2 Samuel 12:5
2 Samuel 12:5, 6. - (JERUSALEM.)
David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; he declared with a solemn oath (2 Samuel 4:9-11) that he deserved to die (literally, "was a son of death," 1 Samuel 26:16; 1 Kings 2:26), and ordered restitution according to the Law (Exodus 22:1). His severity displayed the fiery temper of the man, and the arbitrary power of the monarch, rather than the calm deliberation of the judge; and (like the treatment of the Ammonites, ver. 31) indicated a mind ill at ease (2 Samuel 11:22-27; Psalm 32:3, 4); for he was not totally blind to his sin, nor "past feeling" (Ephesians 4:19); though he had no thought of the application of the case to himself. We have here an illustration of -

I. AN ASTONISHING FACT; viz. the self-ignorance, self-deception, internal hypocrisy, of men. Nothing is more important than self-knowledge. It is often enjoined. "From heaven came the precept, 'Know thyself.'" And it might naturally appear to be easily attained, seeing that it lies so near home. Yet how certain, how common, and how surprising its absence! "There is not anything relating to men's characters mere surprising and unaccountable than this partiality to themselves which is observable in many; as there is nothing of more melancholy reflection respecting morality and religion" (Butler, 'Upon Self-Deceit'). They are blind (at least partially) and deceived as to their sin; notwithstanding:

1. Their perception of the evil of sin in general or in the abstract. Ingratitude, selfishness, oppression, pitilessness; who is not ready to denounce these vices?

2. Their sinfulness in the sight of other people. Although David had sought to conceal his sin from others, perhaps still flattered himself that it was known only to a few, and. justified or palliated its guilt to himself, many others besides Nathan saw and abhorred it (Psalm 36:2).

"O wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
And foolish notion."

3. Their condemnation of sin in others, of the very same kind as that which they tolerate in themselves. The resemblance between the rich oppressor and David was so close that it is astonishing it was not detected.

4. Their abhorrence at another time and under other circumstances of its guilt when thought of in relation to themselves (1 Samuel 24:5). "What! is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?" (2 Kings 8:13). Yet the dog did it (Matthew Henry). Next to these instances of self-deceit of our true disposition and character, which appear in not seeing that in ourselves which shocks us in another man, there is another species still more dangerous and delusive, and which the more guarded perpetually fall into, from the judgments they make of different vices according to their age and complexion, and the various ebbs and flows of their passions and desires" (L. Sterne, 'Self-Knowledge').

5. Their culpability beyond that of those whom they condemn. It was not a little lamb of which he had robbed the poor man, but his dearly loved wife, his one earthly treasure. It was not a lamb that he had killed, but a man, his neighbour and faithful defender. His superior position and possessions aggravated his guilt. Was he not himself "a son of death"? "What a sad proof of the blinding influence of self-love, that men are ready to form so different an estimate of their conduct when it is not seen to be their own! How ignorant are we of ourselves, and how true it is that even when our own hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things!" (Blaikie). For this fact let us seek -

II. AS ADEQUATE CAUSE. It is seldom due to insufficiency of light or means of knowing sin. Is it, then, due to men's inconsideration of themselves? or to the perversion of their moral judgment? Doubtless to both; but still more to sin itself, which is essentially setfishness - a false and inordinate love of self. "For consider: nothing is more manifest than that affection and passion of all kinds influence the judgment" (Butler); prejudicing its decisions in their own favour. Even when there is more than a suspicion that all is not well, it stifles further inquiry and prevents full conviction by:

1. Producing a general persuasion in men that their moral condition is better than it really is.

2. Directing exclusive attention to those dispositions and actions of which conscience can approve.

3. Inducing unwillingness to consider the opposite, and to know the worst of themselves. The glimpse of the truth which they perceive is painful, and (as in the case of diseased vision) it causes them to shut their eyes against perceiving the whole truth (John 3:20).

4. Inventing specious arguments in justification of the course to which they are disposed.

5. Dwelling upon supposed compensations for injury done or guilt incurred. Self-love is wondrously fertile in devising such excuses and palliatives. David may have thought that the standard by which others were judged was not applicable to him. "Perhaps, as power is intoxicating, he conceived of himself as not subjected to the ordinary rules of society. In sending an order to his general to put Uriah 'in the hottest of the battle,' he probably found a palliative for his conscience; for what was it but to give to a brave soldier a post of honour? No doubt the victim considered himself honoured by the appointment, while it gave occasion to the king to solace himself with the thought that it was an enemy and not he who put an end to the life of his subject" (W. White). His marrying Bathsheba, also, he may have supposed, made amends for the wrong he had done to her. But the means which he adopted to conceal his sin from others, and deemed a palliative of his guilt, were a special aggravation of it (vers. 9, 10).

OBSERVATIONS.

1. Nothing is more ruinous than self-deception (Hebrews 3:13; James 1:12; 1 John 1:8).

2. To avoid it there must be honest self-examination (Psalm 4:4; 2 Corinthians 13:5).

3. We should especially guard against the blinding influence of undue self-love (Psalm 19:12; Jeremiah 17:9).

4. There should also be earnest prayer to him who searcheth the hearts, for true self-knowledge (Psalm 139:23; Job 13:23; Job 34:32). - D.







David's anger was greatly kindled against the man.
You do not know the strength and poison of sin till you resist it. It was this want of resistance that bed David into such depths of humiliation and degradation. He was allowed, of course, by the law of Moses to have as many wives as he pleased. His great victories over the Syrians at Helam had given him an inflated sense of self-importance and power. He had slain the men of 700 chariots of the Syrians and 40,000 horsemen, and had killed Shobach himself, the general of King Hadarezer. The shepherd-boy who had become king was delighted with himself. He thought he could do anything. His conscience was lulled to sleep. He broke the seventh commandment. But he went on in his easy slipping away from rectitude. He resisted nothing. So it was with St. of Hippo, the greatest of the Fathers of the Church. He had a Christian mother of eminent piety and noble character, and the idea of God and the love of the name of Christ never entirely left him; but all through his youth he behaved as he saw Others doing. He resisted no inclination. He gave himself up to all tire sins of his heathen companions, and placed no restraint on himself of any kind; not till long years afterwards did he see the hideousness of his conduct. "Woe is me," he cries in his Confessions, "and dare I say that Thou didst hold Thy peace, O my God, while I was straying further from Thee? Didst Thou, then, indeed hold Thy peace from me? And whose but Thine were those words which by my mother, Thy faithful one, Thou didst chant in my ears? Nothing whereof sank into my heart so as to do it. They seemed to me womanish advices, which I should blush to obey. But they were Thine, and I knew it not; and I thought Thou didst hold Thy peace, and it was she who spoke; by whom Thou didst not hold Thy peace; and in her Thou wast despised by me, I knew it not; and ran headlong with such blindness that among my equals I was ashamed of being less vicious, when I heard them boast of their vices, yea, boasting the more the baser they were; and I took pleasure not only in a wicked act, but in the praise of it." And again in another place: — "I have loved Thee late, Thou Divine Beauty, so old and so new; I have loved Thee late! And lo! Thou wast within, but I was without, and was seeking Thee there. And into Thy fair creation I plunged myself in my ugliness; for Thou wast with me, and I was not with Thee Those things kept me away from Thee, which had not been except they had been in Thee. Thou didst call, and didst cry aloud, and break through my deafness. Thou didst glimmer, Thou didst shine, and didst drive away my blindness. Thou didst breathe, and I drew breath, and breathed in Thee. I tasted Thee, and I hunger and thirst. Thou didst touch me, and I burn for Thy peace. If I, with all that is within me, may once live in Thee, then shall pain and trouble forsake me; entirely filled with Thee all shall be life to me." Not till he resisted sin in the strength of the grace of his conversion and baptism did Augustine see the enormities of his past life, which till then had seemed excusable as the life of other young men of his age and time. "It is impossible to estimate the strength of the principle of evil in the soul till we begin to struggle with it; and the careless or sinful man — the man who is not striving with sin, but succumbing to it — cannot know its force." It is a law of Nature that resistance is the best measure of force. Look at the stream of that calm, majestic river; it is sweeping along silently, with hardly a ripple. Its surface is so smooth that you would hardly know that it was moving at all. Suddenly it comes along its course to a place where rocks stand up from its bed and oppose it, current. At once it is torn by resistance into waves and foam. All its strength and swiftness are revealed as it lashes itself against the opposing masses. Think of the wind rushing over a wide plain. As long as it meets no obstacles, you cannot measure its strength. But as soon as it leaps on the trees of the forest, and wrestles with their giant arms, and tosses and writhes them about in the air; as soon as it flings itself upon houses and streets and towns, as soon as it reaches the sea, and beats and pushes its deep waters into towering mountains of top-heavy billows; then you hear it shriek and howl, and you know its power by its results. Think, again, of some still, ice-bound region, locked in silence, over which the long months of a sunless winter have lain heavy. There is a quiet as of death. But at length the warmer currents of spring make themselves felt below the deep vast covering of ice that seemed so immovable; and the sun comes up at last from his protracted exile, and then the forces of nature burst forth, the ice is cracked and torn with a thousand fissures, as by the invisible blows of giants, the boom and roar of breaking and colliding masses deafen the whole air with ceaseless thunder, and you know at length the strength of that long tyranny that has been overthrown. So it is in the moral and spiritual world. The power and nature of sin are only seen when you begin to resist it. You only know what you are escaping from when you begin to wrestle against the ropes that bind you. That is the reason why so many men and women of the world, with a low standard of conduct, seem to have no remorse. They make no struggle. They have little or no happiness, because the consequences of sin are so unsatisfying. But they do not at present know anything better. Wordliness and evil sweep over their natures like the smooth current of the river, like the silent wind over the unresisting plain, like the deadly frost crushing the life out of the Arctic Sea. It is astonishing how far men will go in these unconventional aspects of conduct. A Neapolitan shepherd came in great anguish to his priest. "Father," he cried, "have mercy on a miserable sinner! I should have fasted, but, while I was busy at work, some whey, spurting from the cheese-press, flew into my mouth, and — wretched man — I swallowed it! Free my distressed conscience by absolving me from my guilt!" "Have you no other sin to confess?" said his spiritual guide. "No, I do not know that I have committed any other." "There are," said the priest, "many robberies and murders from time to time committed on your mountains, and I have reason to believe you are one of the persons concerned in them." "Yes," he replied, "I am; but these are never accounted a crime; it is a thing practised by us all, and there needs no confession on that account." That is only an instance of the low depths to which conventionality may sink. No doubt his adviser taught him to begin to resist his robbing and murderous habits. The man seemed innocent enough, because he only compared himself with his comrades, not with the law of God. He, and such as he — and how many there are in similar case! — are like the snowdrift when it has levelled the churchyard mounds, and, glistening in the winter sun, lies so pure and fair and beautiful. And yet the dead are rotting and festering below. A very plausible profession, wearing the look of confidence and innocence, may conceal from human eyes the foulest corruption of the heart. In whatever way sin has prevailed over an individual — whether in avarice, injustice, ill-temper, pride, vanity, sensuality, untruthfulness, dishonesty, deceitfulness, guile, envy, .malice, spite, vindictiveness, selfishness, worldliness, ambition, covetousness, party spirit, self-will — it generally reigns as powerful as the mighty stream, as withering as the icy frost. The soul is hardly aware of its bondage, it is so complete. "The Sanskrit word for 'serpent,'" says Max Muller, "was Ahi, the throttler. The root of the word means to press together, to choke, to throttle. This word was chosen with great truth as the proper name for sin. Evil, though presented under various aspects to the mind, having also many names, had none so expressive as that derived from the root, to throttle." Anhas, sin, was throttling, consciousness of sin, the grasp of sin on the throat of his victim. The statue of Laocoon and his sons, with the serpents coiled round them from head to foot, realises what the ancients felt and saw when they called sin Anhas, the 'throttler.' And it does more than choke — it blinds." "It is amongst the most potent of the energies of sin," says Archer Butler, "that it leads astray by blinding, and blinds by leading astray; that the soul of man, like the strong champion of Israel, must 'have its eyes put out' when it is to be 'bound with fetters of brass,' and condemned to grind in the prison-house." "Often," it has been said, the sense of guilt breaks upon the awakened spirit with all the strangeness of a discovery." So it was with St. Augustine of Hippo. So it was with Thomas Scott the commentator, the great saint of the end of the last century. When he left school he was bound as an apprentice to a surgeon. He behaved in such a manner that at the end of two months his master dismissed him, and he returned home in deep disgrace. "Yet," he said, "I must always regard that short season of my apprenticeship as one of the choicest mercies of my life. My master, though himself irreligious, first excited in my mind a serious conviction of sin committed against God. Remonstrating with me on my misconduct, he said I ought to recollect that it was not only displeasing to him but wicked in the sight of God. This remark proved the primary means of my conversion." You cannot tell when the voice will come or how; but depend upon it God will not leave you alone, and your salvation may depend on your discerning His warning or remonstrance and listening to it, There is a wholesome and significant legend in the Koran of the dwellers by the Dead Sea, to whom Moses was sent. They scoffed and sneered at him; they saw no message in what he said, and so he withdrew. But Nature and her rigorous veracities did not withdraw. When next we find the dwellers by the Dead Sea, says the legend, they had all become changed into apes. By not using their souls they lost them. The voice of conscience can be stifled. Light can be rejected. God's spirit ever striving can be resisted by the rebellious freewill of man.

(W. M. Sinclair.)

1. And we may observe that the readiest way to pass a true judgment upon any occasion is to be one's self disinterested and unconcerned, and to remove the cause to a third person. David here considered the case. The circumstances of his life were never such; nor such, at any time, his disposition. Therefore, he is very free to consider narrowly, how much injustice and cruelty were in this single act of oppression; and viewing it in all its most unsightly colours, as freely could condemn it. The reason why we refer our causes to the arbitrement of a third person is not because he understands them better than ourselves (for that is not always so), nor that he loves justice better, but because he has no interest or inclination to corrupt and bias him, one way or other, but will judge according to reason. It is the same case with ourselves, when either love or hate, hope or fear or any other passion possesses us; we are too much prejudiced to judge exactly righteous judgment; every inclination or aversion drives us from that steadiness of mind which is requisite to the being impartial: Every little slight appearance is an argument when our goodwill is on its side, and the most solid weighty reasons are light as the dust of the balance, when urged against our interest or our humour. Every man and woman looks well enough in their own glass, but that is not the way to judge of beauty; we stand too near ourselves to see ourselves exactly. In a word, we love ourselves too well to censure hardly, and the voice of slander is the other extreme, so that the common judgment oftenest hits the truth in judging of our public actions.

2. That we may therefore know ourselves the better, and judge impartially of offences, we may observe the prudent way of parables, which the Spirit of God uses, throughout the Scriptures, to bring men to a sense of their condition by transferring the cause to another person, and showing men themselves in another's image. Our Saviour, who was exceeding tender, where he could find the least degree of modesty, uses this way of parables most frequently, instructing and reproving the Jews, in the person of a stranger. The end our Saviour drived at was not their shame, but their amendment, and therefore if they would but apprehend his meaning he would press no farther. "When the Lord of the Vineyard cometh" (Matthew 21:40) "what will he do to those husbandmen" who had beaten and stoned his servants and killed at last his son? "They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men," etc. Thus, by this parable, he brought, them to acknowledge the justice of God in destroying the Jewish people for their great, infidelity and cruelty shown to himself, the true Messiah. Had Nathan come to David and told-him of a certain prince in the world who, having abundance of wives and concubines of his own, would not yet, in a fit of dissolution, satisfy those inclinations, where he might without offence or injury, but, would needs send to one, who was his neighbour and a nobleman, to have his wife, who had but one, and whom he loved most tenderly, and accordingly debauched her, bereaving the man of all the joy and satisfaction of his life. Had Nathan addressed David with this story the king had found out his drift immediately, but the rude application would have given him such distaste that, though he might have been convinced of his guilt, yet probably he would not so freely have confessed himself guilty. The bluntness of reproof does not well suit with the modesty of human nature; and downright coming upon a man puts him upon his guard, into whose good liking you might have insinuated yourself and gained your point by artificial soft approaches. And people who design the benefit of those they would reprove will be careful to do it in the most acceptable manner; their chiefest aim is to secure their end. and their next point of wisdom is to use such methods as are easiest and most useful. And this especially should be observed in dealing with perverse tempers or with great superiors. And therefore great discretion is to temper zeal, to prevent its excesses; and zeal is to come in and hinder our discretion from degenerating into fear and cowardice, and being corrupted by our interest or self-love, for no example can be an adequate sufficient rule in all cases, to all people.

3. We may observe from hence the great partiality and blindness of self-love, that will not let us see how heinous our own offences are, nor suffer us to condemn them with the rigour they deserve, when we do see them. If the cruel oppression of this rich man in the parable deserved death, in the opinion of David, what would the violation of the marriage-bed deserve? And what the murder of the husband? When one would do justice one should remove the cause to a third person, and be wholly unconcerned; but when we would show mercy, then let us bring it home and put ourselves in the condition. And we may see how transcendently great the mercies of God are to men above what men can afford with reason to one another. Violent theft is worthy of death, so is adultery, and so is murder. They are offences that overthrow society and good order. Now all these sins are no less heinous in the sight of God than they are mischievous to men; and yet God pardons them upon repentance. 'Tis a true plague, this wickedness! A man infects all he converses with, and gives them death, but dies himself also. David makes Joab guilty of Uriah's death, and many other officers and soldiers, hut is himself, after all that, the man that kills Uriah. Men must not, therefore, think they avoid the guilt of many crimes by avoiding the being concerned immediately in committing them; there is a murdering men by other people's swords than our own, and a swearing people out of their estates by other men's perjuries, and a doing violence by other people's hands, of which we may ourselves be guilty, and for which we shall one day answer, as well as our instruments. A man may contract guilt, even by intentions, wishes, and desires, although they never take effect. If one man persuades another, his equal, to a piece of wickedness he will be guilty of that wickedness himself, though it be not plain how far, nor in what degree or measure; but if he command, or use authority with arguments, to his son, or servant, to commit the same wickedness, he will be, in such case, more guilty, proportionately to the power and influence a father or a 'master is presumed to have over a son or servant, which he uses to so bad purpose. If David the king, or Joab the general, command a common soldier to retire from Uriah in the heat of battle, and leave him to perish, they will be somewhat more guilty of Uriah's death than a common officer would be, though counselling the same thing, because the authority and influence of the former was so much greater, and more like to take effect, and the soldier is presumed to be more at liberty to refuse his compliance with such unjust and villainous commands, when they come from one who is nearer to him, and whose displeasure he dreads not so much, nor hopes so much from his favour. Let the people, therefore, that are busied in this bad work of setting others upon wicked actions consider this, that, however innocent they appear to the world, and unconcerned, however wary to avoid the censure of people and the punishment of the laws, by keeping out of sight, and at a distance, they are nevertheless guilty before God, according to the power and influence they have had over the instruments of wickedness that they employed, and that it will avail them little at the .day of judgment to have kept their tongues from perjury and their hands from blood or other violence when their hearts have been deeply concerned in willing and desiring, and contriving and resolving, and their tongues employed in insinuating, persuading, threatening, or commanding wickedness, to other people.

4. Another use that we may make of Nathan's application may be, to use his words ourselves upon occasion, to be in earnest, and to let our consciences pronounce these words distinctly to us, "Thou art the man," when there is reason. A prophet will not always be at hand to tell us when we have offended, but every one's own heart will be to him a prophet, and speak it plainly to him, if he will but hear it. 'Twas a strange lethargy that David fell into, for the space of at least ten months, and one can hardly tell how a man so quick and tender as he was could possibly continua so long unmolested; the liberties of princes and great men in the East were always very great, and so continue to this day. David knew better than all the world besides that he was guilty of it. David knew his own intentions and his orders. We are therefore at liberty to think that, David was not, for ten whole months, perfectly ignorant and unconcerned, and without all troublesome reflection on what had passed, but that he was, like people half asleep, alarmed with a sort of distant noise, but not enough to waken them throughout; he lay, as it were, in pleasing slumbers, and was afraid of rising to a full recollection of what he had done, and yet not able quite to shake it off. When I say, therefore, that a man should use these words of Nathan and be a prophet to himself, I mean that he should use no shifts or wicked arts to stifle his remembrance of his former life, but let his conscience do its part in reflecting on what is past, and in applying faithfully what is heard or read, proper to his condition, and I make no doubt but he would often hear it say with Nathan, "Thou art the man." And truly, unless a man will do his heart this right, as to let it speak freely, upon fit occasions, without endeavouring to choke or silence it, by vicious habits and a constant succession of business, or diversions, it will be hard for him ever to be again renewed to repentance.

(W. Felwood, D. D.)

There are many circumstances in this narration which may and ought to remind us of truth in which we are too nearly interested. But the principal of them will be comprehended if we learn from it the following points of doctrine.

I. THAT, WITHOUT CONTINUAL CARE, THE BEST OF MEN MAY BE LED INTO THE WORST OF CRIMES. Every man hath within him the principles of every bad action that the worst man ever did. And though in some they are languid, and seem scarce alive, yet, if fostered by indulgence, they will soon grow to incredible strength; nay, if only left to themselves, will, in seasons favourable to them, shoot up, and overrun the heart, with such surprising quickness that all the good seed shall be choked on a sudden by tares, which we never imagined had been within us. And what increases the danger is that each of us hath some wrong inclination or other, it is well if not several, beyond the rest natural to us, and the growth of the soil. Then, besides all our inward weaknesses, the world about us is thick set round with snares, differently formed; some provoking us to immoderate passion, or envious malignity; some alluring us with forbidden pleasures or softening us into supineness and indolence. Not that with all this we have the least cause to be disheartened, but only on our guard. He that imagines himself to be safe never is so; but they, who keep in their minds a sense of their danger, and pray for, and trust in, help from God, will always be able to avoid or go through it. Temptation hath no power, the great tempter himself hath no power, but that of using persuasion. Forced we cannot be, so long as we are true to ourselves. David at first violated only the rules of decency, which he might easily have observed, and have turned away his eyes from an improper object. This, which doubtless he was willing to think a very pardonable gratification of nothing worse than curiosity, carried him on far beyond his first intention, to the heinous crime of adultery. There, undoubtedly, he designed to stop, and keep what had passed secret from all the world. But virtue hath ground to stand upon; vice hath not; and, if we give way at all, the tendency downward increases every moment. Sometimes the treacherous pleasantness of the path invites us to stray a little farther, though we are sensible it descends to the gates of hell. Sometimes the consciousness that we are guilty already tempts us to fancy it immaterial how much more we become so, without reflecting that by every sin which we add we diminish the hope of retreat, and augment thy weight of our condemnation. Sometimes, again, as in the case before us, one act of wickedness requires another, or many more, to cover it. Lesser instances of undue parsimony grow insensibly into the meanest and most sordid avarice; lesser instances of greediness of gain into the most hard-hearted rapaciousness, And On the other hand, little negligences in their affairs, little affectations of living above their ability, little, pieces of expensive vanity and extravagance, are the direct road to those confirmed habits of carelessness and prodigality by which people foolishly and wickedly ruin themselves and their families, and too commonly others besides their own. Always, therefore, beware of small sins.

II. THAT MEN ARE APT TO OVERLOOK THEIR OWN MISDEMEANOURS, AND YET TO BE EXTREMELY QUICK-SIGHTED AND SEVERE IN RELATION TO THOSE OF OTHERS. The facts which David had committed were the most palpable, the most crying sins, that could be; nothing, one should think, to excuse them; nothing to disguise them; no name but their own to call them by: adultery, falsehood, murder. Even after the murder many months appear to have passed before Nathan was sent to him: still David had not recollected himself, but seemed to go on in perfect tranquillity. Nay, which is more astonishing than the rest, when the prophet bad contrived a story on purpose to convict him of his guilt, representing the first part of it so exactly that nothing, which was not the same under different names, could be liker, it never once brought it, so far as appears, to his memory. Yet all this while he had not, in the least degree, lost the sense of what was right and wrong in general. We all know our duty, or easily may: we are all abundantly ready at seeing and censuring what others do amiss; and yet we all continue, more or less, to do amiss ourselves without, regarding it. The main precepts of life, such as we are most apt to fail in, are partly obvious to reason, partly taught with sufficient clearness by revelation. Let all the sophistry in the world recommend, let all the powers upon earth enjoin, irreligion, cruelty, fraud, promiscuous lewdness: it will, notwithstanding, be altogether impossible, either to make the practice of them tolerable to society, or to change in all the inward abhorrence of them which mankind in general are led by nature to entertain. But still the majority even of heathens, and surely then of Christians, do or may, for the most part, as clearly discern what is blameable and commendable as what is crooked and straight. Let it be tried in the conduct of an acquaintance or contemporary; the principal danger will be of a sentence too rigorous. For if the sin brought in question before us be one to which we have no inclination we shall be sure to censure it without the least mercy. And though it be one of which we have been guilty, provided our guilt be unknown or forgotten, we can usually declare against it as harshly as the most innocent person alive. Or how moderate soever the consciousness of our own past behaviour might otherwise dispose us to be: yet if once we come to be sufferers ourselves by the same kind of sins, which we have formerly indulged, and perhaps often made others suffer by them, then we can be immoderately loud in our complaints of what formerly we fancied, or pretended, had little or no hurt in it. Nay, without any such provocation, few things are commoner than to hear people condemn their own faults in those around them. Now these instances prove, we arc convinced, that all sorts of sins are wrong: only we err in the application of our conviction. No one's failings escape us but our own: and of them the most glaring escape us. Self-love persuades us to think favourably of our conduct in general. Then, in some things, the bounds between lawful and unlawful are hard to be exactly determined. Now, unfair minds lay hold on these difficulties with inexpressible eagerness: and choosing, not, as they should, the safer side, but that to which the bias within attracts them, proceed, under the cover of such doubts, to the most undoubted wickedness: as if, because it is not easy to say precisely, at what moment of the evening light ends and darkness begins, therefore midnight could not be distinguished from noonday. Thus, because it cannot be ascertained just how much every one ought to give in charity, too many will give nothing, or next to nothing. Because it cannot be exactly decided how much time is the most that we may allowably spend in recreation and amusement: therefore multitudes will consume almost the whole of their days in trifling instead of applying to the proper business of life, in order to give their account, with joy to him who shall judge the quick and the dead. These and the like things they will, some of them, defend and palliate with wonderful acuteness; designed partly to excuse them to others, but chiefly to deceive and pacify themselves. Not that they ever attain either of these ends. For their neighbours, after all, just as plainly perceive their faults, as they perceive those of their neighbours. And it is but a half deceit that they put upon their own souls. Yet this dream of security is but a very disturbed one: nothing like the clear and joyful perception that he hath, whose conscience is thoroughly awake, and assures him of his own innocence, or true repentance, and interest in the pardon which his Redeemer hath purchased. But in however strong delusion God may permit them to remain at present, how can they be sure but ere long remorse may seize them, an adversary expose them. Therefore, one of the happiest things imaginable is being made sensible of our sins in time: and the first step to that is reflecting how liable we are both to commit them and to overlook them.

III. THAT, AS SOON AS WE ARE, BY ANY MEANS, MADE SENSIBLE OF OUR OFFENCES WE OUGHT TO ACKNOWLEDGE THEM WITH DUE PENITENCE. Indeed, let the person that makes you known to yourselves be ever so little authorised to do it, still you are indispensably con-concerned to take notice of it. If he profess himself a friend, he hath given you the truest and boldest proof of his friendship that can be. If he be a mere acquaintance or a stranger, but appear to admonish you with good intention, you ought to esteem him for it as long as you live. And were you to believe him ever so much your enemy, never let that provoke you to become your own; think only if he speaks truth, and submit to it; amend, and disappoint him. Strive not to make yourself easy in what you feel is wrong, but quit it. Strive not to colour over and palliate matters, for this is deceiving no one but your own souls.

IV. THAT IF WE REPENT AS WE OUGHT THE GREATEST SINS WILL BE FORGIVEN US. This, indeed, our own reason cannot promise with any certainty at all. God we know is good. Man is frail. And hence we have cause to hope that his goodness will extend to the pardon of our frailties. But, then, in proportion as we go beyond frailties, to gross, deliberate, habitual transgressions, this hope diminishes continually, till at length it becomes exceedingly doubtful. And now, as we are strangely apt to apply everything wrong, too many, instead of the extreme of despondency, run into that of profane boldness: and are very near looking upon sin as nothing to be dreaded, and remission of sin as nothing to be thankful for. At least the certainty of it they conceive, they could easily have discovered of themselves, and therefore have little obligation to Christ, the publisher of a truth so obvious. Indeed, after all that hath been done to assure us it shall be exercised, there are some, of minds more tenderly sensible than ordinary, who, after committing great offences, or perhaps only such as to them appear very great, experience the utmost reluctance, either to be reconciled to themselves, or persuaded that God will be reconciled to them. How ill soever you may think of yourselves; though God requires you not in the least to think worse than the truth, and would have you judge calmly of your spiritual state, not under the disability of a fright; but whatever opinion you may form of your own defects, forbear to entertain all injurious one of him. When tie hath sent His blessed Son to make atonement for you, when He hath told you in His holy Word, when tie tells you by His ministers every day, that this atonement reaches to the very worst of cases, do not except your own in contradiction to Him, do not indulge doubts and scruples about what He hath plainly promised, in order to be miserable against His will, but, together with the sorrow of having offended, allow yourselves to feel the joy of being restored to favour.

V. THAT WICKEDNESS, EVEN AFTER IT IS FORSAKEN, AND AFTER IT IS FORGIVEN, PRODUCES NEVERTHELESS VERY OFTEN CONSEQUENCES SO LAMENTABLE THAT FOR THIS CAUSE, AMONGST OTHERS, INNOCENCE IS GREATLY PREFERRABLE TO THE SINCEREST AND COMPLETEST REPENTANCE THAT EVER WAS. Sometimes no immediate connection between the transgression and the suffering is visible, that it may seem to be the hand of God rather than a natural effect; though, indeed, would men consider, every effect proceeds from His hand, but commonly they are closely linked, to deter men from committing iniquity, by showing them beforehand what fruits they must expect it to produce.

(T. Secker.)

Butler points out that, portentous as David's internal hypocrisy and self-deceit was, it was all the time local and limited in David. That is to say, his self-decit did not as yet spread over and corrupt his whole life and character. There was real honesty in David all this self-deceiving time. David gave scope, in Butler's words, to his affections of compassion and goodwill, as well as to his passions of another kind. And, while this is some comfort to us to hear, there is a great danger for us in this direction also. The whited sepulchres fasted twice in the week, and they gave tithes of all that they possessed. They made broad their phylacteries, and made long prayers, and were always to be seen in the synagogues, with their mint and anise and cumin. They made clean, no men made so clean, the outside of the cup and platter. Many of them had begun, like David, with only one thing wrong in their life; but it was a thing which they hushed up in their own consciences, till by that time the self-deceit was spreading and was well-nigh covering with death and damnation their whole life and character. David was rescued from that apparent end; but he was fast on the way to that end when the Lord arrested him. David all the time was administering justice and judgment as boldly, and With as much anger at evil-doers, as if there had never been a man of the name of Uriah on the face of the earth. And just because he was making men who had no pity restore the lamb fourfold; just because of that he was more and more confirmed in his own self-deceit. We would need Nathan and his parable at this point. Only your self-deceit would make you miss his point, till he drove it home into your bleeding heart. You are the men.

(Alex. Whyte, D. D.)

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