I. THE SIN DESCRIBED.
1. Its main feature is the unlawful possession of another's property, through wrongful acquisition or detention. Force or deceit has been employed in procuring or retaining the goods. This sin may be committed in little things or great, and by communities as well as individuals.
2. Its source is avarice. The eye beholds, the heart covets, the will consents, and the hand grasps, as in the history of Achan, who robbed God (Joshua 7:21). There is thus the evil cooperation of the senses and faculties, sin in inward thought and outward act. The temporary gratification of the flesh is preferred to the durable contentment of the spirit; self is brought into hideous prominence, as if it could never be coincident with the interest of others and of God. It is classed with sins of ignorance because, though wittingly done, the covetous desire seems to blind the moral sight, and man acts as if under the constraint of a foreign power. Beware of greed! it is insidious in its approaches, and awful in its effects.
3. It is aggravated by falsehood. One sin drags another in its wake; avarice prepares the way for lying, even demands it that its designs may be achieved. What has been taken by force is often defended by perjury. The pillars of wickedness are unstable; they need each other's support, for they cannot stand alone in their own native strength. A covetous heart calls for a deceitful tongue.
II. THE REPARATION. Real happiness does not accompany sin; it is a thorny rose, a cup with nauseous elements, a nightmare sleep. Though no human eye detect the wrong, the sinner is guilty, and knows that One above will not recognize the right of might and violence, nor allow his name to be used with impunity as a shield to vice. Remorse tortures the transgressor, until he is driven to confess his crime and to make amends for it. The Law mercifully appoints a salve for the bleeding conscience.
1. Full restitution to the rightful owner. The property stolen or retained, together with an added fifth, is returned as compensation for the injury suffered. Sin is shown to be unprofitable, and no length of possession is allowed to supply a reason for inequitable retention. Lapse of time must never be supposed to bar recovery of rights. Are there no persons in our assemblies to whom this law is applicable?
2. Acknowledgment of an offense committed against God. It was "a trespass against the Lord" (verse 2), and in several respects. His commandments were broken, notably the second, third, eighth, and tenth (Exodus 20). An atonement is required, the sacrifice of a ram, the fat parts of which are burnt on the altar, and the rest eaten by the priests. The two branches of the moral law are closely connected. To violate the one is to dishonour the other. Experience attests their contiguity. Those who best regard the interests of their neighbours are the men that are jealous for the honour of God. Forget not to impress upon children the importance of asking, not only their parents' pardon, but the forgiveness of their heavenly Father when they have acted dishonestly or unkindly. Frequently the newspapers record the receipt by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of money sent because of unpaid taxes. Do the senders always remember that they have sinned against God as well as man; and implore forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ? - S.R.A.
i.e., labour as much as may be to draw them into particulars; as to say, In this and in this, at such and such a time, on such an occasion, and in such a place, I have sinned against my God; for it is not enough for a man to be sorrowful in the general, because he is a sinner; but he must draw himself out into particulars, in what manner, and with what sins he hath displeased God, otherwise he may deceive his own soul.
He shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing.Poland was bound for Havre, with a cargo of cotton on board. By some singular accident the cotton took fire clear down in the hold. The captain, finding that he could not reach the fire, undertook to smother it; but in vain. Then he caulked down the hatchways; but the deck grew so hot that neither passengers nor crew could stand on it. At length he fired a signal gun in distress, put all his people into the boats, and left the doomed ship to her fate. He watched her as she ploughed gallantly through the waves, with all her canvas on; but ere she sunk below the horizon, the fire burst forth in a sheet of flame to the mast-head. That ill-fated packet, carrying the fatal fire in her own hold, is a vivid picture of the moral condition of thousands of men and women. They cover their sins by all manner of concealments; they batten down the hatchways with a show of respectability, and, alas! sometimes with an outward profession of religion; but the deadly thing remains underneath in the heart, and if it does not burst forth in this world, it will in the next. Probably this reveals the reason why some Church members are so constantly halting and stumbling and fall so easily into backsliding. Their "first works" of repentance and confession to God were shallow.
(T. L. Cuyler.)
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