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SERMON VI.

Dry Bones Reftored.

EZEKIEL Xxxvii. 3.

And he faid unto me, Son of man, can thefe bones live? And I anfweted,
O Lord God, thou knoweft.

THE

HE Jews, having been, for many years, captives in Babylon, viewed a return to their own land as an event much to be defired, but utterly to be despaired of. They were under the power of their enemies, who at that time would not, nor was it thought they ever would, confent to release them from their bondage. The aged people, who felt an attachment to their native country, were dying off, and the youth were coming forward with a predilection for the land of their captivity. Judea was poffeffed by ftrangers and furrounded by enemies; its temple, buildings and walls were in ruins; and how fhould they ever repoffefs it; or, if they should return, what enjoy ment could they find there? Their captivity was a punishment for their fins; and in this idolatrous country there was little profpect of a reformation. They were lofing the religious fentiments and manners, which fome had brought with them, and which a few still retained; and they were finking deeper into depravity, than when their calamities

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began. What hope then could there be of their re-establishment in their ancient country and privi. leges?

To revive the defponding spirits of the pious people among them, God fends to them the prophet Ezekiel with the relation of a remarkable vi fion.

The prophet seemed to himself to be placed in the midst of a valley filled with human bones. He paffed by them round about; he viewed them; he obferved, that they were numerous, but exceedingly dry, as if they had lain in the open air for a length of time; and that they were scattered promifcuously over the ground, as if they never could be collected and reduced to order. God fays to him, "Son of man, can these bones live?” The prophet answers, " O Lord God, thou know. eft." God then commands him, "Prophefy on these bones, and fay, Thus faith the Lord, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live." So he prophefied, as he was commanded; and "as he prophefied, there was a noise and a fhaking; and the bones came together, bone to his bone, and finews and flesh came upon them, and skin covered them. But there was no breath in them." God farther directs him, " Prophefy unto the wind," or breath," and fay, Thus faith the Lord, Come, breathe on these flain, that they may live. So he prophefied, and the breath came into them, and they lived and ftood on their feet, an exceed. ing great army."

This vifion is applied to the defponding Jews to confole them in their captivity. The Lord fays to the prophet," These bones are the whole house of Ifrael. They fay, Our bones are dried, our hope is loft, we are cut off for our part. Say unto them, Thus faith the Lord, Behold, O my peo

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ple, I will open your graves, and I will put my fpirit in you, and ye fhall live, and I will place you in your own land, and ye fhall know that I am the Lord.”

This vifion was defigned 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 bleffing_promised, "I will put my spirit in you, and ye fhall know that I am the Lord."

This was an inftructive 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 fome reflections relative to ourselves. It teaches us,

Firft; That among a people enjoying the revela tion of God, religion fometimes falls into fuch a low condition, that there appears but little profpect of its revival.

In Ezekiel's time, the Jews were like dry bones, in which there was no principle of animation. In fome former periods their state was little better. Such was their degeneracy, that the minifters of religion were in perplexity, how to address them with effect. "To whom fhall I fpeak and give warning, that they may hear. Their ear is uncircumcifed 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 exercifed toward them even to wearinefs, yet without fuccefs. "Ye men of Judah, what could have been done more, that I have not done? I looked for judgment, but behold oppreffion; for rightcoufnefs, but behold a cry." "O Ephraim, what fhall I do unto thee? O Judah, what fhall 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 anfwer to give, referred the question back to him who propofed it. The revival of fuch bones muft be eminently a work of God; this was plain. But whether God would revive them, or whether he could do it confiftently 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 faid to be dead, as having in them no active principle of fpiritual life. Speaking of the Ephefians in their gentile ftate, the Apoftle fays, "they were dead in trefpaffes and fins." He adds " We, Jews, had our conversation among them in times past, fulfiling the defires of the flesh and mind." The recovery of both to a spiritual life the Apostle ascribes, 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 Chrift. By grace are ye faved.”

This description is applied, not to unbelieving gentiles and Jews only, but also to fome degenerate churches. Some of the churches in Afia had a name to live, but were dead. Their members in general were deftitute of the power of godlinefs; 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 licen tious opinions and immoral practices prevail; when family religion becomes unfashionable; when the fabbath and the inftituted worship of the fanc

tuary are treated with neglect; when the number of profeffors is fmall, and its proportion, in a time of increafing 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 profeffion of their faith; when the discipline of the church is laid aside, and profeffors live like the men of the world; when they, who pretend to feel the power of religion, withdraw from their brethren, inftead of co-operating with them in the common cause; when the ceremonies of religion, which were inftituted as means of union, are made occafions of uncharitable controverfy and separation; we may then fuppofe ourfelves in the midft of Ezekiel's valley of dry bones. And if it were asked, whether thefe bones can live; we could only anfwer, "Lord God, thou knoweft."

But in this vifion we are taught,

Secondly; That, in the most unpromifing feasons, there is room to hope, and reafon to ftrive for a revival of religion.

God is able to make dry bones live.

When Chrift taught his difciples, what difficul ties might oppose their paffage, and obftruct their entrance into the kingdom of heaven, they asked with astonishment, "who then can be faved? He answered, "With God all things are poffible." He can fo order events in his providence, as to awaken the careless from their flumbers. He can impress divine truth on the ftony heart, and bend the iron neck to obedience. He can quicken to holy fenfibility the foul dead in trefpaffes and fins.

The fame almighty grace, which can change one foul, can change thoufands. The fpirit of the Lord is not ftraitened. He that begins a good work, can spread it far around, and make its re

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