God's Solemn Affirmation
James Smith, 1860
"As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die?" Ezekiel 33:11
If we would have right views of God, we must come to his word. We must give up our own conceptions, or rather misconceptions, of him, and receive those representations which he has given of himself. We may not be able to make all the parts of his character harmonize, or reconcile the different views given of him by prophets or apostles — but we may be sure that every representation is correct, and that his character is one beautiful, perfect, harmonious whole.
His decrees, promises, and invitations;
his predictions, affirmations, and exhortations —
are alike in accordance with his love and justice, grace and holiness. We should receive each, and we should receive all. How encouraging are the promises and the doctrines of grace to the believer; and how encouraging the invitations and affirmations of the gospel to the lost sinner. What can be more encouraging to a guilty, polluted, perishing soul, than to hear the Lord solemnly affirm, "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die?"
GOD'S REPRESENTATION OF MAN. He is wicked, or a criminal. He has . . .
broken the law,
incurred the penalty, and
insulted the lawgiver.
There is no excuse for his sin, nothing to palliate his guilt. He is . . .
wicked in heart,
wickedly inclined, and
has been wholly disposed to do mischief.
He is a criminal apprehended and convicted. There is no doubt of his guilt. He is a criminal under sentence of eternal death. As an unbeliever he is condemned already. Sentence is passed, and he only waits the day of execution.
This is man's condition, every man's condition. For though there are degrees of guilt, and consequently there will be degrees of punishment — yet the punishment of one sin is eternal banishment from God, and association with the devil and his demons. How dreadful is this! But if the law is allowed to take its course, if the criminal will not stoop to seek a pardon, or accept of one on God's terms — he must perish.
Perish to his own eternal shame!
GOD'S AFFIRMATION RESPECTING GUILTY MAN. "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked." He does take pleasure in the salvation of the wicked. He delights in showing mercy to them. But his holy and loving heart, can take no pleasure in punishing. That is always a dire necessity, not a pleasure to him.
To show that he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, he has devised a way of salvation.
It called into exercise his highest wisdom.
It required the greatest sacrifice he could make.
It demanded the most wondrous display of condescension he could perform.
But his heart was set upon it, and therefore he contrived a plan, all of grace — gave his only-begotten Son to be a sacrifice — and stooped, not only to offer the sinner a pardon — but to beseech him to be reconciled. What an affecting assurance he gives, "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked." "It yields me no satisfaction to punish him. I would rather pardon him. I declare that I am in no sense the cause of his death, nor do I find the least pleasure in it. I, Jehovah, the High and lofty One, who inhabits eternity — I, the God of the whole earth, I solemnly swear, that I have no pleasure in the punishment of the wicked!"
Reader, your sin deserves death. God's mercy opens a way of life, and opens it for you. God's pity urges man to escape, urges you — hence,
THE EXHORTATION. "Turn! Turn from your evil ways!"
Turn your eye to the victim, Jesus suffering in the sinner's stead!
Turn your heart toward the word, in which God invites and exhorts you to be saved stead!
Turn your feet into the way, and flee for refuge to the hope set before you in the gospel stead!
Turn your care for deliverance from the wrath to come, let this be your one object of desire and pursuit.
Jesus is the sanctuary, to him the guilty may flee and be safe. Jesus is the altar, from which no sinner can be dragged to die. Turn then . . .
from the world,
and turn to Jesus, who alone can save you.
"Why will you die?" You need not die, for if you flee to Jesus . . .
justice will not require it,
mercy will not allow it,
omnipotence would interfere to prevent it.
You may live, if you will come to Jesus for life. You may live a life of holiness and happiness on earth — and a life of perfect joy and endless glory in Heaven. You should receive the testimony — God wills not your death — but had rather that you should live. You should believe the promise, and this is the promise which he has promised us, even eternal life — life by believing in Jesus, and by believing only. You should obtain the grace, the grace . . .
of acquittal at God's bar,
of acceptance at God's throne.
Man's desert is dreadful. It is death. The second death. Eternal death. Separation from God, connection with the vilest and most degraded creatures, and the infliction of punishment in proportion to the nature and number of his sins forever.
God's grace is wonderful. He has provided a river of life. He invites us all to come and receive. He solemnly avows that he is not, cannot be pleased with our choosing death in the error of our ways. The gospel proclaims to all, that there is life in Christ for
every willing soul. That the vilest, the most degraded sinner need not die, but should turn to Christ and live. Man's obstinacy is fearful. He will not believe when God promises, not even when he interposes by an oath. He will not come unto Jesus that he may have life. He will rather risk all the horrors of Hell, than humble himself and sue for pardon, than believe in Christ and have everlasting life.
Truly Christian conduct is very beneficial. Having turned to the Lord ourselves, we seek by all means to turn others. God says, "Turn, turn!" — turn yourselves first, then seek to turn others . . .
by kind words,
by good works,
by earnest prayers,
by tender appeals, and
by the influence of a holy and happy life
— endeavor to turn others.
O wondrous mercy, of a wonder-working God! It would have been wonderful to have rendered salvation possible on any terms, in any way, by any means: but how wonderful, that he should open a way by which sinners can be saved freely, fully, and forever! How stupendous the grace, that God should stoop so low, condescend so far, as to address the vile, debased, and guilty, saying, "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die?"
Why, thoughtless sinner will you die? Can the infernal regions of Hell charm you? Or will you yet believe the lie, that sin can do your soul no harm?