Why the Wicked are Spared for a Season
Genesis 15:16
But in the fourth generation they shall come here again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

I. This passage, taken in connection with its attending circumstances, teaches us the following important truth: GOD WAITS UNTIL SINNERS NAVE FILLED UP A CERTAIN MEASURE OF INIQUITY, BEFORE HE EXECUTES THE SENTENCE BY WHICH THEY ARE DOOMED TO DESTRUCTION; but when this measure is full, execution certainly and immediately follows.

1. That God is under no obligation to suspend the destruction of sinners until the measure of their iniquity is full, or even to suspend it for a single hour. The life of every sinner is already forfeited.

2. That when we say, God waits until sinners have filled up a certain measure of iniquity before He destroys them, we do not mean that He waits upon all, till they have filled up the same measure. In other words, we do not mean that all sinners are equal in sinfulness and guilt at the hour of their death. To assert this would be contrary to fact and daily observation.

3. That every impenitent sinner is constantly filling up the measure of his iniquity; and thus constantly ripening for destruction. This is evident from the fact, that all the feelings, thoughts, words and actions, of the impenitent, are sinful.

4. Though the measure of every impenitent sinner's iniquity is constantly filling up; it falls much more rapidly in some cases, and at some seasons, than at others.


1. The truth of this assertion may be proved from other passages of Scripture. St. Paul informs us that the conduct of the Jews tended to fill up their sins alway; for, he adds, wrath has come upon them to the uttermost. By the mouth of the prophet Joel, God says, Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe, for their wickedness is great. And, using the same figure, St. John informs us that he saw an angel seated on a cloud, having in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple of God, and said to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle and reap, for the time is come for thee to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle, and gathered the vintage of the earth, and cast it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. The same truths appear to be taught by the parable of the barren fig tree.

2. The truth of the remark under consideration is further proved by the history of God's dealings with sinful nations and individuals.


1. From this subject you may learn, my impenitent hearers, why God spares sinners long after their lives are forfeited, and why He spares you. It is because the measure of your iniquity is not yet full.

2. From this subject, my hearers, you may learn the indispensable necessity of an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ. You are constantly adding to your sins, to diminish them is beyond your power. Yet you must cease to commit new sins, and those which you have already committed must be blotted out, or you will perish forever. Christ alone can enable you to do either. His blood cleanses from all sin; He is able to cast all your iniquities into the depths of the sea; and He can renovate your hearts, and render you holy, so that you shall no longer treasure up wrath against the day of wrath.

3. There is an important sense in which many of the preceding remarks are applicable to Christians. Those of you who have been such for any considerable time, have often, when contemplating your sins, and especially when in a religious declension, been ready to conclude that God would visit you with some severe temporal affliction, as a mark of His displeasure. But instead of this, you have found Him returning to you in mercy, healing your backslidings, and putting the song of salvation into your mouths. Having often found this to be the case, you may begin to conclude that it will always be so, and thus you may be insensibly led to become careless and slothful, to think lightly of sin, and not to guard against the first symptoms of declension. But if so, God will, in a terrible manner, convince you of your mistake. and make you to know experimentally that it is an evil and bitter thing to forsake Him.

(E. Payson, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.

WEB: In the fourth generation they will come here again, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full."

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