VIEWS ON EZEKIEL 3:18.

Ulster Co., N.Y.
Feb., 1870.

ELDER G. BEEBE: - Will you please give your views on Ezekiel 3:18. “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.”

R.W.E.

REPLY. The preceding part of this chapter contains an account of the calling, qualifying and special mission of Ezekiel and a very definite statement of the field of his labor. He was sent by the Lord, exclusively to the house of Israel, to his kindred and brethren, and to no other people. “And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them. For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel; not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee. But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me; for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted.” &c.

Israel, to whom Ezekiel was sent, was separated and distinguished from all other nations on earth, as lineal descendants of Abraham, embraced in the covenant of circumcision, and circumcised in the flesh, and held under a covenant of works, which covenant provided temporal rewards of corn, wine, oil, long life in the land of Canaan; with peace, health and security, for their fidelity and strict obedience to the requisitions of the law of carnal commandments which they were under; and for their disobedience, they were to suffer a just recompense of temporal judgments, provided in their law and covenant, of sword, pestilence and famine, and they were to be deprived of providential protection, and ultimately be cut off from being a nation. Under this law, which was given exclusively to the house of Israel, he that despised Moses law, died without mercy, for it was not in the nature or provisions of that covenant to show mercy to transgressors of its precepts. No Gentile alien was required to keep the laws which were given to Israel; nor were they blessed for observing, nor cursed for failing to observe the provisions of the covenants which pertained exclusively to the commonwealth of Israel. No Israelite was entitled to any of the rewards by that law for, or in consideration of being born of the Spirit; for if they were born in Abraham’s house or bought with his money, and were duly circumcised in their flesh, with the circumcision which was made with hands, then they were recognized as members of the house of Abraham, or house of Israel, and legally entitled to all the privileges, and subject to all the penalties provided in that covenant. If a Gentile had come to Moses, or to Aaron, and related a gospel experience, such as now would be a sufficient passport to the fellowship of the saints of the gospel dispensation, it could have gained for him no admission to any of the peculiar provisions of the old covenant, any more than the evidences which the Pharisees and Sadducees brought to John the Baptist, that they had Abraham to their father, could entitle them to gospel baptism. No more grace or spiritual life was required to quality one for recognition in the house of Israel under the old covenant of works than is now required to make an arminian convert, or proselyte to the religion of any of the numerous branches of anti-christ at the present time.

Let it be observed that eternal life was never promised for obedience, nor eternal death threatened for disobedience to the provisions of that law. “For if there had been a law given which could have given life {eternal or spiritual life,} verily righteousness should have been by the law.” Gal. 3:21. “I do not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness come by the law {or old covenant,} then Christ is dead in vain.” Gal. 2:21. And if eternal death had been the consequence of a failure to keep the requisitions of that law, no Gentile could over be saved. From the time we all fell in Adam, the sentence of death has rested on all his posterity, and that death has passed upon all men, for that all have sinned; and from that sentence and death there can be no deliverance but by the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. The organization of the Hebrew nation, the laws, ordinances and covenants given to them, were not given to seal the damnation of any for whom it was given; for all were condemned and under wrath before that law was given; and we are expressly informed, as we have shown, that it was not given to give spiritual life, or with any possibility that by its deeds any man could be justified in the sight of God.

Having been thus particular in showing from the scriptures the real position of the house of Israel, to which Ezekiel was sent to be a watchman, and that the law that they were under in their covenant relation could neither save them from that death which they were under, and which had reigned from Adam to Moses; nor could it inflict as its penalty a repetition of that penalty which they were already under, in common with all the race of mankind, and had been under more than two thousand years before that covenant was made with them; we will now attempt to show that the house of Israel, to whom Ezekiel was made a watchman to speak God’s words, was organized and constituted, with all their laws, rites, ceremonies and priesthood; as a shadow or type of good things which were to come; and in all their history, prefigured the spiritual Israel, which are not Jews outwardly, but inwardly, and whose circumcision is not made with hands, nor outward, in the flesh, but is inwardly, in the heart, and by the spirit, and whose praise is not of men, but of God. Israel in the flesh, typified the children of God. The children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of promise are counted for the seed. In Isaac, who was the child of promise, the true spiritual seed are called. Hence Paul, by inspiration, declares to those of the gospel church, and under the new covenant. “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.” Gal.4:28. Observe this declaration is made of Gentile subjects of grace, who are children of the free woman, not the old Jerusalem in the type, which was in bondage with her children, but of the new Jerusalem, which is above, and is free, and is the mother of all the children of promise. This new Jerusalem is the anti-type of the old Jerusalem; and the gospel church in her organization under the new Covenant is the anti-type of the fleshly tribes of Israel under the old legal covenant. The Levitical priesthood was typical of the priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is made a priest forever, by the power of an endless life; not after the order of Aaron, but after the order of Melchisedec. And the apostle says, “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Heb. 7:12. The law which was under the priesthood of the sons of Levi, and identified with that priesthood, was also typical; for the same inspired writer says, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very {or exact} image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.” Heb.10:1. As the priesthood under that covenant was typical, so was the law, and the covenant which contained it; and so also were all the ordinances, ceremonies and rites thereunto pertaining. The tribes of Israel, in their fleshly generations, as we have shown, prefigured the kingdom of Christ as a spiritual or gospel organization. The old covenant was but a type of the new covenant, or New Testament. The Levitical priesthood and law foreshadowed the priesthood and law of him whose name is the Branch, who shall sit a priest upon his throne, shall build the temple of the Lord, and shall bear the glory. Zech. 6:12,13.

These carnal Israelites were not under a gospel, but a legal, conditional covenant; their temporal prosperity depended on their obedience to the law that was given to them; and the penalties of that law were executed for their disobedience. Ezekiel, not as a gospel minister, but as a vigilant watchman, was sent of God to them, to warn them of the inevitable consequences of disobedience and to speak with God’s words to them. In every case where God had said the offender, or transgressor of that law should surely die, Ezekiel was required to reiterate what God had spoken in his law, and thus to give them warning of what punishment would be inflicted on them if they turned not away from their transgression. For in that conditional covenant, God had said, “When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sins, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered.” This warning Ezekiel was solemnly charged to give to the offender, and if the offender should disregard the warning, the watchman was clear. Indeed the Lord knew beforehand that they would not heed the warnings of the watchman, for they did not heed the voice of God himself. But the prophet was himself also under the same law and conditional covenant, and hence he was admonished, that if he failed to warn the transgressor, that transgressor should suffer the penalty of the law, which was death, but his blood God would require of Ezekiel as the watchman. That is, God would hold him, as a watchman, responsible for the consequence, and he also should die.

The gospel church is organized under a new, a better, and an unconditional covenant, in which God has promised that he will be the God of those whom he has embraced in it, and that they shall be his people. It is a covenant of life, in which there is no death; it is ordered in all things and sure. It provides chastisement in love, for his disobedient children, but a pledge that he will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities he will remember no more. As the former covenant and law was a ministration of death, the new covenant is a ministration of life. Yet, although the two covenants were so dissimilar in their nature and requirements, still the former was typical of the latter.

Leaving now for the present, the typical relation of the old to the new covenant, lest we should extend this article to too great a length, we will endeavor to show that the law of the Levitical priesthood, with its conditions, its pains, penalties and rewards was typical of the laws of the kingdom of Christ under the gospel dispensation. And this point we must necessarily treat in a general way. It is not expedient for us to speak of every precept of the law under which the fleshly tribes was held, and show its distinct bearing in reference to what it prefigured; but a law is indispensable for the discipline of all organized governments. The chosen tribes of national Israel were distinguished from all other nations as God’s peculiar people, and the precepts given for their government were of vital importance in keeping up that distinction. By their law, they were forbidden to intermingle with the nations around about them. So under the new dispensation, the members of the church of God, are by the law of Christ commanded to come out and be separate from all the religious denominations of anti-christ, and to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. As by the law of Moses, every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; so under the gospel a just recompense of reward is inevitable to all the subjects of Christ’s kingdom who transgress the law of Christ. But the delinquents under each covenant were tried, convicted and adjudged by the provisions of the law they were under respectively. “He that despised Moses law, died without mercy, under two or three witnesses.” For there was no mercy provided for them under Moses. Death was the fixed sentence of that law, for disobedience of its precepts. And the offender being duly convicted by the requisite number of witnesses, must be stoned to death, and all Israel were to stone him, and unite in administering the penal sentence of the law. It is true, provisions through that priesthood were made for sin-offerings, and for many of their offences atonement could be made ceremonially, by bringing such offerings and sacrifices to the priest as the law required, when they were duly offered by the consecrated priest, upon a duly consecrated altar. So under the new dispensation, there is a sin that is unto death. We do not say that he who commits shall be prayed for, but for the offences of the people of God, the law of Christ provides, through the priesthood, and one offering of Christ, a deliverance. The law of Christ for the discipline of the church, requires perfect and perpetual obedience. Any member of the church who offends is to be reproved, admonished, and if possible, reclaimed, prayed for, labored faithfully with according to the laws of Christ, and if he cannot be reclaimed he must die, be put to death; not literally, as under Moses, but by expulsion from the fellowship of the saints. In the righteous administration of this sentence, every spiritual Israelite is to participate. The ministers of the gospel who stand as watchmen on the walls of our new and spiritual Jerusalem, are charged to warn the unruly. And in doing so they are to speak with God’s words to the sinners in Zion. And they are held responsible to God for any dereliction from this duty. And so fearful is the responsibility resting on them, that if the disobedient are not warned by those who have the oversight of the flock of God, that if any are cut off from the fellowship of the church whom they have failed to warn; they are themselves by the same law of the kingdom to be adjudged as unfaithful and to suffer the same reward, of expulsion from the fellowship of the church. The minister of Christ, and especially those who occupy the place of pastors or bishops, are to warn the church against all disorder, heresay and disobedience, with all authority and doctrine, and if they neglect to do so, the Lord will remove the candlestick, or church from their charge, and they shall become castaways. That is not what is called falling from grace, for those who are born of God can never be finally lost. But many of them have learned to their sorrow that they can fall from their standing in the church, their usefulness in the ministry, and be denied the peculiar priviledges of the house of God, for their disorderly walk and conversation.

But we may not confine the charge of the ministers of the gospel, who, as having the oversight of the flock of God, are to watch and be sober, but our Lord has said, “Take ye heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye therefore; for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning; lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” Mark 13:33-37. The charge to watch is not confined to pastors or bishops, but all the children of the Kingdom are commanded to put on the whole armor of God, always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. Eph. 6:18. All the saints then, like Ezekiel; or rather as that which is prefigured by the charge given in our text, are called to be watchman to watch over one another, and to pray for one another, to strengthen the feeble, confirm the wavering, and suffer not sin to rest on one another; to warn the unruly and to exhort and admonish each other, and much more as they see the day approaching. But in administering their solemn warnings, they should carefully observe the charge to Ezekiel, to speak only with God’s words. We are to make no new rules, enact no new laws, but remember that the law of the Lord is perfect, and cannot be improved, amended, abridged or added to, lest God shall add to him who shall so offend, the plagues written in his book. Rev. 22:18.

Middletown, N.Y.
March 15, 1870.
Elder Gilbert Beebe