May 2, 2010

Ezekiel 18:31-32 - John Gill

Ezekiel 18:31-32.
Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed, and make you a new heart and a new spirit; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: Wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

This passage of Scripture is frequently used by the[1] patrons of free-will, and opposers of God’s grace; in which they imagine the power of man in conversion is strongly asserted, and the doctrine of reprobation sufficiently disproved; but whether they are, or are not, we shall be better able to judge when, the following things are considered.

1. That the exhortation to cast away their transgressions from them, regards either their sins themselves, which they had committed, and shows, that they were not only unprofitable, but pernicious, and so to be disliked and abhorred, as such things are that are proper to be cast away; or else the punishment due to their sins, which they might have removed and cast off from them by their repentance and reformation, and is the sense Kimchi gives of the words; or rather those things, particularly their idols, by which then transgressed. Now let it be observed, that this phrase of casting away transgressions, is no where else used, is peculiar to Ezekiel, and so may be best interpreted by Ezekiel 20:7, 8. Then said I unto them, Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, etc. Now these idols were the abominations of their eyes, were the cause of their transgressions, or that by which they transgressed, which their own hands had made unto them, for a sin (Isa. 31:7), and what they had power or were able to cast away from them; and no ways militates against the necessity of an unfrustrable operation in conversion.

2. The other exhortation, to make them a new heart and a new spirit, admitting that it designs a renewed, regenerated heart and spirit, in which are new principles of light, life, and love, grace, and holiness, it will not prove that it is in the power of an unregenerate man, to make himself such a heart and spirit; since from God’s commands, to man’s power, non valet consequentia, is no argument: God commands men to keep the whole law perfectly; it does not follow from hence that they can do it; his precepts show what man ought to do, not what he can do. Such an exhortation as this, to make a new heart, may be designed to convince men of their want of one, and of the importance of it, that without it is no salvation; and so be the means, through the efficacious grace of God, of his elect enjoying this blessing; for what he here exhorts to, he has absolutely promised in the new covenant (Ezek. 34:26); A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you. Though it ought to be observed, that these words are not spoken to unconverted persons, but to the house of Israel, every one of them; who cannot be thought, especially all of them, to have been at that time in an unregenerate state; and therefore must not be understood of the first work of renovation, but of some after renewings, which were to appear in their external conversation; and so the words have the same sense as those of the apostle Paul to the believing Ephesians (Eph. 4:23, 24). Be ye renewed in the spirit of your minds; and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Moreover, by a new heart, and a new spirit, may be meant, as the Targum of Jonathan Ben Uzziel renders them, aljd hwrw lytd bl, a fearing heart, and a spirit of fear, that is, a heart and spirit, to fear, serve, and worship the Lord, and not idols. And it is observable, that wherever a new heart and spirit are spoken of, they stand opposed to idols, and the service of them; so that the exhortation amounts to no more than this, that they yield a hearty reverential obedience to the living God, and not to dumb idols. Besides, what is here called a new heart, is, in Ezekiel 11:9, called one heart, that is, a single heart, in opposition to a double or hypocritical, one; and so may design sincerity and uprightness in their national repentance and external reformation, which they are here pressed unto.

3. The expostulation, Why will ye die? is not made with all men; nor can it be proved that it was made with any who were not eventually saved, but with the house of Israel, who were called the children and people of God; and therefore cannot disprove any act of preterition passing on others, nor be an impeachment of the truth and sincerity of God. Besides, the death expostulated about, is not an eternal, but a temporal one, or what concerned their temporal affairs, and civil condition, and circumstances of life; see Ezekiel 33:24 to 29. Hence,

4. The affirmation, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, which is sometimes introduced, with an oath, (Ezek. 33:11) as I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, does not in the least militate against an act of preterition; whereby any are left by God justly to perish in and for their iniquities; or the decree of reprobation, whereby any, on the score of their transgressions, are appointed, or foreordained to condemnation and death; and therefore all the reasonings[2] made use of to disprove these things, founded on this passage of Scripture, are vain and impertinent; for a death of afflictions is here intended, as has been already observed, which the house of Israel was groaning under, and complaining of; though it was wholly owing to themselves, and which was not grateful to God, and in which he took no pleasure: which is to be understood, not simply and absolutely, and with respect to all persons afflicted by him; for he delights in the exercise of judgment and righteousness, as well as in showing mercy, and laughs at the calamity of wicked men, and mocks when their fear cometh; (Jer. 9:24; Prov. 1:26) but it is to be taken comparatively; as when he says (Hosea 5:6.) I will have mercy, and not sacrifice; that is, I take delight in mercy rather than in sacrifice; so here, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth: in his afflictions, distresses, calamities, captivity, and the like; but rather, that he would return from his ways, repent and reform, and live in his own land; which shows the mercy and compassion of God (Lam. 3:33) who does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. Wherefore he renews his exhortation, Turn yourselves, and live ye. The sum of all this is, you have no reason to say, as in verse 2, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge; or as in verse 25, that the way of the Lord is not equal; seeing it is not for the sins of your parents, but your own, that the present calamities you are complaining of lie upon you; for my part, I take no delight in your death, in your captivity; it would be more agreeable to me, would you turn from your evil ways, to the Lord your God, and behave according to the laws I have given you to walk by, and so live in your own land, in the quiet possession of all your goods and estates. But what has this to do with the affairs of eternal life, or eternal death?

[1] Remontr. in Coll. Hag. art. 3. 4. p. 216; Act. Synod. p. 78, etc.; Curcell. 1. 5, c. 6, sect. 1. p. 363; et. 1. 6, c. 14, sect 8, p. 408; Limborch. 1. 4, c. 5, sect. 2, p. 331, &, 31. p. 374.
[2] See Whitby, pp. 3, 33, 160, 196, 197; ed. 2.3, 32, 156,192, 193.

Duty-faith Expositions

Free Grace Expositions