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God.”—“And, first, I will recompense their iniquity and their sin double, because they have defiled my land,” &c. (chapter xvi. 18). “I, the Lord, search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man, according to his ways, and, according to the fruit of his doings,” (chapter xvii. 10). “Thou hast forsaken me, saith the Lord, thou art gone backward, therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee,” (chapter xv. 6). “And I will make this city (Jerusalem) desolate, and an hissing; every one that passeth therebyshall be astonished and hiss, because of the plagues thereof." (chapter xix. 8). “Woe unto thee Jerusalem, wilt thou not be made clean?"When shall it once be?”
Thus, we have seen the judgements of the Lord denounced on account of their sins,—let us now turn to the other side of the picture. o
“Go and proclaim these words towards the north, and say, return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you:” “for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever,” (chapter iii. 12). And, again, (verse 22.) “Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee,” is the response, “for thou art the Lord our God.” After, the Lord's judgements and purposes have been accomplished, it is said, (verse 28.) “And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them to build, and to plant, saith the Lord,” and it is added,—“I will be their God, and they shall be my people—for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”—“Behold, (chapter xxxii. 37.) I will gather them out of all countries, whether I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in my great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And, I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.—Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good.—And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities,” &c. (chapter xxxiii. 8).
Now, from the history of the Jews, after their restoration from the seventy years' captivity, it is evident, that another and a better restoration is here alluded to. When it is said, "that God will be their God, and they shall be his people,"—" that he will remember their sin no more—that he will cause them to dwell safely—that he will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear him for ever—will put his fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from him—will cleanse them from all their iniquity—that their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and their city shall remain for ever,—It shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever"—These prophecies cannot refer to them as a nation, after their return from the captivity, and must therefore have a reference to better things to come, namely, a restoration from the captivity of satan, "to a better, that is an heavenly country :"—so much for the nation of Israel.
But not only are the rebellious Jews (who were in some measure his peculiar people), but even those nations around them, who were accursed of God, are declared to be the subjects of his redeeming love, after they have been subjected to just damnation, on account of their sins. Hear what is said concerning
Moab. "The calamity of Moab is near to come, and his affliction hasteth fast," (chapter xlviii. 16.)—" the hom of Moab is cut oflf, and his arm is broken, saith the Lord," (verse 25). "Moab shall be destroyed from being a people,' because he hath magnified himself against the Lord. Fear, and the pit, and the snare, shall be upon thee, O inhabitant of Moab, saith the Lord," (chapter xlii. 43). But it is added, in mercy, "Yet will I bring again the captivity of Moab, in the latter days, saith the Lord," (verse 47). When did this return from captivity take place ?—Never. And now, after they are extinct, and "destroyed from being a people," and subjected to the "pit and the snare," these people must either be restored, or the Lord must be telling a falsehood, when he says that he will "bring again the captivity of Moab, in the latter days." It is impossible to avoid this conclusion. Again ;—hear the judgements, and also the restoration of the .
Ammonites. "Concerning the Ammonites,—behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that 1 will cause an alarm of war to be heard in Rabbah, of the Ammonites, and it shall be a desolate heap, and her daughters shall be burnt with fire: then shall Israel be heir unto them that were his heirs, saith the Lord.”—But, blessed be God, it is added, “And afterwards I will bring again the captivity of the children of Ammon, saith the Lord,” (chapter xlix. 6).Again: Concerning Edom, thus saith the Lord of hosts—“I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him,” (chapter xlix. 18.) “as in the overthrow of Sodom and Gommorrah, and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the Lord, no man shall abide there.” And again, “Hazor shall be a dwelling place for dragons, and a desolation for ever,” (verse 33.)—“And upon ELAM will I bring the four winds from the four quarters of Heaven, and I will scatter them towards all those winds; and I will bring evil upon them, even my fierce anger, saith the Lord.” “And I will set my throne in Elam, and will destroy from thence the king, and the princes, saith the Lord.” But after all this “evil,” “fierce anger,” and “destruction,” it is added, in mercy (as in the case of the Moabites, and the Ammonites), “But it shall come to pass, in the latter days, that I will bring again the captivity of Elam, saith the Lord,” (verse 39). Thus we have seen the judgements of the Lord against sinners, and also “that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy,” (James v. 11). Well might this prophet exclaim (chapter iii. 5.) “Will he reserve his anger for ever? Will he keep it to the end? —No, saith the Lord, (verse 12.) “I will not keep anger for ever.’, Again; the same Prophet in his Lamentations (chapter iii. 31.) says, “The Lord will not cast off for ever; But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion, according to the multitude of his mercies. For he doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men,” but, as said elsewhere, “for their profit.” To conclude: the Lord indeed said by the mouth of this prophet, (chapter vii. 20.) “My fury shall be poured out on this place (Jerusalem), and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched.” And, again, (chapter xvii. 27.) “I will kindle a fire in the gates thereof, and it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem, and it shall not be quenched.” “I will stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee,” (chapter xv. 6). Did the Prophet stop here, the doctrine of endless burnings might be maintained with some degree of consistency. But who can read the subsequent declarations of the Prophet, and hold such a sentiment? “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an eanected end,” (chapter xxix. 11).-* They shall come with weeping (after they have borne their chastisement), and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first bom," (chapter xxxi. 9). Again; "The Lord hath appeared from afar unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore, with loving-kindness have I drawn thee," (verse 3). And, again; "Is Ephraim my dear son; is he a pleasant child? for since I spake against him I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord," (verse 20). "If those ordinances," the Sun, Moon, and Stars, "depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever."—" If heaven above can be measured," &c. then, and not till then, "I will cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord," (verse 36, 37). "And all the valley of dead bodies, shall be holy unto the Lord; it shall not be plucked up nor thrown down any more for ever," (verse 40).
Much more might be quoted, but I suppose enough has been adduced to show that when he takes vengeance against sin, even by fire unquenchable, and other, the most dreadful judgements, it is always with a view to the recovery of the sinner. And that this maxim will apply to all, even tlie most wicked (or the damned), as well as to those termed righteous, or elect, is evident from the restoration of the Moabites, and Ammonites, and Elamites, and even the Sodomites, who are declared to be "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." What can you.say to these things,—or what method will you take to explain them to suit your purpose?—But I must proceed.
I have never read any Commentary on the prophecies of EZEKIEL: indeed, strange as it may appear, I candidly confess, that I do not recollect of ever reading one page of any Scripture Commentary in all my life. Ever since I began to think seriously about the scriptures, I have been impressed (by a consideration of the diversity of opinions amongst Christians) that we ought to form our opinions from the scriptures themselves, and not from this, that, or the other man's writings concerning them. However much instruction they may contain, I am firmly persuaded, that Commentaries, have done more evil than good. Under this im
pression, I “call no man master upon earth,” and rely not on the opinions of “the Fathers” as they are called. My opinions, on the doctrine I am contending for, be they right, or be they wrong, “I neither received of man, nor was I taught them, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ,” in the scriptures (Gal. i. 12).-They are formed from that volume, which hath for its sanction, a “thus saith the Lord.” * Having premised this much, I shall now say, that 1 believe it to be utterly impossible for any commentator to keep free from absurdity, and give an exposition of this prophecy, especially the last mine chapters, upon any other principles than those of universal restoration. But I shall refrain, as much as possible, from my own, and give you the language of the Prophet himself. I am at a loss, however, how to begin, or what to quote, for I would require to cite the half of his lengthy predictions. Ezekiel wrote during the captivity, and was himself a captive. This captivity, and their subsequent restoration, after having borne their chastisements, evidently point to another and a greater captivity and deliverance. And their chastisement is expressed in language, similar to the most awful that is made use of in reference to the damnation of the wicked, both with regard to the severity of their punishment, and the endless duration of it.—Hear the word of the Lord, on this subject.—“And I will set my face against them; they shall go out from one fire, and another fire shall devour them,” (chapter Xv. 7). Again, “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I will kindle a fire in thee,_the flaming fire shall not be quenched, and all faces from the south to the north, shall be burned therein. And all flesh shall see that I the Lord have kindled it, it shall not be quenched,” (chapter xx. 47,48). And again, “Therefore shall my sword go forth out of the sheath, against all flesh, from the south to the north, it shall not return any more,” (chapter xxi. 5). “And I will pour out mine indignation upon thee; I will blow against thee in the fire of my wrath—thou shalt be for fuel to the fire; thou shalt no more be remembered: for I the Lord have spoken it," (verse 31). Again; “As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you.-Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you, in the fire of my wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof;" and it follows, “and ye