertain the idea of having purchased, as it were, or merited, the blessings we enjoy, we cannot possibly feel any lively gratitude for them in our hearts: instead of admiring the goodness of our God, we shall be ready to think hardly of him, if at any time his bounties are withdrawn from us. But let us once be convinced of our deep depravity, and we shall wonder that we have not long since been made monuments of divine vengeance. It will then appear no small mercy that we are on praying ground; that we have a covenant-God to flee unto; and that there is a Mediator, through whom we may approach him with an assurance of acceptance. Yes; these things, which are so little regarded by the generality, will make our hearts to overflow with gratitude, and our tongues to sing aloud for joy.]
Let us concede to God the liberty of dispensing his favours according to his own sovereign will—
[To dispute this is needless; for he will not ask our permission [Note: Job 33:13.], nor consult our inclination; but “will have mercy on whom he will have mercy [Note: Romans 9:18.]” — — — Moreover, it is ruinous; for we cannot hope to participate his blessings, if we will not condescend to accept them as they are offered. We must “buy them” indeed, as the Scripture speaks; but it must be “without money and without price [Note: Isaiah 55:1.].” Let us then acknowledge God’s right to “do what he will with his own [Note: Matthew 20:15.];” and abase ourselves before him, as “less than the least of all his mercies [Note: Genesis 32:10.].”]
Let us be thankful that, however unworthy we are, there is a Saviour whose worthiness we may plead before him—
[Though God will not do any thing for our sake, yet he will for his dear Son’s sake. There is nothing that he will refuse us, if we go to him in the name of Jesus Christ [Note: John 14:13-14. See a pattern for prayer; Daniel 9:17-19.]. Nor will our unworthiness be any bar to our acceptance with him. On the contrary, the more we humble and abase ourselves, the more ready will he be to accept and bless us.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Ezekiel 36". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany