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Precept, Promise, And Prayer.

Precept, Promise, And Prayer.

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"Make you a new heart and a new spirit." — Ezekiel xviii. 31,

"Make you a new heart and a new spirit." — Ezekiel xviii. 31,

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Aug 12, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved


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PRECEPT, PROMISE, AD PRAYER. BY REV. DAIEL MOORE, M.A. "Make you a new heart and a new spirit." — Ezekiel xviii. 31, In direct terms, at least, Ezekiel is the only one of the prophets who en- forces a doctrine which, as lying at the foundation of our practical theology, we are commanded to recognize every day throughout Lent, namely, the doctrine of a new creation in man, the necessity of a reconstruction, a readjustment of his moral and spiritual faculties— the great fact that in order to salvation the heart of stone must be taken away, and that God must give him a heart of flesh. "Create and make in us new and contrite hearts." But if Ezekiel be the chief Old Testament writer who insists upon this great topic, he is also the most complete and direct, and, so to speak, philosophical in his treatment of it. There are three principal passages in this book, referring to the subject, which ought never to be considered inde- pendently of each other : namely, in the text, where this inward change is made the subject of a precept ; in the 11th chapter where it is made the object of a promise ; and in the 36th chapter where it is enjoined upon us as matter for prayer. " Make you a new heart and a new spirit" is manifestly a precept, or command ; how I am to make it, why I should make it, whether I am to make it of myself, or an influence from without is to make it for me, are questions with which, so far as relates to my personal obligations, I have nothing to do. A Divine command must be a possibility — we are sure of that ; and so, if I had nothing but the precept to guide me, Tshould learn thus much, — that in the matter of my salvation I must do something. But as I read on in the pages of this prophet I come to another passage — " A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you : and o. 2,724. 3 L PRECEPT, PROMISE, AD PRAYHR. I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh." Here is a promise— a promise that God would do the very thinjj for us which he had just before commanded us to do for ourselves. Here, therefore, is suggested the idea of co-operation. But who are we that we should be in any way helpful to the Infinite iu the accomplishment of his purposes? How should anything we can do be supplemental to the work of God ? Aaron's rod did not more entirely swallow up the magician's rod, than does this promise seem to absolve into itself the cognate precept. How are the respective promises to be kept apart, or what agency is that which shall connect yet uot confound the two ? And this problem, such as
it is, Ezekiel solves for us a little further on. " I the Lord will do all that I have said." " I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes." And yet, though the work is to be mine, "for all this I will be en- quired of by the house of Israel, to do for them." Iu the further discussion of our subject I shall try to keep each of these passages in view, not only as they seem to exhibit the proper relation in which the precepts of God and the promises of God stand to each other, but also as they vindicate in a striking manner man's proper accountableuess in the use of means, and that in entire consistency with the sovereignty of moral government. It is manifest that the precept must be read in the light of the promise, and that tlie promise is the only ground of encouragement for prayer ; whilst the three in com- bination make good that gospel paradox by which the conviction of our own helplessness becomes the strongest motive to exertion ; and we are only enabled to *' work out our own salvation with fear and trembling" by know- ing that " it is God that worketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure." I propose, therefore, to consider, first, how the great ends of conversion are subserved by such precepts as the text, when taken by themselves ; se- condly, the added force they have when viewed in connection with some correlative or corresponding promise ; and thirdly, the combined tendency of precept and promise to supply us with the most powerful inducements to prayer. I. We are first to inquire, what place in the Divine arrangements for our conversion such precepts as those contained in the text properly occupy ; what they mean, what they assume, what practical efl^ect they have or can have upon our moral conduct and conviction. "Make you a new heart and a new spirit." "Hepent and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." "Turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon you, and to our God for he will abundantly pardon." ow, all tliis would be very intelligible, if we laboured under no moral inability to do the things commanded ; that is, if we could make ourselves a new heart, or could repent and turn xmto the Lord, or could effect such a change in our moral organization as to be able to convert ourselves. But 502 PRECEPT, PROMISE, AD PRAYBR. how is this to be done ! Who is to bring the clean thing out of an unclean !
" In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing," says the apostle ; • "What power in myself can put any good thing there ?' Who would set a man blind from his birth on the task of discerning colours i How can the carnal mind "acquaint itself with God and be at peace," while retaining as its in- separable adjunct feelings of enmity against his name and law 1 These difficulties, arising as they do out of the most incontrovertible Scripture de- clarations, seem to limit the office of the precept when taken by itself to something preliminary, and preparative, and antecedent. The command given in the text would not enable me to make myself a new heart ; it could only excite those dispositions and feelings within me which are essential to the new heart being made — that is, make me feel how lost I am, how dead, and hopeless, and beyond the reach of human cure. This was precisely tha effect which the whole structure of the moral law, when once rightly appre- hended by him, had on the Apostle Paul. For "I was alive," he says, " without the law once j but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." While shut up to the conventionalities of the Pharisaic system, reading the law as those around him read it, he could live, and live at ease j but when the commandment came, when it was presented to the eyes of his understanding, in all its spirituality, and breadth, and strictness — when it was seen to claim jurisdiction over every thought, and motive, and desire, and feeling, condemning him everlastingly, if he failed in one jot or tittle of its lofty requirements, — then was forced upon him the conviction of his own unutterable sinfulness, inevitable condemnation, hopeless death. " Sin revived, and I died." And it is as leading to a result somewhat analagous to this that we get to see the use of such precepts as are contained in the text. In themselves they appear to enjoin impossibilities ; but, for all that, they are far from being without their use ; for they awake us to a conviction of our helpless- ness ; they reveal to us the extent of our soul's danger ; they show to us the deep-seatedness of our depravity ; they break in upon the slumbers of the natural conscience ; they set us upon doing something. The effort may be very blind and very groping ; but still an effort it is, a feeling after salvation, if haply we may find it. Thus see what thoughts are called up by some of these precepts. "Make you a new heart and a new spirit." Then what must the old heart be ! What a wreck and ruin of God's work must have taken place, seeing that no remedial measures will avail anything — that no partial reforms would do any good — that, in the judgment of him who first formed our moral image, the old and shattered fragments could never be put together again, but that, casting off utterly the shell of the old man, we must " put on the new man, which after God is created in righteouiness and true holiness !" Again : " Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead." Sleep — death — resurrection j what means all this startling imagery ? 503

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