Your own evil will discipline you; your own apostasies will reprimand you. Consider and realize how evil and bitter it is for you to forsake the LORD your God and to have no fear of Me," declares the Lord GOD of Hosts.
I. PRECAUTIONARY OBSERVATIONS.
Thine own wickedness shall correct thee.I. IN THE DEALINGS OF GOD WITH GOOD MEN.
1. Neglect secret devotion, and God will refuse His blessing on other means of grace.
2. Indulge secret sin, and God will bring that sin into open light and condemnation.
3. Idolise created good, and God will take from us an idol, or make it a plague to us.
4. Act with faithlessness to others, and God will permit us to suffer from the treachery of others.
5. Undutifulness to parents punished by the defiance of our own children.
6. Indifference as to home piety returned upon us in the irreligion of those in the home.
II. IN THE DEALINGS OF GOD WITH WICKED MEN.
1. Those who resent religious persuasions, and strive to stifle conviction, are deprived of godly parents and friends, and left to a fatal peace.
2. Those who repel the Gospel because of its humiliating truths, are allowed "to believe a lie," etc.
3. In death and judgment, the punishment of the sinner will reflect his sin.
1. Sin, in its own nature, is inexpressibly bad. Not only the negation of all that is good, but the absolute plenitude of all that is evil. It is wrong raising itself against the order, purity, and happiness of the universe. The originating, exclusive, and prolific source of all human woe.
2. If in any circumstances sin appear in a beginning, and good and happiness in the end, the latter will not be, in any sense, the proper conduct of the former. Good comes of evil through causes exterior to evil, independent of evil, hostile to evil, and which turn evil to good account against evil. Imagine a man sleeping in a wood. A serpent strikes its fangs into one of his limbs. The man is stung into consciousness, and starts up from his slumber just in time to escape the pounce of a hungry tiger, whose eyes are glaring in the thicket. The serpent had no intention of saving him. It attacked him for itself; but the sudden anguish of the bleeding wound was the occasion of rescue from the two-fold destruction. So, often, man "dead in trespasses and sins" is maddened into activity by the remorse of wickedness, and ultimately rushes away from the adjacent coils of Satan and the gaping jaws of hell.
3. To turn evil to good account is one of the sovereign prerogatives of God. It is only through Divine interference and interworking that sin fails, at any time, to effect "evil, only evil, and that continually." This is one of the express laws of the Divine conduct in the Bible. Joseph and his brethren. David and Shimei. Preaching Christ out of envy, etc.
II. WHAT ATTITUDE GOD ACTUALLY ASSUMES AND MAINTAINS TOWARDS SIN.
1. God has surrounded sin by limits and restrictions. The moral sentiments of men — the moral restraints of society — the moral utterances of revealed religion — the moral corrections of the invincible laws of the material economy — have conspired to bind sin hand and foot, in its most monstrous and demoniacal forms.
2. Sin is permitted, but anticipated; defiled, but used; unscathed, but bridled and harnessed, till the reluctant monster shall be firmly yoked to the car of the mighty victor and swell the final triumph.(1) God uses sin to punish sin. When God employed the passion and ambition of hostile monarchs to chastise the apostate Israelites, or when God directed warring kings, raging with the lust of empire, to relieve His afflicted and repentant people — in either case the Jews recognised the operation of an inter-working and over-ruling providence, and recorded the principles which we are explaining.(2) God uses sin to defeat sin. Very often when two persons, two coteries, two nations, it may be, are struggling to obtain a false object, and both the parties or communities are equally profligate in the means which they employ to secure success, the plans of the unprincipled tricksters clash; all are overwhelmed with defeat and disgrace together, and the field is left free for right quietly to triumph. In the history of every kingdom and hierarchy, political and priestly despotism may be seen committing suicide by outdoing its ordinary amount of enormity.(3) God uses sin to reprove sin. God does not turn sins into whips exclusively, by the pains and disappointments of iniquity, merely to scourge the sinner. The element of moral reproof is uniformly associated with the anguish of punishment. We ask not here how sin can at all become the means of moral instruction; we only state the fact. Without seeking the remote or proximate cause of such a phenomenon, it is sufficient for our present purpose to say that one act, or a few acts of sin, and the immediate consequences are often, to a man apparently established in irreligion, the occasion of godly sorrow for the sins of his whole life.(4) God uses sin to promote goodness. The odiousness of sin, when visible in the conduct of the ungodly, is ever felt by Christians to be promotive of piety. It undoubtedly increases their gratitude when they are reminded, by contrast, of the obvious and revolting abominations from which they have been rescued. The daffy sinfulness, too, of which the best are conscious, which they frankly acknowledge, however unaffectedly deplore, becomes a source of sincere and growing humiliation. The transgressions, also, of the past are never remembered without grief; and the spirit is chastened into meekness at the recollection of even bygone and forgiven iniquities. And, beyond this, what salutary spiritual consequences are derived from a conscious proneness to sin in the future! To what self-renunciation does it conduct! what acts of self-consignment to God does it prompt! and how much possible sin does it annihilate!(5) God uses sin to display the matchless glory of His Divine perfections.
It is an evil thing and bitter.
Theological Sketchbook.I. INQUIRE WHEREIN SIN CONSISTS, ACCORDING TO THE DESCRIPTION OF THE PROPHET.
1. Every sinner has forsaken God.(1) He does not desire Him as his portion, but other things in preference.(2) He is not mindful of His favour, but esteems the friendship of a fellow creature more than His.
2. As God is not loved, so neither is He feared, at least, not in such a way as to depart from evil.
3. From these two sources proceed all the evils that are in the world.(1) Forsaking God has been the cause of every abomination: hence all the wars, oppression, and injustice, between nations and individuals.(2) From the same source also arises a rejection of Christ and the Gospel; a contempt of religion and of religious people.(3) Hence, also, that hardness and indifference to the Gospel in many who attend upon it.(4) Hence the most solemn warnings and tender expostulations are without effect, and all the mercy of the Saviour is neglected.
II. CONSIDER THE EVIL AND BITTER NATURE OF SIN.
1. We may "know and see how evil and bitter a thing sin is," by the precepts of God's holy law, which forbid it; and we must measure it by this rule to see what evil there is in it.
2. We may "know and see" by the awful threatenings of God's Word, by which it stands condemned (Deuteronomy 28:15).
4. Know by the bitter fruits it has already produced.
5. By the still more bitter fruits it would have produced if God had not restrained it.
6. By the bitter pains of eternal death.
7. Know it also by the bitter sufferings of the Son of God.
III. ENFORCE THE EXHORTATION: "Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing."
1. Unless we know and see this, we can neither know nor see the salvation of God.
2. Without a knowledge of the evil of sin, we shall neither repent of it nor depart from it to any good purpose.
3. If we know and see it not truly in this world, we shall be made to know and see it to our cost in the world to come.
4. If we are brought to know and see it aright, we shall come to Christ; and herein will be the proof of our knowledge being in some measure what it ought to be (John 6:45).
1. Men in general think lightly of sin. They consider it rather as a failure or infirmity of nature, than as positive transgression, guilt, or vileness. Nay, "fools make a mock of sin."
2. The great reason why men think so lightly of sin is, that they think lightly of God. Our judgment of anything is always in proportion to our esteem or disesteem of its opposite. God and sin are two contraries; and we will unavoidably form our estimate of sin, according to that which we form of essential holiness.
3. There is an infinite evil in sin. This may appear impossible, because man, its subject, is a finite being. But although viewed in man, or in any creature, as its subject, it can be only finite; with respect to God, the object against whom it is directed, it is infinitely evil: for it is an affront to His infinite perfections.
4. All sin has an infinite evil in it. The guilt of one sin exposes to eternal wrath. The least sin implies in it ingratitude, unbelief, rebellion, and atheism.
II. THE EVIL OF SIN.
1. Because contrary to the nature of God, who is the supreme standard of truth and righteousness. Men may talk as they will of moral rectitude and the fitness of things. But these are terms without meaning, unless we understand them as relating to the perfections of the Divine nature; for there can be no notion of rectitude, fitness, or propriety, abstracted from the nature of God.
2. Because contrary to His holy law. This notion of sin is usually illustrated by the situation of a person under a bodily disease, who not only labours under the want of a proper temperament of humours, but hath a positive disorder among them. So sin, which is a moral disease, not only implies a want of proper conformity to the law, but a real opposition to it.
3. It is an attempt against the moral government of God in the world. This is the necessary result of its being a transgression of the law.
4. It is abominable to God. Nothing else in the universe is the object of Divine hatred, or nothing else but on account of sin.
5. That sin is an evil thing is evident from that malignity which is in its nature. Does the justice of God proclaim the guilt of sin? Do we learn its filth from its contrariety to Divine holiness? Its malignity also appears by its opposition to the alluring perfection of love.
6. Because it makes man the slave of Satan. By the law of his creation, he is the subject of God. To Him he owes his service, and to Him only.Inferences —
1. That those who have never seen sin to be evil and bitter have no fear of God.
2. The danger of entertaining trivial thoughts of sin.
3. The dreadful ingratitude that is in sin.
4. The impossibility of delivering ourselves from sin. The necessity of washing in the blood of Christ.
III. THE BITTERNESS OF SIN.
1. Sin is so bitter in its consequences that it has deprived us of all good. It has robbed us of the Divine image and favour.
2. Sin has subjected us to all penal evil. The curse of the law; afflictions; death
3. Sin has introduced disorder into the whole creation of God.
IV. BY WHAT PROOFS SINNERS MAY KNOW AND SEE THAT SIN IS EVIL AND BITTER.
1. By the commands and threatenings of the law. It threatens death in all its extent: temporal, spiritual, and eternal.
2. By terrors of conscience.
3. From the complaints of God's people, on account of sin. They everywhere, when rightly exercised, represent it as their heaviest burden; and however great their afflictions, they consider sin as greater than any ether.
4. By the punishments inflicted on sinners in this life. Flood: Sodom and Gomorrah.
5. Many see and know the evil and bitterness of sin by their own eternal misery. Hell.
6. In the sufferings of the Son of God.
(J. Jamieson M. A.)
Christian Observer.Many and great are the benefits arising from a proper view of the evil of sin. It teaches us our true relation to God, and the value of Christ's salvation. It shows us the necessity of repentance, and serves to form in us that spirit of humility, which so well state, a fallen creature. To promote this necessary branch of Christian knowledge, therefore, I propose to set before you some of the evils contained in sin.
1. Sin is an act of rebellion against God, our supreme governor. We all feel it to be right that a master should govern his servant, a parent his child, a king his subjects: — and, in these cases, if obedience be refused, we immediately censure it as wrong. Now, all the relations of father, master, and king, do not confer a thousandth part of the right to rule, and to be obeyed, which centres in God. If authority is attached to property, the world is His, and the fulness of it; — if to high station, He is King of kings, and Lord of lords; — if to natural right, whose claim can be so little liable to dispute as that of the Creator of all things, by whom all things subsist? The language of sin is, "Who is the Lord that I should obey Him?" Now, when we consider the infinite glory, power, and goodness of God, whose authority is thus trampled upon; the meanness of man — dust of the earth quickened into life by God; the slightness of the motive by which in many cases he is induced to disobey God; and the desperate boldness or unthinking carelessness with which he dares to transgress, often showing neither reluctance, nor apprehension, nor sorrow, surely we shall see in this one view of the subject how "evil and bitter a thing it is that we have forsaken the Lord God, and that His fear is not in us." But to all this it may be objected, that guilt lies chiefly in the intention; and that it is not the intention of the sinner to offend God, much less to rebel against Him: his end is only to please himself. This may be true; but is it not rebellion against God not to intend to obey Him? No criminal directly proposes to insult the laws of his country. He intends only to please himself; to serve some selfish end of his own. But when the act which he commits is forbidden by the law, we consider him as justly liable to suffer the penalty of disobedience. But it is pleaded, "We have no distinct idea, when we sin, of acting against the will of God, but are drawn, by thoughtlessness, to do that which in our more serious moments we condemn." Is thoughtlessness itself, in respect to God and our duty, no crime? This is to excuse the guilt of the single act, by acknowledging a general principle of evil. Men, for the most part, know that what they are about to do is forbidden by God. Their conscience reproves them; their guilt is placed full in their view, and yet they proceed in their course.
2. The evil of sin will further appear from this consideration, that by every act of sin we do in effect arraign the wisdom and goodness of God. Every one who sins decides against the wisdom and goodness of God. He declares by actions, which always speak more strongly than words, that God would have more promoted the happiness of man had He allowed him to indulge his lusts; that His yoke, therefore, is hard. Now, is it not an unpardonable presumption in us thus to set up our judgment against that of God?
3. The evil of sin appears also from its tendency to defeat the designs of God. It introduces disorder into His dominions. It spreads desolation through His works. It destroys the happiness, harmony, and glory of the world, and fills it with misery and discord. All sin has this tendency. For, be it remembered, we are not to measure the evil of sin by its effects, but by its tendency. If God, by His power, prevents the effects which it would otherwise produce, this does not take away from its proper malignity.
4. The evil of sin will further appear when we consider the ingratitude contained in it. Is there, then, no guilt in sin which injures and insults our best Friend; no evil in that disposition which allows us to be even negligent in our conduct towards Him to whom we owe such obligations?
5. Sin manifests also an abject and grovelling spirit. It proposes to gratify the corrupt appetites of the flesh, and considers only the present moment: for this, reason is dethroned, while the flesh is allowed to rule: for this, honour, conscience, and the fear of God, are trampled under foot: for this, eternity is sacrificed to time. It belongs only to fallen beings; it is the badge of their shame, and the rod of their punishment.
6. Lastly, the evil of sin appears in the injury it does to others. It is the excellence of holiness that it spreads happiness around; but it is the effect of sin, like a pestilence, to spread ruin and desolation. All I have said of sin in general applies, of course, to every act of sin; and yet how very different an appearance does sin usually bear to us from what has been described! Is God, then, an angry tyrant, who marks in secret the weaknesses and follies of His creatures, in order, at length, to pour out His vengeance on them? Far from us be such an idea of our gracious and merciful God. He is slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil.
(Christian Observer.)1. The nature of sin. Forsaking the Lord as our God.
2. The cause of sin. Because His fear is not in us.
3. The malignity of sin. An evil and bitter thing.
4. The fatal consequences of sin. Without God.
5. Use and application. Repent of thy sin.
( Matthew Henry, D. D.)
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