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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 deathof the wicked; his pleasure is, that they turn from their way and live. He has given his only begotten fon, that whofoever believeth in him fhould not perish, but have everlafting life. He ftrives with finners by his good spirit, and reproves them by his word, that they may turn to wifdom's way. Who can fay, he has never been a fubject of this divine ftriving? Who can fay, he has never felt a conviction of his fins, a remorfe for his iniquities, a fenfe of futurity, and a concern for his falvation? To what fhall men impute these uninvited fenfations, but to the ex- . citations of the spirit of grace?
He has opened to guilty mortals a door of hope in the glorious difcoveries of the gofpel. He has fent forth his heralds to proclaim to finners his gracious pardon, urge them to repentance, and pray 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 he may fhew mercy.
Amidft fuch wonderful overtures, the guilty have encouragement to repair to God, and fay, «Turn thou us, and we fhall be turned; take away iniquity and receive us graciously." The godly have encouragement to pray, "Revive thy work, O Lord, in the midst of the years, and in wrath remember mercy."
God is fovereign. He fhews mercy in his own way, and on his own terms. He requires finners to feek his mercy for themfelves, and faints to feek it for others. Ezekiel was fent to prophefy to the dry bones, before they were framed into bod. VOL. V.
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. We are 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 falvation, because he works in us; and to be fellow helpers to one another, because he works with us. When he comes to bring falvation, he looks whether there be any to help.
Why has he commanded minifters to preach the word, to be instant in season and out of season, to exhort and rebuke with all longfuffering and doctrine? Why has he commanded parents to train up their children in knowledge and piety? Why has he commanded Chriftians to confider one another, and provoke unto love and good works? Why has he commanded them to pray for the fuccefs of his word among the careless and ungodly? Surely it is his will that finners fhould repent and be happy; and it is his good pleasure to hear the prayers and fucceed the labours of the faithful in fo benevolent and pious a work.
We cannot fay, how foon good men will receive an answer to their prayers, and fee 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 loft-their labours will not be in vain.
Some may think, no good has been done, because they have feen none. But, in this cafe, we are not competent judges. There may be good done which we have not feen; or good may arise which we see not yet. Perhaps we have not done enough. The time for God to work visibly may
not be come. We must patiently continue in well doing. But though no harvest should be gathered, faithful labourers will receive their reward. Elijah, difcouraged by unsuccessfulness, retired to a cave. But God called him forth to his work. "What doft thou here, Elijah? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to Baal." Let us never think, we have done as much as we ought, when there is more that we can do.
Wonderful works of divine grace have been feen in times paft. Great finners have been reclaimed. Malignant enemies of truth have been conquered. High looks have been brought low. Proud hearts have been captivated to the obedience of Chrift.
Times of general declenfion have been followed with happy revivals. The church of Ifrael often fell into deep degeneracy. But by the influence of pious rulers, acting in conjunction with zealous prophets, extenfive reformations were effected. How deplorable was the religious ftate of the Jews in the time of the captivity. They were mingled among the heathens, had imbibed their fentiments and learned their manners. Few retained the fpirit of true religion. The stated worship of God, if not wholly difcontinued, was enjoyed but imperfectly, and under great reftraints. They were like dry bones scattered in a valley. But by the fpirit of God co-operating with the miniftry of a few remaining prophets, they were made to live. In the land of idolatry, they were awakened to a fense of their iniquities, and the iniquities of their fathers, and by repentance obtained a happy restoration to their former privileges. They returned to their own land with weeping and fupplication, and fought the Lord their God. They asked the way to
Zion with their faces thitherward. They faid one to another, "Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant not to be forgotten.'
This was a reformation beyond the probability of the means, which they enjoyed. They had funk into idolatry in their own land, where the worship of the true God was maintained; and who would have expected, that they should be reclaimed from this dreadful corruption, while they dwelt in the midst of idolaters? But fo it was. Deprived of their privileges, they began to appreciate them; and to improve to better purpofe fuch means as they had.
During the captivity, there were fome proph ets among them. God fent prophets with them to Babylon; and fome he raised up there to preach to them repentance, inftru&t them in the truth and guard them againft the corruptions, which furrounded them. The labours of these good men God bleffed to the converfion of many, and thus prepared the people for the refumption of the priv. ileges, which they had once defpifed.
God is purfuing a fimilar method now. Many of our citizens have gone into the wilderness, where there is a famine of hearing the word. Some of them probably left the ftated ordinances of God without regretting the lofs. But God has mercifully fent his word after them. He has remarkably awakened the benevolent zeal of many Chriftians to fend miffionaries into the wilderness, And much fuccefs has attended their labours. Mul titudes, realizing the value of a privilege, which once they little regarded, are now seriously attentive to the word, whenever they have opportunity to hear it. Many have been awakened to a fenfe of the importance of religion; have introduced it into their families, and feem to have em
braced it in their hearts. New churches have been formed, and in some of them minifters have been fettled. It is hoped, that, under the culture of faithful labourers, the wilderness will become more and more like a fruitful field.
This leads us to another obfervation, Thirdly; Whenever there is a revival of religion among a people, it is effected by the preaching of the word. Before the bones in the valley were raised and animated, Ezekiel was caufed to pafs round about them, and obferve the fhocking con dition in which they lay. Then he was commanded to prophefy upon them, and to fay, "O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord." His prophecy on the bones was emblematical of his miniftry to the captive Jews. God faid to him, "Thefe bones are the whole houfe of Ifrael, Prophefy, and fay unto them, Thus faith the Lord, I will open your graves and caufe you to come forth, and ye fhall know that I am the Lord, and I will put my spirit within you.”
Though the Jews, generally, were,like bones,hard, inactive, fenfelefs, yet the prophet was to preach to them, and call upon them to hear God's word,
Sinners, on account of their indolence, inattention, and want of an inward principle of holiness, are reprefented as dead. This moral deadnefs is a reason, why the word ought to be preached to them; for it is a mean, which God has appointed to awaken them. "Awake, thou that fleepeft, and arife from the dead, and Chrift shall give thee light."
If it be neceffary, the word fhould be spoken, it is neceffary finners fhould hear. "Ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord." Hearing the word does not constitute men faints; but it is a mean of their becoming fuch. "God begets them by the word of truth."