The Lord's Remnant
James Smith, 1861
"The survivors among them will escape and live on the mountains like doves of the valley, all of them mourning, each over his own iniquity." Ezekiel 7:16
In the worst of times, the Lord has preserved a remnant, and has had a people for his praise. He has never been without a seed to serve him, and a generation to call him blessed. When the ten tribes were carried away into captivity, and the cup of Judah's iniquity was full; the prophet came forth to testify that the end was come, and to proclaim the most terrible and sweeping judgments — yet then, even then, he adds, "The survivors among them will escape and live on the mountains like doves of the valley, all of them moaning, each over his own iniquity." Just so it is now, the Lord has his mourners, his witnesses, and such as think upon his name.
The Remnant.The Lord's people have generally been represented by a remnant, which is but a part of the piece, and generally a small part. A portion cut off, or left — when the rest has been disposed of. So the Lord has always spared some, and there has always been "a remnant, according to the election of grace." They shall escape the desolating and destroying judgment, the common ruin into which multitudes sink, the due desert of their sins. They escape by God's great mercy, not on account of anything in them — but because the Lord has grace and favor towards them.
God's mercy to them is manifested through the mediation of Jesus, who has engaged to do all that is necessary to secure God's honor in allowing them to escape. The mediation of Jesus secures for them the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit, who leads them to the cross, and guides them to a place of refuge. The operation of the Holy Spirit awakens prayer in their hearts, and produces faith in Jesus; and crying to God from a sense of danger, and exercising confidence in the Savior, they escape, not only from a deserved Hell — but from all penal evils pronounced against sinners. They escape, and escape completely, thoroughly — they are delivered, and delivered eternally!
Their Condition.They shall be on the mountains, having fled from their natural homes in the towns and villages, they shall betake themselves to the caves and dens of the mountains. It indicates that their circumstances may be dreary, cheerless, and lonely.
Just so, many of those who escape from the wrath to come, in consequence of their ignorance of gospel privileges, the working of unbelief in their hearts, a lack of suitable ordinances and means of grace, the fierce temptations of Satan, and being destitute of the society of truly spiritual people — are in a lonely, cheerless, and uncomfortable condition, like the dwellers on the mountains.
"They shall live on the mountains like the doves of the valleys." The dove is naturally timid, gentle, and defenseless, and leaves its pleasant grove in the valleys, where it had built its nest, being startled and alarmed, and betakes itself to the mountain's side. Just so, the Lord's people are induced to withdraw from the pleasures, amusements, and associations of the world — to seek in silence and in solitude, the peace and comfort which they need.
"All of them mourning, each over his own iniquity." Sin and mourning are inseparably connected — he who sins, must sooner or later mourn. The Lord's people, like doves, are naturally mournful, and they have so much to mourn over. They mourn for their iniquity — charging it upon themselves, making no excuse for it; nor endeavoring to palliate it. They mourn also, for the effects of sin, especially, because it dishonors God — God to whom they are laid under such deep obligation, from whom they have received so many mercies, and to whom they owe so much love. They mourn also, because it grieves the Holy Spirit, that blessed Comforter, who quickened them when dead, enlightened them when dark, led them to Jesus, spoke peace to their souls, and took up his residence in their hearts. They mourn also, because it interrupts fellowship and communion with God, and so prayer sinks into a mere duty, and the closet becomes a tiresome place, and the ordinances of the gospel are like dry wells.
They mourn also, because iniquity burdens the conscience, disturbs the peace of the mind, and fills the soul with confusion and distress. It gives power to Satan to accuse and torment us, and opens the mouths of enemies to speak against God and his cause. On these, and many more accounts they mourn, each one over his own iniquities.
Am I one of the Lord's doves? Am I characterized by meekness, gentleness, and love? Am I one of those who mourn for my iniquities, sitting alone, dropping the wing, and pouring out my plaintive cries to the Lord? Do I mourn heartily, sincerely, and frequently, on account of my departures from the Lord? There is no escaping from endless mourning in Hell, without godly sorrow for sin. They who laugh at sin now — shall weep forever in Hell. But those who mourn now for their iniquities — shall be eternally comforted.
Better to be a mourning dove, though despised; than a prating parrot, though admired. Too many professors are like parrots, with a mirthful plumage — they learn to repeat the sayings of the godly. They say many gracious things — but without grace; they mimic the true Christian — but have no experience of divine things within them. They know nothing of a heart broken for sin, or of secret mourning before God, on account of secret sins, or the hidden evils of the heart. Of doctrines they can talk, and for ordinances they can contend — but they do not perceive or realize, that "the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise."
The tears which we shed for sin, out of love to holiness and God, sparkle like gems in the eyes of the Lord!
I thirst — but not as once I did,
The vain delights of earth to share;
Your wounds, Immanuel all forbid
That I should seek my pleasures there!
It was the sight of your dear cross,
First weaned my soul from earthly things;
And taught me to esteem as dross,
The mirth of fools and pomp of kings!
I want that grace that springs from thee,
That quickens all things where it flows,
And makes a wretched thorn like me,
Bloom as the myrtle, or the rose.
Dear fountain of delight unknown!
No longer sink below the brim;
But overflow, and pour me down
A living and life-giving stream!
For sure, of all the plants that share
The notice of your Father's eye,
None prove less grateful to his care,
Or yield him meaner fruit, than I.