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What is to be our answer to this question ? There are two answers : there is an over-enthusiastic “ Yes, praise God! Hallelujah!” I think that I have heard that, it does not impress me; it somewhat depresses me. And there is an over-despairing “No”; it is hopeless, death reigns, hell is triumphant, Christianity is “ played out.” And we are not to say that either-neither the overenthusiastic, nor the over-despondent. Ezekiel was a man of as big brain, and burning heart, and broad views as any of us, and the most that he could say will, I think, do for us; at any rate, God will take it. It was neither the over-enthusiastic "Hallelujah!" nor an over-despondent sob of despair; but it was this, just what I feel, what every preacher feels when he is face to face with the dry bones. In answer to the question, “ Can these dry bones live ?” looking at the bones I cannot say “ Yes "; but looking at Thee, my questioner, I dare not say “ No.” That will do ; just stand there. Stand there between God and the devil, between heaven and hell. Stand in the middle ; feel, see, understand the situation. And then, bless God, this is all He asks of you ; do not despond, do not despair. “Can these bones live?" Looking at the bones, "No"; looking at myself, “No”; but looking at Him I dare not say “ No.” O Lord God, Thou knowest."

To bring this parable to a point here and now, I imagine that there is some man sitting in the church. When you came in, friend, the very thought of your heart was this, “Preacher, if you knew how utterly averse I am to your evangelical religion ; if you knew what a B.D. I am (that means often bone-dry)—if you knew what a bone-dry I am towards God, towards Christ, towards salvation ; if you knew the absolutely little, the none-at-all of hankering


that I have after your Scriptural heaven, or fear that I have of your Scriptural hell; why, man, your tongue would cleave to your jaw, and you would faint away from any attempt to preach your Gospel into my face.” God knows, my friend, you have spoken just the thought of my heart as well as your own. Yes, I know that is just about the condition of the natural man. He is dead, fallen away from God—that is the condition of the formalist in religion, who has a name to live, but is dead. Never try to empty these awful Scriptural words of one ounce or atom of their tremendous meaning-dead, lost, cut off, dark. Can this be changed ? “O Lord God, Thou knowest.' Heavenly Father, mighty Saviour, blessed Spirit, some may say one way, some may say another. As for me, I will stand still and see the salvation of God. That is all He asks.

“Again He said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, o ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus said the Lord God unto these bones.” What a blessing it is that Ezekiel said so little as he did. I am afraid that a number of us—and even some of our wisest men, those of us who speak loudest and longest in conferences—would have had a great deal to say to the Almighty. We would almost have been His counsellors. We would have contradicted that Scripture in Isaiah : “With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him knowledge, and taught Him judgment, and showed to Him the way of understanding,” and of coping with the London problem-with the world's problem ; we should have forgotten ourselves; we should have waxed wise and eloquent. Ezekiel said nothing but just “O Lord God, Thou knowest. I will stand, I will wait, I will listen, I will be at Thy dictation." The problem of the hour demands the same from all our Church courts at this very moment-less talking. I do not speak scornfully, I speak sincerely less talking and more listening. “Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus said the Lord God unto these bones, Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: and I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord. So I prophesied as I was commanded : and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.”

What a night it was for Ezekiel—if this came to him in the night time—when God by visions unseals the eyes of men, and teaches them the deep things of sin and of salvation. It was bad enough to see that valley full of rustling bones. It was bad enough to have that awful, probing question put to him, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and proving a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Puncturing all the wind-bag in him, and bringing him by a round turn to a definite point. “Son of man, can these bones live?That was hard enough; but it grows harder still. of man, thou hast answered well. Go on now! Prophesy unto these bones, dry and white as they are. Stand over them, stand above them; and against all sense and reason, with earth and hell laughing at you, say to them, “Behold, thus saith the Lord God, I will cause breath, sinew, bone, flesh to come unto you, and you shall stand upon your feet, and be a great army."

" Son


Was not that a cross which Ezekiel had to bear ? Did not that rather crucify his pride of intellect?-and he was

man who had some intellect, and it almost always carries the pride with it. How would you have liked a night vision like that? It would have driven most of us mad, I am afraid. That is the prophet's cross yet, in London, and all over the earth—to stand in face of the world's sin and awful destitution—to stand in face of its spiritual death, and to utter over it what seem to be merely wild ecstatic incantations, prophesying to bones. But I ask the question, Is the Gospel, is the Word that we preach in God's name, an incantation, or an invocation and an inspiration ? Which? There are brother ministers here: I ask you, as I ask myself, to stand where old Ezekiel stood, and see this vision, Let us feel it all, and let us remember that God is conducting us as He conducted him. This is no dream. This is daylight reality for us.

Let us manfully bear the prophet's cross. Let us bear the prophet's reproach. Let us bear the prophet's scorn, as we must do. We seem to come to the problem of our time with about the weakest remedy that you could propose : words, words, words, breath, breath, breath. No wonder that men say, “Oh, why do you not give it up? Why do you not stop preaching these words? Why do you not see that all through the ages it has been a mere incantation and hallucination, and the world has got steadily more rotten while you have been going on? Do cease from the worship of God, and turn round to the service of man. Distribute blankets; give coals to the poor. Do something for the shivering bones to warm and cover them a little. It is idle, empty mockery, the preaching of the Gospel. Ezekiel, this

vision is only the result of a disordered and disturbed imagination. How can you as a man, who tries to wear his head above his shoulders, prophesy to bones, and tell them to live ? We must feel that to-day. It is out of this awful urgency and pressure that the Gospel flies as a bullet from a rifle. It is this pressure from above and below-it is this that gives the Gospel force; and what is wrong with us preachers to-day is that we have lost what Ezekiel would get that night. He never was greatly lacking it, but he would get it with tenfold pith and vehemence—the power to utter words that are more than words—to preach and hurl himself along with his message.

There is still in preaching the Gospel in any congregation the same seeming weirdness, and uncanniness, and mystery that we see when the prophet stands and prophesies unto the bones.

Oh, for this vision! Oh, to see it and to feel it ! How it would revive the preaching, my brethren! How it would revive all of what we call, somewhat too easily, our “ Christian work," to stand between the living and the dead, unable to go forward for death is there, unable to go back for God is behind us! If you go back past Him, you go back to perdition. Have mercy, have pity upon preachers, especially those of us who realize the vision a little—what it is to preach, and where we stand when we are in front of you. Cry mightily to God to strengthen us, to stand between the living and the dead.

“So I prophesied as I was commanded.” Do not run over a single line here, but pause upon each. I cannot do it here, but do it for yourself when you go home. “So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied”—at first, oh, how dry his throat became.

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