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HIDDEN ABOMINATIONS EXPOSED
Ezekiel 8:15. Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Turn thee yet again, and thou shall see greater abominations than these.
MAN is ready to complain of God’s judgments, as though they were unmerited or severe. But “God will be justified in his sayings, and will overcome when he is judged [Note: Romans 3:4.].” The captives in Babylon thought that God had dealt hardly with them. God therefore gave to the Prophet Ezekiel, who was amongst the captives there, a vision of what was at that very time transacting in the temple at Jerusalem, notwithstanding the judgments that had been inflicted on them. This was the sixth year of king Jehoiakim’s captivity; and yet did the remnant of the people in Jerusalem continue as impenitent as ever. It was on account of their idolatries that God had given them over into the hands of the Chaldeans: yet was idolatry practised at Jerusalem in all its most hateful and abominable forms, even by the priests and elders, who ought to have exerted their authority to repress it. They laboured, indeed, to conceal their impiety from common observation; and therefore they built a wall to obstruct the common entrance into the place where they assembled: but the prophet, in his vision, spied a hole in the wall, which he was directed to enlarge, so as to get access to the door; and then on entering at the door, “he saw every form of creeping things and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall round about, and seventy elders, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan at their head, offering clouds of incense to them [Note: ver. 7–11.].” Being directed then to go to another part of the temple, he saw “still greater abominations,” even a multitude of “women sitting, weeping for Tammuz,” some deified monster of iniquity [Note: ver. 13, 14.].” Then, in the passage which I have read, he was told, that, on going to another part of the temple, he should “see greater abominations still.” Accordingly, he went into the inner court of the temple, and there saw about five-and-twenty men, “with their backs towards that part of the temple” where the holy of holies was, and which was the more immediate residence of the Deity, and “worshipping the sun towards the east [Note: ver. 15, 16.].” The Lord then appeals to the prophet, whether there was not abundant reason for the judgments which he had inflicted on the nation; and declares his determination to chastise them with yet greater severity; “Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? Therefore will I deal with them in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and, though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them [Note: ver. 17, 18.].”
In its primary sense, this passage doubtless refers only to the Jews; and to them at the period here specified. But, when we consider that the deportation of the Jewish people into captivity, their subsequent deliverance from that captivity, and their restoration to their own land, were all typical of what yet passes in the world, and in the Church, and in the heart, we feel authorized so far to accommodate the words of our text to existing circumstances, as to take occasion from them to point out the hidden abominations which may be discovered from a closer inspection of,
The abominations that are visible to all are exceeding great—
[It is not possible to have the least intercourse with the world, and not see that iniquity abounds on every side. In truth, “the whole world lieth in wickedness,” or under the power of the Wicked-one [Note: 1 John 5:19. ἐν τῷ πονηρῷ.] — — —]
But the more we know of the world, the more wicked will it appear—
[A person who looks only on the outward appearance of things would be ready to think that St. Paul’s description of mankind is a libel on human nature. But the picture which he draws is indeed but too accurate. “Men like not to retain God in their knowledge; and therefore he gives them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful; who, knowing the judgment of God, that they who commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them [Note: Romans 1:27-32.].” There is no abomination that was ever practised amongst the most abandoned of mankind in former ages, but may still be found, nearly, if not altogether, to the same extent as ever. Where Christianity has diffused its light, these deeds of darkness are kept from common observation: but human nature is the same in every age; and “the god of this world” exercises over it the same despotic sway as ever [Note: Ephesians 2:2.].]
The same humiliating truth may be applied also to,
The outward-court worshippers are, for the most part, exceedingly corrupt—
[Let any one dispassionately survey the principles and practices of the Church of Rome; and then say, whether the abominations of that Church will not be found abundant, in proportion as the scrutiny is minute. What is the very foundation of the whole edifice of Popery, but a compound of pride, ambition, covetousness, fraud, cruelty? The doctrine of merit is at the root of all. The heads of that Church have no object in view but to promote their own secular interests and power. They draw from the votaries of their religion all which they can by any means exact. A system of lying wonders is maintained, to delude their followers: and the most horrible cruelties are exercised towards those who submit not to their impious ordinances and institutions. The Heathen themselves are not more flagrant in their idolatries, than they who exalt the Virgin Mother above their Incarnate God.
I say these things in reference to the Romish Church, because the ear of Protestants is open to receive the truth in relation to a Church from which they have separated. But, if Protestant Churches are freed from some of the grosser abominations of Popery, are they not on a par with Papists themselves in relation to the evils from which Popery has sprung? Do we not find Protestants, whether priests or people, as secularized as any of the votaries of Popery can be? Do we not find them as full of pride, ambition, covetousness, fraud, cruelty, as Papists themselves, only not exercising these dispositions exactly in the same way? The truth is, that, amongst the generality of Christians, there is little found except the name: and that, if they had been brought up as heathens, they would have occupied much the same place in the scale of morals, as they do at this hour.]
Would to God we could except from this censure the worshippers of the inner court!
[On the two first occasions, the prophet was directed to the outer court of the temple; but, on the last, God himself, in his vision, “brought him to the inner court of the Lord’s house [Note: ver. 16.].” Come we, then, to inspect that part of the Church which professes more of sanctity, and boasts of greater nearness to God. Are there no abominations to be found there? Are there no evil practices indulged by those who would be thought to excel in piety? It is well, perhaps, that the world do not know all that passes in the secret inclosures of the temple: for they would be far more stumbled than they are by the inconsistencies and impieties which would there be found. They do wrong, indeed, in casting reflections on religion, on account of the faults of those who profess it. “To speak evil of the way of truth [Note: 2 Peter 2:2.],” and to “blaspheme the name of God [Note: Romans 2:24.],” on account of the falls of professors, is absurd in the extreme: for religion discountenances evil of every kind; and, as far as it prevails in the soul, it restrains evil. And therefore whilst I open the abominations of the inner court, I solemnly guard all against imputing them to religion, or thinking less favourably of religion on account of them. But it must be confessed, that, amongst religious professors, there are multitudes who walk unworthy of their holy profession; multitudes, who are as worldly and as covetous in their desires, as destitute of truth and honesty in their dealings: yea, and as corrupt and vicious in their practices, as the ungodly world. Those who have seen the interior of religious societies, and witnessed the proud domineering spirit of some, the conceit and forwardness of others, the bigotry of others, the hypocrisies, envyings, evil-speakings of others, the lying and dishonesty of others, the lewdness and impurity of others; in a word, those who know the most of what is called the religious world, will have seen, to their grief and shame, that the evils of the seven Asiatic Churches are far from being yet excluded from the fold of Christ: there are yet “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” many who “say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie;” and, though professedly of the Church of Christ, are yet, in truth, “of the synagogue of Satan [Note: Revelation 3:9.].” God knoweth, that, in declaring these things, we would be glad to be found false witnesses, and to retract our assertions, if the truth of them were not unhappily established beyond all possibility of doubt.]
It is yet further applicable to,
This, as the prophet tells us, is superlatively deceitful—
[There is not any thing which we greatly affect, but the heart will find out some special reason for doing it: nor are we called to any thing that will thwart our inclinations, and obstruct our interests, but it will furnish us with some convenient pretext for declining to make the sacrifice. It has a great deal of ingenuity, in covering the malignity of what is evil, and in discharging us from the obligation of what is good [Note: Isaiah 5:20.]. By the substitution of a name, it operates a change in our views of any action, as much as if it changed the quality of the action itself. Under its guidance, covetousness becomes a just regard for one’s family; bigotry, a holy zeal; cowardice, a prudential care. Peter thought with himself, perhaps, to benefit the circumcision, when he constrained the Gentiles to submit to Jewish ordinances; whereas he was beguiled by a fear of that resentment which the Judaizing teachers were likely to manifest, if he did not comply with their wishes: and Barnabas too, and other holy Jews, were carried away by his dissimulation [Note: Galatians 2:12-13.]. There is no man who is not at times betrayed by it into some line of conduct, which, on a more calm and disinterested view of it, is found to have been injudicious: and we often find that the motives for which we gave ourselves credit were only a delusion of Satan, operating under the semblance of an angel of light [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:14.].]
It is also, as the same prophet informs us, unsearchably wicked [Note: Jeremiah 17:9.]—
[The corruptions of it are, for depth, unfathomable; for number, countless; for enormity, surpassing all conception. None but the heart-searching God himself can know it. Let any one mark, for one single day, the workings of his heart, and the thoughts which pass through it; and he will be perfectly amazed, that a creature, sensible in some measure of his obligations to God, and desirous to serve him, should, in despite of all his endeavours to purify himself, be so corrupt. But, after having accomplished the most diligent search, and renewed it ever so often, he will be very far from having attained a perfect self-knowledge; and circumstances will still arise, that shall bring fresh corruptions to light, or place their workings in a new point of view: so that, on turning again to view some corner unexplored, he shall find more and greater abominations than before.]
Behold then here—
The folly of man—
[The Jews in the temple, having concealed themselves by a wall from the eyes of men, and practising their abominations; in the dark chambers of their imagery,” supposed that they were hidden from the eyes of God also. “They said, The Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth [Note: ver. 12.].” But God saw them, and directed the prophet how to get a sight of them also. And can we suppose that God does not see us, or that he will not record our ways in the book of his remembrance? Be it known to you, my brethren, that “there is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves [Note: Job 34:22.].” “God knows the things that come into our mind, every one of them [Note: Ezekiel 11:5.];” and “He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:5.]”.“Settle it then in your minds, that God’s eye is over you; and never presume to do that in darkness which you would be ashamed to have proclaimed upon the house-tops.]
The forbearance of God—
[What does God behold! All the iniquity that is committed upon the face of the whole earth is seen by him completely, in all its bearings, and with all its aggravations. How wonderful must be his patience, that he can bear thus with us, under such an accumulated load of guilt! We wonder not that he once destroyed the earth with a deluge, or once poured fire and brimstone on the cities of the plain: the wonder is, that these judgments have not been so repeated, as utterly to destroy the whole human race. To go no further than to our own individual state: that man can know little of himself, who is not utterly amazed that he is at this moment an inhabitant of earth, and not doomed, long since, to endure all the pains and miseries of hell. Let then “this patience and long-suffering and forbearance no longer be despised; but let the goodness of our God lead us to repentance [Note: Romans 2:4.].”]
The wonders of redeeming love—
[This is the world for which God has given his only-begotten Son. This is the world for which the Lord Jesus Christ left the bosom of his Father, and came down to earth, that he might bleed and die. Nor in this whole world is there a single individual, who, if he repent and believe in Jesus, shall not find acceptance with his God. Not one should be cast out; no, not one: “Though his sins were red as crimson, they should be white as snow.” What wonders of love are here! Who can ever comprehend their height and depth, their length and breadth? Search into them ever so deeply, and contemplate them ever so minutely, and we will say without hesitation, “Turn again, and you shall see greater wonders than these.” Indeed, to all eternity will they be unfolding to us, with ever-augmented light and evidence; and to all eternity will they be to us an ever-increasing source of joy and blessedness. To contemplate them here, is the way to be filled with all the fulness of grace [Note: Ephesians 3:18-19.]; and to contemplate them in heaven, will be to us a fulness of glory for evermore [Note: Revelation 5:8-13.].]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Ezekiel 8". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany