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DELIVERED BY THE REV. H. Mc NEILE,
AT ST. CLEMENT-DANE'S CHUrch, for the rEFORMATION SOCIETY, TUESDAY EVENING, MAY 31, 1831.
Ezekiel, ix. 4-6.-" And the Lord said unto me, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and that cry, for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others that followed he said in my hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite; let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women; but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary?
Babylon during the intervening period after Jehoiakim's captivity; and while Zedekiah was allowed to reign in Judah, the period was eleven years. The people, unconvinced by the warning calamities which had befallen their nation, unconvinced by the captivity of their king, continued to provoke the Lord their GoD to anger. The pro
In the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came against Judea with an army; he succeeded in overrunning the country, and in taking possession of the royal city; he also took the king prisoner, and carried him away with a number of his nobles and many of the people, and made them captives in the land of Baby-phet Jeremiah was not carried captive lon. The heart of the conqueror with Jehoiakim, but was left with them was restrained by the good hand of that remained, and continued to proGOD from proceeding to extremes phecy in the court of Zedekiah. Zedewith the city; he appointed the king's kiah would not hearken to him. Ununcle, Zedekiah, to be king in Judah, humbled by the judgments of GOD, in the stead of Jehoiakim, and he left the nobles continued their luxury and Zedekiah reigning over the people oppression, the nation that was left with a semblance of Jewish royalty, continued their rebellion, their disno doubt under mere sufferance as far content, their insubordination, and as Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, the priesthood continued their slothwas concerned, but under effectual pre-fulness, their disregard to the souls of servation and long suffering patience, in the providence of the King of kings.
The prophet, Ezekiel, was carried away captive with Jehoiakim, and was dwelling with the captives in the land of
Under these circumstances, in the fifth year of the captivity of Jehoiakim, the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel among the captives by the river of
Chebar; of this you will read in the first verse of the first chapter of his prophecy. "Now it came to pass, in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of GOD. In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiakim's captivity." The thirtieth year mentioned in the first verse, appears to be the age of the prophet; but the date of the prophecy relatively with the circumstances which I have mentioned, was the fifth year of the captivity of king Jehoiakim. The chapter then goes on to detail one of the glorious appearings of the Lord to the prophet, and the last verse tells us the effect produced upon the prophet by that appearance. A voice came to him out of the most excellent glory, and commissioned him to proclaim further and more final and decisive calamities, on the rebellious nation, proclaiming destruction to the city, desolation to the lard, famine and sword and dispersion to the people.
In order to make more precise the provoking acts of these further and decisive calamities, another vision was given to the prophet in the following year. To that vision I now request your attention, it is written in the eighth and ninth chapters." And it came to pass in the sixth year in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in mine house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the LORD GOD fell there upon me. Then I beheld, and, lo, a likeness as the appearance of fire, from the appearance of his loins, even downward fire; and from his loins, even upward, as the appearance of brightness, as the colour of amber. And he put forth the form of an hand, and took me by a lock of mine head, and the spirit lifted me up between the earth and the heaven, and brought me
in the visions of GOD to Jerusalem, to the door of the inner gate that looketh toward the north, where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy." The prophet being thus brought in the Spirit to the city of Jerusalem, is presented with four distinct visions of the provoking wickedness of the people against GOD. These four visions are enumerated in the eighth chapter, and then the destruction, which they had provoked, is described in the ninth chapter, and the preservation of God's elect covenant, elect according to his own eternal sovereign purpose, is marked in the midst of the destruction.
To these chapters now, my dear brethren, allow me to direct your serious and patient attention. I say patient attention, for without patient examination of the word of God, all the appeals which you can listen to from this place, must be without any permanant or serious effect upon your characters. Appeal without information, without examination of the Scriptures, without exposition, to give substance for an appeal, is but the sounding of a bow-string without an arrow in it; and that preaching, which deals in appeal, first and last, without sound and detailed exposition of the Scriptures, though it may excite at the moment, it lodges no body of GoD's truth, and effects no real conversion or reformation among God's people, Therefore, if you would have a bow with an arrow, if you would have the shafts of God's truth levelled aright against the very vitals of corruption and error, you must patiently examine GoD's word, you must exert attention to the messengers of God, not looking for mere excitement, but looking for instruction also.
Now the first exhibition of the provoking wickedness of the Jews which was given to the prophet Ezekiel, is thus described—“ there was the seat
of the image of jealousy which pro-, the house of Israel, and in the midst
ing it an image of jealousy; if we re-
Upon this the Lord said to the prophet, "Son of man, seest thou what they do, even the great abomination that the house of Israel committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary; but turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations. And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold a hole in the wall. Then, said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall; and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door. And he said unto me, go in and behold the wicked abominations that they do here. So I went in and saw, and beheld every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel pourtrayed on the wall round about. And there stood seventy men of the ancients of
Here was the secret of the national idolatry; they considered that the government of the nation was left in themselves, that God took no care of it, that there was no connexion between religion and politics, that they should govern the people in their own wisdom without reference to the revealed will of GOD, that every man should look to his religion himself, but no man should consider it in a national point of view; this is what they said in their wisdom-wisdom more consistent in the disciples of Epicurus, than in those of Moses and the Prophets"the Lord hath forgotten the earth, the Lord seeth us not, and therefore they were burning incense to their idols.
The next vision set before, the prophet is thus described, He brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord's house, which was toward the north, and behold there sat women weeping for Tammuz." It was a heathen ceremony in honour of an idol, which the Greeks called Adonis; it was attended with the most shocking,
the most inexpressible, and almost in- | LORD GOD said to the prophet after conceivable lasciviousness. The daugh- setting before him these visions— ters of Judah had engaged in it and "Hast thou seen this, O son of man ; brought it into their own land from is it a light thing to the house of Judah the abominations of heathenism; and that they commit the abominations it is described, by the prophet, as being which they commit here, for they have carried on in the very gates of the filled the land with violence, and have temple of the Lord, as if the very returned to provoke me to anger, and daughters of the land, who professed lo, they put the branch to their nose?” godliness, were joining in those lasci- This is a proverb to express an action vious rites. indicative of the most extreme contempt; it is so translated in the Septuagint, where the figure is dropt, and the literal meaning of the words is, they are as those that mock. (~to as
The next vision described to the prophet is this: "And he brought me into the inner court of the Lord's house, and behold, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east." The sun is the most glorious image in nature among the works of GOD, and the temple was the depositary of all revelation, all the peculiarities of revealed religion were connected with the temple, every doctrine that was special in its connexion with the manifestations which the Lord God of Israel had made to his people stood connected with the temple service. The men turning their backs and worshipping in the east towards the sun, therefore, suggested to the prophet this character of the nation's iniquity, that they were forsaking the revelation of GOD, and imagining, that they could devise a more reasonable, a more proper, a more scientific, a more philosophical mode of worshipping God. They were following the way of Cain, who thought that he could in a much more philosophical and reasonable manner worship GoD by presenting the first fruits of the field, than by bringing the streaming blood of a slain victim in obedience and faith to the revealed will of GOD.
These were the characteristics, then, of Israel's iniquity; and hear what the
тpoтS-) An evil action is an evil thing, but a state of mind which can make a mockery of evil is worse. "They have put the branch to their nose"-they turn up their nose (as our English proverb has it) at the assertion that they are evil, and despise with contempt all the declarations of God's messengers to them. This was the character of the people of Israel. Then the determination of GOD to deal with them accordingly, follows. "Therefore will I also deal in fury; mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity, and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them." There was a time when they might have been heard-there was a time when if they had cried I would have heard. I spared them on purpose; when I carried away Jehoiakim, Zedekiah might have been established, but now they have gone too far, and evil and only evil shall come, though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them.”
Then follows the description of the execution of the judgments—“ He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, cause them that have charge over the city to draw nigh, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand. And behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate,
and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood and the city full of perverseness."
These words were written in the sixth year of the captivity of Jehoiakim, or, which is the same thing, in the sixth year of the reign of Zedekiah, and five years afterwards the words of Ezekiel were proved true; for, in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, came up against Jerusalem, and broke down the walls of the city and the temple, and carried away the vessels out of the Lord's house, and carried away the king, and the nobles, and the people, and left the city a desolation, and brought the people into his own land, and made them slaves to himself and to his sons, until the time of the kingdom of the suns of Persia.
which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one among them was clothed in linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side; and they went in and stood beside the brazen altar. And the glory of the GOD of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was to the threshold of the house." The glory of the God of Israel rested upon the cherub, he dwelt between the cherubim, then behind the vail where he was invisible to the people, but on a mercy seat and visible to the high priest where he went in; there was his resting place for mercy, there he loved to dwell. But now, when he was going to perform his strange work of judgment, he left his cherub and came forth to the threshold of the gate, where all the congregation might see him. "And he called to the man Thus, my brethren, have I set before clothed with linen, which had the you the circumstances of the case as writer's inkhorn by his side; and the they stood in the days of Ezekiel when Lord said unto him, go through the he wrote this prophecy. And now, are midst of the city, through the midst of we to derive any instruction from the Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the circumstances? There are persons who foreheads of the men that sigh and cry tell us that the circumstances of the for all the abominations that be done Jewish nation are peculiar, that their in the midst thereof." And that being religion was peculiar, that their theoaccomplished, "Then he said to the cracy was peculiar, that their governothers, go ye after him through the ment was peculiar, and that no lecity and smite, let not your eye spare, gitimate instruction can be derived neither have ye pity; slay utterly from their history for a Christian naold and young, both maids and little tion, because the kingdom of Christ is children and women." This then was not of this world, and the circumthe commission. When the prophet stances of a Christian nation are altosaw it in execution he fell down on his gether different from those of the face before the Lord and cried, "Oh Jews, and that the application is alLORD GOD, wilt thou destroy all the together gratuitous, and all the deresidue of Israel?" Though he had clamation of Christian teachers fall, faithfully predicted it in obedience to without any legitimate application, the commission he had received of upon the Christian character. There GOD, yet when the judgment came, are persons who say so. It becomes the heart of affection that was within me, therefore, in making my applicahim was overwhelmed at the sight, tion of the circumstances, to prove that and he fell on his face and said, O it is legitimate, because all the force of LORD GOD wilt thou destroy them the application must be lost, if the all? But the Lord was not to be principle on which it is founded, be turned from his purpose thus: "He not demonstrated to your undersaid the iniquity of the house of Israel | standings.