Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you know not;…
"It is my fate," is the excuse for many a career of shame and sin. I do not think that most persons who practically rest satisfied with this explanation of the evil of their lives put it actually into words. They are content with a vague undefined feeling that some excuse or explanation of the sort is possible. Perhaps we should all escape many perils and evils if we more frequently took care to formulate our undefined thoughts into language, and carefully examine their nature.
1. Our idea of God's dealings with us is very largely influenced by the condition of the age in which we live. The language of inspiration will be interpreted by us according to the meaning which, in other directions, we already attach to the words which it must employ; and thus the government of communities by laws has so modified our thought of the Divine government that we no longer have the rude conception of a Divine Ruler acting from caprice; we have now rather the idea of a Being who acts through the operation of great universal laws. That conception of God is so far true, and that interpretation of the words of revelation so far accurate; but there has grown up with it the thought that God acts only thus, which is false. We attribute to the action of the All-wise God the imperfections — the necessary imperfections which belong to human institutions. Now, we must not transfer to God our own finality and failure. God's laws are universal and general; God's dealings with men are particular and individual As, in the physical world, we find that equilibrium is produced by the action of two equal and opposite forces, so in the moral world we have universal irresistible laws, and we have tender loving individualisation, and the resultant of the two is God's calm and equable government of men. Everywhere we see man demanding, and by his conduct showing that he possesses that liberty of action and power of control in the material world which, to palliate his sin, he denies to belong to him in the moral world. You know that the application of heat to certain substances will generate a powerful destructive force. You know such to be a physical law, and what do you do? Do you sit down and say, It is a law of nature, and I cannot resist it? No. You say, "I find it to be a law, and I shall take care either that it shall not come into operation, or if it does come into operation, I shall construct machinery to direct its force, and so make it operate only in the direction which I choose." You ascertain certain laws of health, that infection will spread a certain disease, and do you say, The disease must spread, I cannot fight against a law? No. You take care to keep the infection away from you, to disinfect, and so prevent the operation of that law; and yet that same man when he finds that there are places which will taint his moral nature with disease, that there are scenes or pleasures which will generate in his soul a destructive force, says, "I cannot help it, these things will act so; I have no liberty." You have no liberty to prevent their acting so on you, I admit, no more than you have power to prevent fire igniting powder; but you have power to keep away from them; you have power to prevent those conditions arising under which alone the law will operate. Oh! when we know and feel the evil in the physical world, we take every precaution against its recurrence. How much less zeal and determination do we display concerning our souls!
2. To say that you have a peculiar kind of nature which cannot resist a particular class of sin is to offer to God an excuse which you would never accept from your fellow man. You treat every one of your fellow men as having power to resist the inclination of his natural disposition, so far as its indulgence would be injurious to you. If a man rob you or assault you, no explanation of a natural desire for acquisition or for aggression would be listened to by you as a reasonable excuse. To admit the truth of such principles of uncontrollable natural impulse would at once shake society and destroy all human government. And do you think that such excuses as you would not admit are to be accepted as excuses for, or even explanations of those sins which do not happen to fall within the category of legal crimes, but which, much more than those crimes for which the law imprisons and hangs, are destroying the moral order of God's universe, and outraging the highest and noblest principles of truth, and purity, and love? But it cannot be denied that we have strong natural dispositions and passions which we have been given independently of ourselves, and for the possession of which we cannot with justice be held responsible? Certainly — and you never find fault with a man for any faculty or temper which he may have — but you do hold him responsible for the direction and control of it. We can point to countless noble careers to show how the strong impulses of individual natures are indeed irresistible, but their action is controllable. The great heroes whom we justly reverence, who rise above us as some snow-capped mountain towers above the dead level of a low-lying plain, are not those who have destroyed, but those who have preserved and used aright the natural impulses and passions which had been given them. That is the true meaning of such lives as those of St. Paul, or Martin Luther — St. Augustine, or John Bunyan. Ay, and there are many still amongst us who use their natural dispositions and their natural affections, their natural passions — even their natural beauty, which might have been used to lure souls to hell — to win many a one to a nobler and purer life. What a solemn responsibility, then, is the right use of our natural disposition and talents, for others as well as for ourselves. To you, my young friends, especially, I would say, Do try and begin early to recognise the solemnity of life. Do not be downhearted or dismayed if, after you have felt the power of Christ's death, and when you would do good, evil is present with you. Do not let such moments harden you. Try and realise then all the love and mercy and tenderness with which the crucified Lord looks upon you, as He once looked on the fallen apostle, and, like him, "go forth and weep bitterly." Then it will be well with you. Sin shall not reign in you, though for the moment it seems to have conquered you.
(T. T. Shore, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not;