Exposition of the doctrines of grace (2. Introduction to evening session)
Suggested Reading: Ezekiel 37:1–14
There are some who say, ‘To what purpose after all, is your inviting any to come, when the Spirit of God alone constrains them to come; and why, especially, preach to those whom you believe to be so depraved that they cannot and will not come?’ Just so, this is a serious difficulty to everything except faith. Do you see Ezekiel yonder; he is about to preach a sermon. By his leave, we will stop him. ‘Ezekiel, where are you about to preach?’ ‘I am about,’ says he, ‘to preach to a strange congregation—dead, dry bones, lying in a mass in a valley.’ ‘But, Ezekiel, they have no power to live.’ ‘I know that,’ says he. ‘To what purpose, then, is your preaching to them? If they have no power, and if the breath must come from the four winds, and they have no life in themselves, to what purpose do you preach?’ ‘I am ordered to preach,’ says he, ‘commanded;’ and he does so. He prophesies, and afterwards mounting to a yet higher stage of faith, he cries, ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.’ And the wind comes, and the effect of his ministry is seen in their life. So we preach to dead sinners; so we pray for the living Spirit. So, by faith, do we expect his divine influence, and it comes, not from man, nor of man, nor by blood, nor by the will of the flesh, but from the sovereign will of God. But notwithstanding it comes instrumentally through the faith of the preacher while he pleads with man—‘as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.’
For meditation: The necessary ingredients for a work of salvation are a dead sinner, a loving Father, a crucified and risen Saviour, a life-giving Spirit, and last, but by no means least, the faithful communication of the Gospel. Without it how shall people hear, believe in the Lord and call on him (Romans 10:14)? Remember the God-ordained route to saving faith (Romans 10:17).
Part of nos. 385–8
18 April (Spoken on 11 April 1861)