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In causing therefore the offerings of the Lord to be thus abhorred, the young men sinned in a peculiar manner against God himself: they poured contempt upon the very means which God had provided for their obtaining of pardon and reconciliation with him. Thus they rendered their situation desperate: had they only committed some heinous offence against man, a judge, entrusted with the execution of the laws, might have arbitrated between the parties: he might have punished the delinquents, and obtained satisfaction for the injured person: and, the offenders, if truly penitent, might have brought their offering to God, and thus, through the blood of their sacrifice and the intercession of the priest, have obtained the remission of their sin. But they had sinned immediately against God himself; so that there was no third person to redress the grievance or settle the dispute. Moreover they had despised the only atonement that could be offered for them: yea, in despising the typi. cal, they had, in fact, disclaimed all trust in the real atonement. What hope then remained for them? Having provoked God, they had no person of authority sufficient to arbitrate between them: and having rejected the only sacrifice, the only advocate, the great High Priest, they had none to make atonement for them, they had none to intercede: they must therefore be left to their fate, and reap the bitter fruits of their iniquities. In confir: mation of this God declared, that “their sin should not be purged by sacrifice or offering for ever.”
With this explanation we see at once the force and emphasis of the words before us. They were intended to express the exceeding heinousness of the sins that had been committed, and to deter the offenders from persisting in such fatal conduct. While they intimate the danger to which a violation of human laws will expose us, they insinuate the infinitely greater danger we incur by contemning the only means of forgiveness with God.
With the additional light which the New Testament reflects on this passage, we may see that we are as much interested in this admonition, as the very persons were, to whom it was first given: for, though we have not run to their excess of riot, or caused the offering of the Lord to be so abhorred, yet we have too much disregarded the sacrifice of the Son of God. If we have not openly opposed the atonement of Christ, we have been, perhaps still are, too indifferent about it. The censure therefore in the text, how severe soever it may appear, lies in full force against us. To neglect the Saviour, is, in a most fatal manner, to sin against God: it is, at the same time, to provoke the Majesty of heaven, and to reject the only advocate, the only propitiation for sin. Hence the apostle asks with such tremendous energy, “How shall ye escape if ye neglect so great salvation?”g Which question, both in import and expression, accords with that in our text, “If a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him?"
fi Sam. iii. 14.
In this application of the passage we are countenanced hy a parallel passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews," “ If we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” Here the writer states the reason, why an apostate from the truth has nothing to expect but wrath and fiery indignation; the reason is the same as in our text; he has turned his back on the sacrifice of Christ, and there will be no other sacrifice for sin to all eternity: there is there. fore no hope of salvation for bim. The Apostle then adds, “Hethat despised Moses' law, died without mercy, under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite to the spirit of grace?” Thus may we ask, in reference to the text, If the infraction of human laws, when substantiated by sufficient evidence, be ever punished with the loss of life, how much more shall a neglect and contempt of Christ meet with due recompence from an holy and omniscient God
5 Heb. ii. 3.
h Heb. x. 26-29.
The text being thus explained, we may proceed to de: duce from it some important observations.
The solemnity of the present occasion requires us to take some notice of human judicatures: we shall not however restrict our observations to them: there is a future judgment to which we must look forward; nor should we satisfy your expectations any more than our own con. science, if we did not principally advert to that. The text affords us a proper opportunity for discharging our duty in both respects.
First then we observe, That the dispensing of justice by persons duly qualified and authorized, is an unspeakable blessing to a nation.
The institution of judges is a necessary part of every well ordered government. When God called his people Israel, and formed them into a distinct nation by his servant Moses, he gave this command; " Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee throughout all thy tribes; and they shall judge the people with just judgment.” When Jehoshaphat set himself to restore the political and religious welfare of his kingdom, he paid immediate attention to this point: " he set judges in the land throughout all the fenced cities of Judah, city by city; and said to the judges, Take heed what ye do; for ye judge not for man, but for the Lord, who is with you in judgment.”* After the Babylonish captivity also, when the Persian monarch gave commandment respecting the re-establishment of the Jews in their own land, he particularly enjoined Ezra to be mindful of this matter: " Thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river: and whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.” Indeed, without such an institution, the laws themselves would be altogether vain and useless: the weak would sink under oppression; and the strong tyrannize with im.
* 2 Chron. vii. 25, 266
i Deut. xvi. 18.
I Ezra vii. 25, 26.
punity. The bonds of society would be broken asunder; and universal anarchy would prevail. We have wit. nessed the destruction of all constituted authorities, and the utter annihilation of all established laws. We have beheld licentiousness stalking with the cap of liberty, and ferocious despotism, under the name of equality, spreading desolation with an undiscriminating hand. But, blessed be God, it is not thus with Britain: I pray God it never may be. The laws, with us, are respected; and they, who superintend the execution of them, are reverenced. If one man sin against another, we have judges, who are competent, and not afraid, to judge him. If existing laws are not sufficient to check the progress of conspiracy and treason, we have a legislature, that will deliberate with coolness, and enact with wisdom. If the necessary restraints be violated by presumptuous dema. gogues, we have magistrates, that will call the offenders to trial: juries that will bring in their verdict with conscientious truth; and judges, that, while they declare the sentence of the law with firmness, know how to tenper judgment with mercy. Yes, to their. united efforts, under the care of Providence, we owe it, that faction and sedition have been disarmed of the power, would to God I might also add, the inclination, to disturb the realm.
However the opinions of many were shaken for a time by specious arguments and groundless cavils, there are but few, it is hoped, at this time, whose eyes have not been opened to discern the excellence of our consititution. Who, that has seen insulted majestý proclaiming pardon to mutiny and sedition; who that, when the contemners of that pardon were brought to trial, has seen the very judges becoming counsel for the accused; who, that has seen to what an amazing extent lenity has been carried (not from partiality or supineness, as under Eli's administration, but from a love of mercy, and a desire to win the offenders to a sense of duty) who, that reflects how forbearance has been exercised, insomuch that not a single execution even of the most daring traitors took place, till lenient measures absolutely defeated their own ends; who, I say, that has seen these things, must not acknowledge the cquity and mildness of our government? And who, that knows the value of such a government, would not uphold it to the utmost of his power?
While we are speaking upon this subject, it is impossible to omit the mention of one, who with unexampled fortitude has stemmed the torrent of iniquity in this country, and has made the most opulent to know, that if they will tempt the chastity of individuals, and destroy the peace of families, they shall do it at their peril. I do not hesitate to say, that every father of a family, and every lover of virtue in this kingdom, stands indebted to him, and has reason to bless God, that such integrity and power are combined in one person."
There is one other point worthy to be noticed in the judicatories of this country, I mean, a freedom from political or religious prejudice. If a man be known to disapprove the measures of government, he is not the less likely on that account to obtain justice in any cause in which he may be engaged: If he dissent from the established mode of worship, he is not the less protected in the right of serving God according to his conscience: nor, if on account of superior zeal and piety, he be branded with an ignominious naine, will prejudice be suffered to bias the decisions of our courts against him. Every member of the community, of whatever denomination or description, is sure to have his cause attentively heard, and impartially determined.
These things cannot but create a love to our constitution in the mind of every man, who rightly appreciates the blessings of civil and religious liberty. And I pray God that the laws of our country may ever continue to be thus respected, and to be thus dispensed.
The observation now made, has been suggested by the first part of Eli's admonition. Another observation we may offer, arising from the obvious connexion which subsists between that and the latter member of the text; namely, That there are many things, not cognizable by human laws, which will be brought to trial before the judge of quick and dead. Man's tribunal is erected principally for judging things which particularly affect the welfare of society; and, in criminal causes, respect is had to actions
m The name of Lord KENYON will necessarily occur to the mind of every reader.