The Mischief of Sin
by Thomas Watson, 1671
The Desperateness of Sinners
"In spite of all this—they kept on sinning!" Psalm
The people of Israel were called by God's name. They were
chosen from all the people of the earth. "The Lord your God has chosen you
out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people—His
treasured possession!" Deuteronomy 7:6. The other part of the world was but
rubbish; these were God's jewels! The other was a wilderness; these
are God's special garden. Exodus 19:6, "You shall be unto me a Kingdom of
priests." But even Israel had a blot on their name-plate. The text draws up
a black charge against them, "In spite of all this—they kept on sinning!"
Why was this? God had been very good to Israel. He had
bestowed many favors on them. "They forgot what He had done—the wonderful
miracles He had shown them, the miracles He did for their ancestors in
Egypt, on the plain of Zoan. For He divided the sea before them and led them
through! The water stood up like walls beside them! In the daytime He led
them by a cloud, and at night by a pillar of fire. He split open the rocks
in the wilderness to give them plenty of water, as from a gushing spring. He
made streams pour from the rock, making the waters flow down like a river!"
Psalms 78:11-16. All this was a special figure of God's protection. The
pillar of cloud was to conduct them and keep off the scorching heat of the
sin. The pillar of fire was to be their torch to light them by night. "He
commanded the skies to open—He opened the doors of heaven—and rained down
manna for them to eat. He gave them bread from heaven. They ate the food of
angels! God gave them all they could hold. The people ate their fill. He
gave them what they wanted." It was called angel's food for the
excellence of it, such as the angels might have eaten if they ate food.
Israel had the cream of God's blessings—but "in spite of all this—they
kept on sinning!"
Then, God inflicted punishment on them. After the
sunshine of mercy came the thunder of punishment. Verse 31, "The
fire of his wrath burned against them." What this wrath was is specified in
verse 49, "He loosed on them his fierce anger—all his fury, rage, and
hostility. He dispatched against them a band of destroying angels." These
destroying angels smote the people with pestilence. Yet, in spite of all
this—they kept on sinning!"
This showed the evil hearts of this people. They were
worse for all the medicines God had used for their healing. "In
spite of all this—they kept on sinning!"
The text divides itself into three parts:
1. Israel's crime—they sinned.
2. The aggravation of their sin—in spite of all this.
3. Their continuance in sin—they kept on sinning.
Doctrine: "None of God's dealings with the wicked,
will prevail with them to break off their sins." "In spite of all
this—they kept on sinning!"
To keep on sinning is, first, heinous—because
it shows a contempt of God. Let God say what He will—yet men go on in sin.
This is to despise God—and bid Him do His worst. Psalm 10:3, "Why do the
wicked despise God?"
To keep on sinning is, second, desperate—because
it is to sin against the remedy! If no means God uses will
prevail—people are incurable. If a gangrened limb is not cut off—there is no
help for the patient and he must die. If nothing will do the sinner good and
he still continues in sin, this man's case is past hope. There is no way but
Use 1. Information
Branch 1. Note the blindness of every sinner.
He does not see that evil in sin, which would make him leave it. "In
spite of all this—they kept on sinning!" To this day, the veil is upon
his heart. Sin is the quintessence of evil—but the unregenerate person is
enveloped with ignorance. If he dies in sin—he is irrecoverably damned. But
he sports with his own damnation—he keeps on sinning. Sin has made him not
only sick—but senseless. Though sin has death
and hell following it—yet he is so blind that he keeps on sinning!
We pity blind men. How is every graceless man to
be pitied, whom Satan, the god of this world has blinded! 2 Corinthians 4:4.
The devil carries a wicked man as people carry a hawk—with a hood over its
head. Wicked men go hoodwinked to hell. But he does not see
the danger he is in. He is like a bird which hastens to the snare—and does
not see the snare.
Branch 2. Note the love and amity between
man's heart and sin. "They kept on sinning!" Sin is a dainty
dish which men cannot forbear. Hosea 3:1, "Who love flagons of wine."
Psalm 4:2, "How long will you love delusions?" The heart and
sin are like two lovers—which cannot endure to be parted! A sinner is
the greatest self-denier. For the love of sin, he will deny himself a part
in heaven! One would think, "There is so little in sin, why should it be
loved?" Who would sweet perfume, into a sink? Who would spend so sweet an
affection as love, upon so filthy a thing as sin!
Sin is a thorn in the conscience. It is a sword in the
bones. Psalm 38:3, "I have no rest in my bones, because of my sin." Whatever
deflowers, disturbs. Yet such is the love that a man bears to his sin, that
he will venture all for his lusts—the loss of God's favor and the loss of
Branch 3. See the desperate obstinance of sinners;
they persist in sin rebelliously. "They kept on sinning!" Though God
has pronounced a blessing and a curse (a blessing upon those who forsake
sin—and a curse upon those who continue in sin)—yet they choose the curse
over the blessing! The wicked are unyielding and resolved. "They kept on
sinning!" The heart of man by nature is like a garrison which holds out
in war. Though articles of peace are offered, though it is straightly
besieged and one bullet after another is shot—yet the garrison holds out. So
the heart is a garrison which holds out against God. Though He uses
entreaties, gives warnings, shoots bullets into the conscience—yet the
garrison of the heart holds out. The man will not be reclaimed. He is
said to have a brow of brass, in regard to his impudence—and a sinew of
iron, in regard to his obstinance, Isaiah 48:4. "They kept on sinning!"
The sinner is not reformed by all God's judgments. We see
metal that melts in the furnace—but take it out and it returns to its usual
hardness. The Lord sent one judgment after another on Pharaoh—and though he
seemed to be melted (Exodus 9:27, "I have sinned, the Lord is
righteous")—yet no sooner was he taken out of the fire and the plague
removed but he sinned still. Verse 34, "He sinned yet more and hardened his
Some men, in a fit of sickness, when their consciences
are so far awakened as to be brought to a sight of hell—and they begin to
smell the fire and brimstone—Oh, what promises they make if only God will
spare their lives! But, when they recover, they are worse then ever before.
"They kept on sinning!" Isaiah 9:13, "For after all this punishment, the
people will still not repent and turn to the Lord Almighty." Amos 4:6, "I
gave you absolutely nothing to eat." Verse 7, "I have withheld the rain."
Verse 10, "I sent plagues against you like the plagues I sent against Egypt
long ago. I killed your young men in war and slaughtered all your horses.
The stench of death filled the air! But still you wouldn't return to Me,
says the Lord."
What sin do we have left, after all God's judgments which
have been upon us? Can we show the head of that Goliath lust which is
slain? There is so much atheism and hard-heartedness in men, so close an
adherence of lust to their souls, that they will go on in sin inflexibly
until God, by a miraculous power, stops their course, as He did Paul when he
was going with letters to Damascus, Acts 9:2. Oh, the vile obstinance of
men! "They kept on sinning!" Though they are sometimes convinced that
they are in a bad way—yet their corruptions are stronger than their
convictions. If a wicked man could be fetched out of hell and brought
back into a capacity of mercy—yet he would in a second life follow his lusts
and sin himself into hell again!
Branch 4. Note how hard it will be for such
people to be savingly wrought upon—who go on sinning. At first the heart
is more tender and fearful of evil. But by keeping up the trade of sin, it
is deadened and seared. By sinning still, a man is brought to such a state,
that he despises the Word and resists the Spirit.
Reason and conscience are bound like prisoners—with the
chains of lust! By sinning still, men have contracted a habit of
evil. Jeremiah 13:23, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin—or the leopard his
spots?" Habit in sin stupefies conscience. It is like a gravestone
laid upon a man. Oh, how hard their conversion who go on still in their
trespasses! That tree will be very difficult to pluck up—which has been long
rooting in the earth. How hard will they find it to be plucked up out of
their natural estate—who have been many years rooting in sin! He who had
been possessed with the devil from his youth up, found it more difficult to
have the devil cast out of him, Mark 9:21.
Branch 5. See the reason why men's prayers
are not heard. It is because they persist in sinning. Sin clips the
wings of prayer—so that it will not fly to the throne of grace! Psalm
66:18, "If I regard iniquity in my heart—the Lord will not hear me." In the
original it is, "If I look upon sin" so as to lust after it. Suppose a man
had never so sweet a breath; yet, if he had the plague, you would not come
near him. A sinner may give God many a sweet expression in prayer—but the
plague sores still break out in his life! He keeps on sinning!
Therefore, God will not come near, to receive a petition from him. Malachi
1:10, "I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord Almighty, neither will I
accept an offering at your hand."
Sin makes the heart hard—and God's ear deaf! Men
pray, "Lord, have mercy on us; Christ, have mercy on us." But, though
they pray still—they sin still. Therefore, God hears their sins—and
not their prayers. The Lord loves the mourning of His doves--but
counts the prayers of the wicked, no better than the howling of a dog. Hosea
7:14, "They have not cried to Me with their heart when they howled upon
their bed." Prayer is a sovereign plaster for a wounded soul—but sin
pulls the plaster off—so that it will not heal!
The prayers of the wicked put God in mind of their sins,
and makes Him more speedy in His process of justice against them. Hosea
8:11-13, "Israel has built many altars to take away sin, but these very
altars became places for sinning! Even though I gave them all my laws, they
act as if those laws don't apply to them. The people of Israel love their
rituals of sacrifice, but to me their sacrifices are all meaningless! I will
call my people to account for their sins, and I will punish them." Their
sacrificing put God in mind of their sin.
Branch 6. See the reason why we suffer
still—because we sin still. Jeremiah 8:15, "We looked for peace—but no
good came." We expected golden days. We persist in sinning. Therefore, God's
hand is stretched out still, Isaiah 9:12. Oh, to what a height, is
wickedness boiled up! There are sins in the nation not to be named. Ezekiel
24:13, "It is the filth and corruption of your lewdness and idolatry. And
now, because I tried to cleanse you but you refused, you will remain filthy
until my fury against you has been satisfied." We pour on the oil of sin—therefore
God's anger still flames. While the measure of sin fills—the vial of wrath
fills. "They kept on sinning!" Therefore, we are still under the
black rod of affliction.
Branch 7. See our unhappiness in a
lapsed state. Being fallen from God, we go further and further from
Him. "They kept on sinning!" Every sin sets one a step further from
God. Jeremiah 2:5, "They are gone far from Me." How far are they from
God—who have been all their lives wandering from Him! Psalm 58:3, "They
wicked are estranged from the womb, they go astray as soon as they be born."
To keep on sinning, is to take our farewell of God and go with the Prodigal
into the hog pens, Luke 15:13. The further one goes from the sun—the nearer
he approaches to darkness; the further the soul deviates from God—the nearer
it approaches to misery!
Branch 8. Note hence how vain are all resolutions
to leave sin and be converted—until God changes the heart. "They kept
on sinning!" Many think to themselves, "Well, now they will become new
men; they will never do as before; they will be drunk no more; they will be
unclean no more." Alas, they have wind and tide to carry them to hell and,
when they are once sinning, they know not where they shall stop.
"They kept on sinning!" Let God's afflicting hand lie
upon men, though their strength to sin is abated—yet not their appetite.
When they grow old, their lusts grow young. Unless the daystar of grace
arises in their hearts and alters their course, they will never leave
sinning—until they have sinned themselves to the devil. A ball rolling down
hill, seldom stops in the middle.
Branch 9. See the exact notice, which God
takes of men's impieties. "They kept on sinning!" God
observed—and His pen was going in heaven all the while! People, through
atheism, think surely that the Lord does not see their sins, nor will He
call them to account. Psalm 10:11, "He has said in his heart, God has
forgotten, He hides His face, He will never see it." But God takes a full
inspection into men's actions. Jeremiah 16:17, "My eyes are upon all their
ways, they are not hidden from My face!"
God takes notice of the aggravations of sin against
knowledge, mercy and example. To God, the world is a clear, transparent
body. He sees curtain wickedness. He beholds all the sinful workings
of men's hearts like we can see the bees working in their combs in a
transparent hive. Matthew 6:4, "He sees in secret." God observes how long a
person persists in wickedness, "They kept on sinning!"
As a merchant keeps his book of accounts and enters
debts down in his book, so God has His book of accounts—and He enters
down every sin into the book. Psalm 49:9, "He who formed the eye, shall He
not see?" The clouds cannot be a canopy, or the night a dark shade to hinder
His sight. I think this should be a counter-poison against sin—that God's
eye is never off us! He makes a minute examination upon our actions. We may
deceive men—but we cannot deceive our omniscient Judge. Ecclesiastes 12:14,
"God will bring into judgment every evil thing."
Branch 10. See the difference between the wicked
and the godly. Nothing can make a wicked man leave off being evil.
"They kept on sinning!" And nothing can make a godly man leave off being
holy; he is godly still. Though there may be death-threatening times, he
will pray still, and love God still. Daniel invoked his God, though for all
he knew, a prayer might cost him his life, Daniel 6:10. Let the waters be
ever so salty, the fish will still keep their freshness. Genesis
7:11, "Noah was upright in his generation." When all flesh had corrupted
itself, Noah held on to a course of piety. A godly man will still be godly,
whatever he suffers. Psalm 44:17, "All this has come upon us—yet have we not
forsaken You, nor dealt falsely in Your covenant."
Gold, though cast in the fire, retains its purity. Acts
20:23, "Chains and afflictions are waiting for me. But I count my life of no
value to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry I received
from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace." Though the
archers shoot at a godly man—yet the bow of his faith abides in strength.
Whatever he loses, he holds fast the jewel of a good conscience. He knows
the crown of true religion is steadfastness. And though persecution brings
death in one hand—piety brings life in the other. Though religion may have
thorns strewn in the way—the thorns cannot be as sharp, as the crown is
Branch 11. See from hence how provoking it is
to the holy and jealous God, to persist in wickedness. "They kept on
sinning!" God speaks as if He were very angry. To sin once may be out of
ignorance—and when a man comes to know it he repents. Or he might sin out of
passion—and when the passion is over he weeps. But to persist in sin highly
incenses God and calls aloud for vengeance. Jeremiah 9:3, "They proceed from
one evil to another." Verse 9, "Should I not punish them for these things?"
Every sin is treason against the crown of heaven. Now,
the more treasons a person commits, the more he enrages his king. To persist
in sinning is to dare God's justice; it is to affront Him to His face—and an
affront will make God draw His sword!
Is not this spot upon us? Are there not those among us
who habituate themselves to evil and rebelliously persist in their
impieties? Shall not God punish for these things? Surely England's furnace
is heating—and we may sadly suspect God has some other judgments to bring up
the rear. Either God will make us weary of our sins—or weary of our lives!
Branch 12. See here the nature of sin.
One sin makes way for more. "They kept on sinning!" The more they
sinned, the more fit they were to sin. It is a curse upon sin—that one act
of sin prepares for more. Acts 13:2, "And now they sin more and more." In
the Hebrew it is "they add to sin." When Jereboam had left off sacrificing
to the true God, he did not stop there but set up golden calves at Dan and
Bethel for the people to worship, I Kings 12:29. Absalom prevaricated with
his father and made religion an excuse for his lie. This sin prepared him
for treason, 2 Samuel 15:10. Peter's denial of Christ was seconded with an
oath—and that oath backed with a curse. Matthew 26:74, "Then he began lie to
curse." Some think he cursed Christ. Cain first envied his brother.
Then envy begat anger and anger begat murder. One sin draws on
more. If you let a little water out of a pipe it makes way for more. Oh, how
dangerous is it to give way to one sin! One sin leads the van—and whole
troops follow. "They kept on sinning!" When acts of sin are
multiplied, men go to hell and never stop sinning!
Branch 13. See the patience of God towards
men. They persist in sinning—yet God bore with them and, many times,
deferred judgment. Psalm 78:38, "Many a time He turned His anger away." How
long did God bear with the old world? He strives with men by His Word and
Spirit. He comes to them in a still small voice. He would win them with His
love. "He waits to be gracious," Isaiah 30:18. God is not like a hasty
creditor who requires the payment of the debt, and will give no time for the
payment. Revelation 2:21, "I gave her space to repent." The Lord blows the
trumpet a long time, before His vengeance is meted out. The wicked sin
still—and God is patient still. 2 Peter 3:9, "He is long-suffering to us,
not willing that any should perish."
God's Justice says, "Cut them down!"
God's Patience says, "Spare them a year
When God is going to strike, He waits so long, that He is
weary of repenting, as the Prophet speaks, Jeremiah 15:6. We of this nation
spin out our sins and God is yet patient. But He will not always be so. If
we go on impatiently, the lease of patience will at last be run out. And the
longer God is saving His blow, the heavier it will be.
God's patience has bounds set to it. There is a time when
God will say, "My Spirit shall no longer strive," Revelation 14:7. The angel
cried, "The hour of God's judgment has come," Ezekiel 30:3. Sodom
was the wonder of God's patience—but now has been made a
monument of His anger. The Lord may keep off the stroke for a long time—but
if men are unreclaimable and persist in sinning, let them know that
vengeance is not dead—but sleeping. Sins against God's
patience, exceed the sins of the fallen angels. Therefore, the fiery furnace
will be heated seven times hotter!
Branch 14. See here that which will justify
God in damning the wicked: They persist in sinning. Oh, how righteous
God will be, when He shall pass the sentence against them! When a thief goes
on stealing and, after he has been reprieved, he still robs—how will all
applaud the judge in condemning him! Wicked men are now ready to charge God
with partiality and injustice. Ezekiel 18:25, "You have said, The way of
the Lord is not equal." They think it very hard that they should die for
eating the apple of sinful pleasure. But God will say, "Did I not
forbid you that fruit? Yet you ate it! nay, you continued eating it. You
persisted in sinning. What can you say for yourselves as to why you should
Sinners will be found speechless. Psalm 51:4, "That You
may be clear when You judge." A wicked man will, at the last day, clear God
of all injustice. It is a great vindication of a judge when the prisoner at
the bar clears his judge and acknowledges that the sentence of death is
righteous. Every wicked man's conscience shall set his seal, to the
righteousness of God's judgment.
Branch 15. See what a powerful thing grace is,
which gives check to corruption and breaks the heart off from the love of
sin! Though a gracious soul has sin in him—yet he cannot be said
properly to persist in sinning, 1 John 3:9. He does not allow himself
in sin, Romans 7:15. He maintains a combat with it, Galatians 5:17. Though
he may fall into sin, he does not lie in it! A sheep may fall
into the mire—but does not lie there. In this sense, a child of God is said
to be dead to sin, Romans 6:2. Oh, how mighty and sovereign is divine
grace—which divorces a person from sin!
If you consider what power sin has in a man, it is a
miracle that he should forsake it. Sin is a man's self, like a member of the
body which is not easily parted with. Sin is woven and incorporated into the
nature of a man. It is as natural for him to sin—as for fire to burn. Sin
has bewitched and stolen away the heart. Now, that sin which has gotten such
power over a man—that it should be beaten out of all its forts and
castles—what a wonder this is! How is it but from invincible grace! The
Spirit draws sweetly—but irresistibly. The Spirit allures—yet
conquers. Grace sits paramount in the soul. It is that strong corrosive
which eats asunder the iron chain of sin. Grace repels and beats back
corruption. So, in a man who before was under the command of corruption, at
last sin flies and is driven back. Why is this? Behold the power of
omnipotent grace, which has made such a sudden alteration in him. It has
routed sin's forces and caused it to be driven back.
Branch 16. See the sordid ingratitude of
sinners. "They kept on sinning!" Notwithstanding the fact that
they had such eminent and signal favors from God—the pillar of fire to lead
them, the rock split to give them water—yet mercy could not, with all its
oratory, prevail with them to leave their iniquities. "They kept on
A father bribes his son to obedience by giving him
money—yet he still goes on in dissolute courses. So God would draw men from
sin by His mercies—yet they will indulge their lusts. Oh, how ungrateful! It
is an ill nature—which will not be won with love. Beasts are wrought
upon with kindness, Isaiah 1:3—but sinners are not. The wicked are
worse for God's mercies. They, like vultures—draw sickness from these
The wicked deal with God as we do with the Thames River.
The Thames brings us in our riches—our gold, silks and spices—and we throw
all our filth into the Thames. Just so do the wicked deal with God. He gives
them all their mercies—and they commit their filthy sins against Him. "They
kept on sinning!" Ingratitude is, as Bernard said, the enemy of salvation.
If mercy is not a magnet to draw us nearer to God—it will be a millstone to
sink us deeper into hell. Nothing so cold as lead—yet nothing more scalding
when it is melted. Nothing is so sweet as God's mercy—yet nothing is so
dreadful, when it is abused! Sinners never escape when mercy draws up
Branch 17. See the detestable folly of
sinners. "They kept on sinning!" Though they had felt the smart
of sin, verse 21, a fire was kindled in Jacob and anger came up against
Israel. Yet for all this, they persist in sinning. This viper of sin
had pained them—yet they hugged it in their bosom again. Sin has done all
the harm to men which it can. It has exhausted their health; it has brought
them to a prison and almost to hell—yet they persist in sinning!
While the bears lick the honey around the hive, they are
stung with the bees. So, for that little pleasure in sin, men's consciences
are stung and in torment—yet they persist in sinning! They would be angry to
have others call them fools—but the Scripture does, Proverbs 14:9.
Nay, the time is coming when they will call themselves fools! Provers 11:12,
"And you mourn at last saying, How have I hated instruction!" "What, to love
those chains which bound me? How foolish I was! How have I hated
Branch 18. See what vast treasures of
wrath are laid up for unrepentant sinners. "Do you show contempt for
the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's
kindness leads you toward repentance? But because of your stubbornness and
your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the
day of God's wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed." Romans
2:4-5. "They kept on sinning!" As guilt increases—so does wrath.
Every sin committed, is a stick to heat hell—and make it burn the hotter!
It is a thing to be lamented, that men should live in the world only to
increase their torments in hell. While they commit new sins, they are
burdening themselves with more iron chains, which will be so heavy at last,
that they will not be able to bear them—or avoid them. "They
kept on sinning!"
Oh, sinner! Know that for every lie you tell, every oath
you swear, you are only adding to your torment! Every dish Satan serves
you—will increase your fatal reckoning. Every time you defraud others and
make your weights lighter, you make your condemnation heavier. Every sin is
a drop of oil upon hell's eternal furnace!
Branch 19. See what cause they have to admire the
stupendous goodness of God, who has wrought a change in them—and checked
them in their full career of sin! Matthew 11:26, "Even so, Father, for it
seems good in Your sight." Christians, you who are vessels of election, were
by nature as wicked as others—but God had compassion on you and plucked you
as brands out of the fire! He stopped you in your course of sinning, perhaps
by an arrow shot out of a pulpit, perhaps by setting a thorn-hedge of
affliction in your way. Even as the angel stood in the way to stop Balaam
when he was riding on, Numbers 22:31, so God stood in your way and stopped
you when you were marching to hell! He turned you back to Him by repentance.
Oh, here is the banner of love displayed over you! 1 Timothy 1:13, "Even
though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was
shown mercy." Literally, I was "bemercied." Literally, "I was bemercied."
Christians, why might not you have been in the number of those who persist
in sinning? Because God has bemiracled you with mercy!
Behold sovereign grace! Let your hearts melt in love to
God. Admire His royal bounty. Celebrate the memorial of His goodness. Set
the crown of all your praises, upon the head of free grace! "By the grace of
God I am what I am!" 1 Corinthians 15:10
Branch 20. Last, I note from this, how
agreeable to reason it is that God should damn men eternally for sin—not
only because sin is acted against an infinite majesty—but because there is
an eternity of sin in men's nature. "They kept on sinning!" If men would men
live forever—they would sin forever. Some think it harsh that for the sins
committed in a few years, they should undergo eternal torment. But here lies
the justice and equity of it--it is because sinners have an everlasting
principle of sin in them. Their stock of corruption is never spent. They
have a never-dying appetite for sin, which is justly punished with a
never-dying worm! "Their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched!"
Mark 9:44. "They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of
God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and
glorify him. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven
because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what
they had done. Revelation 16:9, 11
Use 2. Reproof
It serves to reprove such as persist in sin. He who was
unclean—is unclean still; he who was drunk—is drunk still. Hosea 7:10, "They
do not return to the Lord." Jeremiah 9:3, "They proceed from evil to evil."
Psalm 78:17, "They sinned yet more against Him."
Let me not only speak to scandalous sinners, who seem to
have 'damnation' written upon their foreheads—but to secret sinners. "Cursed
is he who makes an idol and puts it in a secret place." Deuteronomy 27:15.
Some of the Jews would not be seen openly bowing to an idol—but they would
put it in their closet or some other place and there worship it.
There are many in like manner who will not sin on the
balcony, or be like Absalom and sin in the sight of all Israel, 2 Samuel
16:22. But they shut up their windows, and commit their sin in secret. They
have a private back door to hell--which nobody knows of! Perhaps they
live in secret adultery or secret envy and malice or secret neglect of duty.
God knows that they are living in secret sins. What an aggravation of sin is
this! "Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him? Do not I
fill heaven and earth?" declares the Lord." Jeremiah 23:24. "I have been
watching! declares the Lord." Jeremiah 7:11. "I have seen your
detestable acts! Woe to you! How long will you be unclean?" Jeremiah 13:27
God's watchmen have been sent to warn men of their evil
ways. They have told them how damnable a thing it is to persist in sin. The
judgments of God, like arrows, have been shot at them for sin. Yet for all
this, they persist in sinning. This is worse than to be Balaam the Sorcerer.
For when he saw the angel before him with a naked sword, he dared not ride
on. But these desperate, heaven-daring sinners, though they see the flaming
sword of God's justice before them, resolvedly venture on in sin!
This sin is willful. Willful disobeyers are said to
reproach the Lord, Numbers 15:30. To defy a king's authority is to reproach
him. Willfulness in sin amounts to daring presumption. Psalm 19:13, "Keep
back Your servant from presumptuous sins." Under the Law, there were
sacrifices for sins of ignorance—but no sacrifices for sins of presumption,
Numbers 11:30. To sin willfully accents and enhances the sin. It is like die
to the wool, or like a weight put in the scale which makes it weigh heavier.
This leaves men without excuse, John 15:22. A sea mark is set up to
give notice that there are dangerous rocks. It the mariner will persist in
sailing there—and he is shipwrecked, no one will pity him—because he had
Pilate sinned desperately. He knew the Jews had arraigned
Christ, out of envy, Matthew 27:18. He confessed that he found no
fault in Him, Luke 23:14. And God Himself went about to stop him in his sin.
He admonished him through his wife's telling him, to have nothing to do with
that just man, Matthew 27:19. Yet for all this, he went on and gave sentence
against Christ. While Pilate condemned Christ, he himself was condemned by
his own conscience.
Add but one degree of sin more to presumption—spiting
the Spirit—and it becomes the unpardonable sin. When men sin and will
persist in sin—it is just with God to harden them and leave them to
themselves! Seeing they will be filthy—let them be filthy still, Revelation
22:11. That is a heart-saddening text in Hosea 8:11, "Though Ephraim built
many altars for sin offerings, these have become altars for sinning!" It is
dreadful for a man to be left to himself—like a ship without a rudder
or pilot driven out of the winds and dashed upon a rock. Roman 1:24,
"Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts!"
The condition of that patient is past hope—when his
physician gives up on him—and leaves him to his own sick palate. The
physcian is saying, "Medicine will do him no good; you may let him eat what
he pleases, for he will die!"
Use 3. Exhortation
Let it exhort all to take heed of Israel's disease of
persisting in sin. John 5:14, "Do not sin any more, so that something worse
doesn’t happen to you." Oh, sinners, if Christ, glory, or salvation is of
any value to you, hearken to this sacred charm of the gospel—and be
entreated to "break off your iniquities by righteousness," Daniel 4:27. It
is not arbitrary—but lies upon you by virtue of a solemn command. Job 22:23,
"You shall remove wickedness far from your tent." The Hebrew word there
signifies to put away sin with indignation—like Paul shook off the
viper. Either you must put your sin far away—or God will put you far away
from Himself and heaven. It is sad that a man should be so far bewitched
with the woman's hair—that he does not read the lion's teeth,
Revelation 9:7. Oh, break off a course of impiety!
Let your hearts be cleansed from the love of sin.
Grace begins with the heart. Jeremiah 4:14, "Wash your heart, Oh,
Jerusalem." Wash in holy tears! The salt water of tears—kills
the worm of conscience! To go to cleanse the life before the heart is
cleansed—is as if you should wash the channel when the fountain is polluted!
Enter upon a new course of life. Jeremiah 7:3, "Amend
your ways and your doings." In the Hebrew it is, "Make good your ways."
Objection. But we have no power of ourselves to put a
stop to sin. We cannot convert ourselves.
Answer. Do what you can. Men are not mere
logs; they may do more than they do. They may avoid the occasions of
sin. They may put themselves upon the use of means. They may lie at
the pool of an ordinance and there wait for the angels to stir the
water. Those feet which will carry them to a tavern or play—will
carry them to a sermon. They may implore God in prayer to enable them to
break off sin. God, who sometimes meets those who are running from
Him—will not despise those who run to Him. There is a promise on
record, Jeremiah 29:13, "Then you shall find Me—when you search for Me with
all your heart." Go to God, then—and He will give grace. God no sooner
speaks—than He creates. When God speaks—the heart opens to Him like the
flower opens with the sun!
Poor sinners, if you see yourselves lost and seek
Christ—while you are seeking Him, He is seeking you, Luke 19:10. And to
encourage you in your earnest addresses to God, remember that God has made a
promise not only to those who have grace—but to those who lack
it. Proverbs 1:23, "If you turn to my discipline, then I will pour out my
Spirit on you and teach you my words." Pray over this promise and, in due
time, God will infuse His Spirit which shall work that in you which He
requires of you.
Some Motives to Divorce Sin
Having answered this objection, let me use some few
prevalent motives—to persuade men to put a bill of divorce in the
hand of their sins!
1. Consider that, while men go on still in sin, God is
their professed enemy! Psalm 68:21, "God will smash the heads of
his enemies, crushing the skulls of those who love their guilty ways." A
wound that touches the brain is mortal. All God's barbed arrows fly
among the wicked. It is dangerous to stand in the place where God's arrows
fly! Perhaps, some may think that God's wrath is not so dreadful—as you
think that the lion is not as fierce as he is painted. Consult that text,
Deuteronomy 32:41, "I sharpen my flashing sword and begin to carry out
justice, I will bring vengeance on my enemies and repay those who hate Me. I
will make My arrows drunk with blood!"
Oh, sinner! You who still wallows in your swinish
filthiness—do you know what an omnipotent enemy you have! It is He who
stretches out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth, Isaiah
51:13, who rebukes the wind and bridles the sea! It is He who can look you
into your grave—and who can bind you in chains among the devils! And will
you go on to provoke Him? Can you overcome the almighty God? "Do you have an
arm like God's?" Job 40:9. Can an infant grapple with a an arch-angel?
Ezekiel 22:14, "Can your heart endure, or your hands be strong—in the day
that I shall deal with you!"
Sinner, you have done enough to damn your soul
already—but there is yet a white flag of mercy held forth. You may
yet make your peace with God. And there is no way to appease God—but by the
death of your sins. Oh—then, make haste. Bring to God the head of your
beloved sin on a platter! There is no pacification of God—but by
2. What is there in sin that anyone should persist in it?
is the spirit of evil and destruction; it is a breach of
the royal law, 1 John 3:4. It defaces God's image in the soul; it is like a
stain to beauty; it is the matter out of which the worm of conscience
breeds; it is properly the work of the devil. 1 John 3:8, "He who does what
is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the
beginning." And is there no other employment a man can busy himself
about—but the work of the devil! Sin ushers in death, Romans 6:22. Do not
say that sin is sweet. What wise man would drink poison—because it is sweet!
Who would desire a pleasure—which kills!
3. The great BENEFIT which accrues to a person by
breaking off sin. Sinner, the day you leave your sins and set
upon a course of holiness—God will pardon all your past sins. It shall be as
if you had never offended Him. God will pass an act of oblivion upon
your sins. Jeremiah 31:34, "I will remember your sins no more." The Lord
never upbraids a penitent with former sins and unkindnesses.
Objection. But may the sinner say, "I am so loaded
with guilt that I fear there is no hope of mercy for me?"
Answer 1. Though you are guilty—and conscience, like
God's attorney, charges you with foul sins—yet, if you are truly humbled and
bruised in the sight of God—know that your case is not desperate. 1 John
2:1, "If any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the
Nay, Christ is not only an Advocate but a
Surety, Hebrews 7:22. And, though you are even drowned in debt—yet
Christ, by His merit, has satisfied justice and brought in everlasting
righteousness for you, Daniel 9:24. Wait but awhile, and He will, in due
time, give to your conscience a full discharge sealed with the testimony of
His own Spirit.
Answer 2. All winds of providence shall blow
you to heaven. Romans 8:28, "All things work together for good." You shall
be a gainer by your losses. Your crosses shall be turned into
blessings. Poverty shall starve your lusts. Sickness shall
refine your grace. Persecution shall bring you nearer to God. All the
stones the Jews threw at Stephen—only knocked him faster to Christ, the
Cornerstone, Isaiah 28:16. Every cut of God's spiritual diamonds—makes
them sparkle the more. Afflictions are not so much to wound the godly—as to
warn them. Afflictions are not the blows of an enemy—but the
love-tokens of a Father! God will sugar every affliction with
His love. The people of God gather grapes—from thorns. It is a great
controversy between the chemists and the physicians, whether
gold may be made liquid and drunk as a cordial. I am sure that, to the
people of God, afflictions become gold and, being drunk down, they have been
cordial and cheering to their hearts! 2 Corinthians 1:5, "As the
sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also
Answer 3. God will display the banner of free
grace over you! He will smile on you, embrace you in the arms of His
mercy—and kiss you with the kisses of His lips! He will lead you into the
banqueting house, and feast you with those royal dainties and rare foods
with which the angels are delighted. He will give you the hidden manna
and the wine of paradise. He will "put rich garments on you—and
set the fair mitre" of glory on your head, Zechariah 3:4-5.
In short, God will say to you, as Pharaoh said to Joseph,
Genesis 45:20, "The best of all the land is yours." So, the whole kingdom is
before you; the good of that heavenly land is yours; and, as the father of
the repenting Prodigal said, Luke 15:21, "Son, all I have is yours!" My
power is yours to help you. My Spirit is yours to comfort you. My
mercy is yours to save you. All I have is yours! I give you
not only My jewels—but Myself! What more can I give you!
Oh, therefore, all you sinners, be persuaded to put a
stop to your sins. Do it sincerely, Jeremiah 24:7. Hypocrisy in
religion will damn—as well as profaneness. Do it speedily, Jeremiah
18:11. Death may be within a few day's march of you. Only part with your
lusts—and "this day salvation has come to your house!"
Objection. But suppose a few of us break off a course
of sinning? What are we the better if the greatest part of the people go on
sinning still? Wrath is still likely to come upon the land?
Answer 1. Yet if you cannot save the kingdom,
you may still save your own souls. And a soul saved—is more than a world
Answer 2. Perhaps the reformation of a few may help
to keep off wrath from the nation. Jeremiah 5:1, "Run you to and fro—and see
now if you can find a man who seeks the truth—and I will pardon it." God
would have spared Sodom for ten righteous men—but here He comes lower. If
there were but one righteous man, He would pardon. The people of Jerusalem
were generally so corrupt that one might have gone up and down the streets
in it and scarcely found a man who was sincerely righteous. But if by this
word "man" we understand "few," yet that shows us that sometimes the
repentance of a few may help to save a nation. A few ears of good corn, may
save a whole field of tares from being plucked up.
Answer 3. Perhaps, if desolating judgments would come
upon others—God may spare you. Zephaniah 2:3, "Beg the Lord to save you—all
you who are humble, all you who uphold justice. Walk humbly and do what is
right. Perhaps even yet the Lord will protect you from his anger on that
day of destruction." The Lord knows in a storm, how to hide His jewels.
God hid Jeremiah in captivity. He hid a hundred prophets in a cave, 1 Kings
18:13. He hid several under His wings, in the Marian persecution. The Lord
commanded His angel to seal His servants on the forehead (a mark of safety)
before He opened His vial and poured His curses upon the earth, Revelation
It may be you shall be hidden; nay, if you discard your
sins, you shall certainly be hidden. You shall be hidden either above
ground or below ground, Job 14:13. You shall be hidden in the wounds
of Christ—and then you are safe. You shall escape, if not the stroke
of death—yet the sting of death—damnation. If your life is not
spared—yet your sin shall be pardoned. You shall be hidden within the veil.
God will put all His elect jewels into the cabinet of heaven!
Use 4. Consolation
Here is a pillar of support to every soul who has broken
off sin and espoused holiness. This is an undoubted evidence that you are a
true child of God. Flesh and blood could not reach to this, only
omnipotent grace could conquer your corruptions! 1 John 3:9, "He who is
born of God does not practice sin." He does not sin deliberately. He
does not sin with delight. In his heart—he abhors sin; in his
life—he forsakes it. Here is one who is born of God. And let this
comfort the real penitent. Though he cannot get rid of a body of sin—but
will have his failings, though he does what he can—yet these failings shall
not be charged upon him—but his Surety! God will be propitious
through Christ. He will take notice of the sincerity—and pass by the