The Universal Responsibility of Man
Ezekiel 18:4
Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it shall die.


1. Explanation of the terms of this proposition. When we speak of the responsibility of man, we mean that tie or bond or obligation or law necessarily springing from the relations in which he stands, and the circumstances in which he is placed, — by which he is not only bound to demean himself in a manner answerable thereto, and is liable to the penalties of failing therein, in respect of his own welfare and that of others with whom he is surrounded and brought into daily contact; but more especially is this the case in reference to the supreme God, to whom all his allegiance is directly due, and from whose hands he must finally receive a gracious approbation, or a most fearful and eternal condemnation. Again, when we speak of the universality of this responsibility, or obligation, we mean that it applies both to all individual persons and to all relative or social or other orderly circumstances, by which human beings are connected together, and dependent upon each other; and that in all these relations this obligation is more especially to be considered in reference to their accountability to the Lord.

(1) If you consider man as a creature, the work of God's hand, the law of his responsibility, as such, binds him to "love the Lord thy God with all thy heart," etc.

(2) If you consider man as a sinner, a rebel against the law and the authority of God, his responsibility appears in new and vastly increased proportions.

(3) The same equally applies, although in a still stronger point of view, to the state and condition of man as a sinner, placed under a dispensation of mercy. Now, as he values the life of his soul, and the favour of God, he is bound to repent of his sins and believe the Gospel.

(4) Again, if you consider man as a happy believer in Christ, pardoned and accepted in the Beloved, you must still consider him as a responsible creature, bound in a new and higher manner to love and adore the God of his salvation; while the very mercy he has received not only lays him under the new claims of gratitude and love, but evinces the equity of his former obligations, and honours and fulfils them all.

(5) Or if you advance a step further, and consider him as a glorified saint in heaven, there the obligation rises to the highest pitch, and there it is perfectly rendered, and will be so forever. Every penalty is here paid, and every claim is here fulfilled.

(6) Or yet again once more, if you see the devil and his angels, and the wicked, and all the nations that forget God, cast into hell, and suffering together the vengeance of eternal fire, you there behold the creature's responsibility exhibited in the most awful and tremendous manner.

2. In its expansive nature and particular detail. Consider it in reference —

(1) To our individual character. Every person throughout the whole earth, whether high or low, or rich or poor, comes within the sphere of its influence.

(2) In its relative extent. The law of responsibility enters into all the various orders and relations of society, and pervades and sways over the whole.

(3) In its aggregate amount. But who can calculate this amount, or reckon up the untold liabilities of the creature, as they congregate upon his head in the relative positions in which he stands, or in the social gradations with which he is invested?

(4) And can anything be more lovely and beautiful in itself, or more equitable, reasonable, and holy, in its obligations and claims, than the systematic proportions of such an order and constitution of things as this? Here is nothing redundant, nothing unnecessary, nothing unfit, nothing that does not conduce to the mutual benefit and advance the welfare of all!


1. How needful it is that every person should seek to be thoroughly grounded in the doctrine of man's universal responsibility.

2. What a clear ground for universal conviction and condemnation! The glittering crown is no screen from this allegation, nor the royal robe any covering from this guilt. Dignity, honour, wealth, fame, talents, abilities, lordly palaces, princely incomes, can neither shield the guilty culprit nor avert the sentence to which he is exposed. Nor can any inferiority of rank or station elude its piercing eye, or escape its widely extended arm. It is the law of our being; and therefore it will find us out, wherever we are and whatever we do.

3. What a vast amount of guilt lies at every man's door! Talents neglected; abilities abused; influence and authority averted from the cause of God and His truth, and dedicated to the service of pleasure and sin.

4. How just will be the righteous judgment of God upon all impenitent sinners at last!

5. Let all who would escape that fearful doom bethink themselves in time, and flee to the appointed refuge while mercy may be had.

(R. Shittler.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

WEB: Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul who sins, he shall die.

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