Ezekiel 9:3
As among men there are magistrates' sessions as well as the great assizes, so also God has seasons for the local administration of justice, as well as the final judgment. In fact, God is always upon his judicial seat, always meting out justice to the various orders of his creatures. If he ceased to judge, he would cease to rule.

I. MARK THE SUPREMACY OF GOD'S JUDICIAL VOICE. The last chapter finished with the declaration, "Though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them;" this chapter begins with the statement, "He cried in mine ears with a loud voice."

1. The season for prayer was exhausted. Examination of Israel's case had terminated. The verdict had passed, and nothing now remained but execution. Prayer on the part of the condemned, at this point, would be merely a selfish thing. It would bring no good. It would be out of harmony with God's plans and with righteous law.

2. The voice of God subjugates and overpowers all other voices. It is a voice of creation: "He spake, and it was done." It is a voice of life: "Awake thou that sleepest!" It is a voice of judicial destruction: "Depart, ye cursed, into outer darkness!" The voice that Ezekiel heard was a loud voice. The prophet could not question its reality nor mistake its utterance. It overcame the prophet's unwillingness to hear judgment pronounced. It drowned all dissentient voices. Nothing was heard save this. "The voice of the Lord shaketh the mountains."

II. GOD'S SERVANTS ARE FOUND AMONG ALL ORDERS OF CREATURES. This earth is not an isolated kingdom; it is a province of God's great realm. The persons hers summoned to appear for the execution of Jehovah's will are, without doubt, angels, though to the prophet's vision they seemed in form like men. As we read of angels who are appointed the guardians of little children, so we learn that certain angels are ordained guardians of cities and nations. To Daniel the angel spake of "Michael, your prince" - "the great prince that standeth for the children of thy people." The history of the Hebrew people is full of instances in which the angels of God were despatched either for the rescue or for the destruction of men. The Most High is unchangeable; and inasmuch as a destroying angel had executed God's vengeance on the idolators of Egypt, so now angels are employed to slay the idolaters in Israel. Yet there is singular economy in all God's arrangements. The number of these officers of justice was six, so that one might issue from each of the six gates of the city. The ministers of vengeance shall neither be too many nor too few. Eventually the Chaldean armies should he God's agents in the punishment of the Hebrews; still, these would act under the generalship of the heavenly principalities and powers.

III. THE WORK OF JUSTICE PROCEEDS SIDE BY SIDE WITH THAT OF MERCY. Along with the six officers appointed to destroy was one differently clad, whose work was to save. His clothing was the attire of peace - white linen - i.e. the dress of a true priest. Against six destroyers there was one protector, which denoted how few was the number of the faithful. They were to have a distinguishing mark in the most conspicuous place - in their foreheads. The owner of the flock will take care to put his own sign-manual on his sheep. "The Lord knoweth them that are his." In every time of trouble "he has hidden them in his pavilion - in the secret of his tabernacle will he hide them." Noah and his family in the ark; Lot and his daughters in Zoar; the early Christians sale in Pella when Jerusalem was destroyed; - these are evidences of God's special care of his chosen. He accounts them his jewels, and in times of danger holds them in the hollow of his hand. Not only had they not connived at the idolatry, but their souls were distressed on account of it. They had besought with tears their brethren to desist from the evil thing. Their holy zeal shall have a conspicuous reward.

IV. GOD'S SERVANTS HAVE LIKE DISPOSITIONS WITH HIMSELF. God had described the emotions and purposes of his mind thus: "Mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity." And now he requires his officers to cherish the selfsame sentiments: "Lot not your eye spare, neither have ye pity." To be a servant of God, and the executioner of his will, we must be like minded with himself. Only such does God employ on work of high importance. Eye and heart must be as God's. Following the tendencies of natural temperament, some servants of God would be too lenient, some too harsh. In such matters we must be sure that we arc doing God's will, not indulging our own. Private spleen, and merely natural bias, must be completely repressed. Our feeling and temper and will must be chastened by almighty grace, in order that we may be the servants of God. His will must find a full response in our will.

V. RETRIBUTION IS EQUITABLE AND COMPLETE. There is no miscarriage of justice in God's court, and in his retributions there is no excess. The equity of the destruction is seen in that it begins at the sanctuary. The ringleaders in rebellion shall be foremost in the punishment. That sacred place is sacred no longer. God has withdrawn his presence; therefore all privilege is extinguished. It had been a sanctuary for the oppressed, for the unfortunate, for the fugitive in war; but it shall be no refuge for rebels defiant against God - no refuge for sin. Mere sentiment about the traditional sacredness of the place must yield to sterner virtues - must yield to practical and primitive righteousness. Better that every sanctuary of religion be defiled with bloodshed, than that they be nests of immorality, cesspools of vice! If the reality be gone, it is a common injury to maintain the appearance. And God's retributions will be complete. They will spare none. We may hesitate respecting the justice of destroying "little children;" yet we can repose confidently on the bosom of the eternal Father, and say, "Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?" To our limited view the administration of supreme justice may sometimes be veiled in "clouds and darkness;" but we can afford to wait the fuller disclosures of the truth. "What we know not now, we shall know hereafter." - D.







Set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh.
I. GOD HAS A PEOPLE OF HIS OWN IN A WORLD OF SINNERS, WHO FEEL FOR HIS HONOUR, AND DESIRE TO SUSTAIN HIS AUTHORITY. These are the salt of the earth; the preservation of men. Set apart by the Lord, for Himself; made by the Holy Spirit, new creatures in Christ Jesus; standing with His robe of righteousness, complete in Him; instant in prayer; fruitful in holiness; and preferring the reproach of Christ to the treasures of the world; they are at once the ornament and the defence of mankind. And it imports an amazing amount of corruption and guilt in a land, when it is proclaimed that such men can but deliver their own souls, and shall be no longer the instruments to convey Divine blessings to others. These people of God have not sighed in listless idleness, or wept tears of fearful indolence, without an effort to stop the progress of man's iniquity. No. They are those who have first done all in active effort which they could do to restrain the wickedness of others; and who now, while they are mourning for their sins, are bearing their testimony with fidelity against them. Jealous for the honour of God, happy in the acceptance of a Saviour, knowing the comforts of the Holy Ghost, believing the revealed responsibility and destiny of sinful men, they long to the end of life for the salvation of the ungodly; and sigh and cry unto God, while they live, over a destruction in which they have no participation, and which men bring wholly upon themselves.

II. THIS PEOPLE ARE ENTIRELY PROTECTED IN THE DESTRUCTION WHICH GOD BRINGS UPON THE UNGODLY. Amidst surrounding ungodliness, the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will hide them in His tabernacle, until the danger be overpast. They are marked by His infallible determination, and are sealed by His Spirit unto the day of redemption. Known by the mark of grace — grace which loved them, bought them, found them, brought them back, kept them, and crowned them — they stand before God, sanctified and secured. Happy in their eternal enjoyments. Happy in all their earthly sorrows. Happy, peculiarly in this, that they sighed and cried for the abominations of men, in their zeal for the honour of the Lord of hosts.

III. WHILE THE PEOPLE OF GOD ARE THUS DISTINGUISHED AND PROTECTED, THE DESTRUCTION OF THE UNGODLY WILL BE ENTIRE. Long has God endeavoured to lead them to repentance; long has the Saviour stood waiting to receive them; long has the Divine Spirit exerted Himself to bring them back to Christ. And while all this was passing, they might have found a refuge in the Gospel, and have gained eternal life. But now the dispensation of mercy has been closed, and they are left, as they have chosen to be left, to the unbending operation of law. They die without mercy. They perish without redemption. They are destroyed forever. This destruction will begin with those who are most highly favoured with religious privileges. "Begin at My sanctuary," says the Lord to the angels of destruction. "Judgment must begin at the house of God," says the apostle Peter, as if in reference to this very passage of our text. Neither the pulpit nor the sanctuary; neither profession nor self-complacency shall afford protection to the sinner's soul. There is no respect of persons before the tribunal of the living God. The hypocrite shall be unveiled; the false professor shall be exhibited as he is; the self-righteous man shall be held up to view in his own deformities and unrepented sin shall everywhere see the destroying weapon, with an irreversible energy, coming upon itself.

(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

The mark in this case was, as the Hebrew verb indicates, to be the letter Tau, the oldest form of which, as in Phoenician and earlier Hebrew alphabets, was that of a cross. Such a mark had been in use from the time of the Book of Job, as the equivalent of a signature (Job 21:36); or, as in later Arab use, was branded on sheep and cattle as a sign of ownership. To assume that there was any reference in it to the significance which was to attach to the sign of the cross in Christian symbolism would be, perhaps, too bold a hypothesis; but the fact that such a symbol appeared in the crux ansata (the cross with a handle to it) of Egyptian monuments, as the sign of life, may possibly have determined its selection in this instance, when it was used to indicate those who, as the people of Jehovah, bearing His stamp upon them, were to escape the doom of death passed upon the guilty.

(Dean Plumptre.)

I. THE DESCRIPTION HERE GIVEN OF THOSE PERSONS WHOM THE MAN WITH THE WRITER'S INKHORN WAS COMMANDED IN THE DAY OF WRATH TO MARK UPON THE FOREHEAD. Idolatry, infidelity, mockery of God, appear to have been the principal part — the head and front of Israel's offending, and for this the destroyer was sent forth, and the hand of unrelenting, unsparing vengeance commanded to do its work. Are we individually and unfeignedly sighing and crying for England's abominations? Are we confessing our sins, and feeling the weight of personal transgressions, and acknowledging the power and faithfulness of God in pardoning and removing them? Are our hearts and hands uplifted for the land we dwell in? Are our voices as loud in prayer to God for mercy towards the guilty as they are to our fellow creatures in reprobation of them?

II. WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THAT MARK TO WHICH THE PROPHET IN THE TEXT REFERS? We find similar language used by St. John in the Apocalypse (Revelation 7:3, 4). Of whatever nature, then, the mark may be, it is expressive of, and a security for preservation. The allusion may be to the ancient custom of branding slaves upon the forehead, by which it was known whose property they were, or probably to that signalising mark of blood seen upon the door post of Israel, in Egypt, which secured them in the hour that the destroying angel smote the first-born of her oppressors. Both ideas may be involved, and from both we shall compound our idea of the mark.

1. There will be the blood, the mark of the blood, which blood, sprinkled upon the heart, disarms just vengeance, and secures it against the wrath of God. Is the blood upon your heart? — in plain terms, do you know its character, estimate its worth; rest upon its merits, and consider it as the mark of distinguishing grace and the security for certain preservation?

2. There is the mark of servitude.

III. GOD'S COMMAND TO THE DESTROYERS. First the man with the inkhorn goes forth to secure God's chosen, and then goes forth the command unto the men with the slaughter weapons. "Begin at My sanctuary," slay, spare not. Christendom, generally, is His professed house, and England, in peculiar, is His sanctuary. The other nations have tasted a little of these judgments, and war and pestilence and forebodings of fresh evil are now among the bitter ingredients of the Continental cup of vengeance. But the time is come when judgment in her severest form must begin at the house of God — begin with us, and shake with its most appalling force, not merely those institutions which papal and schismatical revenge are bent on destroying, but the imposing fabric of evangelical profession. This sanctuary needs cleansing. This amalgamation of wheat and tares under the common aspect of wholesome grain needs sifting.

(H. J. Owen.)

I. THE CHARACTERS DESCRIBED.

1. The characters are those who inwardly feel and lament on account of the abominations of men. They thus feel —

(1)From a remembrance of their own former condition.

(2)From a sincere concern for the glory of God.

(3)From a deep compassion and love to souls.

2. The evidence of this inward feeling for souls.

(1)The cry of a godly example.

(2)The cry of earnest entreaty and admonition.

(3)The cry of fervent prayer for their salvation.

II. THE MARK APPOINTED.

1. A mark of distinction.

2. A Divine mark.

3. This mark is prominent. "In the forehead." Grace, in its essence, is secret, but always visible in its effects.

4. This mark is essential.

III. THE DELIVERANCE SECURED.

1. From destruction.

2. Personal.

3. Certain.Application —

1. The subject furnishes a test of Christian character. Do we sigh and cry, etc.

2. It should be a stimulus to increased exertion.

3. Urge upon the exposed sinner the necessity of immediately obtaining the mark.

(J. Burns, D. D.)

When God visits the world, or any part of it, with His desolating judgments, He usually sets a mark of deliverance on such as are suitably affected with the sins of their fellow creatures.

I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN BEING SUITABLY AFFECTED WITH THE SINS OF OUR FELLOW CREATURES? That we are naturally disposed to be little or not at all affected with the sins of others, unless they tend, either directly or indirectly, to injure ourselves, it is almost needless to remark. If our fellow creatures infringe none of our real or supposed rights, and abstain from such gross vices as evidently disturb the peace of society, we usually feel little concern respecting their sins against God; but can see them following the broad road to destruction with great coolness and indifference, and without making any exertion, or feeling much desire to turn their feet into a safer path. This being the case, it is evident that a very great and radical change must take place in our views and feelings before we can be suitably affected with the sins of our fellow creatures, if the conduct of the persons mentioned in our text is the standard of what is suitable.

1. If we fear sin more than the punishment of sin; if we mourn rather for the iniquities than for the calamities which we witness; if we are more grieved to see God dishonoured, His Son neglected, and immortal souls ruined, than we are to see our commerce interrupted, our fellow citizens divided, and our country invaded it is one proof that we resemble the characters mentioned in our text.

2. Being suitably affected with the sins of our fellow creatures implies the diligent exertion, by every means in our power, to reform them. This attempt must be made —(1) By our example. Men are imitative beings; the force of example is almost inconceivably great, and there is, perhaps, no man so poor or insignificant as not to have some friend or dependant who may be influenced by his example.(2) By our exertions. We must endeavour ourselves, and exert all our influence to induce others, to banish from among us intemperance, profanity, violations of the Sabbath, neglect of religious institutions, and other prevailing sins of the age and country in which we live.(3) By our prayers. Exertion without prayer, and prayer without exertion, are alike presumptuous, and can be considered as only tempting God — and if we neglect either, we have no claim to be numbered among the characters described in our text.

3. Those who are suitably affected with the sins of their fellow creatures will certainly be much more deeply affected with their own. While they smart under the rod of national calamities, they will cordially acknowledge the justice of God, and feel that their own sins have assisted in forming the mighty mass of national guilt.

II. ON SUCH AS ARE THUS AFFECTED, GOD WILL SET A MARK OF DELIVERANCE, WHEN THOSE AROUND THEM ARE DESTROYED BY HIS DESOLATING JUDGMENTS. This may be inferred —

1. From the justice of God. As they have separated themselves from others by their conduct, it requires that a mark of separation and deliverance should be set upon them by the hand of a righteous God. Hence the plea of Abraham with regard to Sodom, a plea of which God tacitly allowed the force. Witness the preservation of guilty Zoar for the sake of Lot, and the declaration of the destroying angel, I cannot do anything till thou be come thither.

2. From God's holiness. As a holy God He cannot but love holiness; He cannot but love His own image; He cannot but love those who love Him. But the characters of whom we are speaking evince by their conduct that they do love God. His cause, His interest, His honour, they consider as their own. A holy God, therefore, will, nay, He must, display His approbation of holiness by placing upon them a mark of distinction.

3. From His faithfulness. God has said, Them that honour Me I will honour.

(E. Payson, D. D.)

In the text we have two things.

1. A party distinguishing themselves from others in a sinning time. And this they do by their exercise, not by any particular name of sect or party, but by their practice.(1) The heavy exercise they have on their spirits at such a time. It is expressed by two words, both passive, importing that there is a load and a weight of grief and sorrow on them: which makes them sigh when others laugh; oppresses their spirits while others go lightly: and makes them cry. The word rather signifies to groan, as a deadly wounded man, who is hardly able to cry (Jeremiah 51:52).(2) The ground of this their heavy exercise, the abominations done in the midst thereof.

2. Here is God's distinguishing that party from others in a suffering time, seeing to their safety when the men with the slaughter weapons were to go through.(1) Who gives the orders concerning them: The Lord said.(2) Who gets the orders about them: He that was clothed with linen, having a writer's inkhorn by his side. This is Jesus Christ, the Angel of the covenant. He appears here in all His offices: He is among the destroying angels as a king; He is clothed in linen as a priest; He has a writer's inkhorn by His side as a prophet.(3) The charge given concerning them.(i) To go through the midst of Jerusalem, the high streets. The mourners would be found there, by their carriage among others, testifying their dislike of the God-provoking abominations abounding among them.(ii) To set a mark upon them. This is to be done before the destroying angels get the word to fall on, to show the special care that God has of His own in the time of the greatest confusion.(iii) To set it in their foreheads. In the Egyptian destruction the mark was set on their door posts, because their whole families were to be saved; but here it was to be set on their foreheads, because it was only designed for particular persons.

I. TIMES OF ABOUNDING SIN ARE HEAVY TIMES, TIMES OF SIGHING AND GROANING TO THE SERIOUS GODLY, ZION'S MOURNERS. I am to give the import of this exercise, and therein the character of Zion's mourners, to whom times of abounding sin are heavy times, times of sighing and groaning.

1. Zion's mourners are godly persons, who in respect of their state have come out from the world lying in wicked. ness, and joined themselves to Jesus Christ (1 John 5:19).

2. Waking godly persons, not sleeping with the foolish virgins.

3. Mourners for their own sins (Ezekiel 7:16).

4. Public spirited persons, who are concerned to know how matters go in the generation wherein they live: how the interest of the Gospel thrives, what regard is had to the law and honour of God, what case religion is in, — whether Satan's kingdom is gaining or losing ground.

5. Tender persons, careful to keep their own garments clean in a defiling time, and dare not go along with the course of the times (Revelation 3:4).

6. Zealous persons, opposing themselves to the current of abominations, as they have access (Psalm 69:9).

7. Persons affected at the heart for the sins of the generation, to the making of them sigh and groan on that account before the Lord, when no eye sees but the all-seeing One (Jeremiah 13:17).(1) The abominations done lie cross to the grain and disposition of their souls: otherwise they would not make them sigh and groan.(2) They are a burden to their spirits, as vile and filthy things are to the senses.(3) They are wounds to their hearts, they groan like wounded men (Jeremiah 15:18).(4) Their grief vents itself in sighs and groans, as native indications of the affections of their hearts (2 Corinthians 5:4).

II. WHY SUCH TIMES ARE HEAVY TIMES, TIMES OF SIGHING AND GROANING TO ZION'S MOURNERS.

1. Because of the dishonour they see done to God by these abominations (Psalm 69:9).

2. Because of the wounds they see given to religion and the interest of Christ by these abominations, and the advantage they see accruing to the interest of the devil and his kingdom thereby (Romans 2:24).

(1)An arrow of grief for the loss on Christ's side.

(2)An arrow of grief for the gain on the devil's side.

3. Because of the fearful risk they see the sinners themselves run by these their abominations (Psalm 119:53).

4. Because of the contagion to others they see ready to spread from these abominations (Matthew 18:7; Ecclesiastes 9:1).

5. Because of the judgments of God which they see may be brought upon those yet unborn, by reason of these abominations. Hence says the prophet (Hosea 9:13, 14).

6. Because of the Lord's displeasure with the generation for these abominations (Jeremiah 15:1).

7. Because of the common calamity in which they see these abounding abominations may involve themselves and the whole land.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

I. IT IS A DUTY. If we are by the prescript of God to bewail in confession the sins of our forefathers, committed before our being in the world, certainly much more are we to lament the sins of the age wherein we live, as well as our own (Leviticus 26:40).

1. This was the practice of believers in all ages. Seth called the name of his son, which was born at the time of the profaning the name of God in worship, Enos, which signifies sorrowful or miserable, that he might in the sight of his son have a constant monitor to excite him to an holy grief for the profaneness and idolatry that entered into the worship of God (Genesis 4:26). The rational and most precious part of Lot was vexed with the unlawful deeds of the generation of Sodom, among whom he lived (2 Peter 2:7, 8). The meekest man upon earth, with grief and indignation breaks the tables of the law when he sees the holiness of it broken by the Israelites, and expresseth more his regret for that, than his honour for the material stones, wherein God had with His own finger engraven the orders of His will. David; a man of the greatest goodness upon record, had a deluge of tears, because they kept not God's law (Psalm 119:136). Besides his grief, which was not a small one, horror seized upon him upon the same account (Psalm 119:53). How doth poor Isaiah bewail himself, and the people among whom he lived (Isaiah 6:5). Perhaps such as could hardly speak a word without an oath, or by hypocritical lip service, mocked God in the very temple.

2. It was our Saviour's practice. He sighed in His spirit for the incredulity of that generation, when they asked a sign, after so many had been presented to their eyes (Mark 8:12). The hardness of their hearts at another time raised His grief as well as His indignation (Mark 3:5). He was sensible of the least dishonour to His Father (Psalm 69:9). He wept at Jerusalem's obstinacy, as well as for her misery, and that in the time of His triumph. The loud hosannas could not silence His grief, and stop the expressions of it (Luke 19:41).

3. Angels, as far as they are capable, have their grief for the sins of men. They can scarce rejoice at men's repentance without having a contrary affection for men's profaneness. How can they be instruments of God's justice if they are without anger against the deservers of it?

II. IT IS AN ACCEPTABLE DUTY TO GOD.

1. It is a fulfilling the whole law, which consists of love to God and love to our neighbours.(1) It is a high testimony of love to God. The nature of true love is to wish all good to them we love, to rejoice when any good we wish doth arrive unto them, to mourn when any evil afflicts them, and that with a respect to the beloved object.(2) Nothing can evidence our love to man more than a sorrowful reflection upon that wickedness which is the ruin of his soul, the disturbance of human society, and unlocks the treasures of God's judgments to fall upon mankind.

2. It is an imitating return for God's affection. The pinching of His people doth most pierce His heart; a stab to His honour, in gratitude, should most pierce theirs.

3. This temper justifies God's law and His justice. It justifies the holiness of the law in prohibiting sin, the righteousness of the law in condemning sin; it owns the sovereignty of God in commanding, and the justice of God in punishing.

4. It is a sign of such a temper God hath evidenced Himself in Scripture much affected with. A sign of a contrite heart, the best sacrifice that can smoke upon His altar, next to that of His Son.

III. IT IS A MEANS OF PRESERVATION FROM PUBLIC JUDGMENTS.

1. Sincerity always escapes best in common judgments, and this temper of mourning for public sins is the greatest note of it.

2. This frame clears us from the guilt of common sins. To mourn for them, and pray against them, is a sign we would have prevented them if it had lain in our power; and where we have contributed to them, we, by those acts, revoke the crime.

3. A grief for common sins is an endeavour to repair the honour God has lost. When we concern ourselves for God's honour, God will concern Himself for our protection. God never was, or ever will be, behind-hand with His creature in affection.

4. The mourners in Sion are humble, and humility is preventive of judgments. God revives the spirit of the humble (Isaiah 57:15). They that share in the griefs of the Spirit shall not want the comforts of the Spirit.

5. Such keep covenant with God. The contract runs on God's part to be an enemy to His people's enemies (Exodus 23:22). It must run on our parts to love that which God loves, hate that which God hates, grieve for that which grieves and dishonours Him; who can do this by an unconcernedness?

6. Such also fear God's judgments, and fear is a good means to prevent them. The advice of the angel upon the approach of judgments is to fear God, and give glory to Him (Revelation 14:7).

IV. THE USE.

1. Reproof for us. Where is the man that hangs his harp upon the willows at the time the temple of God is profaned? It reproves, then —(1) Those that make a mock and sport of sin, so far they are from mourning for it.(2) Those that make others' sins the matter of invectives, rather than of lamentations, and bespatter the man without bewailing the sin.(3) Those who are imitators of common sins, instead of being mourners for them; as though others did not pilfer God's right fast enough, and were too slow in pulling Him from His throne; as if they grieved that others had got the start of them in wickedness.(4) Those that fret against God, instead of fretting against their own foolishness (Proverbs 19:3).(5) Those who are more transported against others' sins, as they are, or may be, occasions of hurt to them, than as they are injuries to God.(6) Those who are so far from mourning for common sins that they never truly mourned for their own; who have yet the treasures of wickedness, after the rod of God hath been upon them (Micah 6:9, 10).

2. Of comfort to such as mourn for common sins. All the carnal world hath not such a writ of protection to show in the whole strength of nature, as the meanest mourner in Sion hath in his sighs and tears. Christ's mark is above all the shields of the earth; and those that are stamped with it have His wisdom to guard them against folly, His power against weakness, the everlasting Father against man, whose breath is in his nostrils.

3. Mourn for the sins of the time and place where you live. It is the least dislike we can show to them. A flood of grief becomes us in a flood of sin.(1) This is a means to have great tokens of the love of God.(2) It is a means to prevent judgments. Tears cleansed by the blood of Christ are a good means to quench that justice which is a consuming fire.

(S. Charnock, B. D.)

I. SOME OF THE GROUNDS WE HAVE FOR HUMILIATION BEFORE GOD, FOR SIGHING AND CRYING, BECAUSE OF INIQUITY. God is entitled to the love and service which He receives from us. He made us, and in requiring that we should devote those powers and faculties with which He has endowed us, to Himself and to His service, He only requires that property which is His own, and which should be employed in a way that is agreeable to the great Author and Owner of that property. Jehovah is also infinitely worthy of the supreme love and devoted obedience of His people. He is possessed of every possible perfection — He is distinguished by every moral excellence in a degree that is infinite. God has also been exceedingly kind to us. He has heaped upon us unnumbered benefits. He supplies our daily, our hourly, wants, and He has not only made provision for us in time, but at the expense of His own Son's life; He has provided also for our eternal happiness. Besides all this, the service to which God calls us is not only obedience to which He has a right, but it is also obedience of a kind that is calculated to confer upon those who render it the highest degree of satisfaction. This, then, being the case, this the relation in which we stand to God, these the benefits we have received at His hand, this the nature and character of the service He demands from us, how utterly inexcusable on our part any kind, any degree, of transgression! One transgression is directly opposed to the nature of His kingdom. Thus, then, have we ample grounds of humiliation were we this day chargeable in the sight of God, with having only once deviated from the moral path of God. But, oh! how often have we wandered from it! Never once have we given to God the holy sense of love He is entitled to receive at our hands. Every moment of our conscious or waking existence we have been guilty of coming short of what it was our imperious duty to have rendered. But besides these shortcomings which have been thus innumerous, oh! how numerous, and also how aggravated our actual positive transgressions! Seek, oh! seek the contrition, the humiliation of soul, which a sense of sin ought to inspire. But besides iniquities within, do not iniquities also prevail around us, of a very heinous and aggravated character; iniquities in a high degree insulting to the name of God; iniquities in a high degree calculated, if we would have the Lord's indignation averted, and if we would be distinguished by the state of mind with which such prevailing iniquities should be contemplated by us all, to lead us to sigh and cry because of them?

II. A MARK IS STILL STAMPED UPON EVERY CHILD OF GOD. They have the impress of God's own image upon their character, — they have those moral lineaments of character stamped upon them by which God Himself is distinguished; they are thus marked as Jehovah's property, as in a very peculiar and special manner His own; and, regarding all such, it may unhesitatingly be affirmed, that because of prevailing abominations they sigh and cry. Oh! how desirous that we should seek to have the spirit that is here adverted to by the Lord! Is calamity at any great distance from us? Are there no threatening clouds lowering above us?

(J. Marshall, M. A.)

Christian Magazine.
I. GOD AT ALL TIMES NARROWLY INSPECTS THE STATE OF HIS CHURCH. "Go through the midst of the city," etc. His eyes are in every place, but especially upon the Church, His pleasant land, from the one end of the year to the other. He distinguishes with an accuracy peculiar to Himself, her true members from hypocrites. He knows her enemies, and restrains or destroys them. He knows when her members are in right exercise, and when they are in the wrong. How should this inspire fear and reverence, faith and hope, simplicity and godly sincerity in all her members!

II. CHRIST'S PRINCIPAL WORK IS IN THE CHURCH. Christ is head over all things, for His Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. He worketh as God in all places, but the particular sphere of His work is in His Church. He executes all His offices in her, and nowhere else, and He has appointed ordinances as tokens of His gracious presence with His people.

III. CHRIST'S ERRANDS TO HIS CHURCH ARE GENERALLY IN MERCY. "Set a mark upon the foreheads," etc. There are indeed exceptions to this rule. Sometimes He comes to unhinge her constitution, to remove His ordinances, to bid a farewell to her, and to execute His judgments upon her, as in the case of the Jewish Church afterwards, and of the seven Churches of Asia. His design, notwithstanding these and other instances, is to save and deliver, when He cometh to His Church. He is the Saviour of His body, the Church, and all He doth for her is for her eternal advantage.

IV. IN TIMES OF GREAT AND GENERAL DEFECTION GOD HAS A MOURNING REMNANT. He had so at Jerusalem at the time specified, wicked as it was. These were few in number, and unknown to the prophet, perhaps unknown to the angels, and to one another; but they were known to Christ. He found them out, and it was His delightful work to signalise His mercy, and the mercy of His Father, in setting a mark upon their foreheads. He is infinite in wisdom, and cannot commit a mistake; He is infinite in power, and nothing can obstruct His design of mercy towards His own elect. These mourners may be few in number, but they are reckoned by Christ as equal, and superior to a generation of other men. They are sometimes a third part, sometimes a tenth, and at other times as a few berries on the top of the uppermost branches; but still these few are mourners.

V. SIN IS ALWAYS HATEFUL TO A HOLY SOUL. He sighs and cries for it. Every good man, like Hannibal against the Romans, has sworn eternal war against sin. It is bitter to him, because contrary to the nature, the will, and the law of that God whom he supremely esteems and loves; because it killed the Lord Jesus, and grieves the Holy Spirit of God. It is bitter in his heart, in his closet, in his family, in all places and circumstances.

VI. SAINTS NOT ONLY HATE SIN, BUT SIGH AND CRY FOR IT. The first refers to the affection of mind, and the last to the expressions of it in tears and other signs of grief. Grief for sin made the saints in Scripture water their couch with tears, to eat no pleasant bread, to keep them waking, to make them roll in dust, because God was dishonoured, and sin was committed by themselves and others. Alas! how few are now found in such exercise!

VII. GOOD MEN MOURN, NOT ONLY FOR THEIR OWN SINS, BUT FOR ALL THE ABOMINATIONS DONE IN THE MIDST OF THE LAND. They grieve, first for their own sins, and then for the sins of others. It were rank hypocrisy to invert this order; to do so is insufferable in the eyes of God and man. They who live in sin, who never grieve for their own sins, and yet pretend to bewail public crimes, are most detestable characters. As far as the knowledge of sin extends, good men loathe and grieve for it. When robberies, murders, and other crimes which tend to dissolve society are committed, when the sword of the magistrate is stretched forth in vain, then it is time for God to work, and for saints to be dreadfully afraid of His judgments.

VIII. IN TIMES OF JUDGMENTS FOR SIN, GOD GENERALLY SETS A MARK UPON HIS MOURNING REMNANT. He did so here, and in other instances innumerable. He is the guardian of the Church, the protector of the poor. He issues out a writ of protection in their favour, as in the 91st Psalm. He invites them to flee from danger, as in Isaiah 26. He delivers the island of the innocent, He saves His righteous Lots in the destruction of the wicked. His Calebs and Joshuas live still. His fruit-bearing trees are spared, while the barren trees are struck with His lightning.

(Christian Magazine.)

I. WHEN, OR UPON WHAT OCCASIONS, THE EXERCISE OF GODLY SORROW FOR SIN IS IN A PECULIAR MANNER SEASONABLE.

1. When transgressors are very numerous; when the body of a people is corrupted.

2. The call becomes still more pressing when transgressors are not only numerous, but likewise bold and impudent; sinning, as Absalom did, "before all Israel, and in the sight of the sun." This is fatal presage of approaching vengeance; for God will not always tolerate such insolent contempt of His authority.

3. Especially when sinners are not only numerous and impudent, but likewise guilty of those grossest abominations which in former ages have been followed with the most tremendous judgments. If you read the Scriptures you will find that profane swearing, perjury, contempt of the Sabbath, theft, murder, and adultery are all of this kind.

4. When the persons that commit them are resolute and incorrigible. When the wicked are forewarned of their sin and danger; when, by the preaching of the Word, their duty is plainly and faithfully set before them; when they are exhorted by others and rebuked by their own consciences; when they are smitten with such rods as bear the most legible signature of their crimes; or when, in a milder way, they are admonished and warned by the punishments inflicted upon others for the same crimes; when, after all or any of these means employed to reclaim them, they still hold fast their iniquities, and will not let them go: then should the godly lament and mourn, and pray with redoubled earnestness for those miserable creatures who have neither the ingenuity nor the wisdom to pray for themselves.

II. A FEW OBVIOUS REMARKS RELATIVE TO THE TIME AND PLACE IN WHICH OUR LOT IS CAST. It is too apparent to be denied, that the vices I mentioned under the former head, intemperance, lewdness, the most insolent abuse of the Christian Sabbath, lying, cursing, and even perjury itself, are more or less practised in every corner of the land. However, as they cannot be strictly accounted the peculiar reproach of the present age, I shall remind you of some other instances of departure from God which, with greater and more evident propriety, may be termed the distinguishing characteristics of the times in which we live.

1. I begin with Infidelity, which of late hath spread itself through all orders of men, the lowest not excepted.

2. Again, is there not a visible contempt of the authority of God?

3. Further, we seem, in a great measure, to have lost any proper sense of our dependence upon God. "When His hand is lifted up we do not see." We forget Him in prosperity; and in adversity we look no higher than the creature.

4. To all these I must add the luxury and sensuality which have now spread their roots and branches so wide that they may truly be said to fill the whole land. Pleasure is at length become a laborious study; and with many, I am afraid, it is their only study: for it leaves them no room to pursue any other. While the poor are striving, while many who are willing to labour can find no employment, and not a few have abandoned their native country to seek that sustenance in foreign parts which they could not earn at home; still is pleasure pursued with increasing ardour, and no price is deemed extravagant that can purchase an addition to it.

III. A FEW OF THE GENUINE SYMPTOMS AND PROPER EFFECTS OF THE GRACIOUS TEMPER I MEAN TO RECOMMEND.

1. We can never be assured that our grief for the sins of others is pure, and of the right kind, unless our hearts be duly affected with grief and sorrow for our own transgressions. Godly sorrow is just and impartial; it always begins at home, and makes few visits abroad, till domestic sins are first bewailed.

2. Our grief is of the right kind when it leads us to pray for transgressors: and when it hath not this effect, we have not only cause to suspect, but may conclude, without hesitation, that it is spurious and counterfeit.

3. Our grief for the sins of others, if pure and genuine, will be accompanied with proper endeavours to reclaim them. Every true mourner will consider himself as "his brother's keeper," and will leave no means unattempted to prevent his ruin. He will set his guilt and danger before him in the most prudent and affecting manner he can; and though he meet with many repulses, nay, though his labour of love should be requited with scorn and hatred, yet he will repeat his application again and again, and take hold of every favourable opportunity that presents itself.

4. If we are in truth possessed of this gracious temper, if our grief for abounding iniquity flows from the pure fountain of love to God, and zeal for His glory, we shall own His cause in the most perilous times, and reckon nothing too dear to be hazarded in His service. We must be doing in a humble dependence upon His grace; and then we may both ask, and hope to obtain, His blessing upon our endeavours. But if we pray, and sit still; if we lie howling upon our beds, when we should be abroad at our labour, we offend God instead of pleasing Him, and can look for no other answer but this, "Who hath required these things at your hand?"

(R. Walker.)

I. THE PERSONS MENTIONED. Those that sigh and cry, etc. From whence we may observe, that such persons there are that do so, and it is their duty so to do, even to sigh and cry for the abominations, all of them, that are done in the midst of the city.

1. Out of their inward hatred and antipathy, even to sin itself.

2. Out of love to God, and a tenderness of His honour and glory.

3. Out of respect to themselves, and their own advantage. The more sin there is abroad, the more are all men concerned in it; not only evil men but good, who are from hence in so much the greater danger; and that in a twofold respect, both as to matter of defilement and of punishment. They are more in danger from hence to be polluted, and they are more in danger from hence to be afflicted; and this makes them to be so much troubled at it.

4. The servants of God have herein also a respect to others, even sometimes to wicked men themselves, whom considered as men they lament for, while they are guilty of such and such miscarriages. Those that cannot mourn for themselves, through the obstinacy of themselves; yet they have in those cases others better than themselves to mourn for them.(1) Here are the expressions of sorrow, and they are two, "sighing" and "crying." The first signifies such a mourning as is more secret, and retired in itself. The second signifies such a mourning as is more open, and exposed to observation. Both of them such as are agreeable to the occasion and business here in hand. Those that are the servants of God, they do both of them upon these occasions; they do both inwardly conceive grief and also they do outwardly express it. The second is the occasion of these expressions, and that is the abominations that are committed. That which is abominable should especially be abominated by us. The third thing is the extent of the commission, both in the word of universality, all; and of place, in the midst of the city. This shows how far these abominations had spread, and what footing they had got amongst them. as matter of just bewailing and lamentation to them.

II. A SPECIAL CARE OR REGARD WHICH IS HAD OF THEM. Go and set a mark upon the foreheads of them that, etc.

1. It is a mark of honour and observation; such persons as these are, they are highly esteemed and accounted of by God Himself.

2. It is a mark of preservation likewise, and that especially; it is such a mark as whereby God does distinguish them from other persons in the execution of His judgments, which He does graciously exempt them from. Now, the reason of God's indulgence to such persons as are thus affected is especially upon this account —(1) Because they are such as do more especially honour God, and glorify Him, both in His attributes and providence; and those that honour Him He will honour, and He will also protect.(2) Such as these, they do close, and comply with Him in the way of His judgment; therefore He will be more gracious to them. They come off to Him in those ends which He propounds to Himself in His visitations, and so prevent Him, and save Him a labour. And God loves not at all to afflict more than needs must.

III. THERE ARE DIVERS SORTS OF PERSONS IN THE WORLD, WHICH COME SHORT OF THIS DUTY.

1. Those that practise the abominations are far enough from mourning for them, and so consequently far enough from this privilege here mentioned in the text, of having a mark set upon them.

2. Such that do encourage others in wickedness, and not only not restrain them, but rather countenance them, and further them in it.

3. Which is a lower degree of it, which do not lay the sins and abominations to their heart, which are not humbled for them, when it concerns them, and becomes them to be. As we desire that God should not judge us, it concerns us to judge ourselves.

(T. Herren, D. D.)

I. THE SEARCH.

1. It is no surface search which God institutes. Were it so, who would not have "the mark"? how few would there be on whom "the slaughter weapon" shall do its work.

2. It is a house search whereby we must be proved. Look well to what goes on within thy habitation, if thou wouldst have "the slaughter weapon" pass and touch thee not. Hath God His altar in thy house, so that thy family cannot be classed amongst those "that call not on His name"? Is the Word of God read within thy walls, and is that Word made the court of decision from which there is no appeal? It is a heart search. God "trieth the reins and the heart." It was the sad confession of one, at an hour, too, when he needed every stay, "that though he had kept up the profession of religion in his house, he had never had the reality of it in his heart." Let not this conviction be yours. "Keep thy heart with all diligence."

II. THE SIGH AND THE CRY. "Set a mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done," etc. Men account those as poor and pitiful that, looking for the signs of the times, are solemnised at heart, because of "the things that are coming on the earth"; but grant me, O Lord! the contrite heart, "the sigh and the cry" for the evil that is in the world. This attracts the eye of God.

1. This disposition of mind includes an insight into sin, some perception of the mystery of iniquity; such see that with all the fair surface sin presents, it is hateful in God's sight, ruinous to the soul in which it dwells, that it is of hell, and leads to hell.

2. Love of God, and hence desire for His glory, is the mainspring of that grief of heart spoken of in our text.

3. Know we this blessed sorrow, this "sigh and cry" of our text? Loud are the calls for it; do they find an answer within us?

III. THE SAFETY MARK. "Set a mark."

1. This is the protecting mark which men should seek in troublous times. The world hath its places of safety, its towers of strength, its carnal weapons, its wise plans, but "like a dream when one awaketh," so do these disappear, and fail them in the hour of need.

2. This mark is indelible, it cannot be taken away. Kings have their marks, their orders of merit, their distinctions and titles to distribute, but a breath of popular outbreak may sweep them all away. Death certainly removes them, breaks the staff of office, "man being in honour abideth not"; but this safety mark of which our text speaks, who shall deprive us of?

3. It shall be recognised and acknowledged at the last day. Woes may come on the earth, but they cannot injure you; death shall come, but it shall prove life to you; the judgment day shall but gather you to glory.

(F. Storr, M. A.)

1. The Lord looks upon the world with a discriminating eye; some He looks upon to be marked, and some to be left unmarked. His eye distinguisheth between the precious and the vile (Psalm 34:15, 16).

2. When the Lord proceeds to judgment of cities, churches, people, kingdoms, He doth it judiciously, considerately. He doth not pour out wrath from heaven at all adventures, let it light where and upon whom it will; but He makes inquiry who are fit to be punished, and who are to be spared.

3. In the worst times God hath some who are faithful, and serve Him. God had His Huss, , and Luther, in times bad enough.

4. The number of men to be saved in Jerusalem is few.

5. The Lord hath a special care of His saints when dreadful and destroying judgments are coming upon others.(1) From the person employed to do it, and that is the Lord Christ, who was the man with the inkhorn by His side. When God shall employ not a prophet, not an angel, but His own dear Son, to do this work, to mark the godly, it is argument of tender care towards them.(2) He must "go through the midst of the city," and look into every place, make an exact search, and find them out wherever they were hid; God would not have Him neglect any place, lest He should pass by any saint.(3) He must surely mark them. You shall sign them with a sign, that is, certainly sign them; the doubling of the word in the original notes God's intention and care to have it done.(4) From the persons sealed —(i) Men. It is put indefinitely, not confined to noble, wise, rich, learned, but any condition of men that were godly; any poor man, any servant, any child, any little one, let their grace be never so mean, if they had any grace at all, they should have the seal as well as the best.(ii) Mourners.

6. It is the Lord Christ who is the marker of the saints.

7. God and Christ are not ashamed of theirs in the worst times and greatest dangers.

8. The faithful are so far from complying with the wickedness of the times, that they sigh and cry for the abominations thereof.

(W. Greenhill, M. A.)

I. GOD'S PEOPLE DESCRIBED.

1. They are sighing ones, sorrowing.

2. They are crying ones, protesting.

II. THEIR PECULIAR MARK, a mark of —

1. Separation.

2. Service.

3. A visible mark.

4. A mark of safety.

(W. W. Whythe.)

Let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity
I. THE CHIEF DISTINCTION BETWEEN MEN IS MORAL. Upon what principle were these two divisions (vers. 4, 5) made?

1. Not unreasoning caprice.

2. Not any material characteristics.

3. Not any mental qualities.

4. Simply the moral character.The "great gulf fixed" is the spiritual difference between the impenitent and the devout, the selfish and the loving, the Christly and the Christless.

II. THE RESULTS OF THIS DISTINCTION ARE TREMENDOUS. To be on the wrong side of this dividing line meant to be doomed to the six slayers, and means ever destruction. Lust is a fare, love of money is a cancer, intemperance is a flood, self-love is a petrifaction; and these are ever burning or eating out or drowning or hardening the manhood of sinners. And there is, moreover, "the second death." Goodness is safety now, and forever.

III. THE DIVINE SUPERINTENDENCE OF HUMAN DESTINY IS PERFECT. Every detail of this judgment was given by God. Through Him the angel knew whom to seal, and the others knew whom to slay. So is it ever; the arrangements for man's retributive future are securely safe, because —

1. The moral character and condition now are conspicuous. The seal is on the forehead.

2. The arrangement is Divine. There can be no mistake or injustice.

(Urijah R. Thomas.)

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