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THE PUNISHMENT OF
In some sug
as this, it is proorld of the ungodly. See the fear. They yield to vile passions and appefrom earth to Cities of the Plain. Remember tites, and then they groan by reason of bondthe last deshe looked back, contrary to the age. They violate all the rules which consays the mmand, and "she became a pillar duce to the welfare of the community, and shall The servant of Elisha enters his then they are expelled from the esteem and in er's presence-tells a lie-and goes out regard of their fellow-creatures. And what leper as white as snow." Ananias and can hinder all this? th Sapphira utter a known falsehood before the Apostle, and are both instantly numbered with the dead. And of such importance is truth to the welfare of the community-and so hateful is it to the Supreme Being-that not only are all liars to have their portion in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death-but in these instances we see "hell from beneath moved to meet them at their coming!"
So that sin does not recompense or even indemnify the sinner here. The way as well as the end of transgressors is hard." As the righteous here have some foretastes of their future happiness, so the wicked have here the beginnings of sorrows. As godliness has the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come, so sin has the curse of this world, as well as of another.
III. See in it PUNISHMENT INFLICTED AFTER LONG DELAY. Behold the career of this sinner! "Threescore and ten kings" he had thus inhumanly mangled. Thus he repeated his crime again and again-even until seventy times! What a lengthened course of in
It may however be necessary to observe that this is not always the case. The misery of the sinner is principally reserved for a future world, and we are now in a state of probation. But God would confirm our faith in his adorable providence. If all sin was pun-quity was here!" So long and so often had ished here, we should look no further; if no I done this, that I thought God had not seen, sin, we should not easily believe in the power, or did not remember. But he has found me the holiness, the truth of God. He therefore out; and I live long enough to be a miserable sometimes signally interposes; and will be instance of this awful truth-that however known by the judgments which he executeth: long punishment may be delayed, it will at "so that a man shall say, Verily there is a last be inflicted-As I have done, so God hath reward for the righteous; verily he is a God requited me." that judgeth in the earth.”
Present punishment, too, is less frequently executed under the gospel than under the law; and the reason is that a future state of retribution was not so clearly and fully revealed to them as to us. Hence their threatenings are often filled with expressions of temporal evils, while ours only announce miseries beyond the grave. Then an adulterer was to be stoned; now he is to bedamned.
The wonder is not that he was overtaken so soon-but that he was spared so long; and seemed to be allowed to triumph in his inquity. The flourishing condition of sinners for a time, and especially for a long time, unchecked by calamity, is an event which has often perplexed even pious minds. Thus Jere miah exclaims "Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee; yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: wherefore, doth the way of the wicked prosper? Wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously!" David also tells us: "As for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped; for I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked."
But what is more to be lamented is, that hereby the unhappy creature himself is frequently deluded. He is apt to mistake forbearance for connivance; and what God does not immediately punish, he concludes that he entirely neglects. "He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved; for I shall never be in adversity.” "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, there
Yea, the present punishment of sin is in some measure natural. For how frequently do men's sufferings arise from the very sins they commit! Extravagance breeds ruinindolence, poverty-intemperance, disease, "Who hath wo? Who hath sorrow? Who fore the heart of the sons of men is fully set hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who in them to do evil." But we should rememhath wounds without cause? Who hath red- ber the end of providence in such a dispensaness of eyes? They that tarry long at the tion. He frequently spares the ungodly for wine; they that go to seek mixed wine." the sake of the godly: the extraction of the Why are men so unhappy-but because they tares would injure the wheat. By forbearare unholy. They walk contrary to God, and ing the blow, he would give space for repentGod walks contrary to them. They trans- ance: "the longsuffering of our God is salvagress his commands, and expose themselves tion." He has therefore ends to answer to his wrath; and then they are alarmed with worthy of himself. But be convinced of this
We may add that the punishment of sin in this world is sometimes unavoidable. Thus, if nations are punished at all, they must be punished in time-for they have no existence in eternity; there men exist only as individuals. And nearly the same may be said of a family. Hence we read "the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just."
-that he never designed to cherish in you a | Haman? "Then said Zeresh his wife and hope of impunity. His patience is not forgive- all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be ness. "Be sure your sins will find you out. made of fifty cubits high, and to-morrow He that being often reproved hardeneth his speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that be hanged thereon; then go thou in merrily without remedy." He is patient; but he is with the king unto the banquet. And the faithful, and the Scripture cannot be broken. thing pleased Haman, and he caused the galHe is patient: but patience has its limits; and lows to be made." What was his doom? the year of trial granted to the barren fig- "And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, tree will expire, and then, if unfruitful, it said before the king, Behold also the gallows, shall be cut down, and cast into the fire. He fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for is patient: but if his patience end not in your Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, conversion, it will be glorified in your de- standeth in the house of Haman. Then the struction. "These things hast thou done, king said, Hang him thereon. So they and I kept silence: thou thoughtest that I hanged Haman on the gallows that he had was altogether such an one as thyself; but I prepared for Mordecai. And to mention no will reprove thee, and set them in order be- more, in the very place where Jezebel caused fore thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that the dogs to lick the blood of Naboth, the dogs forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and licked her blood! there be none to deliver."
But there is a future conformity still more dreadful; and of which the Apostle speaks when he says, "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.' The man who sowed thistles, and expected to reap wheat, would be deemed a fool. But are we not equally foolish? What are the principles we imbibe, the dispositions we cultivate, the pursuits in which we are engaged, that we are concluding they will issue in glory, ho
IV. See in it A CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN SIN AND SUFFERING. "What I have inflicted upon others, is now inflicted upon me: and in my very punishment I read my crime as I have done, so God hath requited me!" Our Saviour has said, "With the same measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." And Eliphaz tells us, that he had particularly remarked this even in his days. "I have seen they that plough iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same." From the nature of their suffering, men may often learn the character of their sin. God sometimes sends our troubles with a label upon them-nour, and immortality? Is there any relait seems impossible to mistake their design. tion between these? Do not the steps of the We are commanded to "hear the rod;" it road we travel take hold on hell? Misery is says many things—but it frequently tells us not only the reward of our works, but the the very sin for which we smart: it thunders very tendency of our sin. Hear this, ye or whispers, "this is the duty you have neg-covetous and unfeeling. Your hard-heartedlected. This is the idol you have adored. ness is not punishable by any human tribuHast thou not procured this unto thyself?" nal-but see your crime meeting you at the Between sin and punishment there is some-bar of God: "he shall have judgment withtimes a comparative conformity. This is the out mercy, that showed no mercy." Think case when we suffer things which have some of this, ye despisers of the Gospel-he now resemblance to our crimes. Thus the Jews, addresses you in vain; "Because I have for serving strange gods, were compelled to called, and ye refused: I have stretched out serve strange masters. Forty days the spies my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have were employed in exploring the land of pro- set at nought all my counsel, and would none mise, and forty years the people are con- of my reproof."-And hereafter you shall addemned to wander in the wilderness for dress him in vain: "I will also laugh at your believing them. calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you: then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me."
Finally. See in this Scripture THE HAND OF GOD ACKNOWLEGED, WHILE MEN ONLY ARE EMPLOYED-" God hath requited me." But who saw any thing of him? Did not the sons of Judah and of Simeon cut off his thumbs and his great toes? Yes-but is there an evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it ?" "I form the light, and create
Sometimes there is also between them a direct conformity. This is the case when we suffer in the same way and in the same things in which we sin. Thus it is said of the Chaldeans, "Because thou hast spoiled many nations, all the remnant of the people shall spoil thee." Thus it is said of the Church of Rome, "For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy." What was the subject of David's sin? The numbering of his people. In this he suffers: a pestilence carries off seventy thousand of his subjects. What was the design of wicked
darkness: I make peace, and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things." War is as much a judgment from God, as famine or pestilence. And not only are lawful princes and magistrates the ministers of God, but he makes use of robbers and tyrants; as it is written: "Out of him came forth the corner; out of him the nail; out of him the battle-bow; out of him every oppressor together."
But admitting this to be true-how came Adoni-bezek, a very wicked man-a heathen -how came he to acknowledge it?-The case is this" The Gentiles who have not a written law," says the Apostle, "are a law unto themselves: their thoughts also in the mean time accusing or else excusing one another." There is a conscience in every man; the principle belongs to human nature; and no wickedness is able completely to banish it. And calamity has always been observed to have a powerful effect to enliven it. So that" He hears the young ravens that cry." the man who, in the days of prosperity and "Be followers of God as dear children." ease, banished reflection, never thought of But what are we to say in another case? God; or if he did, considered himself perhaps as the favourite of Heaven, because he was so much indulged on earth-is now abstracted; impressed; softened: he is left alone with his conscience; this tells him of his desert; this awakens all his fears. Hence sickness, accidents, death are dreadful—they stir up the apprehension of Deity. He suspects more in the storm than thunder and lightning-God is there. The shaking of a leaf seems to say, "What is this that thou
Adoni-bezek was merciful compared with those who endeavour to draw their fellowcreatures into sin. This is not only to injure the body, but to cast the soul into hell: and what is any present suffering compared with endless misery!
no miracle, yet his agency is believed. He does not render himself visible, yet his presence is felt and acknowledged; and common calamities are made to operate like positive tokens of divine displeasure.
Though the subject has been very instructive and practical, I wish to add two exhortations.
First. ABHOR CRUELTY. It is equally disgraceful to religion and humanity. It renders you unpitied of God and man. I hope hone of you would be so dreadfully savage as this monster, to torture and mangle your fellow-creatures, if you had it in your power. But let me speak a word for the poor brutes, who cannot speak for themselves, though unhappily they have the power of feeling. My dear little friends, never torment animals. Never sport with the misery of insects. Never cut off their legs or wings. God's "tender mercies are over all his works."
Secondly. IMPROVE THE CASE OF EXAMPLES. If they were not particularly adapted to do us good-the word of God would not be so full of them. Never read them carelessly. Lodge them in your memory. Often reflect upon them.
A good man perceives the hand of God in all events, and he wishes to see it. "The Lord," says Job, "gave, and the Lord hath taken away: what! shall we receive good at the Lord's hand, and shall we not receive evil?" This calmed him. And this discovery of God is the Christian's relief and comfort in affliction-because he knows that God is his father and friend, and will not, cannot injure him. But it is otherwise with the sinner. His apprehension of God is forced upon him; he would gladly get rid of the conviction: it is all terror and dismay to him--for he knows that God is his adversary, and he may now be coming to lay hold of him he knows that he has a long account to give, and this may be the time of reckoning. Hence the bitterness of affliction: it is regarded not only as a trial, but as a punishment. The sinner's distress seems to be the effect of chance; but he feels it to be the consequence of design. He discerns in it the injustice of men; and yet is compelled
THE CHEERFUL PILGRIM.
to confess that it is the righteous judgment Thy statutes have been my songs in the house
of my pilgrimage.-Psalm cxix. 54.
of God. And thus, by the medium of this penal consciousness, God maintains his moral empire in the world, without deviating from the usual course of events, or breaking in upon the stated laws of nature He works
And make use of the dreadful as well as the pleasing. It is necessary that sin should be made hateful. It is necessary that we should be awakened to flee from the wrath to come.
And do not suppose that such a character as Adoni-bezek is alone exposed to danger" Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."
"For we must all appear before the judg ment-seat of Christ, that every one may ceive the things done in his body according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men: but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences."
How different are the views and feelings of men in the review of life! How dismal and terrifying is it to look back on years bar
ren of good and filled with wickedness; to of the world no longer reigns in him. He look back upon time wasted, opportunities renounces the world, not only because it is misimproved, faculties perverted, mercies unfriendly, but because it is unsuitable: not abused, character destroyed; to look back because he cannot carry every thing before and find nothing from which the mind can him, but because he no longer loves it. He derive a future hope, or acknowledge a past forsakes the world when it smiles, as well as satisfaction! when it frowns. He is not violently torn from it, but resigns it in consequence of the discovery and apprehension of something infinitely better. The eyes of his understanding are enlightened, and he sees what is the hope of his calling, and what is the glory of the riches of his inheritance in the saints: and this henceforth becomes his prize. Having discerned by faith another world, he makes a true estimate of this-he sees that the present is not a state to fix in, but only a region to pass through; and therefore finds that he is not at home, but journeying.
But it is pleasing and edifying to look back -I will not say upon a well-spent life-but upon those years in which we have known God, or rather have been known of him; in which we have loved and endeavoured to serve him; in which we have enjoyed something of his presence and his smiles. It is delightful to call to remembrance places and seasons made sacred by communion with him; and to think over the advantages and pleasures we have derived from his ordinances, and from his blessed word.
David does this. "Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.'
He is born from above, and therefore naturally aspires after his native land. Does not every thing tend to the place of its original?
His portion is above. The inheritance inCorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not
Hence we observe three things. I. A GOOD MAN VIEWS HIS RESIDENCE IN THIS WORLD AS ONLY THE HOUSE OF HIS PILGRIM-away, is reserved in heaven for him. There AGE. II. THE SITUATION, HOWEVER DIS- his hope is laid up; there is his treasureADVANTAGEOUS, ADMITS OF CHEERFULNESS. and what wonder if there his heart be also? III. THE SOURCES OF HIS JOY ARE DERIVED There he is to gain deliverance from all his FROM THE SCRIPTURE. errors; perfection of holiness; a glorious body; the possession of all the promises. Can he be satisfied to live at a distance from all this?
I. When David speaks of THE HOUSE OF HIS PILGRIMAGE, he may literally design to express his exile and wanderings when banished by the persecution of Saul, or the rebellion of Absalom. But he intends it more generally, as significant of the whole course of his life on earth. For being a partaker of divine grace, he would say this in a palace as well as in a prison; he would say it when surrounded with all the ensigns of majesty, as well as when stripped of all his possessions. If a Christian had the dominion of Alexander, and all the treasures of the Indies, yet in all this abundance, and with all this greatness, he would feel himself poor, feel himself from home, feel himself a stranger and a sojourner-and seek a better country, that is an heavenly.
At first indeed the world is far from appearing to us in this reduced and insignificant point of light. Its maxims and pursuits fall in with our depraved dispositions. And unacquainted with its vanity and vexation, we rush forth filled with high and eager expectations. We think to find it a paradise but thorns and briers, sand and drought, tell us it is a wilderness. We dream that we are eating, but awake and feel that we are hungry-and looking around us, we see that there is nothing to feed us.
Various are the disappointments and the calamities that imbitter life; and "many are the afflictions of the righteous." Yet we are mistaken if we suppose that it is wholly or principally owing to these that he views himself now in a house of pilgrimage. The spirit
His kindred dwell above-there are to be found his father, his elder brother, the younger branches of the household of faith. Thither many of his once dear connexions on earth are gone, and thither all the wise and good are going; and he can now only get a glance of them upon the road, or exchange a few words as they pause for refreshment at the inn. There they shall all unite and be for ever with each other, and for ever with the Lord. Here he is in motion, then he will be at rest; he is now traveling, he shall then reach home, and "sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God."
Inferior, however, as his present situation is, compared with the future-we are reminded,
II. THAT IT WILL ADMIT OF CHEERFUL NESS: he can sing "thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage."
Genuine religion excites and interests the feelings. It is equally absurd and dangerous to place it in cold ceremonies, or external performances in which the affections have no share. The same may be said of reducing it merely to an intellectual system. The principles of revelation are addressed, not only to the understanding, but to the heart. Ought I to believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins, and that two and two make four, with the same indifference and insensibility? Impossible. That Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners is not only "a faithful say
tion:" it contains all that is great and good and suitable and necessary-and can never be properly received, if it meets only with a frigid speculative assent.
ing," but a saying "worthy of all accepta- | dispositions. They may love the place where God's honour dwelleth, and be glad when it is said to them, "Let us go into the house of the Lord;" they may "call the Sabbath a delight;" and say, "It is good for me to draw nigh to God." But it is awful if you find the Sabbath a weariness, the house of God a prison, and the presence of God irksome-it is awful if you find religious duties a task instead of a privilege. It is one of the characters of the true circumcision-that "they rejoice in Christ Jesus."
We do not indeed plead for ignorant and unaccountable feelings: but we contend that the light of Christianity is like that of the sun, which, while it illuminates, also enlivens and fructifies. We do not admire the zeal which burns up the brain; but we plead for the fervour that warms the heart and we say, and saith not the Scripture the same? that "it is good to be always zealously affected in a good thing." And wherefore is every thing like warmth in religion branded with the name of enthusiasm? Warmth is expected in the poet, in the musician, in the scholar, in the lover-and even in the tradesman it is allowed, if not commended-why then is it condemned in the concerns of the soul-a subject which, infinitely above all others, demands and deserves all the energy of the mind? Would a prisoner exult at the proclamation of deliverance-and is the redeemed sinner to walk forth from his bondage, unmoved, unaffected, without gratitude or joy? No. "Ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall ciap their hands!" Shall the condemned criminal feel I know not what emotions, when instead of the execution of the sentence he receives a pardon; and is the absolved transgressor to be senseless and silent?-No. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also. And not only so, but we also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement."
Other travellers are accustomed to relieve the tediousness of their journey with a song. The Israelites, when they repaired from the extremities of the country three times a year to Jerusalem to worship, had songs appointed for the purpose, and traveled singing as they went. And of the righteous it is said, "They shall sing in the ways of the Lord. The redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads." Religion therefore is productive of many pleasing feelings. And we make use of this fact two ways.
First, we say that those who are habitually strangers to pleasure in divine things have reason to suspect their condition. Persons may want the joy of confidence, and yet have the joy of hope: and they may have very little, if any, of the pleasures of hope, while yet they find pleasures in religious exercises and
Secondly, those are mistaken who shun religion under the apprehension that it is unfriendly to their happiness, and prescribes a joyless course, engaged in which they must bid adieu to pleasure. Man needs present gratification, and religion provides for it. The Master he serves does not require him to live only in expectation: he has much in possession, though he has more in hope. There the clusters grow, but hither some of them are sent.
The hill of Zion yields
A thousand sacred sweets
Before we reach the heav'nly fields,
Surely you will allow that happiness depends upon God, and that he is able to make a man happy at present—and is it likely that he will suffer an enemy in rebellion against him to be happier than a servant who is endeavouring to serve him! If such be your conclusion-what a monstrous notion of God do you entertain! Besides, has he not assured you in his word that his "yoke is easy, and his burden light"-that his "ways are ways of pleasantness, and that all his paths are peace?" And does not the experience of all those who have made the trial confirm the truth of the representation? Have not his followers found that "to the upright there ariseth light in darkness?" have they not sung in seasons and circumstances which would have filled others with misery and dismay! Behold Paul and Silas. At midnight in the inner prison, their feet made fast in the stocks, their backs bleeding with the recent scourge-they not only prayed-but "sang praises unto God!" Behold the Church. She views every earthly resource as dried up-but can say, "Although the figtree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." Behold David. He bids fare well to life; his heart and his flesh fail him
but he exclaims, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”