James Smith, 1858
"On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths. No one looked on you with pity or had compassion enough to do any of these things for you. Rather, you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you: Live!" Ezekiel 16:4-6
The origin and natural condition of the Jewish nation, is represented by a new-born babe, cast by some unnatural parent out upon an open field to perish. In this state, the Lord looked upon it, pitied it, spoke to it, acted for it, and raised it to greatness and honor. But it forgot its origin, rebelled against God--and called forth his rebukes, threatenings, and judgments. Never were people so froward, and never were people so ungrateful.
What poor returns God gets for his mercies, and yet there are people who think harshly of God. But let us not reflect upon the Jews--but try to improve the passage for ourselves. It was written for our admonition, and is preserved and presented to us for our good.
See, what was our natural state. The figure employed to represent the state of the Jews, very well represents ours. We were defiled and filthy, unfit for the eye of God to rest on, or to enjoy the society of the pure and holy. We were weak and wretched, unable to deliver ourselves, or to escape from our fearful doom. We were rejected and cast out, no living eye to pity us, nor friendly hand to help us. We were within a step of destruction; a little longer--and all would be over! We would have been lost--and lost forever. Into this state we were brought by sin, and in this state we must have perished--but for grace. Those about us neglected us, all appeared to have turned their backs upon us, and we seemed to be given up to Satan and death. O fearful state! O miserable condition!
But see, the manifestation of God's sovereign mercy. The Lord, like the good Samaritan, came where we were lying in our guilt, misery, and blood. He saw us perishing, and said, "Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you: Live!" He did all for us that was necessary to save us from death, and to raise us to health and honor. He justified us from all our sins, through the obedience and death of his Son. He washed us in the laver of his Word, by the power and grace of his Spirit. He sanctified and made us fit for his presence, by his Spirit and his truth. He married us, or brought us into vital and eternal union with himself. In one word, he saved us! Saved as by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit.
"As you lay there in your blood I said to you: Live!" This was to show the freeness of his grace. Not by works of righteousness which we have done--but according to his mercy he saved us.
It sets forth the misery of our natural condition. We had become altogether filthy. We were weaker than a bruised reed. We were on the confines of hell. Nor had we the least claim upon God. It was not his own child--but the forsaken child of another, a base-born infant. Not the least claim could we lay to his mercy, pity, or compassion. But, O the riches of his grace! He says, "I will call them 'my people'--who were not my people; and her 'beloved'--who was not beloved." There was nothing in us--to induce him to show favor to us. We were altogether repulsive and loathsome. It was grace, all of grace, pure grace--that he looked upon us, and made us new creatures in Christ Jesus. Life, spiritual life, flows from the sovereign will of God; it is imparted by the power of God; it is expressive of the pity of God; and illustrates and confirms the gracious Word of God.
Our state by nature was desperate. No hand could reach us--but the hand of God! No power could restore us--but the power of God. Our deliverance was altogether divine. We are therefore under the deepest obligation to free grace. It is by the grace of God--that we are what we are. And by grace we are saved, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God. But for grace, free grace, sovereign grace--we were lost, and lost forever! All the difference between us and the vilest of our race--is to be traced to the unmerited goodness of God. We were lying in our sins and in our blood, we would have gone on from bad to worse, and must have soon perished--but for Divine and unsolicited interference. Never were we farther from God, more opposed to God, or less likely to be put among the children of God--than five minutes before the Lord passed by, and said unto us, "Live!"
How grateful then should we be, and how well we should speak of the grace that has saved us. Yes, yes, let others be what they may--we should be grateful; let others commend what they will--we should praise the free and sovereign grace of God. All that has been done for us--has been of grace; and all that will be conferred upon us--will be of grace; therefore grace should have all the glory.
And will the Lord regard,
And cast a gracious eye,
On one so foul, so base, so blind,
So dead, so lost as I?
Then sinners black as hell,
May hence for hope have ground;
For who of mercy needs despair,
Since I have mercy found?