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SERMON VI.

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Dry Bones Restored.

EZEKIEL xxxvi. 3.

And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And i answeted,

O Lord God, thou knoweft.

THE Jews, having been, for many years, captives in Babylon, viewed a return to their own land as an event much to be desired, but utterly to be despaired of. They were urder the power of their enemies, who at that time would not, nor was it thought they ever would, consent 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 possessed by strangers and surrounded by enemies; its temple, buildings and walls

were in ruins ; and how should 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 prospect of a reformation. They were losing the religious sentiments and manners, which fome had brought with them, and which a few still retained ; and they were sinking deeper into depravity, than when their calamities

leges ?

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

To revive the desponding spirits of the pious people among them, God sends to them the prophet Ezekiel with the relation of a remarkable vi. Gon.

The prophet seemed to himself to be placed in the midst of a valley filled with human bones. He passed by them round about ; he viewed them ; he observed, 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 promiscuoully over the ground, as if they never could be collected and reduced to order. God says to him, " Son of man, can these bones live?” The prophet answers, “ O Lord God, thou knoweft." God then commands him, “ Prophesy on these bones, and say, Thussaith the Lord, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live.” So he prophesied, as he was commanded ; and “ he prophesied, there was a noise and a shaking ; 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, “ Prophesy unto the wind,” or breath," and say, Thus faith the Lord, Come, breathe on these lain, that they may live. So he prophesied, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceeding great army.”

This vision is applied to the desponding Jews to console them in their captivity. The Lord says to the prophet, “ These bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, Our bones are dried, our hope is loft, we are cut off for our part. Say unto chem, Thus faith the Lord, Behold, O my peo.

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ple, I will open your graves, and I will put my spirit in you, and ye shall 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 restoration to their former privileges, but also a happy revival of gion. 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 vision to the captive Jews; and it may be uleful and monitory in its application to us. We will en deavour to improve it in some reflections relative to ourselves. It teaches us,

First; That among a people enjoying the revela. tion 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 exercised 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 opprefsion ; for righteousness, but behold a cry." “O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O 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 knowest.”

Sinners, under the dominion of fin, are said to be dead, as having in them no active principle of fpiritual life. Speaking of the Ephesians in their gentile state, the Apostle says, “ they were dead in trespasses and sins.” 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 a{cribes, 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 some degenerate churches. Some of the churches in Alia had a name to live, but were dead. Their members in general were deftitute 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 licen. tious 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 number 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 controversy and separation ; we may then suppose our. selves 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 obftract their entrance into the kingdom of heaven, they asked with astonishment, “ who then can be saved ? He answered, “ With God all things are possible." He can so order events in his providence, as to awaken the careless from their slumbers. He can impress divine truth on the ftony heart, and bend the iron neck to obedience. He can quicken to holy sensibility the foul dead in trespasses and fins.

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

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