But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.
Both the unconverted who resist not evil, and the converted who resist it but imperfectly, not aiming at the total renewal of their nature, offer a parallel case of guilt to that of the unbelieving Israelites. And we are now to examine how the warning of the text appears to each class — "Be sure your sin will find you out."! Now we suppose that the delusion which chiefly hardens the sinner in the commission of the crimes he so daringly perpetrates, IS THE HOPE THAT HE MAY COMMIT THEM IN SECRECY AND WITH IMPUNITY. There can be no doubt that it detection followed immediately on the commission of crime — night throwing no mantle of darkness round the culprit, and accomplices unable to screen him from public scorn — those monstrous forms of wickedness would not so often appear which disfigure the annals of our race. But such a speedy retribution would go counter to the whole tone and texture of the revealed plan of salvation. Sins punished as soon as committed cannot be repented of, and therefore cannot be pardoned. If then, long-suffering is to be shown, if remission of human guilt is to be proclaimed through the interposition of a Mediator,. judgment must not follow so speedily upon crime. And it is this delay, rendered necessary for the display of mercy, that men interpret as if it meant indifference. We must, therefore, fling open the mysterious portals that enclose the future world, and reveal to the gaze of the sinner the destinies of the lost, ere we can hope successfully to urge him to commence the great business of religion. Who among you is deluding himself by the hope either of secrecy or impunity? "Be sure your sin will find you out!" You are pursued by the sin which yourselves have committed! That which before had no being, has received an individual, a personal existence by your own act, and is afterwards mysteriously connected with you, following your footsteps and tracking you in all your journeyings. Nay more, each sin which ye commit may be said to swell the numbers of the throng of pursuers that are behind, making it less possible for you to escape. Noiselessly they follow you. And ye yourselves have witnessed some of the results that follow on the sinner being overtaken by his sins. For what is it but sin finding the sensualist out, when he sinks beneath the ravages of premature decay, a virtual suicide? What is it but sin finding the gambler out, when with tottering reason and broken fortunes he finds a dishonourable grave, bequeathing nothing but an unhonoured name to those who once called him husband and father? And what is it but sin finding the dishonest trader out when, though he once stood high in public estimation, his reputation and his gains are proved to have been alike unfairly won, and he is sent an exile from scenes where he once moved a king? Happy for him if these temporal calamities, which are but heralds of others more fearful, would drive him to take refuge beneath the Saviour's Cross, while yet the avenger has not fastened on his soul. If the sinner passes through life with his future tormentors always on his track, how can he, if found among the impenitent, hope to escape? But the text contains indirect notices of the future life which need a fuller examination. I gather that there will be an exact adaptation between the crime and its punishment — the punishment being nothing else than the crime itself re-appearing in another state of being to take vengeance on him who committed it.
II. But we must now proceed to the second point we proposed to examine, HOW THE TEXT MAY BE APPLIED TO THE CASE OF ONE WHO IS TRULY A CHILD OF GOD. The believer who stands at God's bar, having squared his conduct when on earth, according to God's commandment, for Christ's sake, shall not come under any measure of condemnation. If pronounced righteous then, his justification will be complete. But is he never impeded in his Christian course by the habits he had formed while living "without God in the world"? Those habits are gradually being overcome by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The roots of that sin, not yet eradicated, send up their bitter fruit, even when the sin itself has long disappeared. And thus his former sin, though pardoned, finds the believer out. Nor is this all. Sin will mark the believer's course all through, and greater infirmities will appear in one than in another. There may be spiritual indolence — a desire to pass lightly over some infirmity, as if it did no great violence to God's law — a fixing of the heart on something which forthwith becomes an idol, excluding Jehovah from His proper place. And then this sin finds the believer out. The child, or the husband, or the friend, who was too much loved, is taken away, that nothing may interfere with the total surrender of the soul to God. Or the uninterrupted prosperity which caused a forgetfulness that "all things come of God," is brought suddenly to an end, and the storm sweeps over the stream of life which before flowed calmly along, that God's voice may be heard bidding the tempest subside. Oh! the believer should never feel the rod, without searching for the sin that brings the chastening. I am sure that God keeps a stricter reckoning, in this world, with the righteous, than with the ungodly.
(J. P. Waldo, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out.