Imatges de pÓgina

find yourselves sometimes catched in the snare, your sin will find you out, it will fare with you as it never did with any before you.

Indulge not yourselves in secret sins, for the day will come, that what is done in secret, shall be proclaimed on the house tops. And hide your shame as long as you will, it will one day cover you in mercy or in wrath.

Lastly, Let us all labour to find out our sins, lest they find us out. We must meet them. Better seek them out that we may carry them to the sea of the Redeemer's blood, than to stay till they find us out, which may plunge us into seas of wrath.



[Subject continued.]



NUMBERS XXxii. 23.

And be sure your sin will find you out.

I HAVE spoken to the two first general heads. I shall now proceed, III. To inquire more particularly than we have yet done, into the Lord's making sin find out the sinner. This is one of these things in which the providence of God does shine most illustriously; upon which unbiassed spectators must say, "This is the finger of God, and verily there is a God to judge upon the earth." Consider here,

I. The general kinds of sin, which the Lord makes to find out the sinner. As for open sins confessed by the sinner, I need not speak of these, the sinner meets with them every day. But,

1. Sins which men will not own to be sins; the Lord makes to find out the sinner. "These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes." The crucifying of Christ, the Jews would not allow to be their sin, in their blindness they denied the charge. But when the Spirit of the Lord comes, he makes them own it. Thus Peter addressed them, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye crucified both Lord and Christ. Now when they heard this they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter, and to the rest of the apostles, men and brethren what shall we do?" In a time of defection and apostacy from

the Lord, men stand out against conviction, they will not take with their sin. But afterwards when God ariseth to plead, he opens up the putrifying sores and makes men's folly appear to them.

2. Secret sins to which no man is witness, the Lord makes them find out the sinner. "Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance." The sinner pleaseth himself with this, that no eye seeth him. But God makes the world hear well of it at length. And what is done in secret, he bringeth forth in the face of the sun. How secret was Onan's sin, but the stroke of God reached him for it. For the most secret sins are open to an omniscient God, and he will make the sinner find it so.

II. The time in which the Lord makes sin to find out the sinner. Times and seasons are in the Lord's hand, and the time fixed by his providence is always the best time, and whoso considereth circumstances will be obliged to own it. The best time for his own honour, and for the conviction of the sinner in mercy or in wrath.

Sometimes the sinner is found out presently, God takes the sinner instantly in his sin. Thus "when Jeroboam put forth his hand from the altar, against the man of God, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand which he put forth against him dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him." As soon as they go off the way, the lion finds them, as soon as they break over the hedge the serpent bites them. This is necessary to keep the world within some tolerable bounds of morality, otherwise profanity and wickedness would overflow all banks. Sometimes the sinner is not found out till long after. It was about three months before Judah's sin found him out: "When he was told that Tamar his daughter-in-law had played the harlot, and was with child by whoredom." Nay, it may go on years, many years, and never appear all the time, and yet find them out at length, before they leave this world. A person's sin may have as much time, before it find them out, as in the sinner's own opinion it may be dead and rotten, and in no hazard of rising to disturb them. It was at least long twenty years before the sin of Joseph's brethren found them out. Sins of youth may put off the rencounter till old age and death arrive. III. The place, where sin finds out the sinner. is much of God seen in this, and God reserves the discovery always to the fittest place. "For he is a rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth, and without iniquity; just and right is he." And he can make the sinner's own feet carry him to the place of this sad tryst, and heavy meeting, while he has no mind of any such thing.

Many times there

1. God can make sin find out the sinner sometimes, where he can

have least support under the awful meeting with his sin. Thus God sent Joseph's brethren to Egypt, a strange land, that their sin might find them out, Gen. xlii. 21. They were now far from their friends and relations, who might have comforted them, under any distress which they saw them under. But stripped of all comforters, their consciences have leisure to toss them to purpose. Thus the sinner leaves God for his sin, and God leaves the sinner alone with his sin.

2. Where they may have least help to shift their sins finding them out. Thus there is no word of Judah's sinful companion, Hirah the Adullamite, when his sin finds him out. Providence it seems parted them on that occasion; otherwise he that had helped Judah to cover his sin before, might have helped him now, to have denied and concealed it, notwithstanding of the speaking evidences of it. Companions in sin are oft times farthest to seek when their help is most needed, and some time or other they will all prove physicians of no value.

3. Where it will confound the sinner most and pierce his heart most keenly. When Judah's daughter-in-law "was brought forth, she sent to her father-in law, saying, by the man whose these are am I with child; and she said, discern I pray thee, whose are these, the signet, and bracelets, and staff. And Judah acknowledged them." Here the sin was discovered publicly in judgment before many witnesses, in whose sight the shame of the foul fact was spread on his face. Thus God makes secret sins, which no eye has seen committed, find out the sinner publicly before many witnesses, and in the face of the sun.

IV. The means by which the Lord makes sin find out the sinner. There is much of God seen in this also. He never wants means to discover the most secret sins, which he wishes to bring to light. Sometimes this is done,

1. By the natural product of the sin, by which the sin is made to discover itself. Thus the sin of Judah and Tamar was discovered by her being with child. The bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the oxen discovered Saul's sin, which shewed he had not performed the commandment of the Lord. Thus persons may go long on in sin, but a watchful providence makes their feet slide in due time, and their sin find them out, by fixing some mark to their sin by which the world may know it.

2. By some act of indiscretion and folly in the sinner himself. As in the case of Judah's signet, bracelets and staff given to Tamar. O the stupendous conduct of providence, in the infatuating of sinners, taking common discretion from them, that otherwise have

abundance of hellish craft and subtilty for the hiding of their sin. Yet their eyes are, by the just judgment of God, withheld from seeing, what otherwise might have been easily perceived. And this will gall them to the heart afterwards, that they should have acted so foolishly, unless their hearts be touched with repentance. But who can retain the prudence, which God intends for his own holy purposes to take from them.

3. By some unforeseen accident which the sinner by his own utmost diligence could not prevent. "Curse not the king, no, not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bed-chamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter." Man's capacity is but narrow, there are many things which he cannot foresee. When he goes out of the way of God, he may, ere he be aware, be caught fast in such a snare, as will hold him till his sin find him out. "For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are caught in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them." There is no safety out of the path of duty. When persons go away from God, they make themselves many enemies, for every person and thing are enemies to them to whom God and their own consciences are enemies.

Lastly, By making their consciences restless, till their own mouths discover their own sin and shame. Witness Judas. The Lord never wants means to make sin find out the sinner, as long as there is a conscience within the sinner's breast. Much secret wickedness has thus been brought to light in the world. And we have had instances of it, where the guilty were forced to turn their own accusers, when none was charging them with it; yes, and when to all appearance there was no true repentance for the sin. However, conscience may sometimes be commanded and held down, God can easily make it so turbulent within one's breast, that it will no longer keep the secret of their sin.

V. The way and manner of sin's finding out the sinner. This many a time is such, as must needs make men to say, This is the finger of God. Providence appoints the meeting, and wonderfully brings matters about for the keeping of it.

1. Ofttimes sin finds the sinner unexpectedly and surprisingly when they are not looking for it. How surprisingly did Judah's sin, and the sin of Joseph's brethren find them out. It meets the sinner like a ghost in a moment, when he is not looking for it; and catches him before he can get his sinful craft collected to stave it off.

2. Often does the way which sinners take to hide their sin, prove the way of its finding them out. "The Lord is known by the judgment

which he executeth; the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands." The means which they use for burying it out of sight, God makes the occasion of its rising upon them. How often have cunning contrivances of mischief turned on the heads of the contrivers, God catching the wise in their own craft, to his own glory and their confusion.

3. Sin always finds out the sinner securely, that there is none escaping, no getting beyond it, but the sinner is hedged in on every side. Cain felt the greatness of his punishment, but he could not escape from it. God's prisoners are kept fast, and though it may be long before he speak to the sinner, yet he will speak home at length. He may be long in beginning to reckon with the sinner, but he will make a thorough reckoning when he does begin. He says as in the case of Eli, "When I begin, I will also make an end."

Lastly, God's writing the sin upon the punishment, so that the sinner shall be forced to say, As I have done, so God hath requited me. Thus God makes men's sins so to find them out, that they cannot fail to see that he remembers such a sin against them.

Sometimes the punishment is the same in kind with the sin as in the case of Adoni-bezek. The same punishment was inflicted upon himself, which he had inflicted upon threescore and ten captive kings. Thus many that injure others have the same injury returned into their own bosom, and are treated in the same way that they have treated others. Thus Absalom did to David as he had done to Uriah. Pharaoh slew the first-born of the Israelites, and therefore God slew the first-born of Egypt. Pharaoh would have every new born son of Israel cast into the river, and God drowns him and all his host in the red sea.

Sometimes there is a visible likeness between the sin and the punishment. The Sodomites burned with lust, and God sends fire and brimstone on them to burn them to ashes. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire, and they were consumed with fire from before the Lord. Jacob beguiled his father, by pretending to be Esau, and Laban him, by palming Leah on him for Rachel.

Sometimes there is a certain relationship betwixt the sin and the punishment. Jeroboam's hand withering, the belly of the adulteress swelling, and her thigh rotting. Companions of sin turning plagues and causes of woe to one another. Eli's indulgence to his sons was punished with the death of them.

Finally, Sometimes there is a direct contrariety betwixt the sin and the punishment. Thus God threatened the Israelites: "Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with

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