The Silence of Penitents
Ezekiel 16:62-63
And I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall know that I am the LORD:…

This is plainly a prophecy of the way in which the remnant of Judah shall be saved in the last days after the fulness of the Gentiles has come in. Some believe it to mean that in the awful times of Antichrist the Christian Jews shall be the heroes of the faith and the bulwark of the Church. Others have seen in the chapter the reunion of Christendom. However interesting these interpretations may be, we cannot overlook the extraordinary language of the last verse, which points out the frame of mind appropriate to the redeemed Jew, or whosoever shall stand for the figurative Jerusalem in those final days of this world. It is being confounded, and never cloning the mouth, because of shame. There can be no doubt that we are all too much disposed to underrate the exceeding shamefulness of wilful transgression against the light. There are those, indeed, who would eliminate the exercises of penance altogether from the Christian system. They hold that to expect a man to do penance for his sins after they have been forgiven him by our Lord is to take away from the perfection of His atonement, to limit the possibilities of His grace. But there is also to be considered the temporal punishment due for sin that justice may be satisfied and the world governed righteously. What right-minded soul does not yearn to make up in such wise as it can for past acts of coldness and disobedience? Suppose a son that has been estranged from his mother for years, has neglected her, thought hardly of her, perhaps spoken against her. And then after a long season he is brought back to her again, to find her poor and old and wellnigh helpless, going down to the grave uncared for and unloved save by strangers. The old love of early life comes back to him. Now he counts nothing too hard to do for her: he watches her day by day to find out in what small ways he may lighten her heavy burden and brighten her few remaining years. He knows this does not make up for the past, — only her dear pardon so generously given can do that; but it is all the reparation he can make, and he strives with his whole nature to make it. In like manner the true penitent knows that he cannot give back to God the love and obedience withheld so many years as one might pay back the money he had stolen; but at least he can show that he truly grieves for those years of sin, and has the heart to undo them had he but the power. When, therefore, we consider the relation of love in which we stand to Almighty God, and the duty of obedience which we know so well, we must acknowledge that only ignorance or thoughtlessness can make the penitent all full of joy without intermingling of pain. There is also another aspect of the matter. This consciousness of one's own shame, which belongs to the life of true penitence, must materially affect our judgments of our fellows. If when we are most earnest and stern voiced in rebuking our fellows we could be suddenly brought face to face with the words of this text, do you think we should not be silenced by them? What are we that we should sit in judgment upon our fellow men? Have we not sinned as grievously as any of them; or if not outwardly, when our greater light and opportunities of grace are taken into account, is there much in our favour? This is by no means to say that we ought not to denounce sin, and to stand out for the very highest type of Christian living. We are to be absolutely inflexible in maintaining in all points the doctrine of Christ our Lord. But when it comes to passing judgment upon individual sinners, let us not lose sight of the solemn words put by God in the mouth of the prophet concerning penitent Jerusalem. How can the Christian who has any vivid consciousness of his own past speak uncharitably of his neighbours and sharply condemn their failings, not making allowance for their circumstances and temptations; ay, often not even considering his own probable ignorance of some of the facts about which he so sternly speaks? What if our Master had judged us as we judge and had not pardoned us instead? Even when we have learned in some measure to control our tongues and lips, how often do we find rising up in our souls the self-righteousness of the Pharisee. What a hateful thing it is! How unlike the spirit of our gracious Master? Is there no way in which it may be conquered, and banished from our souls? I think there is a way. It is that of daily calling to mind, and that not perfunctorily but very thoroughly, the many evil things in our past lives of which we have repented and for which we have received God's pardon.

(Arthur Ritchie.).

Parallel Verses
KJV: And I will establish my covenant with thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD:

WEB: I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall know that I am Yahweh;

The Lasting Covenant
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