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.
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.
(D. Moore, M. A.)
(T. T. Munger.)I. 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).
(H. Marriot,M. A.)
(Bp. S. Wilberforce.)I. 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.
(Bp. Woodford.)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.
Christian Herald.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.
(R. S. Barrett.)
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.
(D. F. Jarman, M. A.)
Saturday Magazine.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.
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