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But what is our state? Do we find in ourselves this zeal? Instead of proceeding to the utter extirpation of our spiritual enemies, are we not satisfied if they do not reign? Are we not contented to let them exist, provided they keep themselves concealed from public view? What then is the declaration of God unto us? Does he not warn us, that the evils which we spare shall become 66 as thorns in our sides, and prove a snare unto our souls?" And do we not find that it is even so in our daily experience? Let the person who still associates with the men of this world, say, whether he does not find that they are a clog to him in his spiritual course? whether his endeavours to please them do not lead him sometimes into sinful compliances, and his fear of displeasing them do not keep him from testifying against their evil ways? Will any say that he has found it practicable for "light to have communion with darkness, or Christ with Belial;" or that the soul can flourish whilst it is engaged in such a foolish attempt as that of reconciling the services of God and Mammon? Let the person who is still too deeply immersed in the cares or pleasures of the world, say, whether he has not often been led to strain his conscience in order to prosecute his ends, and to adopt some practices which in his heart he disapproved? ---Let the person who harbours some besetting sin, ask, whether it has not often risen up with a force that was almost irresistible, and nearly, if not altogether, involved him in some flagrant transgression? Let the person in whom pride, or lewdness, or covetousness, or passion is suffered to dwell, answer this question He knows but little of his own heart, who does not know, that sin is a flame, which, if not extinguished, may speedily "set on fire his whole nature," and "burn to the lowest hell." Lastly, Let the person who listens to the temptations of Satan, say, whether there be any way of making him flee, but by perpetual resistanced? —
If such then be the danger of indecision, let us consider,
II. The duty of those who are convicted of it—
Two things were produced by the declarations of the Angel in the breasts of all the congregation of Israel; which also our own experience calls for; namely,
1. An humiliation of soul before God
[The people "lifted up their voice and wept." And who amongst us has not abundant reason to follow their example? d Jam. iv. 7.
c Jam. iii. 6. with Deut. xxxii. 22.
Whether we consider our sin or our punishment, we have but too much reason to weep. Indecision is not so light a sin as some imagine: it shews an insincerity of heart, which is most odious in itself, and most offensive to God. See in what a light the Israelites beheld it, when once a conviction of it was brought home to their minds! and is not the sparing of inveterate lusts as wicked as sparing the devoted Canaanites? Does it not betray an equal want of reverence for God, of love to his name, and of zeal for his honour? Behold then what is the duty of every one amongst us: "Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into heaviness; humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and he shall lift you up." Nor does the threatened punishment afford us less occasion to weep: for a subjection to sin is the greatest evil that can befall us. If God should once say, "He is joined to idols; let him alone;" it would be a heavier judgment to us than immediate death and immediate damnation; because we should live only to treasure up wrath against the day of wrath," and should perish at last under an accumulated weight of misery to all eternity. O that the dread of such a punishment might humble us all in dust and ashes!] 2. An application to God through the medium of sacrifice
["They sacrificed there unto the Lord;" and had recourse to the blood of sprinkling for the remission of their sin. Though their weeping was very general, and very bitter, insomuch that the name of the place, which was Shiloh, was called Bochim, or Weepers, from that circumstance, yet did they not hope to pacify their offended God with tears: they knew that an atonement was necessary; and they sought him therefore in his appointed way. O that we might learn from them! Humiliation is necessary; but it is not sufficient: tears, even if we could shed rivers of them, could never wash away sin: the blood of atonement is necessary; "without shedding of blood there is no remission." We must apply to the Lord Jesus Christ, and "go to God through him." We must acknowledge our obligation to his sacrifice for all the mercy and forbearance we have already experienced; and must look to it as the only means of our reconciliation with God: it is his blood, and "his blood alone, that can ever cleanse us from our sin" And here I would particularly remind you that the sin laid to the charge of Israel, was not of commission, but of omission; not some flagrant enormity, but a lukewarmness and neglect of duty: yet did they see the need of a sacrifice to atone for that. In like manner, though we should have
e Job xxxi. 25, 28.
f Jam. iv. 9, 10.
no guilt imputed to us but that of omission and defect, yet must we apply to the blood of sprinkling, and seek for pardon through that one Sacrifice which was once offered for us on the cross.]
LEARN then from hence,
1. The value of a faithful monitor
[We do not like faithful admonitions, even from those whose special duty it is to reprove sin. We are ready to account them harsh and severe. But what is the office which a friendly monitor performs? Is it not that which the Angel of the Covenant himself executed, yea, and came from heaven on purpose to perform? But it may be said, that we alarm men, and make them melancholy: true; we shew them their guilt and danger, and try to bring them to a state of humiliation on account of it, and to an affiance in the Lord Jesus Christ for the pardon of it. But is this an evil? If the whole congregation were affected precisely as the whole congregation of Israel were, every one weeping for his sins, and seeking the remission of them through the great Sacrifice, would it be a matter for regret? No: we would to God that this very place might this day deserve the name of Bochim; and that the remembrance of it might never be obliterated from your minds! Sure we are that the congregation of Israel felt themselves deeply indebted to Him who thus sought their welfare; and we have no doubt but that, however an ungodly world may hate our reproofs, there is not a contrite sinner in the universe who will not regard his monitor as a father, and "receive him as an Angel of God, even as Christ Jesus." They will not hesitate to thank him, who, by bringing them to weep here, has kept them from weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth in hell for ever.]
2. The danger of forgetting the admonitions that have been given us—
[During the days of Joshua and the elders that outlived Joshua, the Israelites maintained some measure of steadfastness in their duty to God: but afterwards they fearfully declined, and brought upon themselves the most afflictive judgments. The whole remainder of the chapter from whence our text is taken, elucidates this truth. The impressions which were now made upon them gradually wore away; and the people relapsed into their former state of supineness. Of the unreasonableness of their conduct they were fully convinced: for, when the Angel asked them, "Why have ye done this?" they could not offer one word in extenuation of their guilt: but when they
g Gal. iv. 14.
ceased to listen to the voice of conscience, they proceeded from one wickedness to another, "till there was no remedy." And how often is this seen amongst ourselves! Many are deeply affected on some particular occasion: they will weep, and pray, and think of the Saviour; but in process of time they lose all their good impressions, and "go back with the dog to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to the wallowing in the mire." The Lord grant that it may not prove thus with us! May our goodness not be as the dew, or as the morning cloud that passeth away;" but rather as the sun, which shines brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.]
h 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15-17.
EHUD AND EGLON.
Judg. iii. 20. And Ehud said, I have a message from God unto thee. And he arose out of his seat.
GOD frequently is pleased to make use of his enemies for the correction of his own people: but when he has accomplished by them the purposes of his grace, he then calls them also into judgment for the acts which they have performed. In executing his will they have no respect to him, but follow only. the wicked inclinations of their own hearts; and therefore he recompenses them, not as obedient servants, but according to the real quality of their actions. Thus he dealt with Sennacherib, who was only gratifying his own ambition, whilst, as a sword in Jehovah's hand, he was inflicting punishment on Israel: and thus he dealt with Eglon also, whom he had raised up to power for the purpose of chastising his offending people. Yet there is something very remarkable in the way in which God requited the wickedness of Eglon, and in which he delivered his people out of his hand. The man whom God raised up as his instrument, was Ehud; who, by a stratagem, effected the death of Eglon.
We will briefly set before you,
I. The conduct of Ehud
Eglon, king of Moab, having subdued Israel, himself resided in Canaan, in the city of Palm-trees and Ehud was sent, as the representative of Israel, to offer to him their accustomed tribute. But Ehud, hoping for an opportunity to assassinate Eglon, took a dagger with him: and, after having presented the tribute and left the city with his attendants, went back alone to Eglon, pretending to have a secret errand to him. Eglon ordered all other persons to depart from his presence, and thus gave Ehud a good opportunity of accomplishing his design. Ehud availed himself of it with great success: being left-handed, he drew forth the dagger without any suspicion, and plunged it, even the haft together with the blade, into the belly of Eglon, who instantly fell down dead. Ehud then retired from the secret chamber where the transaction had taken place, and locked the doors after him, and went composedly away, as though nothing particular had happened; and thus effected his escape; and instantly stirred up Israel to cast off the yoke of Moab, before their enemies should have had time to concert their measures under another head.
Now to form a correct estimate of this action, we must consider it in two different points of view;
1. As voluntarily undertaken
[In this view it was altogether indefensible. Treachery and murder can never be justified. Though Eglon was an usurper and a cruel oppressor, still the Israelites professed subjection to him; and Ehud went as their messenger, to present to Eglon their acknowledgments of that subjection. If he had chosen to cast off the yoke of Moab, he was at liberty to do so in a way of open warfare: but to become an assassin he had no right: nor could the end which he proposed, sanctify the means he used: the means were wrong; and he had "no right to do evil that good might come."]
2. As divinely commissioned
[No created power could have authorized Abraham to slay his son, or Israel to plunder Egypt, and extirpate the inhabitants of Canaan: nor could any human being have executed such things of his own mind, without contracting very heinous guilt. But God is not bound by the rules which he has