Ezekiel 2:10
which He unrolled before me. And written on the front and back of it were words of lamentation, mourning, and woe.
Ministers Exposed to Corruption by Their PeopleN. Emmons, D. D.Ezekiel 2:8-10
The Bible: a Record of Human SorrowsU. R. Thomas.Ezekiel 2:8-10
The God-Made MinisterA. Whyte, D. D.Ezekiel 2:8-10

It is certainly remarkable that, whilst the ministry of Ezekiel was to be fulfilled by word of mouth, the communication of its substance should be figuratively represented by the scroll - "a roll of a book, written within and without." What the scroll was to the prophet, it may fairly be said, the volume of Holy Scripture is to us. Holy Writ is the record of successive revelations, and its form, as literature, answers very important purposes. Scripture is the standard of faith and doctrine and practice, to which the ministers of the gospel are bound to refer, according to the well known saying, "The Church to witness, the Scripture to prove." This strikingly symbolical passage suggests valuable truth regarding both the form and the substance of the inspired volume.

I. THE FORM OF THE WRITTEN REVELATION. The fact is that we have the scroll, the volume, i.e. the mind of the holy and inspired men of old perpetuated in the written form. Certain advantages are by this means secured, which more than compensate for any disadvantages which may possibly be connected with the literary form which revelation assumes.

1. A written revelation, as compared with one merely oral, is deliberate. What men say in conversation, or under the stress of popular oratory, is not to be compared in this respect with what is carefully committed to a literary form. Speech is often intended merely to produce an immediate impression; what is written is probably intended to bear examination, to stand the test of reflection and of time.

2. Continuous. Fragmentary and disjointed utterances are all that can be expected from an ordinary speaker; and even a thoughtful and powerful speaker must usually, by the very conditions of his work, come short in the point of orderliness and continuity. The preparation of a book, and especially of a volume containing in many books the revelation of the Divine mind, involves a design, a plan, a connection and correspondence among the several parts which go to make up the whole.

3. Incorruptible. The untrustworthiness of tradition is proverbial. Wisdom is apparent in the arrangement by which the communication of God's will to man has been placed beyond the corrupting influences to which every oral tradition is liable.

II. THE SUBSTANCE OF THE WRITTEN REVELATION. The "roll of a book" delivered to Ezekiel may be presumed to have been the emblem of the communications which were to form the matter of his prophetic ministry. And although the writing is described as consisting of mourning and woe, this is probably only because such was the prevailing tenor of the earlier portions of his prophecies. We may say generally that the written revelation through Ezekiel is a summary of that which occupies the entire Bible. The scroll, accordingly, may be considered as:

1. Displaying the Divine interest in mankind.

2. Revealing Divine acquaintance with men's sinful character their wanderings from God, and the various errors and follies into which sin has ever led its victims.

3. Declaring God's foresight of the miserable condition into which idolatry, apostasy, and every kind of moral evil and error must certainly plunge the rebellious. Nowhere is this more vividly displayed than in this book of prophecies.

4. Expressing the Divine solicitude for man's welfare, and the Divine provision for man's recovery and salvation. In all these several particulars the Book of Ezekiel is a miniature of the Bible. The theme of the prophet, and the theme of Holy Writ as a whole, is surely nothing else than this - the exhibition of man's heinous sin, and the offer of God's merciful salvation. - T.

Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee.
Men often speak, and more frequently act, as if the religion of Christ paralysed manhood and cut the sinews of life. This is the reason, I believe, why so many give a reluctant ear to the religion of Christ. Now I concede the premise that determines this attitude to Christ; the premise that a man is entitled to the rounded fulfilment and the highest reach of the nature which God has given him. Our nature is a parchment on which God has written His will concerning us. The difficulty is that the original writing of God is so blotted and interlined with the writing of the devil that men misread their nature, and take it at the devil's interpretation instead of God's interpretation. In the measurement of ourself, any value below the highest is a mistake. It defeats God's intention regarding us. It flings us at once on an inferior plane of life. It produces a manhood mutilated at the top, impoverished in its deepest centres of power and joy. Now let us glance at the religion of Christ. It is to feed these centres of power and joy in our nature, to enlarge them, to quicken them to their keenest energy, that that religion comes to us with its claim and appeal. So far from paralysing manhood and cutting the sinews of life, it is something which God has put on this earth to nourish the essential traits of manhood and thrust life upward to its highest levels of force and happiness. Christ Himself is the only true measure of His religion. We must take it in its original features and accents, with the large, grand truths which He revealed as its lines of structure, and the institutions which He founded to shelter those truths and bring them into living touch with men. What did He tell us of His religion? Nay, what did He tell us of Himself? — for Christ is Christianity. He said: "The Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." "I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." "I am the Light of the world. He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." These are crucial words. They sweep the whole horizon of Christ's truth and work. The purpose of His religion is not to impoverish and mutilate life, but to show us the values of life as they stand in the light of God; and, in the downward pull of our nature and the sharp stress of the world, to help us to realise the highest values. Thus it comes to us. Thus it addresses us. It says, as God said to the prophet: "Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee." You must meet it, as a man meets a friend, standing on your feet, looking into his eyes, grasping his hand. And more than this; as its spirit enters into you, it will set you upon your feet. It comes to uplift your nature, enrich your life, to give it reach and vision, to keep you on your feet in your fight with sin. But it makes demands, you say. Yes, but all its demands are needful for the training of our manhood to its highest fruition; and it helps us to meet its demands. For instance, it demands faith. But do you expect to go through life without faith? Then you will miss the best and richest things of life. It is like a man drawing the curtains of his windows when the sunshine is making holiday on the earth. Again, it demands worship. But surely no thoughtful man would give much for a life that had not the element of worship in it. It is when faith in unseen things is faint, and worship dies out of life, that men ask, "Is life worth living?" An empty heaven overarches an empty heart. Lastly, it demands the curbing of the lower forces of our nature. This, after all, is the demand that excites the most angry and determined revolt. But life itself, outside of Christ, if it be carried to any high issue, makes the same demand. Even to be the shadow of a man, even to be respectable and keep our place in the world, we must chain the brute within us. It is a difficult task, and men who essay it without the aid of God ofttimes find that the wild beast has escaped his cage, and is devouring the beauty and dignify of their life. Christ, it is true, goes beyond the demands of the world. He asks us to sacrifice, if the need come, natural appetite and innocent joy in the behoof of our soul. Life itself finds its meaning only by the soul working out with pain and battle its supremacy. To accomplish this, the world has its methods; but Christ's method, after all, is the easiest method, the only effective method. Starve the evil in your nature by feeding the good that is in it. Conquer the strong man that has taken possession of your house by bringing in a stronger than he. The Church of Christ, with its revealed truth, its sacraments and its worships, is the Divine porch which God has built in the world, through which we may come to Him, and draw into our life, for help in our struggle and the healing of our wounds, the forces of His Divine life.

(W. W. Battershall, D. D.)

The man who is great by gift, office, or opportunity, and at the same time of unfeigned goodness, will shrink back from the idea of incapacitating by oblique terrorism those who come within the field of his influence. He will wish them to employ their powers for the common weal to the best possible advantage, and will therefore seek to put them at their case, to encourage them to intellectual self-command, to build them up and not to cast them down. God's dealings with His servants of all ages correspond to our conception of His gentle and gracious character. The vision of His presence and power is not meant to permanently depress, overawe, and incapacitate. His glory is overwhelming, but it is not His will to annihilate reason and all that constitutes personality by the manifestations of His majesty.

I. Self-possession is necessary for the HIGHEST FORMS OF INTERCOURSE WITH GOD. A man cannot be a recipient of the Divine revelations till he has made some little progress in the art of collecting and commanding his own faculties. Now and again God makes Himself known in vivid and stupendous ways which smite mortals with fear and trembling. For the time being, He strips them of their manliness. The characteristic attributes of the human personality are numbed, stifled, half-destroyed, and the man who is the subject of these manifestations might well think himself in the throes of a process intended to dissolve the elements which make up the unity of his being, and merge him irrecoverably into the terrible Infinite. Now this paralysing sense of the supernatural, which appears to threaten the obliteration of the individual, is only temporary. God does not wish to subtract anything from the personality, or to make us less than that which He created us to be. But, after all, the only thing God wants to drive out of the personality is the taint of selfishness, affinity for wrong, soft complaisance towards transgression. Indeed, it is the sin latent in us which produces collapse before His presence, and when that is gone serene self-possession is recovered. He does not wish to blight, or repress and destroy a single element in the constituent sum of a man's identity.

1. This lack of quiet self-possession is sometimes the reason why stricken, conquered, storm-tossed souls cannot enter into the quiet of saving faith. A temptation to keep back the obedient response to God's solicitation of human confidence may come in two opposite ways. Many a man persuades himself that his heart is not so profoundly stirred that he can exercise the faith that will save him. The psychological atmosphere, he is tempted to think, is far too normal and commonplace. And, on the other hand, those most profoundly wrought upon by a sense of their guilt, and the vision of the Divine holiness, exercised to the point of distraction by some force which has seized upon their emotions, find it difficult to collect their minds into an intelligent and purposeful act of faith. Their natures are almost stupefied by the mighty supernatural arrest that has come to them. The power of thought and emotion is for the moment frozen up or has almost passed away. They cannot collect themselves for the transaction which is required at their hands. Saul, the blinded persecutor, must have been in some such condition, as he lay prone at the gate of Damascus, for he could not there and then put forth the faith by which he was healed, built up, sanctified. The nature prostrate and helpless through a cataclysm of overwhelming conviction must be brought out of its paralysing amazement. Faith is an act which demands collectedness of mind, a rational and reflective attitude, modest self-possession. True it is that faith is God's gift, but the hand that receives is not the hand clutched with terror or folded in sleep, but the hand which is heedfully and unfalteringly held out.

2. Whilst reverence in God's presence is a duty from which there can be no release, that sacred emotion of the soul is not meant to dumfound and transfix us, however mighty the revelations to which it is a tribute. Indeed, the reverence that is allied to helplessness and maimed perception is manifestly a sentiment of inferior quality. The man who wishes to dazzle the supporters he is rallying to his side brings some kind of reproach upon himself. He who seeks to lull his admirers into dreaminess or to fascinate them into stupor, and so disarm their judgments, confesses thereby the meagreness of his own power to captivate by reason and by love. If, as God comes forth to conquer us, His revelations put the larger part of our mental life to sleep or obscure a single faculty or perception, that would be practically a confession of weakness on His part. It would imply He had not adequate moral and spiritual reserve forces wherewith to subdue our souls into adoration of His attributes and homage to His great behests. When God sees fit to disclose His majesty and abase our pride, He does not intend to permanently weaken, discourage, paralyse. That would be to surround Himself with worshippers of meaner capacity and servants of inferior fitness for His tasks. He desires to call forth, train, and perfect the undivided powers of those whom He seals and sends.

3. The largest and the loftiest service of God is that which is rational in the best sense of the word. Those disclosures of His being, character, and operation which God will make both in this life and in that which is to come, are intended to stimulate and not to depress that group of faculties of which the brain is the symbol. He has created us all that which we find ourselves, so that we may be better able to comprehend Him than beings less richly endowed, and we cannot think that this special capacity will be overborne and destroyed as soon as the goal comes into view. Every mental power must be healthy, well-mastered, on the alert, so that we lose nothing from His many-sided revelations. We cannot apprehend God and assimilate His truth and life in states of feeling which are not far removed from trance conditions. The highest intercourse with God attainable by a human soul is that in which the soul is perfectly at ease, competent to command its own powers and apply its own discernments.

4. Men may pass into mental states in which we describe them as possessed — possessed either by the Spirit of God for good, or by an unclean spirit for evil. But possession represents only a half-way stage towards a final goat of holiness or sin. In possession, both for evil and good, the personality becomes more or less veiled, overborne, suppressed. Manifestations of the Divine glory that confound and disable through their momentary intenseness, unfit for the truest and most comprehensive communion with God. In our own, as well as in earlier times, Christianity has fallen under the spell of Oriental philosophies which assume that the basis of human personality is evil, and its duration therefore fleeting; and that reabsorption into the infinite and universal life is the goal of all aspiration and progress. The unexpressed idea seems to be that the infinite cannot tolerate the finite, that it is always thirsting to draw every attribute of manhood out of us, and that it will leave at last the mere husk and shell of an effete personality behind, bleaching into final invisibility, or perhaps not even so much as that. Such a view credits God with predatory instincts rather than pays Him the glory due to His absolute and eternal love. God wishes to take out of our personalities nothing but what is hateful — selfishness, folly, moral blemish and defect. In Christ's high-priestly prayer we find the charter which pledges the permanence of all those elements which constitute personality. His own relation to the Father, which presupposed the essentials of personality, was to be the standard looked to in the perfecting of the disciples. "As Thou, Father, art in Me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us." The branch which is grafted into the stock of a tree still produces its own specific flowers, in spite of its union with the tree, and produces them more nobly because of the reinforcement of life it receives from the tree. Our Lord's union with the Father accentuated rather than obscured the properties of His personality. The Father was ever dwelling in the Son, but the personality of the Father was not lost in the mystery of intercommunion; and the Son was ever dwelling in the Father, but He remained a perfectly conscious and clearly defined Son, and His personality was neither volatilised nor swallowed up by the mystic relation. The union which entirely abstracts and absorbs makes communion a fixed impossibility. And His own age-long fellowship with the Father, Jesus Christ presents as the type and consummation of all human excellence and blessedness. Ages await, us in which the revelations of God will transcend the grandest disclosures of the past; but even then these, revelations will be attempered to our capacity to receive and assimilate, Man's intellectual grasp, far from being overtaxed and palsied by the strange secrets of the future, will only be stimulated and enlarged. We are not children of the mist, freaks of cloudscape, broken shadows, iridescent vat, ours, whose destiny it is to confront the sunlight and be irretrievably dissolved. In the maturity of an all-round, unshrinking, indefectible personality, we shall be summoned into the presence of His glory to receive, without error or distraction, the nobler teaching of the hereafter. He will ask us then to be self-possessed, and He is teaching us the alphabet of that duty now. "Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee."

II. A serene and undisturbed temper is necessary not only for the man who is an elect recipient of Divine revelations, but for THE MAN ALSO WHO IS TO BE A MESSENGER OF THESE REVELATIONS TO OTHERS. Courage before men is a characteristic of the genuine prophet; a timid, blushing, disconcerted herald from God's throne is an incongruous compound. The first apostles did much to prove their place in the holy succession by the firmness with which they spake under circumstances which would have abashed men with a less convincing religious history behind them. In the chapters to which the vision of Ezekiel is a prelude, the prophetic office is illustrated by the duty laid upon the sentinel or watchman. For such work the power of calm, unerring discernment is indispensable. He must be master of himself, able to see with his own eyes, to trust the correctness of his own judgments, to hold his own in the world. Unless a man has self-command, or can at least acquire it by discipline, he is unfit to be God's watchman. The nervous prophet, the self-deprecating herald, the apostle who allows himself to be overborne by the clamour of the world, stultifies his own mission and does not a little to discredit his message.

1. Self-possession is often a secret of success in common things. In not a few pursuits the cool head and uniform self-command are essential to life itself. A man must have confidence in the art he has assumed, and in his own aptitude for applying the principles of his art, and above all in the truths to the promulgation of which his art is contributory. He who has a modest faith in his own resources, be they natural or spiritual, will inspire some degree of that same faith into others. The man who cannot command his own faculties at the moment, never inspires confidence, however vast the stores of knowledge and power with which popular rumour may credit him. It is the working capital in actual view which assures the onlookers rather than the unrealisable assets. We cannot persuade others till we are so absorbed by the subject matter of that persuasion that all the powers of the mind rise up to emphasise it. The duty of self-command implies very much more than subjecting our bad passions to the control of the will; and if we do not learn self-command in the widest possible sense of the term, we inevitably weaken our effectiveness for good. By fluttered moods and weak, indeterminate accents, the wisest man is just as much disqualified from swaying others as the ignorant or the imbecile. Nervous embarrassment, inability to bring our best gifts into use at the call of a providential opportunity, palpitations, strikings of spirit, hesitancies, seem to turn our message into farce and dumb show. One faculty which we can quietly use at will for practical ends is better than a brilliant host of faculties which are not under perfect control.

2. Self-possession is a sign of the quietness of faith. When attained by spiritual processes it becomes a Voucher for that trust in God which, once learned in His immediate presence, extends to the daily fulfilment of the tasks He has fixed. Without this tranquillity which grows from faith we can have no power. There can be no confusion or embarrassment where this fixed persuasion exists. The man who is bold at God's command is bold because authority is behind him, and authority means the mighty grace which will not suffer its obedient instruments to be confounded or brought to shame. A true faith should enable us to wield our finest powers for God and His service. Respect for the opinions of others should never lead us to cancel ourselves and the contents of our own consciences. The strength and boldness we need in speaking for God must, in many cases, be built up from their very foundations on religious principles and experiences. The man whom nature does not help, and who through superhuman influence alone grows bold and at ease, will far surpass the other in effectual service for God. It may sometimes happen that in the physical life there is a barrier to their self-possession which is a prime condition of usefulness, and in one case out of a hundred the barrier may be insurmountable. Excellent and high-principled men and women assume too readily that they are the victims of nervous disorder, weak circulation, faintness. Let God's imperative "Stand upon thy feet" help us. It is a Divine voice which calls us to mental collectedness, to the quiet use and control of all our hidden gifts. He would fain rescue us from our frail. ties, from proneness to mental confusion, from undue awe of the face of our fellows, from that nervous paralysis which so often has its roots in a morbid or a defective religious life. It is not His will to have servants who lack the note of courage, competence, effectuality. By contact with God we shall gain steadiness, confidence of touch, impressive self-mastery for our work. "Now when they beheld the boldness of Peter and John...they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus." If we learn presence of mind before God we shall find little difficulty in maintaining it before men. "Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart; wait, I say, on the Lord."

(T. G. Selby.)

I. The attitude of the prophet IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD. Jonathan Edwards, who has been called the Isaiah of the Christian Dispensation; was often carried in the chariot of his imagination into the very highest heaven of ecstasy to behold the greatness and the glory of the Lord. And during those seasons of seraphic communion he realised his utter weakness, and his very body seemed to faint and fail. Pascal, too, had no less exalted experience when he was visited with the presence and power of God, and saw visions so unutterable that he could only fall on his face and weep tears of joy. But God does not mean that His servants should be overmastered with the majesty of its glory. God is not like an Eastern sovereign who wishes his subjects to be impressed with his distant greatness, and would extinguish the sense of noble manhood within their breast. The relation which God sustains to His people is that of a father to his children, who would impress them with the conviction of his absolute authority, and yet, at the same time, would endeavour to awaken within them the sense of their nobility and dignity as his children.

II. The attitude of the prophet IN THE PRESENCE OF MAN. We may bend our knees in the presence of God, but we must stand upon our feet in the presence of man. It is in this attitude that we receive strength. Bunyan's picture of the prophet is the ideal for all time. "He had eyes lifted up to heaven, the best of books was in his hand, the law of truth was written upon his lips, the world was behind his back. He stood as if he pleaded with men; and a crown of glory did hang over his head."

1. The first quality or attribute of the true prophet is that of conviction. The prophets of science have emerged out of their caves of prejudice, of tradition, of authority, and have gazed at nature with the clear eye of truth, and under the open canopy of heaven. And so it must be with the prophets of Scripture; they must be prepared to dismiss all the idols of prejudice and passion, and study the Bible in the light of open day, and thus arrive at a firm, immovable conviction of its truth. We have no business to preach our doubts; it is the grand realities that we are to proclaim in the presence of an unbelieving world. A lady once, examining Turner's pictures, said, "But, Mr. Turner, I don't see these things in nature." "Madam," replied the artist, with pardonable pride, "don't you wish you could?" Thus the true prophet must be a seer, and being a seer, the whole breadth of nature and Scripture will be open to him, and he will see things that others wot not of.

2. The second quality which distinguishes the true prophet is that of courage. The apostles after the day of Pentecost. were full of courage. The fear of man was completely taken away, so that they testified with boldness the truths of the Gospel concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. So it was with Luther, with Knox, with Savonarola, and all the great prophets of old; they were bold and uncompromising in their utterance of the truth.

3. The third quality of the faithful prophet is character. The staff of the prophet must be in the hands of a pure and upright man. Gehazi was a bad man; and hence, although he had the wand of Elisha in his hand, it failed to work enchantment. He passed the staff over the face of the dead child, the son of the Shunamite woman, but there was no voice, nor any that answered. But when Elisha took the staff in his hand, then the boy was raised to life again. Thus will it always be.

(J. C. Shanks.)

I. THE WILL OF GOD IS THE UPLIFTING OF MAN. Ezekiel thought that he honoured God by falling prostrate on the ground. Be learnt that God was rather honoured by his standing on his feet. Salvation is the uplifting of man. It must be so because God is love. His aim is to lift the objects of His love into free fellowship with Himself. His glory and their exaltation are one. And the liker to Himself they are, the greater His joy. And this is true with reference to all man's powers. To stand upright is the outward sign of self-possession and of power in full development and exercise — first of all, the highest powers of faith and aspiration and conscience, but then all the powers which go together to make the man. Every human faculty has its place in the kingdom of God, and is sought out by the redemption of Christ Jesus.

II. THE TEXT MAKES THIS UPLIFTING NOT ONLY COMPATIBLE WITH, BUT NECESSARY TO, THE RECEPTION OF DIVINE TRUTH. "Stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee." Character can only be understood by corresponding character. If the lesser is to have fellowship with the greater, it must always be because the lesser grows until an answering faculty apprehends the greater. Take away the faculty in the receiver, and you destroy the power of the revealer to reveal himself. If the musician is to utter his soul, his instrument must sufficiently combine melodiousness, harmony, and delicacy to express his conception and to call forth all his skill. Had Mendelssohn known only the tom-tom of an African savage, we could never have had the Elijah and the Songs without Words. So we could never have had the dialogues of Plato had the philosopher had in view no audience more intellectual than a Sunday school class. And this is no mere human limitation. God can only reveal Himself to man and in man as human nature becomes lofty and deep and broad enough to apprehend and to express His mind. Further, each new power developed in man is a new point of contact with God. The world is so full of God that it is impossible to establish any new connection with it without its becoming a way of approach to some part of the mind of God, which is waiting to be revealed, when the means of receiving it are found.

III. WE HAVE IN THE TEXT A SPECIAL MESSAGE FROM GOD TO THE MEN OF OUR TIMES. From every side the call is being heard — "Stand upon thy feet." Orders have been called to political and economical influence, which never exerted it before. Men are pressing forward to claim their share in the higher life of science, literature, and art, who but a generation ago were not sufficiently awakened even mournfully to say, "Such joys are not for us." What is the true prophet to say to this many-sided movement? Is he to ban it as secular and worldly? Nay, rather, he must proclaim that so long as moral earnestness is behind it, it is the inspiration of God bidding men stand upon their feet, that He may speak to them.

(J. S. Lidgett, M. A.)

(with Psalm 8:4, 5): — It is most important that man should recognise his high origin, the nobility of his powers, and the glorious destiny that is possible to him, and that invites his noblest efforts and ambition. The first attitude of the soul toward God must always be that of profound reverence and deep humility. Still God will not allow His chosen ones to crouch at His feet. First, the lowly penitent pleading for mercy; after that, the servant, obeying the commandments of God because he must obey or lose his place; but then, the son and friend, standing up beside his God, listening with rapturous delight to the voice of the loving Father. God is ever ready to draw near to those who love Him, and to speak with them as friend speaketh with friend. "Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak to thee." I think we may learn from these words that it is possible for us to miss the voice of God, and to lose much of the comfort of His presence, by failing to claim the privilege of coming to God at all times, in the fullest confidence of love and friendship. Man must recognise his true dignity, and maintain his self-respect, before he can receive the highest revelation of God. It is worthy of note that God put dignity and honour upon man by creating him in His own image. He also showed His great regard for man by giving His Son to redeem him, and lift him up from the low condition into which he had been brought by sin and transgression. And especially does He assert the dignity and worth of man, regenerated and purified, by making his body the temple of His Holy Spirit, and by providing for him a glorious, happy home, where no sin, nor sorrow, nor suffering can ever enter. There are pessimists in our day who boldly proclaim that human life is a failure — that the world is going from bad to Worse — that there is nothing in human life to be thankful for, but much to be deplored. The explanation of pessimism is found in the fact that men are living Without God and without hope in the world. There are, I think, three different views of human life. First, the superficial view of life, indulged in by the young and inexperienced. Life is not looked at in all its sober reality. Its responsibilities and trials are not duly weighed. The brightness on the surface is all that is seen. This is the optimist view. Then comes the second view of life, held, perhaps, by disappointed, unsuccessful men. Life is a burden and a toil; and yet the desire to live is strong in them; and they are puzzled and perplexed beyond measure. This is the view of the pessimist. Then there is the third view of life, deeper, truer, and more hopeful — bright with a more sober and abiding light than that of the optimist — and happy with a calm confidence in God, that cannot be shaken. This is the Christian view of life. The pessimist and the optimist are both in error. The pessimist opens the windows of the soul outward, and lets out upon the world the darkness of his own morbid. melancholy, and darkens the brightness of the world with his own darkness. That is bad — an evil that ought to be carefully avoided. The optimist opens the windows of the soul inward, letting in the world's bright sunlight, so that he sees only the brightness, and thinks nothing of the misery and wretchedness that are around; and hence he puts forth no effort to make the world brighter and better. But the true Christian philosopher opens the windows of the soul upward, and lets the light of heaven stream in. He sees everything in the light of God's providence and God's purposes, and has his mind enlightened by God's Spirit.

(S. Macnaughton, M. A.)

Ezekiel was overwhelmed by the vastness of the universe and the great range of God's sovereignty. He could no longer — like the earlier prophets — limit his thoughts of Divine providence to the fatherly care and protection of a handful of Jews. It was something much vaster. In the government of the world there was wheel within wheel, there were forces at work that seemed to take little heed of individual or even national interests; there was the terrible impartiality of a universal Power dispensing equal laws to all peoples of the earth. To himself he suddenly appeared of no account in this universe of law and force, and in utter abasement he grovelled on the ground. But he was not permitted long to abase himself. God had a work for him to do, a message to deliver. And before the work could be done or the message revealed, the prophet must rise from his grovelling attitude, and reassert his manhood and recover his self-respect. He must recover his belief in the true position of man; he must assert his liberty of action; he must believe in the possibility of leading a holy, a Divine life, and when he had thus shown his sense of the true dignity of man and his respect of self, he could be made a prophet and servant of the Most High.

1. The first element in the self-abasement and prostration, the sense of insignificance in presence of the great forces of nature, and of the vastness of the universe, is finely described in the 8th Psalm: "When I consider Thy heavens," etc. However we explain it, there is a failure to realise the true dignity of man, to value aright the purpose of life, to understand the issues that depend upon our thoughts, and words, and actions. We get into the way of looking on ourselves simply as atoms, inconsiderable parts of a world which contains much that is more worthy of securing God and man's attention than a human soul; and we are content, with the lowest level for our character and conduct. But if we are tempted to feel in this way, the voice of God says to us: "Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee." It tells us how the Creator, after He had framed the earth and designed the heavens, made man in His own image, endowed him with reason, that he might know and judge himself; with conscience, that he might discern between right and wrong; and imagination, that he might purify his affections; with a principle of life, that he might live forever. It commands us to measure the superiority thus conferred upon us as children of the living God.

2. The second element in Ezekiel's abasement was a sense of helplessness. If his vision were a first glimpse of the reign of law, his fear may have contained the first shadow of a feeling that has shed its deepest gloom, on the paths of so many in these later days. The question, What is man? is answered by a large number of the thoughtful and the unthinking alike in the language of sheer fatalism. In effect, they say: "I am what I am, and need not be expected to change; God and man must take me as they find me. Another, with different parentage, and brought up in different circumstances from mine, may be a better, a more amiable man than I am. But he need not plume himself upon that. Had our places been reversed, so would our characters, and I for my part must be content to remain as I am." The same feeling is shown in reference to our mission in the world. The same man who blames fate for what he is, denies, in practice, if not in words, the possibility of his doing any work for good. He reasons for ethers as he reasons for himself — they are, and will be, what the struggle for existence, the advantages or disadvantages of their lot have made them; and as circumstances have neither fitted him to do anything for them, nor brought him into contact with them, he must leave them alone. He and they are fixed alike in this great wheel of fate, and although they all move, it is by no conscious effort on their part. All alike are poor, helpless creatures, whirled round in the great machine. I cannot doubt that this feeling was in the mind of Ezekiel as it was in the mind of his contemporary Jeremiah. Nor can I doubt that it was to rouse him out of his helplessness that God told him to stand upon his feet. And neither can I doubt that God calls upon us all to assert our dignity as men by claiming our liberty.

3. The third element in the abasement of Ezekiel must have been a sense of sinfulness. We need not try to analyse this feeling or show how it acted upon him. The emotions that flooded the soul of the prophet can hardly be dissected and tabulated. The knowledge that he had himself sinned, had been guilty of transgressing, or, at least, of failing to carry out with anything like perfection those laws whose power had just been revealed to him, was the last drop in his cup of humiliation. It would have been strange if it had been otherwise. If we ever obtain a glimpse of the majesty of the law and of the Lawgiver, we can hardly fail to be humiliated by the recollection of our own past lives. We have known the right and the good, and we have not chosen them; we have seen the path of safety for health of body, health of mind, health of soul; and we have wilfully forsaken it. We are not the men we might have been, we have not done the good we ought to have done; our prospects for time and eternity are overclouded, and the splendour which ought to have shone around them has become dim. And when we see the appearance in the likeness of a man on the sapphire throne — should I not say on the cross? — we will not fail to fall prone and abase ourselves if we have retained any of the better feelings God gave us at our birth. But our text reminds us that it is not good to remain too long in this abject state. We are not forever to be confessing that we are miserable sinners. The voice calls to us even when we are abased under a sense of sin: "Son of man, stand upon thy feet." Escape at once from the humiliation and the sin that has caused it. Look up to the bright heaven of a new ideal. Set your affection on things that are above. Prepare to move in the service that hitherto has been neglected, and God will teach you by higher training for a nobler life.

(J. Millar, B. D.)

Ezekiel was to be the bearer of a Divine message for the correction and moral rousing of his countrymen, and in order that Heaven may impart to him its secret, and inspire and instruct him for the work to which he has been chosen, he is called to rise and stand upon his feet. Here, then, in the very Book in which we are always meeting with injunctions to bend and bow, if we would be Divinely visited, are instances of men summoned to get up from the dust of conscious littleness and unworthiness, that they might be Divinely spoken with — of men, prone upon their faces in the presence of God, who were required to place themselves upon their feet before He could say anything to them, or make any use of them. Yet we may be quite sure, at the same time, that their prior prostration was equally indispensable. When Jehovah would charge Moses with the task of delivering Israel, the word to him was not, "Stand upon thy feet, that thou mayest hear and be invested from above," but, "Fall upon thy face." When, however, he had been deeply awed and humbled, to begin with, then he was bidden to uplift his head and believe in himself. It was needful, that as Saul and Daniel and Ezekiel were, he should first be deeply awed and humbled; but like them also, he needed to become erect after depression for the Heavens to be intimate with him, and to make him their mouthpiece and organ. And for healthy living, for beautiful action and endurance in our place, whatever it may be, we all require to have these two united in us — awe and assurance — prostration and erectness — the recognition of our insignificance — our dependence — and the recognition of our worth and dignity. We need to be both lying down in felt emptiness and helplessness, and rising up in brave self-sufficiency; and while it may be the fact that Heaven will reveal nothing to those who are not humble and lowly, it is equally the fact that Heaven never has anything to reveal to those who are not duly reverencing, and manfully leaning upon themselves. Coming to the New Testament, we meet continually in its pages with the same recognition of the importance of self-respect. Jesus Christ was always saying something in aid of it — something to encourage and support it. When He would strengthen His apostles for cleaving to their convictions against the opposition of the world, for brave and fearless prosecution of the work to which they were called, He talked to them of their worth in the eyes of the Almighty Father, telling them that the hairs of their head were all numbered, and that they were of more value than many sparrows. When Simon Peter, overwhelmed for a moment with the feeling of his manifold imperfections, fell down at the Master's feet, crying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord," how was he treated? The Master dropped at once a hint of the great capacity which He saw latent in him, and waiting to be developed, of the great use which he was destined to be in the service of the kingdom — "Fear not, Simon; from henceforth thou shalt catch men." When, again, Christ mingled with the degraded outcasts of Judea, of what did He speak to them? of their worth, of how Heaven missed them and wanted them. They heard from His blessed lips of the shepherd's concern for the lost sheep, of the housewife's eager search for the lost piece of silver. There is nothing more conducive to healthy self-reverence against the influence of felt poor quality and low desert, than the assurance that we are dear to someone who is superior — that someone who is superior cares for us, and clings to us, and considers us capable of much better and greater things. And this was the strength which Christ brought to the weak — the Gospel with which He raised the self-despairing. You are the child of a God who thinks on you, and yearns over you, and to whom, in your worst vileness, you are a prince in bondage, worthy of being sought after and redeemed. Then look at the Epistles — the Pauline epistles especially: in them, how constantly are the readers reminded of their high estate, or of the great things that were imputed to them, of the great things that were assumed with regard to them; of the lofty idea of their condition and character, which His perfect manhood involved, whose members and brethren they were. "Ye are bought with a price" - "Ye are all children of the light, and of the day" — "Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?" — "Reckon ye yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." But you will say, "When are we not self-respecting?" Well, he is not, for one, who craves and courts the approbation of others, and sets himself to gain it — who wants it, wants it to comfort and uphold him — who can be strong and happy enough while others are praising or smiling on him, but when they are not, waxes feeble and melancholy. Again, he is wanting in self-reverence who gives himself at all to imitate another, who, in any work which may be laid upon him, tries to repeat the greatness of another, to copy his distinctions rather than to evoke and cultivate his own, to strain after his dimensions, rather than to be as perfect as he can within his own. Then, again, he is not self-respecting who hesitates at all to go with his convictions, who fears to trust and follow the light within him, when the many are moving in the opposite direction; who, when careful and honest inquiry seems to be carrying him to conclusions that will separate him from the multitude, and perchance from those who are deemed great and wise, becomes afraid — afraid to abide with what commends itself to him as good and true. Beware of losing self-respect through living dramatically — with a daily appearance put on, which is not true to the reality — with the frequent assumption before spectators of that which does not belong to you. Beware of losing it through leading an idle, aimless, useless life, a life without any high or worthy purpose. Beware of losing it, especially, through forever failing to obey your higher promptings, and forever regretting and bemoaning the failure, while never seriously endeavouring to improve.

(S. A. Tipple.)

For all true and worthy service of God — which simply means all true and worthy living of the lives God hath here given us — this word reminds us that there is a necessity — a falling and a rising before God. For this man whom God bids to rise and stand upon his feet had been down, down low and in the dust. Ah! there is too little of this prostration before God — too little vision of the glory and majesty of Him with whom we have to do. Yet this must precede and be the source of all powerful rising and service. We must get down before we can get up. And the humiliation that is blessed is the humiliation that comes from realising God. Our Lord Himself spent memorable hours of His life bowed in communion before God. He found there the secret of power and strength to fulfil His Father's will. Much more must we. There is, then, first of all the lowly abasement. But there follows also, as surely, the rising again. And this is the second condition under which God will speak to us and use us — "Stand upon thy feet."

I. GOD CALLS US TO A TRUE DIGNITY WHEN HE CALLS US TO HIS SERVICE. It is a very false view of religion which holds that it tends to make a man poor. spirited and lachrymose. The true self-respect, the self-respect that springs from humility before God, and not from pride before man, has its roots in religion. And there is no man who will carry himself with truer dignity through the world than the man who believes in God, who has the fear of God before his eyes, and has heard the voice of God in his own soul. And, if we think of it, there are many men who are laid low whom God would rather have to stand up; and many, on the contrary, who stand up whom God would rather see abased. The despairing and the doubting, for example, are often on their faces on the earth. They wander in the grounds of Giant Despair, and he punishes them sorely and without pity. Now, God would rather that they arose, that they made effort to stand upon their feet, and to set them on the rock that is higher than they. On the other hand, there are some who stand whom God would rather see abased. We have many types of them in the Scriptures. The self-reliant is one. Peter points many a moral, but none more surely than this — "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." Again, the Pharisee of Christ's parable is another type. The rich fool of the parable, too, was a man who stood up very proudly, planting his foot confidently on his sure income, his fine houses, and stores. "Thou fool!" What an awful irony is here. "Thou fool, this night" thy soul, thy soul shall be required of thee. Very far, then, is the dignity and self-respect of a deeply religious man from such foolish pride and vain self-confidence as this. He stands as Christ stood (and never was there dignity more regal than His), rooted in humility, yet conscious of the Divinest relations, that, like golden chains, bind him to his God.

II. When God says, "Son of man, stand upon thy feet," it also means that HE REQUIRES COURAGE IN THE SOULS THAT WOULD SERVE HIM. Ezekiel needed it. "Be not afraid of them," etc. And it is needed as much by us as by others who have borne witness before us. The temptations that try our courage, though neither briers nor scorpions, are very real and powerful, and many a quaking there is before them. We need courage to do the right thing in spite of looks of enmity and glances of scorn, in spite of the alienation and misunderstanding of men. God knows we may find that our enemies are they of our own house, and much courage and standing on the feet is needed then. I read lately the story of the lives of two brothers. The one was a soldier who had won great distinction abroad. In a moment of crisis, in the heat of battle, at the peril of his own life, he dashed forward and saved a fallen comrade from the death that surrounded him. It was bravely and well done. He was decorated and gazetted, feted and lionised. But at home was a father, a drunkard, an old man whose life was a disgrace to himself and a burden to his friends. It did not suit the gallant soldier to know this father much, or to live in his neighbourhood. He preferred to enjoy his honours at a distance, away where the breath of this loathsome scandal would not reach him or mar his pleasures. But by this father stood the other son. He was a highly educated, sensitive man, whose life was dedicated to noble work, and who was already gaining for himself the first sweet distinctions of his profession. His father's life was a keen and bitter shame to him. He could easier have borne the knife plunged into his flesh. Yet, at the call of duty — the highest and most sacred duty, in his eyes — he bowed his neck to this shame and sorrow, gave up his bright prospects, lived alone, apart, with this wretched maniac of drink, did the work of a menial, and bore more than a meniars share of cruel blows and insulting words. The one gained the laurels of men, because, under the impulse of the moment, in the heat and excitement of battle, he did a courageous thing; yet in the moral trial, brave soldier as he was, he proved cowardly and ignoble, and left to the shoulders of one, whom he counted a fool for his pains, the cross that should at least have been shared by both. The other got no laurels — was nowhere noticed or spoken of with any distinction; but who can read the story of his self-sacrifice, of his humility, of his patience, without feeling that here, in the sight of God, was the true hero — here the true courage that faced worse than the bullet or the steel, and that endured longer than the swift, exciting hour?

III. The call to stand upon the feet indicates also THE UPRIGHTNESS THAT GOD WOULD HAVE IN ALL HIS SERVANTS. It is vain to think we can serve God, or be witnesses to Him in the world, if we are still harbouring the sins that tend to keep us low. Never was there greater need than today for the people of God to stand in uprightness and integrity. Christ has suffered too much and too long in the open unworthiness of many lives. There are things — habits of life, practices of trade, indulgences of temper and passion and lust, both open and secret — that, if we are to serve Him truly, must be over and ended, past and gone forever. Let us examine ourselves, and let each see what are the things he must cast from him, and must struggle to leave behind — those dead, crucified selves, on which alone we can rise to higher things.

IV. When God calls us to stand, He means HE WOULD HAVE IN US A READINESS TO ACT. Ah! God would oftener speak to us, brethren, but He sees we are not very ready to do anything. Why should He speak? We are indolent. We are too comfortable in our chairs of ease, or too much engrossed with other things. Oh, the hesitancy and reluctance of our obedience! How we need to be persuaded and pled with! Oh, shake yourself from this fatal spirit of indifference and indolence, for many are suffering from it, and losing their lives in it. Stand upon your feet. Offer yourself to God, as if you meant it. And "I will speak to you," saith the Lord. "I will direct your path, and open for you the way of a blessed life."

(R. D. Shaw, B. D.)

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