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REMARKS ON EZEKIEL 18:32 & 33:11.

Covington, GA., June 15, 1860.

The texts upon which our friend L.M. Cook has further requested our views reads as follows, “For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God; wherefore turn yourselves and live ye.” Ez. 18:32. “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.” 33:11.

In reading the Scriptures particular attention should be paid to the subject in its immediate connection relative to the speaker, the character or people addressed, or spoken of, and the peculiar circumstances then existing. The speaker in each of the texts before us, is no other than the Lord Jehovah, and the people addressed are the national people of God. The subject is the same in both texts, and we will treat upon them accordingly. The prophet was a watchman unto the house of Israel, and as such, it was his duty to warn the people. It is specially worthy of notice that Israel was under the Sinai covenant which abounded with rites, ceremonies and carnal ordinances, and no other people under heaven have ever been under such a covenant. It was a conditional covenant, as we have often expressed in our editorial articles, and there was no salvation from sin, death and hell promised in that covenant as the blessings of obedience, nor eternal damnation as the punishment of their transgression. The blessings and judgments which they experienced extended only to this life, and should be so understood. We are aware that legalists and work-mongers who vainly suppose that salvation is optional with them to choose or refuse, construe these Scriptures, as they do many others to their own destruction, but to a careful Bible reader, who is inquiring after truth and who desires to know the truth experimentally, it will be plainly seen that God is speaking, not to gospel characters, but to law characters in our texts. The law dispensation revealed the holiness, purity, majesty and eternal perfection of Jehovah, and Israel being under that written law or covenant, were obliged to work day and night; yea, continually, to satisfy the law in its just requisitions. When they were obedient in an outward sense, they were blessed, when disobedient, they were punished. But the spiritual nature of the law which demanded love to God with all the heart, soul, might, mind and strength, the carnal Jews were ignorant of, like multitudes in our day who contend strenuously for a system of works of their own invention, and oppose the vital principles of the doctrine of Christ based upon the oath and promise of God.

The question arises, what was the nature of the death spoken of that the Lord had no pleasure in? We answer, that it was a state of distress and misery that the Jews brought upon themselves by their own voluntary transgression. And God justly dealt with them according to the nature of the covenant they were under, which was severe punishment for their sins. They reaped the reward of their own folly and wickedness. Sin is the cause of all the misery and distress which is experienced by the human family. And sin is the transgression of the law. The calamities which the Jews or the Israelites were then enduring in the Babylonish captivity, was the consequence of their own wickedness, therefore, God’s way was equal, but theirs was unequal. We have seen instances of persons who have made themselves very miserable by a wicked course of conduct, and have cried out in their distress, but as soon as they are out of misery, they are the same as before. Therefore it is not the Lord’s pleasure, or in other words, it is not pleasing to Him, the death of him that dieth. But the inflexible demand of the law and justice must be executed upon the transgressors.

But Israel was called upon to repent, to cast away from them all their transgressions, whereby they had transgressed; and make them a new heart, and a new spirit; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? The Lord had no pleasure in their death, therefore, he says “turn yourselves and live ye.”

But the general construction of this subject in its use and application is, that the Lord is very desirous to save all the human family with an everlasting salvation, and that provision is made for them all upon certain terms, or conditions to be performed by them. He, therefore, is wooing and beseeching them to come to him, if they will, as it is not his pleasure that any of them should perish, but that all should be saved. Hence, turn yourselves and live ye, or in other words, turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways, for why will ye die. Now if it is the Lord’s will that every son and daughter of Adam should be saved, and He is trying to accomplish His will and pleasure, and is not able to do it because sinners will not turn and repent, He certainly does not possess power to punish them for their sins, and therefore ceases to be the Almighty God of heaven and earth.

But as we before stated the people addressed were the carnal Israelites, and the Lord called upon them to turn from their wicked ways and live. In what sense were they to live? Why they were to live before God in the enjoyment of the blessings promised in the covenant. Those blessings were not spiritual but temporal, such as no other nation on earth ever enjoyed. Therefore it is plain to our understanding that the texts apply alone to National Israel, as they were addressed to that people, and that the life and death spoken of does not refer to their condition after the death of the body. It is a clear case that it was the Lord’s pleasure to punish the Jews for their wickedness in the seventy years captivity in Babylon, but he took no pleasure in their wickedness, nor in the distress or death, they were experiencing. Therefore, He says, as I live I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his wicked way and live.

The Jews returned from their captivity in Babylon, and prospered for a length of time, but become exceeding vile at the time when the Lord Jesus was upon the earth, and as the climax of their wickedness, they crucified the Lord of glory. But their destruction as a nation was foretold by the blessed Redeemer. “Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify, and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.” This had its exact fulfillment upon that people.

We are to learn by the subject before us that God does not countenance or approve of sin or wickedness in any sense of the word. It was so relative to National Israel, as we have already expressed, and therefore we cannot reasonable suppose that He will wink at it, or approve of it among men in general. Whether we speak of it in reference to the voluntary wickedness of nations, communities, or individuals, God will render to every one according to his works.

When we speak of the salvation of the spiritual Israel or elect of God, we speak of another covenant, entirely distinct and separate from the covenant made with National Israel. Hence what a perversion of the Scriptures it is for men to introduce that old conditional covenant, which is done away, and preach it to sinners in reference to salvation. They will take the texts at the head of this article and apply them to sinners destitute of grace, and sometimes bewilder the feeble of the flock with their pernicious sentiments. But the truth is, the promises in the new and everlasting covenant is upon the principle I will and you shall, and are not yea and nay, but are yea and Amen to the glory of God. Ezekiel had a view of this covenant when the Lord spake by him to Israel, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land {the land of gospel rest,} that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.” 36:26-28. Remember this covenant is made with the spiritual Israel of God as expressed by Ezekiel in the 37th chapter inclusive, and by Jeremiah 31:31-34, and substantiated by the testimony of the Apostles. Perishing sinners are saved upon the principle of what God has done for them, and they rejoice in the Sovereignty, Immutability, and Eternal Perfection of Jehovah. Why this hew and cry, therefore against the electing love, and predestinating purpose of God in the salvation of sinners, if the advocates of a conditional system were not trusting in their own works for salvation? Why quote the texts, which we have commented upon, to rebut and confuse inquiring minds after the truth, if they did not rely upon their own power and ability to save themselves, or to do something towards it? They will argue that sinners are guilty before God, but the idea that sinners are already lost and condemned in the transgression of the first Adam, and that the wrath of God abideth upon them, they ignore and utterly reject. And that it is by grace through faith, without works, in point of merit and justification, they do not believe.

The deplorable ignorance of men upon the great subject of gospel truth will never be removed only as it is the pleasure of God to remove it. And to suppose that God is not able to accomplish his will and pleasure, when it is expressly said, that he worketh all things after the counsel of his will, or the good pleasure of his will, is to detract from his Power, Wisdom, Holiness, Truth and Justice. And his predestinating or determinate purpose of love and mercy relative to his people, will certainly be accomplished, for there can be no accident, or fortuitous circumstance to intervene in the accomplishment of his will and pleasure. And to suppose that God has no predestinating or determinate purpose relative to the wicked, is presumption and folly, when it is expressly declared in the Scriptures that “the Lord hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” Prov. 16:4. And the Lord said to Pharaoh, “And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.” Ex. 9:16. Worms of the dust will, however, say, “Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God,” &c. Rom. 9:19,20. Cavilers and the enemies of truth and righteousness in general, while charging God of injustice and partiality, and of being the author of sin, and of compelling men to sin, and such like expressions, should remember that it is the height of presumption and madness for finite creatures to reply against their Creator and to condemn his ways. The Lord says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isa. 55:8,9. “His way is in the sea, and his path in the great waters, and his footsteps are not known.”

Let the church of God, and all the lovers of truth, and also our friend Cook, be at the feet of Jesus and hear his word, and follow him, and find rest to their souls.

J.L.P.