Ezra 9
Biblical Illustrator
Doing according to their abominations.
Learn —

1. Separation from the world is obligatory upon the true Christian.

2. Sin in others should be regarded by the true Christian with unfeigned sorrow and reprobation of the sin.

3. Sin in the avowed people of God is especially heinous and mournful.

4. It behoves Christians to give all diligence to walk holily and unblamably before God and before men

(William Jones.)

And at the evening sacrifice I rose up from my heaviness.
We have here —




1. Continuance in sin would lead to their utter end as a community.

2. That such a consequence of the continuance of sin would be just (ver. 15).

3. That such a consequence of the continuance of sin was to be dreaded.Learn —

1. The greet evil of sin.

2. The grand hope of the sinner (Psalm 130:3, 4, 7; 1 John 1:9).

3. The right relation of the good man to sin.

(William Jones.)

I. THE REASON OF HIS SORROW. He regarded their sin —

1. As being a violation of an express command (vers. 10-12; Deuteronomy 2 ).

2. As having an evident tendency to bring the people back to idolatry.


(C. Simeon, M. A.)

And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God. —



1. A test of character.

2. An appeal as to our position.

3. A question as to our desires.

4. An exhortation.

(Jabez Burns, D. D.)

Now, therefore, give not your daughters unto their sons.





(William Jones.}

And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that Thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve.
We find in Scripture upon the most solemn occasions of humiliation that good men have always testified a thankful sense of the goodness of God to them. The greater and more lively sense we have of the goodness of God to us, the more we shall abhor ourselves, nothing being more apt to melt us to tears of repentance than the consideration of great and undeserved mercies vouchsafed to us. The goodness of God doth naturally lead to repentance. In the text we have —


1. That sin is the cause of all our sufferings.

2. That great sins have usually proportionable punishment.

3. That all the punishments which God inflicts in this life do fall short of the demerit of our sins.

4. That God many times works very great deliverances for those who are very unworthy of them.

5. That we are but too apt, even after great judgments and after great mercies, to relapse into our former sins.

6. That it is good to take notice of the particular sins that have brought the judgments of God upon us.

II. A SENTENCE AND DETERMINATION IN THE CASE — "Wouldest not Thou be angry with us till Thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?" This question implies a strong affirmative.

1. It is a fearful aggravation of sin after great judgments and great deliverances to return to sin, and especially to the same sins again.(1) To return to sin after great judgments is an argument of great obstinacy in evil. The longer Pharaoh resisted the judgments of God, the more was his wicked heart hardened, till at last he arrived at a monstrous degree of hardness. And we find that after God had threatened the people of Israel with several judgments, He tells them that if they "will not be reformed by all these things, He will punish them seven times more for their sins." What a sad complaint doth Isaiah make of the people of Israel growing worse for judgments (Isaiah 1:4, 5; Isaiah 9:13; Isaiah 26:11). There is a particular brand set upon Ahaz because affliction made him worse (2 Chronicles 28:2).(2) When sin is committed after great mercies and deliverances vouchsafed to us is an argument of great ingratitude. This we find recorded as a heavy charge upon the people of Israel (Judges 8:34, 35). How severely doth Nathan reproach David on this account (2 Samuel 12:7-9). And he was angry with Solomon for the same reason (1 Kings 11:9). However we may slight the mercies of God, He keeps a strict account of them. It is noted as a blot of Hezekiah that "he returned not again according to the benefits done unto him." Ingratitude to God is so unnatural and monstrous that we find Him appealing against us for it to the inanimate creatures (Isaiah 1:2). And then He goes on and upbraids them with the brute creatures as being more grateful to men than men are to God (Isaiah 1:3; Isaiah 26:10). There is no greater evidence of an untractable disposition than not to be wrought upon by kindness, not to be melted by mercies, not to be obliged by benefits, not to be tamed by gentle usage. Nay, God expects that His mercies should lay so great an obligation upon us that even a miracle should not tempt us to be unthankful (Deuteronomy 13:1, 2).(3) To return to the same sins after great mercies and judgments is an argument of a perverse and incorrigible temper. With what resentment God speaks of the ill returns the children of Israel made to Him for the great mercy of their deliverance from Egypt (Judges 10:11-14) Upon such an occasion well might the prophet say, "Thine own wickedness shall correct thee and thy sins shall reprove thee," etc. (Jeremiah 2:19).

2. To return to the same sins again after great judgments and deliverances is a sad presage of ruin to a people.(1) Because this doth ripen the sins of a nation (Genesis 15:16). When neither the mercies nor the judgments of God will bring us to repentance, we are then fit for destruction (Romans 9:22).(2) Because this incorrigible temper shows the case of such persons to be desperate and incurable (Isaiah 1:5; Matthew 23:37, 38). When God sees that all the means which He can use do prove ineffectual, He will then give over a people as physicians do their patients when they see that nature is spent and their case past remedy. When men will not be the better for the best means that Heaven can use, God will then leave them to reap the fruit of their own doings and abandon them to the demerit of their sin.

(Abp. Tillotson.)


1. The unvarying testimony of Scripture is that transgression and punishment are closely united (Genesis 2:17; Genesis 6:13; Genesis 18:20, 21). Throughout the entire history of Israel this fact was continually brought out into distinct recognition.

2. The "great trespass" deplored in the text. When God gave the law against intermingling with the nations he said, "for they will turn away thy sons from following Me that they may serve other gods." The fatal counsel of Balaam to Belak was to seduce Israel into alliance with the Moabites. And it is recorded of Solomon, "when he was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods." Whatever, therefore, tended to lead them into idolatry was to be regarded as an evil of the deadliest character; and as nothing tended so powerfully to draw away their hearts as this forbidden affinity with the heathen, it might well be termed their "great trespass."

II. THAT DIVINE JUDGMENTS ARE MINGLED WITH MERCY. Ezra's acknowledgment was also made by Nehemiah," Nevertheless, for Thy great mercy's sake, Thou didst not utterly consume them; for Thou art a gracious and merciful God." In the same spirit of grateful humility Jeremiah says, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed." The Psalmist sings in a similar strain, "He hath not dealt with us according to our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities." Sinners live under a respite — their punishment is intended to alarm,-not to crush them.

III. THE DANGER OF DISREGARDING DIVINE JUDGMENTS. The history of the Jews is a dark narrative of mercies and ingratitude; exhortations and disobedience; warnings and neglect; judgments and impenitence; judicial blindness and total rejection. God's dealings with Israel were typical of His dealings with the Church at large and with its individual members. Religious privileges are sometimes long continued to a Church; but when it proves unfruitful, then is fulfilled — "The kingdom of God is taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." The Churches at Ephesus, Sardis, and Laodicea have perished. The Spirit strives long with the disobedient; but there is a time when He ceases. As Christians we are under obligations to renounce the world and all familiar intercourse with those whose character and conduct might prove a snare to beguile us into sin (2 Corinthians 6:14-17). In almost every similitude employed in the Scriptures to characterise the situation and deportment of believers, we find something bearing a pointed allusion to this matter. They are called a "little flock"; "brethren living together in the same family"; "a garden enclosed"; "a lily among thorns"; "hidden ones"; a peculiar people; "the light of the world" shining amid the surrounding darkness. The Christian is represented as a "soldier" enlisted under the banner of the "Captain of his salvation," and who obviously cannot discharge his duty if he consort with his Master's enemies. He is a pilgrim who has bidden adieu to all the friends and follies of his youth, and who has set out alone on his wilderness path. In all these figures the idea of separation from the world is clearly implied. Separation from the world is not the supercilious distance of the haughty Pharisee. Isaiah speaks of a people which say "stand by thyself, come not near to me, for I am holier than thou." But what is said of them? "These are a smoke in My nose, a fire that burneth all the day." Neither is it a superstitious exclusion from society. The duties and business of active life must be attended to. The interchanges of civility and kindness must not be neglected. Our Lord and His apostles have left us an example in this matter. But there is a separation which, as the avowed friends of the Redeemer, we must maintain (Matthew 10:37, 38). We must come out of every society where our consistency may be compromised, where our character may be suspected, where our personal piety may be invaded, and our conscience blunted.

(David Arnott, D. D.)

Under the influence of a great grief we have here the soul uttering two voices.


1. That man himself is responsible for his sins. "Our evil deeds and our great trespass." There is a strong tendency in man to charge his sins on others.

(1)Sometimes on God Himself.

(2)Sometimes on his fellow human creatures, as Adam did (Genesis 3:12).

(3)Sometimes on the devil (Genesis 3:13).But an awakened conscience says with emphasis, "Our evil deeds and our great trespass." Conscience speaks —

2. Of the great evil of sin. Man is prone to make his sins look less than they really are. Conscience, like the Divine commandment, shows the "exceeding sinfulness of sin." Conscience says —

3. That punishment is connected with sin. There is punishment connected with the transgression of every law of God, both in the natural and in the moral world. God has so made His laws that they punish every one that transgresseth them themselves. Punishment may also follow sin in the world to come without the direct interposition of God. Conscience says —

4. That sin is not punished in this world according to its in desert. This is accounted for —

(1)Because this is a world in which good and evil exist.

(2)Because there is more mercy than justice in this world.The scale is never level when there is more weight in one end than in the other. The cause of the lightning and thundering in the natural world is the loss of the equilibrium in the air. So in the moral world, we see it sometimes much disturbed, and that in consequence of there being more mercy here than justice. Justice in this life is like an eternal sea kept within its bounds with only a few stria running over its banks just to show that it exists, while mercy is like an eternal ocean deluging the world.

II. THE VOICE OF WONDER IN VIEW OF GOD'S SALVATION FROM SIN. This wonder is caused by. two things.

1. By the greatness of the deliverance. This is seen —

(1)In its origin


(2)In the way in which it has been brought about.

(3)In the vastness of the blessings which it brings to man.

2. By looking at the awful consequences of rejecting this salvation. Ezra is confounded here by thinking of the people's transgression and the awful consequences that would follow if they would not repent and seek forgiveness (ver. 14). "But what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God?"


(a thanksgiving sermon for the removal of cholera): —

I. A PAST REVIEWED. We are reminded —

1. That the distresses of a nation come upon them for their sins. Now on this point we must be careful to use nothing but the language of holy sobriety. We reason, indeed, neither wisely, nor safely, nor honourably to God, when we make every national calamity stand in some definite retributive relation to certain national sins. We have no data for establishing such a relation either in reason or in Scripture, or in the constituted order of moral government. Thus, if a country should lose its colonies through misrule or bad government, or if an army should be cut up through a general's inconsiderate rashness, or if our emigrant population should perish by hundreds through being sent out in vessels that were not seaworthy, or if a malaria should infect a neighbourhood where all sanitary precautions have been neglected, it were a manifest misuse of terms to call any one of these resulting evils by the name of a Divine judgment. They are the ordinary consequences of a broken law. Still, while it is neither safe nor Scriptural to interpret as direct Divine visitations what are manifestly only the immediate and perceived result of human misdoing, it is just as bad philosophy to disown the traces of God's hand in calamities where the efficient causes are more occult and indirect and far-removed and untraceable. This world is His world; we must not cast Him out of its management. The pestilence is His servant, not His vicegerent; the strict dispenser of His judgment, not the uncontrolled executioner of its own. Why, I could just as soon be an idolater as one of our modern worshippers of second causes; for, if the one bows the knee to Juggernaut, the other seems to build s temple to the plague. But we have not so learned the rod, or so misinterpreted its harsh but emphatic voice. If Providence does travel beyond its wonted cycles, if the Lord does come out of His place, we know what it is for; it is "to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity." Our state is probationary, but God will have some smaller reckonings with us now. "All this came upon us," said Ezra, "for our evil deeds and for our great trespass."

2. When God visits a nation for their sins, He always mingles mercy with His chastisements. "Less than our iniquities deserve!" Why, what do they deserve? What do our murmurings, and crimes, and cruelties, and wicked blasphemies deserve? What do we deserve for the licentiousness of our pleasures, the covetousness of our gains, the stint measure of our charities, the worldliness of our homes? What do our rich men deserve for their pride, or our poor men for their profaneness? What do patriots deserve for their lukewarm love, or Christian rulers for enforcing a breach of the Divine commandments? Oh! in all this we see how far apart are offence and chastisement, the nation's sins and the nation's scourge.

II. A POSSIBLE FUTURE. Two points are here insisted upon.

1. Sins after warning are the worst sins. To go on committing the same sins after judgments and chastisements evinces an obstinacy in evil, a stoutness of heart, a baseness of ingratitude, and almost a defiance of God. A continuance in sin under such circumstances shows a man's spirit to be intractable. Alarm him with warnings, he will not be affected by them; load him with benefits, he will not be obliged by them. His heart is like an anvil, strokes only make it more hard.

2. Judgments after deliverance are the worst judgments. There is an awful expression used by the apostle, "vessels of wrath fitted for destruction." When God has used all merciful expedients to no purpose — when judgments awake no terror, and deliverances inspire no gratitude — then He takes a final leave of us; we must reap the fruit of our own doings.

(Daniel Moore, M. A.)

I propound two things: First, an indictment preferred by Ezra against Israel; secondly, his pleading it for God against themselves. In the first he remembers God's mercy and their rebellion. God's mercy is laid down in the thirteenth verse, and that three ways. First, he shows that they were not punished without cause; secondly, that God punished them less than they deserved; thirdly, that He had totally delivered them. Their rebellion is comprised in the fourteenth verse, in which there are two parts: first, the sin; secondly, the punishment. The sin is laid down, first generally, "Should we again break Thy commandments?" Secondly particularly, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations?" Then follows the punishment. First, God will be angry; secondly, there is the degree of His anger, He will not leave consuming till all be destroyed. Before we handle the particulars there are two things in genera]. The first is out of the party, which was Ezra; the second is out of the course he takes, and that is humbling himself in God's presence.

I. FOR THE PARTY, it is EZRA. Ye shall read in this book that he was a man that set his heart to seek the Lord; neither did he this only himself, but sought by all possible means to incite others to follow his godly example. Had all Israel been such as he, they needed not to have feared judgments coming upon them. Doctrine: Good men, though they be at peace with God, find cause of sorrow for other men's sins. Ye shall see this proved in the Scripture. The Spirit of God calls Lot a righteous man — yet this righteous man's soul was vexed from day to day with the unclean conversation of the Sodomites (2 Peter 2:8). The like we see in Moses (Exodus 32:19). It was so with the prophet (1 Samuel 15:35). The like we see in David (Psalm 119:136). May some man say, "What were the sins of the world to David?" It is true they were none of his, yet he thinks himself bound to grieve for them, because he knew they were displeasing to his Maker. We see the same in good Jeremiah (Jeremiah 9:1, 2; Jeremiah 13:17). O blessed Saviour, Thou didst mourn for the hardness of men's hearts (Mark 3:5; Luke 19:41, 42). Use

1. It shall be to let us see the stupidity of the sons of Belial. Though they have most cause to weep and mourn, yet they live in jollity and merriment, and are mere strangers to all sadness. Some of these stick not to say, What hath any man to do to weep for their sins? and that by their impieties they trouble none but their own souls, But I tell thee, O wretch, thou troublest not only thine own house and soul, but thou troublest all Israel, thou givest the saints of God occasion to be pensive for that which makes thee jocant and glad; and happy is it for thee that there be such Noah, Lot, Samuel, and David to mourn for thee; for were it not that some did mourn for thy profaneness, thou shouldst not live again to commit it. Use

2. This may answer a common objection which is put to the saints, because they be sad. I would have you know that it is not holiness which makes them sad, but the profaneness of the world (Psalm 120:5). Use

3. Lastly, according to the practice of Ezra, though we have made our peace with God, let us mourn for the wickedness of others; every one knows what a cause there is for this. Religion is out of fashion, and none are so esteemed as fashion-mongers, they be your only men now in credit. First, it is piety to mourn for the sins of others. Shall we hear and see God to he dishonoured and not grieve for it? Piety cannot lodge in that breast where such an ill spirit inhabits. A man will and ought to grieve when his friend is wronged (John 15:15). Secondly, pity requires this duty at our hands. I read of Marcellus, the Roman, that entering a city which he had gained by composition after a long siege, he burst forth into tears; one that stood beside him demanded why he wept. Saith he, "I cannot choose but weep to see so many thousand led into captivity." Shall a heathen weep for the captivity of men's bodies? and shall not Christians mourn for their sins which are enough to enthral souls? Thirdly, if we do not mourn for other men's sins we make them our own. Lastly, we should be moved to this duty by the blessing which attends it. What saith our blessed Saviour (Matthew 5:4)? And in Ezekiel 9:4 the Lord gives command to spare them in Jerusalem, that did "sigh and cry for the abominations done in the midst thereof."

II. THE COURSE WHICH EZRA TAKES — and that is humbling him self by confession, weeping, and supplication. The main receipt in time of affliction is humiliation. This will appear in God's people (2 Chronicles 20:3; Ephesians 4:16; Jonah 3:5; Jeremiah 14:20; Joel 2:12). The people of God have done the same when the sword hath been amongst them; this we find in Joshua 7:6. So likewise in the case of the whole Church (Hosea 6:1). The grounds they went upon were these two: First, they knew it was God's commandment — that place in Zephaniah 2:1, 2, is notable to this purpose. Secondly, the saints were sure that sin was the cause of all their miseries; that being the Achan which troubled the whole host, and the Jonah endangering the whole ship. What shall we think of a number of desiderate wretches in the world who, when they should be humbled under God's afflicting hand, sin more and more and more against Him? This was the sin of Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:22; Isaiah 57:17). We now descend to the particulars as they were laid down. We begin with the indictment preferred by Ezra against Israel, in which is remembered God's mercy and their rebellion. God's mercy is laid down in the thirteenth verse, and that three ways. First, he shows that they were not punished without cause; secondly, that God punished them less than they deserved; thirdly, that He had totally delivered them. First, for the first particular in the gradation of God's mercy, "Thou our God hast punished us" — that is, Thou hast punished us deservedly. Tyrants will and do punish men without cause; but the Judge of all the world never proceeds to punish but when He is provoked. In that Ezra saith, "Seeing that Thou or god hast punished us." Take notice in the first place of this observation. Whatsoever is the instrument, God is the author of the punishment (Isaiah 14:7; Amos 3:6). In 1 Corinthians 11:32 St. Paul there labours to persuade the Corinthians that God chastened them; and David saith (Psalm 39:9), "I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because Thou didst it." This may inform us what is the ground of all the impatience in the world. There be a number which repine when God's hand is upon them. What is the reason? They stick in the second causes, and look so much on the lower links of the chain, that they forget Him that hath the top of it in His hand. Secondly, here is a use of admonition. Ever look up to God in all thy afflictions. Look to Him in thy fever, in thy ague, in the plague. Lastly, when the Lord s hand is upon us, and that we would have it removed, the nearest way we can take is to have recourse to God by prayer. God doth never punish any without desert (Genesis 18:25). We should ever justify God in all the judgments He brings upon us. The saints of God have done this in all times; thus did David (Psalm 119:75). In the second place, seeing God punishes none without cause, let it teach us patience under His afflicting hand. Further, we may observe that Ezra speaks not only of sin in general, but of "a great trespass." What was it? It was the people mingling themselves with the heathen. The doctrine arising from hence is thus much. When God arises to judgment, He ever sets Himself against the foul sins of men. Wilt thou deal otherwise with God Almighty than with thy physician? When he comes to thee in thy sickness thou wilt conceal nothing from him, but tell him how it is with thee in every particular. And yet when thou comest to confess thy sins to thy God, thou concealest those capital sins which have most offended Him.

(Josiah Shute, B. D.)

We come now to the second amplification of God's mercy. Ezra had said that God had dealt mercifully with them. How proves he the mercy of God? He proves it thus, because that when He punished them it was less than they deserved. Here is one word joined with punishing, which I would have you take notice of, "Thou our God hast punished us." Herein he is a pattern to us when at any time we come to confess our sins before God. "Our God" intimates a strong relation and affection. Certainly, when he saith thus, he knew there was hope of God's being reconciled to them again, giving us thereby to understand what ii required of men in the confession of sin. A man must not only, as David, "water his couch with his tears" (Psalm 6:6); nor with Peter, "go out and weep bitterly" (Matthew 26:75); nor with the woman which was a sinner in the city, "wash Christ's feet with our tears" (Luke 7:38); nor, secondly, must he only with a great deal of self shame confess his sin, as did Ezra in this chapter, and the poor publican (Luke 18:13). Thirdly. nor must he only confess his sins with anger, as did Job (Job 42:6) and Ephraim (Hosea 14:8). But, lastly, he must confess them with faith and confidence; that is, so to aggravate his sins before God as not to let go his hold in God (Daniel 9:9). Let the consideration of this teach us to take out this needful lesson. Some there be that confess their sins, but it is with despair; thus did Cain and Judas. But for ourselves, let us confess our sins with hope that God will pardon us, and with the servants of Benhadad let us address ourselves to Him, and say, "We have heard that Thou, who art the King of Israel, art a merciful King." Let us never despair. God may love and yet punish. I desire from my soul that people would be persuaded of this. I confess it is a hard saying, and men will hardly be drawn to believe it, especially when the affliction is smart. How often did Job think God his enemy when His hand was heavy upon him! So in David, all men knew that he loved his Absolom well, but yet when he turns rebel he must take up arms against him; yet, at the same time, he bids his men intreat the young man Absolom kindly. Now, can man punish and yet love? And shall not God do the same, who is fuller of mercy than the sea is of water? In the second place, it should teach every man to take heed of censuring any to be such as God hates, on whom God lays His afflicting hand. God doth not punish any of His so much as they deserve. Secondly, let us learn of our heavenly Father, to be merciful as He is merciful. The last amplification of God's mercy is, that He had delivered them — "Thou hast given us such a deliverance as this." Will some men say, "What deliverance was that?" It was the delivering of Israel from the Babylonish captivity, which lasted seventy years, and was a very great deliverance. There be certain deliverances which God bestows on men, for which they are to be more thankful than for others. It is true God is so great in the greatest that He is not little in the least, yet some are greater than others. Some of God's works are written in greater, some in smaller characters. It was not every deliverance which caused Hezekiah to pen a song, but it was God's adding a lease of fifteen years to his life when he thought himself past recovery. They were great deliverances that made the Jews keep their anniversaries, as the Feast of the Passover, of Tabernacles, and of Trumpets. Let me call upon you to reflect and to say with Ezra, "God hath given us such a deliverance as this." What a deliverance did God give unto us in this land at the entrance of good Queen Elizabeth of ever blessed memory, who restored true religion among us! As, therefore, at that time of need His mercy was great towards us, so let it appear in our lives that we are sensible of His extraordinary favour, by living holy and righteously all the days of our life.

(Josiah Shute, B. D.)

Should we again break Thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations
I. OUR NATIONAL DUTY TO GOD. This may be viewed in three lights.

1. Of moral and Christian obligation.

2. Of Scripture precedent.

3. Of prophetic promise.

II. The abominations to be renounced. Christian idolatry and the Papacy of Rome.

1. It is unbelieving. True faith is blotted out by a blind credulity.

2. It is idolatrous.

3. It is self-righteous.

4. It is persecuting.

5. In its whole practice it denies the Father and the Son.

III. THE KIND OF AFFINITY WHICH IS SINFUL ANY FORBIDDEN. It is one of sympathy, of partial adoption, and of the direct patronage of idolatrous error.


(T. R. Birks, M. A.)

In this verse we may take knowledge how Ezra justifies God's severity upon the precedency of man's sin. The verse divides itself into two parts: First, the sin; secondly, the punishment. The sin is laid down: First, generally, "Shall we return to break Thy commandments?" Secondly, particularly, "And join in affinity with the people of these abominations?" Then follows the punishment: First, "God will be angry"; secondly, there is the degree of His anger, "He will not leave consuming till all be destroyed." We begin with the sin in general: "Should we return to break Thy commandments?" — in the original it is "Should we return again to commit iniquities?" — which intimates to us that when God's hand was upon them it wrought them to amendment: from whence I note this much. That is sound repentance when a man so sorrows for his sin that he forsakes it. This lets us see the vanity of those who say they have repented of, and yet have not turned from their evil ways. It may be while God's hand was on them they repented. Secondly, as we say, we repent of our sins, so let us turn from them. This was the savoury counsel of Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, "O king, break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor." It is possible for a man to turn from sin and yet be never the better, if he grieve not for it; and it is possible for a man to grieve for sin, and yet far enough from true repentance if he turn not from it. If any of us should have a servant that grieved for his offence, promising no more to commit the like, and yet as soon as our back is turned should run into the same again, we would presently conclude that he did but dissemble. "Should we return to break Thy commandments?" The manner of Ezra's speaking intimates to us, that it is possible for a man to be engaged in sin when he hath had a taste of God's mercy; and if so, give me leave from hence to gather this observation. After the receipt of great mercies, God's children are apt to be engaged in great sins. See it made good in some instances. Was there ever a greater deliverance bestowed on any than that which the Lord afforded Noah, when he outrid that storm of the deluge in the ark, when all the world besides him and his were drowned? But soon after he forgot his great favour, and was overtaken with intemperance. So in the children of Israel, what a deliverance did God vouchsafe them when He freed them from Egyptian bondage! What may be the reason of this? First, it is from the corruption of our nature since the fall of Adam, which is so depraved thereby that we are apt to forget the mercy of God even then, when we have most cause to remember it. Secondly, it proceeds from the malice of the devil; for when he sees God to bestow great mercies on men, he then labours especially to engage them in transgression. And why so? That the mercies of God may be obscured by their unthankfulness. Let me persuade you, that as ye be sensible of God's mercies, so to watch over yourselves Upon the receipt of them that ye may be thankful for them. And as the devil doth labour then to step in when God hath done men most good, so above all times labour at that time to be most thankful and obedient, that God may have His glory and you a sweet relish of His mercy. "Shall we break Thy commandments?" How shall we understand this "break Thy commandments"? How could it be otherwise? Doth any man live and not sin? And yet shall they for this be exposed to God's judgments? His meaning is, that if after so great mercy as God hath vouchsafed them they should fall into gross sins, then God should be just in punishing them. As therefore a man should avoid great sins, so also all lesser impieties. The heart of man should be against all sin, and he should have respect to all God's commandments, that if he chance to fall it may not be presumptuously, but by infirmity. "Shall we join in affinity with the people of these abominations?" Here I could observe how hateful the heathen and all their doings be unto God, as also how odious all gross sinners are in His pure eyes. In the Scripture ye shall find if the godly be compared to gold, the wicked are termed dross. Again, if the godly be termed sheep, the wicked are called goats; nay, in our text "they be abominable." So we may say of the wicked man, be he never so rich and honourable, if he be a gross sinner he is hateful to God. The Holy Ghost makes it a foul sin to join in affinity with the heathen; and, indeed, so it is, for God charges the contrary (Exodus 34:15, 16). And ye shall find that God hath followed those with punishments that have joined themselves to heathens. Esau married strange wives, to the great grief of his father and mother, and he was made the more profane by it. The like we see in Solomon. It was so with Samson, he would needs have the daughter of a Philistine to wife; what followed upon it? she proved his bane. ]Hake no league with gross sinners, for there is much danger in it. First, the danger of suspicion. Let a man be never so good, yet if he associate himself with those that be bad, he will be thought as bad as they; for what will men say? "Birds of a feather fly together." Secondly, he runs the hazard of infection. All the rivers of the world run into the sea, but yet they cannot sweeten it, but are made brakish by it. And a wicked man is ten times more apt to corrupt a good man than he is to be wrought on by the conversation of a good man. Thirdly, there is a danger of a curse by consorting with wicked men. For as many ill men fare the better for one man, thus the household of Potipher was blest for one Joseph; and all in the ship fared the better for Paul's presence. So many good men may sometimes fare the worse for one wicked person, thus for one Achan the whole host of Israel is discomfited. Besides, when a good man maintains inward familiarity with the wicked: First, he seems to approve and applaud their wickedness: secondly, it is a scandal to religion, and doth greatly prejudice weak Christians; thirdly, it is a great means to keep the wicked from repenting, for too much intimacy with them hardens them in their sin. We now come to the punishment: "Wouldst Thou not be angry with us till Thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping?" First, here is God's anger in the first clause, "Wouldst Thou not be angry with us?" Secondly, we have the degree of His anger in the last words, "so that there should be no escaping." We begin with God's anger, "Wouldst Thou not be angry with us?" Out of this first clause I note two things for our instruction. The first is this: great sins, after the receipt of great favours, are usually followed by great judgments. And wonder not at this, for it is a great dishonour to God that His favours should be slighted (Romans 2:4). The second observation arising from that clause, "Wouldst Thou not be angry with us till Thou hadst consumed us?" is this: there be degrees of God's wrath; it rises by little and little till it consume. This is proved in Leviticus 26. There we find that as men's sins increase, so God's plagues shall increase; and ii they persist in sin, He will plague them seven times more and seven times more. So in Psalm 78:38. Thus the wrath of God rises higher and higher. Could Rehoboam make his little finger as heavy as his father's loins? and could Nebuchadnezzar make his oven seven times hotter than it was before? and shall not God increase His wrath? Yes, He can at pleasure. One meets with a great number Who, ii they have been freed from an ague of which they had four or five fits, they presently say with Agag, "The bitterness is past, and they shall no more have it." What thinkest thou? Is not God able to visit thee again? In the second place, whensoever God's hand is upon us, let us know that He could lay much more upon us if He would.

(Josiah Shute, B. D.)

O Lord God of Israel, Thou art righteous; for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before Thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before Thee because of this.
In this verse Ezra pleads guilty to the indictment, acknowledging God to be just, though He should renew His judgments afresh upon them. There be two things in it: First, his justifying God in these words, "O Lord God of Israel, Thou art righteous." Secondly, the reason which he gives for it: First, on God's part. He had used all possible means to bring them to reformation — "We remain yet escaped as at this day." Secondly, on their part. They were still in their trespasses; and therefore they were the fresh fuel of God's indignation. Before we come to these particulars, give me leave to speak a word or two of the style he gives God; he calls Him "Lord God of Israel." The title "Lord" signifies His greatness; "the God of Israel," His goodness. A fit preface for a prayer, for the word "Lord" is a term well befitting God. In the Holy Scripture He is said to be "strong in power, and wonderful in working." Let it comfort God's people: God is the Lord Almighty in power. What then shall be too hard for Him to perform with them? Lastly, it should teach Us to stand in awe and not sin against God. So we come to the second, which is that He is "the God of Israel." And if in the first He was the greatest, then in this He is the best. I know He is "the God of all the earth" (Psalm 24:1); but more especially He is "the God of Israel." First, by a special and peculiar Worship. To them above other people He revealed how He would be worshipped. Secondly, He is the God of Israel in regard to that special care He had of them, He was a wall of fire round about them to preserve them from their enemies. Thirdly, He is the God of Israel by a special reward which He hath promised them. He said to Abraham, "I am thy exceeding great reward." This that hath been said may assure God's children of His affection towards them. Secondly, methinks this should take off the edge of all persecutors. Is God the God of His people? and dare they touch that which is hallowed unto God? Will they meddle with the apple of His eye? Thirdly, methinks it should teach all persecutors and all wicked men to love the people of God. How are we affected with earthly things? If we know a man whom the king favours, how do we seek to get into his favour? We will do him any service to obtain it. And are not the saints of God His favourites? Lastly, is the Lord the God of Israel? Let Israel then behave themselves as God's people. What saith the Spirit of God in Deuteronomy 26:18; 1 Corinthians 6:20; Titus 2:14? Now we come to the particulars in the text as we laid them down. First, for the justifying of God, "Thou art righteous." This hath been ever the practice of God's people; they have still confessed God to be just in what He hath brought upon them. Thus doth David (Psalm 51:4; Psalm 119:137). This lets us see how the world fails in this particular. When God lays His hand on men, how apt are they to dispute with God and say, Why doth He deal thus and thus with us? Who art thou, O man, that repliest to thy Maker? Secondly, let us always be persuaded of the justice of God in all His proceedings; for though we see not the reason why He doth this or that, yet there is good reason for it. We proceed now to the reason which he gives for justifying God: "For we remain yet escaped, as it is this day." As if he had said, "Thy goodness is demonstrate; he that runs may read it." In general judgments which God brings upon the world, there are still some escaping. When God sent the deluge upon the world, Noah and his family perished not. In the fiery shower which God rained on Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his daughters perished not. What is the ground of this? First, all God's ways are interveined with mercy. Secondly, God still spares some to bring them to repentance, that they may turn out of the crooked into the straight path. Let me advise them that have tasted of God's mercy in this way never to forget it; and for this let me stir up my own soul to praise God with you. When my next neighbour was smitten dead, why was not I smitten also? It was only God's mercy. What a fearful judgment it is not to profit by afflictions. It is that for which God finds great fault with His people in Deuteronomy 29:2, 3, 4. In the second place, let us labour to profit by affliction. The last clause is, "Neither can we stand before Thee, because of this." As if he had said, "We cannot come before Thee with any confidence while we be in our sins unrepented of." That man that comes before God in his sins without repentance cannot come with any confidence or hope of mercy. In Proverbs 28:13, mercy, is promised to him that confesseth and forsaketh his sin; but wrath is pronounced against him that hideth them.

(Josiah Shute, B. D.).

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