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THE RESURRECTION OF DRY BONES.
“ And he sail unto me, Son of man, can these bones live ? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest."
Ezekiel, 37 : 3.
In the preceding chapter Ezekiel had captive by Nebuchadnezzar, and sent delivered very animated and encoura- back by Cyrus. Undoubtedly, certain ging predictions of the prosperity of individuals, who belonged to the kingthe houses of Israel and Judah. There dom of Israel, were mixed with these is a fulness in these predictions which in captivity and in restoration. But as will scarce admit of our applying them a body, the ten tribes have never yet exclusively to events which have als been restored; so that, if predictions, ready occurred. Ezekiel prophesied which refer to the house of Judah, during the Babylonish captivity; and could be proved accomplished by their we may believe that the words which return home from Babylon, the like he was commissioned to utter, had a account could not be given of those primary reference to the then desolate which have to do with the kingdom of estate of his country and nation. When Israel. he speaks of dispersion and captivity, And if you examine the predictions and when he pours forth announce of Ezekiel in the foregoing chapter, ments of restoration and greatness, it and in that which contains our text, may well be supposed that there is, at you will perceive that Israel is so asleast, an allusion to the existing cir- sociated with Judah, that no restoracumstances of the Jews, and their ap: tion can be ultimately intended, which proaching deliverance by Cyrus. And does not include both. This might be it is possible that those, who first heard proved of each part of the prophecies his predictions, received them only in in question ; but we will confine ourtheir primary sense, and looked not on selves to the close of the second of the to a more thorough fulfilment, worthy chapters. The prophet is directed to of the splendor of the figures, and the take two sticks; to write on one, " For amplitude of the language. But to our- Judah, and for the children of Israel selves, who can compare the event his companions;" on the other, "For with the prophecy, it must be evident Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for that a deliverance, greater than any all the house of Israel his companions.” past, was foreseen by Ezekiel. Even if These sticks, thus inscribed, are to be it could be shown that the condition of held in the hand of Ezekiel; they are the Jews, after their return from Ba- to become one stick in his hand; and bylon, answered to the prophet's lofty then he is to utter a prediction, expladescriptions of national prosperity, we natory of this symbolical transaction, should be unable to interpret the pre- declaring that both Judah and Israel dictions without having respect to yet should be gathered back from their disfuture things. There can hardly be persions; that they should no longer dispute that the ten tribes, which con- be two nations, but be combined, like stituted the kingdom of Israel, have the sticks, into one people under one never been restored to their own land, king. You can give no fair interpretabut are still in some mysterious seclu- tion of such a prophecy as this, if you sion, exiles from Palestine. Only the limit its scope to the events of past tribes of Judah and Benjamin were led days: for you can find no account in
history of such a restoration of the mightier than Moses; with them we twelve tribes, and of their re-establish- march through a wilderness, dreary in ment as one nation under David their itself, but rendered more appalling by prince.
our murmuring and unbelief, to a land Accordingly, we conclude that yet that floweth with the milk and the hofuture occurrences passed before the ney. And it may be, that this typical view of the prophet. We believe that character of the Jews extends beyond the seer had his eye on a restoration these simple and self-evident particuof the children of Abraham, of which lars. We should be disposed to say of none that has yet happened can have the history of this people, taken in its been more than a type. And we refer spreadings over the future as well as these chapters, though without deny the past, that it is the exact miniature ing that they may have had a primary of that of the human race. The Jews and partial accomplishment in events have lost their peculiar position in the connected with the close of the Baby- favor of God, and are wanderers from lonish captivity, to a glorious season, the land which is specially their own. when God shall bring to their own land But they are yet to be restored to their the people whom he hath cast off in forfeited place, and to enjoy in Canaan displeasure, and who have been wan- a higher than their first dignity. Thus derers for centuries over the habitable the human race, having apostatized earth. Then, when from the east and from God, is left for a while in the west, from the north and south, there dreariness of exile, but is reserved for shall have flowed into Judea the sons the richest splendors of immortality. and daughters of those to whom the Men, therefore, in general, may be to land was originally given, and the re-in-angels what the Jews are to the rest of stated people shall hold the sovereignty humankind. Angels may read in the of the globe beneath the sceptre of the records of the fallen but yet beloved long-rejected Christ, will there be a race, precisely what we read in those deliverance worthy of the triumphant of the rejected, but not forgotten, peostrains of Isaiah, and a greatness com- ple. And as we look forward to the mensurato with the majestic descrip- restoration of the Jews, as big with intions of Ezekiel.
terest to all the dwellers on this globe, Such is the first point which it is ne- so may angels expect the final" monicessary to settle before entering on the festation of the sons of God," when examination of our text and its context. Christ and his church shall shine out in We must determine the period whose their glory, as fraught with the mightioccurrences the prophet delineates; est results to every rank of intelligent else we may easily go far wrong in ex- being. plaining his sketches. But this is not But without examining, more at all; there is a second preliminary to length, the respects in which the Jews which we would direct your attention. may be regarded as a typical people, The Jews are to be regarded as a typi- we may consider the general fact so cal nation, so that their history is figu- readily acknowledged that we may saferative, and may be studied as a parable. ly assume it in any process of reasonYou cannot ask proof of this; for it is ing. And as a consequence on this albardly possible to read the books of lowed fact, we may suppose that, when Moses, to follow the Israelites into their we meet with a figurative delineation prison in Egypt, and then through the of things that were to happen to the wilderness to their rest in Canaan, with Jews, it is to be also treated as a figuout feeling that what happened to this rative delineation of things that relate people describes, as by a figure, what to the whole human race. At least, and happens to the church. There is mani. this is probably as far as we shall find festly a moral in all that occurs; or, to it necessary to go in our present disspeak more accurately, our spiritual course, there can be no ground for callhistory is traced in the events which ing an interpretation fanciful, if, after besell the Jews as a nation. With them treating a parable as descriptive, in the we are naturally slaves under an impe- first instance, of the state or expectarious task-master; with them we are tion of the Jews, we assign it a spiritdelivered from bondage, though by a ual meaning, and apply it, in the second place, to our own circumstances, or among the bones; they began to more, those of the church.
as though instinct with life, each seek Now we have thus cleared the way ing his fellow, so that bone came to for our entering on the examination of bone with the very nicest precision. that very singular portion of holy writ Then "the sinews and the fiesh came with which our text is associated. We upon them;" the sinews bound them, have determined that, so far as it is and the skin covered them : and thus prophetic of occurrences in the history the valley was filled with human boof the Jews, its accomplishment is to dies. These bodies, however, were as be mainly sought in the future rather yet without breath ; but the voice of than the past; we have also ascertained the Lord was again heard, directing that, though in its primary application, the prophet to prophesy to the wind, it belongs only to a solitary people, it that it might come and breathe upon may be regarded as referring, in its spi- the slain. This having been done, the ritual meaning, to the whole human breath came into the carcasses; they race. Let these preliminaries be borne started from the ground as animated in mind, and they will aid us in avoid- things, "and stood up upon their feet, ing mistake, and discovering truth. an exceeding great army.
The portion of Scripture which we Such was the vision granted to Ezeare about to investigate, is, as we have kiel; and God immediately informed just hinted, one of the most singular him of its purport. He told him that which its pages present. It relates what these bones were the whole house of may be considered as a vision granted Israel; and that, however desolate the to the prophet Ezekiel, though the nar: condition of that people might appear, rative might pass for that of an actual he would yet open their graves, and occurrence. Ezekiel, after uttering pre- cause them to come out of their graves. dictions which breathe the future glo. As the bones had been rebuilded into ries of Israel and Judah, is" carried out human bodies, so should the disjointed in the Spirit of the Lord,” and set down and shattered people of Israel be reconin a valley full of bones. These bones, structed into a kingdom; and God so numerous that they lay on all sides would put in them his spirit, and make of the prophet, appeared to have be- them live, and place them once more longed to men long dead, for "they in their own land. It admits, therefore, were very dry,”asthough they had been of no dispute that the parable—for such for years thus scattered and exposed. may the vision justly be styled—was As Ezekiel gazed on this ghastly spec- primarily designed to predict a restotacle, there came to him from God the ration to Palestine of its rightful but question of our text, Son of man, can exiled possessors. But with this design these bones live?" It was a hard ques. we are at liberty to connect another
, tion, at a time when "life and immor- that of representing, under figures detality” had not been" brought to light rived from things happening to the by the Gospel :" and therefore the pro. Jews, truths in which all men have inphet, without casting doubt on the pow. I terest. And thus our business, whilst er of the Almighty, returns the modest endeavoring to explain the parable and half-inquiring answer, "O Lord more at length, will be to apply it to God, thou knowest.” The heavenly the children of Abraham, in the first voice then commands him to prophesy place in their national, and in the seupon these bones, to address them as cond in their typical capacity, and to though they were living and intelli- show in both cases the fidelity of the gent, and to predict their being recon- representation. structed into symmetry, and re-anima- Now you are to observe the position ted with breath. The prophet betrays į in which the vision stands: it is not a no reluctance: he does not hesitate detached thing, but occurs in the midst because it seemed useless to address of a continuous prophecy, having mani, these fragments of skeletons; but at fest respect to what precedes, and once obeys the command, and delivers what follows. The two chapters, the the message. And whilst be was in the 36th and 37th of the book of Ezekiel, very act of uttering the prophecy, lo, contain one noble prediction of glories a noise was heard as of a rustling 1 to be reached by Judah and Israel :
and though this prediction may seem Jews; for we are ignorant of what has interrupted by the vision, a little in- befallen the ten tribes, since carried quiry will show you that it is but illus- into captivity by the king of Assyria. trated and confirmed. The Jews, to But this will suffice. If the description whom Ezekiel addressed the glowing be proved correct, so far as we have announcements of the 36th chapter, the power of examining its accuracy, would probably look on their forlorn we shall have little cause to question and seemingly hopeless estate, and con- its fidelity on points which lie beyond clude it impossible that what was so our range of information. fallen should ever reach the predicted We observe the state of the Jews eminence. To meet this suspicion the during long centuries past; and we ask vision is granted. The wretchedness, whether it have not been described to and, on all human appearance, the hope- the letter by what Ezekiel beheld in lessness, of their condition is freely ac- the valley of vision ? Ever since the knowledged; for they are represented Romans were let loose on the devoted as whitening bones, scattered over a land and people, the whole globe has plain, in regard of which there could been this valley of vision; for everybe no expectation of a resurrection un- where have been scattered the fragto life. But when these bones move, ments of the once favored nation. and "an exceeding great army” of liv. Both the civil and the ecclesiastical ing men succeeds to the array of dis- polity of the Jews were completely jointed skeletons, the Jews are most broken up; and there has never been powerfully taught how wrongly they the least approach towards the reconargued from the difficulty to the im- struction of any government of their probability. There could not be a tran- own. They have lived indeed under sition less to have been expected than every sort of rule, having been mixthat exhibited in the valley of vision: ed with every people under heaven, and, if God could effect this, why though all along kept marvellously disshould it be thought that he could not tinct. But never, since their sins promake good his promises to a conquer- voked God to give them up, have they ed and dispersed people? Thus the vis- had governors and laws of their own; ion seems introduced into the midst of and never, therefore, have they been the prophecy, not to break its continu- ought else than the skeleton of a naity, but to obviate an objection which tion, and that too a skeleton whose might be rising in the minds of the bones have been detached, and spread hearers; and we are therefore to take confesedly throughout the whole valley. the vision as a part of the prophecy, And if there had come, at any time, a and to refer it with the rest to yet fu- voice from heaven, demanding whether ture times. In so doing, we deny not, these dry bones could live, whether as we stated at the outset, that one the dispersed Jews could ever again purpose of the vision may have been be gathered under one head, and withto comfort the Jews then in Babylon, in their own land, the answer of those, and to assure them of a speedy return who most acknowledged the divine to the land of their fathers. But foras- power, must have been, " O Lord God, much as the whole prediction, of which thou knowest.” On all human computhe vision forms part, can be satisfied tation, there lies an improbability, by nothing which has already occurred, which is little short of an impossibiwe seem bound to seek the fulfilment lity, against the return of the children of the vision itself in the yet coming of Abraham, from every section of the fortunes of Judah and Israel. Let us earth, to Judea, and their re-establishthen regard the parable before us as ment as an independent people. The figuring the condition of God's people bones are many: who shall collect so in their dispersion, and that restoration vast a multitude ? The bones are dry : which we are yet bidden to expect; who shall animate what hath so long and we shall find an accuracy and a wanted vitality? Yet, we are fulness of description, not surpassed manded to prophesy over these bones; in any portion of prophecy. Of course, to declare, in unqualified language, we can only gather our arguments and that the Jews shall return home, when illustrations from the history of the "the times of the Gentiles” are fulfill
ed, rebuild their Jerusalem, and pos- shall mourn for him as one mourneth sess the sovereignty of the earth. If for his only son.” So that the converthere be a point on which prophecy is sion of the people is to follow their reclearer and more diffuse than on an- storation ; just as, in the vision beother, it seems to us to be this of the fore us, the quickening of the body by restoration of Israel, and of the setting God's Spirit is quite separate from the up of the throne of David in the land binding of the bones, and the covering which the stranger has long possessed them with flesh. and profaned. And whilst we have this But, whatever the order of events, "sure word of prophecy,” it is not the the final result is to be that the Jews apparent difficulty which can make us shall be reinstated in Judea, and rehesitate to expect the marvellous oc- ceive Jesus as Messiah. The bones currence. There shall be a stirring having been formed into the body, and amongst the dry bones. We know not the body animated from above, the disby what mysterious impulse and agen- persed and powerless people shall be cy a people, spread over the whole "an exceeding great army,” ready to earth, shall be suddenly and simulta- wage the battle of the Lord God Alneously moved: but bone shall come mighty. The valley of vision, heretoto bone, Jew shall seek out and com- fore covered with the fragments of a bine with Jew: the sinew and the nation which has long ceased to have flesh shall come up upon these bones a name amongst kingdoms, shall be —there shall be a principle of union, crowded with emissaries from Jerucombining what have long been detach- salem, bearing in their hands the cross ed; and thus shall the scattered ele- which their fathers erected' and pro- . ments be reconstructed into the skele- claiming the Savior whom those fathers ton, and then the skeleton shall give denied. We admit again, that, on every place to the full grown body. This body human calculation, such result is alwill yet have to be quickened-the Jew's most incredible; and that, though we must not only be re-united as a people, live in the old age of the world, when they must be converted to the faith the day is perhaps not distant which is which they have long despised, and be to witness this stupendous resurrec. brought to the confessing their crucif- tion, we are unable to assign the mode ed Messiah. And this must be special in which it will be effected. But the ly the work of the Spirit of the living vision of Ezekiel sets before us an imGod, entering within them, and stir-mediate interference of God, showing ring them from that moral deadness in that there will be miracle in the restowhich they have lain during their long ration of Israel, as there would be in alienation. A separate prophecy is ut- the gathering of the bones with which tered in' reference to the coming of the valley was strewed. But if there the breath into the body; and it is not is to be miracle, the strangeness brings improbable that this assigning different no evidence against the truth; and we times to the reconstruction and reani-wait with confidence the issuing of a mation of the body, might be intended divine edict, which shall be heard and to mark, what seems elsewhere indi- obeyed by the dispersed seed of Abracated, that the Jews will be recombin- ham. The aspect of the valley may ed into a separate people, before pre- still be the same as when Ezekiel was vailed on to acknowledge the Christ; carried thither "in the Spirit of the that it will not be until after their re- Lord.” Still, in the whole compass of settlement in Canaan, that they will imagery there may be no more faithful nationally embrace christianity. Cer- representation of the national conditainly, this is what seems taught us tion of the Jews, than that which sets by the prophecies of Zechariah; for it them before us as the pieces into is after beholding the Jews in posses- which skeletons have been shivered, sion of Jerusalem that we read, "I and which have been tossed over the will pour upon the house of David, globe by some irresistible deluge. Neand upon the inhabitants of Jerusa- vertheless we are listening, with the lem, the spirit of grace and of suppli- prophet, for a sound as of a shaking cation ; and they shall look upon me amongst these bones. It shall be whom they have pierced, and they heard and the nations, on whose