The sins of some men are obvious, going ahead of them to judgment; but the sins of others do not surface until later.
I. A CAUTION AGAINST HIS BEING TOO PRECIPITATE IN ABSOLVING MEN FROM CENSURE. "The sins of some men are manifest, going before to judgment; with some again, they follow after." The judgment is God's, without excluding man's.
1. One class of sins is public and open. They reach the Judge before the man himself who commits them. The sins are notorious. Timothy will have no excuse for absolving such persons.
2. Another class of sins is not so manifest. Unknown for the time to all but the all-seeing eye of God, yet going leeward notwithstanding to the final judgment, where nothing can be hid. The judgment of man may have meanwhile absolved such a sinner, but the mournful secret comes out after all.
II. A CAUTION AGAINST BEING TOO PRECIPITATE IN HIS CENSURES. "In like manner also the works that are good are manifest, and those that are otherwise cannot be hid." Some are open witnesses, others are secret witnesses; but there can be no effectual suppression of their testimony. God will bring works of all kinds into light. But it is the duty of Timothy and ministers in general to use due diligence to have the truth brought to light respecting such works. Therefore Timothy was not to be rash in condemning where hidden worth had not disclosed itself sufficiently to his eye. The good tree would by-and-by justify itself by its fruits. - T.C.
Some men's sins are open beforehand.
Let us proceed to a consideration of this law of recompenses, whether in relation to the bad actions of the sinner, or to the good works of the righteous,
I. And first, let us see how the text brings out the principle we have spoken of, AS APPLIED TO THE CASE OF BAD MEN, — that is of hardened and incorrigible offenders: "Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment."
1. Of this one illustration is to be found in the consequences which, even in the present state, follow upon the commission of sin. That principle of our religious philosophy, laid down by Bishop Butler, that the general constitution of this world's government is, upon the whole, favourable to virtues and adverse to wrong-doing, is in nothing more manifest, than in the unalterable connection which subsists between .sin and misery. Dissipation leads to want, sensuality to enfeebled health, dishonesty drives sleep from the eyelids through the fear of being found out, and it is often literally true that "bloody and deceitful men scarce live out half their days." Thus, to the end of their days, sinners are constantly finding out that "they who plough iniquity and sow wickedness reap the same." In the spirit of the Psalmist, though often without his hope, they are left to cry out daily, "My sin is ever before me." For their first sin haunts them with its consequences to the close of their career. They never escape from its revenges. It tracks their path like a bloodhound. In its initial forebodings the plague of retribution begins here: "Their sins are gone beforehand to judgment."
2. Again, it is a part of the penalty of the transgressor in this life, and that which sends his sins before him, as it were a herald, to get his place and portion ready, that the longer he continues in a course of evil, the more violently and inevitably is he urged in the same direction. The thought is not sufficiently realized by us, that, in moral things, like produces like; that each separate act of transgression which a man commits leaves its own seminal deposit of evil in the soul, which, unless eradicated by a higher power than his own, must fructify and gather strength till the time of harvest, — till the end of life, or till the end of the world. The process of moral deterioration may be subtle and unobserved, like the stealthy creeping of a pestilence, but, in the majority of cases, it is sure and uniform. The youth determines what the man shall be. And the man determines what the grey hairs shall be. It is a righteous thing with God to let the wicked be the forger of his own fetters, and to leave him with his own hands to bind them on. Such is a law of our moral nature. Thus, while a man is continuing in sin everything is preparing for the end, and hastening the advent of the end. Each repeated act of disobedience exerts an influence upon character; tends to its consolidation and settlement in evil; helps to bring about that which, as far as can be seen, will be its final and everlasting form, — that of hatred of God, and resistance to all good. Except the final consummation of their misery, they have nothing more to wait for. "Their sins are gone beforehand to judgment."
3. But further, in relation to this great law of retribution, attaching itself to sinful actions, it is added, "some men their sins follow after." The thought here suggested would seem to be this, that in estimating the penalties due to transgressions we must take into the reckoning the unquestioned fact that the consequences of some men's sins follow after them, live to produce their mighty havoc and harvest of evil when the men themselves are gone. This is a law of social influences which altereth not. A bad man cannot restrict the consequences of his misdoing to himself. For the evil follows after, even unto many generations. Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, set up two calves, and the consequence was that within a few years two nations fell into the practice of idolatry. Indeed, in its consequences, and, as far as the present economy is concerned, every kind of sin may be regarded as having immortality. Infidelity and falsehood are immortal. The exposed sophistry and the ribald jest will be propagated from mouth to mouth, and from book to book, to the end of time. Thankful should we be to know that there may be an arrest laid upon the mischief, in some cases, or that the grace of God may, and often does, raise up a counteracting influence for good. But too commonly the seed of evil is left to bring forth fruit after its kind: "With some men their sins follow after."
II. But I proceed to notice, in the second place, the application of this law of recompenses to the GOOD ACTIONS OF THE RIGHTEOUS. "Likewise also the good works of some are manifest beforehand, and they that are otherwise cannot be hid."
1. First, it is said that the good works of some are manifest even in the present life. "Ye are the light of the world," said our Lord; "a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid." "Thy Father, which seeth in secret, Himself shall reward thee openly."
2. Again, his good works are manifest beforehand, because they will be sure to take the form of active benevolence, and of endeavor's to promote the moral and spiritual happiness of mankind.
3. "And they that are otherwise cannot be hid." What further lesson may we draw from this? why, that no good works of a righteous man can ever be altogether thrown away; can ever fail of producing fruit; can ever, whether in this world or in that which is to come, miss of its fitting and merciful reward. We know that, of vessels chosen for the Master's use, some are for greater honour, and some for less. "Cannot be hid," first, because of the effect which a course of good works has upon a man's own character, and the lasting peace they leave behind, "The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Faith makes larger discoveries of God, and of the fitness and fulness of the provided atonement. Hid from the world, but not from himself, is his tranquil joy in prayer, his nearness to God in sacraments, his derived strength from Christ, his interchange of thoughts with heaven, as he meditates on the written Word. Hid from the world, but not from himself, are his peace in conflict, his supports in temptation, his thankfulness after a gained victory over the powers of evil, as to God, and to God alone, he gives the praise. Furthermore, a man's good works "cannot be hid," because, in all the parts and actions of our life, there are unknown eyes upon us. We, none of us, know the extent of our own influence, how many of those who are associated with us, in the common intercourse and work of life, may be, without acknowledging it, looking up to us as patterns, or at all events are taking observant note where our practice differs from theirs. "Cannot be hid," once more: because, like the bad man's sins, good works will follow after. Of every good man it may be said, as of Abel, "He being dead yet speaketh"; — speaketh by the memory of his virtues. Such is the rule of the Almighty's procedure, whether in dealing with good men or bad. It is based on principles of everlasting rectitude. It is administered after methods of gentlest kindness. It commends itself to the conscience, as answering to the conditions of a reasonable service. It is in harmony with fact, with observation, and with the experience of our own hearts.
I am certainly within the spirit of the text when I say that some sins anticipate judgment; they invoke it, and receive its sentence, and experience its penalty, apparently before the time; they run their course quickly, and incur their doom in this life. There are other sins that meet with little check; they are slow to overtake their consequences; they come upon little in this life that can be called penalty. Speaking from daily observation, we may say that the retribution of some sins begins in this world; while there are other sins that await their punishment in the next world. We shall best come to an understanding of this truth by looking a little into the method of retribution. It is, as its definition implies, a return of disobedience, or payment, when, in due time, it returns again. It is the natural and inevitable consequence of broken law. If we seek for an explanation of this law, we find none, except that it is so. We perceive its fitness and beneficence, but farther back we cannot go. The law is wrought into our moral nature, and also into our consciousness; certainly, it commands early and universal assent. We notice also that the penalty is akin to the sin; it is under the seed-law — like yielding like. We receive back the things we have done, changed only as mist is changed to water, and heat to flame. And the effect often bears so absolute resemblance to the cause as to arrest the imagination, and is called poetic justice; the murderer drinking the poison he had prepared for another. In human government it is not so, but only because of its imperfection. It is an increated principle, and cannot be superinduced to any great extent. When a man steals, all that human law has yet learned to do is to imprison, or otherwise injure him, inflicting an arbitrary, deterrent suffering. Society merely defends itself. It is seldom skilful enough to establish a natural relation between the crime and the penalty. But that part of human society which is not organized into government, the social relationship of men, is more skilful to connect evil with its natural punishment. If one sins against the conventional laws, or moral instincts, of society, he meets with exclusion or disgrace according to the nature of the offence. Cause and effect; natural order; congruity between the sin and its penalty; these are the unfailing marks that the great teacher put upon the subject. What wisdom, what truth, what justice, is the voice of universal reason and conscience. It is the weakness of human government that it does not employ this principle in the punishment of crime, so far as it might. It was a doubtful policy that abolished the whipping-post and pillory. If a brutal husband whips his wife at home, he can have no better punishment than a whipping in public; or, if this be corrupting to the people, then in private. If these suggestions be thought to imply a retrograding civilization, let me answer, they harmonize with the Divine order. There is but one sound, effective method of punishing wrong-doing, and that is to make the offender feel the evil he has inflicted. As we thus look at retribution in the mingled light of revelation and reason, we are prepared to understand why it is that some sins are punished in this world, while other sins await punishment in a future world. If we were to classify the sins that reap their painful consequences here, and those that do not, we would find that the former are offences that pertain to the body, and the order of this world; and that the latter pertain more directly to the spiritual nature. The classification is not sharp; the parts shade into one another; but it is as accurate as is the distinction between the two departments of our nature. In his physical and social nature man was made under the laws of this world. If he breaks these laws the penalty is inflicted here. It may continue hereafter, for the grave feature of penalty is that it does not tend to end, but continues to act, like force imparted to an object in a vacuum, until arrested by some outside power. But man is also under spiritual laws, — reverence, humility, love, self-denial, purity, and all that are commonly known as moral duties. If he offends against these, he may incur but little of painful consequence. There may be much of evil consequence, but the phase of suffering lies farther on. The soil and atmosphere of this world are not adapted to bring it to full fruitage. Stating our distinction again: punishment in this world follows the sins of the grosser part of our nature — that part which more especially belongs to this world — sins against the order of nature, against the body; sins of self-indulgence and sins against society. The punishment that awaits the next world is of sins pertaining to the higher nature, sins against the mind, the affections, and the spirit. The seed of evil sown in the soil of this world comes to judgment here. The seed of evil sown in the hidden places of the spirit, does not bear full fruit till the spiritual world is reached. Man is co-ordinated to two worlds. They overlap far into one another; the spiritual inter-penetrates the physical; and the physical sends unceasing influences into the spiritual. Still, each is a field whereon evil reaps its appropriate harvest. Illustrations of the first confront us on every side; judgment pronounced and executed here; sin punished here. Take the commonest but most instructive example — drunkenness. As soon as desire becomes stronger than the will, it begins to act retributively. Having sown to the flesh, he reaps to the flesh corruption. His sin works out its penalty on its own ground. I do not say that it ends here, because it is also linked with an order more enduring than this world. For, as one standing over against a mountain may fill the whole valley with the clamour of shouting, but hears at length an echo as if from another world, so these sins, having yielded their first fruits here, may stir up vaster penalties hereafter. The terrible feature of penalty, so far as any light is thrown upon it from its own nature, is that it cannot anticipate an end. The subject finds various illustration: indolence eating the scant bread of poverty; wilful youthhood begetting a fretful and sour old age; selfishness leading to isolation; ambition overreaching itself and falling into contempt; ignorance yielding endless mistake; worldly content turning first into apathy, then into disgust; these every-day facts show that if we sin against the order of this world, we are punished in this world. If we sin against the body we are punished in the body. We turn now to the other point, namely, that sins against the spiritual nature do not incur full punishment here, but await it in the spiritual world. We constantly see men going through life with little pain or misfortune, perhaps with less than the ordinary share of human suffering, yet we term them sinners. They do not love nor fear God; they have no true love for man; they reject the law of self-denial and the duty of ministration; they stand off from any direct relations to God, they do not pray; their motives are selfish; their temper is worldly; they are devoid of what are called graces except as mere germs or chance out-growths, and make no recognition of them as forming the substance of true character. Such men break the laws of God, and of their own nature, as really as does the drunkard, but they meet with little apparent punishment. There may be inward discomfort, pangs of conscience at times, a painful sense of wrongness, a dim sense of lack, but nothing that bears the stamp of penalty. These discomforts grow less, and at last leave the man quite at ease. These men seem to be sinning without punishment, and often infer that they do not deserve it. The reason of the difference is plain. They keep the laws that pertain to this world, and so do net come in the way of their penalties. They are temperate, and are blessed with health. They are shrewd and economical, and amass wealth. They are prudent and avoid calamities. They are worldly wise, and thus secure worldly advantages. But man covers two worlds, and he must settle with each before his destiny is decided: he may pass the judgment seat of one acquitted, but stand convicted before the other. It is as truly a law of our nature that we shall worship as that we shall eat. When, a half century ago, the famous Kaspar Hauser appeared in the streets of Nuremberg, having been released from a dungeon in which he had been confined from infancy, having never seen the face or heard the voice of man, nor gone without the walls of his prison, nor seen the full light of day, a distinguished lawyer in Germany wrote a legal history of the case which he entitled, A Crime against the Life of the Soul. It was well named. There is something unspeakably horrible in that mysterious page of history. To exclude a child not only from the light, but from its kind; to seal up the avenues of knowledge that are open to the most degraded savage; to force back upon itself every outgoing of the nature till the poor victim becomes a mockery before its Creator, is an unmeasurable crime; it is an attempt to undo God's work. But it is no worse than the treatment some men bestow upon their own souls. If reverence is repressed, and the eternal heavens are walled out from view; if the sense of immortality is smothered; if the spirit is not taught to clothe itself in spiritual garments, and to walk in spiritual ways: such conduct can hardly be classed except as a crime against the life of the soul. But one thing is certain. As the poor German youth was at length thrust out into the world for which he was so unfitted, with untrained senses in a world of sense, without speech in a world of language, with a dormant mind in a world of thought — so many go out of this world — with no preparation in that part of their nature that will most be called into use. There the soul will be in its own realm; it will live unto itself, a spirit unto spiritual things. A spiritual air to breathe; spiritual works to do; a spiritual life to live, but the spirit impotent I If there has been absolute perversion of the moral nature here, it must assert itself there in the sharpest forms, but the natural penalty of the greater part of human sin is darkness. This is the condemnation, that men have loved darkness. And the penalty of loving darkness, is darkness: it soul out of keeping with its condition, and therefore bewildered, dazzled by light cannot endure, or blind from the disused sense, it matters not which; it is equally in darkness.
We are, first, to consider WHO THOSE PERSONS ARE WHOSE "SINS ARE OPEN BEFOREHAND, GOING BEFORE TO JUDGMENT." And, in making this inquiry, we must still keep in mind that all sin is condemning. The world makes strange distinctions between what it calls great and little sins; but the word of God simply declares "the soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4
). "The wages of sin," of all sin, "is death" (Romans 6:23
). But though all sin is condemning, all sin is not equally open. Many sins which nevertheless subject the soul to eternal death, are kept hidden from man, while some are open and avowed. The unchanged nature may be restrained from exhibiting to the eye of man "sins open beforehand, going before to judgment"; but the evil principle of all sin is there, open to the eye of that God with whom we have to do. Causes there are which work upon the unchanged mind, from letting sin break out in the life; though the real love of sin exists fully in the heart. Such a restraint is natural conscience; such, the laws and expectations of civilized, much more of refined society. But where these restraints are broken through, then the whole body of sin and evil principles which were working in the inward soul before, now become manifest in all ungodliness. They have no fear of God before their eyes; their hearts are hardened, through the deceitfulness of sin: they set the law of God always, and the law of man when they dare do so, at defiance; and so spend their short day upon earth in "sins open beforehand, going before to judgment."
II. Let us inquire, in the second place, WHO THOSE ARE WHOSE SINS "FOLLOW AFTER." In the judgment which is formed of sin by men of the world, their minds are manifestly under a great delusion from the father of lies. They do not judge of sin as "the transgression of the law of God," and therefore hateful in his sight; but they measure it according to the effects which it produces against the safety or conveniences of society. They cannot see that all sin, whether it be "open beforehand," or whether it "follow after to judgment," is destructive to the soul, and dishonourable to almighty God; and, consequently, that every child of Adam who dies in any unforgiven sin, is lost. But besides this kind of delusion, which comforts many in their unholy life, and so far prevents their sin from breaking out into open wickedness, there is another cause why sin is oftentimes kept from becoming "open beforehand." Moral virtue, and a certain external character of religion, have still a share of the world's permission, nay, in a measure, of the world's approbation; provided that they do not make acknowledged reference to the power and obligations of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But all this only serves to make sin take deeper root. It is growing, though concealed from the world, in a soil congenial to it, and will increase unto all ungodliness. If, therefore, we retain sin in our heart by living in ignorance of the real state of our soul, while we succeed in establishing an outward character with men, we are passing through life deceiving and being deceived. Think, oh think, of the dreadful exposure in that day of all your secret bosom sins, hidden and unrepented of here, but then made manifest, to your "shame and everlasting contempt."
III. It now remains that we consider the CASE OF THOSE WHO HAVE NEITHER SINS GOING BEFORE THEM TO JUDGMENT, NOR SINS FOLLOWING AFTER. And who are these? where shall we find them? Not among those who have never sinned: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)." Not among those who sin not now: "For their is not a just man on earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not," (Ecclesiastes 7:20). They will be found standing in their own peculiar lot: washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11); and none who are such have sins either going before to judgment, or following after. Think upon your privileges in your acceptance in the Beloved. "Ye are washed" from the guilt of past sins, because it is written, "the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). It is the "fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness" (Zechariah 13:1).
This is the condition of all open and notorious sinners. They are sold as slaves to sin; everybody sees and knows them to be such; they know it themselves, and are bitterly conscious of their bondage, however they may affect to think lightly of it, or even glory in it; as there are those whose glory is in their shame, and who boast of being free from the restraints of religion, honour, and public decency. Who ever offended the general conscience of society by a great and public sin, and did not feel himself to be speedily judged, condemned, and degraded? and that not only in other men's judgment, which he would fain set aside or over-rule if he could, as partial, unreasonable, and unjust, but in the judgment of his own heart, which, in spite of himself, affirms and concurs in that of the world. For though the world itself is full of sin, yet, bad as it is, it does, in an imperfect and irregular way, respect virtue and rebuke vice. And hereby the judgment of the world becomes a token and intimation of God's judgment, and God makes the conscience and opinion even of wicked men testify against the wickedness of others, though perhaps less wicked than themselves. All open sin goes before to judgment. But how stands the case with regard to secret sins? There is in these, we may suppose, no manifest offence against the decencies and proprieties of society: the world knows nothing of the sin, character is not lost, the sinner's life may be in other respects unimpeachable. Cannot his sin be covered up? It is a vain hope; the covered sin corrupts the whole life. If open sin is like an overmastering fire, that blazes out at every window and flames up through the roof of the devoted house, secret sin is as the smouldering heat, that preys upon the main timbers, unobserved for a time, but stealthily eating its way from one to another, till at last the crash comes, and the building crumbles into dust and ashes. What calamity is so frightful and appalling as the sudden downfall of a man, long looked upon as of pure and honourable life, but found out at last to have been hiding wickedness under an outward show of virtue? And yet sad as this is, it is not so sad as if the cherished sin had passed undiscovered and unrepented of, till the sinner stood to answer for it before the great judgment-seat. I said that covered sin corrupts the whole life. And is it not so? Of course the secret sinner is ashamed of his sin; at least he is ashamed of it in reference to the effect it would produce against him, if it were known, in the minds of some people for whose opinion he cares. Then he must live in a constant disguise of false appearance. His daily life must be a lie, and he must be under a continual necessity of committing fresh sins to hide former ones. But besides the outward and visible consequence, what I may call the material penalty of sin, whether open or secret, there is an inward one of even greater severity; namely, the alienation of the mind from God, and consequent derangement of all the spiritual faculties and operations of the soul. Can a man who is consciously and designedly dishonest, or an extortioner, or a drunkard, or an adulterer, hold unreserved and refreshing communion with his Maker, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity? It is an old and most true remark, that nobody can go on both sinning and praying; for either praying will make him leave off sinning, or sinning will make him leave off praying. A wilful sinner might keep up the outward form, and be even all the worse for doing so, but he could not exercise the spirit of prayer. For though a person who is notoriously wicked in some particulars may, from mere worldly prudence, and a just appreciation of his own interest, be upright in others, this does not cleanse the blot of his character either to the world or to himself. The thief is not honoured by people of any discernment because he may happen to be sober, nor the adulterer because he may happen to be industrious. And much less can he, upon any reasonable estimate of his own spiritual state, appease his conscience, entertain a comfortable hope that he is in God's favour or make it the serious business of his life to advance God's glory. He is, by his works, a manifest enemy to the kingdom of grace. And how stands, in this particular, the case of the secret sinner? We suppose his sin not to be known to the world; his example, therefore, creates no scandal, shocks nobody's feelings; it may not even be blemished by any apparent inconsistency; but the hidden sin defiles the sinner's conscience, and bars his approach to God, just as much as open wickedness does. And this is the way in which it operates. The man feels that there is a part of his habitual life that he cannot freely disclose and acknowledge to God; a condemning secret, which he would fain withdraw, if he could, even from the judgment of his own heart. The consequence is that the form of religion, which we are supposing the secret sinner to keep up, is but a deception, a hollow mask to hide the practical infidelity of his character. It is plain that the wilful sinner can have no comfort in the knowledge of God, or in approaching Him in prayer. He has chosen to set himself in opposition to God, and to be holden for an enemy by Him. It may be suggested that the law which forbids the darling sin is not God's law, the revelation which is supposed to declare it is misstated or misrepresented, or perhaps is no real revelation at all. Nobody wonders that the man who is profligate is also irreligious; and nobody thinks of taking his opinion or his practice into account in any matter in which religion is concerned. But the secret sinner may unsettle the faith of many souls besides his own. The secret sinner, again, will have to recollect, and, so far as he may, to repair any damage that he may have done to the cause of religion by the looseness of his conversation while he was supposed to be, though he really was not, a trustworthy companion for people of sincere and unpolluted minds. But whatever may be the proper outward manifestations of penitence for either open or secret sin, the work itself must be begun and wrought out within the sinner's heart. This season of Lent has been specially appointed by the Church for the work of self-examination and penitence: not but what we ought to be daily humbling ourselves for those faults which we daily commit, but because through our natural slowness and coldness to spiritual things we are apt to fall into a negligent way of performing these daily duties, and so require to be ever and anon awakened and warned to set ourselves more heartily to our painful task. Let us not, then be withheld by false shame from owning to God and to ourselves, and, if it must be so, to man also, the heinousness of those sins which we may have openly and knowingly committed; nor let us attempt to take refuge in that ignorance of our own acts and of their quality, which, in whatever degree it is wilful, is in that degree an aggravation of sin, not an excuse for what is done amiss; but let us gladly accept the light which the Word and Providence of God afford to us, that we may come to know ourselves as we are known by Him. It may be a painful, but it will be a saving knowledge.
Now there is no difficulty in fixing on the characters described under the former clause, "Some men's sins are open, going before unto judgment." From the day of Pentecost until now, the Church has had to contend with a body of men who have set themselves in direct and open hostility to holiness and God; who have mocked at His counsel and would none of His reproof. Their sins have been open; all the world has acknowledged their guilt, and anticipated their condemnation. Their offences go before them invoking God's judgment. Who are they, we will rather ask, described in the second clause of the text, whose wickednesses are not visible at the moment? In reply, we would remind you of the familiar division of all sin into ignorant and presumptuous. Indeed, indeed, it is quite possible for a man to be persuaded that he stands upright, when in God's sight he is grovelling in the dust. We will take the case of a man who rejects from his creed one of the articles of the Christian faith. These persona live on contented with their own condition; they are not sensible of any evil from the course they pursue. Now this licensed unbelief in which people, good and amiable in the main, indulge themselves upon particular points — this free thinking upon a few of the minor dogmas of the Church, which seemingly issue in nothing, leads to no harmful result, is just of the nature of those sins which follow after. The secret scepticism, Oh! it does not go before a man, calling down upon his head general reproach; it is not as the crime of dishonesty, or avariciousness, or cruelty, or impurity, which lift up their voices and imprecate judgment; but it hangs about an individual almost without his own knowledge. Noiselessly and stealthily it dogs his steps, never perhaps to be thoroughly developed in all its offensiveness, till the disembodied soul stands shivering in the eternal world. And they are not sins of faith alone which come under the category of the text. How many are they who permit themselves in some habitual breach of God's law, without ever realizing the fact that they are really guilty of actual sin. How many a tradesman suffers himself to take advantage of the ignorance of those with whom he deals, enlarging his profits by means not thoroughly justifiable, but which custom has sanctioned, and which, therefore, he never dreams of regarding as moral offences. So again a society, in its corporate capacity, will not hesitate to act in a manner in which its members would shrink from acting in their private capacity, as though the individual responsibility which God had stamped upon every unit of our species could be got rid of by associating together with our brethren. And what we have said with regard to things done or left undone, which men know not, and feel not, to be wrong, applies in its degree also to a variety of practices which people do know to be evil, but which yet appear too insignificant to be a cause of uneasiness. And this class of transgressions is one into which an age like the present is especially liable to fall. Men in a simple and uncivilized era are subject to gross vices, men of a refined and cultivated epoch sin small sins. Crimes of exceeding magnitude, as well as heroic virtue, belong to a nation in its infancy. Bloodshed, cruelty, incest, rapine, are the faults of a barbarous empire. Selfishness, coldness, covetousness, vanity, are the transgressions of modern times.
II. We have hitherto considered the text as indicative of two descriptions of sin. The sins that follow after are the sins which men know not, or which they pass by as of little moment. But the words imply, we believe, more than that the sins in question are secret, or insignificant; they further indicate, that we have already indirectly insinuated, that although little recked of, they do in fact pursue a man to his hurt, and even to his condemnation. What is this? It is that these unknown or unregarded transgressions are not really without effect both here and hereafter. They may bear no fruit at the moment, but their fruit is not wanting. Again and again have we heard of individuals who, after a protracted career of uprightness and integrity, have been convicted of some fraud, and overwhelmed with sudden disgrace. The world marvels that one who stood so long should at last fall, that one so regular and steady and sober, and even religious should prove so false to his principles. But could we look deeper, and see as God sees, we should, perhaps, trace the final catastrophe to some single neglect, like that of abstaining from the Lord's Supper, which the mass never noticed, and if they had, would not have blamed; yea, which the unhappy one himself hardly knew. Yea, and we had almost said that it were well the result of the unknown sin should thus show itself now, even though its revelation be in the midst of dishonour and remorse. Better that the secret disease should be disclosed anyhow, whilst there is a possibility of cure, than that it should lie hid until the end. Death hath a strange power to banish delusions, and unravel self-deceit. When shaking itself free from the coil of flesh, the spirit often shakes off the former dulness of its mental sight, and begins to see things as they are. Then actions which once seemed right appear wrong, and practices once excused are perceived to be indefensible, and omissions which were thought pardonable look foul and terrible when the doors of eternity are unfolding. It is a very strong argument which we derive from the foregoing reasoning, for neglecting no means of grace, for under. valuing no transgression. The effects of such neglect are not wholly removed even by repentance.
The Paper World
informs its readers that in using postal cards they may write so that only the initiated can read the message, and write a misleading message which will disappear. The true message, it says, should be written with a gold or quill pen dipped, not in ink, but in a mixture of one part sulphuric acid and seven parts water. When dry the card bears no trace of writing, but, as a blank card might excite suspicion, it may be covered with writing in tincture of iodine. When heat is applied to the card, the writing in iodine disappears, and the writing in diluted sulphuric acid becomes legible. There is reason to fear that the same process is going on in the record of some people's lives. In the day when all secrets are revealed and every one appears in the naked light of the great white throne, the records on the tombstones will disappear, and in their place will stand the hidden, true record of the actual life.
A curious discovery of a diamond fraud has been made by a photographer in Boston, U.S. A diamond expert was offered a very large stone for £1,600. He applied to it all the tests used in the trade, and was satisfied that it was genuine. After he had purchased it, some circumstances occurred which led him to suspect that he had been cheated, notwithstanding the apparent genuineness of the diamond. He took the stone to a photographer, and asked him to send a ray of sunlight through it with his camera. Then it was discovered that there was an obstruction in the stone. A ray which passed through other diamonds clear and straight was stopped in the suspected stone. A powerful microscope was used upon it, and it was discovered that the obstruction was some cement which joined two small stones together, the two forming the magnificent gem the merchant had bought. The two stones were separated by chemicals, and were worth about £120 each. There are people who succeed in passing the tests of ministers and Churches who, when the light of God's throne falls upon them in the day of judgment, will be found fraudulent professors.
Recent discoveries have revealed the carcases of prehistoric animals thrown out at the foot of a Siberian glacier. These animals were preserved unchanged, unseen, and unknown, for untold centuries, beneath the frozen mud and the solid ice of the never-hasting, never-resting, ever-moving glacier. And when, at last, these long-preserved carcases came out to the light and warmth and sun, they sent forth their horrid stench. Thus sin may be buried under the mud of materialism, and be frozen in indifference, and hidden in oblivion for years and centuries and cycles, but the on-moving glacier of time will at last reveal them to the light and glory of the judgment day, and then will they stink in the nostrils of God, and of angels and of all the assembled multitudes.
The good works ofI.
Now it is clear THAT A WORK CANNOT DERIVE ITS GOODNESS FROM ITS RELATION TO SIN. Water cannot derive its sweetness from a bitter fountain. The limpid brook does not obtain its transparency from the muddy bed over which it flows. A good work, we say, must derive all its goodness from God; and, first of all, He must be its author; His Spirit must teach it; He must be its originator. In other words, a man must be taught of God before he can do aught which is pleasing in God's sight. But, again, in order to make a deed good, God must be the doer as well as the author of it. We must be led by the Spirit, as well as taught of the Spirit; God must work in us to do as well as to will. Not that our own work is in any degree superseded — not that our diligence is rendered unnecessary, but we are fellow-workers with God. And yet the excellence of the work is not derived from our share in the work, but from God's. And then for a work to be good God must be the aim of that work. "Do all to the glory of God" — that is our duty. "I have created him for My glory" — that is the Divine purpose.
II. Our text declares of such good works as we have described, THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO HIDE THEM. "The good works of some are manifest beforehand, and they which are otherwise" — that is, they which are not manifest beforehand — "cannot be hid." It is therefore a mere question of time, and not of fact; all good works shall be manifest, the only difference being that some are revealed beforehand in this life whilst others are reserved till the life to come. But what is meant by this manifestation of works? Clearly not the display of a mere action whether of body or mind. It would be no sort of consolation to the teacher, or visitor, or alms-giver ii you were to tell him that his lessons, or calls, or alms will all be published. That might be a motive for the ostentatious and purse-proud pharisee, but it is no boon to the self-denying and humble child of God. What then? Why, it follows that our text declares, not that the bare works, but that the goodness of these works shall be made manifest. And what is this goodness which shall be revealed? Precisely that which attaches to the work as good in the sight of God, and which we have already described. The origin and motive of the work will be manifested. Men may misinterpret you now; they may call you a mad religious schemer; they may Say that the cross you have taken up is assumed to disguise some dishonesty of heart; they may accuse you of a thousand motives rather than the true one; but what matters it? It shall not always be thus. And then He will make manifest the work's goodness of execution. He will demonstrate that it was "not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts." Men thought, and sometimes even you thought, that the good work was done in a wrong way. And, finally, He will make manifest the work's goodness of aim. But how will He reveal this fact? Will He simply declare that His honour was your object, but unfortunately it failed? No such thing. In every case He will reveal the full accomplishment of the end whereto He sent the work; in every case He will display before you the most perfect success; in every case He will make manifest goodness consummated, a purpose attained, and glory achieved. In His own way He will show it; but show it He will; there will be no doubt about the fact; the end of the work will be proved good. Sometimes God makes this aim manifest beforehand; He shows us even now that His work is prospering in our hands; He proves to us that His glory is not only our intention, but even the actual and present result of our labours.
Years ago in Chicago crowded gatherings were being held in the largest hall in the city, and Mr. Moody was "in command." Suddenly his shrewd, quick eye fell on one of the ushers; he looked at him for a minute, and then signalled to him to come to the vestry below. When they met there Mr. Moody said: "Where do you come from — Does the senior usher know you? No, sir." "What do you come here for?" "I wanted to be seen." "Ah," said Mr. Moody, "you just drop that usher's rod and take a back seat, now be smart." Mr. Moody had never seen the man before, but his wonderfully keen penetration of character had detected something wrong in him. That man's name was Guiteau, and within four years he murdered the noble Garfield, the President of the United States.
When the Sidonians were once going to choose a king, they determined that their election should fall upon the man who should first see the sun on the following morning. All the candidates, towards the hour of sun-rise, eagerly looked towards the East, but one, who, to the astonishment of his countrymen, fixed his eyes pertinaciously on the opposite side of the horizon, where he saw the reflection of the sun's orb before the orb itself was seen by those looking towards the east. The choice instantly fell upon him who had seen the reflection of the sun; and by the same reasoning, the influence of religion on the heart is frequently perceptible in the conduct, even before a person has made direct profession of the principle by which he is actuated.
TopicsAhead, Appear, Beforehand, Behind, Characters, Clearly, Conspicuous, Estimate, Evident, Follow, Judged, Judgment, Lag, Later, Leading, Manifest, Men's, Obvious, Open, Pointing, Preceding, Quite, Reaching, Sins, Trail
Outline1. Rules to be observed in reproving.3. Of widows.17. Of elders.23. A precept for Timothy's health.24. Some men's sins go before unto judgment, and some men's follow after.
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 Timothy 5:24
9210 judgment, God's
It is surprising that it should have entered any one's mind to make a Sacrament of Confirmation out of that laying on of hands which Christ applied to little children, and by which the apostles bestowed the Holy Spirit, ordained presbyters, and healed the sick; as the Apostle writes to Timothy: "Lay hands suddenly on no man." (1 Tim. v. 22.) Why not also make a confirmation out of the sacrament of bread, because it is written: "And when he had received meat, he was strengthened" (Acts ix. 19); or …
Martin Luther—First Principles of the Reformation
Whereas, Then, all Christians have to Guard Humility...
33. Whereas, then, all Christians have to guard humility, forasmuch as it is from Christ that they are called Christians, Whose Gospel no one considers with care, but that he discovers Him to be a Teacher of humility; specially is it becoming that they be followers and keepers of this virtue, who excel the rest of men in any great good, in order that they may have a great care of that, which I set down in the beginning, "By how much thou art great, by so much humble thyself in all things, and thou …
St. Augustine—Of Holy Virginity.
That, Namely, Befalleth them which in Undisciplined Younger Widows...
26. That, namely, befalleth them which in undisciplined younger widows, the same Apostle saith must be avoided: "And withal they learn to be idle; and not only idle, but also busy bodies and full of words, speaking what they ought not."  This very thing said he concerning evil women, which we also in evil men do mourn and bewail, who against him, the very man in whose Epistles we read these things, do, being idle and full of words, speak what they ought not. And if there be any among them who …
St. Augustine—Of the Work of Monks.
Truly we must Consider, that God Gives us Some Goods...
9. Truly we must consider, that God gives us some goods, which are to be sought for their own sake, such as wisdom, health, friendship: but others, which are necessary for the sake of somewhat, such as learning, meat, drink, sleep, marriage, sexual intercourse. For of these certain are necessary for the sake of wisdom, as learning: certain for the sake of health, as meat and drink and sleep: certain for the sake of friendship, as marriage or sexual intercourse: for hence subsists the propagation …
St. Augustine—On the Good of Marriage
This HomilyWas Delivered in the Old Church of Antioch
The Argument. This Homily was delivered in the Old Church  of Antioch, while St. Chrysostom was yet a Presbyter, upon that saying of the Apostle, 1 Tim. v. 23, "Drink a little wine for thy stomach's sake, and thy often infirmities." 1. Ye have heard the Apostolic voice, that trumpet from heaven, that spiritual lyre! For even as a trumpet sounding a fearful and warlike note, it both dismays the enemy, and arouses the dejected spirits on its own side, and filling them with great boldness, renders …
St. Chrysostom—On the Priesthood
Book ix. Epistle i. To Januarius, Bishop of Caralis (Cagliari).
To Januarius, Bishop of Caralis (Cagliari). Gregory to Januarius, &c. The preacher of Almighty God, Paul the apostle, says, Rebuke not an elder (1 Tim. v. 1). But this rule of his is to be observed in cases where the fault of an elder does not draw through his example the hearts of the younger into ruin. But, when an elder sets an example to the young for their ruin, he is to be smitten with severe rebuke. For it is written, Ye are all a snare to the young (Isai. xlii. 22). And again the prophet …
Saint Gregory the Great—the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great
HEBREWS xiii. Let love of the brethren continue. Forget not to shew love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; them that are evil entreated, as being yourselves also in the body. Let marriage be had in honour among all, and let the bed be undefiled: for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Be ye free from the love of money; content with such things as ye have: for Himself hath said, I will in no wise fail thee, …
Thomas Charles Edwards—The Expositor's Bible: The Epistle to the Hebrews
Excursus on the Deaconess of the Early Church.
It has been supposed by many that the deaconess of the Early Church had an Apostolic institution and that its existence may be referred to by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (xvi. 1) where he speaks of Phoebe as being a diakonos of the Church of Cenchrea. It moreover has been suggested that the "widows" of 1 Tim. v. 9 may have been deaconesses, and this seems not unlikely from the fact that the age for the admission of women to this ministry was fixed by Tertullian at sixty years (De Vel. …
Philip Schaff—The Seven Ecumenical Councils
What Diversity There Ought to be in the Art of Preaching.
Differently to be admonished are these that follow:-- Men and women. The poor and the rich. The joyful and the sad. Prelates and subordinates. Servants and masters. The wise of this world and the dull. The impudent and the bashful. The forward and the fainthearted. The impatient and the patient. The kindly disposed and the envious. The simple and the insincere. The whole and the sick. Those who fear scourges, and therefore live innocently; and those who have grown so hard in iniquity as not to be …
Leo the Great—Writings of Leo the Great
Thoughts Upon Worldly-Riches. Sect. Ii.
TIMOTHY after his Conversion to the Christian Faith, being found to be a Man of great Parts, Learning, and Piety, and so every way qualified for the work of the Ministry, St. Paul who had planted a Church at Ephesus the Metropolis or chief City of all Asia, left him to dress and propagate it, after his departure from it, giving him Power to ordain Elders or Priests, and to visit and exercise Jurisdiction over them, to see they did not teach false Doctrines, 1 Tim. i. 3. That they be unblameable in …
William Beveridge—Private Thoughts Upon a Christian Life
The Third Word from the Cross
In the life of our Lord from first to last there is a strange blending of the majestic and the lowly. When a beam of His divine dignity is allowed to shine out and dazzle us, it is never long before there ensues some incident which reminds us that He is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh; and, contrariwise, when He does anything which impressively brings home to us His humanity, there always follows something to remind us that He was greater than the sons of men. Thus at His birth He was laid …
James Stalker—The Trial and Death of Jesus Christ
And not Without Just Cause a Doubt is Raised...
14. And not without just cause a doubt is raised, whether he said this of all married women, or of such as so many are, as that nearly all may be thought so to be. For neither doth that, which he saith of unmarried women, "She, that is unmarried, thinkest of the things of the Lord, to be holy both in body and spirit:"  pertain unto all unmarried women: whereas there are certain widows who are dead, who live in delights. However, so far as regards a certain distinction and, as it were, character …
St. Augustine—On the Good of Marriage
Marriage, I Say, is a Good, and May Be...
24. Marriage, I say, is a good, and may be, by sound reason, defended against all calumnies. But with the marriage of the holy fathers, I inquire not what marriage, but what continence, is on a level: or rather not marriage with marriage; for it is an equal gift in all cases given to the mortal nature of men; but men who use marriage, forasmuch as I find not, to compare with other men who used marriage in a far other spirit, we must require what continent persons admit of being compared with those …
St. Augustine—On the Good of Marriage
But Since, as the Lord Saith, "Not all Receive this Word...
12. But since, as the Lord saith, "Not all receive this word;"  therefore let her who can receive it, receive it; and let her, who containeth not, marry; let her, who hath not begun, deliberate; let her, who hath undertaken it, persevere; let there be no occasion given unto the adversary, let there be no oblation withdrawn from Christ. Forsooth in the marriage bond if chastity be preserved, condemnation is not feared; but in widowed and virginal continence, the excellence of a greater gift …
St. Augustine—On the Good of Widowhood.
For that Also is no Foolish Question which is Wont to be Proposed...
16. For that also is no foolish question which is wont to be proposed, that whoso can may say, which widow is to be preferred in desert; whether one who hath had one husband, who, after having lived a considerable time with her husband, being left a widow with sons born to her and alive, hath made profession of continence; or she who as a young woman having lost two husbands within two years, having no children left alive to console her, hath vowed to God continence, and in it hath grown old with …
St. Augustine—On the Good of Widowhood.
Epistle xxxi. To Cyriacus, Bishop.
To Cyriacus, Bishop. Gregory to Cyriacus, Bishop of Constantinople. We have received the letters of your Blessedness, which speak to us in words not of the tongue but of the soul. For they open to me your mind, which, however, was not closed to me, since of myself I retain experience of the same sweetness. Wherefore I return thanks continually to Almighty God, since, if charity the mother of virtues abides in your heart towards us, you will never lose the branches of good works, seeing that you …
Saint Gregory the Great—the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great
Preaching (I. ).
Earthen vessels, frail and slight, Yet the golden Lamp we bear; Master, break us, that the light So may fire the murky air; Skill and wisdom none we claim, Only seek to lift Thy Name. I have on purpose reserved the subject of Preaching for our closing pages. Preaching is, from many points of view, the goal and summing up of all other parts and works of the Ministry. What we have said already about the Clergyman's life and labour, in secret, in society, in the parish; what we have said about his …
Handley C. G. Moule—To My Younger Brethren
The Praise of Men.
"They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."--John xii. 43. This is spoken of the chief rulers of the Jews, who, though they believed in Christ's Divine mission, were afraid to confess Him, lest they should incur temporal loss and shame from the Pharisees. The censure passed by St. John on these persons is too often applicable to Christians at the present day; perhaps, indeed, there is no one among us who has not at some time or other fallen under it. We love the good opinion …
John Henry Newman—Parochial and Plain Sermons, Vol. VII
An Essay on the Mosaic Account of the Creation and Fall of Man
THERE are not a few difficulties in the account, which Moses has given of the creation of the world, and of the formation, and temptation, and fall of our first parents. Some by the six days of the creation have understood as many years. Whilst others have thought the creation of the world instantaneous: and that the number of days mentioned by Moses is only intended to assist our conception, who are best able to think of things in order of succession. No one part of this account is fuller of difficulties, …
Nathaniel Lardner—An Essay on the Mosaic Account of the Creation and Fall of Man
The Past Day Returns not Hereafter, and after Yesterday Proceeds To-Day...
25. The past day returns not hereafter, and after yesterday proceeds to-day, and after to-day will proceed to-morrow; and, lo, all times and the things of time pass away, that there may come the promise that shall abide; and "whoso shall have persevered even unto the end, this one shall be saved."  If the world is now perishing, the married woman, for whom beareth she? Or in heart about to bear, and in flesh not about to bear, why doth she marry? But if the world is still about to last, why …
St. Augustine—On the Good of Widowhood.
A Discourse of the Building, Nature, Excellency, and Government of the House of God; with Counsels and Directions to the Inhabitants Thereof.
BY JOHN BUNYAN, OF BEDFORD. 'Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth.'--Psalm 26:8 ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR. Beautiful in its simplicity is this treatise on the Church of Christ, by John Bunyan. He opens, with profound knowledge and eminent skill, all those portions of sacred writ which illustrate the nature, excellency, and government of the house of God, with the personal and relative duties of its inhabitants. It was originally published in …
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3
Twenty-Fourth Day for the Spirit on Your Own Congregation
WHAT TO PRAY.--For the Spirit on your own Congregation "Beginning at Jerusalem."--LUKE xxiv. 47. Each one of us is connected with some congregation or circle of believers, who are to us the part of Christ's body with which we come into most direct contact. They have a special claim on our intercession. Let it be a settled matter between God and you that you are to labour in prayer on its behalf. Pray for the minister and all leaders or workers in it. Pray for the believers according to their needs. …
Andrew Murray—The Ministry of Intercession
For He Himself Also, with an Eye to the Like Necessities of Saints...
16. For he himself also, with an eye to the like necessities of saints, who, although they obey his precepts, "that with silence they work and eat their own bread," may yet from many causes stand in need of somewhat by way of supplement to the like sustenance, therefore, after he had thus said, teaching and premonishing, "Now them which are such we command and beseech in our Lord Jesus Christ, that with silence they work and eat their own bread;"  yet, lest they which had whereof they might …
St. Augustine—Of the Work of Monks.
But Thou who Both Hast Sons, and Livest in that End of the World...
11. But thou who both hast sons, and livest in that end of the world, wherein now is the time not of casting stones, but of gathering; not of embracing, but of abstaining from embracing;  when the Apostle cries out, "But this I say, brethren, the time is short; it remains, that both they who have wives be as not having;"  assuredly if thou hadst sought a second marriage, it would have been no obedience of prophecy or law, no carnal desire even of family, but a mark of incontinence alone. …
St. Augustine—On the Good of Widowhood.
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