And He said to me, "Prophesy concerning these bones and tell them: 'Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!
I. THE MINISTRY OF PROPHECY.
1. It presumes intelligent natures to which the appeal is made.
2. It presumes a Supreme Authority by which the prophet is selected, fitted, and guided in the discharge of his &rice.
3. It presumes a ministerial nature and character, on the one side open to communications from God, on the other side sympathetic with those for whose benefit such communications are vouchsafed.
4. It presumes an occasion and circumstances, suggesting the fulfillment of a spiritual mission.
II. THE POWER AND AUTHORITY OF THE LIVING GOD ACCOMPANYING TRUE PROPHECY.
1. The prophet speaks at the Divine command. There are times when he is silent, and times when he utters the thoughts, the warnings, the exhortations, that are in him. When the command is given, then the silence is broken.
2. The prophet utters a Divine message. He speaks for God, and they who listen to him hear the voice of God.
3. His utterances are therefore altogether without regard to what men would call probabilities or even possibilities. Nothing could have been further from all human likelihood than that anything should follow upon such a ministry as that here described. The prophet was directed to address "dry bones," and to summon dry bones to "hear the word of the Lord!" Had he been other than a prophet, he would have deemed such a mission an absurdity. "God's ways are not our ways, neither our thoughts his thoughts."
4. A higher than human wisdom and might breathe in the utterances of the prophet. The dignity of his attitude, the sublimity of his thoughts, are not of this world. He must be either a pretender and a fanatic, or else a representative of God himself, who can make use of such language as Ezekiel records himself to have used: "Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live."
III. THE MOVEMENT EFFECTED BY THE AGENCY OF PROPHECY. In this impressive vision the prophet witnessed the power of the words he was directed to utter. A thundering noise and an earthquake followed his prophesying, and to his own amazement he saw bones come together - bone to his bone; he saw the bones clothed with sinews, flesh, and skin. This marvelous transformation was still unaccompanied by life. Surely a revelation to us of the great things that may be and are effected through the instrumentality of a personal and spiritual agency, which yet fall short of the highest and most beautiful and blessed of all effects, viz. spiritual vitality itself. Is it not still and ever the case that by human agencies men are taught, admonished, trained to habits of rectitude, encouraged in a useful life, by a Divine Power indeed - for all good of every grade is from God - but by an exercise of power which is yet inferior to the highest of all?
IV. THE NEW LIFE WHICH IS, IN CONSONANCE WITH PROPHECY, BREATHED BY DIVINE SPIRIT. The result of the summons to the breath from the four winds was at once and most wonderfully apparent. The dry bones lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army! It is impossible to believe that the significance of this glorious conclusion to the vision is exhausted by the restoration of the sons of Israel to their native soil and ancient inheritance. We have the authority of the prophet himself for believing that in this event there was a fulfillment of the vision. And it probably seemed to many observers almost as incredible that the Jews should be bought back from their captivity and should as a nation again live and prosper, as that the bones of the dead, strewn upon a battle-field, should be restored to life and should become again an army of mighty warriors. To the mind that thinks deeply and justly it will seem still more surprising that our humanity, sunk in the slumber and the death of sin, should awake to newness of life, should receive the Spirit of God, and should become his living army of truth and righteousness. It was the purpose of Christ's coming that we might have life, and that in abundance. It is the Spirit that quickeneth. Thus it may be said that the production, fullness, and increase of spiritual life is the main result of the advent of the Savior and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
V. THE TRANSFORMATION AND CONTRAST BROUGHT ABOUT IN FULFILMENT OF PROPHECY. God speaks by his herald and representative, and his word is a word of power. The disjointed and sundered are united, the dry bones are clothed with flesh, the dead live, movement and the glad sound of life follow the stillness and the silence of the grave. An army of the living God is fashioned out of material the most unlikely. Thus the presence and operation of the Eternal is made manifest, the flagging faith of men is revived, and the future of humanity is irradiated with immortal hope. - T.
I the Lord do sanctify Israel.I. WE SHALL VIEW IT AS THE HOLY SPIRIT'S WORK TO "SANCTIFY ISRAEL." He gives a new, another, a spiritual life, yea, His own life, to sinners who were dead in trespasses and in sins. That is the religion of the Bible. That sanctification which becomes conspicuous and visible is the giving of life Divine, life spiritual, and into the soul of a sinner dead in trespasses and in sins. "You hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." The Apostle John puts it in another form, and says to his brethren who were regenerated by the power of the Holy Ghost, "We are of God" — that is, we have a life obtained from God — "we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness." The Son of God Himself speaks of it in the third chapter of the Gospel of St. John as a "new birth"; and what is that but participation in a new, another nature? "I, Jehovah, do sanctify Israel." Let me here glance at the identity of the covenant seed in this grand operation of grace. Wherever the Holy Ghost implants spiritual life, that soul is identified, at once, as an Israelite. "The heathen shall know that I, the Lord, do sanctify Israel." And who are Israel? The seed of a covenant Head; a ransomed people; an emancipated people; a peculiar people. Oh! the vast importance of this distinction. I would to God that it were kept up and maintained among the followers of the Lamb. What is the first feature of their peculiarity? They are circumcised in heart, and love God, and are distinguished from the Egyptians. Light is in their dwellings, when all else is dark and dead. Look well to this point. Am I really sanctified by the Holy Ghost, set apart from the world, and made partaker of the Divine nature? Then am I Christ's offspring. Then am I separated from the world for Him; redeemed by His precious blood; brought out of Egyptian bondage, and cannot live under the taskmasters and under the yoke any longer. Then am I made to serve Jehovah, and worship Him "in spirit and in truth." Think of our daily and hourly dependence. Think of the matter of fact, that we cannot advance a step in the Divine life, that we cannot claim a promise even, or enjoy it, that we cannot surmount a difficulty, that we cannot meet an enemy, that we cannot sustain a trial, without communications of grace from on high. And therefore, says the apostle, when referring to Him in whom all is treasured up, "Of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace." Do not attempt to satisfy me, do not attempt to satisfy yourselves with a lazy religion. All God's sanctified ones are employed; for He says to every one of them, "Son, go work in My vineyard today." Don't stop till tomorrow. Go every day. The believing family of God are called upon to glorify Him "with their bodies and spirits," because their bodies and spirits are the Lord's. O God! employ Thy sanctified ones, and let every child of Thine be active and vigilant in extending the triumphs of the Cross! Do not tell me that you are incapable of doing anything. That is one of Satan's falsehoods and artifices to allure you to indulge in laziness. Do not tell me that you have no talent. I can receive none of these excuses. All God's sanctified ones have at least something to do in His vineyard for the glorifying of His name. And I would have them take a lesson from one of our old martyrs, picked up from the lowest walk of life, illiterate, and without a penny which he could call his own; and who. when brought before a Roman pro-consul and sneeringly asked, "What can you do for your Christ?" replied, "I cannot preach Him: I have no talent. I cannot support His cause; I have no money: but there are two things which I can do for Him; I can live for Him, and I can die for Him."
II. "THE HEATHEN SHALL KNOW THAT I, JEHOVAH, DO SANCTIFY ISRAEL." The heathen shall know! What, do you mean to send all out as missionaries to foreign lands and barbarous tribes, to make known what God has done for our souls? I do not think, at any rate at present, that all should be employed thus, for you need not go out of England, or out of London, to find vast numbers of heathens. Now we would here come again to the subject of decision. Say, how is it with you? With a life so superior, with a dignity so supernatural, with prospects so bright, at an expense so vast as the atoning blood of Christ — will you degrade yourselves — will you suffer the heathen to triumph over you? Oh, to be able daily and hourly to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, that His likeness, His image, His mind, His Spirit may be exhibited by us, whilst we seek no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. This is the way to make it known, that the heathen shall know and see the contrast. Not a few worldlings, whom I have thus set down as heathens, have been brought to acknowledge that there is something very singular, something very strange, something very mysterious, which they cannot fathom, in the Christianity which we possess. They cannot discover what that something is; and they never will until God gives it to them; it is His to bestow. And this brings me to dwell for a moment on the absolute sovereignty of the grace which imparts it. "I, Jehovah, do it." Oh, how I wish that I could be more familiar with His doings, and jealous about my own I Oh, how I wish that every spiritual act that a believer is able to perform, might be instantly traced, as the apostle did his, to the hand of God! Oh, the blessedness of subscribing to that article of the apostle's creed, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above," etc. Then, having laid the foundation in absolute sovereignty, see how he goes on in the next verse to describe its operations: — "Of His own will begat He us" — not man's proud free-will — "of His own will begat He us, by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures." Oh, the vast importance of having this distinction between us and the heathens, and the preservation of that distinction as the work of God — an act of the operation of His absolute power! "I, the Lord, will do it, and the heathen shall know it." Now here is a glorious distinction — that the heathen shall know it. They must not only acknowledge that what is done is a good thing, but that it is supernatural and beyond the creature's power; and admit, as the heathen monarch of old did, in the case of the deliverance of Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego, that it is the work of Him whose dwelling is not upon this earth — that it is a supernatural, Divine work. Another point which will be conspicuous to the heathen is, your circumspection; for, when God sanctifies, He makes the recipient of His sanctifying grace very circumspect. The heathen will not see the secret intercourse that is going on in your heart with God. They cannot see the hidden springs of life. They cannot see the secret purpose of predestinating love, from whence all proceeds; but they can see your circumspection. They can see how you walk; they can see what spirit, and mind, and temper you exhibit. They can see whether there is anything about you — in your whole conduct and deportment — which gives the lie to your profession; and they will not be backward in talking about it. They discover it in a moment. Oh, how important, therefore, is that solemn advice of the apostle! — "Be ye therefore holy, even as he who hath called you is holy." One point more: it relates to the experimental enjoyment — which sanctifying grace imparts when we stand before the heathen as a distinguished people, and the heathen shall know it.
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