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, ''And the Word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God: Woe unto the foolish prophets that follow their owb spirit and have seen nothing!" — Ezekiel 13: 1-3. EZEKIEL was, perhaps, one of the least of the prophets in genins, but he was surely one of the greatest in vision. He lived in view of the open heavens. He was among prophets, what Michael Angelo was among artists. Vast and colossal in his imagery, majestic in his diction, copious in fancy, he often transcends in his ideas the powers of language and hence is difficult to understand. He gives free scope to his imagination and expands his images; crowding with grand conceptions and enriching with exquisite touches his magnificent cartoons of prophesy. A firm, unflinching and faithful obedience to every word of the Lord was a constant habit of his life. With the simplicity of a child and the earnestness of a hero, he did whatever he was bidden to do. Called to do things which he could not understand, to endure that which was terrible to flesh and blood, yet he obeyed without question. He was bidden to take a tile and portray upon it the city of Jerusalem and lay mimic siege to it, and build a fort and cast up a mound; bidden to lie down upon his left side and then on his right side for ' many days ; bidden to make barley bread in a vessel and eat of it ; bidden to cut ofl his hair and weigh it in balances ; bidden to bring forth his goods out of his house, in the sight of the people and remove them to another place. Things trivial and strange and hard, he was commanded to do and these had a divine meaning and were signs and witnesses to the people. He acted as well as spake in parables, and these not out of Ms own heart but in strict obedience to God's commands. At one time the word of the Lord came to him; saying. ''Son of man, behold I take away from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke; yet neither shalt thou mourn nor
weep, neither shall thy tears ran down; forbear to cry and make no moTirning for the dead.'^ This command seemed so stern and hard; his heart was gushing with husbandly love; the loss of the dearest companion of his life was delnging his sonl with grief. Bnt even this he endured at God's command without a mnTmur or a tear. His words at the time are the words of a martyr: "So I spake nnto the people in the morning and at even my wife died, and I did in the morning as I was commanded.^' Obedience in word and act was the keynote of his life. Obedience when it seemed useless, obedience ia the strangest and minntest particnlars, obedience thongh it involved self-denial m his dearest affections, even to the very crncinxion of his heart. On the ceiliag of the Sistine Chapel in Piorae. Michael Angelo has pictured the prophet Ezekiel standing with the npper part of his body bent forward, the right hand stretched ont as if in the act of demonstration, holding in. the left hand an nnroUed parchment; it is as if one saw the thonghts chasing each other in his mind. One characteristic of Ezekiel's message is that thongh in exile in a foreign land and living in a period of disintegration, he points to a better time in the fntore for God's chosen people. Eebnktng them for their false expectations of deliverance, he severely denonnces those false prophets who have not received the word of the Lord, bnt have prophesied their own heart's desire. "And the word of the Lord came nnto me, saying. Son of man prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thon nnto them that prophesy ont of their own hearts. Hear ye the word of the Lord; Thns saith the Lord God; Woe nnto the foolish prophets that f oUow their own spirit and have seen nothing.^^ In the text God speaks to the prophet. God is a person. Men often speak of God as impersonal. Impersonal terms are nsed snch as Providence, Xatnral Law, First Canse. Bnt withont person-
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ality there can be no character, and a God without a character is no God at all. In the Bible, God is always represented as a person. Do not be afraid of anthropomorphism; it is truer than pantheism. God speaks, he hears, he creates, he destroys, he loves, he pities. Man was created in his image and likeness, and personality is a characteristic of that image. We come to know something of God by knowing man. We form our ideas of God^s power, his justice, his pity, his love, by knowing these qualities in man. Love is the fullest expression of God^s character, for God is love. We know what human love is. Take the most perfect example of human love; love long continued, sensitive, forgiving, self-sacrificing, and raise it to the highest possible intensity, make it infinite, clothe it with infinite power, infinite wisdom, infinite holiness, and then we say, "that is what God is." God is not a mere abstract principle, not a name for the moral order of the universe, not an inscrutable force, not merely "a power not ourselves which makes for righteousness," he is a person who knows and can be known, who loves and can be loved, in whose life we share and in communion with whom we can find rest. "God is law, say the wise, O soul! and let us rejoice, For if he thunder by law. The thunder is still his voice. Speak to him, thou, for he hears. And spirit with spirit may meet. Closer is he than breathing, Nearer than hands and feet." Yes, God is a person; omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, righteous, holy, merciful, brighter than the light, more patient and pitiful than motherhood — the infinite loving Father. It was such a God who in the beginning created the heavens and the earth. It was such a God who made man in his own image and likeness. It was such a God who, on Mt. Sinai, gave to Moses those ten living words. It was such a God whose word came to Ezekiel and to all the prophets. It was such a God who so loved the world
EZEKIEL AND THE WORD. 569 that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but should have everlasting life. It is such a God who speaks to us and whose messengers we are. In the text God speaks to man who is his image and child, and hence can hear and understand his word. The Bible makes frequent allusion to the dignity of man^s nature. Created in God's image and likeness and destined for eternal companionship with him, man bears the signature divine. Great things are possible to him. Seasoning which approaches the quality of revelation ; service which omnipotence alone can exceed ; love which finds its life in self-sacrifice; purity which approximates the holiness of God. Man's highest endowment is a nature which he shares with God, by which communication with God is possible. There is that in man which recognizes God's word and responds to it. The laws of God and the attributes of his character commend themselves to man's thought and judgment. I hear the voice of God in his word and I know that he is speaking to me. I hear the same voice, though less distinctly, in nature, and these voices find an echo in my own soul. "I recognize the voice in the echo; the echo makes me sure of the voice; I listen and I know." In the text we are told that the word of the Lord came to the prophet and that word was a message to the children of men. • The word of the Lord is God in self-revelation. The infinite, the unseen, the unknown God reveals himself when he speaks. In the time of the prophets, the word of the Lord came continually to men. It came now in dreams and visions, now by angels, now by divine illumination. That word finally came by Jesus Christ. "God who in many parts and many ways, spake unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son." "The word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and
truth." When John the Baptist was asked, who he was, he replied: "I am a voice." So every prophet was a voice by which the word of the Lord was spoken. Every true preacher must receive his message as a communication from God, and the constant purpose of his life
570 AMERICAN BAPTIST PULPIT. must be to deliver that message clearly, fully, tenderly and uncorrnpted. It is he who has been alone with God, who has seen the heavens open, who has heard and is aware of an authentic voice, who has caught gleams of things unspeakable; it is he who is commanded to speak to men of his heavenly vision. "Why should men listen to the preacher, why heed his message concerning the great questions of life unless the word of the Lord has come to him ; unless his teaching is introduced by a "thus saith the Lord?" The text says, "Woe unto the prophets whom the Lord hath not sent, who prophesy out of their own hearts, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing." From having seen something, from a genuine knowledge of God, the preacher ftiust be able to declare that which he has looked upon and his hands have handled of the word of life. That word which has passed through the alembic of the preacher's own experience and has become a real transaction between himself and God, will always be powerful. Every preacher's creed should be like Peter's, of which the Master said, "Elesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven." A real creed is a Christian's statement of what God has revealed to him. The personal element is an important part of every creed. Our creeds enlarge as our experiences and revelations deepen. The creed forms of the early centuries are like the "arrested growths" of the naturalists. They are like earthworks of defense from which the soldiers of Christ have advanced or retreated as God's unfolding revelations have demanded. The end of theology is not yet reached. Obituary is not yet in order. Whatever any man has received from the Lord, that the
world needs and ought to hear. But he who speaks In the name of the Lord must not only have a firm conviction of the reality and value of the truth he holds, but he must hear the command, "Go and tell my people." Before utterance, the word must burn within and demand expression by a divine compulsion. Forty-five times does the prophet Ezekiel say "the word of the Lord came unto me." It came to him continually and it still comes to God's messengers. The Holy Spirit still and continually inspires men to speak the things of God. There is a Testament newer than the New Testament,
EZEKIEL AND THE WORD. 571 for God has not ceased to speak and reveal himself to men. There is a Bible older and newer and larger than this sacred book, a Bible which includes all God's words to men and his revelations of himself to them. "Slowly the Bible of the race is writ, Beside on paper leaves and leaves of stone; Each age, each kindred adds a verse to it, Texts of despair or hope, of joy or moan. While swings the sea, while mists the mountains shroud, While thunder's surges burst on cliffs of cloud, Still at the prophet's feet the nations sit." The preacher is an ambassador from God to men; he brings a message from the King of Heaven and speaks in his name. But 'Voe nnto the foolish preachers who speak out of their own heart, and follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing." Therefore, "Thus saith the Lord, because ye have spoken vanity and seen lies, therefore behold I am against you, saith the Lord.'' The true prophet must have the word of the Lord incarnated in his own life. He is to live as well as speak. Jesus the Christ was the Logos, the word who was in the beginning with God and was God. He^ not only spake the word of the Lord, but he was that word. He was what he preached. Says Dr.
Bushnell, "It was not Jesus' look, nor his declamation, nor his fine periods, nor yet his precious weight of matter ; but it was the sacred exhalation of his quality, the aroma, the auroral glory of his person. He took the human person to exhale the atmosphere of God, that should fill and finally renew creation, bathing all times and climes and ages with its dateless irradicable power." The preacher of Christ must have in clear vision the outlines of the divine person, and look into that wonderful face until its lineaments are distinct; he must observe the actions of that life until every sphere of conduct is illuminated, and he thus learns what our lives should be to-day. ISTo man who makes Christ the mere frontispiece of his ministry can be a true preacher. Christ must be his Alpha and Omega, his theme, his ideal, his inspiration, his joy, and his exceeding great reward. It is one thing to know about the Lord ; it is quite
572 AMERICAN BAPTIST PULPIT. another thing to know him. It is he who has that intimacy which Nathaniel had with the Messiah under the fig tree, who is prepared to announce him to the world as the Son of God and the King of Israel. "First seek thy Savior out and dwell Beneath the shadow of his roof Till thou hast scanned his features well, And know him for the Christ by proof. Then potent with the spell of heaven Go and thine erring brother gain, Entice him. home to be forgiven Till he, too, see his Savior plain." It was after his resurrection and Just before his ascension that onr Lord said to his disciples, "as my Father hath sent me, even so send I yon. And he breathed upon them and said unto them, ^^Eeceive ye the Holy Spirit.'^ Oh, the high calling in this world of the man to whom the Lord says "as my Father hath sent me, even so send I yon." Is every true minister a Messiah sent as Christ
was sent to utter the word of the Lord and to have that word incarnated in his life? If, as Milton says, "the life of every true poet mnst itself be a poem," must not every trne preacher be an embodiment of that gospel which he preaches ? If the first question as to the gospel is, "What is the word of the Lord ?" the second question is — and it follows hard after the first — "who is he who dares claim to bring a message from God to man ?" What the preacher is, determines in the end the effect of his teachings. He to whom the word of the Lord has come, who has tasted and handled the word of life, who has been transformed in character by the admission of that word into his own soul, — such a hallowed personality becomes a sweet channel through which the life-giving spirit of God flows to the souls of dying men. When the preacher can say "It is no longer I, but Christ who dwelleth in me," when the words of divine love come from a Christly character; such words will carry conviction and certainly will not fall useless to the ground. He who has seen but little, has little to tell. He who has received little has little to
EZEKIEL AXD THE TVOED. 573 give. It is Bishop Westcott who said^ ^"Our personal knowledge of Grod, his presence with ns and in ms, is more than any endowment or rather it includes all endowments in its potency and is necessary for all that they may be beneficent/' David Hnme^ the skeptic, after hearing John Brown, of Haddington, preach said, "That man means what he says; he speaks as if Jesus Christ were at his elbow/-' It is more to be desired than anything else in the Christian ministry, that we may have such communion with God, such a sense of the reality of eternal things, that men shall see that we are intensely in earnest. This earnestness is not shown in noisy declamation, but in tenderness and sympathy. Said W.E. Gladstone to a young minister, ''TToung man, with such a theme as you have, you should be ashamed that there is not more feeling and enthusiasm and sympathy in your preaching.^^ I have read that a certain woman came to an eminent English barrister to ask him to plead a case for her. EJuowing that he was
a man of great learning, and thinking that it was important to make a good impression, she prepared what she had to say very carefully, thought it out and committed it to memory so that there should not be a word misplaced. She then went before the barrister and told her story. Her statement of her case was so precise, so icily regular, so coldly exact, that when she had finished it, he said to her impatiently, "Madam, I do not believe a word you say." She was astonished and burst into tears, and then out of the fullness of her heart, she told her story again, and then he said, ^^ow I believe you," and he won the case for her. In the one case it was art and in the other it was heart, and the latter will succeed where the former fails. Earnestness and tenderness become a redeemed man who in God's name offers redemption to others. He who thus speaks from personal experience, possesses an authority which is able to convince and master. He speaks with the certitude of knowledge: a knowledge gained in communion where angels veil their faces and man falls to the earth before the vision of the Eisen One. TVe are alive as we live in Christ. We are mighty through him. Living in his fellowship, walking in his light, encouraged by his
574 AMERICAN BAPTIST PULPIT. voice, upheld by his arm, soothed by his love, repaid by his smile. Let us listen reverently for the word of the Lord, and when it comes to ns, let ns declare it lovingly and tenderly to dying men. Let "lis in public and in private, in season and ont of season, tell the things which God hath done and hath revealed to ns. Let ns preach a positive Gospel. "He that hath a dream let him tell a dream,'^ but our own word is not a dream but a revelation. "He that hath a philosophy, let him tell a philosophy" but onrs is not a philosophy, but a message from God to men. He that hath a "wish" or a "hope," let him tell it as such, but ours is a divine revelation. Chrises words to ns are final and close the case. It is not for ns to prove God true, nor to apologize for onr message. It is not for us to prop up the cross lest it fall, but simply to point men to it and to him who hung thereon. Let us be anxious, not so much for a
"wider hope" as for a more perfect consecration, a more earnest effort and a more sublime faith. Let us have faith in the truth, for truth is the thought of God. Let us be optimists. What if Judson does labor seven years without a convert; if God has sent him, he wants him there and will give him succeses. Let us tell the story of that "mystery of Godliness, God manifest in the flesh," the gracious offering of an infinite sacrifice — a propitiation for the sins of the whole world. Let us with all the earnestness of loving, grateful hearts, tell of perfect reconciliation between God and man, tell of newness and holiness of life, tell of everlasting salvation by him "in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." With eyes fixed upon the future glory, let us rejoice in hope. Ours is not a failing cause. Our divine Lord is with us and all power in heaven and in earth is given unto him. The brighter days are dawning. I see the eastern sky all aglow with the crimson and gold of sunrise. We are in the morning of the twentieth century, and as I listen to-night I hear the bugle notes of the coming years sounding across the mountains and filling our ears and hearts with their sweet music. "We are living, we are dwelling In a grand and awful time, In an age on ages telling,
ZZIKIZL A^"D THE WORD. STS I believe the -hvenTieTli cennirv will be better than the nineteenth has been — a cenniry of purer faith, of nobler zeah of tenderer love. The time is coming when God will give the heathen to his Son for an inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession ; when the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea ; when the kingdom of this world shall become the kingdom of Christ. But yon and I, my brother; what ^h:.!! — e do? Oh that each of us may have a share in bringing a-; y;/: t^is majestic consummation. Each in his place, speaking the word of
the Lord which comes to us. doing the work which he gives us to do, with full faith in the caption of our salvation, let us rejoice and press forward. Let us not be weary nor discouraged. "We shall soon drop out of sight and be forgotten, but the work will go on and success is sure. '¦'Others shall sing the sons. Otliers shall right the wrong,. Finish what vre begin, And all we fail ci. win. What matter we or they ? Ours or another : ;¦;-So the right To:r.'. V- ,aid And life the sweeter made. Ring, bells in tmreared steeples, The ioT of unborn peoples : Sound trumpet, far off blown : Your tritimph is otir own."' 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books 2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000
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