Ezek. xxxiii. 8. IVhen I say unto the wicked, ivicked wan,
thou shah sure!]/ die! if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked.
from his way, that ivicked man shall die in his iniquity ; hut
his blond will I recjuire at thy hand.
THE office of a Minister is the most important
and most difficult of any that we can be called to
sustain. It is the most important, because the sal-
vation of multitudes depends upon it : and it is the
most difficult, because it requires such self-denying
habits, and spiritual affections. The responsibility
also that attaches to it is such, that no man would
dare to take it upon himself, if he had not a promise
of peculiar assistance in the discharge of it. Mini-
sters are the messengers of God to men : to them
they must faithfully declare his whole counsel : how-
ever painful the truths may be which they are to de-
liver, and however averse men may be to hear them,
they must execute their commission at the peril of
their souls. To this effect God speaks in the words
before us : in which we may notice,
I. What God saith to the wicked —
It is scarcely possible to conceive a more solemn
declaration than that before us ; "I say unto the
wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die !"
1. Who are the people addressed —
[These are all who do not unfeignedly turn from sin to God.
It matters not whether they be rich or poor, old or young, learned
or unlearned. In some sense, it matters not whether then- sins
have heen more or less heinous : for though there certainly are
degrees of guilt, and some are more wicked than others, yet all
are Avicked, who are not following after God in righteousness and
true holiness ; and consecjuently, all such persons, however their
characters may vary in other respects, are addressed in the text.]
2. The declaration of God unto them —
[Death is here denounced as the judgn,ent to be inilicted on
all who turn not to their God : and to the same effect the Inspired
Writ;ers uniformly speak*. or are we at a loss to determine what
is nieant by " death:" it is the wrath of God'', the misery of
hell*". This is the judgment that will come upon every individual
who shall be found in the state l)efore dcscrilied. God may be
considered as addreLssiug himself to every individual of the human
race; " O thou wicked man !" or is this fatal result of vvick-
edjiess expressed in doubtful terms : there is no peradventuie; the
* Isai. iii. 1 1. Rr,m. vi. 23. Jam i. 14, 15.
' Uom. i. 18. ' Kc\. xxi. 3.
190 EZEKIEL, XXXITI. 8. [585.
decree is fixed; '^Thou shalt surely die !" Who can reflect on
these words as proceeding from a God of infinite power and of
inviolable truth, and not tremble ?]
3. The condition implied in that declaration —
[If there were no condition implied in the declaration, it
would have been to no purpose to make known the declaration
itself; since it could have no other effect than to torment men
before their time. But as in the message to ineveh, " that in
forty days ineveh should be overthrown," there was an implied
condition, that, if they repented, the threatened vengeance should
be withheld ; so, in this case, there is an implied assurance, that
the wicked, if they will repent, shall not die. And this is ex-
pressly stated in the following context*^: so that, awful as this
passage is, it is no less encouraging than it is awful ; because it
assures the contrite and believing sinner that he shall never
Together with this warning, we see in the text,
II. The necessity imposed on Ministers to pro-
claim it —
Ministers are described as watchmen, or sentinels,
placed at a distance from the camp to give notice of
the enemy's approach. ow this very character
marks both their duty and their responsibility. But
the consequences of neglect in any Minister are de-
clared in two respects :
1. The person whom he neglects to warn, will
perish — •
[If through the sloth or treachery of the sentinels a camp
be surprised at midnight, nothing but confusion and ruin can en-
sue. Thus, if a person appointed to warn the wicked, neglect
to do so, the wicked will continue regardless of their impending
doom, till it is too late to avert it. And when the hour of venge-
ance is come, it will be to no purpose to say, *' I was not aware
of my danger ; my Minister has betrayed me." o ; the wicked
have means of information within their own reach, independent
of their Ministers ; and they have secret intimations in their own
consciences that they ought to repent : and therefore they must
take the consequences of their own wickedness ; " they must die
in their iniquity." How awful is this effect of one Minister's su-
pineness ! Alas ! that hundreds, and perhaps thousands, should
perish eternally, when, if he had warned them faithfully, they
might have been saved for ever 1]
2. He
•* ver. 14—16.
585.1 ministers' OFFICE AD RESPOSIBILITY. 191
2. He himself also will be dealt with as the author
of that sinner's destruction —
[As a sentinel who, by neglecting to give notice of the ene-
my's approach, occa^il)ned the overthrow of the army to which he
Lciuiij^vtl, would be chargeable with all the consequences of his
neglect, so will the blood of all that perish through the Minister's
neglect " be required at his hand." When they shall all stand
before God, he will ask of the Minister, Why didst thou not warn
that man, and him, and him, and him ? It will be to no pur-
pose to say, " Lord, he was rich, and 1 was afraid of his displea-
sure j" or, " Lord, he was poor, and I overlooked him 3" or,
*' Lord, I was so engaged in business or pleasure, that I never
thought about the souls committed to my charge." o : he mast
answer for every soul that perishes through his means, and must
sink ten -fold deeper into the bottomless abyss than the most guilty
of the people whom he has neglected and betrayed.]
Application —
[After stating these reasons for Ministerial fidelity, we need
make no apology for " warning the wicked from their way:" or
rather, we need apologize for not using far greater plainness of
speech than we have ever yet done.
Hear then, ye wicked, with solemn awe, the voiqe of God to
you. *' O thou wicked drunkard, thou shalt surely die 1" " O
thou wicked whoremonger, thou shalt surely die !" *' O thou
wicked swearer, or sabbath-breaker, thou shalt surely die 1" Is
there any one here that, though free from gross sins, lives in a
neglect of secret prayer ; " O thou wicked man, thou shalt surely
But while we declare these things, we would not be unmindful
of the compassion which is expressed in the very mode in which
God has denounced his judgments ; " O thou wicked man !" This
seems to intimate, that God is grieved for the misery of the wicked,
even while he declares the doom that awaits them. So would we
be ; and the rather, because we ourselves are involved in the same
condemnation, if we do not repent and turn to God.
O then. Brethren, whether ye have committed gross sins or
not, remember that ye all need to humble yourselves before God
as condemned sinners ; ye all need to wash in the fountain of the
Redeemer's blood : ye all need to " turn from your transgressions,
that so iniquity may not be your ruin." O that God may enable
you to accept this warning with all thankfulness ! We have striven,
as it became us, to " deliver our own souls :" the Lord grant that,
in thus endeavouring to " save ourselves, we may be instrumental
to save also those that hear us*^ !"]
* This -may be easily extended to the formalist, the hypocritical
professor, Sec. 'iTim. iv. 16.

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