Sin the Ruin of Nations
1 Samuel 12:25
But if you shall still do wickedly, you shall be consumed, both you and your king.

The influence which continuance in sin hath upon a kingdom's ruin. But here a material question may be asked, whether this connection between their doing wickedly and being consumed were not by virtue of that political covenant between God and the people of Israel, which was peculiar to themselves; and how far it may be just and reasonable to argue concerning the case of other nations, with whom God hath entered into no such covenant, as He did with them? To make this clear, and to bring it nearer to our own case, I shall proceed in this method.

1. To show that God doth exercise a particular Providence with respect to the state End condition of kingdoms and nations.

2. That according to the usual method of Providence their condition is better or worse as the people are.

3. That there are some circumstances of sinning which do very much portend and hasten a people's ruin.

I. THAT GOD DOTH EXERCISE A PARTICULAR PROVIDENCE WITH A RESPECT TO THE STATE AND CONDITION OF NATIONS, i.e., as they are united into several and distinct bodies, which are capable as such of being happy or miserable. For since mankind's entering into society is both necessary and advantageous to them, and God doth not barely permit and approve, but dispose and incline men to it, and hath given them laws to govern themselves by, with respect to society, it is but reasonable to suppose that God should call men to an account in that capacity. Either, therefore, those societies as such shall go wholly unpunished, or they must suffer according to them in this world, and therefore here the case is very different, from that of particular persons. We say, and with a great deal of reason, that it is no disparagement to the justice of God's Providence for good men to suffer, or for wicked men to escape punishment in this life, because the great day of recompense is to come, wherein there will be a Revelation of the righteous judgment of God. But that will not hold as to nations, who shall not suffer in communities then as they have sinned here; and therefore it is more reasonable to suppose the rewards and punishments of such shall be in this life according to the measure and proportion of their sins. And of this we have sufficient evidence in Scripture upon these accounts.

1. Because it charges guilt upon nations as well as upon particular persons.

2. Because the Scripture tells us of a certain measure to which the sins of a nation do rise before they are ripe for punishment. This was the reason given why Abraham's children must stay to the fourth generation before they come to the possession of the promised land, for the iniquity of the Ammorites is not vet full.

3. Because it attributes the great revolutions of government to a particular Providence of God, God is the Judge, or the supreme Arbitrator of the affairs of the world, He pulleth down one and setteth up another. Which holds with respect to nations as well as particular persons. When a nation is near some dreadful calamity, as a just punishment of its sins, God takes away the wisdom of the wise and the understanding of the prudent, and the resolution of the men of courage, that they all stand amazed and confounded, not knowing how to give or take advice; but they are full of fears, and rather apt to quarrel with one another than to consult the general good. This was just the state of Egypt when God did purpose to execute His justice upon it.

(1)  First, their courage failed them.

(2)  Their counsels were divided and infatuated: And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians.The Princes of Zoan are fools, the counsel of the wise counsellors of Pharaoh is become brutish; they have also seduced Egypt, even they that are the stay of the tribes thereof. The Lord hath mingled a perverse spirit in the midst thereof, and they have caused Egypt to err in every work thereof, as a reeling man staggereth in his vomit, i.e., they know not what to fix upon, all their counsels being so uncertain, and the best taking no effect. But on the other side, when God raises up a nation to be a scourge to other nations, He inspires them with a new spirit and courage, unites their counsels. Look over all the mighty revolutions which have happened in the kingdoms and empires of the world, and the more ye search and consider and compare things together the greater truth you will find in this observation. When God designed to punish the Eastern nations for their transgressions, then the Babylonian monarchy rose so fast and spread so far that nothing was able to stand before it. And when the sins of Babylon called for vengeance, God raised up Cyrus, and called him by his name, long before he was born, and brought the fierce nations of the East to submit themselves to him.

4. Because the Scripture still leaves hopes of mercy to a people where they have a heart to repent. And where repentance hath intervened between the threatening and execution of judgment God hath showed wonderful kindness either in stopping, removing, or deferring the severity of judgments.

(1) In stopping His hand when it hath been lifted up, end just ready to strike. We can desire no clearer instance in that case than that of Nineveh.

(2) In removing His hand when it hath struck.

(3) In putting by the stroke for the present, or deferring the execution of His wrath.

II. The second particular is THAT ACCORDING TO THE USUAL METHOD OF PROVIDENCE THE STATE OR CONDITION OF A PEOPLE IS BETTER OR WORSE ACCORDING TO THE GENERAL NATURE OF THEIR ACTIONS. If they be good and virtuous, careful to please God, diligent observers of God's Laws and their own, and dealing with other nations according to the laws of nations, they will live in a much more flourishing and happy condition than a nation can do where atheism, profaneness, and all sorts of wickedness abound, which I shall prove two ways.

1. Absolutely, and that will appear(1) From the tendency of true goodness and piety to promote a nation's honour and interest abroad. And no man is ignorant how much reputation brings of real advantage to a nation; and that a people despised are next to a people enslaved, and that it is impossible to hold up honour and esteem in the world, where the reputation of virtue is lost.

(2) From its tendency to maintain peace and tranquillity at home.

(3) From the keeping up the spirits, and securing the safety of men. A good conscience makes a man dare to do his duty; but the sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites.

2. Comparatively, if we do compare several nations together, we shall find those to flourish most and to be the most happy where men do most fear God and work righteousness. This may seem a paradox at first hearing to those who consider by what ways of fraud and violence, of injustice and cruelty, of rapine and oppression, the great and mighty empires of the world have been raised and maintained. Yet, notwithstanding this plausible objection, the truth of my assertion will appear, if we understand it as we ought to do with these following cautions.

(1) That it is not to be understood of the largeness of dominion, or superfluity of riches, but of the true happiness of living in society together, which is by promoting the real good of all. To which the vastness of empire, and immensity of riches is by no means necessary, but a sufficiency both of strength and treasure to defend itself in case of foreign enemies, and to provide for the necessities and conveniences of all the members of it.

(2) That this is not to be understood of the private benefit of any particular persons, but of the general good of all sorts and conditions of men.

(3) That it is not to be understood of sudden and surprising events, but of a lasting and continued state.

(4) It is to be understood of persons under equal circumstances, when we compare the condition of people with each other: not the nobles of one nation with the peasants of another, nor the princes with the people, but every rank and order of men with those of the same rank and condition. And upon these terms we need no other proof of the truth of this assertion than the instance in the text of the people of Israel, which will best appear by comparing the state of both kingdoms after the body of the people was broken into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. The kingdom of Israel by Jeroboam's policy, and for reasons of state, fell off from the worship of the true God, and worshipped the calves of Dan and Bethel. But did they prosper or succeed more than the kingdom of Judah? The ten tribes had a much larger territory, yet the kingdom of Judah was stronger and flourished more, and continued longer by 135 years than the kingdom of Israel did; and when they were carried into captivity the ten tribes were lost as to their name and interest among the people of Assyria; but the two tribes were restored after 70 years' captivity under the princes of the line of David.


1. When they are committed after more than ordinary mercies received, such as in reason ought to keep men most from the commission of them, as greater knowledge of the will of God that other people enjoy, more frequent warnings of their danger than others have had, many and great deliverances which God hath vouchsafed.

2. When they are committed with more than ordinary contempt of God and religion.

3. When there is an universal degeneracy of all ranks and conditions of men. Thus I have considered the influence which doing wickedly hath upon the ruin of a nation, it remains now that I make application of this to our own case. We have been a people that have received wonderful mercies and many final deliverances from God's hand. He hath placed us in a rich and fruitful land, and hath furnished us with so great plenty, that even that hath been thought our burden; hath blessed us with such an increase of trade that our merchants far exceed those of Tyre both in riches and number. Our ships of trade are like a valley of cedars when they lie at home, and when they are abroad they compass the earth, and make the fiches of the East and West Indies to meet in our streets. As to our civil constitution, if we consider the admirable temper of our government, the justice and wisdom of our laws, and the greatness of our liberties, we have no reason to envy the condition of any people upon earth. Thus far all things tend still to make us a happy nation if we did know and value our own happiness. But that which above all other things should make us so hath been the great occasion of our trouble, and is still of our fears, and that is religion. And yet in this respect we have advantages above any other nation in the Christian world, having a Church reformed with so much wisdom and moderation as to avoid the dangerous extremes on both sides. But before I conclude the text suggests to us three things, very pertinent to the duty of this day, which I shall briefly recommend to your consideration.

1. Matter of humiliation for our sins, as they have an influence upon the nation's suffering.

2. Matter of advice, only fear the Lord, and serve Him in truth, and with all your heart.

3. Matter of encouragement, for consider what great things He hath done for you.

(Edward Stillingfleet.).

Parallel Verses
KJV: But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.

WEB: But if you shall still do wickedly, you shall be consumed, both you and your king."

Sin Ruins a Kingdom
Top of Page
Top of Page