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3. Warning to Israel

Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, eat that thou findest; eat this roll, and go speak unto the house of Israel. 2So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roll. 3And he said unto me, Son of man, cause thy belly to eat, and fill thy bowels with this roll that I give thee. Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness.

4And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them. 5For thou art not sent to a people of a strange speech and of an hard language, but to the house of Israel; 6Not to many people of a strange speech and of an hard language, whose words thou canst not understand. Surely, had I sent thee to them, they would have hearkened unto thee. 7But the house of Israel will not hearken unto thee; for they will not hearken unto me: for all the house of Israel are impudent and hardhearted. 8Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads. 9As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead: fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. 10Moreover he said unto me, Son of man, all my words that I shall speak unto thee receive in thine heart, and hear with thine ears. 11And go, get thee to them of the captivity, unto the children of thy people, and speak unto them, and tell them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear. 12Then the spirit took me up, and I heard behind me a voice of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the Lord from his place. 13 I heard also the noise of the wings of the living creatures that touched one another, and the noise of the wheels over against them, and a noise of a great rushing. 14So the spirit lifted me up, and took me away, and I went in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit; but the hand of the Lord was strong upon me.

15Then I came to them of the captivity at Tel-abib, that dwelt by the river of Chebar, and I sat where they sat, and remained there astonished among them seven days. 16And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 17Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. 18When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 19Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. 20Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. 21Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.

22And the hand of the Lord was there upon me; and he said unto me, Arise, go forth into the plain, and I will there talk with thee. 23Then I arose, and went forth into the plain: and, behold, the glory of the Lord stood there, as the glory which I saw by the river of Chebar: and I fell on my face. 24Then the spirit entered into me, and set me upon my feet, and spake with me, and said unto me, Go, shut thyself within thine house. 25But thou, O son of man, behold, they shall put bands upon thee, and shall bind thee with them, and thou shalt not go out among them: 26And I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover: for they are a rebellious house. 27But when I speak with thee, I will open thy mouth, and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear: for they are a rebellious house.

Here God adds another part of duty which is incumbent on all Prophets. For they are first sent to bring back into the way those who had been alienated from God, then to retain those who are already within the flock, and to lead those onward to the goal who have already entered upon the course. We see, therefore, that Prophets ought to be occupied with both duties, so that they may not only recall to their obedience to God those who wander after their own lusts, but also confirm those who are, of their own accord, teachable already, and encourage them to persevere, and prevent them from failing away. Hence, after God has spoken concerning the correction of sinners who had strayed, he now adds another member. If, says he, the righteous man be turned aside from his righteousness, and thou hast not admonished him, he shall ate, and I will require his blood at thy hand Where in effect God signifies, that Prophets are guilty, not only if they do not exhort those who have withdrawn from the right way to retrace their steps, but also if they do not retain within their duty those who have already entered upon the right course. We must then have two objects in view, to recall those who have fallen into various errors, and to take care that those within the fold should not fall away, but be strengthened in perseverance. Hence it is now added, If the righteous shall turn aside, he indeed shall die, but his blood will I require

Here it may be asked, how can the just turn aside, since there is no righteousness without the spirit of regeneration But the seed of the Spirit is incorruptible, (1 Peter 1:23,) nor can it ever happen that his grace is utterly extinguished; for the Spirit, is the earnest and seal of our adoption, for God’s adoption is without repentance, as Paul says. (Romans 11:29.) Hence it may seem absurd to say, that the just recedes and turns aside from the right way. That passage of John is well known — if they had been of us, they had remained with us, (1 John 2:19,) but because they have departed, that falling away proves sufficiently that they were never ours. But we must here mark, that righteousness is here called so:, which has only the outward appearance and not the root: for when once the spirit of regeneration begins to flourish, as I have said, it remains perpetually. And we shall sometimes see men borne along with a wonderful ardor of zeal for the worship of God, and to be urged to promote his glory beyond even the very best men; indeed we shall see this, but, says Paul, God knows those who are his own. (2 Timothy 2:19.) Hence it is not wonderful that God under the name of righteousness here commends virtues which deserve praise before men, even if they do not spring from a pure fountain. Thus we see it. often happens that the righteous are alienated, and turn aside from the right way. This passage, then, ought to stir us up to seek from God continually a spirit of perseverance, because such is our propensity to sin, that we immediately flow in different directions like water, unless God strengthen us. When therefore we see the righteous themselves depart from the way, let us lead and become sure of the constancy of our own faith, only let our confidence be founded on the help of the Holy Spirit and not in ourselves. In the meantime, we see that Christ did not pronounce this passage in vain: Happy are those who persevere unto the end, (Matthew 24:13,) because many fall away in the midst of their course, or reversing their steps, turn their backs upon God.

Now we must carefully remark what follows, his righteousness shall not be remembered, because some desire to bargain with God, so that if for a time they enter upon the pursuit of piety, that may be taken into account and avail in their favor. But we hear what God pronounces, all their righteousness shall not be remembered in the case of backsliders There is no encouragement to flatter ourselves into sloth and security, when God shows that unless we continue to the end, even the goal of our career, whatever else we attain unto, it is useless. He says, as clearly as words will express it, if he shall fall away, or recede, or turn aside from his righteousness and shall commit iniquity We must mark this diligently, because we know that the very best men often fall away; but here a falling away is intended, where any one casts himself headlong on impiety: hence to commit iniquity is to give oneself up entirely to impiety; as when John says, that those who are born again of the Spirit of God do not commit sin, (1 John 3:9,) he means, are not addicted to sin, even if as yet they dwell among many infirmities and failings: as also Paul says, that sin dwells in us, but does not reign. (Romans 6:12.) Hence to commit sin is to give oneself up to sin. But God says, I will place, or for placing, or if I shall have placed, a stumblingblock before his face Punishment is here called a stumblingblock, when God demonstrates his vengeance against apostates. Although a stumblingblock may also be called actual admonition, as the phrase is; but because that is too far-fetched, I receive it simply, if the righteous shall have turned aside: but I shall have rendered the reward which he deserved, he shall die, because thou hast not admonished him: in his unrighteousness shall he die: thus I point it off, for interpreters seem to me improperly to have mingled together — he shall die, and — he shall die in his iniquity. Now that threat which we have seen is repeated, namely, that all prophets who have deserted their office are guilty before God, because their sloth differs little from perfidy: for God considered them worthy of the greatest honor, since he committed souls to them, which, as we have said, he esteems so dear and precious. But if they reject this trust committed to them, we see that they not only act injuriously to man, but are also ungrateful to God; and their sluggishness is not only united with perfidy, but also with sacrilege, because they permit Satan to snatch from God what was his own. Just as if any watchman should desert his post and betray it to the enemy; because when they see some wander and others desert, it is clear that this does not arise from ignorance, as we have said, but to the snares of Satan and lust are those exposed whom Christ has redeemed with his blood: hence as we have said, this their treachery is without excuse.


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