Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in to her.…
These were the words of a man once strong, who found, to his amazement, that he had, through his own fault, lost that in which his strength lay. What do you try to keep from your children? Is it not the knowledge of evil? Their innocence you feel to be their safety, as you know it is your admiration. You preserve it to them while you can. Why? Because when it is gone they are not the same. At best they go out as at other times before and shake themselves: they are not aware that, for a season at least, the Lord has departed from them. Their history is the universal history.
I. THERE ARE, NO DOUBT, MANY SUBJECTS ABOUT WHICH WE HAVE LEARNED SOMETHING, AND ABOUT WHICH NEVERTHELESS WE KNOW VERY LITTLE AFTERWARDS, AND FEEL LITTLE INCLINATION TO MAKE EXPERIMENTS. This is, probably, the case with all sorts of studies except one; and that one varies in different persons. What would afford me extreme gratification might be to some one else a very wearisome pursuit; while his favourite subject would have no charms for me. And so he might have gained an insight into the nature of my pursuit, or I into the nature of his, without any danger of either of us injuring our prospects or losing our time by following the pursuit of the other to the neglect of his own. Now this safeguard, you will see at once, is wanting as regards the knowledge of evil. We have naturally a decided taste for wickedness. Here, then, is an answer to the common excuses for becoming unnecessarily acquainted with the evil that is being done in the world. It is admitted that the practice of sin is injurious. Well, the taste is so decided in your heart, that the likelihood of your stopping short and being satisfied with mere knowledge is reduced to almost nothing. In your own strength you surely cannot resist. Strength from on high how can you expect when you are tempting God? On what, then, are you to depend to preserve you from going beyond knowledge if you once get it? On nothing. Then you had better not have the knowledge.
II. But, besides this, IT IS A FACT IN OUR NATURE THAT THE DESIRE OF KNOWLEDGE IS CONNECTED WITH THE DESIRE OF SOCIETY. Now how will this work in the case under our consideration? The man who has acquired a knowledge of evil from pursuing it as a study, must seek for the society of those already acquainted with it, or of those not already acquainted with it. Of the former class — those already acquainted with it — how many of those he meets are likely to have stopped short at that point? and how many are likely to be satisfied so long as he stops short of it? But suppose, on the other hand, that the associates chosen be those to whom the knowledge of evil is new, and to whom it may be imparted. See what an infinity of mischief you are bringing about, even supposing — and it is a very wild supposition — that you avoid actually committing the sins about which you are so anxious to acquire and to impart knowledge! There is, literally, no end to the mischief. You have made yourself Satan's missionary. The effects of your first — perhaps thoughtless — effort you never can reverse.
III. There is yet another important practical evil resulting from the knowledge of sins, even though we neither practise them nor speak of them; that is, THE TENDENCY OF SUCH KNOWLEDGE TO DEADEN IN OUR OWN MINDS THE SENSE OF SIN AS SUCH, TO DIVERT US FROM VIEWING IT AS SOMETHING UTTERLY ANTAGONISTIC AND ABHORRENT TO A PURE AND HOLY GOD, as something so bad that to save us from it Christ, who was very God, died on the Cross. There are very many cases where repentance seems doubtful not so much from an unwillingness to abandon particular acts of sin, as from, apparently, an utter incapability to comprehend the nature of sin itself. So difficult is it when once we have left the path of safety, which we trod with the Divine aid, to return to it again — so impossible to come back to it as we left it. In presumptuous security we part with the innocence which was the secret of our success, forgetting that our strength was dependent upon its preservation. In an unfounded conviction that at any time a little effort will restore us to the position which we wantonly abandon, we do wantonly abandon it and slumber unconscious of our loss, until at last, like Samson in the text, awakened from our sleep we say, "I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself" — not knowing that "the Lord is departed from us." No words of mine could at all convey to you my deep sense of the inestimable benefit of following all through life the injunction of the wise man, "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it. and pass away."
(J. C. Coghlan, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.