Judges 1:1
Periods when supreme power passes from rulers to their descendants are always of critical importance. It is then that the greatest constitutional modifications take place. Partly from the differences of disposition and view, partly from the force of new circumstances, partly from the failure or creation of peculiar official sanctions and dignities, the legislative or executive function seldom remains wholly unchanged in passing from one holder to another. In this case, as the dignity and authority of Moses did not entirely pass to Joshua, so the office the latter filled must have greatly altered with its occupancy by the numerous body, "the sons of Israel," or elders and tribesmen. More frequent deliberation, the consultation of competing interests, etc., had to precede any national action against the common enemy. The great Lawgiver had passed away, the Soldier-Dictator had also been gathered to his fathers, and now it devolved upon a simply appointed but sacredly authoritative constitutional assembly to carry into effect the purposes of their predecessors. Compare with this the rise of parliamentary influence in Europe, and especially in England.

I. THE MODIFICATION OF GOVERNMENT. Sometimes this is sudden, sometimes gradual. Here it does not affect the essential principle of the theocracy. There is something very pathetic in the spectacle of an orphaned nation appealing to the "God of their fathers." It was not an extraordinary outburst of reverence and religious humility, but the beginning of a habitual and necessary practice. The voice of Jehovah through his authorised representatives was the supreme law for Israel.

1. It behoves all nations and individuals to ask God for wisdom and direction, especially at such times of transition. The altered conditions of life; the transfer of legislative authority; the attainment of mature years; a youth's leaving home; the death of parents, guardians, rulers, etc., are reasons for a closer walk with God, and a more attentive heed to his word.

2. Responsibility is inevitably transferred with authority. A sacred war is the legacy of the fathers of Israel to the children. If they are disposed to lag in its carrying forward, untoward events prick them on, and discomfort and disorder increase the necessity for action. "Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." The peasant envies the king, the child the parent, only to be in turn regarded with a greater envy by those they assume to be fortunate and happy. Authority tempers and chastens power. The assumption of the latter without regard to its obligations is a profane and wicked thing, and must in the end defeat itself. Responsibility is the moral and religious side of authority; duty of right. In no case has a ruler or government lightly to regard inherited responsibilities. Freedom is not the result of violent changes, but "broadens slowly down from precedent to precedent." That one has had no part or choice in the making of an agreement or the inauguration of a policy is no reason by itself for repudiation. What is wrong must be put right, and false steps retraced; but the practicable policy of the present is generally a modification of the former and traditional one, rather than entire departure from it. The oneness of responsibility in past and present, ought to be carefully observed, and acknowledged even where changes are introduced. None of us makes his own circumstances. Most of them are inherited. Our duties are often born before ourselves, awaiting us in the appointed time.

3. The advantages and disadvantages of a plurality of rulers are here illustrated.

(1) Where there are several or many in power there is a representation of popular views and interests,

(2) the advantage of collective and deliberative wisdom, and

(3) mutual stimulus and emulation.

On the other hand,

(1) they are liable to jealousies and envies,

(2) it is difficult to preserve a good understanding,

(3) they are more subject to popular panics, and

(4) are unlikely to take a bold initiative.

II. UNCHANGEABLENESS OF THE SUPREME AUTHORITY. Under all circumstances the ideal government for Israel must ever be the theocracy. Moses, Joshua, the elders, the judges, the kings - these are but the human representatives of the absolute and Divine; they are but the stewards of a heavenly mystery, holding authority from the Supreme, and liable at his bidding to restore it again. Paul (Romans 13:1-5) summarises the general aspects of this principle: - "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of. God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For he is the minister of God to thee for good Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake."

1. This must be recognised by human delegates. The elders immediately and publicly "asked Jehovah." The force of the original expression is that no time was lost. Only as he led them could they be preserved from error.

2. To make men subject to the Supreme must ever be the goal of their efforts. Their whole policy will be, therefore, in a wide sense evan- gelical, viz., to bring men to God, to deepen their reverence for truth, righteousness, purity, and to encourage a personal attachment to Christ as the embodiment of these. - M.







The children of Israel asked the Lord.
Just that! How we have modernised and complicated and destroyed prayer! "The children of Israel asked the Lord." How simple, how direct, how sensible, how likely to succeed! The altar may have lost its power: no atheist has pulled down the altar, no outsider has taken away one stone from the holy pile; the suppliants may have torn down their own altar. We will modernise and invent and enlarge and embroider the simplicity that would have saved us. "The children of Israel asked the Lord," whispered to Him, hailed Him, arrested His condescending attention by some sign of necessity. They whispered to the Lord, they told Him plainly the condition in which they were placed, and brought the whole need under His attention; they wanted leadership and captaincy and guidance, and they said, "Who shall do this?" The method has not been changed; Jesus Christ added nothing to this old method. Said He, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask." We have changed all that; we now are in danger of approaching the Lord as if He were an infinite Shah, and must needs be approached with long words and logical sequence. Speaking to God elevates the mind; prayer, however brief and however tremulous, takes the suppliant up to a higher level than he has ever scaled before. The whole idea of religion is intellectually elevating; no man can be truly religious and meanly little; to touch the Divine garment even at its edge is to rise to a new stature and to breathe a new air. I repeat, therefore, that asking God, talking to God, communing with God, elevates the mind. It is the spiritual exercise that elevates the soul; the words themselves may be poor, they may be ungrammatical, they may be uttered in a very halting and stumbling tone, but the exercise, spiritually understood, rightly interpreted, lifts the soul world on world a thousand worlds higher than can ever be occupied by a mere denizen of this world of dust. We cannot look God in the face without catching something of the brightness of His smile. Do they take knowledge of us that we have been with the literature of the day, with the journals of the morning, with the gossip of the time? or do they take knowledge of us that we have just come from the altar, that we have just seen the King, that we have not a moment ago been closeted with Christ, having shut the door, and do we come out of the presence-chamber new born, newly ordained, just crowned with the approbation of the Divine love? Talking to God, asking God, laying the whole case before God, sometimes laying it before Him without words, sometimes simply looking into His face, sometimes letting our throbbing, aching misery look into the infinite peace of the Divine tranquillity, will lift a man to a new status and clothe him with a new influence and enrich him with an abiding benediction. Let your misery seek the face of the King. Do not keep anything from God; yon know perfectly well that you cannot keep anything from His omniscience; that is not the meaning of the exhortation; the meaning rather is, tell God everything as if He had never heard it; go and tell Jesus. Do not ask the man who never prayed to tell you what he thinks of prayer. People are tempted to make a great mistake in that matter. They are going to hear an agnostic lecture on the subject of prayer! A prayerless man cannot lecture on that theme. Sooner ask a dead man to tell you his candid opinion of Beethoven than ask a prayerless man to tell you what he thinks of prayer. Ask the man who never was an inch from his own fireside what he thinks of the climate of the North Pole or the South. Consult saintly souls about the value of prayer. "The children of Israel asked the Lord." They did not dictate to Him. Prayer is not dictation; prayer is not always even suggestion, and when prayer is suggestion it is offered with halting breath and with a most reverent faith, lest a suggestion should be not only a sophism but an expression of selfishness. Ask God about everything; you undervalue life if you think there is anything beneath His attention; the very smallest thing that concerns you concerns Him; He has told us so in many a beauteous parable. Saith He, "A sparrow cannot fall to the ground without My notice." Observe, the people in question were "the children of Israel." Character is implied; character is not only implied, it is recognised and held up as a lesson. They belong to a praying host, to a covenanted ancestry, they were involved in the baptism of an oath. Do not imagine that a man can leap out of atheism and begin to pray for some selfish purpose, and have his answer on the spot. Character determines prayer; the simple heart suggests the right petition; the sincere spirit, praying at the Cross and in the name of Christ, can alone pray with lasting and ennobling effect. In this respect there is something in heredity, there is something in the covenant, something in the eternal decree. We stand the last members up to this moment of a great ancestry of prayer.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?
I. A GREAT LEADER DEAD, AND LIFE'S DUTIES AS PRESSING AS EVER.

1. Let who will and what will pass away, our own work only passes with our own life.

2. The advancement of God's purpose is dependent on no life in particular.

3. Great lives are sometimes removed that other lives may better feel their responsibility and cultivate their strength.

II. HUMAN DIRECTION SUDDENLY FAILING, AND DIVINE GUIDANCE SPECIALLY SOUGHT.

1. Prayer prompted by the removal of long familiar light.

2. Prayer over unfulfilled commandments.

3. Prayer provoked by gathering dangers.

4. Prayer for God's appointment of our post in life.

5. The realism of prayer to every true-hearted suppliant.

III. AN EMINENTLY FAITHFUL PAST DEMANDING A NO LESS VIGOROUS FUTURE. Judah had already done well. He who has done well in the past is under perpetual obligation to do no less well in the future. God also chooses those for new duties who have best served in the past.

IV. GOD SPECIALLY CHOOSING SOME OF HIS SERVANTS, BUT LEAVING THEM LIBERTY TO SEEK THE HELP OF OTHERS.

1. The benefits of co-operation. What one cannot do, two can. What one can only do with difficulty, two can do easily.

2. The limits of co-operation. Judah might only seek aid from his own brethren, not from idolaters.

V. THE LORD'S CALL TO GREAT DUTIES FOLLOWED BY HIS RICH BLESSING ON THOSE WHO SEEK FAITHFULLY TO PERFORM THEM. "The Lord delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand."

1. God calls and sends none of His servants in vain.

2. God's blessing answers to His own promise of blessing.

3. God's blessing satisfies His people's highest hopes.

(F. G. Marchant.)

1. In that this people was now constrained to look about them, and (now Joshua was dead) to do that themselves for their peace and quiet which he was wont to do for them, we are taught that when special persons are taken away then they who were left behind must put forth themselves and take the more pain than before. The which being so, men should make this use of such changes to provide and learn to want their good helps and friends beforehand. They should also acknowledge daily with hearty thanks to God what a benefit they have of them, while they enjoy them, and do all good that they may by the help of them. Which they cannot do, but they must of necessity feel the loss of them to be very great, and see that they must now lay their shoulders to the burden. For the which purpose this I add — oh, how sweetly and to their good liking have many lived when they had others to bear their burdens for them — as husbands, wives, subjects, children, neighbours: there is no doubt but that (which is the chiefest of all} they have therewith, that God is their friend also. But seeing many depend only on them in a carnal manner, and on their living still with them, and rest not on God, therefore their props fail them, and their desolation cometh upon them as the enemy upon an unarmed man.

2. We are taught here by their example, who sought to God in their doubts for counsel and resolution, that in all our doubtful cases, partly touching our estate towards God, and partly particular duties and actions if our special callings and conditions of life, while we remain here on earth we should consult with and ask counsel of God for our resolution, in such manner as He hath taught us, and in no wise to conceal and bury our wants and defects that trouble us, or pass by the sins that cleave to us, or other difficulties in our dealings and business that oppress us, for so we provide ill for ourselves, even to live in ignorance and sorrow (with ether inconveniences annexed thereunto) for ever after.

(R. Rogers.)

And the Lord said, Judah shall go up
May we not pause here to allow this oracular response to sink into the heart? How full it is in its manifold meaning! It asserts the sovereignty of God in disposing and ordering the work which His servants have to perform. It reminds us that every one is not to attempt everything; for Judah is to fight the enemy and the other tribes are to remain at home. It promises victory, not to every ardent soldier who might volunteer to take the field, but to the tribe whom the Lord shall order to the battle. It disturbs all rule-of-three calculations of success in proportion to the number of agents men may induce to go to work; success is for those whom the Lord shall send. It allows of no objection, no plea of incompetency, no deceitful humility, on the part of the called soldier: "Judah shall go up"; it is the word of a King. It hides pride from man, by declaring that although Judah would conquer, it would be only through Divine ordination and help.

(L. H. Wiseman, M. A.)

Adoni-bezek
I. THE INSTABILITY AND UNCERTAINTY OF WORLDLY GREATNESS. Look at this man — and behold in what slippery places God sets the mighty and noble. From the eagerness with which mankind pursue the distinctions of life, we should conclude, not only that they were very valuable in themselves, but that no kind of precariousness attached to them. But let not the strong be secure; let not the honourable be vain; let not the rich be high-minded. What is all history but a narrative of the reverses to which all earthly things are liable, however firmly established they once appeared to be; of the revolutions of empires; the destruction of cities; of the mighty put down from their seats; of counsellors led away spoiled, or politicians disgraced, generals banished, and monarchs put to death!

II. JUDGMENT OVERTAKING THE SINNER IN THIS LIFE. Nor does Adoni-bezek stand alone as an instance of the present punishment of sin. Adam and Eve driven out of paradise; flood; cities of the plain; Lot's wife; Gehazi; Ananias and Sapphira, etc. This, however, is not always the case. The misery of the sinner is principally reserved for a future world, and we are now in a state of probation. But God would confirm our faith in His adorable providence. If all sin was punished here, we should look no further; if no sin, we should not easily believe in the power, the holiness, the truth of God. We may add that the punishment of sin in this world is sometimes unavoidable. If nations are punished at all, they must be punished in time — for in eternity men exist only as individuals. Nearly the same may be said of a family. Yea, the present punishment of sin is in some measure natural. For how frequently do men's sufferings arise from the very sins they commit! Extravagance breeds ruin — indolence, poverty — intemperance, disease.

III. PUNISHMENT INFLICTED AFTER LONG DELAY. Behold the career of this sinner! What a lengthened course of iniquity was here! "So long and so often had I done this, that I thought God had not seen, or did not remember. But He has found me out; and I live long enough to be a miserable instance of this awful truth — that however long punishment may be delayed, it will at last be inflicted — as I have done, so God hath requited me."

IV. A CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN SIN AND SUFFERING: "What I have inflicted upon others, is now inflicted upon me; and in my very punishment I read my crime — as I have done, so God hath requited me."

1. Between sin and punishment there is sometimes a comparative conformity. This is the case when we suffer things which have some resemblance to our crimes.

2. Sometimes there is also between them a direct conformity. This is the case when we suffer in the same way and in the same things in which we sin.

3. But there is a future conformity still mere dreadful (Galatians 6:7).

V. THE HAND OF GOD ACKNOWLEDGED, WHILE MEN ARE ONLY EMPLOYED — "God hath requited me." But who saw anything of Him? A good man perceives the hand of God in all events, and he wishes to see it. But it is otherwise with the sinner. His apprehension of God is forced upon him; he would gladly get rid of the conviction: it is all terror and dismay to him — for he knows that God is his adversary, and He may now be coming to lay hold of him; he knows that he has a long account to give, and this may be the time of reckoning. Hence the bitterness of affliction: it is regarded not only as a trial, but as a punishment.Lessons:

1. Abhor cruelty. It is equally disgraceful to religion and humanity. It renders you unpitied of God and man.

2. Improve the case of examples. If they were not particularly adapted to do us good, the Word of God would not be so full of them. Lodge them in your memory. Often reflect upon them. And make use of the dreadful as well as the pleasing. It is necessary that we should be awakened to flee from the wrath to come.

(W. Jay.)

I. THE LIFE OF MAN CANNOT ESCAPE THE JUDGMENT OF GOD: "Be not deceived, God is not mocked," etc. Man may deny it, may theoretically disregard it, but cannot escape it! At the heart of things is the spirit of judgment. Human life appears to be confused, but before the Almighty it has shape, and plan, and purpose.

II. LET NO MAN TAKE THE LAW INTO HIS OWN HANDS: "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the Lord." Why have we suffered loss in business? May it not be that we have oppressed the poor and needy? Why are our schemes delayed and thwarted? Probably because we have been obstinate and unfriendly towards the schemes of others. Why are we held in disesteem or neglect? Probably because of the contempt in which we have held our brethren. So we are to look at the moral working of things, and to see in the results which are forced upon us, not the petty anger of men, but the holy and righteous judgment of God.

III. EVERY GOOD DEED WILL BE HONOURED WITH APPROPRIATE REWARD.

1. Good deeds are their own reward.

2. Deeds done merely for the sake of reward cannot be good.

IV. THOUGH JUSTICE BE LONG DELAYED, YET IT WILL BE VINDICATED EVENTUALLY.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

In the accompaniments of war, not only have the most terrible injuries been inflicted during the battles, but when over the persons of the conquered have sometimes been subjected to worse torments than any they could have endured on the field. These doings have often been defended on the ground that they were necessary to self-defence and self-preservation. Alas! they are sometimes only to be explained by the depraved desire in the human heart of exercising arbitrary and cruel power. The practice referred to in this chapter — that of excision of the thumbs of captives — comes under this class. Probably it was to brand men as cowards that Adoni-bezek carried on such a cruel practice. He had evidently delighted in practising as much cruelty as possible. If he had thus treated seventy-two kings, it is probable that he had maltreated, or caused to be tormented, many others of inferior rank. The victorious Israelites advance, and Adoni-bezek has to fight a battle in which, instead of being the victor, he is the captive. He was taken and led, a prisoner, into the presence of another. Never had he anticipated this; much less that he would have to suffer as others had done through him. With hands and feet writhing from the recent excision, he makes this acknowledgment: "As I have done, so God hath requited me."

1. Adoni-bezek notices the remarkable correspondence between previous barbarity and present suffering. He takes it in the sense of retribution.

2. The evil which falls upon us may ofttimes be the consequence of the wrong-doing of others. Sometimes various circumstances connected with bringing the offender to justice are so remarkable, and seemingly so responsive to crime, that there arises in the minds of others the belief that it is a special and divinely-imposed retribution.

3. The recognition of the correspondence between past acts and his present misfortune leads Adoni-bezek to ascribe it to a Divine hand: "God has requited me." He was not an Israelite, had probably been an idolater, and may have trusted in false gods for a long time, He had heard of God, and what He had done to other nations; now he finds himself conquered, and is led to attribute his personal sufferings to the God of the Israelites. God has so arranged natural law that it works in harmony with eternal justice. There is a subtle connection between our acts and our sufferings. We may see illustrations of this every day. A man may act in a certain loose and careless way and prepare for himself consequences the most terrible and unlooked-for. Another gives way to fierce, ungoverned passions, and makes himself, thereby, wretched. Another chooses to spend his time only in the pursuits of pleasure, and to squander his money on every foolish thing that pleases his eye; he soon finds himself without the power to enjoy, and without money to procure such enjoyment. Another gives way to pilfering, and soon finds himself discharged, characterless. Even if he is not punished by law, he is dishonoured. Or a youth may have kind parents, and every opportunity of making his way in the world, but he gives way to dissipated habits, and finally, when character is gone and friends are dead, is glad to earn the most trifling sum under men whom he once despised A just retribution in all such cases certainly follows the sin. Like Adoni-bezek, such must confess that God "hath requited" the wrong-doing.

4. This acknowledgment concerning the just requital of sin is sure to take place in the other world, if not in this. Pagan mythology taught that the mean and sly will, in the other world, take the lynx form; the slanderers, that of the vampire fanning ever to sleep, and sucking the life-blood at the same time; that the hypocritical will be as crocodiles, crawling in mud and shedding false tears; and that the narrow and bigoted, fearful of truth and loving error, may be as owls, hooting amid darkness and ruin, in the forsaken and desolate regions of the other world. May not the dishonest man there have to cringe and hide himself still more? May not the drunken man have a constant craving, a burning thirst, a racking brain? May not the ambitious man have a constant anxiety to obtain power, and the torment of always being supplanted, or effectually checked, by others? May not the avaricious man be in a constant fever of suspicion? May not the ill-tempered man be in a constant whirl of passion, and make himself more and more wretched? May not the ruthless and cruel fear the scorn of their victims and clutches of their enemies? May not the voluptuary have to bear the torment of an inflamed heart and ungratified lusts?

(Fred. Hastings.)

Homiletic Review.
I. THE LIFE. Brief biography. Throned. Successful in war. Cruel. At last a defeated tyrant, Three scenes.

1. Celebrating his victories.

2. Feeding royal captives.

3. The defeated tyrant's unsuccessful flight.

II. THE LESSONS. Note three —

1. To what depths of cruelty it is possible for some to sink themselves. How came Adoni to be such a tyrant?

(1)Possibly, in part, through parental neglect.

(2)Through neglect of self-discipline.

2. Honoured men sometimes fall from palace to prison.

3. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

(Homiletic Review.)

God often forbears and defers His punishments. "As I did long ago," saith Adoni-bezek, "yea again and again, seventy times one after another — so long and so often that I thought God had either not seen or quite forgotten me; yet now I see He requiteth me." How true this observation is, is sufficiently witnessed by their experience who have little less than stumbled hereat. This made Care, a heathen man, to cry out: "The disposals of Divine providence are not a little cloudy and dark." This made David, a man after God's own heart, to confess and say: "My feet were almost gone, my steps had well-nigh slipped." This made Jeremiah cry out from the bottom of an amazed soul: "Righteous art Thou, O Lord, when I plead with Thee; yet let me talk with Thee of Thy judgments. Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? Why are they happy that deal very treacherously?" Yea, those martyred saints (Revelation 6:10) are heard to cry from under the altar, "How long?" etc. Now as these forenamed have stumbled at God's delaying His judgments, so others there are who have been quite deceived, verily believing that with God what was forborne was also forgotten. Such an one was Adoni-bezek here, who, having escaped so long, thought to have escaped ever. And such were those whereof David spake (Psalm 10:6). Such an one is the great whore of Babylon, that sings: "I sit like a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow." Such an one was Pherecydes Syrins, master of Pythagoras, and a famous philosopher, and one that is said to have been the first philosopher that taught among the Greeks the soul to be immortal; and yet among all his knowledge had not learned this one principle: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." For, as AElian reports, he used among his scholars to vaunt of his irreligion after this manner, saying that he had never offered sacrifice to any god in all his life, and yet had lived as long and as merrily as those who had offered several hecatombs. But he that thus impiously abused the long-suffering of God came at length to an end as strange as his impiety was unusual; for so they report of him that he was stricken, like Herod by the angel of the Lord, with such a disease that serpents bred of the corrupt humours of his body, which ate and consumed him being yet alive. But that we may neither distrust the righteous ways of God, nor prevent His unsearchable counsels with our over-hasty expectation, let us a little consider of the ends why God oftentimes defers and prolongs His judgments.

1. For the sake of godly ones, for whom God useth to forbear even multitudes of sinners. So had there been but ten righteous persons in Sodom, Sodom had never been destroyed: "I will not destroy it for ten's sake." So for good Josiah's sake God deferred the plagues He had decreed to bring upon that people (2 Kings 22:20).

2. To give time of repentance and amendment (2 Peter 3:9). This is shown by the parable of the fig-tree (Luke 13:7). A hundred and twenty years the old world had given them before the flood came.

3. The opportunity of example by them unto others and of manifesting His own glory. God is Lord of times; and as He created them, so He alone knows a fit time for all things under the sun. He, therefore, who knows all occasions, when He seeth a fit time for His judgments to profit other men by example, and most of all to set forth His own glory, then He sends them forth and till then He will defer them.

4. When God, intending some extraordinary judgment, suffers men's sins to grow unto a full ripeness that their sin may be as conspicuous unto the world as His purpose in their punishment shall be. Thus God punished not the Canaanites in Abraham's time, but deferred it till Israel's coming out of Egypt; and that, as Himself witnesseth (Genesis 15:16): "Because the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full." And therefore is not this last end to be looked for in all God's delays; but it seemeth proper to His extraordinary punishments — when God meaneth, as it were, to get Himself a name amongst men, then God stays to have the sin full, upon which He will pour a full vial of wrath and indignation.

(Joseph Mede, B. D.)

I. THE SUFFERING OF PUNISHMENT EXTORTS THE CONFESSION OF SIN. The reason whereof is the very nature of punishment, which always implieth some offence, and therefore is a good remembrancer of the same. Thus Joseph's brethren, when they were distressed in Egypt, cried, "We are verily guilty concerning our brother." Proud Pharaoh, when he saw the plague of hail and thunder, said: "I have now sinned; the Lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked." The proud stomachs of the Israelites came down when once the fiery serpents stung them, and then they came to Moses and said: "We have sinned; for we have spoken against the Lord and against thee." Manasseh, whom all the threatenings of God's prophets in fifty years' space could never move, yet when he was bound in fetters and carried prisoner unto Babylon, "then he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers." Whosoever, therefore, he be that feels not this fruit and makes not this use of his afflictions is worse than hard-hearted Pharaoh, worse than cruel Adoni-bezek. But if by this means we come to see and acknowledge our sin, then may we say with David: "It is good for me that I was afflicted," and give praise unto our God, who is able out of such hard rocks as these to make flow the saving waters of repentance.

II. GOD'S JUDGMENT FOR SIN IS ONE OF THE STRONGEST MOTIVES TO MAKE AN ATHEIST CONFESS THERE IS A GOD. Those who say, "There is no God," David accounteth them in the number of fools (Psalm 53:1). Solomon styleth punishment the schoolmaster of fools. If for all fools, then also for atheistical fools, that they, either by their own or by example of God's plagues upon others, may be taught to put away their folly. Most certain it is, the not observing of God's judgments, or the supposed examples of some who seem to escape the hand of God in the greatest sins, is a main occasion of atheism. For this cause, therefore, David, as jealous of God's honour and knowing what force God's judgments have to keep atheism from creeping into the hearts of men, desireth God (Psalm 59:13). Hence it is also that God often in Ezekiel doth plainly affirm this to be the end of His judgments, that it might be known that He was the Lord. As in Ezekiel 6:6 thus He threatens Israel: "Your cities shall be laid waste, and your high places shall be desolate," etc. Ver. 7: "And the slain shall fall in the midst of you; and you shall know that I am the Lord." And again, vers. 12, 13: "He that is far off shall die by the pestilence; and he that is near shall fall by the sword. Then shall ye know that I am the Lord." And Ezekiel 25:17, concerning the Philistines: "I will execute great vengeance upon them, saith the Lord, with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the Lord when I shall lay My vengeance upon them." If this, then, be so as ye have heard, let us learn hence a good preservative against atheism and all the ill motions of the devil and our flesh drawing thereunto; not lightly, as most men do, to pass over the judgments of God upon sin, but duly and diligently to observe them; if in ourselves, then more severely; if in our neighbours, curiously but charitably.

III. AS PUNISHMENT IN GENERAL BRINGETH SIN TO MIND WHICH ELSE WOULD BE FORGOTTEN, SO THE FASHION AND KIND THEREOF WELL CONSIDERED MAY LEAD US AS IT WERE BY THE HAND, TO KNOW THE VERY SIN WE ARE PUNISHED FOR. God's visible judgments have usually in them a stamp of conformity with the sin for which they are inflicted; for either we suffer the same thing ourselves that we have done to others or something resembling or like unto it, or else are punished about the same thing wherein our sin was, or, lastly, in the place or time where and when we sinned. I am persuaded there is no judgment which God sends for any special sin but it hath one of these marks in it. Come, therefore, to Adoni-bezek, and let us learn of him by God's stamp in our punishment to find out what sin He aims at. If we would once use to read this handwriting of God in our afflictions, what a motive would it be to make us leave many a sin wherein the devil nuzzles us the greater part of our life without sense and feeling? For if anything would scare us from sin, sure this would, to hear word from God Himself what the sin is He plagues us for and so sharply warns us to amend. Whensoever, therefore, any cross or calamity befalls us or any of ours, either in body, goods, or name, or in the success of anything we take in hand, let us not rebel against God with an impatient heart, or fret at the occasion or author of our misery; but let us take a just account of our life past, and thus reason with ourselves: "This is surely none other but the very finger of God; I am punished, therefore have I sinned. I am punished thus and thus, in this or that sort, in this or that thing, in this or that place or time; therefore God is angry with me for something I have done, the same with that I suffer, or something like unto it, or because I sinned in this thing, or at this time, or in this place, when and where I am now punished. 'As I have done, so surely God hath requited me.' Therefore I will not look any longer upon any other cause or occasion of this misery, of this cross or calamity, but look unto my sin and give glory unto God who sent the hand which hath done all this unto me."

(Joseph Mede, B. D.)

"The fox finds himself at last at the furrier's," and his fate is all the more certain because of the foxy conduct in which he has been engaged. They say "A bad deed never dies"; and they might further say that its life is quickened and its sting intensified by the cumulative influence of time. "He can't reap wheat that sows hemlock"; the harvest must be to the full as poisonous as the seed. As we brew, we must drink; so we cannot be too prudent as to the purity of the materials or too careful of the mixing. "Do well, and have well; do ill, and look for the like." "Remember the reckoning" is a pregnant old saw that might well be suspended in home and office, hearthstone and wayside; it would often save men a tremendous balance on the contra side of the ledgers both of money and morals. Sin and punishment are like the body and the shadow, never very far apart. Who sin for their profit will not profit by their sin; you may see nothing but well in its commission, you will see nothing but woe in its conclusion. The law of retribution is as fixed as the law of gravitation. There is a connecting string between ourselves and our misdeeds. We tie ourselves by an invisible and enduring thread to every evil deed we do. There is an Australian missile called the boomerang, which is thrown so as to describe singular curves, and falls again at the feet of the thrower. Sin is that boomerang, which goes off into space, but turns again upon its author, and, with tenfold force, strikes him who launched it.

(J. Jackson Wray.)

In saying, "God hath requited me," it is to be noted that he, an heathen idolater, could see so far as to ascribe to God his affliction. Whereby we may see that very bad men do acknowledge God to be the striker and punisher of them. But where should he learn it? for though it did him no good to acknowledge it, yet it is that which many who have been baptized do not come to, but curse and ban, rage and fret, in their afflictions, crying out of their ill-fortune, as they call it, so far are they from resting in the justice of God, and to say, "He hath done righteously." Also as they ascribe to chance and fortune their calamities, so do they run for help to witches and sorcerers when they be oppressed with them, which is greatly to the convicting of them.

(R. Rogers.)

Gravitation is not more unerring than retribution. Sin and punishment have been said by Emerson to "grow out of one stem." Sin is like the flower that appears first; but punishment is the fruit lurking and swelling within, and destined to appear when the flower is blown.

(G. A. Sowter, M. A.)

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