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well and forgiven. Who does not see the wickedness of such an opinion ?
To conclude. If we would follow the good patriarch's advice, and be innocent, it is necessary that we have his fuith and affections. As how? Why, the Apostle tells us, “that Heb. 11. 10. he looked for a city whose builder and maker is God;" that is, he did not so much concern himself with what he might get in this short life, but he was for securing, by all means, an inheritance in heaven. He kept his eye and his heart there. And this made him despise all unjust advantages that came in his way, knowing that this was not the world he was made for.
And in truth, without this consideration be always present with us, the world has so many temptations to draw us out of the way, that it will be impossible for a man to resist them. Self-interest, a present advantage, the slight opinion the world has of such crimes, will all contribute to draw a man into a snare, who is not stedfastly purposed in his heart, that no worldly advantage shall prevail with him to forfeit his inheritance in heaven. “For what shall it profit a man if he shall (Matt. 16. gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?”
We have not now time to consider particularly, what is to be done, where people have by design or unwittingly fallen into this error. The text directs us to restitution, as the only means to preserve the character of honest men, and of christians: and justice and conscience say the same thing. It is a difficult, and it is a necessary duty: these two considerations should prevail with people to beware of a sin which requires so ungrateful a remedy.
And may the fear and grace of God be with us, to preserve us from injustice of all kinds, and that we may serve Him in truth and righteousness all our days, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
THE NATURE OF SIN, AND THE PUNISHMENT THAT CERTAINLY
NUMB. xxxi. 23.
See Exod. Behold, ye have sinned against the Lord : and be sure your 20; 32. 34; Job 13. 26;
sin will find you out. Hosea 7. 2.
These words may be rendered two ways; either as I now read them, Behold, ye have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out; or thus, Behold, ye have sinned, and ye shall be sensible of it when evil overtakes you; or, Ye shall know your sin in the punishment thereof. From which words we may take a just occasion of considering the nature of sin, and the punishment that certainly follows it.
Behold, ye have sinned, &c. I think it may very truly be said, that most people, when they commit any sin, do hope that they shall never hear of it again. At least, there are few people engaged in sinful courses, who are persuaded that no sin shall escape without its due reward.
Now, this is a truth which must of necessity be explained and made out, before ever we can hope to persuade people to keep out of the way of temptations, or to resist temptations when they meet with them against their will.
For if a man be once persuaded, that he cannot possibly escape the judgments of God, but that either in this world, or (which is much worse) in the next, they will certainly overtake him, if he sin presumptuously; that if in his own person, which is not often, he should escape the avenging hand of God, yet that his children, and his children's children unto the third and fourth generation, may feel the smart of his folly and wickedness; if this could be so pressed upon men's
minds as to be received and believed, it must certainly in some measure, put a stop to a great many crying sins which are but too rife amongst us.
Let us therefore consider some of those most remarkable instances of God's displeasure against sin, and the punishments that have always attended it.
To begin with that of our first parents: and that this in some measure affected the whole creation, and particularly their offspring, we have all reason to be sensible of by the many evils which we are subject to. Their first-born son felt it with a witness; and he was more inexcusable, in that he had warning given him by God Himself of what would follow, if he should go on to envy his brother as he did. “If thou Gen. 4. 7. doest well;" that is, if thou repentest of this fault, “shalt thou not be accepted and forgiven? But if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door," ready to hurry thee to destruction. So that going in or coming out, thy guilt and punishment will always follow thee. And Cain felt this truth to his sorrow : “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” Why, [Gen. 4. 13,
14.] what was this punishment he so sorrowfully complains of? “Behold Thou hast driven me out this day, and from Thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth: and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me."
Here is an exact description and the case of a person excommunicated for his crimes; as Cain indeed was by this sentence passed upon him by God Himself. Nothing but guilt, and dreadful apprehension of punishment hanging over his head, follows him wherever he goes, when once he is out of God's presence, from under His especial protection, and given over to the power of Satan.
And oh! that people would but consider this, before they yield to the temptations that beset them ; that they would think of the shame, of the sorrow, of the guilt, of the punishment, that even in this life they are sure to meet with by consenting to known iniquity ; that those that are going to do wrong would consider, how hard it will be to make restitution, and yet that restitution must be made (where it can be) as we hope for salvation; that the fornicator and adulterer would consider, that when he gives way to this wickedness," he goes
(Prov. 7. 22, 23.)
SERM. as an ox to the slaughter, or as a bird hasteth to the snare,
and knoweth not that it is for his life," and that both soul and body lie at stake; that the oppressor would consider, that
the "triumphing of the wicked is but short;" (as holy Job (ver. 5, 15, expresseth it, chap. xx.) “and though he hath swallowed 22, 26.]
down riches, yet he shall vomit them up again; that in the fulness of his sufficiency he shall be in straits, and a fire not
blown shall consume him ;" lastly, that we would all con[Is. 57. 21.) sider, that “there is no peace to the wicked," whatever they
may propose to themselves; and that when they least think [1 Thess. 5. of it,“ destruction shall come upon them; their sin will surely 3.]
find them out.”
But to proceed; the next remarkable punishment of sin recorded in Scripture was that of the flood, wherein the whole world (eight persons only excepted) were overtaken by their sins, and the vengeance of an offended God.
The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were the next dreadful instances of God's displeasure against impenitent sinners; and the fire and brimstone, by which they were destroyed, are a standing, though faint, representation of that punishment which is appointed for impenitent sinners in the world to come.
Very remarkable, in the next place, were the plagues of Egypt, both for their number and circumstances; an example for all following generations, of the extreme folly of men's hardening their hearts under the judgments of God, instead of being amended by them.
And then, lest men should fancy themselves out of danger, because of the relation they bear to God; because, for instance, they are in covenant with Him, or because they have received very great favours at His hands; or, lastly, because they are not so great sinners as others that yet escape; to convince the world of this mistake, these very people of Israel, for whose sake God had wrought so many wonders in Egypt, these very people became the most remarkable example of God's justice and severity against such as go on to disobey Him, notwithstanding the warnings He hath given them. Their sin found them out wherever they went, whether in the wilderness, or in the land of Canaan; and their wickedness followed them at their heels, until they were driven out of that good land, and sent as strangers among all nations, to teach them what an evil thing and bitter it is to forsake (Jer. 2. 19.) the Lord.
But before this came to pass, and while they were yet under the more immediate government of God, and under the direction of His prophets, we have several remarkable instances left us upon record of God's severe judgments upon private men, and families, as well as upon whole nations, for the contempt of His laws.
I shall only mention the calamities which befel the house of David, for his two crying sins, adultery and murder; and the house of Solomon, for his sins, intemperance and idolatry. I mention these, because they were both great princes, and accountable to none but God for their irregularities; both highly favoured of God before they fell; and both as severely punished afterwards.
The crimes of David were with great art and contrivance concealed from the knowledge of the world; but all this would not do, his sin found him out, and brought upon him such a series of disasters as were enough to have driven any other man to despair, and such as would have done so by him, if, upon his sincere repentance, he had not been supported by the Spirit of God. His sons, one murdered another; rose in rebellion against himself, drove him from his own palace, debauched his wives. His subjects, many
of them abandoned him; the very vilest of his people affronted him to his face; and that very son whom he most doated on, he had the mortification to see slain in the midst of his iniquities and rebellion.
His son Solomon (when once he forsook the commandment of God) fared no better; he multiplied strange wives ; these soon introduced idolatry; and this abominable sin was the occasion of infinite misfortunes, which befel his family and kingdom for many generations.
Now, all these things were written for our example, and admonition, that we may see what we are to expect;
what have been, and what are like to be, the fruits of sin. That if neither private men, nor princes ; if neither single cities, nor whole nations, have escaped ; if the third and fourth generations have felt the smart of their ancestors' folly and wicked