And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he halted on his thigh.…
In these bodies of ours there is often perpetuated the recollection of some former sin, and the wrestle for pardon which grew out of it. You remember that during the awful fight with Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation, Bunyan tells us that Christian, despite of all he could do, was wounded in his head, his hand, and his foot. Few men there are, whose early life has been profligate, who do not even to this day bear in their persons most recognizable pains, and perplexing inabilities, and mortifying memorials of the sorrowful past. Repentance brings pardon, but never restores the ravages of sin. In the child's story, we were taught that it was easy to draw the nails that numbered our faults from the tree-trunk that recorded them; but the scars remained for ever. More often, however, this memorial of conflict takes the form of constitutional weakness, or besetting sin. An early inadvertence, a youthful vice, a wild habit, an impulsive act of criminal evil, from the guilt of which the penitent man has been restored by the pardoning mercy of God, has yet proved to be of sufficient moral force to leave behind it a permanent mark. The wound healed, but it is only cicatrized over; it can never be less than a centre of solicitude, tender and sensitive to exposure. Always after this that soul has one insecure, one vulnerable point to be watched. There are men to-day who, just because they once swore an oath, have to put up special guards against profanity. There are men who once read a page of a vile book that have never got over the tendency to impurity it bred in their souls. We may definitely conclude, from wide observation, that no wickedness has ever been committed which has, in the end, left the man where it found him. God may forgive much; but the devil's service fixes its own memorial on the soul. One of its natural sinews of strength has been shrunken, and now it betrays itself by the limp. Two lessons will follow just here. One is this: — Let every person, young and growing beware of all vice, and be on the alert against even early sin. You maybe called upon to carry its stigmas with you to the great day of your death. You may be a weaker man all the days and years you live afterwards, just because of one seemingly trifling indulgence. This body of ours is a wonderful thing. It is the most beautiful object in the world. When the artists searched the universe for the curve of absolute beauty, they found it in the maiden's shoulder; when they wanted the colour of absolute purity, they found it in the infant's cheek. But this body may be deformed, disfigured, ruined, by sin. Be careful about that! The other lesson is one of consideration for others. When we see a man with a personal mutilation, every instinct of courteous life bids us hesitate to causelessly wound his feelings. When the weakness is mental or moral, the appeal if yet more direct and overwhelming to our thoughtfulness and care. He who would heedlessly disregard a sign of weakness or old exposure like this is more unthinking and more ungenerous even than he who would drink wine in the presence of one who had been a drunkard, or rattle dice in a reformed gambler's ear. The silent plea of feebleness ought to be simply irresistible to every noble mind. It seems to say plaintively, like the suffering Job: "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends, for the hand of God hath touched me!" We must use our Christian freedom cautiously, lest with our indulgence we should injure one for whom Christ died.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh.