Psalm 73:4
The victorious general, in the hour of triumph, has not unfrequently reason to remember how nearly, through oversight or miscalculation, he had lost the day. A little more pressure on this wing or that, a trifling prolongation of the struggle, a few minutes' further delay in the arrival of reinforcements, and his proud banner had been dragged in the dust. The pilot, steering his barque safely into port, sometimes knows how, through lack of seamanship, he nearly made shipwreck. And the successful merchant remembers crises in his history when he found himself on the brink of ruin - when the last straw only was wanting to precipitate the catastrophe. And like narrow escapes occur in the spiritual life.

I. NOTE SOME OF THEM.

1. The doubt and darkness of unbelief caused by brooding over the mysteries of providence (cf. Jeremiah 48:11).

2. Terrible temptation. See Joseph in prison, Moses in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, the martyrs. "The righteous scarcely are saved."

3. When brought very low, as the prodigal son was, by our own sin. Then the crisis is when we have to decide whether we will turn back to God or go on in our sin. The prodigal went back to his father; Ephraim was joined to his idols, and, like Amon, "sinned more and more." How many are in heaven now who once were all but lost! David, Manasseh, Peter, the penitent thief, Mary Magdalene, and many more.

II. WHAT SUCH INSTANCES TEACH US.

1. Never to despair of any one. God can save them.

2. Never to presume for ourselves. "Let him that thinketh he standeth," etc.

3. Great thankfulness, if we are kept.

4. Deep sympathy with those who fall.

5. Ever to abide in Christ. - S.C.







For there are no bands in their death.
I. THEIR MINDS ARE OCCUPIED EXCLUSIVELY WITH THE THINGS OF A PRESENT WORLD (Philippians 3:19).

1. Habits.

2. Tastes.

3. Wants.

II. THE CONSCIENCE AND HEART, THEN, EXEMPLIFY THE EFFECT OF LONG-CONTINUED RESISTANCE TO THE GOSPEL.

1. The natural effect.

2. The judicial effect.

3. This produced by the abuse of abundant mercy.

III. THE MORAL CHARACTER OF GOD IS GROSSLY MISAPPREHENDED.

1. It is with God they have to do.

2. Did they apprehend His character, infinitely holy and just.

3. They have an idol in His place.

IV. THE NATURE OF THE LAW BY WHICH THEY ARE TO BE TRIED AND JUDGED IS NOT UNDERSTOOD.

V. THERE IS GENERALLY AN EXTREME IGNORANCE AS TO THE NATURE OF THE SALVATION WHICH IS OFFERED IN THE GOSPEL.

(J. Stewart.)

I. Let us see what are SOME OF THE BANDS OF DEATH, the sufferings of the Christian at his departure, that we may realize more fully this seeming freedom and tranquillity of the wicked. Need we say that death, when seriously looked at, is always terrible? Consider that religion teaches men to be far more jealous of themselves, and to think far more deeply and correctly of judgment and of eternity than others do. At death the books are made up, our fate sealed irrevocably. There is also the sense of the holiness of God, before whom he must so soon appear, with the eager desire that he had served Him in his day and generation with all tenderness of conscience, and a consequently painful sense of shortcomings and offences.

II. THE FREEDOM OF THE WICKED.

1. The quietness and peacefulness of the death-bed of a wicked man, without the agony of remorse, without bitter self-chiding and awful presentiments of judgment and eternity, may tell the same tale that the violence, the pride, the cruelty, the rashness, the unrestrained licentiousness of his life did.

2. The placid death-bed of the wicked, without a groan, or pain, or fetter, without regrets or murmurs, is sometimes welcomed by him in his stolidity and ignorance as a happy escape from some disappointment or trouble.

3. The wicked shall be freed from bands in their death, if, by the temptations of Satan, they have been led to presume on that mercy from God which they have never sought.

4. They have no bands in their death, because of its utter suddenness and unexpectedness. This busy present, these manifold wants, and cravings, and indulgences, these strong drinks that deaden the soul, and their over-mastering passions of a life of brief rule over others, of vengeance, of rivalry, of tyranny, of temporary renown and influence — oh, how they succeed in banishing the thought of death while yet the vigour of life is full in veins and body!

(G. B. Blake, M. A.)

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