November 1, 2007

A William Greenhill (1598–1671) Observation on Ezekiel 33:11

"Obs. 4. Sinners, in what condition soever they be, have no cause to despond or despair of mercy, so that they turn from their evil ways. Let them be great sinners, old sinners, sinners under judgments, ready to be destroyed and cut off by the hands of enemies, as these were, yet if they turn from their sins, there is hope of mercy for them. For,

(1.) God takes pleasure rather in their conversion and salvation, than in their death and destruction: "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live." If a state say to a company of its subjects, who are traitors, and upon traitorous designs, I have no pleasure in your ways which lead unto death, but my pleasure is that you turn from them and live; is not here a large door of hope opened unto them, whatever their treasons be?

(2.) Lest men, being deeply guilty, should suspect the reality of God herein, (for guilt is full of jealousies,) the Lord swears to it, and that by his life, which is the most unquestionable thing of all, for none doubts whether he be the living God; "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure," &c. So that here is God's word and oath, two sufficient bonds, to secure it.

(3.) Here is God's command and earnest desire of their turning; "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways." When a man's servant is abroad on some dangerous design, and his master commands him again and again to leave it off, and come home to him; or if the servant be in a deep water, and the master sees he will be drowned if he come not back again, he calls to him, and commands him to return; is not this an argument that he seeks his good, and would have him safe.

(4.) God sets the strongest arguments before them that can be thought of, life and death. If ye go on, there is no hope of mercy, you must die; if you will turn, here is life, ye shall live: here is great mercy. They are not left unto uncertainties, whether they shall have life or no; but life is propounded and offered unto them, and where that is promised there is a wide door of mercy opened. God is troubled at it, that sinners forsake mercy and embrace it not: Why will ye die? Why will ye not turn from your evil ways unto me the living God? Am I so ill a God? Have 1 dealt so unkindly with you, as that you will not come unto me? testify against me, tell me wherein. Like that in Micah vi. 3, "O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? testify against me:" if there be any such thing lie in the way, I am ready to remove it."
William Greenhill, An Exposition of the Prophet Ezekiel, revised and corrected by James Sherman (Edinburgh : J. Nichol, 1863), 669.

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1) He was close friends with John Preston and Jeremiah Burroughs.
2) Greenhill served as a divine at the Westminister Assembly, but sided with the Independents against the Presbyterians.
3) With Owen, Goodwin, Nye, Caryl, and Bridge, he drafted the document of faith and order that the Savoy Conference approved in 1658.
4) John Howe referred to Greenhill as "that eminent servant of God whose praise is still in the churches."

See Joel Beeke & Randall Pederson, Meet the Puritans (Grand Rapids: RHB, 2006), 297–200.

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