Sermon 582. The Restoration And Conversion Of The Jews
PREACHED ON THURSDAY EVENING, JUNE 16, 1864,
BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, In aid of the Funds of the British Society for thePropagation of the Gospel Among the Jews.
"The hand of the Lord was upon me and carried me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the midst of the valleywhich was full of bones and caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley. And,lo, they were very dry. And He said unto me, Son ofman, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, You know. Again He said unto me, Prophesy upon these Bones and sayunto them, O you dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God unto these bones: Behold, I will cause breathto enter into you and you shall live:and I will lay sinews upon you and will bring up flesh upon you and cover you with skin and put breath in you and you shalllive. And you shall know that I am the Lord. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise andbehold a shaking and the bones cametogether, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them and the skin covered themabove: but there was no breath in them. Then said He unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, Son of man and say to thewind, Thus says the Lord God: Come fromthe four winds, O Breath and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as He commanded me and the breathcame into them and they lived and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army." Ezekiel 37:1-10.
THIS vision has been used, from the time of Jerome onwards, as a description of the resurrection and certainly it may be soaccommodated with much effect. What a vision of the great day the words picture before the mind's eye! The great army of thequick, who once were dead, seem to start up as weread. Here, too, we have a very fit and appropriate question to be asked in a tomb-"Son of man, can these bones live?" Lookingdown into the dark grave, or watching the sexton as he throws up the moldering relics, once infused with life, well may unbeliefsuggest theenquiry-"Can these bones live?"
Faith cannot at all times give a more satisfactory answer than this-"O Lord God, You know." But while this interpretationof the vision may be very proper as an accommodation, it must be quite evident to any thinking person that this is not themeaning of the passage. There is no allusionmade by Ezekiel to the resurrection and such a topic would have been quite apart from the design of the Prophet's speech.I believe he was no more thinking of the resurrection of the dead than of the building of St. Peter's at Rome, or the emigrationof the Pilgrim Fathers! Thattopic is altogether foreign to the subject at hand and could not by any possibility have crept into the Prophet's mind.
He was talking about the people of Israel and prophesying concerning them. And evidently the vision, according to God's owninterpretation of it, was concerning them and them alone, for, "these bones are the whole house of Israel." It was not a visionconcerning all men, nor, indeed, concerning anymen as to the resurrection of the dead-it had a direct and special bearing upon the Jewish people. This passage, again,has been very frequently and I dare say very properly, used to describe the revival of a decayed Church. This vision may belooked upon as descriptive of astate of lukewarmness and spiritual lethargy in a Church when the question may be sorrowfully asked-"Can these bones live?"
Can that dull minister wake up to living power? Can these cold deacons glow with holy heat? Can those unspiritual membersrise to something like holy, earnest self-sacrifice? Is it possible that the drowsy formal Church could start up to real earnestness?Such suggestions might well have occurredto many minds at the time of the Reformation. It did seem impossible, when Popery was in its power, that spiritual lifeshould ever again return to the Church. Piety seemed to be dead and buried and the cloister, the clergy, superstition anddeceit, like great graves, had swallowedup everything that was good.
But the Lord appeared for His people and brought up the buried Truth of God out of its grave, and once more in every partof the known world the name of Jesus Christ was lifted up and sound doctrine was preached! So was it in our own country. Whenboth the Establishment and
Dissent had fallen into spiritual death we might well have said-"Can these bones live?" But Whitfield and Wesley were raisedup by God and they prophesied to the dry bones, and up they stood-filled with the Spirit of God-"an exceeding great army."Let the crowds of Kingsdown andthe multitudes on Kennington Common tell of the quickening power of Jesus' name! Decayed Churches can most certainly berevived by the preaching of the Word accompanied by the coming of the heavenly "breath" from the four winds.
O Lord, send us such revivals now, for many of your Churches need them-they are almost as dead as the corpses which sleeparound them in the graveyard. But while we admit this to be a very fitting accommodation of our text, yet we are quite convincedthat it is not to this that the passagerefers. It would be altogether alien to the Prophet's strain of thought to be thinking about the restoration of fallen zealand the rekindling of expiring love. He was not considering the Reformation either of Luther or of Whitfield, or about therevival of one Church or of another.No, he was talking of his own people, of his own race and of his own tribe. He surely ought to have known his own mind,and led by the Holy Spirit, he gives us as an explanation of the vision. Not-"Thus says the Lord, My dying Church shall berestored," but-"I will bringMy people out of their graves and bring them into the land of Israel."
With very great propriety, too, this passage has been used for the comforting of Believers in their dark and cloudy days.When they have lost their comforts, when their spiritual joys have drooped like withering flowers, when they have been nolonger able to-
"Read their titles clear To mansions in the skies," they have been reminded that God could return to them in Grace and mercy,that the dry bones could live and should live! Then they remember that the Spirit of God could again come upon His people-thateven at the time when they were ready togive up all hope and lie down in despair, He could come and so quicken them, that the poor trembling cowards should be turnedinto soldiers of God and should stand upon their feet an exceeding great army!
No grave of grief can hold the immortal joy of a Believer-on the third day it shall rise again, for, like the Lord who gaveit, it shall never see corruption! Bone to his bone shall your comforts come together and an army of joys shall live in yoursoul. The passage certainly may be so usedwithout violent wresting and might thus yield much comfort to the people of God. But still we take the liberty of sayingthat this is not the drift of the Prophet and that we do not believe he was thinking of anything of the kind. We think thathe was speaking only of his ownpeople, his own "kinsmen according to the flesh."
Once more. There is no doubt that we have in this passage a most striking picture of the restoration of dead souls to spirituallife. Men by nature are just like these dry bones exposed in the open valley. The whole spiritual frame is dislocated. Thesap and marrow of spiritual life has been driedout of manhood. Human nature is not only dead, but, like the bleaching bones which have long whitened in the sun, it haslost all trace of the Divine life. Will and power have both departed. Spiritual death reigns undisturbed. Yet the dry bonescan live! Under the preaching of theWord the vilest sinners can be reclaimed, the most stubborn wills can be subdued, the most unholy lives can be sanctified!When the holy "breath" comes from the four winds, when the Divine Spirit descends to own the Word, then multitudes of sinnersas on Pentecost's hallowed day,stand up upon their feet-an exceeding great army-to praise the Lord their God.
But, mark you, this is not the first and proper interpretation of the text. It is, indeed, nothing more than a very strikingparallel case to the one before us. It is not the case itself. It is only a similar one for the way in which God restoresa nation is, practically, the way in which Herestores an individual. The way in which Israel shall be saved is the same by which any one individual sinner shall be saved.It is not, however, the one case which the Prophet is aiming at. He is looking at the vast mass of cases-the multitudes ofinstances to be found amongthe Jewish people of gracious quickening and holy resurrection.
His first and primary intention was to speak of them and though it is right and lawful to take a passage in its widest possiblemeaning since, "no Scripture is of private interpretation," yet I hold it to be treason to God's Word to neglect its primarymeaning and constantly to say-"Such-and-such is the primary meaning, but it is of no consequence and I shall use the words for another subject." The preacherof God's Truth should not give up the Holy Spirit's meaning! He should take care that he does not even put it in the background.The first meaning of atext, the Spirit's meaning, is that which should be brought out first and though the rest may fairly spring out of it, yetthe first sense should have the chief place.
Let it have the uppermost place in the synagogue. Let it be looked upon as at least not inferior, either in interest or importance,to any other meaning which may come out of the text. The meaning of our text as opened up by the context is most evidently,if words mean anything, first, that thereshall be a political restoration of the Jews to their own land and to their own nationality. And then, secondly, there isin the text and in the context a most plain declaration that there shall be a spiritual restoration- in fact a conversion-ofthe tribes of Israel.
I. First, THERE IS TO BE A POLITICAL RESTORATION OF THE JEWS. Israel is now blotted out from the map of nations. Her sonsare scattered far and wide. Her daughters mourn beside all the rivers of the earth. Her sacred song is hushed-no king reignsin Jerusalem! She brings forth no governorsamong her tribes. But she is to be restored! She is to be restored "as from the dead." When her own sons have given up allhope of her, then is God to appear for her. She is to be reorganized-her scattered bones are to be brought together. Therewill be a native governmentagain. There will again be the form of a political body.
A State shall be incorporated and a king shall reign. Israel has now become alienated from her own land. Her sons, thoughthey can never forget the sacred dust of Palestine, yet die at a hopeless distance from her consecrated shores. But it shallnot be so forever, for her sons shall again rejoicein her-her land shall be called Beulah-for as a young man marries a virgin so shall her sons marry her. "I will place youin your own land," is God's promise to them. They shall again walk upon her mountains, shall once more sit under her vinesand rejoice under her figtrees!
And they are also to be reunited. There shall not be two, nor ten, nor twelve, but one-one Israel praising one God-servingone king and that one King the Son of David, the descended Messiah! They are to have a national prosperity which shall makethem famous. No, so glorious shall theybe that Egypt and Tyre and Greece and Rome shall all forget their glory in the greater splendor of the throne of David!The day shall yet come when all the high hills shall leap with envy because this is the hill which God has chosen! The timeshall come when Zion's shrine shallagain be visited by the constant feet of the pilgrim-when her valleys shall echo with songs and her hilltops shall dropwith wine and oil.
If there is meaning in words this must be the meaning of this chapter! I wish never to learn the art of tearing God's meaningout of His own Words. If there is anything clear and plain, the literal sense and meaning of this passage-a meaning not tobe spirited or spiritualized away-itmust be evident that both the two and the ten tribes of Israel are to be restored to their own land and that a king is torule over them. "Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen where they aregone and will gather them on every sideand bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel. And one kingshall be king to them all. And they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any moreat all."
I am not now going into millennial theories, or into any speculation as to dates. I do not know anything at all about suchthings and I am not sure that I am called to spend my time in such research. I am called to minister the Gospel rather thanto open prophecy. Those who are wise in such thingsdoubtless prize their wisdom, but I have not the time to acquire it, nor any inclination to leave soul-winning pursuitsfor less arousing themes. I believe it is a great deal better to leave many of these promises and many of these gracious outlooksof Believers to exercise theirfull force upon our minds without depriving them of their simple glory by aiming to discover dates and figures. Let thisbe settled, however, that if there is meaning in words, Israel is yet to be restored-
"Yet not in vain-over Israel's land The glory yet will shine. And He, your once rejected King, Messiah, shall be yours. His chosen Bride, ordained with Him To reign over all the earth, Shall first be framed, and you shall know Your Savior's matchless worth. Then you, beneath the peaceful reign Of Jesus and His Bride, Shall sound His Grace and Glory forth, To all the earth beside. The nations to your glorious light, O Zion, yet shall throng, And all the listening islands wait To catch the joyful song."
But there is a second meaning here. ISRAEL IS TO HAVE A SPIRITUAL RESTORATION OR A CONVERSION. Both the text and the contextteach this. The promise is that they shall renounce their idols and, behold, they have already done so! "Neither shall theydefile themselves any more with their idols."Whatever faults the Jew may have, he certainly has not idolatry. "The Lord your God is one God," is a Truth far better conceivedby the Jew than by any other man on earth except the Christian. Weaned forever from the worship of all images of any sort,the Jewish nation has nowbecome infatuated with traditions or duped by philosophy.
She is to have, however, instead of these delusions, a spiritual religion-she is to love her God. "They shall be My peopleand I will be their God." The unseen but Omnipotent Jehovah is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth by His ancient people.They are to come before Him in His ownappointed way, accepting the Mediator whom their sires rejected. They will come into Covenant relation with God, for soour text tells us- "I will make a Covenant of peace with them," and Jesus is our peace-therefore we gather that Jehovah shallenter into the Covenantof Grace with them-that Covenant of which Christ is the federal Head, the Substance and the Surety.
They are to walk in God's ordinances and statutes and so exhibit the practical effects of being united to Christ who has giventhem peace. All these promises certainly imply that the people of Israel are to be converted to God and that this conversionis to be permanent. The tabernacle of God is tobe with them! The Most High is, in a special manner, to have His sanctuary in the midst of them forever more so that whatevernations may apostatize and turn from the Lord in these latter days, the nation of Israel never can, for she shall be effectuallyand permanently converted.The hearts of the fathers shall be turned with the hearts of the children unto the Lord their God and they shall be thepeople of God, world without end.
We look forward, then, for these two things. I am not going to theorize upon which of them will come first-whether they shallbe restored first, and converted afterwards-or converted first and then restored. They are to be restored and they are tobe converted, too. Let the Lord sendthese blessings in His own order and we shall be well content whichever way they shall come. We take this for our joy andour comfort that this thing shall be and that both in the spiritual and in the temporal throne, the King Messiah shall sitand reign among His people gloriously.
II. Now I come to the practical part of my sermon this evening-THE MEANS OF THAT RESTORATION. Looking at this matter we arevery apt to say, "How can these things be? How can the Jews be converted to Christ? How can they be made into a nation? Trulythe case is quite as hopeless as that ofthe bones in the valley! How shall they cease from worldliness or renounce their constant pursuit of riches? How shall theyhe weaned from their bigoted attachment to their Talmudic traditions? How shall they be lifted up out of that hardness ofheart which makes them hate theMessiah of Nazareth, their Lord and King? How can these things be?"
The Prophet does not say it cannot be. His unbelief is not so great as that, but at the same time he scarcely ventures tothink that it can ever be possible. He very wisely, however, puts back the question upon his God-"O Lord God, You know." Nowsome of you are very expectant about thistonight and you are expecting to see the Jews converted very soon, perhaps in a month or two. I wish you may see it as soonas your desires would date it. Others of us are not as optimistic and take a more gloomy view of a long future of woes.
Well, let us both together come before God tonight and say, "O Lord God, You know. And if You know it, Lord, we will be contentto leave the secret with You! Only tell us what You would have us do. We ask not food for speculation, but we do ask for work.We ask for something by which we maypractically show that we really do love the Jew and that we would bring him to Christ."
In answer to this, the Lord says to His servants, "Prophesy upon these bones," so that our duty tonight, as Christians, isto prophesy upon these bones and we shall then see God's purpose fulfilled-when we obey God's precept. I want you to observethat there are two kinds of prophesyingspoken of here. First, the Prophet prophesies to the bones-here is preaching. And next, he prophesies to the four winds-hereis praying. The preaching has its share in the work, but it is the praying which achieves the result-for after he had prophesiedto the fourwinds and not before-the bones began to live.
All that the preaching did was to make a stir and to bring the bones together, but it was the praying which did the work,for then God the Holy Spirit came to give them life! Preaching and praying, then, are the two heads of this part of my sermontonight and we will speak upon each briefly.
1. It is the duty and the privilege of the Christian Church to preach the Gospel to the Jew and to every creature. And inso doing she may safely take the vision before us as her guide. She may take it as her guide, first, as to matter. What arewe to preach? The text says we are to prophesy andassuredly every missionary to the Jews should especially keep God's prophecies very prominently before the public eye. Itseems to me that one way in which the Jewish mind might be laid hold of would be to remind the Jews right often of that splendidfuture which both the Old andthe New Testaments predict for Israel.
Every man has a tender side and a warm heart towards his own nation and if you tell him that in your standard book there isa revelation made that that nation is to act a grand part in human history and is, indeed, to take the very highest placein the parliament of nations-then the man'sprejudice is on your side and he listens to you with the greater attention. I would not commend, as some do, the everlastingpreaching of prophesy in every congregation. But a greater prominence should be given to prophecies in teaching the Jews thanamong any other people.
But still, the main thing which we have to preach about is Christ. Depend upon it dear Brethren, the best sermons which weever preach are those which are fullest of Christ Jesus, the Son of David and the Son of God! Jesus the suffering Savior bywhose stripes we are healed! Jesus able to save untothe uttermost-here is the most suitable subject for Gentiles. God has fashioned all hearts alike and therefore this is alsothe noblest theme for Jews. Paul loved his countrymen! He was no simpleton-he knew what was the best weapon with which toassail and overcome theirprejudices and yet he could say, "I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified."
Lift up the Messiah, then, both before Jew and Gentile. Tell of Mary's Son, the eternal Son of God, the Man of Nazareth whois none other than the Incarnate Word, God made flesh and dwelling among us! Preach His hallowed life-the righteousness ofHis people. Declare His painfuldeath-the putting away of all their sins. Vindicate His glorious Resurrection! The justification of His people. Tell ofHis ascent on high. His triumph over the world and sin! Declare His second advent, His glorious coming to make His peopleglorious in the Glory which He haswon for them! And Christ Jesus, as He is thus preached, shall surely be the means of making these bones live!
Let this preaching resound with Sovereign mercy! Let it always have in it the clear and distinct ring of Free Grace. I wasthinking as I read this chapter just now, that of all the sermons which were ever preached, this sermon to the dry bones isthe most Calvinistic, the most full of Free Grace ofany which were ever delivered. If you will notice it you will find that there is not an "if," or a "but," or a conditionin it!
And as for free will, there is not even a mention of it. It is all in this fashion-"Thus says the Lord God unto these bones:Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live: and I will lay sinews upon you and will bring up flesh uponyou and cover you with skin and put breathin you and you shall live. And you shall know that I am the Lord." You see it is all "shalls," and "wills," and Covenantpurposes. It is all God's decrees declared and declared, too, as if there were no possibility of man's resisting them.
He does not say, "You dry bones, you shall live if you like. You shall if you are willing." He does not say to them, "Youshall stand upright and be an exceeding great army if it pleases you to consent to My power." No, but it is, "I will," and,"you shall." As for will, it is altogether put out ofthe question, for how shall the dead have a will in the matter? And so, dear Friends, I would have the Gospel preached bothto the Jew and the Gentile with a very clear and distinct note of free, Sovereign, almighty Grace.
Man has a will and God never ignores that will-but by His almighty Grace He blessedly leads it in silken fetters. He neverstops to ask that will's consent when He comes forth upon His errands of effectual Grace. He wins that consent by the sweetpersuasions of His own Omnipotent love. Hecomes arrayed in the robes of His Omnipotent Grace and the most hardened of rebels see at once such an attractive forcein the love of God in Christ that with full consent against their ancient wills they yield themselves captives to the Graceof God! I do not believe that the Jews,or anybody else, will ever be converted as a usual thing by keeping back any of the Doctrines of Grace.
We must have God's Truth and the whole of it. And more distinct utterances concerning evangelical doctrines and the Graceof God are required both for Jews and for Gentiles. Preach, preach, preach, then-but let it be the preaching of Christ andthe proclamation of Free Grace. The Church, Isay, has a model here as to the matter of preaching. And I am certain that she has also a model here as to her manner ofpreaching. How shall we preach the Gospel? Was Ezekiel to do what some of my hyper-Calvinistic Brethren say preachers oughtto do-to warn the sinner, butnever to invite him?
Was Ezekiel to go and talk to these bones, but never say a word to them by way of command? Was he to explain the way of salvationbut never bid them walk in it? No! After he had declared Covenant purposes, he was then to say, "Thus says the Lord, you drybones live." And so the message of theGospel minister, when he has declared the purposes of Divine Grace, is to say to sinners, "Thus says the Lord, believe inthe Lord
Jesus Christ! Trust Christ and you are saved!" Whoever you may be, Jew or Gentile. Whether your speech is that of the landof Canaan or of a Gentile tongue. Whether you spring of Shem, Ham, or Japheth-trust Christ and you are saved! Trust Him, then,you dry bones, and live! Withered arm beoutstretched! Lame men, leap! Blind eyes, see! You dead, dry bones, live!
The manner of our preaching is to be by way of command as well as by way of teaching. Repent and be converted, every one ofyou. Lay hold on eternal life. "Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened unto you." "Believe in the Lord JesusChrist and you shall be saved!" We have a modelhere, moreover, as to our audience. We are not to select our congregation, but we are to go where God sends us. And if Heshould send us into the open valley where the bones are very dry, we are to preach there. I trust that my Brethren of theSociety for the Propagation of theGospel Among the Jews will never confine their labors to the good Jew, the respectable Jew, the enlightened Jew-let themseek after him among the rest-but I hope they will also seek after the ignorant, the degraded, the poor and the fallen.
The Church's best harvests have generally been reaped among the poor. For every grain of wheat which has fructified upon thehillsides of wealth, thousands have sprung up to bring forth much fruit in the valleys of poverty and obscurity. "The poorhave the Gospel preached to them"-this is theGospel's pride! The poor receive the Gospel-this is its success! Preach to the dry bones, then. Do not say, "Such-and-sucha man is too bigoted." The case rests not with him, nor with his bigotry, but with God! These bones were very dry, but yetthey lived.
There is very little to choose, after all, between one man and another when all are dead! A little difference in the drynessdoes not come to much account when all are dead in sin. That some men are drunk and some are sober, that some men are debauchedand some are chaste makes a very greatdifference in the moral and civil world. But very little difference, indeed, in the spiritual world, for there the samethings happen to them both. If they believe not they shall alike be lost. And if they trust Jesus Christ they shall alikebe saved! Let not, therefore, the greatervi-ciousness of a people, or their greater hardness of heart, ever stand in our way-but let us say to them, dry as theyare-"You dry bones, live."
And here, again, we have another lesson as to the preacher's authority. If you will observe you will see the Prophet says,"Hear the Word of the Lord." We are to go neither to Jew nor to Gentile upon our own errand, or bearing our own words. I haveno right to command a man to believe this or thatunless I am an ambassador of God. And then, with God's authority to direct and empower me, I speak no longer as a man followinghis own wit but as the mouth of God.
So let every one of us go, when we are trying to save souls, feeling the hand of God upon us, with a soul big with anxiousthoughts and heaving high with earnest desires. Let us speak-
"As though we never might speak again, As dying men to dying men," taking hold upon God's arm and beseeching Him to work byus and through us for the good of men. Remember, Christian, however humble you may be-when you speak God's Word-that Wordhas an authority about it which willleave a man without excuse if he rejects it. Always put to your fellow man the Truth of God which you hold dear-not as athing which he may play with or may do what he likes with-or which is at his option to choose or to neglect as he sees fit.But put it to him as it isin truth-the Word of God. And be not satisfied unless you warn him that it is at his own peril that he rejects the invitationand that on his own head must be his blood if he turns aside from the good Word of the command of God.
Thus, we have, I think, all the directions which are necessary for us to preach. And what this Society and every other Societywhich aims at the conversion of sinners has to do is to go and preach, preach, preach-not spending too much upon printing,nor upon schools, nor ecclesiasticalbuildings-but preaching the Word of God! For after all, this is the battering-ram which is to shake the gates of Hell andbreak its iron bars. God has chosen "the foolishness of preaching" that He might, by it, save those who believe! Preachingis the blast of the ram's hornordained to level Jericho and the sound of the silver trumpet appointed to usher in the jubilee. It is God's chariot offire for bearing souls to Heaven and His two-edged sword to strike the hosts of Hell. His ordained servants are at once warriorsand builders, and the Word servesthem both for spear and trowel. Preach, then, from morning till night-at every time and on all occasions, "the unsearchableriches of Christ," and Israel shall yet live!
I cannot leave this point without noticing how the Prophet describes the effect of his preaching-there was a voice and therewas a noise. Was this the noise of God's voice going with man's voice? Or was this the noise of the bones themselves creepingover one another? Does this representopposition on the part of those preached to? Truly opposition is always a good sign! When you can get a man to oppose you,you may have some hope of him. If he has enough religious thought to try and refute what you bring before him, you may bethankful. Is this stir, then, the stirof opposition, or is it the stir of enquiry?
Does not the creeping of the bones together represent the people coming together to hear, to talk with one another, to reasonabout Divine things? When the various muscles and the flesh come upon the bones, does this represent the appearance of certainconverts, destined to be the leaders ofothers? Are these sinews and muscles the representatives of men who are to move the rest of the corporate body by-and-by?It may be so and we may expect to see, as Christ is preached among Jews or Gentiles, more and more stir and excitement-thepeople coming together ingreater numbers and the whole mass fermenting by the force of the leaven. Anything is better than stagnation-of a persecutorI have quite as much hope as of a quiet despiser.
2. But now we come to speak of that in which you can all take a part. Perhaps you cannot take a part in preaching the Word,though I wish that you all could. And I covet for you all the best gifts. But in the second form of prophesying you can alltake your share. After the Prophet had prophesiedto the bones, he was to prophesy to the winds. He was to say to the blessed Spirit, the Life-Giver, the God of all Grace,"Come from the four winds, O Breath and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."
Preaching alone does little. It may make a stir. It may bring the people together. There is an attractiveness about the Gospelwhich will draw the people to hear it. And there is, moreover, a force about it which will excite them, for it is "quick andpowerful and sharper than any two-edged sword."But there is no life-giving power in the Gospel of itself apart from the Holy Spirit! The "Breath" must first blow and thenthese bones shall live! Let us betake ourselves much to this form of prophesying.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, you who care for Israel, go before the Lord now and from now on in earnest, importunate prayer!Strive to be more than ever conscious of the utter indispensability of this matter. Feel that without Christ you can do nothing!In vain your society, your machinery, yourcommittees, your secretaries, your collectors, your contributors, your missionaries without the Holy Spirit! Blow your trumpetand proclaim loudly what you have done-you have sown much-but you shall reap little unless you are trusting in the Spiritof God! There isalways this danger to which we are exposed, though some, I know, think that it is a danger which does not exist-I mean theperil of looking to the strength or the weakness of the instrumentality and being either puffed up by the one or dejectedby the other.
You are enough for your work if God is with you! And if you are but a handful you are too many for your work if God is notwith you. God never objects to human weakness-when He comes to work He prefers it-for it makes a platform for Divine power.What did He say to Gideon-"Thepeople are too many for Me." He did not say that they were too few. You never find a case in Scripture of God's saying thatthe people were too few-it was, "The people are too many for Me." Man's strength is more in God's way than man's weakness.No, human weakness, inasmuchas it makes elbow room for God's strength, is God's chosen instrument! "Therefore will I glory in infirmities," said theApostle, "that the power of God may rest upon me." Rest then, upon the Holy Spirit as indispensable and go to God with thisfor your cry, "Come from the fourwinds, O Breath and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."
Observe, Beloved, that this second prophesying of Ezekiel is just as bold and as full of faith as the first. He seems to haveno doubt, but speaks as though he could command the wind. "Come," says he and the wind comes. We need more faith in God. Whenwe are engaged in any spiritual work we shallalways find our success proportioned to our faith. Little faith, slender harvests! Much faith, plenteous sheaves! Littlefishes come in slender numbers to Little-Faith's net. But Strong-Confidence can hardly hold all the great fishes which loadher boat. I will not ask for yoursociety, or for you any further gift than greater faith, for, getting greater faith you have Divine strength and sure success.
The Spirit always works with faithful men. My dear Friends, the Spirit of God is poured out! He abides in His Church as theever-present Comforter. We are not to look upon His influences as a gift which we cannot reach for He is here waiting to giveus all we need. He dwells in the midst of Hispeople and we have but to cry unto Him and He will manifest His mighty power and we shall have souls saved, both Jews andGentiles! Let your prayer, then, be with a sense of how much you need it, but yet with a firm conviction that the Holy Spiritwill most surely come in answer toyour petitions.
And then let it be earnest prayer. That, "Come from the four winds, O breath," reads to me like the cry, not of one in despair,but of one who is full of a vehement desire gratified with what he sees, since the bones have come together and have beenmysteriously clothed with flesh! And he is nowcrying passionately for the immediate completion of the miracle-"Come from the four winds, O Breath and breathe upon theseslain, that they may live." There is continual vehemence and force here-here is just that which makes a prayer prevalent.O, let us cry mightilyunto God! We cannot expect to see great things unless we cry to Him-but we are only limited by our prayers. We are not straitenedin Him! We are only straitened in ourselves.
We might see greater things if we could but believe. All things are possible to him that believes, but as of old, the LordJesus cannot do many mighty things nowadays because of our unbelief. We hamper the arm of Grace! We do, as it were, restrainthe Almighty energy. O for greater faith to believethat nations may be born in a day! That multitudes may be turned unto God at once-and we shall yet see it-see what our fathersnever saw and what our imaginations have never dreamed! We shall leap from victory to victory, marching on from one triumphto another until wemeet the all-glorious Savior! Charging enemy after enemy and routing army after army, we shall go on, conquering and toconquer until we salute Him who comes upon the white horse of triumph followed by all the armies of Heaven! Brethren, be ofgood courage in your work of faith andlabor of love for it is not and shall not be in vain in the Lord.
I address some tonight, I know, who have no interest in what I have been saying for they are not subjects of Messiah, themselves.Remember, faith is a sign of your allegiance to Him. Trust Christ and you are saved! Trust Jesus Christ and you are deliveredfrom Divine wrath and from the power ofyour natural passions. The Lord grant you a resurrection tonight, O you who are dead in sin, and His name shall have allthe praise!
Our friends here have for some little time been in a small way assisting this Society by their contributions. They, therefore,are well acquainted with it. I have not time this evening to enter into details about it, but I may just say that this Societyhas for a long time done a good work amongthe Jewish people. And I ask you to contribute to this among other good works as you feel moved to do whenever opportunityoccurs.