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possible to have a true perception of our own character in the sight of God, without feeling our need of acquittal; and in opposition to every obstacle which the justice of God seems to hold out to it, this want is provided for in the gospel. And it is equally impossible to have a true perception of the character of God, as being utterly repugnant to sin, without feeling our need of amendment; and in opposition to every obstacle which the impotency of man holds out to it, this want is also provided for in the gospel.”
I have been lately endeavouring to set before you my brethren, that atoning work of the Son of God in virtue of which the criminal is freely pardoned, and it is my present desire to direct your attention to that life-giving power of the Spirit of God, by which the fever is subdued, and health gradually, but in the end perfectly communicated to the helpless sufferer.
To exhibit this truth in a striking point of view, and for the benefit of some very profitableillustrations, as well as for the purpose of expounding to you an important portion of sacred scripture, I have selected for our more immediate subject on this occasion,a passage from the celebrated vision of the Prophet Ezekiel, in the valley of the dry bones. But before we enter upon it, allow me to address a few words of affectionate exhorta
tion to two distinct classes of persons who are here present at this moment. 1st, There are some of you who have a great dislike to the expressions alive from the dead, born again, created anew. You think they sound too like the canting of the Methodists as you call it. You have heard perhaps certain strange extravagant stories to which these expressions have been applied; and hence has resulted a prejudiced association between these phrases and every thing that is absurd and vulgar, and overstrained and enthusiastic (perhaps hypocritical) in religion. Your minds, therefore, are not in a suitable frame to derive benefit from any
discussion of this subject: you have already prejudged it, and although you should hear the very words of truth itself, you will evade their application by secretly whispering to yourselves, extravagance, enthusiasm, fit only for a conventicle, quite derogatory to the sober dignity of the Established Church.” My dear friends, permit me to remind you, that these expressions are used by Jesus Christ whom you call Lord, Lord; that whatever treatment they may have received from some men or whatever reception they may now meet with from you, they are written plainly and repeatedly in the holy book of God. I entreat you to consider this matter fairly: reason thus with yourselves, "there certainly is something
in what he says, we may call this Methodism if we please, but we perceive it is written in the scriptures: unscriptural abuses in others, can never justify unscriptural prejudices in us : let us examine, perhaps the saints take a wrong view of it; we cannot expect upon our own principles to learn the meaning of scripture without diligent and patient examination; come then, we will attend dispassionately to what he has to say, and endeavour candidly to judge how far he is supported by scripture.” 2dly, On the other hand, there are some among you who have no doubt of yourselves being alive from the dead, and who fix your attention upon others as soon as you hear this subject under discussion. Your minds run thus, “ what will such and such persons think of this : I am glad they are here: I trust it may be blessed to them.” perhaps you have been arguing with some of them, and have now a secret satisfaction in thinking that they will hear your side of the argument defended.
I much fear, my friends, that this mode of listening for others steals away your personal benefit. I do not now question the reality of your conversion : but believing you to be indeed alive from the dead, I am cautioning you against an unprofitable mode of hearing God's word. It is a good thing to feel interested for others; it is a christian thing to labour and
for their conversion : but there is a deceitful self-complacency, a secret evasion of personal scrutiny, as if personal improvement were unnecessary, an absence of self-examination, a careless taking for granted that surely we are right, against which I would affectionately warn you. Take heed, therefore, how ye hear. And what I
say unto you, I say unto
I all, take heed how ye hear. Hearing the word of God, is no light, no trivial affair ; it is not to
; be tampered with in either carelessness or curiosity; it is not to be followed as a mere entertainment, like the voice of a favourite singer, or the declamation of an actor upon
the stage. No, my brethren, there is here a secret power behind the scene, an awful Almighty power ; eternal consequences are at stake; the Holy Ghost strives with the hearts of sinners, and the ministry of the gospel becomes either a savour of life unto life, or a savour of death unto death. * Take heed, therefore, how ye hear.
1.–First, then let us consider the context, and the primary object and application of this sublime vision.
In the days of the Prophet Ezekiel, the Jews were captives in a strange land, and their own land was in the hands of strangers. They were suffering that just punishment which had been so frequently threatened against their repeated rebellions. Ezekiel was commissioned to rebuke them sharply, for their impenitent hardness of heart; reminding them of the unexampled acts of kindness which God had showed to them, and to their fathers before them; and putting them to shame for their base ingratitude, by means of which the holy name of the God of Israel had been profaned among the heathen.
* 2 Cor. ii. 15, 16, 17.
He was commissioned also to comfort and encourage, as well as to rebuke and chasten ; and in the exercise of this part of his high office, he prophesied clearly and distinctly the restoration of the Israelites to their own land, and the restoration of that land to its former felicity. The thirty-sixth chapter contains a sublime specimen of this part of the Prophet's ministry. It opens with an address to the land, in which the Lord declares his jealousy for his chosen habitation, and his fury against the heathen who had spoiled it, adding these promises of peace.
O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel: for they are at hand to come, for, behold I am for you, and I will turn unto you, and ye shall be tilled and sown : and I will multiply men upon you, all the house of