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Ettrick, February 9, 1718.
THE SINS OF SINNERS FINDING THEM OUT.
NUMBERS XXxii. 23.
And be sure your sin will find you out.
THIS verse contains a fair warning which Moses gives to the Reubenites, in case they should dare to be false in the business in hand. This warning hath two parts.
1. A protestation, in which he solemnly declares, that they should be guilty before God, in case they acted falsely, and should desert their brethren in the wars of Canaan. He tells them God is their party, and so doing they would not only wrong their brethren, which they might think was all, but they would dishonour God and make him their enemy. Behold, ye have sinned against the Lord. As if he had said, Remember you will affront God by it, and bring guilt upon your consciences before the Lord. We may here observe that in all sinful practices, God is the great object with whom we have to do as the offended party. Thus when David had defiled Bathsheba, and murdered Uriah, and thus awfully injured them both, yet in confessing his guilt he says, "Against thee, thee only have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight." Iniquity does not only spread its offence on earth, but it strikes against heaven too, and that chiefly.
2. In the warning there is a certification, in which he assures them that God and they should reckon for it in case they acted falsely. Here the end of that sinful practice is represented, Your sin has found you out. This implies that they would as it were hide themselves from their sin, when they had committed it, they would make many shifts to soothe themselves and cover the matter. They would take the sinful sweet of it, and when they had done this, they would stave off the blame, shame, and punishment of it. But in vain. He assures them it shall dog them at the heels, till it overtake and find them out. He gives them proper notification that this would be the end of it. Be sure your sin will find you out. Know you your sin: it shall find you out. Think on it beforehand, that it will get up with you at length. This is the nature of sin,
will not hide by any means always, under any cover but one, the righteousness of a Redeemer. Let sinners bury it if they can, let them dig deep as hell to hide it, it will have a resurrection, it will appear sooner or later as a terrible ghost to them. And be sure your sin will find you out.
Doctrine-One time or other sin will find out the sinner.
In prosecuting this doctrine I shall,
I. Show how sinners shift this meeting, that their sins may not find them out.
II. In what respects sin shall find out the sinner.
III. Whence it is that sin certainly will find out the sinner. I am then,
I. To show how sinners shift this meeting, that their sins may not find them out. Sinners are in their hearts utterly averse to be found out by their sins, and they have many shifts for that vain purpose.
1. They will excuse and justify their sin as if there were no evil in them. They will cast some fair cloak over foul actions, that their sin may pass for a lawful thing. Thus Saul and his army, "took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord God in Gilgal." This was their pretence to cover their covetousness. This in many cases is done in the world; persons defending their sinful practices and will not be convinced of the evil of them. And even in other cases, persons may attain to such a degree of blindness, that they get their consciences soothed in atrocious crimes, as if there were little or no evil in them. "God gives them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient."
2. They will carry the matter so quickly as that it shall be hid from the eyes of the world, while in the meantime God's watchful eye is still upon them, though they do not regard it. "And Ephraim said, yet I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me, that were sin." Many make such use of secred places and darkness, for their wicked purposes, as will banish them out of God's secret place, and bring them into eternal darkness, if a miracle of grace pluck not the brands out of the burning, and their sin in time find them out, Job xxiv. 15, 16.
3. They will deny it when charged upon them, and so cover one sin with another. "They wipe their mouth and say we have done no wickedness." O what pains do many take to ruin their own souls. Credit before the world is bought at prodigious rates of soul, and consciences, lies, and perjury. It is no wonder the conVOL. III.
sciences of some be dead and seared as with a hot iron, when they so often speak in opposition to them, to cover their sins.
Lastly, They will keep out of the way, where their sin is most likely to find them out. They live strangers to themselves, dare not examine themselves impartially; they avoid communing with their own hearts and consciences as with their greatest enemy. And there is no doubt that this makes many to apostatize and give up with all duties of religion, especially secret duties, for they have no confidence in God, and their hearts condemn them. We now proceed,
II. To show in what respects sin shall find out the sinner. An offended God appoints the meeting, and will see it kept, so as the sinner shall not always shift, but his sin shall give him a dreadful after-meeting. And that often in time, always in eternity. The sin of Cain, of Saul, of Judas, soon found them out. And what many have hoped to cover, has been to their confusion discovered before the world. But however long the meeting may be put off, it will never be put off beyond death, there is a day coming will declare the secrets of sinners; for in that day God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ. And God makes the sins of some to find them out in time, that it may appear there is a God to judge on earth, and he allows others to go on, that it may appear there is an after reckoning.
Now God makes sin find out the sinner,
1. By discovering and bringing to light their works of darkness. "For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid that shall not be known." They havet oo strong a party, that have a watchful eye of providence to wrestle against in hiding their sin. God can employ a bird of the air to carry the voice, yea, can make the sinner as he did Judas put out himself, and turn his own accuser. Joseph's brethren got their sin covered for several years, and when they thought they were out of hazard of meeting, it, it appears to them in Egypt like a terrible ghost.
By laying the shame of it upon their faces before the world, as he has done with many who thought themselves secure enough from it, "Fill their faces, says the Psalmist, with shame, that they might seek thy name, O Lord." God has so united sin and shame together, that shame shall certainly follow sin, in time or in eternity. Many are a shame to the profession of Christianity, but God will at length turn it back on themselves. They think much to bear their shame now in time, but how much more confounding will it be, to have their shame proclaimed before the world of angels and men at the great day, after which impenitent sinners shall never lift up their head.
Thus "they shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt."
3. By presenting sin in its native colours to their awakened consciences. This the Lord did with Cain and Judas. Satan and the wicked heart dress up sin in such a manner as it appears lovely to the sinner. But the day will come, when God will tear off the false ornaments, the paint and the varnish from it, and make it appear the most horrible spectacle that ever the sinner saw. The thirty pieces of silver made a horrid treachery to appear small to Judas; but when his conscience awakened on him, it was guilt that sunk him, he was not able to stand under it. So also Cain was made to say that his punishment was greater than he was able to bear.
Lastly, By giving them the due reward of his works. "Woe unto the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for the reward of his hands shall be given him." The time of our life is a sowing time. Sin is a seed, that though it may be long hid under ground, yet will bring a doleful harvest at length. "For he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption." The brim of the cup of sin may be sweet, but bitter will the dregs be, which the sinner shall surely be made to drink. The hand of vengeance may be long in striking, but it will strike at length. And however easily the sinner may run into arrears, it will bring a fearful reckoning.
And God will make the punishment one way or another to answer the sin, so as the sinner shall find that his sin has found him out. God has many ways of writing people's sin in their punishment, that they shall be obliged to own that God remembers their sin against them, and sometimes as Adoni-bezek they are unable to say, as I have done, so God hath requited me. The Sodomites burned in lust, and they were burned with fire and brimstone. Let us now,
III. Show whence it is that sin certainly will find out the sinner. How can it be otherwise, if we consider,
1. That none can sin without witnesses, who will surely at length discover the sin. Let sinners choose the most secret place for their works of darkness, they have always two witnesses present with them.
Conscience within their own breast, is as a thousand witnesses, whose testimony one cannot get denied. Their conscience also bears witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another. Conscience may be a very silent witness for a time, but though it be silent it is not quite idle. It writes down the sinner's wickedness and keeps it on record, which record will be read, when the sinner with his guilt is set before the Judge here or hereafter, when the books are opened and the black book of conscience among others.
The other witness is the omniscient God, whose eye is always upon the sinner. "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither
shall I flee from thy presence ?" Who can hide his thoughts from him that searcheth the heart? and to what place can the sinner go, where God is not before him? Darkness and light are alike to him. And how can the crime escape discovery, where the Judge and Lawgiver himself is witness. Little do sinners think of this, because God does not strike them down in an instant. But this witness will speak to their terror and confusion at length.
2. God has said it. "For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door." It is then his will, that sin shall find out the sinner, and who can hope to hide what God will have brought to light.
Use 1. Of information. This lets us see,
1. That an evil conscience is a sad companion, and guilt lying within the breast unrepented of, will break out sadly at length, to the sinner's confusion. It made Cain a burden to himself, Gen. iv. 13. A good conscience is the sweetest support, and gives the greatest ease in the world. But no rack like to that of an ill conscience, completely awakened. Many a secret blow it gives the sinner, that the world knows not of.
2. God is a just God, and will not be mocked, nor can he be blinded. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." Let men run on in sin as long as they will, God will call them to an account at last, and they shall see that God did not overlook their sins, though he did not presently strike. He has a concern for his honour and his holy law, which sinners trample under foot, and he will fill their faces with shame that do so, and vindicate his glory at their cost.
3. There is a watchful eye of providence over the world that never closeth, but taketh notice of all men's actions at all times and in every place. And he bringeth secret things to light, at the time in which it may bring most glory to himself, and most confusion to the impenitent sinner. God loves to take hopeless cases in hand, and when all probable means fail, then to stretch forth his own arm and work, that it may be seen that it is his own work.
Use 2. Of warning. I would hence warn all,
1. To take heed when you think you stand, lest you fall. The way of sin is down the hill, it is easy to go downward, but there may be broken bones before you get up again.
2. Please not yourselves in that you get your sins covered, and hid from the eyes of men. For though you may prosper a while in that course, yet your feet may slip at last. And if you do not