Proverbs 13:21

These are striking words, and they give us a graphic picture of penalty in pursuit of the guilt which is seeking and hoping to escape, but which is certain to be overtaken.

I. SIN AND SUFFERING ARE INSEPARABLY ASSOCIATED IN THOUGHT, In our judgment and in our feeling they go together; they belong to one another. There is no need to go beyond this point; it is ultimate. If we sin, we deserve to suffer, and must expect to suffer. It is right that we should, and the hand that brings it about is a righteous hand.

11. THEY OFTEN SEEM TO BE DIVIDED IN FACT. As we observe human life, we see that the murderer sometimes escapes the reach of law, that the swindler sometimes flourishes upon the losses of his victims, that the tyrant sometimes reigns long over the nation he has defrauded of its freedom, that sometimes the man who lives in the practice of vice continues to enjoy health for many years, that the dishonest author may reap a considerable reputation and may long remain unexposed, etc. but in this case -

III. PENALTY IS PURSUING SIN AND WILL OVERTAKE IT. "Evil pursueth sinners" Justice is on the track, and sooner or later will lay its hand upon its victim.

1. It will most likely do so here. Very frequently, indeed almost always, some penalty immediately overtakes guilt; if not in bodily loss or suffering, yet in spiritual injury. And if not at once, penalty soon follows crime, vice, wrong doing. Or if not soon, yet after many years, the "evil" comes and lays its stern hand upon the shoulder. The man may not, probably does not, see or even believe in its approach. Its step is silent, and it may be slow, but it is constant and certain. The "evil" may be physical, and very of, on it is so; or it may be mental, intellectual; or it may be circumstantial; or it may be in reputation; or it may be in character, and this last, though least seen and often least regarded, is in truth the saddest and the most serious of all, for it affects the man himself - he "loses his own soul." Thus, "though leaden-footed," penalty is "iron-handed."

2. It will surely do so hereafter. (See Matthew 25:31, 32; 2 Corinthians 5:10, etc.) Yet not inconsistent with all this, -

IV. THERE IS ONE MERCIFUL INTERCEPTION. If we truly repent of our sin, we shall be freely and abundantly forgiven.

1. God will change his condemnation into acceptance and parental favour, so that we shall walk thenceforward in the light of his countenance.

2. He will avert the heavier consequences of our sin by introducing into our heart and life all the remedial and restorative influences of righteousness. And there must be considered -

V. THE CONVERSE BENEFICENT LAW AFFECTING THE RIGHTEOUS. "To the righteous good shall be repaid."

1. All right acts are immediately followed by an inner and spiritual blessing; we must be something the better in soul forevery really right thing we do.

2. All right actions, done in a reverent and filial spirit, will bring God's blessing down further on. He is "not unrighteous to forget our work of faith and our labour of love." Such blessings come in many forms, and at various intervals; but they do come; they are following the upright, and they will overtake them and cream them.

3. The reward of integrity and faithfulness only comes in part below; God holds great things in reserve for us (Matthew 25:21; 1 Corinthians 4:5). - C.

Evil pursueth sinners:but to the righteous good shall be repaid.
The practice of righteousness is men's true interest, even in this present life. Wickedness is generally attended with great misery, even here as well as hereafter. Exceptions must, of course, be made in cases of persecution for truth and righteousness' sake.

1. Consider mankind in general, under the notion of one universal community. Then the only thing which distinguishes men from wild beasts, with regard to any true happiness of life, is religion, or a sense of the just and right, and of the difference between moral good and evil. Reason, dissociated from moral obligation, only makes men more effectually destroy one another. Reason implying a sense of moral obligation is the secret of happiness in human life.

2. Take a less general view of mankind, in their more restrained political capacity, as formed into particular distinct nations and governments. In this view the only true and lasting happiness depends on the practice of righteousness and true virtue. In proportion as justice, and order, and truth, and fidelity prevail, the happiness of society is secured.

3. Consider men singly, every one in his mere private and personal capacity. Still the only possibility of lasting happiness is the practice of righteousness, charity, temperance, and universal virtue. Illustrate in relation to health; riches, honour, and reputation; inward peace and satisfaction in a man's own mind. Here virtue triumphs absolutely without control, and has no competitor.

(S. Clarke.)

The pursuit is a successful pursuit. The evil not only follows the transgressor, but it lays hold of him at last, and wrings out its penalties. Much sin is committed in spite of the remonstrance of conscience, and with the secret acknowledgments, on the part of the perpetrator, that he is doing wrong, and exposing himself to punishment. These men must have some specific with which they quiet their apprehensions, and procure for themselves an ease in the doing of what they know to be wrong. Direct attention to one form of deceit — the expectation of concealment, and therefore of impunity. It is unquestionably thus in regard of those offences of which human laws take cognisance. And much sin is committed with the secret hope that God will not observe it, or that He will not be extreme to take vengeance. It is false to suppose that any sin will pass without recompense just because Christianity is a system which provides in full measure for its forgiveness. Our redemption through Christ does not at all exempt from the temporal penalties of sin. It so makes future happiness dependent on present holiness that every pardoned sin may be punished with the loss of something glorious in eternity. It is a mistaken objection to Christianity that the arrangements of the Christian system secure a certain class of men against the being pursued and overtaken in their sins, because it takes for granted that forgiven sin must go wholly unpunished. Evil "pursueth"; that is, hunts the sinner with the greatest pertinacity, tracking him through the various scenes of life, and then, when the man fancies he is safe, suddenly darting upon him, and exacting all the punishment. Illustrate by the vices and follies of youth-time, or by the mere idling away of the early years of life. No sin can ever be committed which is not, in one way or another, punished by God. This is true of sins committed after conversion, as well as before conversion. Then let no man depart and think that he may sin yet one more sin and not eventually be a sufferer.

(Henry Melvill, B. D.)

That retributory justice tracks our footsteps, is a doctrine as old as the race. It grows out of the conscience, and is confirmed by the experience of mankind. The Nemesis of the heathen, which was a mysterious pursuer of character, was only a personification of the doctrine. Misery grows out of sin, and happiness out of goodness.

I. THE LAW OF MORAL CAUSATION SHOWS THIS. Man's character is not the creation of a day or an hour, it is the result of past actions. When no change has taken place, like that of regeneration, the man's character to-day is the result of the whole of his past life, and will be, without such a renovation, the cause of the whole of his future. Character is a fruitful tree, it never ceases bearing, every branch is clustered, but the fruit is either misery or happiness, according to its own vital essence.

II. THE CONSTITUTION OF MORAL MIND SHOWS THIS. Moral mind has at least two faculties.

1. One to recall the past. The law of memory compels us to re-live our past lives.

2. One to feel the past. The past does not flit before us as shadows on the wall, as images on the glass, making no impression; it falls on conscience, it stirs it into feeling. The soul is compelled to shudder at a wicked past, whilst a virtuous past fills it with a quiet and ineffable delight.

III. THE TEACHING OF HOLY WRIT SHOWS THIS. The Bible assures us that God will render to every man according to his deeds (Joshua 7:20-26; Matthew 35.; Romans 2:6-10).

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

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