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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Ezekiel 9

 

 

Verse 4

DISCOURSE: 1099

DUTY AND BENEFIT OF MOURNING FOR SIN

Ezekiel 9:4. And the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.

THERE is in the minds of ungodly men an atheistical idea, that God “does not regard” the actions of men; and that, as to any interference in their concerns, “he has forsaken the earth.” This was a common sentiment among the Jews [Note: Ezekiel 8:12; Ezekiel 9:9.]; and it practically obtains to a vast extent amongst us. To imagine that God notices such trifling matters as those which occupy our minds, is supposed to derogate from his honour. But God is omnipresent and omniscient; the minutest as well as the greatest things are all equally present to his all-seeing eye; and every thing is noticed by him with an especial view to a future day of retribution. This is particularly stated in the whole of the preceding chapter. The elders of Israel who were at Jerusalem were given to idolatry; but they were extremely anxious to conceal their practices from the eyes of men: hence they performed their idolatrous rites in some secret chambers of the temple, which they had enclosed with a wall in order to a more effectual concealment. But God in a vision pointed out to his prophet, who was at Babylon, every thing that was transacted in the temple at Jerusalem: and, after having given him many successive and more enlarged views of the abominations that were committed there, issued an order to the angels who had charge over the city, “to go forth and slay” the offenders; but strictly prohibited them from coming near to any person to whom these abominations had been a source of grief, and who had, in consequence of that, been “marked in the forehead” by a person expressly commissioned for that purpose [Note: Read the whole preceding chapter, as connected with the text.].

Though the whole of this was a vision, it was, in fact, a just representation of the distinction which God would make between the persons who were guilty of idolatry, and those who lamented its prevalence among them: and it may serve to shew us, in a very instructive way,

I. The character of the Lord’s people—

Sin is “that abominable thing which God hates:” and, as it prevailed to an awful extent at that day, so abominations of every kind yet prevail—

[They prevail in the world at large. We speak not now of the evils that are visible to all, but of those which are of a more hidden nature. In every order of society there are peculiar and appropriate evils, justified perhaps by those who commit them, yea possibly dignified with the name of virtues, which yet are an utter “abomination in the sight of God.” Were all the intrigues of the ambitious, the wantonness of the licentious, the deceits of the covetous, the characteristic arts of every class of sinners, exposed to view, what a mass of iniquity should we behold! Yet God beholds it all; a mass which infinitely exceeds our highest conceptions, and which none but God himself could endure to behold.

They prevail also, we regret to say it, even in the Church of God. It was amongst those who professed the worship of the true God, that all those abominations were practised in the Temple at Jerusalem: and we know that many lamentable evils were found in the Churches that were planted by the Apostles themselves. Can we wonder, then, if at this time tares be growing up with the wheat? It were vain to deny that there are many who dishonour their holy profession, and give sad occasion to the enemies of religion to blaspheme that name whereby we are named. The pride, intolerance, and overbearing conceit of Diotrephes may yet be found, amidst high professions of superior zeal and sanctity. Who has ever looked into the interior of religious societies, and not seen the same undue preference to some preachers, and contempt of others, as disgraced the Corinthian Church in the days of Paul? Who has not discovered many a Demas, who “loves this present world,” and foregoes his spiritual advantages with a view to increase his gains [Note: 2 Timothy 4:10.]? It would be well if even the base crimes of falsehood, and overreaching, and dishonesty were not sometimes found in the skirts of those who would be thought to have kept their garments clean; yea, if intemperance also and uncleanness did not give the lie to their profession. But the more we inspect the sanctuary of God, the more we shall see occasion for humiliation and grief on account of many, who “have a name to live, but are dead;” and who, through their misconduct, “cause the way of truth to be evil spoken of.” And such may well expect that “judgment shall begin with them [Note: Compare ver. 6. with 1 Peter 4:17.].” We need scarcely add, that evils prevail also in the heart even of true believers. Paul himself confessed, that there was “a law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and sometimes bringing him into captivity to the law of sin in his members:” and the more conversant we are with our own hearts, the more we shall bewail our innumerable short-comings and defects. Our impatience, our distrust of God, our unbelief, our obduracy, our sloth, our coldness in duties, our sad mixture of principle even in our better actions; our want of love to the Saviour, our want of compassion for our fellow-creatures, our want of zeal for God; alas! alas! our want of every thing that is good, may well make the very best of us “sigh and cry,” and, like Paul, to account ourselves “less than the least of all saints,” or rather as “the chief of sinners.”]

To bewail these abominations is characteristic of every child of God—

[Hear how Moses lamented them in his day [Note: Deuteronomy 9:18-19.]: how David also [Note: Psalms 119:53; Psalms 119:136.], and Ezra, bewailed them [Note: Ezra 9:3; Ezra 9:5.]: what extreme heaviness the Apostle Paul felt in his soul on this account [Note: Romans 9:1-2.]; and especially in relation to those very evils which we have specified as obtaining amongst the professing people of God [Note: Philippians 3:18-19.]! And where is the saint in all the Bible who did not “groan within himself” on account of the burthen of his own in-dwelling corruptions [Note: Romans 8:23.]? The more any person knows of God and of his own soul, the more disposed he is to say with Job, “Behold, I am vile [Note: Job 40:4.]!”

Before we proceed to the second point for our consideration, let us examine ourselves, whether these things are a burthen to us, yea, our chief burthen [Note: Zephaniah 3:18. Jeremiah 13:17. Romans 7:24.]? — — — We have no pretensions to true religion, any farther than we answer to this character of mourners on account of sin — — —]

From marking thus minutely the character of the Lord’s people, we proceed to notice,

II. Their privilege—

God sets a mark on every one of his people, a mark on their foreheads, whereby they are infallibly known to him, and shall assuredly be screened from the destroying angels. They shall be protected,

1. Here—

[The deliverance of Noah from the Deluge, and of Lot from Sodom, shews not only what deliverances God can vouchsafe to his chosen people, but what may be expected by all who mourn over, and labour to counteract, the abominations that are around them [Note: 2 Peter 2:5-9.]. In Babylon, God interposed to effect a literal accomplishment of this prophetic vision; obtaining liberty for Jeremiah, and others of his believing people, whilst the unbelieving part were visited with the heaviest calamities [Note: Jeremiah 15:11; Jeremiah 39:11-12.]. And at the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, the disciples of Christ were rescued, as it were by miracle, from all the horrors of the siege, whilst their unhappy and devoted brethren were left to experience such troubles as never came upon any other nation under heaven.

But, if God do not see fit to exempt his people from the calamities that fall on others, he will so support them under their trials, and so sanctify to them their afflictions, that they shall be constrained to say, “It was good for them to have been afflicted.” He will enable them to “glory in tribulations,” and to “take pleasure in distresses,” as fruits of his paternal love, and as means of furthering in their souls the purposes of his grace.]

2. Hereafter—

[The seal which God has set in their foreheads will distinguish them from all others, as clearly as sheep are distinguished from goats. Nor will there be any danger of mistake in any instance whatever. In Egypt the destroying angel did not smite one house whereon the blood of the Paschal lamb was sprinkled; nor will the judgments of God fall on one individual, who has laid to heart the abominations of Israel. “God has set them apart for himself;” and for him they shall be preserved. No evil shall be “come near to him who has the mark in his forehead.” Whilst “fire and brimstone are rained” down upon all others without distinction, these will be safely lodged in God’s holy mountain, beyond the reach or possibility of harm.]

Address—

1. To those who think lightly of sin—

[By many it is thought a mark of weakness to sigh and cry for the sins of others, or even for our own [Note: See their character drawn: Amos 6:1; Amos 6:3; Amos 6:5-6.]. But let those who have such light thoughts of sin, consider what sin has done, in this world, and especially in the world to come. What innumerable evils have existed, and do yet exist, throughout the world! yet is there not one in the whole creation, which is not the fruit of sin. And if we could obtain one sight of those dreary mansions, where fallen angels, together with all who have perished in their sins, abide; or could hear but one groan of a damned soul; we should no more account sin a light matter: no indeed, it is “fools only, who make a mock at sin.” If this do not suffice, let such an one consider, what has been done to expiate sin. Go, sinner, to Gethsemane, go to Calvary, and contemplate the agonies and death of your incarnate God; and then say, Whether sin be not a tremendous evil, for which no sighs or tears can ever be sufficient? But, without extending our thoughts to subjects so much beyond our reach, let us only observe what have been the feelings of persons when once they were brought to a just sense of their sins: let us hear the bitter lamentations of Peter, or the heart-rending cries of the converts on the day of Pentecost; and we shall no longer doubt what ought to be our views of sin, by whomsoever it may have been committed, whether by ourselves or others. Sure we are, that in the last day there will be no diversity of sentiment respecting this: the glorified saints, and the condemned sinners, will have but one view of this matter, O that now, even now, the judgment of every one amongst us might be rectified; and that, before another day, God might see reason to set his mark upon us, as “mourners in Zion!”]

2. To those who answer to the character described in our text—

[Persons who sigh and cry on account of sin, are apt to yield too much to desponding fears. But they have in reality abundant cause for joy and gratitude: for if, on the one hand, they be greatly burthened on account of sin, they have, on the other hand, reason to rejoice that sin is their burthen. Instead of being in so deplorable a state as they imagine, they are in a state most pleasing to God, and most profitable to themselves. So pleased is God with those “who are poor and of a contrite spirit,” that his eyes are fixed upon them with the utmost complacency and delight [Note: Isaiah 66:2.]: and the Lord Jesus, the Judge of quick and dead, repeatedly declares them blessed [Note: Matthew 5:3-4.]. Let not any one therefore be dejected because of the depths of depravity which he sees within him; but let him rather conclude, that God has discovered to him these hidden abominations; and let him beg of God to give him a clearer and fuller insight into them; that so his humiliation may he more deep, his faith more simple, his gratitude more lively, and his devotedness to God more entire. Nor let any one be afraid of seeing thus the corruptions of his heart: for, if only our self-knowledge drive us to Christ, and endear him to our souls, it will prove a source of every virtue; of contrition, of fear, of dependence on Christ, of love to his name, and of zeal for his glory. A sense of our necessities will make us cry unto him for the gift of his Spirit; and by that Spirit we shall be “sealed unto the day of redemption,” and “rendered meet for our heavenly inheritance.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Ezekiel 9:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/ezekiel-9.html. 1832.

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