Ezekiel 37:1

The picture so impressively presented in these verses is a picture of the Israelitish people in their Eastern captivity. The national life is for a period suspended. The people are dead and dry as bones scattered upon the surface of an open valley which has been the scene of carnage in battle. Yet the description is always and justly held to portray the moral condition of our sinful humanity apart from the quickening interposition of the Lord and Giver of life.

I. SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT REVEALS WHAT IS REAL BENEATH WHAT IS APPARENT. To other eyes no such vision as that which broke upon the sight of the inspired prophet was accorded. On the contrary, men might have looked upon Israel - part of the people in captivity, and part still occupying the land of their fathers - and have seen nothing but such misfortune and calamity as are incident to human history. To the prophetic, quickened, illumined mind of Ezekiel the real state of the nation was manifest. In like manner, a superficial observer might direct his attention to the human race without apprehending its spiritual condition as one of deprivation, of gloom, of death; he might be dazzled by external splendor and prosperity, and it might not occur to him that beneath the fair and glittering outside there was concealed from his eyes what, after all, is the most important characteristic of humanity, regarded spiritually.


1. The cause of this is sin. Life flows from communion with him who is the ever-living Fountain of life. Severed from God, the soul cannot live.

2. The effects and signs of this death are numerous and evident. Insensibility to Divine truth, to virtue, to immortality, may be mentioned as most impressively brought before us in the vision which Ezekiel saw. The dry bones lay scattered about the plain, insensible to everything, to every presence about them, neither affected by any occurrence nor initiating any movement. Such is the state of the spiritually dead - the "dead in trespasses and sins."

III. HOPELESSNESS DISTINGUISHES THE STATE OF THE SPIRITUALLY DEAD. "Son of man, can these bones live?" If the answer depended upon human sagacity, if the means to awaken life were such as are available to human wisdom alone, such as are known by human experience, there can be but one answer "Life is impossible! ' Who that locked upon pro-Christian society could cherish the hope that from that necropolis there could start into vitality and activity a host of living, consecrated beings, filled with the life of God, eager to do the work of God? Could the Church have grown out of the world? The supposition is an absurdity. The prophet's reply to the inquiry was the only reply that was reasonable. All depended upon God; man was powerless and hopeless for revival. "O Lord God, thou knowest!" - T.

Son of man, can these bones live?
I. SUCH A REVIVAL OFTEN SEEMS UTTERLY HOPELESS. The condition of a nation in some of its eras of misfortune; the condition of the human race in their graves; the condition of men who have lapsed into low spiritual life; — are all conditions whose striking emblem would be a valley full of dry bones. There seems nothing to promise better things. There is no effort, no struggle upwards. Hope is lost.

II. SUCH A REVIVAL IS DEEPLY INTERESTING TO GOOD MEN. By a dialogue Ezekiel is interested in the present condition, the possible future, of these "bones," is taught his own weakness, and has revealed to him the source of strength and the methods of renewal. So always some Divine influence comes to interest good men in the recovery to higher life of those with whom He has to do. By His Spirit too, and by the, discipline of life, and by the Scriptures, God, as in a dialogue with such a man's soul, teaches him all he needs to know about such a renewal as He sees is deeply needed.

III. SUCH A REVIVAL IS PARTLY WROUGHT BY CREATURE AGENCY. For political regeneration there are appointed heroes of the State; for the resurrection of the body there is appointed the angel with the trumpet, that shall sound when the dead are to be raised; for revival of the Church of God, earnest-souled men are appointed.

IV. SUCH A REVIVAL IS GRADUAL IN ITS PROGRESS. There were several stages in the accomplishment of the revival in this valley of vision. So in every revival. First, "a noise." This is the least important of all, yet often seems to be a needful accompaniment, an indication of awakening life. Then "a shaking." This politically finds its fulfilment in revolution, and often in war. In spiritual things it finds its fulfilment in throes of spirit, sometimes the agonies of doubt. Then "the bones came together, bone to his bone." This surely points to right organisation and consolidation, whether of the nation or of the individual character. Then "the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them from above." Here is the accomplishing of all that can be accomplished of merely external order and beauty. But how poor are all! For "there was no breath in them."

V. SUCH A REVIVAL REQUIRES GOD'S SPECIAL OPERATION. From the four winds the breath came, that is the symbol of the Divine Spirit. So only "righteousness exalts a nation," and without the Spirit of God there will not be righteousness: so the dead at the last day will be raised by God.

VI. SUCH A REVIVAL PRODUCES SUBLIME RESULTS. Instead of a valley of dry bones, there is an army, living, united, loyal, mighty. So, by their true regeneration, nations rise from being abject, poor, immoral, to kingdoms of liberty, prosperity, virtue. So human characters shall be elevated: the man no longer "dead in sin," shall have a heart united to fear God, a nature that reveals the Divine in spiritual harmony, strength, and glory.

(Urijah R. Thomas.)

? — Ezekiel differs from the other prophets in this: that he stands before us as half prophet and half priest. He has been described by a great authority as a priest in a prophet's mantle. In him the two streams met and parted. In this passage, however, Ezekiel is not a priest, but a pure prophet, and he is in the direct prophetic line. We are perhaps in a position to trace the growth of this famous allegory and to reconstruct the process by which it took shape in the prophet's thought. It had taken fire from a spark, and that spark was a phrase he had heard from his fellow exiles in Babylon — "Our bones are dried and our hope is lost." The metaphor swelled in his imagination to a vision and became one of the great dreams of the world — so much more a dream because its explanation is the sleepless purpose of Almighty God with man. Ezekiel stands up among the prevailing lassitude and indifference, and he is a prophet because he is a man of hope, because he has faith in God. What we have here is an allegory; it is an allegory of resurrection, but not the resurrection of the body, nor perhaps of the dead as individuals, but of the nation. The resurrection of the individual dead was perhaps no part as yet of the Hebrew faith.

I. As to THE SCENE, it was the scene of so many visions — the valley by the river Chebar. Now it wore a hideous aspect, and to the prophet its face was a scene of desolation; it was ghastly with dry ruin, with the chronic leprosy of death. And it was death grown grey and sere, death that was hopeless of any life to come; death settled down into possession; death that was privileged, enthroned and secure. That was Israel — defeated, destroyed, and dismembered, crumbling into paganism, some not hoping, not wishing to revive. The bones were many and they were very dry. Death always has the majority on its side. The dryness and death of a dead multitude is something more than the death of the same number scattered up and down the community. The dead city is always worse than so many dead people scattered about the country; therefore pull down the infested places; erase the slums, destroy the hotbeds of vice, however difficult, and get rid of the ferment of corruption.

II. As to THE PROPHET'S ACTING. He "passed by them round about"; he did not tread upon them as the lout upon the cemetery graves. The Spirit moving among them was God; He is God of these bones also, and, therefore, Ezekiel is reverent to them. May the Spirit of God make us reverent towards all human wrecks — whether black or white. The Christian preacher has no right to be anything else. Can he be otherwise than respectful towards those whose hope and joy are gone? Who acts otherwise does it from a low heart. Can these dry bones live? Well, they are relics, things with memories, things once wedded to life although now in such tragic divorce from it. A mere mummy of a man, living under the wrath and curse of God, may not be the object of God's neglect. God's anger is not out of all relation to His love; not beyond His pity; not foreign to His grace. To have the anger of God, I venture to say, is at least some melancholy dignity. "Son of man, can these bones live?" This question is put every time we review the past. Is there not often in the dead past life for the present? "Can these bones live?" It is the question God is asking us by the mouth of history today. Why, these Gospels which have done so much are comparatively meagre — they are His bones — when you compare them with the fulness of the whole historic Christ, who takes ever a saving relation to Him as a historic revelation of God. The faith of Pentecost makes a great difference in the meaning of the historical creed. Then the Christ within us can take full measure of the Christ without. His evidence is Himself, and the history of the Risen One, with the experience of the Church during these two thousand years, must interpret and supplement the historic evidence of His Resurrection. Experience verifies the Gospels. The living evidence is not confined to the first, second, and third centuries. It is vital and mighty in every century, and not least in the century in which we live. The Spirit which quickens is as essential as the vision which sees. The faith which felt what these bones could be was as real as the eyesight which saw them on the plain. There can be, indeed, no new revelation of the Father: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever." But the future may reveal more of the revelation which is fixed in the history of the past, and elicit its infinite resources. By way of history will come the extraction of the resources of that revelation. The circumstances of history must work ever with the relics of history — personal history and public history — that is the way of God's Spirit. And the coming revival which is to move no mere sect or coterie, which is to change the whole of our national life — that revival will show its genius also in this: it may recast here and there the history of the Church, but it will enlarge by new races the Christianity of the future. From age to age God confounds the pessimists. He takes the man of little faith, carries him back through history to the dark ages and asks him, "Can these bones live?" God puts you into the valley of the fifteenth century when paganism was even settling in the Church itself, when the faithful had almost ceased to believe. "Could these bones live?" You see not how, but God's answer was the wonderful sixteenth century with the rediscovery of Paul and the coronation of faith, with all that followed. Once more He plants you in the Church early in the eighteenth century. Can that thing live? God's answer is Wesley, the Oxford Club, and the Evangelical Revival. Do you doubt if any such answer can be given to the question now? We have the answer before our eyes, and the world has it, and it is often like smoke in the world's eyes. But the men who first faced the missionary problem had it not before their eyes, they had it before their faith only. They were prophets, truly, and they had the answer more surely by faith than many of us have it even by sight. They saw men trooping from their living graves, they saw the races around them rescued and civilised by the Gospel. They saw the Church reconverted because they had within them the spirit that makes it to be so and they felt the first flutterings of its breath. What preacher does not sometimes despair when he looks at the spiritual skeletons around him? Or, perhaps, the preacher himself preaches only because it is a duty and prophesies in obedience rather than in belief. What of these? Well, preach hope until you have it, and then preach it because you have it — you have heard something of that sort before. Today the preacher is a man of parts and affairs. Often the congregation looks well and comfortable, but there is something lacking. It lacks life. It is a congregation and not a church. It may be cultured, but it is not kindled. There is more religion than regeneration. It has been clothed but not quickened. It knows about sacred things but little about the Holy Ghost. Oh, prophesy once more, prophesy till the Spirit of life comes. Preach, but still more pray. And how can you do that if your appeal to man be not inspired by your residing with God? Pray to the Spirit of God and preach to the spirit in men. Never mind current literature, but preach the deep things of God and remember that it is possible to lose your souls by mistaken efforts to gain others. Preach character by all means — more than has been done — but preach it through the Gospel that makes it. It is the demands of life that make men of us. Ask of them great sacrifices. Leave them not at ease. There are those who have not got beyond,, human, nature and its kindnesses, who care more for culture and to have something going on than for the Gospel. Rouse them to conflict, call on the Spirit to seize them and do with them what you never could do. Does not the Spirit do for us what no man can ever do?

III. As to THE RESULT. "Ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up out of your graves." The true insight and knowledge comes by way of resurrection. We know what must rule others by knowing what has changed and ruled us. This is the source of true conquest and dominion in the world. The power of the final lordship is one of which we know nothing until we have saved men. And we cannot use the power until we ourselves have experienced it. The world is to be ruled at last only by those men and that society that knows the laws and powers of the new soul. We cannot know God's way with the mighty world unless we give our own manhood as the pledge and lay ourselves down before Him. Spiritual power makes its own procedure, and human society must finally take its shape from the light of the redeemed soul. I suppose there never was a time when — for good or ill — organisation meant so much as today. It has been called into being until it threatens to oust the home and submerge the Church. But is there no danger in this passionate desire for an organised state of existence? As we perfect the form, what is to become of the spirit? Can we organise ourselves into eternal life? Where are we to find that life which is to save our organisation from becoming our grave? "Ye shall know that I am the Lord when I have brought you out of your graves." The efficiency of the world can only be secured by the sufficiency of the Spirit. It is Christ's power and courage and resource we need to face the perils around us, and the trouble is that these do not occur to our common thoughts, our common Press, and our common Parliament. What we need is to know ourselves for what we are, for the moral laggards and traitors and rebels we are. We want a power that will enable us to go on when robust assurance fails and disillusionment comes and we find ourselves out. If we have no such discovery, no Redeemer, no Quickener, then there is no God, no future. It is in His redemption we must find our power and our methods to rule the world. The life of a people depends not merely on magnanimity or devotion, but on the righteousness whose source is Christ. Our ethics are suffering today because we think of love and sacrifice for their own sake. We hear so much about them that they have become self-conscious. They fancy themselves, as we say, and dress themselves for the public gaze. They should be lost in moral inspiration. Before I admire any sacrifice or ardour I wish to know how it has been inspired. It is not idealism but sanctity that saves a nation. The greatest power we know is holiness. It was the first care of Christ not to sacrifice Himself for an ideal; it was that He might glorify the holiness of God. He died to bless man, but still more to glorify God. The first charge on us must be not the happiness of men, but the holiness of God. Then people will be "called from their graves." There is no future for Godless commerce or Godless ardour of any sort. The missionary spirit is the spirit that brings nations out of their graves and resurrects them to Godliness. If you ask me whether all the human wrecks of this world can live, I am sure of it; first, because God has made something out of my shipwreck, and secondly, because I know that when He died He died for the whole world. And God knows, if I do not know, the world's future and the world's possibilities; it is He who still commands and has told me to act and pray till every man is saved, and therefore every man shall be saved. It would not be so hard to believe in the black races if we were sound in our belief about the white races. We are straitened within ourselves, and when there is lack of power what can we do but pray? We are bound in our passions and our sins: our bones are dried up, we are weary and too easily weighted down. These things lie upon us like the weight of earth. We can live only in Thee, O Lord of life. Clothe our bones, quicken our flesh, and the valley of Death shall be one of hope, because though we have fallen we rise to holier love and a nobler life.

(T. P. Forsyth, D. D.)

The primary object of this chapter was to encourage the Jews to expect their restoration from the Babylonish captivity. At the time of the utterance of this prophecy they were scattered among the cities of the Babylonish dominions without any existence as an independent nation. But as the bones in the valley of Ezekiel's vision only needed the quickening process described in the narrative to become a living army, so the Jews only needed the interposition of God on their behalf to become again an independent nation. The meaning of the vision is explained in verses 11 to 14. But there are three other meanings that it is regarded as conveying. Applying the vision to the nominal Christian Church, it teaches that if any of God's people have lost their spiritual life, and so their capacity for usefulness, the Holy Spirit can quicken them, and so restore to them their power for efficiency, making them an army for Immanuel. Applying the vision to the human race, it shows us God's method of awakening into spiritual life the dead in trespasses and sins. A third view looks upon the vision as teaching the resurrection of the body at the last day, especial reference being had to the bodies of believers.

I. THE TEXT PRESENTS US WITH A PICTURE OF THE SPIRITUAL STATE OF OUR RACE; "dead in trespasses and sins." The scene presented to Ezekiel's sight in vision was a valley full of bones. They were "very dry." For a long time they had lain under the scorching heat of an eastern sun, until they were ready to crumble into dust. Here we have symbolised the condition of our race. Men are "dead in trespasses and sins." Spiritual life is departed. Sad as the picture may appear, it is not overdrawn. Scripture testimony is true. All flesh is corrupt, Man is born in sin and shapen in iniquity. "There is none righteous," naturally, "no, not one." It is all-important for us to maintain this doctrine now. For there are those who would persuade us that man is not wholly corrupt; that the race is improving; that there are germs of good in us; that by the cultivation of his faculties, a man may subdue vicious propensities and become virtuous and holy. Why did Christ come to this world? Not simply to leave us an example of perfect holiness, but to atone for sin. He died to save us from a death from which we could not save ourselves. But take away any necessity for the atonement of Christ, and the love of God does not appear so great as the doctrine of man's depravity makes it appear. This doctrine of original sin is one too humbling to man's pride to be received without remonstrance, and the deep-rooted opposition to it is one proof of its truth. Who likes to be told that by nature he is wholly corrupt, and void of spiritual life? Christianity is the great civilising power in the world today, but in the most Christianised countries there is ample evidence of the universal prevalence of sin. There is no hope for the world from itself. As Ezekiel looked forth upon the valley of desolation, God said to him, "Son of man, can these bones live?" and he answered, "O Lord God, Thou knowest." We ask, "Is it possible for the millions of our race now in ignorance of the Gospel, in darkness about a future state, never having heard of the only way of salvation, to be enlightened and all brought at last to worship the same Lord and trust in the same Saviour as ourselves?" We look around us: we see that in a Christian land, like our own, the masses of our fellow creatures, with all the spiritual advantages they possess, are careless about salvation and treat the Gospel as if it were some cunningly devised fable. "Can these dry bones live?" They cannot save themselves; they are powerless to procure themselves spiritual life. Looked at from a human standpoint, the work is an impossibility. To Him who created a world out of nothing, there is no impossibility in restoring to life, whether the dead in sins or the dead in body. Be it ours to follow the directions of Divine Providence, and patiently to wait for the exertion of God's almighty power.

II. THE TEXT PRESENTS US WITH AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE HUMAN INSTRUMENTALITY GOD GENERALLY EMPLOYS IN THE WORK OF QUICKENING THE DEAD IN SINS; THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL. Ezekiel was commanded to prophesy unto the bones, and say, "O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord." Thus it appears that the dry bones were fit subjects for prophecy. They could hear the Word of God and understand it. Remembering that the dry bones primarily represented the Jewish nation, we see the propriety of the command. And taking the dry bones as representing the human family, we see an equal propriety in the vision. Our business is with the command, not the results. We are to use the means, and leave it to God to prosper them. Ezekiel's was a message of life (vers. 5, 6). The Gospel is a message of life. We are told to go and preach to every creature. This preaching has been the human instrumentality chiefly employed. Yet Christianity triumphed over the religions of heathen Greece and Rome; it superseded the subtle philosophies and hoary idolatries of the East; it destroyed the worship of the barbarous Gauls and Germans, and rough savages of Northern and Eastern Europe, and has ever since maintained its hold. Yet the world still speaks of the foolishness of preaching, and wonders that such simple means should accomplish such great results. Let people say what they will, the power of the pulpit is the greatest of human instrumentalities employed to bring about the conversion of the world. The press cannot supersede it, and never will; for in the living voice of a man in sympathy with his mission and burning to save souls, there is a power that the lifeless page can never exercise. It is a divinely appointed institution. God honours it. In this valley of vision, there was one prophet commissioned to declare God's will. Now it is different. One was enough then for the work to be done. But the command to preach Christ's Gospel was given to all His disciples. Ezekiel was prepared to deliver his message, and it would have been grievous sin in him to refuse to do so. So now the disciples of Christ, who are called to preach His Gospel, are prepared for their work. God gives physical, mental, and spiritual gifts to His servants. Ezekiel had the message which he was to deliver, given him, and he dared not announce any other. Had he done so, punishment from God would have been richly deserved, and speedily inflicted, and there would have been no resurrection of the army. And if a preacher preaches any other Gospel than that of "Christ crucified," not only does he expose himself to the punishment of unfaithfulness in a matter of such transcendent importance, but also he will be of no use in saving souls. Many are the ways in which God's servants, divinely commissioned to preach the Gospel, perform their task. Each man for himself must give up his account to God of the way in which he has fulfilled his commission, and ought to do his duty unmoved by the frowns or favour of men. All are not learned as Apollos, or zealous as Paul, or loving and persuasive as John in later life. Like the diversity in the plumage of the feathered tribes; like the variety in the hues of flowers; like the perpetual variation in the shapes of the fleeting clouds, so is the variety endless in the gifts and manner of the divinely commissioned preachers of the Gospel. So long as God owns His servants' labours, let us stand by, and murmur not against His ambassadors.

III. THE TEXT PRESENTS US WITH A VIEW OF THE DIVINE AGENCY EMPLOYED IN THE WORK OF QUICKENING THE DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS: the power of the Holy Spirit. What was the result of Ezekiel's prophecy (vers. 7, 8)? Ezekiel might prophesy, but all his prophesying could not give them life. The change which had been accomplished was not done by Ezekiel's prophesying, but by the power of God. Thus it was the Holy Spirit's power that made that army of slain men to live. Similarly, when God's servants preach the Gospel message to the spiritually dead around them, they feel their utter helplessness to quicken them into spiritual life. As the bodies of Ezekiel's vision had the form of living beings before the breath entered into them, so men may be like Christians in their outward behaviour, but lack their spiritual life. To give this is the work of the Spirit. Oh, recognise the power of the Spirit, Third Person in the ever-blessed Trinity. All the preaching in the world will he useless to give spiritual life to a single soul unless He put forth His power. Trust not in the preacher whoever he may be, but in the Spirit. Already in answer to faithful prayer the Spirit has descended, and dead souls have been quickened, and are an army for Christ doing His work For the vision of Ezekiel showed that the dead when raised became a living army. Their life was given them that they might fight against and subdue God's enemies: they were not simply to enjoy life themselves. And when by the Holy Spirit's working, sinners are led to trust in Jesus and gain spiritual life; they are at once effective soldiers for Christ, and able to lead others to serve under the same gracious King.

(T. D. Anderson, B. A.)

Sermons by the Monday Club.
In the galleries of Versailles the history of France is written in colour. Passing from corridor to corridor, the observer reads from those pictured pages of the centuries, the fortune of ideas, institutions, and dynasties. It is an impressive method of teaching. Many passages of Scripture are marvellous specimens of colour writing. The truth is not taught in dry formulas, but is flashed upon the mind, from parable or symbol or picture. Inspiration is the highest art. Who paints truth like God? Burning bush, pillar of fire and cloud, visions of patriarchs and prophets, splendours of the Transfiguration mount, flaming canvas of the Apocalypse, — what is there that equals these limnings of the Divine pencil? The passage before us is one of these colour sketches of inspiration. It is clear that God designed to teach desolate Israel, by this vision, three things.

1. That there was hope for them. In the judgment of men, they were past help. They were utterly destroyed, their land ravaged, their capital overthrown, themselves captives in Babylonia. Where on the horizon was there a morning ray of promise? God still lived. God had not been carried away into captivity, and "in the Lord Jehovah there is everlasting strength."

2. The lesson of self-distrust. They could not deliver themselves. The wisest heads among them might scheme, the boldest conspirators might plot, but it would avail nothing. Those bleaching bones in the valley were the symbol of utter impotence.

3. Entire dependence upon God. It was the Word of the Lord, at whose utterance bones knit themselves to bones, and covered themselves with flesh. It was the Word of the Lord, at whose bidding the inspiration of life came into the motionless bodies, and transformed the valley of sepulture into an amphitheatre crowded with a host of stalwart men. Israel's hope was Israel's God. The history of Israel was a microcosm, the world's history in type and miniature. The principles on which God governed that people, are the principles on which He governs the race. His arguments and appeals and instructions to them are for all men and all time. This is a lost world. By many that statement is branded as unwarrantable. How wonderful is the march of our modern civilisation! How it hunts out and subsidises the hidden forces of earth and sea and sky, how it annihilates distance, and accelerates the transit of human thought! What beneficent changes it has wrought in ideas and institutions! But there is another side to the matter. It is a universally confessed fact that there is a vast amount of moral and spiritual inertia, which the so-called progress of the race does not overcome, nor sensibly abate. Humanity grows bigger, rather than better. There is not a well-balanced correspondence between the growing intelligence, and the increasing righteousness, of the race. The intellectual outstrips the moral advance. The discoveries of curiosity outnumber and outweigh the accretions of character.

1. That human expedients will prove ineffectual. There has been no stinting of effort to reclaim the world, on the part of good men. The utmost that human effort can compass in this matter is reform, and what a lost world needs is a remaking. Reform alters the shape, but not the nature of things. Man's wisdom has as yet found no way of renewing mankind.

2. The instrumentality to be used is the preaching of the Gospel. As a matter of history, the preaching of the Gospel has proved the most efficient method of reaching a lost world. The little company of the apostles, by the simple proclamation of Christ and the resurrection, dealt the deathblow to Greek and Roman superstition, entrenched in the stronghold of centuries. Cyril and moved two continents with their message. The earth shakes with the tread of the millions who are mustering at the Gospel call. In the jungles of India, under the shadow of the great wall of China, in thronged and eager Japan.

3. The efficient agent is the Spirit of God. The bleaching relics became the bodies of men, but "there was no breath in them." There is a certain measure of influence in the simple utterance and acknowledgment of the claims of Divine truth. Christian governments, Christian institutions, Christian ethics are the result of the confessed sovereignty of the Gospel teachings. But this is not the last power of the Gospel of Christ. It is only when, and only as, the Spirit of God "takes of the things of God, and shows them unto men," that wonderful transformations are wrought in nature, and character. No masterly eloquence, no exhaustive learning, can supply His place. "Paul may plant and Apollos water, but God giveth the increase." The consolidation of all human agencies is comparatively inoperative in the work of man's renewal, and uplift to spiritual life. It is "not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord." We are to concern ourselves less about our intellectual greatness, and more about our fitness to be instruments, through which and with which the Divine power can work.Certain inferential teachings of this passage are worth noting.

1. Some of the methods by which churches and Sabbath schools endeavour to enlarge their influence are weak and wicked. Eternal well-being is at stake, and the fair, the sociable, the concert, the drama cannot lift men "dead in trespasses and sin," into "newness of life in Christ Jesus."

2. The passage is full of encouragement to Christian workers. The spiritually dead are not beyond their reach. The same power that peopled that silent valley with hosts of stalwart men, that transformed blaspheming Saul into fervent Paul, is at their command.

3. The general and concentrated outcome of this portion of Scripture is to urge all who work for God to rely entirely upon God. The invincible Spirit, if He be for us, who can be against us?

(Sermons by the Monday Club.)


1. The persons made the subject of this prophetic vision are represented as dead. To be dead is to be in a state which excites reset and sympathy. To lose the image of God is to die; because as death destroys the human form, sin destroys truth, holiness, and love, in which the image of God in man consists. This is the unhappy case of the heathen. The heathen world is judicially dead, under the wrath and curse of Almighty God. To counteract generous feelings, and to stop the stream of pity in its very fountain, we are aware that the doctrine of the safety of the heathen has been confidently affirmed. The true question is among such persons often mistaken. It is not, whether it is possible for heathens to be saved, — that we grant: but that circumstance proves the actual state of the heathen world to be more dangerous than if no such possibility could be proved; for the possibility of their salvation indisputably shows them to be the subjects of moral government, and therefore liable to an aggravated punishment in case of disobedience. The true question is, Are the heathens, immoral and idolatrous as they are, actually safe?

2. The number of the dead forms another part of the picture, — "the valley was full of bones." The slain of sin are innumerable. The valley as we trace it seems to sweep to an unlimited extent, and yet everywhere it is full! The whole earth is that valley. Where is the country where transgression stalks not with daring and destructive activity? where it has not covered and polluted the soil with its victims? If we turn to the east, there the peopled valleys of Asia stretch before us; but peopled with whom? With the dead! That quarter of the earth alone presents five hundred millions of souls, with but few exceptions, without a God, save gods that sanction vice; without a sacrifice, save sacrifices of folly and blood.

3. To the number of the dead the prophet adds another circumstance, — "they were unburied": the destructive effects of sin, the sad ravages of death, lay exposed and open to the sun. So open and exposed have been the unbelief and blasphemies of the Jews, and the idolatry and vices of the Gentiles.

4. The prophet closes his description by adding, that "the bones were very dry." Under this strong figure the hopelessness of their condition is represented. Thus the Jews, introduced in verse II, are made to say, "Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost"; and the state of the heathen must, at least, be equally hopeless. As far as mere human means and human probabilities go, "there is no hope." From themselves it is certain there is none.


1. This direction intimates that the ministry of the Word is the grand means appointed by God for the salvation of the world. Others have looked for the amelioration of the human race from the progress of science. Another class of speculatists would wait until wars and revolutions have broken up old systems of despotism, and introduced political liberty, before any means are taken to spread the Gospel. Here is another attempt to build the pyramid upon its point. In vain do men expect liberty without virtue.

2. The words may be considered as an injunction on the ministers of the Gospel. But to whom is the message directed? To missionaries only? Nay; but to all who are called "to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ."

3. The injunction, "Prophesy," respects not only ministers, but you also who have a private station in the Church. In the society of Christians the particular work of every member is his own salvation; but he owes a duty to the whole body, which is to promote, by all the means in his power, the common end of the association. That common object is to bring "the wickedness of the wicked to an end, and to establish the just."

III. The prophecy EXPRESSES THE CERTAIN SUCCESS WHICH SHOULD FOLLOW THE APPLICATION OF THE APPOINTED MEANS. We are engaged in no doubtful cause: the kingdom of Christ must prevail; and the Word which has given Him the heathen for His inheritance is "forever settled in heaven." Our confidence rests —

1. On the power of the Gospel. We are not to consider the Gospel as a mere system of doctrines, and duties, and hopes, offered coldly to the reason of mankind. It is this system, but it is more; it is the source of a Divine influence which exerts itself upon the faculties of those who hear it. The Word is never sent without its Author. "Go, and preach My Gospel, and lo, I am with you." The same union subsists between the Spirit and the Word.

2. Our confidence in the certain success of the Gospel rests also upon experience. Christianity is not a novelty; and its efficacy is not now to be put, for the first time, to the test of experiment. It is that powerful and Divine instrument which has for ages been wielded with glorious success in the cause of God and truth.

3. Prophecy confirms the certainty of success.

(R. Watson.)

I. THIS PREACHER HAD A FINE CHURCH TO PREACH IN. It is in "the midst of the valley." The true preacher of Christ has open nature for his temple. He need not be confined to the buildings of man's hands, or tied to the conventionalities of society. Wherever men are, on the valley, the hilltops, the seashore, the high road, or in the market place, he can open his mission, he can deliver his message. Thus Christ and His Apostles preached.

II. THIS PREACHER HAD AN AFFECTING CONGREGATION TO ADDRESS. The valley was full of bones, "very many and very dry." Unregenerate souls are like dead bodies in many respects.

1. They are the creatures of the outward. While there is life in the human body it has a power to appropriate the external to its own use; but when life has departed, the external elements make it their sport. It is so with unregenerate souls. They are the creatures of circumstances.

2. They are loathsome to the eye. The human frame that is beautiful in life becomes so offensive in death, that love seeks a place to bury it out of sight. Unregenerate souls are loathsome to the eyes of all who are truly and spiritually alive.


1. He appealed to his dead auditory. This showed his strong faith in God. His own reason would suggest to him the absurdity of his work, but he trusted God.

2. He appealed to Heaven. "Come from the four winds, O breath," etc. From Heaven the power came, and that power he invoked with all the earnestness of his nature. Thus with the true preacher of Christ. His words will be powerless unless made powerful by the mighty Spirit.


1. The results were what he worked for. The efforts he exerted were for resuscitation, and resuscitation came. Every true preacher will get, to some extent, that for which he earnestly labours.

2. The results were gradually developed. Here is —

(1)Motion — bones moving.

(2)Organisation — bones knitted together and covered with flesh.

(3)Vitality — the organisation animated.

(4)Exertion — stood on their feet "a great army."Under every true preacher the work in a congregation goes on something in this way.


I. THE REPRESENTATION GIVEN US IN THIS VISION OF THE MORAL CONDITION OF OUR WORLD. Bones — dry bones — unburied bones — very many of them — what a crowd of suggestive thoughts seem to be called up by this picture! A bone — who likes to look on this dishonoured relic of life? What a recoil do youth and beauty feel at being told that "to this complexion they must come at last"! But the bones the prophet saw were, on our spiritual interpretation, yet more painful to contemplate; they represented the bones, not of a dead body, but, so to speak, of a dead soul, scattered members of the immortal part — God's image defaced, corrupted, broken into dust and fragments. Furthermore, to complete the picture of death and desolateness, the prophet adds, "and they were very dry." They had not only remained a long time in this state, they were bleached and crumbled in the sun, and all vestige of the human thing was gone. The application of this lies upon the surface. God made us men, but sin has changed us into skeletons. Observe, further, the vision seems to point to the utter shamelessness of the unconverted state. The bones were in an open valley, or champaign. There may be those who sin in secret, those who defraud and plunder by means of locked up and secret ledgers, who concoct their mendacious schemes in chambers dark as the unsunned and unfrequented sepulchre; but the many hardly care to hide their iniquity, they leave the pestiferous breath of corruption to go up from the valley, and seem to glory in their shame. And how unblushingly does vice walk our streets, and lying enter into our commerce, and sinful and foolish jesting dishonour our entertainments, and the offer of cheap excursions affront the sanctities of God's holy day! And whey justify themselves who do such things. Even concealment — that homage which bad men pay to the divinity of virtue — is deemed uncalled for. "They are dead in trespasses and sins," and desire that none should bury them out of our sight. Another mournful spectacle which the vision exhibits of spiritual death reigning around us is its universality. It is not in the midst of the valley only, in the crowd of cities, and in the feverish stir of courts, the haunts of dissipation, or amidst the thickly nestling families of the outcasts that we meet with these relics of spiritual corruption. Wherever we pass, with the prophet, round about, in the retirement of the village, in the seclusion of the cloister, in the calm privacies of family and domestic intercourse — sweet Auburn, mighty London — it is all one — there is not a house in which there is not one dead.

II. THE MEANS TO BE EMPLOYED FOR THE RECOVERY OF THE WORLD FROM ITS SPIRITUALLY DEAD CONDITION. "Can these dry bones live? Can your faith grasp the great fact of these bones becoming men?" And the answer which the downcast man of God would return, would be in substance Ezekiel's answer — "O Lord God, Thou knowest." "Judging by past results, judging by present evidences, judging by any standards of human likelihood, I should say these bones will continue bones. I see not hope or sign of life among them. Every form of moral inducement fails. Mark here, the ministry of the Word is God's great agency for the world's conversion. The days we live in are fertile of expedient and project and bold thought. Every sun that rises finds a thousand busy minds planning and devising something for the good of mankind, The philanthropist's calling is absolutely overdone; and by education, by cultivation of e taste for the arts, by shortened labours for the sons of toil, and open doors for the repentant criminal, by reformatories, dormitories, penitentiaries, and industrial schools, everybody has his scheme for mending the world's present condition. Amidst this multitudinous assemblage of human remedies, all good in their way however, it is a great repose to the mind just to see what is God's remedy. He interferes not with our social machinery, our commerce, our science, our philanthropy, or our laws — these may all go on as before; but He has His own cure for the moral disorders of mankind; and where that cure is left out of sight, God will bless no other. And that is, to prophesy upon these bones and say unto them, "O ye dry bones, hear ye the word of the Lord!" And at this part of the vision the minister of God finds his lesson, He has a pardonable preference for the great promising fields of labour. True, he must go where he is sent, but he would not choose a valley of bones if he could get an auditory of living things. But the tenor of his commission runs — "Preach to the most ignorant, and dark, and hopeless; speak to the dead; even in the place of tombs and at the very mouth of graves; prophesy upon these bones." Neither are we to be tellers of smooth things when we prophesy, to shrink from calling people by their right names and addressing many among them as spiritually dead; for you see there God's own instructions to the preacher — "Say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear ye the word of the Lord." And this is our confidence when we speak — that it is the word of the Lord.

III. THE SUCCESS WHICH SHALL ATTEND THE USE OF ALL HEAVENLY-APPOINTED MEANS FOR THE CONVERSION OF SOULS. We may not omit to observe here, how, under every dispensation the dead and the hopeless are the objects of the Almighty's care. They are the tempted among disciples, the heavy laden among sinners, the weeping among the prodigals; it is among the reeds the sorest bruised, and among bones the "very dry," that mercy finds occasion for its most tender and bright displays. Let us see this principle acted out in the vision. There was a noise and a shaking. To two out of the three proposed interpretations of the vision suggested at the outset these effects seem applicable enough. Thus we can have no difficulty in imagining that a great political commotion should be stirred up on the first proclamation of Cyrus for the return of the Jews to their own land; whilst for the other interpretation, or that which applies the vision to the resurrection of the body, we have the later New Testament confirmation, that the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the powers of heaven shall be shaken. But what fitness have these terms for our spiritual rendering? Much every way. There is no resurrection to spiritual life, whether in a nation, in a family, or in an individual soul, without both a noise and a shaking. Yes, the chariots of the Redeemer never have been noiseless chariots. There was a noise in Judea when John preached the baptism of repentance; there was a noise at Athens when Paul preached the doctrines of the resurrection; there was a noise at Ephesus when the craftsmen saw the danger which threatened their silver shrines. And is there not often a noise in families when the prophesying is just beginning to take effect, when some solitary member of a household comes out from the rest, and with a lofty disregard of the results, resolves to cast in his lot with the people of God? Ask yourselves, have you ever been shaken from these sandy and unstable foundations on which so many are building their immortal house? Have you over been shaken from those unscriptural and hollow creeds which are the only answer many have to make to the fears of death, the terrors of the grave, and the heavy indictment to be preferred against them at the last day? Or, lastly, have you ever felt a shaking in yourselves? Have you ever known what it is to have the heart to sink, and the knees to smite, and the tongue to falter through an oppressive sense of your soul's danger and urgent need? If so, be of good cheer; at this time there was a shaking in you, the bones were beginning to move, and flesh was beginning to come up, and over the face of your regenerate soul the Spirit of God was moving and imparting to you the first breathings of spiritual life.

IV. THE LAST SCENE OF THIS IMPOSING SPECTACLE. See in this feature of the prophet's vision, a type of that halting stage in the Christian life, in which all external forms of godliness are kept up without any growing experience of its power; living, indeed, in shape, but having no breath in them. Seeing there was no breath in these risen forms, the voice said unto Ezekiel, "Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army." We want more breath in our body, more of that which distinguishes the skeleton from the man and the religious automaton from the thing of life — and this is to be obtained only by our prophesying to the wind; by one and all in the church and in their closet offering that fervent petition, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."

(D. Moore, M. A.)

Like many other visions before and since, it is partly shaped by the circumstances of the times. The horrors of the Chaldean invasion, which had resulted, in carrying away the Jewish people into Babylon, were still fresh in the memories of men. In many a valley, on many a hillside in Southern Palestine, the track of the invading army as it advanced and retired would have been marked by the bones of the unoffending but slaughtered peasantry. In a work written some years ago, Mr. Layard has described such a scene in Armenia, an upland valley, covered by the bones of the Christian population who had been plundered and murdered by Kurds. Ezekiel, wrapt in a spiritual ecstasy, was set down in a valley that was full of bones. But what are we to understand by the dry bones of the vision of Ezekiel? This is plainly a picture of a resurrection, not, indeed, of the general resurrection, because what Ezekiel saw was clearly limited and local, but at the same time it is a sample of what will occur at the general resurrection. It may be urged that this representation is presently explained to refer to something quite distinct — namely, the restoration of the Jewish people from Babylon, and therefore that what passed before the prophet's eye need not have been regarded by him as more than an imaginary or even impossible occurrence intended to symbolise a coming event. But if this were the case, the vision, it must be said, was very ill adapted for its proposed purpose. The fact is that the form of Ezekiel's vision, and the popular use which Ezekiel made of it, shows that at this date the idea of the resurrection of the body could not have been a strange one to religious views. Had it been so Ezekiel's vision would have been turned against him. The restoration from the captivity would have been thought more improbable than ever if the measure of its improbability was to be found in a doctrine unbelieved in as yet by the people of revelation. We know, in fact, from their own scriptures, that the Jews had had for many a century glimpses more or less distinct of this truth. Long ago the mother of Samuel could sing that the Lord bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up, and Job could be sure that though worms destroy his body yet in his flesh he would see God; and David, speaking for a Higher Being than himself, yet knows that God will not leave His soul in hell nor suffer His Holy One to see corruption; and Daniel, Ezekiel's contemporary or nearly so, foresees that many who "sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt," and later on the courageous mother of the seven Maccabean Martyrs cries to her dying sons that "the Creator of the world, who formed the generations of men, and thought out the beginning of all things, will also of His mercy give you life and breath again if you regard not yourselves for His sake." Undoubtedly there was among the Jews a certain belief in the resurrection of the body, a belief which this very vision must have at once represented and confirmed. Ezekiel's vision, then, may remind us of what Christ our Lord has taught us again and again in His own words of the resurrection of the body. But its teaching by no means ends with this. For the dry bones of Ezekiel's vision may well represent the conditions of societies of men at particular times in their history, the condition of nations, of Churches, of less important institutions. Indeed, Ezekiel was left in no kind of doubt about the Divinely intended meaning of his vision. The dry bones were pictures of what the Jewish nation believed itself to be, as a consequence of the captivity in Babylon. All that was left of it could be best compared to the bones of the Jews which had been massacred by the Chaldean invader, and which bleached the hillsides of Palestine. "He said unto me, These bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost; we are cut off." Certainly in the captivity little was left of Israel beyond the skeleton of its former self. There were the sacred books, there were Royal descendants of the race of Jacob, there were priests, there were prophets, there was the old Hebrew and sacred language not yet wholly corrupted into Chaldean, there were precious traditions of the past days of Jerusalem, these were the dry bones of what had been earlier. There was nothing to animate them, they lay on the soil of heathenism, they lay apart from each other as if quite unconnected. To the captive people Babylon was not merely a valley of dry bones, but socially and politically it was fatal to the corporate life of Israel, "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, O My people, I will open your graves." And this is what actually did happen at the restoration of the Jews from Babylon. Each of the promises in Ezekiel's vision was fulfilled. The remains of the past history, its sacred books, its priests, its prophets, its laws, its great traditions, its splendid hopes, these once more moved in the soul of the nation as if with the motion of reviving life. It was a wonderful restoration, almost if not altogether unique in history. We see it in progress in the 119th Psalm, which doubtless belongs to this period, which exhibits the upward struggle of a sincere and beautiful soul at the first dawn of the national resurrection, and we read of its completion in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah; it was completed when the Temple, the centre of the spiritual and national life, was fully rebuilt, and when the whole life of the people in its completeness was thus renewed in the spot which had been the home of their fathers from generation to generation. And something of the same kind had been seen in portions of the Christian Church. As a whole, we know the Church of Christ cannot fail, the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; but particular Churches may fail in their different degrees, — national churches, provincial churches, local churches. These, like the seven churches in Asia, which stand as a warning for all the ages of Christendom, these may experience their varying degrees of corruption and ruin and the moral insensibility which precedes death. And some of us may have noted a like resurrection in some institution, neither as defined as a church nor yet so broad or inclusive as a nation, in a school, a college, a hospital, a charitable building, a company. It is the creation, it is the relic of a distant age, it is magnificent in its picturesqueness, it lacks alone nothing but life. It persists in statutes that are no longer observed, it observes ceremonies and customs which have lost their meaning, it constantly holds to a phraseology which tells of a past time and of which the object has been forgotten. But certain it is in each year its members meet, they go through the accustomed usages, they signalise their meeting, it may be by splendid banquets, by commanding oratory, but in their heart of hearts they know they are meeting in a valley of dry bones. The old rules, usages, phrases, dresses, these are scattered around them like the bones of Ezekiel's vision, a life which once animated and clothed has long since perished away. Lastly, the dry bones of Ezekiel's vision may be discovered, and that not seldom, within the human soul. When the soul has lost its hold of truth or grace, when it has ceased to believe or ceased to love all the traces of what it once has been, do not forthwith despair. There are survivals of the old believing life, fragments and skeletons of the old affection, bits of stray logic which once created phrases which express the feeling which once won to prayers, there may remain amid the arid desolation of every valley full of dry bones the aspirations which have no goal, the actions which have no real basis, no practical consequences, the friendships which we feel to be holy and which are still kept up, the habits which have lost all meaning, we meet with writers, with talkers, with historians, with poets whose language shows that they have once known what it is to believe, but for whom all living faith has perished utterly and left behind it only these dried-up relics of its former life. "Can these bones live?" Can these phrases, these forms, these habits, and these associations which once were part of the spirit life, can they ever again become what they were? A man may have ceased to mean his prayers, his prayers may now be but the dry bones of that warm and loving communion which he once held with his God, but do not let him on that account give them up, do not let him break with the little that remains of what once was life. It is easy enough to decry habit, but habit may be the scaffolding which saves us from a great fall, habit may be the arch which bridges over a chasm which yawns between one height and another on our upward road; habit without motive is sufficiently unsatisfactory, but habit is better, better far, than nothing. Some of us it may be surveying the shrivelled elements of our religious life cannot avoid the question which comes in upon us from heaven, "Can these bones live?" They seem to us, even in our best moments, so hopelessly dislocated, so dry, so dead, but to this question the answer always must be, "O Lord God, Thou knowest." Yes, He does know; He sees, as He saw of old into the grave of Lazarus; He sees as He saw into the tomb of the Lord Jesus, so He sees into the crypt of a soul of whose faith and love only these dry bones remain, and He knows that life is again possible.

(Canon Liddon.)

I. THERE IS TO BE A POLITICAL RESTORATION OF THE JEWS. Israel is now blotted out from the map of nations; her sons are scattered far and wide; her daughters mourn beside all the rivers of the earth. But she is to be restored; she is to be restored "as from the dead." She is to be reorganised; her scattered bones are to be brought together. There will be a native government again; there will again be the form of a body politic; a state shall be incorporated, and a king shall reign. "I will place you in your own land," is God's promise to them, They shall again walk upon her mountains, shall once more sit under her vines and rejoice under her fig trees. And they are also to be reunited. There shall not be two, nor ten, nor twelve, but one — one Israel praising one God, serving one king, and that one king the Son of David, the descended Messiah. They are to have a national prosperity which shall make them famous; nay, so glorious shall they be that Egypt, and Tyre, and Greece, and Rome shall all forget their glory in the greater splendour of the throne of David.

II. ISRAEL IS TO HAVE A SPIRITUAL RESTORATION OR A CONVERSION. Both the text and the context teach this. The promise is that they shall renounce their idols, and, behold, they have already done so. Weaned forever from the worship of all images, of whatever sort, the Jewish nation has now become infatuated with traditions or duped by philosophy. She is to have, however, instead of these delusions, a spiritual religion: she is to love her God. "They shall be My people, and I will be their God." The unseen but omnipotent Jehovah is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth by His ancient people; they are to come before Him in His own appointed way, accepting the Mediator whom their sires rejected; coming into covenant relation with God, for so our text tells us, "I will make a covenant of peace with them," and Jesus is our peace, therefore we gather that Jehovah shall enter into the covenant of grace with them, that covenant of which Christ is the federal head, the substance, and the surety. They are to walk in God's ordinances and statutes, and so exhibit the practical effects of being united to Christ who hath given them peace.

III. THE MEANS OF THAT RESTORATION. Observe that there are two kinds of prophesying spoken of here. First, the prophet prophesies to the bones — here is preaching; and next, he prophesies to the four winds — here is praying.

1. It is the duty and the privilege of the Christian Church to preach the Gospel to the Jew, and to every creature, and in so doing she may safely take the vision before us as her guide.(1) She may take it as her guide, first, as to matter. What are we to preach? The text says we are to prophesy, and assuredly every missionary to the Jews should especially keep God's prophecies very prominently before the public eye. Every man has a tender side and a warm heart towards his own nation, and if you tell him that in your standard book there is a revelation made that that nation is to act a grand part in human history, and is, indeed, to take the very highest place in the parliament of nations, then the man's prejudice is on your side, and he listens to you with the greater attention. But still the main thing which we have to preach about is Christ. Preach His hallowed life, the righteousness of His people; declare His painful death, the putting away of all their sins. Vindicate His glorious resurrection, the justification of His people; tell of His ascent on high, their triumph over the world and sin; declare His second advent, His glorious coming, to make His people glorious in the glory which He hath won for them, and Christ Jesus, as He is thus preached, shall surely be the means of making these bones live. Let this preaching resound with sovereign mercy; let it always have in it the clear and distinct ring of free grace. Man has a will, and God never ignores that will, but by His almighty grace He blessedly leads it in silken fetters. Preach, preach, preach, then, but let it be the preaching of Christ, and the proclamation of free grace. The Church, I say, has a model here as to the matter of preaching.(2) And I am certain that she has also a model here as to her manner of preaching. The manner of our preaching is to be by way of command, as well as by way of teaching. Repent and be converted, every one of you. Lay hold on eternal life. "Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."(3) We have a model here, moreover, as to our audience. We are not to select our congregation, but we are to go where God sends us; and if He should send us into the open valley, where the bones are Very dry, we are to preach there. Do not say, "Such-and-such a man is too bigoted"; the case rests not with him, nor with his bigotry, but with God. These bones were very dry, but yet they lived. Let not, therefore, the greater viciousness of a people, or their greater hardness of heart, ever stand in our way, but let us say to them, dry as they are, "Ye dry bones, live."(4) And here, again, we have another lesson as to the preacher's authority. If you will observe, you will see the prophet says, "Hear the Word of the Lord." Always put to your fellowman the truth which you hold dear, not as a thing which he may play with or may do what he likes with, which is at his option to choose or to neglect as he sees fit; but put it to him as it is in truth, the Word of God; and be not satisfied unless you warn him that it is at his own peril that he rejects the invitation, and that on his own head must be his blood if he turns aside from the good word of the command of God.(5) I cannot leave this point without noticing how the prophet describes the effect of his preaching — there was a voice, and there was a noise. Is this stir, then, the stir of opposition, or is it the stir of inquiry? Anything is better than stagnation: of a persecutor I have quite as much hope as of a quiet despiser.

2. After the prophet had prophesied to the bones, he was to prophesy to the winds. He was to say to the blessed Spirit, the Life-giver, the God of all grace, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." Preaching alone doth little; it may make the stir, it may bring the people together, but there is no life-giving power in the Gospel of itself apart from the Holy Spirit. The "breath" must first blow, and then these bones shall live. Let us betake ourselves much to this form of prophesying. Observe that this second prophesying of Ezekiel is just as bold and as full of faith as the first. He seems to have no doubt, but speaks as though he could command the wind. "Come," saith he, and the wind cometh. Little faith, Mender harvests; much faith, plenteous sheaves. Let your prayer, then, be with a sense of how much you need it, but yet with a firm conviction that the Holy Spirit will most surely come in answer to your prayers. And then let it be earnest prayer. That "Come from the four winds, O breath," reads to me like the cry, not of One in despair, but of one who is full of a vehement desire, gratified with what he sees, since the bones have come together, and have been mysteriously clothed with flesh, but now crying passionately for the Immediate completion of the miracle — "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THE NATURAL DEADNESS OF HUMANITY. It goes without saying that there are some people in the world whom you would describe as morally and spiritually dead. If you go down, for example, men and women so lost to all to the lowest dregs of society, you will always find nobleness, and purity, and goodness that they are "dead" — dead to God, dead to humanity, dead even to their own better self. Now, if the Gospel of Christ confined this word "dead" to such wrecks of humanity, I suppose no one would be surprised; certainly no one would have a word to say in objection to the term. But here is the remarkable thing; this Book steadily refuses to limit this term "dead" to these moral outcasts; it takes it in all its dark and terrible meaning, and it declares it is true of all men without exception, and that whatever else conversion may be, before all things else it is this — "passing from death unto life." Take, for example, one illustrated fact. It was not without the profoundest significance that the one man selected by Christ to hear the discourse on the supreme necessity of the new birth was not an abandoned profligate, nor the publican smiting on his breast and crying, "God be merciful to me, a sinner," but Nicodemus, the respectable and apparently blameless Pharisee. There is a tendency in some of the theological thinking to paint a picture of human nature with the darkest lines all left out. Do you tell me that the kindlier view of human nature which is taken today is not only in itself a truer view, but is a healthy reaction from the exaggerated statements of the Calvinistic theology of a past age? I am not careful to deny there is some truth in what you say. Be it so; but do not forget the pendulum of human thought is always swinging from one extreme to the other, and if there was once danger from an unscriptural severity, there may be equal danger today from an unscriptural charity of statement. Too little shadow will spoil a picture quite as much as too little light. Or do you again remind me that there is something good to be found even in the worst of men; that the hardest heart has a tender spot somewhere if only we knew where to find it; that, in a word, there are some movements of moral life in all men, and that so far they are certainly not "dead," I will not dispute the fact. If there was no conscience in man, there would be nothing left to which Christ could appeal; but do not forget the occasional movements of this conscience towards virtue may be associated with the profoundest indifference to God. Beneath the muttering of the lips of the sleeper the soul may lie in the sleep of death. It is not immorality that is the universal sin, it is a deeper, darker, deadlier sin — it is ungodliness! You may be alive to man, but dead to God. Just as the moon has that part of her surface which is turned to the earth all radiant with light, whilst the opposite hemisphere turned towards the distant heavens is dark as midnight, and is wrapped in the silence of eternal death, so the heart of man is lighted up with gleams of human goodness, whilst it is utterly dark and dead to God. At the surface of the sea there may be some dim, imperfect light penetrating the water; but as you go deeper down the light grows fainter and fainter, until in the depths it is quenched in the darkness of an everlasting night. It is a great, it is a fatal mistake to imagine you will commend the Gospel by concealing any part of its message. Speak, I say, all you find in your heart to say of the honour and glory of man, but when you have said all do not end there. Add another word. Say — say it with tears in your eyes: "This glorious temple is all in ruins. This child of the Eternal is a lost child, a dead son."

II. THE PROCESS OF QUICKENING. The prophet is commanded by God to "prophesy unto these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord," and then follows that word. The first act — that is, of any prophet — in the quickening of the dead is the utterance of a Divine message that is intrusted to him. The Gospel is called in the New Testament "the Message," and a message only asks to be delivered. We are not discoverers of truth, we are only witnesses to a truth given to us to declare. It is "the Word of the Lord," not the word of the man, which we have to speak. And on this fact depend two things — first, the authority of the messenger, and next the power of his message. You are an "ambassador for Christ," with all the responsibility, but with all the authority of an ambassador. And as this truth confers authority on the messenger of Christ, so it creates all the power of His message. "For some thirty years," wrote the late Dr. Pusey in the preface to his learned and laborious work on Daniel, "this has been a deep conviction of my soul, that no book can be written on behalf of the Bible like the Bible itself"; and what Pusey said of the Book we may say of the message the Book contains, and which is given us to speak. The power of the Word is more in the message than in the messenger who delivers it. I do not forget because I say this how much, how very much, depends on the man; how just as an instrument out of tune may mar the noblest music, so an unworthy or unfit messenger may spoil all the sweetness of the message. But for all this, the message is the first thing, the great thing, and the messenger is only of value as he speaks the. message. "Who then is Paul, or who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed?" Here, then, I repeat, is the secret of our power so far as our word to man is concerned — we have to speak "the Word of the Lord." There is nothing else to speak. You may, if you please, try to substitute other things for it; you may give to your people ingenious speculations on science, lectures on art. There is no power in them to reach the deepest needs of the sin and sorrow of the world. There is only one theme for the Christian preacher, but it is an infinite theme; it is Christ Himself — Christ, Son of God and Son of man, Christ in all the immeasurable meaning of that glorious Name —Well worth all languages on earth or heaven.Christ crucified, Christ risen, Christ ascended to the eternal throne, Christ Friend, Brother, Saviour, Lord, Judge of men, and only as that mighty Name is on our lips will the music, of the message touch the heart of man.

III. FRUITLESS PREACHING. The prophet has prophesied "over the bones," and now mark the result: "Them was a noise, and behold an earthquake, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And I beheld, and lo! there were sinews upon them, and flesh came up, and skin covered them above, but" — "but there was no breath in them." How often is this experience repeated in our own work. We preach "the Word of the Lord" — preach it, perhaps, fervently and earnestly — and then what follows? There is some excitement in the congregation, there is movement, there is interest; some eyes am filled with tears; here and there there are impressions created — there is what looks like the first stirrings of the Divine life. Alas! alas! it is not so. The congregation disperses, the eyes are soon dry again, the heart has not been touched, the depths have never been moved, God has not yet come to those dead souls, "there is no breath in them." It was the semblance — not the reality of life we had produced. It takes some of us a long time to learn this humbling, but most salutary lesson. We can do so much, or what seems so much; we have "the Word of God" on our lips, we can preach it faithfully, we can toil hard, very hard, all the night, and it seems impossible all this toil should end in nothing. Yet it does. When we have done all, we have failed, utterly failed, to quicken the dead. It is only when He comes who is the Lord and Giver of Life that in a moment our unfruitful toil is crowned with abundant and overflowing success. Do you ask me how we are to gain this power? how this Divine breath may come breathing on the slam? I answer in the words of the vision, "Prophesy unto the wind," and prophecy, which spoken to man is preaching, uttered to God is prayer. It is prayer, only prayer, that holds in its upstretched hands the secret of the power of God.

(G. S. Barrett, B. A.)




1. It is the Lord who speaks.

2. In His words, are —





1. A noise.

2. A reunion.

3. Harmony in this reunion.

4. Elastic strength for action.

5. A human form.

6. Life.

(1)God, the Source.

(2)The Spirit, the Agent.

(3)His Word, the instrument.

(4)Man, the medium.

(J. Gill.)

Then comes the Divine challenge to the man who is willing honestly, and without any disguise, to contemplate the facts: "And He said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live?" God will have the sympathy and the hope and the eager anticipation of His servant for His enterprise before He will openly pledge Himself to it. Ponder the situation — God and His servant all alone, and together gazing at that valley very full of very dry bones! Thus do begin the things which thrill earth and heaven! No life, no promise, no hope, anywhere but in Him who searches us with His challenge. There can be no mighty commerce between earth and heaven except through the faith which believeth Him "who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were." It is a chief peril of our creaturehood to make ourselves — not the living God — the law and measure and explanation of all things. "We were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight" — wailed the unbelieving spies! And what could grasshoppers achieve against giants? Yet the Word of Jehovah had pledged victory. Two dominions are ever open to us — self or God, our creature thoughts or our Creator's Word. In that momentous testing hour it was not in self and its thinkings that Ezekiel took his stand, but in God and His greatness: "O Lord God, Thou!" Let us follow his example, and so become "men of God" the highest dignity open to us — men who ever account the living God the first and chief factor in every problem of thought and conduct. The miserable alternative is the grasshopper manner — grasshopper fears, grasshopper thinkings, grasshopper doings! And of what avail is a grasshopper in a valley of dry bones?

(C. G. Macgregor.)

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