BY CHARLES HADDON SPURGEON
On Thursday 16 June 1864, Charles H. Spurgeon preached a message
on Ezekiel 37:1-10 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, in aid of the
Funds of the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews.
The following is the beginning excerpt of the sermon. You can read the rest here.
THIS vision has been used, from the time of Jerome onwards, as a description of the resurrection, and certainly it may be so accommodated with much effect. What a vision of the great day the words picture before the mind’s eye! The great army of the quick, who once were dead, seem to start up as we read. Here, too, we have a very fit and appropriate question to be asked in a tomb—“Son of man, can these bones live?” Looking down into the dark grave, or watching the grave digger as he throws up the moldering relics, once infused with life, well may unbelief suggest the inquiry—“Can these bones live?” Faith cannot at all times give a more satisfactory answer than this—“O Lord God, You know.” But while this interpretation of the vision may be very proper as an accommodation, it must be quite evident to any thinking person that this is not the meaning of the passage. There is no allusion made by Ezekiel to the resurrection, and such a topic would have been quite apart from the design of the prophet’s speech. I believe he was no more thinking of the resurrection of the dead than of the building of St. Pe- ter’s at Rome, or the emigration of the Pilgrim fathers! That topic is altogether foreign to the subject at hand, and could not by any possibility have crept into the prophet’s mind. He was talking about the peo- ple of Israel, and prophesying concerning them; and evidently the vision, according to God’s own inter- pretation of it, was concerning them, and them alone, for, “These bones are the whole house of Israel.” It was not a vision concerning all men, nor, indeed, concerning any men as to the resurrection of the dead—it had a direct and special bearing upon the Jewish people.
This passage, again, has been very frequently, and I dare say very properly, used to describe the re- vival of a decayed church. This vision may be looked upon as descriptive of a state of lukewarmness and spiritual lethargy in a church, when the question may be sorrowfully asked—“Can these bones live?” Can that dull minister wake up to living power? Can these cold deacons glow with holy heat? Can those unspiritual members rise to something like holy, earnest self-sacrifice? Is it possible that the drowsy formal church could start up to real earnestness? Such suggestions might well have occurred to many minds at the time of the reformation. It did seem impossible, when popery was in its power, that spiritual life should ever again return to the Church. Piety seemed to be dead and buried, and the cloister, the clergy, superstition and deceit, like great graves, had swallowed up everything that was good; but the Lord appeared for His people, and brought up the buried truth of God out of its grave, and once more, in every part of the known world, the name of Jesus Christ was lifted up, and sound doctrine was preached! So was it in our own country. When both the establishment and dissent had fallen into spiritual death, we might well have said—“Can these bones live?” But Whitefield and Wesley were raised up by God, and they prophesied to the dry bones, and up they stood—filled with the Spirit of God—“an exceeding great army.” Let the crowds of Kingsdown, and the multitudes on Kennington Common, tell of the quickening power of Jesus’ name! Decayed churches can most certainly be revived by the preaching of the Word, accompanied by the coming of the heavenly “breath” from the four winds. O Lord, send us such revivals now, for many of Your churches need them—they are almost as dead as the corpses which sleep around them in the graveyard!
But while we admit this to be a very fitting accommodation of our text, yet we are quite convinced that it is not to this that the passage refers. It would be altogether alien to the prophet’s train of thought to be thinking about the restoration of fallen zeal, and the rekindling of expiring love; he was not considering the reformation either of Luther or of Whitefield, or about the revival of one church or of an- other. No, he was talking of his own people, of his own race, and of his own tribe. He surely ought to have known his own mind, and led by the Holy Spirit, he gives us as an explanation of the vision, not— “Thus says the Lord, My dying Church shall be restored,” but—“I will bring My people out of their graves, and bring them into the land of Israel.”