Disaster pursues sinners, but prosperity is the reward of the righteous.
I. SIN AND SUFFERING ARE INSEPARABLY ASSOCIATED IN THOUGHT, In our judgment and in our feeling they go together; they belong to one another. There is no need to go beyond this point; it is ultimate. If we sin, we deserve to suffer, and must expect to suffer. It is right that we should, and the hand that brings it about is a righteous hand.
11. THEY OFTEN SEEM TO BE DIVIDED IN FACT. As we observe human life, we see that the murderer sometimes escapes the reach of law, that the swindler sometimes flourishes upon the losses of his victims, that the tyrant sometimes reigns long over the nation he has defrauded of its freedom, that sometimes the man who lives in the practice of vice continues to enjoy health for many years, that the dishonest author may reap a considerable reputation and may long remain unexposed, etc. but in this case -
III. PENALTY IS PURSUING SIN AND WILL OVERTAKE IT. "Evil pursueth sinners" Justice is on the track, and sooner or later will lay its hand upon its victim.
1. It will most likely do so here. Very frequently, indeed almost always, some penalty immediately overtakes guilt; if not in bodily loss or suffering, yet in spiritual injury. And if not at once, penalty soon follows crime, vice, wrong doing. Or if not soon, yet after many years, the "evil" comes and lays its stern hand upon the shoulder. The man may not, probably does not, see or even believe in its approach. Its step is silent, and it may be slow, but it is constant and certain. The "evil" may be physical, and very of, on it is so; or it may be mental, intellectual; or it may be circumstantial; or it may be in reputation; or it may be in character, and this last, though least seen and often least regarded, is in truth the saddest and the most serious of all, for it affects the man himself - he "loses his own soul." Thus, "though leaden-footed," penalty is "iron-handed."
IV. THERE IS ONE MERCIFUL INTERCEPTION. If we truly repent of our sin, we shall be freely and abundantly forgiven.
1. God will change his condemnation into acceptance and parental favour, so that we shall walk thenceforward in the light of his countenance.
2. He will avert the heavier consequences of our sin by introducing into our heart and life all the remedial and restorative influences of righteousness. And there must be considered -
V. THE CONVERSE BENEFICENT LAW AFFECTING THE RIGHTEOUS. "To the righteous good shall be repaid."
1. All right acts are immediately followed by an inner and spiritual blessing; we must be something the better in soul forevery really right thing we do.
2. All right actions, done in a reverent and filial spirit, will bring God's blessing down further on. He is "not unrighteous to forget our work of faith and our labour of love." Such blessings come in many forms, and at various intervals; but they do come; they are following the upright, and they will overtake them and cream them.
Evil pursueth sinners:but to the righteous good shall be repaid
1. Consider mankind in general, under the notion of one universal community. Then the only thing which distinguishes men from wild beasts, with regard to any true happiness of life, is religion, or a sense of the just and right, and of the difference between moral good and evil. Reason, dissociated from moral obligation, only makes men more effectually destroy one another. Reason implying a sense of moral obligation is the secret of happiness in human life.
2. Take a less general view of mankind, in their more restrained political capacity, as formed into particular distinct nations and governments. In this view the only true and lasting happiness depends on the practice of righteousness and true virtue. In proportion as justice, and order, and truth, and fidelity prevail, the happiness of society is secured.
3. Consider men singly, every one in his mere private and personal capacity. Still the only possibility of lasting happiness is the practice of righteousness, charity, temperance, and universal virtue. Illustrate in relation to health; riches, honour, and reputation; inward peace and satisfaction in a man's own mind. Here virtue triumphs absolutely without control, and has no competitor.
(Henry Melvill, B. D.)
I. THE LAW OF MORAL CAUSATION SHOWS THIS. Man's character is not the creation of a day or an hour, it is the result of past actions. When no change has taken place, like that of regeneration, the man's character to-day is the result of the whole of his past life, and will be, without such a renovation, the cause of the whole of his future. Character is a fruitful tree, it never ceases bearing, every branch is clustered, but the fruit is either misery or happiness, according to its own vital essence.
II. THE CONSTITUTION OF MORAL MIND SHOWS THIS. Moral mind has at least two faculties.
1. One to recall the past. The law of memory compels us to re-live our past lives.
2. One to feel the past. The past does not flit before us as shadows on the wall, as images on the glass, making no impression; it falls on conscience, it stirs it into feeling. The soul is compelled to shudder at a wicked past, whilst a virtuous past fills it with a quiet and ineffable delight.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
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