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thor's desire was they might both in his preaching them and his willingness to have them published for the public good.
“ So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men, and they fled before the men of Ai.”—Josi, vii. 4.
In this chapter you have a treatise concerning Achan's sin, branching itself into three parts; one concerning the commission of the sin, the second concerning the discovery of it, and the third concerning the punishment thereof. As for the sin itself, the commission thereof, what it was, you read in the first verse, that the children of Israel had committed a trespass. God had commanded that all the spoil of Jericho should be consecrated unto himself, and that the first fruits of all should be his. Jericho being the first city that they took in the land of Canaan, by right it did belong unto God; all the treasure, silver and gold, wealth and goods that was therein, properly it did belong untu God. Now Achan he plays the thief, and does appropriate some of God's goods and wealth unto himself. This was charged upon him as a sin, and so upon all Israel, as at the first verse : keeping from God any thing that does belong unto him, is a sin. Now in the second place this sin was discovered by occasion of the defeat that was before the town of Ai. They passing on from Jericho, at the second verse, unto the town of Ai, they laid siege to it; but their siege was broken up, and three thousand men fled, and thirty-six men were slain, verses 4, 5. Sins committed in one city, will follow us unto another, and overtake us there. Oh what unexpected ways and means hath God for to bring out men's sin to light. Three thousand men flee before the men of Ai, and thirty-six men are slain, and this was made the means of discovery of Achan's sin ; who would have thought that there should have been such a discovery as this?
The work was hindered by this defeat, and that sets them on work to search out the cause, and shews,
That afflictions should set us on work, to search out our sins, and the cause of them.
That sins shall not always be pocketed up, but shall be discovered, though never so secret.
That God hath strange ways to discover men's sins.
But why must the children of Israel be beaten here by the men of Ai, and why must one man's sin be punished upon all? Surely the children of Israel were in covenant one with another, and so being in covenant together, the sin of the one not being punished by the rest, was charged upon all the rest. As for England, either we are in covenant one with another, or else we are not; either there is a national covenant, or else there is not. If there be not a national covenant, as was among the Jews, why do we not rather say, the churches of England, than the church? And if there be a national covenant, the sin of one is made the sin of the rest, what sins do we bring upon ourselves. But they must flee before the men of Ai; why? Because that the men of Ai were to be destroyed with a great destruction. Therefore God does first suffer them to prevail, the more to embitter and stir up the spirits of Israel against them: this did provoke them.
Whence I take up these two observations :
The first is this: Where God is in a way of mercy towards a people, there sin makes a stoppage in his proceedings.
The second is this: When God intends utterly to destroy his enemies, he does first suffer his own servants, and dearest children to flee and fall before them.
Concerning the first :
First, Where God is in a way of mercy towards his people, there sin does make a stoppage in his proceedings; so here God was in a way of mercy towards his people, carrying of them into the land of Canaan, but in the way they sin, Achan plays the thief; mark what a stoppage this made in the way of mer
of mercy; so you have it in Josh. xxiv. 20. Though God be about to do you good, and have done you good, yet “if you forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, he will turn from the good he is a doing, “and do you hurt, after he hath done you good.” So in Jer. xxviii. 9, “At what instant I shall say, or speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build, and to plant it:" that is, at what time I shall give sensible testimony of good to a land or nation: “If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good," &c. So that sins committed against God when he is in a way of mercy, do
make a stoppage in those proceedings of mercy. There are these two or three reasons for it:
Sins committed when God is in a way of mercy, are a slighting of mercy. Amongst yourselves, if you be doing any special work before others, that they may take notice of you, and they slight your work, you will leave off work, and work no more; now, I say, when as God is in a way of mercy, and you then sin against him, your sins do slight mercy, nay then, says God, I will turn away; it will make a stoppage in this work.
Again, those mercies that come unto God's people, come unto them in the way of a promise. And God's promises they are either spiritual, concerning spiritual things, or temporal, concerning temporal things. If they be spiritual promises, concerning spiritual things, then they are absolute, bottomed and grounded upon no condition ; as the promise he made that “ he would drown the world no more," says the prophet Isaiah ; such a covenant as he made with Noah, he makes with his people, that runs upon no condition : he doth not say, If the world goes on and serve me, I will drown it no more: but the promise runs upon no condition, and so the promise of grace runs upon no condition : for if it runs upon a condition of faith, God promises to give faith, God promises perseverance, upon the exercise of grace he promises to give the exercise of grace, all spiritual promises run upon no condition. But now outward promises run upon condition, and therefore if men do not keep the condition, God takes himself free, and will turn himself out of the way of his mercy. You have an expression to this purpose, Num. xiv. 34, “ After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days (each day for a year) shall you bear your iniquity, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise.” Will God break his promise? As much as if he should have said, I have promised to bring you into the land of Canaan, upon such and such conditions ; but now, if you do not perform the condition, I count myself free, and you shall know my breach of promise, that I will not give you the thing that I am about to give you.
God never gives his people any mercy, but he gives it them in a way in a way of mercy. He does not think it
enough to give them that which is mercy, but he will give it them in a way of mercy. As now in your gifts to God, if you be gracious, you do not think it enough to do that which is gracious, but do it in a gracious manner; so God in his gifts to you, will not only give you that which is mercy, but he will give it you in a way of mercy: but now if God should be in a way of mercy towards his people, and they sin against him, and he should go on to give them the mercy, they would be hardened in their sin, and so it would not come unto them in the
mercy. Therefore, if God be in a way of mercy towards his people, and they sin against him, he will break off the course of his mercy,
and ther way, and there shall be a stoppage made in these proceedings. But you will
say we see the contrary : who have more blessings, and outward mercies, than the church of Rome? Who more sinful? What adulteries, what idolatries, sorceries, opposition of saints and ministers? And you know what plenty is among them, and God goes on to give them mercy after mercy, outward blessing after outward blessing, , and therefore this is not true, we see it in experience otherwise, that our sins do not make a stoppage in the proceedings
But for answer hereunto, The thing is not true, God does not go on in a way of blessing and mercy towards them. Beloved, of all afflictions, it is the greatest affliction to be without affliction ; of all judgments, it is the greatest judgment to want judgment: as you may see for this purpose, Isa. i., “Why should you be stricken any more ; ye will revolt more and more.” It is the greatest stroke not to be smitten, and the greatest affliction to be denied affliction, when there is use and need of it: now though the people of Rome, and that party flourish in the world, yet their souls are smitten, God smites them with blindness, and with spiritual death, so that there is a stoppage made in the proceedings of mercy.
But I rather answer it thus : When God is in a way of mercy towards his people, towards his church, then sin will make a stoppage. Those of Rome are no true church, the church was in Babylon, but Babylon was not the church ; the church was in Egypt, but Egypt was not the church
Lot was in Sodom, Sodom was not in Lot's family; Rome is called Babylon, Egypt, and Sodom; they are not the church of God; but if the church of God sin when God is in a way of mercy, a stoppage shall be made rather for them than for others, for these two or three reasons:
They are in God's house, and their sin is greater. The great house of God is as a great man's house, who hath some servants that doth his work abroad in the field, some that tend in his chamber, that are nearer round about him: if those servants that are near him be naught and vile, it makes more to the dishonour of the master, than if those were so that are abroad in the field; now God's people are a people that are round about him, near unto him, his household servants, and therefore if they sin when God is in a way of mercy, God will turn out of that way, and there shall be a stoppage made in God's proceedings.
Their sin is of all others the most scandalous, and therefore the worse, the more dishonouring to God, the more provoking. If two men be drunk, one a professor and the other not; why there is no scandal arises from the drunkenness of him that is no professor; but if a professor be gotten in, and made drunk, they are all so, what a scandal ariseth? And so, if two commit adultery, the one a professor, and the other not, the scandal ariseth from the professor ; profession is the ground of scandal. And therefore, 2 Sam. xx. 12, when as Amasa was slain and laid in his blood, the people made a stay and went no further, till they drew him out of the way, and cast a cloth over him ; so when a professor falls and lies in his blood, there is a stand made in people's duties and conversations; and therefore just that there should be a stop made in the proceedings of God's mercy. .
Their sins are most against the remedy. Sins against the remedy, are the greatest sins : and therefore his sin is greatest that commits adultery being married, than his that commits fornication, though both be evil, because he sins against the remedy; now the people of God liave more remedies against sins than others, more light, more grace, more means, more helps; and therefore if they sin when God is in a way of mercy, God will rather make a stoppage in them than in others. Oh, that I might leave this impression upon you