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ple, I will open your graves, and I will put my įpirit in you, and ye Thall live, and I will place you in your own land, and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”
This vision was designed to represent to the captives, not merely a refloration to their former privileges, but also a happy revival of pure religion. This is one important blessing promised, “I will put my spirit in you, and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”
This was an instructive and encouraging vi. fion to the captive Jews; and it may be useful and monitory in its application to us. We will endeavour to improve it in some reflections relative to ourselves. It teaches us,
Firft; That among a people enjoying the revelation of God, religion sometimes falls into such a low condition, that there appears but little prospect of its revival.
In Ezekiel's time, the Jews were like dry bones, / in which there was no principle of animation. In some former periods their state was little better. Such was their degeneracy, that the ministers of religion were in perplexity, how to address them with effect. “To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear. Their ear is uncircumcised and they cannot hearken. The word of the Lord is a reproach to them, and they have no delight in it.” God himself speaks, as if his wisdom, goodness and patience had been exer. cised toward them even to weariness, yet without success. “ Ye men of Judah, what could have been done more, that I have not done? I looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for right: eousness, but behold a cry." “O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? • Judah, what shall I do unto thee? For your goodness is as the morning cloud ; as the early dew it goeth away." When
God asked Ezekiel, whether the dry bones in the valley could live; the prophet, not knowing what answer to give, referred the question back to him who proposed it. The revival of such bones must be eminently a work of God; this was plain. But whether God would revive them, or whether he could do it consistently with the honour of his character, and the ends of his government, he only knew. In contemplating the state of this people the prophet's only hope was in the power and mercy of God. “ Lord God, thou knoweft.”
Sinners, under the dominion of fin, are said to be dead, as having in them no active principle of spiritual life. Speaking of the Ephesians in their gentile state, the Apostle says, “ they were dead in trespasses and fins.” He adds “We, Jews, had our conversation among them in times past, fulfiling the desires of the flesh and mind.” The recovery of both to a spiritual life the Apostle afcribes, not to any principle naturally inherent in them, but to the quickening power of divine grace.
« God who is rich in mercy, for his great love, wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in fins, hath quickened us together with Christ. By grace are ye saved."
This description is applied, not to unbelieving gentiles and Jews only, but also to fome degenerate churches. Some of the churches in Alia had a name to live, but were dead. Their members in general were destitute of the power of godliness; and in their best members zeal languished, and love grew
cold. What is spoken of those ancient churches may be applied to others in latter times. When licentious opinions and immoral practices prevail ; when family religion becomes unfashionable ; when the fabbath and the instituted worship of the fanc
tuary are treated with neglect ; when the num. ber of professors is small, and its proportion, in a time of increasing population, evidently decreafes; when the youth are generally indifferent to religion, and few of them join themselves to the church of God by an open profession of their faith; when the discipline of the church is laid aside, and professors live like the men of the world ; when they, who pretend to feel the power of religion, withdraw from their brethren, instead of co-operating with them in the common cause ; when the ceremonies of religion, which were instituted as means of union, are made occasions of uncharitable contro. versy and separation ; we may then suppose ourselves in the midst of Ezekiel's valley of dry bones. And if it were asked, whether these bones can live ; we could only answer, “Lord God, thou knoweft."
But in this vision we are taught, Secondly; That, in the most unpromising seasons, there is room to hope, and reason to strive for a revival of religion.
God is able to make dry bones live.
When Christ taught his disciples, what difficul ties might oppose their passage, and obstruct their entrance into the kingdom of heaven, they asked with astonishment, “who, then can be saved ? He answered, “ With God all things are possīble. He can so order events in his providence, as to awaken the careless from their lumbers. He can impress divine truth on the stony heart, and bend the iron neck to obedience. He can quicken to holy sensibility the soul dead in trespasses and sins.
The fame almighty grace, which can change one foul, can change thousands. The spirit of the Lord is not ftraitened. He that begins a good work, can spread it far around, and make its re
fult glorious. The dry bones in Ezekiel's valley were all made to live and stand on their feet, an exceeding great army.
God is merciful. He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked ; his pleasure is, that they turn from their way and live. He has given his only begotten fon, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He ftrives with finners by his good fpirit, and reproves them by his word, that they may turn to wisdom's way. Who can say, he has never been à subject of this divine striving? Who can say, he has never felt a conviction of his fins, a remorse for his iniquities, a sense of futurity, and a concern for his falvation ? To what shall men impute these uninvited sensations, but to the excitations of the spirit of grace ?
He has opened to guilty mortals a door of hope in the glorious discoveries of the gospel. He has sent forth his heralds to proclaim to finners his gracious pardon, urge them to repentance,
them in his name to be reconciled to him. He hearkens and hears whether any speak aright, He waits to be gracious. He exalts himself that
Amídft such wonderful overtures, the guilty have encouragement to repair to God, and say, “ Turn thou us, and we shall be turned ; take away iniquity and receive us graciously.” The godly have encouragement to pray,
66 Revive thy work, O Lord, in the midst of the
years, and in wrath remember mercy.”
God is fovereign. He thews mercy in his own way, and on his own terms. He requires finners to seek his mercy for themselves, and saints ta. seek it for others. Ezekiel was sent to prophesy to the dry bones, before they were framed into bodVOL. Ý.
ies; and to prophefy to the wind, before breath came into them.
God brings about the purposes of his providence and grace by the intervention of means, and usually by the intervention of human means. not to expect miracles in the latter, more than in the former. In both we are to be workers together with God. He has directed us to work out our salvation, because he works in us ; and to be fellow helpers to one another, because he works with us.
When he comes to bring salvation, he looks whether there be any to help.
Why has he commanded minifters to preach the word, to be instant in feason and out of season, to exhort and rebuke with all longsuffering and doctrine ? Why has he commanded parents to train up their children in knowledge and piety? Why has he commanded Chriftians to consider one another, and provoke unto love and good works ? Why has he commanded them to pray for the success of his word among the careless and ungodly ? Surely it is his will that sinners should repent and be happy; and it is his good pleasure to hear the prayers and succeed the labours of the faithful in fo benevolent and pious a work.
We cannot say, how foon good men will receive an answer to their prayers, and see the fruit of their labours. But God has taught them not be weary in well doing—to pray always and not faint. Their prayers will not be lost their labours will not be in vain.
Some may think, no good has been done, because they have seen none. But, in this case, we are not competent judges. There may be good done which we have not seen; or good máy arise which we fee not yet. Perhaps we have not done enough. The time for God to work visibly may