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fect uprightness, we should never have been interested or troubled with the history of his wrongs, and the outrageous attack of the inhabitants upon his family, and we should never have heard, in his dying benediction, "Cursed be thy wrath, for it was cruel." And Jacob would never had to sleep on the stones at Jordan, and have felt the loneliness and the desertion of that hour.
4. But good often comes out of evil. We never should have had the history of Penuel and the name of Israel, nor have read of that brook where he passed with his staff and had now returned with two bands. Nor have read of the ladder that reached to heaven on which the angels of God ascended and descended, or of the Lord of angels with whom he conversed, who declared himself to be his God, and promised "that in him and in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed."
5. Parents would do well to beware how they lead their children into sin. If his mother Rebekah had not instigated him to sin, and to do that deed that ruined his brother's prospects for ever, she would not have had to lay in sleepless agony, while he slept upon that journey by the side of that stream, and where he afterward wrestled with God and prevailed, and where he built an altar to the Lord who was with him in the way that he went.
Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
In what emphatic lines does the text express the long suffering patience of God? It is here drawn from that very mercy provided, that lets the sinner live; that feeds and clothes him; and comforts him, and heals all his sickness. And all this is from the slowness of the wrath of God to punish iniquity.
Here let it be my object to show,
I. That God is very slow in punishing iniquity.
A cursory view of some scripture facts on this subject, will pour upon it an overwhelming light.
He bore with the old world, we know, after he had resolved on
its destruction, one hundred and twenty years. He let the righteous soul of Lot suffer all this time with their prevailing iniquities. He bore with the Canaanites, four hundred years after the cry of their crimes had reached his holy ear.
And he bore with Sodom after the cry of its iniquities had gone up to heaven, and been reported through that happy world for several generations.
He bore with Ahab, after he had provoked the Lord God to anger, and after he had sinned more than all the kings that were before
And he bore with Jezebel after she had spilled the blood of the prophets, and after she had filled her whole kingdom with false prophets, and with lies and blood; and after she had committed iniquities, that ought to have hanged her long before.
And he bore with Voltaire after he had been an infidel beyond the ordinary age of man, and had filled his own land and all other lands within his reach, with his "wrath against the Nazarenes," and his exterminating quarrel with the whole Church of the Living God.
And he has born with drunkards, and the profane, and the debauched, till they have wearied out his patience and filled the whole world with crimes. He bore with Nero, and Alexander, and Bonaparte, till their crimes had gone up to heaven. And we could name others, who were systematic in their crimes, and spilt the best blood in their kingdoms; destined at length to come down blasted and disgraced like old oaks of the wood, that had been withered by the lightnings of heaven, and stood the curse of the forest for a century.
It will be my object to show,
II. That for this very reason, because God endures, men have grown presumptuous in their sins.
many of the cases referred to, this is too evidently a fact to be denied. How long was God provoked with the iniquities of Pharaoh until the punishments that God poured upon that land had reached every house, and scattered desolation and death through every family.
But a more important inquiry is,
III. How is it that this long suffering patience of God emboldens men in their iniquities?
1. In the first place, it gives them leisure to sophisticate the truth. It leads them on in the boldest perversions of infidelity;
hence sprang up that proverb, "Since the fathers fell asleep all
things continue as they were from the beginning."
2. It gives them time to mature their vicious habits. Doubtless the old world was much the more wicked because they lived so long.
3. Men become committed against the truth, and do many deeds of darkness in consequence of those commitments. Jezebel had her false prophets, and her "prophets of the grove," who fed at her table, and lived on her bounty, until the moment came when God would have her thrown from her own window, and her body collected as mere food for dogs.
How amazing is the long suffering patience of God, that he will so permit his rich mercies to be abused!
If there is any one thought that adds to the climax of total depravity, and renders men more desperate still than they would seem to be, it is this very one, that men have abused the goodness of the Lord so as to infer from it liberty to sin.
1 JOHN III. 3.
And every one that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
EVERY one who would evince his right to hope that he shall appear before the Lamb in the great last day, should be seeing to it that this hope purifies him, as he is pure.
How does it appear that this hope will so operate? God thus asserts, "And every one that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure."
I. It sets up the noblest object of ambition. To see Christ as he is, and be like him, is an object that fires the soul with heavenly ambition. If one might hope to be an angel, how impressing the thought; but to hope to be like Christ, how much rather.
II. It offers us the pleasantest work. What is so sweet as to be putting on the character of Jesus Christ, and to put off the body of sin and death-the old Adam?
III. It will very soon be done. It is a short enterprise; a few
years of toil, and the hill is ascended, and the height gained; and then, O how sweet to look back upon the wilderness all trodden over!
IV. The work associates us with the best beings that have ever lived. The patriarchs and prophets, and apostles and martyrs, with all the holy men of whom the world was not worthy, and who had all this same work to do; and they did it, and are now in heaven, reaping the rewards of piety. "Though dead, they yet speak;" as remembered holy example ever will.
V. We are blessed as fast as the work is done. To put off sin, how sweet; to be pardoned, how sweet; but how much sweeter to be holy! You saw that family going to the West: how happy, every hill they ascended; but when at last they reached the heights of the Alleghany, and looked down upon the broad valley of the Mississippi, how sweetly they sat down to rest; and they pitied those who had yet the hills to climb.
VI. Hope looks forward and sees the whole journey to the end all through. It is not a journey at a venture; it is not a leap in the dark; it is not a conflict at hazard. It is the very nature of hope to keep the courage up, and bring the final issue into clear view. VII. The spectators of the conflict inspirit us. "Seeing that we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth easily beset us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith."
VIII. And then, finally, the crown of glory-the palms of victory!
1. How, then, are we to keep alive this hope? By urging on the work. And is there no other way? No, not any.
2. This hope, of course, then falters when the work stops; when we cease to add grace to grace, and cease the work of pressing on towards the kingdom of God. I can tell every man how much hope of heaven he has, by his earnestness to be holy, by his effort to be clean.
3. But may not frequent pardons keep our hope alive, while yet we are not becoming more holy? No; not if our hope is this Christian hope. If it does not purify us, it is the hope of the hypocrite, that shall perish when God taketh away the soul. In the Holy Scriptures we have this blessed assurance, that we are saved by hope.
4. But do not seasons of reviving prove our hope a good one?
No; we may compass ourselves about with sparks of our own kindling, and walk by the light of our own fire.
5. How, then, may we be sure, if our hope revives, that it is a good hope, through grace, and " shall prove an anchor to the soul, both sure and steadfast"? There will revive with it an effort to be more holy. The man who put a twenty dollar note into a letter, the other day, to pay one from whom seven years ago he had taken five dollars, gave evidence that his well-grounded heavenly hopes were reviving. That minister who seemed so much waked up to the interests of the soul that he preached two hours, would have been believed to have revived his heavenly hopes, had he not broken his covenant with his eyes that evening; that Christian that prayed until he swooned, had he not been proud of that prayer, and angry to have its piety brought into question. If we have this hope in us, it must purify us, even as Christ is pure.
6. But must it make us perfect, "even as he is perfect ?" A revival hope should keep running as long as life endures.
NUMBERS XXIII. 10.
Let me die the death of the righteous and let my last end be like his.
In this chapter we have a fine exhibition of a conflict between a conscience that God holds under close restraint, while that conscience is connected with a heart totally depraved.
Balaam was sent to curse Israel previously to a conflict between them and the Canaanites. Balak the king of Moab was to take the lead in that war and hired Balaam the son of Beor to come and curse Israel. He evidently wished to succeed that he might have the wages of unrighteousness. But his conscience forbid and the dumb ass was made to speak and to rebuke the madness of the prophet. Again and again he tried, but God every time he tried forbid him and turned the curse into blessings. He at length blessed them all together and inverted the whole into a curse upon their enemies. Death is not to the good man a surprising event. He has thought on it and prepared for it. It is an event he has prayed over more than any other since the period of his new birth. 45