Divine Destruction And Protection

“ And all the trees of the field shall know that I, Jehovah, have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish. I, Jehovah, have spoken and have done it.”

Ezekiel 17:29

CAN your minds fly back to the time when there was no time, to the day when there was no day but the Ancient of Days? Can you speed back to that period when God dwelt alone, when this round world and all the things that are upon it had not come from His hand? When the sun flamed not in its strength and the stars flashed not in their brightness? Can you go back to the period when there were no angels, when cherubim and seraphim had not been born and, if there are creatures older than they, when none of them had as yet been formed? Is it possible, I say, for you to fly so far back as to contemplate God alone–no creature, no breath of song, no motion of wing–God Himself alone, without another? Then, indeed, He had no rival! None, then, could contest with Him, for none existed. All power, and glory, and honor and majesty were gathered up into Himself. And we have no reason to believe that He was less glorious than He is now, when His ministers delight to do His pleasure, nor less great than now, when He has created worlds on worlds and thrown them into space, scattering over the sky, stars with both His hands! He sat on no precarious throne. He needed none to add to His power. He needed none to bring Him a revenue of praise. His All-Sufficiency could admit of no lack. Consider next, if you can, the eternal purpose of God that He would create. He determines it in His mind. Could any but a Divine motive actuate the Divine Architect? What must that motive have been? He creates that He may display His own perfections! He does beget, as it were, creatures after His own image that He may live in them–that He may manifest to others the joy, the pleasure, the satisfaction which He so intensely feels in Himself. Certain I am His own Glory must have been the end He had in view. He would reveal His Glory to the sons of men, to angels and to such creatures as He had formed in order that they might reflect His honor and sing His praise!

You are not ignorant, my Brothers and Sisters, of the fact that sin entered into the world. You know that the Creation, which had been harmonious as a Psalm in God’s praise, voluminous and exhaustive as a book in which He revealed His own Character–this Creation, once exceedingly fair, became foully marred. Rival instincts were produced and rival interests were set up. Man’s will stood up against God’s will–man’s profit against God’s honor–man’s device against God’s counsel. Eve took of the accursed fruit and Adam partook of the same and, from that day on man became a rival to God, just as Satan, aforetime, had rebelled against the blessed and only Potentate and usurped authority. From the time when Satan fell, God’s purpose was to break down everything which set itself up in opposition to Him. From that day till now, no matter how great, how lofty, how apparently excellent a thing might be, it has been the rule with God to pull it down if it did not stand in Him and for Him! Yes, and wherever He has looked, no matter how mean a thing may have been, how low, how degraded to outward appearance, it has been God’s constant rule to lift it up if it stood in Him and for Him! Or if, by the lifting up of the humble, He might throw scorn upon the haughty, He would thereby magnify His own absolute right to exercise Sovereign control and to do with men as He willed.

Oh, that I could commend the words of some of the mighty masters of song, or that I had an angel’s voice, so much rather would I hymn this high majestic theme than speak of it in listless prose! But I cannot rise to the awful heights of this incomparable design! I contemplate it with awe not unmingled with admiration–the Eternal God withstanding everything that opposes itself against Him–thrusting down the mighty from their seats, plucking off crowns from the heads of princes, degrading the escutcheons of nobles, trampling in the mire the fine linen and the scarlet of the rich, setting at nothing the wisdom of the wise, divesting the philosopher of his toga, rending in pieces the robes of the priest, and pouring contempt upon everything that vaunts pretension or arrogates prestige in defiance of His sacred prescriptive, irrevocable lordship! There is no power or permanence, no warrant or worth in any claim to greatness or goodness independent of God, or antagonistic to Him. My conceptions are too dwarfish, my language is too feeble to compass the grandeur of this theme. It’s truth commends it and its usefulness enhances it–it bows the heart before God and convinces us that only then are we in a fit state to be filled with His fullness, to live in His life, to be wise with His wisdom and to be glorious in His Glory–when we are emptied of our own conceits. Mine, however, will be a more practical lesson at this time. And I shall use more homely words than that nobler subject might have demanded.

I THINK I see a great forest which reaches for many a league. The trees are of divers growths and of various ages. Some of them are very lofty. Here a towering cedar and yonder the storks have made their nests among the tall fir trees. There are stout oaks that laugh at storms, and elms that will not be twisted with the tempest. See how they rival each other! And there are lowlier trees–some bearing fruit, though scarcely seen–others, like the vine, creeping upon the ground–so obscure they can hardly be observed. It is a strange forest in which trees of every clime are to be found. Some green, verdant, laden with blossoms and with fruit. Others dead, dry, withered, with scarcely here and there a leaf. It is the evening, the cool of the day. The Lord God who visited the fair garden of Eden is come to walk in this forest. Along those deep glades, amidst that thick shade, the Almighty appears. He comes. How do I see Him? He bears in His hands an awful axe and He passes His finger along its edge to see that it is sharp. Strong is the arm that wields it. Howl, cedars, if once He lifts that axe against you! What does that Woodsman mean to do? Wait, and let us hear Him speak. Oh, you trees of the field, be silent before the Lord! Clap not your hands until we have heard Him speak. “The trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, have brought down the high tree”–beware, you towering cedars! “That I have exalted the low tree”–take courage, you lowly vines! “That I have dried up the green tree”–wail, you verdant elms! “And have made the dry tree to flourish”–hope, you withered boughs! “I the Lord have spoken, and have done it.” Let the trees be silent before the Lord, for He comes to judge them, and He judges them with much jealousy. That forest I have before my eyes. Now men, like trees, appear to me in the vision. While I gaze on this dense mass of people listening to my voice, let me interpret the Mighty Woodsman’s words to you. There are four notes of which we shall speak, one after the other. May God sanctify the emblems to our profit, touching our ears and teaching our hearts, that we may rightly understand what the Lord says to the trees of the forest.


Look over history and you will see that everything gigantic in stature and colossal in dimensions, whatever has been great to human apprehension, grasping at earthly fame, has become an object for God’s penetrating arrows and a subject for His withering blight. A grand idea of universal monarchy flashed upon the mind of man. He would build a tower, the top of which would reach to Heaven! What did the Lord do with this fine scheme? “I will come down,” He said, “to Babel, and see if it is altogether as they have said.” Then He touched their tongues and confounded their language, and scattered the imaginations of their hearts–and so He laughed them to scorn, and left them to be a laughingstock to all generations! Then came the great power of Egypt. Pharaoh said, “Am I not lord of Thebes, with its hundred gates, and with its myriads of brazen chariots? Have I not a mighty host of cavalry? Who is equal to me? I speak, and the nations tremble.” When the king hardened his heart, how did Jehovah–the King of Kings–get Himself honor from Pharaoh and his hosts? “You did blow with Your wind; the sea covered them; they sank as lead in the mighty waters. Sing unto the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider has He cast into the sea!” In later years Babylon set herself up as a queen. “I shall be a lady forever,” said the gay metropolis of the earth, the mighty city of Euphrates. “I sit alone. I shall see no sorrow.” Behold, she decks herself out with scarlet! She arrays herself with silk! All the nations of the earth are quiet when she arises nor is the sound of a whisper heard when the voice of her command goes forth! But where are you, daughter of Assyria, where are you, now, O daughter of Chaldea? Where is the crown which once circled your brow and adorned your head? Go, mark a heap of rubbish and of desolate stones! Hear the hooting of the owls and the howling of the dragons, as each one calls to his fellow in the midst of a desolation which cannot be repaired! How are you fallen from Heaven, Lucifer, Son of the Morning! Thus God breaks in pieces with His right hand everything arrogant and supercilious that dares to assert greatness apart from His endowment, or to presume on authority other than He delegates! I might prolong the strain. I might tell you of Rome and all the boastings of that Imperial mistress–point to her faded charms and tell of her decay and her decadence. I might lead you back to Sennacherib and all his hosts overthrown, or recite the story of Nebuchadnezzar, driven out from the abodes of men and feeding as the beasts. I might show you lesser kings, kings of Israel, brought exceedingly low until they who had sat on the throne as princes pined in the dungeon among slaves! To multiply instances would be only to confirm the general current of history and illustrate the fact that the Lord, even the Lord of Hosts, always cuts down the high tree, humiliates the creature that exalts itself and suffers no flesh to glory in His Presence! That is the law of His government.

The question arises, how does it concerns us? Doubtless it opens a sad prospect to those who are lifted up with pride, or inflated with self-opinion. Are there any among you who boast in heraldry a long succession of illustrious names which has ennobled your pedigree? Some people seem to think that the world is hardly good enough for them to tread upon, as if they were made of china, while other men are molded but of common clay! They look down upon the public as an ignoble herd and speak of the masses as the “many-headed,” and the “great unwashed.” Such a man will play the parasite to his own dear self, passionately cherish his own conceits and petulantly hold that whatever belongs to him is better than anyone else can procure for love or money, be it his house, or his horse, the water from his well, or the wine from his cellar! At his wit let all inferiors laugh! To his greed let all who would receive his patronizing nod do obeisance. In stately isolation he will acknowledge no rival. Do you know, man, that in one respect you have a veritable preeminence?–you may fairly challenge all your fellows for one whose disposition the Lord hates more than He abhors yours! Among the seven abominations, your order ranks highest. No liar or murderer can claim a preeminence over you in vice so long as the Proverbs stand. Before long the heel of the Almighty shall be lifted higher than your haughty head! He will cast you down, be your look ever so proud, for the Lord has purposed it to stain the pride of all glory, to bring into contempt all the excellence of the earth!

There is, again, an arrogance of mind, of judgment, of opinion, just as ignorant–if not quite so grotesque–as hiswho dreams that his birth is of higher caste and his blood of richer hue than other men! Humanity in the bulk is the idol of some people–and yonder I see the man who quotes himself as an illustrious specimen. He does not believe in the total depravity of human nature. Judging by himself, the statement that the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint, is a myth! Or if it were ever true of a faithless Jew, it never was a fair indictment against such an orthodox Christian as he is! No, no, he has kept the Law. He feels that in all things he is blameless. He has not erred, neither will he humble himself before the word that God speaks to us. In the opinion of such, the Gospel that we preach is very good for harlots, thieves and drunks, but it is of no use to the righteous, for they have put down their own names among those who need no repentance! Admirable in their conduct, their temper amiable and their disposition generous, a salvation by Free Grace would be wasted on them! The Lord will abase you, be you man or woman, whoever you may be! He will shame you! The axe is ready to be laid at your root even now! Your goodness is not God’s goodness, and your righteousness is not Christ’s righteousness–therefore shall the moth consume it, and it shall be eaten away. Or it is my friend yonder, a working man, who says, “Well, I work as hard as anybody. I bring up my children as well as I can. I have nothing from the parish, and if I see a poor mate out of work, I always subscribe my mite, though I have not much to give away–can it be right to tell

me that I am not in a fair way of going to Heaven?“ Ah, the Lord will deprive you of such boasting, for He will bring down all these high trees! You that have any righteousness of your own, whether you are rich or poor–the same word applies to you all! What matters it whether you are born of princes, or the offspring of beggars–pride will nestle in any heart and presumption will take advantage of any circumstances! Perhaps I may address some person who says, "Well, I am a member of the orthodox and true church. I have been baptized and I have been confirmed after the most proper manner. I receive the Lord’s Supper on all fit and proper occasions. The clergyman from whom I take the sacrament has received Apostolic ordination. How tasteful the architecture of our church! How decorous the congregation! How enchanting the music! There are none of your rough wild notes that give vent to the feelings. Our organ is the perfection of mechanism and it is played with the utmost skill! Our sacred singers perform their parts with reverent taste. Our litanies are wailed out in plaintive tones. We do the thing in the right style and as I am a member of a branch of a Catholic church, I hold myself to be an heir of eternal life.” From your towering imaginations, O man, you shall speedily totter! God will cast you down as surely as you live! No boasting, even of our orthodoxy, or of our attention to religious formalities shall ever be allowed to abide His judgment. The Lord has set His face against all boasting and all confidences, other than a trust in the Cross and a holy reliance on the finished work and righteousness of Jesus Christ!

Or shall it fare better with another class? There is our friend who says, “Well, well, I do not believe in forms and ceremonies, but, mark you, I always judge and weigh everything.” He estimates himself as an independent thinker. He isbound by no precedents, fostered by no creeds, and considers that he is amenable to no judgment but his own. He acknowledges no lord but his own conscience, no duty but such as he prescribes himself! And as for wisdom, he looks with indifference on all things whatever that his private judgment has not endorsed. Moreover, he doubts the Inspiration of the Bible and has his misgivings as to the authenticity of some parts of it. He indulges a little suspicion as to the Deity of Christ. And as to the Doctrines of Grace, he professes much intelligence, but he exhibits gross negligence. Strong in his self-assertion, he makes light of the Word of God and the will of God, while he holds Prophets and Apostles in little esteem. Ah, well, Sir! God is against you! He will make a fool of you one of these days, if you are so wise as to exalt yourself above His Revelation! The world shall see your folly. I tell you, captious questioner, that the Lord will bring you down. “Tut, tut, tut, I do not believe in any of these things,” exclaims the successful merchant, “I say the best thing is to push ahead on one’s own account! I mean to save money, to get rich, to rise in the world as others have done who have made capital of their own wits and taken care of their own interest.” This is the religion of many people–their creed being that God will help those who help themselves! In their account, the highest wisdom is to attend to this world, and as for the world to come, the best policy is to ignore it! To the statutes of the Lord they give no heed. Evidently you see no need to depend on God. With a stout pair of arms and a good clear brain, you are confident you can make your own way in the world. Will you prosper, Sir? I tell you, no, for God is against you! The Lord will bring you down. Whether it be strength of limbs and lungs, force of brain and intellect, cunning works or scheming plans you rely upon, He will lay you level with the dust before long! You shall know that he who exalts himself against his maker makes a sorry adventure. Disaster and everlasting confusion are your inevitable fate!


Here is a word of comfort to some who especially need it. You remember Joseph in the dungeon, Israel in Egypt, Hannah in the family of Elkanah, David when Samuel would have passed him by, Hezekiah when Sennacherib rebuked him. Are not all these instances of God exalting the low tree? We have no time to speak on them, though they are well worthy of attentive study. But rather now let us ask, Where are the low trees here among ourselves? Who are they? The low trees are those poor in spirit who think others better than they are, themselves. Who, instead of carving their nameshigh, are willing to have them written low because they feel they have nothing of which to glory, nothing wherein to boast. The low trees are the penitents, those who take their stand afar off with the publican and say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” You who feel your own weakness to do anything right. You who are conscious of your own worthlessness and afraid that God will never hear your prayers. You who are bowed down low with a sense of guilt and hardly dare to look up to the place where His Honor dwells–you are the low trees–you are such as God exalts! You, too, who tremble at His Word when you see the threat and fear lest it should be executed upon you. When you hear the promise, you hardly think it possible that it can belong to you–you are low trees–God shall exalt you! You who feel your ignorance and are willing to be instructed. You who are modest as children and ready to sit at the feet of Jesus. You who have been broken in pieces until you feel that a crumb of mercy would be more than you deserve and are willing to take any dole He is pleased to give–you are the low tree. And you that are despised, who walk in darkness and see no light, slandered forChrist’s sake, reproached with crimes you never committed. You of whom the world is not worthy, though the world accounts you to be unworthy of its esteem–you are the low trees and God shall exalt you! God grant us Grace to humble ourselves under His mighty hand! The Lord exalts the low trees. Is there a soul among you who is ready to despair–a low tree so low that it can only compare itself to a bramble bush? Well, God dwelt in a bush! You may think that if He should have mercy upon all other men, yet He must make an exception of you, so aggravated are your offenses, so depraved your disposition and so alien to anything good! Oh, bless the Lord! He exalts the low tree! If this voice can now reach any humble, fearful, broken-hearted soul, even though that soul should say it is too good to be true, yet, in God’s name, let me assure you it is God’s message to you! Rejoice, yes, sing unto your God, for He will lift up the poor from the dunghill, while He casts down the mighty from the seats of their pomp and their places of power!


Whether that green tree is high or low, it does not matter. If it is green in itself, He will cut it down. Mark you, a man may be as high as Heaven–if it is God who makes him high, he will stand! But if he is high in creature strength, and creature merits, and creature glory, he shall be brought down! And a man may be low without merit, if he is merely mean, paltry and pitiable, not worth a straw. That is not the spirit of lowliness that God blesses! In like manner, a man may be green because he is planted by the rivers of God’s Living Waters. That is healthy enough, but those who are like the green bay tree of the Psalmist, trees growing in their own soil, never transplanted by Grace, green in the verdure ofworldly prosperity and taking all their delight in earthly things–those are the trees God will dry up! Many I know of this kind! They profess to be God’s people and they say, “Well, I never have any anxiety about my eternal state. I do not see why I should ever have any doubts or fears. I have no pricks of conscience.” This green tree boasts “that its leaves never fade, that its evidences are always bright.” “They have no changes. Therefore they fear not God.” “They have not been emptied from vessel to vessel. They have no cares. They walk confidently, they talk arrogantly, they smile disdainfully at some of God’s people who groan over their infirmities and bemoan their sins. Perhaps they go the length of protesting that they have no vices and do no wrong! Or they will say, "Why, as for me, I have overcome my bad habits and made amends for my youthful follies and indiscretions. And if I have any faults, they are only such as are natural to men, and they do not cause me any trouble.” He will even turn round and rail on this wise, “I cannot think how some of God’s people can do as they do!” No, he is such a blessed, heavenly-minded hypocrite, that after he has condoned his own crimes, he condemns other people’s customs! Therefore he holds up the severity of his judgment as a proof of the integrity of his character. He makes broad fringes on his own garment and he cannot think how good men can wear such narrow fringes on theirs. He has a wide phylactery and he cannot imagine how a godly man can wear a smaller one! He prays an hour and a half at the corner of the street–he cannot imagine that any man is godly who prays for ten minutes in his closet! He sounds a trumpet and gives away three halfpence to the poor–he cannot understand people when they give away ten pounds, or a hundred pounds in the cause of religion–he thinks they must have mercenary motives! He might stand up and say, “Look at me if you want to see what a man should be, how a Christian should live, and what his manner, conduct and conversation should be!” Behold the man who counts himself the paragon of perfection! Have you ever met with such green trees? I have. These people feed without fear and mock without motive. They laugh at the idea of Paul’s apprehension, when he said, “I keep under my body, lest, after having preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” They think such fears inconsistent with the Doctrine of Final Perseverance, though in this they are mistaken! A man may know that a true Believer will persevere and yet be very much afraid that he shall not himself hold out because he may suspect himself whether he is a true Believer at all! This green tree is never troubled about the future–it is all right with him–he has launched upon a smooth, deceitful sea, and he believes it will be calm until he gets to the other side! As for human weakness, he knows nothing at all about that. He hears God’s children crying, “Who shall deliver us from the body of this death?” and he looks shocked!

The professor, too, who boasts his deep experience, is like this green tree. Young Christians he frowns at–he does not like young people. No, he would not have many young people in the church because they might adulterate it, and bring down its spiritual tone. As to Doctrine, he is profoundly learned–“he can divide a hair, between the west and southwest side,” and he censures at once the man who does not understand all the points! He understands more than the Bible reveals! He has improved upon the Scriptures and those who cannot get up to his standard, he despises. As for the poor, and meek, and sickly among the people of God, he, one of the strong ones, pushes them on either side and will give them no rest. Never a man yet had anything to boast of as his own, but God was sure to dry him up! Let your life be as green as an emerald, it shall be brown as March dust before long! You seek sap and nourishment from yourselves. The spider’s web–how soon it is blown away! Well it may, because it comes out of the spider’s own bowels. Everything that comes out of self and lives on self, and hangs on self, and fattens on self, no matter how green it may be, verily, verily, it shall be dried up! Lastly–


There are some dry trees to be pitied in their present condition, yet to be congratulated on their prospects. I would not say a word to encourage doubting, but I would say a great many words to encourage doubters. How many of God'speople may be fitly compared to a dry tree! They have little joy. They have not got to full assurance. They are afraid tosay, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His.” Every night, before they go to bed, they feel such consciousness of sin that they can hardly sleep. They feel themselves so weak that where others go and think nothing of it, they dare not trust themselves. They are afraid to risk temptation. Sometimes they are so conscious of their own weakness that they do not exert themselves as they ought–and hence their low spirits, their melancholy and their mourning. They think they are of no use to the Church. They are half inclined to suspect it was a mistake for them to be baptized, and that they were to blame for uniting themselves with the people of God. “Oh,” they say, “if I am a lamb, I am the sickliest of the whole flock.” Were I an heir of promise, would I feel the assaults of sin as I do? Or would I be so much the prey of indwelling corruption and become so dry and withered? When they retire to the closet to pray, they can hardly utter a word. They come to the assembly of Believers and though they do sing with their lips, the heart cannot sing as it would. There are times, too, when walking home they say, “I go where others go, but I get no comfort! If I were really the Lord’s, would I be thus? If I did trust Christ, should I ever be so languid?” Brothers and Sisters, if it is of your own bringing about that you are thus dry, I do not offer you any comfort! But if the Holy Spirit has led you to see your weakness, your nothingness, your deadness, then I am glad you have been brought to this pass, for God will cause the dry tree to flourish! When we are weak, then are we strong! The death warrant is gone out from God against everything that is of the creature. All that is of nature’s spinning must be unraveled–not your bad nature, only, but your good nature! Not your vices, only, but your virtues! Not your sins, alone, but your graces! All these must be contemned and despised so far as you venture to put them in the place of Christ! You must cry, “Away with them! Away with them,” as if they were so much dung and dross! Christ’s blood, only, for our hope, the Spirit’s work only for our life! Here let us stand and we shall be safe. The dry tree, by Divine Grace, shall flourish! The green tree, deserted by the dew of Heaven, shall dry up! The low tree, fostered by the Lord, shall mount even to the stars! The high tree, cut down by the axe of judgment, shall lay outstretched along the plains of ruin forever!

I think I see the Last Great Day. There is a greater forest than this–this is but one corner of it. I see that forest stretched over sea and land, over mountain and valley. It is a forest of men! There stand the Pharisees, the self-righteous, the tyrants, the autocrats of haughty dispositions, the men of profound intellect with lofty brows, the men that questioned God’s government, the infidels who said, “Atheos,” and denied His being! I see the high trees that towered to such an elevation and attracted so much admiration. And there, too, are the low trees contented to be low, for Christ of Nazareth was lowly. He, whose disciples they are, came riding on an ass even in the day of His highest earthly triumph. And now I hear the trumpet ring exceedingly loud and long. Through the glades of that vast human forest the sound comes ringing broad and clear, “Smite! Smite! Smite! And let all the high trees fall!” O God, what a crash!

He smote great kings and slew famous kings, for His mercy endures forever. He smites. What? Another crash? The orthodox who rested in their orthodoxy, and the self-righteous men and women fall there! Yonder the philosophic atheist, and here the scoffing skeptic–there the haughty persecutor, and there, again, the pompous priest and pretentious ceremonialist! Gather them in Tophet, ordained of old, pile them together, cedar upon oak, and elm upon fir, gather them together! Pile them on, pile them up! Let the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, come upon the mighty pile. It is the funeral pyre of the giants. There lies the dead body of sin and here comes the living spouse of sin–to be sacrificed upon that same pile. Her name is Pride. She comes–they clasp. The great transgression and the evil imagination! Together they lie down and the flames arise. Now the cedars, full of resin, give forth their flame! The sparks go up to Heaven and the flames even unto the Throne of God, while I hear the voices of multitudes singing, “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, for You have judged the great temptress, even Pride, and You have given her up to be burned with fire!” But what of you, what of you who will be firewood to that great burning? What of you, proud sons of men, who will be fuel to that flame? Turn, turn you! Fly to Christ and then you shall stand in the judgment, and join in the anthem, “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah,” “Be wise now, therefore, O you kings! Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish from the way when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” Oh, that we all may be found among the humble–not the haughty–in our present life, and that we may be gathered among the blessed, not destroyed among those whom the Lord abhors, in our future destiny!