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We have never known any remarkable reformation effected, but by means of the word. It is by this, that God instructs the ignorant, awakens the careless, humbles the selfconfident, undeceives hypocrites, converts finners, and faves them who believe.. God could by an immediate energy change men's hearts. But he chooses to treat them as intelligent beings. He calls them to come and reason with him. He gives them his word, and requires them to hear it and attend to it. The operation of his fpirit is indeed necessary to the radical renovation of their tempers. But an attendance on the word is the ordinary mean of their obtaining this gracious operation.
Before Ezekiel prophesied to the dry bones, there was no noise, or shaking among them. They lay scattered in the valley. When he prophesied, they began to move and come together. The word often produces an external reformation in finners, before the spiritual life really begins. The bones in the vision came together, but there was no life in them. Then Ezekiel prophesied to the wind, and prayed, that this might breathe on them ; and they lived and stood on their feet. This may denote the power of religion in the soul.
As there may be a human form without animal life, so there may be a religious form without fpiritual life. The renovation of the mind is a work of divine grace. “ We are saved by the renewing of the Holy Ghost.” But as in the creation of the first man, the body was formed, before life was infused, so in the new creation, there is a reformation of the outward man, before a holy principle is wrought in the soul. The finner, under sensible convictions and awakenings, renounces the gross forms of vice, and attends to
external duties on the natural principles of hope and fear. Such a correction of manners usually, precedes that renovation of heart, which consists in a direct and universal love of righteousness.
Renewing grace is to be fought by prayer. « For this God will be enquired of."
Where a general revival of religion begins, a fpirit of prayer will be apparent in many; in the teachers and professors of religion, and in those who are the subjects of convictions and awakenings. When the prophet prayed, “ Come, O wind, breathe on these flain, the breath came into them, and they lived.” Previous to the converfion of the Jews in the latter days, God will pour on them the spirit of grace and of fupplication. Whenever we see such a spirit poured out, we may expect happy consequences to ensue. It is a token that God is about to perform some great and good work. The apostle exhorts the Chris. tians in Rome to strive together with him, in their prayers, for the fuccess of his ministry. If God gives a spirit of prayer, he has something else to give. He has not faid to us, “ Seek ye me in vain."
“ The effectual fervent prayers of the righteous avail much.” Where they agree together concerning any thing, which they would ask, and which they ought to ask, it will be done for them by their heavenly father.
There is one thing more here to be observed,
Fourthly; When Ezekiel prophesied on the bones scattered promiscuously in the valley, they came together, bone to his bone, and finews came upon
them. This circumstance in the vision suggests to us, that where a real revival of religion takes place among any
people, there will be order, harmony and peace. Religion is not altogether a private and personal thing; it is, in its nature, social, friendly and benevolent. It seeks the gen. eral good. It ftudies the happiness of all within its reach. And wherever it extends its proper influence, it brings men together into a well regu. lated fociety. It puts every member and bone of the body in its natural place, and binds the parts one to another by the joints and finews of reci. procal affection, and mutual kindness.
There is sometimes a noise and shaking among dry bones, which is followed with quite different effects. The bones, instead of coming together, éach in its place, to form a regular, compact body, fly off from one another, so that they can form nothing like a body; or they meet in total confi. fion and diforder, one bone rushing into the place, and one member assuming the office of another, and all without finews to hold them together, and without joints to perform regular movements.
Thus they form, not a proper body, but a misshapen, difcordant mals. Such a shaking as this, is very different from that which the prophet law in the valley
Where real religion has dominion in the foul, it subdues turbulent passions ; it intşoduces and enlivens kind affections ; it brings all the facultieš into subjection to God, and into harmony with one another. Where it spreads among a people, it inspires them with mutual love, joins them to gether in the same mind, softens their hearts to fympathy in affliction, and prompts them to en. courage and aid one another in their fpiritual interefts. In a word, it forms such a body, as the apoftle describes ; a body united to, and depend. ing on its proper lacad, from which all the parts, by joints and bands, having nourishment minift. ered, increaseth with the increase of God. Such a body will grow unto a perfect man, and will rise
to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
Charity is the bond of perfectņess. It is this which completes the Christian character. It is this which consummates the beauty, and consolidates the strength of a Christian society. This is the mark which discriminates true religion from falfe zeal.
The edifying of the church in love is the end of all divine ordinances. We are to come together in the church, to worship together in the fanctu. ary, to fit together at Christ's table, to eat of his bread and drink of his cup, that we may be united together in one body, and may grow into an holy temple in him.
How joyful would it be to behold a revival like that, which the prophet beheld in vision-to fee dead sinners arising from the dust, animated with fpiritual life, cafting off their filthy garments and putting on the robes of righteousness, engaging with united zeal in works of piety and charity, encouraging each other in a devout attendance on all divine institutions, and keeping the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
Such a revival will be seen in the latter day. Let us pray, that something of the same kind may be seen now.
Awake, ye that sleep, arise from the dead ; Christ will give you light. Awake, awake, put on strength, o Zion ; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem. Arise, shake thyself from the dust
. Let not the unclean pass through thee. Cleanse thyself from all thy filthiness, and perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. Then shall thy children break forth into joy, and fing together. Then shall the waste places become fruitful fields, and their dew shall be as the dew of herbs. Then the Lord shall make bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and the ends of the earth thall see his salvation. VOL. V.
Ask the beasts now, and they shall teach thee in and the fowls of the air, and
they shall tell thee : ONE of the fathers of the Roman churck, taking in the moft absolute sense Christ's command to his disciples, “Go, preach the gospel to every creature," went and preached to birds and beasts. This certainly was no part of Christ's commiflion to his apoftles. But though men are not commanded to preach to beasts and birds; yet God in his providence has appointed these to preach to men. "Job, to confute certain erroneous opinion's advanced by his friends, refers them for instruction to the beafts of the field, and the fowls of heaven. " Ask them, and they will teach you."
The scripture inftructs us, not only by plain doctrines and precepts, but also by pertinent images and allusions. Among other methods of instruction, it refers us to certain dispositions obfervable in the animals around us. For though these creatures are not capable of moral conduct, yet there are in them certain inftinctive actions, which are emblems of human virtues. Hence the scripture often sends us to them for instruction and reproof. To them our text calls our atten tion.