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from duty of a prophet of God, charged with a mission of the gravest kind, and bound by the most solemn obligations to carry it out in every particular of its details.
And now what does all this shew us? Why surely this, that God will not tolerate sin, even in those whom He most loves and approves. It is not because a man stands high in the favour of God, that he may hope to escape the temporal retribution of a fault. On the contrary, since he is not to sustain its eternal penalties, there is the greater reason why the temporal should not be remitted; for if they were, his sin would be wholly unvisited, and therefore apparently unnoticed by God. It is true that the Prophet had been singularly bold and faithful in delivering his message at Bethel; but it was at Bethel also that he subsequently fell. The whole of that city would know that he had sinned. Had they seen also that the sin was overlooked by God, they might have argued, either that he was a false prophet, or that, as he had escaped, they too might go on sinning with impunity. But when they found that for so apparently
trivial an offence his carcase had been cast in the way," and that the very manner of his death was such as to indicate a special Divine interposition, they were taught in the most impressive manner God's hatred of sin; that no amount of former obedience can compensate for the smallest trangression, and that eminence as a saint rather ensures than averts some penal visitation, if there be the least swerving from the strict line of duty.
These circumstances teach us in the most impressive manner the evil of sin; of sin, let us observe, not only in the reprobate, but in the faithful also. It is quite possible for a Christian to pride himself upon some amount of faithful service, and almost to think that it excuses him, if not justifies him, in some relaxation of duty afterwards. A holy season, for example, has been faithfully kept, and some victories of grace have been obtained; and these are often urged by the whisper of some deceiving prophet as excuses for halting and backsliding. Alas, that our highest and holiest efforts should be thus deprived of their right use, namely,
to lead us up to a continued and closer walk with God! Every good work, every renewed effort of self-devotion, is indeed an evidence of fresh mercy vouchsafed by God; and ought therefore not only to animate us to greater perseverance, but also to fill us with a deeper abhorrence of sin. Does not therefore the dead body of the disobedient Prophet assume the voice of a preacher, and tell us that sin in every degree and with every palliation stores up against us matter for accusation; and that if we will not take God simply at His word, and act upon His precepts, we must look for nothing but the fulfilment of His threatenings? It tells us that we cannot and must not plead that we have been faithful hitherto, or that we have been surprised, or placed in trying circumstances, or betrayed by a deceiver. As Christians, we are all God's servants, we have all our message to deliver, we have all of us the details of our commission. Alas for us, if having ex
, perienced the mercy of God, we make that very mercy an occasion of sin !
Such, then, was the offence of the disobedient Prophet; an offence which we perhaps are disposed to underrate, because prone ourselves to acts of more daring sin, and of which we probably overrate the punishment, not considering that the chastisement was altogether temporal. It is true that God was angry with the Prophet; but His anger was " exhausted in that one decree.” The sudden death of the man of God was the penalty of his disobedience, but his spirit is safe with Jesus in the Paradise of God.
May this be our happy case! The sentence is indeed gone forth against us; and since death is the wages of sin, our carcases too must be "cast in the way.” But when the messenger of death shall arrest us, may we be found, like that Prophet, in the pathway of duty, mourning for sin, and with our backs turned upon the idolatry of Bethel ! Then death shall indeed do his work upon the body; but after that he shall have no more that he can do. The hand of the Redeemer shall restrain him, that he cannot hurt the soul, and we shall be permitted to enter into the joy of our Lord.
Tracts for the Christian Seasons.
NINTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
1.-THE MINISTRY AND TRANSLATION OF
prophets exclusively in the character of predictors of future events, whereas they are mainly to be looked upon as witnesses for, and agents of, the unseen King of Israel, men whose mouths the Lord opened, when He would recall the nation to its allegiance to its Divine Monarch, who had placed Himself in a position with regard to the children of Abraham which He had not assumed towards any other people. The real sovereignty over Israel was retained by the Almighty to a degree beyond what is implied when we say of ordinary kings that they reign as God's vicegerents. The laws and institutions, ordained through Moses, were established once for all, and scarcely
No. 57. THIRD SERIES.