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EZEKIEL 18:23.

DEAR BRETHREN BEEBE & PURINGTON: - Having been lately requested by a modern Missionary Baptist Preacher of Madison County, through a physician of this county, I proceed to write something in connection with Ezek.18:23, which reads as follows, “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD; and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” That all may at once see who are spoken of, and the nature of this wickedness, I will quote from Ezek.33:11, where the same wicked people are spoken to, “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” None can be at a loss to understand that the wicked spoken of were confined to the house of Israel or national church, and not to the surrounding nations or the world of mankind at large. The wicked of them were then, like the wicked who profess to be of the house of God’s spiritual Israel, or gospel church, are now boasting of the equality of their own ways, while they are impiously charging God with being unequal in his ways, or doings, for though they have departed from, or never knew the doctrine of the cross of Christ, and are positively teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, when they are plainly pointed out and described in God’s word, and are complained of in their self-confident course they speak loudly and say, “What have we done so much against thee? Our ways are equal, for we are laboring devotedly for the salvation of the world, and do believe it can be accomplished by the proper use of means, such as gold and silver, enough to support a sufficiency of ministers, to preach to all the world, and our way are so equal that we offer to all a chance of salvation, if they will use the means. Therefore, we say to all sinners, that God has no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but rather that you would turn and live. Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die, seek ye the Lord, and call ye upon him while he is near, for they that seek him early shall find him. This appears to us equal and right, and if the Lord God will confine this, only to his elect or chosen ones, his ways are unequal and wrong.” Surely, surely, God will bring such presumptuous complainers to realize the just reward of their iniquity. The national Israel of God was a typical people, his peculiar and chosen people, the law was given them immediately by God himself through Moses. It was confined to that nation, their living and posterity depended upon their obedience, while to disobey that law brought down upon them the most severe judgments, and frequently death upon great quantities; sometimes by famine, sometimes by pestilence, or by being pursued and overcome by enemies of surrounding nations. The whole system was a conditional one; the salvation realized by obedience, and the punishment for disobedience, was all confined to this world, and had nothing to do with eternal salvation or everlasting punishment. To obey constituted them righteous, according to the law, while to disobey constituted them wicked. The offerings made once a year by their high priests, were only for sins behind the time of offering, and only went to the purifying of the flesh, were outward in the flesh, and had nothing to do with purging the conscience from dead works, or with preparing those who received the benefits of those offerings, for heaven and eternal glory. The Apostle in showing the difference between this righteousness, which is of the law, and that which is by faith of Jesus Christ, speaks or writes as follows: Rom.10:5-9, “For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? {that is, to bring Christ down from above;} or, Who shall descend into the deep? {that is, to bring up Christ again from the dead.} But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Again, Phil.3:9, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Here both are spoken of; the first Paul calls his own righteousness which is of the law, and which he received and maintained by obedience to the law, securing to him temporal life and prosperity as a national Israelite, but never prepared him for heaven, nor purged his conscience from dead works to serve the living God, but he was still condemned, because he was a descendant from fallen Adam, and yet an enemy to God and his people; but the last was immediately the gift of God, imputed to him without his works, through our Lord Jesus Christ, cleansing him from all unrighteousness, and preparing him for enjoyment with the saints or gospel church, and eventually for the eternal world of glory. These wicked Israelites had incurred the penalty of God’s righteous law, and though God had no pleasure in their death, yet it was his pleasure to maintain the honor and dignity of his law in executing its penalty, even if they must die, as the just reward of their iniquity. Yet the Lord God having no pleasure in the death of any but that all should turn again, {or come back to original innocence, not the innocence Adam had before his transgression, but that which they had before they departed from the law given by Moses,} from their wickedness and live. In mercy says, “Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways, for why will ye die, O house of Israel.” The house of Israel nationally, does in some sense figuratively represent the gospel church or spiritual Israel of God, for as they received the law immediately from God, written upon tables of stone, even so every spiritual Israelite, receives immediately from God his law written in the fleshly table of their heart, whereby they are made free from the law of sin and death, and during their whole pilgrimage in this world, there is a salvation or deliverance realized by obedience, and punishment for disobedience, so that truly they shall eat the fruit of their doings. But as the reward of the doings of national Israel was confined to this world, even so it is with spiritual Israel; for beyond all contradiction, salvation or deliverance from under the law of sin and death, and its curse, and the gift of righteousness, justifying the ungodly before God, and preparing them for the eternal heaven above, is unconditional or entirely without the works of mortals, either before or after they believe. For this salvation, no good works that believers perform are essential, but good works are essential to the enjoyment of saints in the privileges of the church in her militant state, and that they may let their light shine before men, and thereby glorify their Heavenly Father, and enjoy the answer of a good conscience before God, which is of great price. Even so works of disobedience by neglecting duties, or works called religious, not commanded or authorized by the King of saints, are essential or effectual in distressing such as love God, in letting loose the rein of discipline, throwing open the doors and crowding professed churches with nominal professors to the encouragement of pride and bigotry, making religion a mere matter of worldly traffic and merchandise. If any of God’s children have fallen in ranks with such, the text should be strictly adhered to, by your doings; for why will ye die? I have hastily expressed some views which I think consistent with the text, with no hope that any who have not the mind of Christ, or spirit of the gospel, will for one moment receive, or believe what I have written; but will continue to plead self-justification, and pursue their former course. But hoping that it may be instructive and profitable to all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.

D.W. Patman.
Oglethorpe Co., Georgia, July 10, 1860.