Say to them, As I live, said the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked…
Christian teachers are always talking to men about conversion, change of heart, and consequent change of habit. The Christian teacher seems to be intent upon pressing upon the attention of men a certain scheme of thought. He will not speak to us so much about practical life, conduct, habit, manners, and the like; he persistently addresses himself to the exposition and enforcement of certain abstract or metaphysical arguments. The idea is that if you can really alter a man's thought, you at the same time alter the man's fife. The Christian teacher, therefore, if really sent from God, begins with the heart, he does not come to wash the hands, but to cleanse the soul; knowing that when the heart is really clean, thoroughly purified, the hands cannot be foul. He would make the fountain good that he may purify the stream; he would make the tree good that the fruit which it brings forth may also be good. The motive determines the quality. If a man be building from the outside and only on the outside, then be sure he is not a durable builder. Hence the slowness, or the apparent slowness, of the Christian movement. You can write a programme in a few moments; you can, by using proper instrumentalities, organise a demonstration for fourteen or ten days, and it shall be quite impressive and portentous to some minds and eyes; but it means nothing unless there be behind it a conviction, a spiritual reality, a noble motive, then it must win. When your minds are full of right thoughts we need take no further care of you. You are under the government of God; but whilst you have cast out the evil thoughts and have not received the good thoughts you are yourselves a temptation and an opportunity to the devil. First of all, then, we lay down this proposition, that a man must be born again; not merely restored, reformed, redressed, rehabilitated, but born, born again; starting life as a babe, with a babe's heart, and a babe's eye of wonder, and a babe's trustfulness. Who is Christ? Have you begun at the right name? My Lord hath a thousand appellations, yea by ten thousand names is He known to all the adoring angels, but to me He is known first and midst and last by the sweet name — Saviour. What man wants in the first instance is the distinct consciousness that he needs a Saviour. Until he gets that consciousness he can make no progress. Only broken heartedness can pray; only helplessness can cry mightily to heaven; only agony has e he key of the Cross. When a man does not thirst he does not inquire for the stream, but when his throat is burning with thirst his lips are full of heat because of want of water; he tries to say, though chokingly, Where is the well, where is the stream? Then a child might load him; but so long as that necessity is not biting him, burning him, scorching him, he holds his head aloft, he will not be talked to, he will not have any dogmatic teaching; let him alone. The time will come when he will ask the least child that can talk to tell him where the living stream doth flow. The Christian idea is that there is only one Saviour. But He is a thousand Saviours in one. He has all man needs, and man needs all He has. It is a very complex problem, though simple in some of its aspects. Man never knows how great a being he is until he knows Christ. Christ makes the man himself so much larger. He addresses Himself to the very mystery of our manhood. He does not ignore our will. He knows that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, He knows that He is dealing with the handiwork of God, for a moment spoiled by the devil; therefore He saith, What wilt thou, poor blind man? what wilt thou, lonesome leper? Therefore saith He, "Believe ye that I am able to do this?" and when He reproaches us He says, "Ye will not come unto Me that ye might have life"; and in that last, grandest, sublimest plaint He says, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem! killer, stoner of prophets and missionaries, how often would I have gathered thee together as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not": and these words He could hardly speak, for He was choking with emotion, and the tears were running from His eyes. Christianity is a pleading religion, it is a missionary religion; it goes out after that which is lost, and will not come until it hath found it. The Gospel has only one time — now! The Gospel has no tomorrow; "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." All earnestness has only one time. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, with a will, with a tremendous concentrated energy, for in the grave there is no device. Christianity has only one way — believe! How this word has been maltreated! To believe is to give the soul over to the keeping of the way of God. Belief is not assenting to something, saying, That is true: I see no reason against it: in the meantime your proposition seems to be wholly impregnable, your position is invincible: on the whole I accede and consent. That is not faith; that is a mere intellectual action. To believe is to nestle the soul in God. Christianity has only one purpose — holiness. Christianity ends in conduct. Christianity begins in motive, but it ends in character, in manhood. We are to be perfect men in Christ Jesus, we are to be as He was in the earth; we are to breathe His Spirit, repeat His deeds, follow His footsteps, and represent Him to mankind. Christianity has only one test — service. To die for Christ, to work for Christ, to be always repeating Christ's great mission to the world. Lord, what wilt Thou have me do? Watch a door, light a lamp, or preach Thy Word? Not my will, but Thine be done; only dismiss me not Thy service, Lord!
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
WEB: Tell them, As I live, says the Lord Yahweh, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn, turn from your evil ways; for why will you die, house of Israel?