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their self-interests required them to reject Jesus, and, therefore, they would not receive Him as the Messiah. They professed to proceed against Him, and to put Him to death, as Cæsar's friends, lest the Romans should come and destroy them. And they succeeded in crucifying Him, but the Romans came, and burnt their temple and city with fire.
These cases, as also the case of Pharaoh, show most conclusively that it is foolish and vain for men to attempt to stifle conviction by their supposed self-interests. It is a great mistake to sacrifice truth for fear of any temporal calamity. The history of Divine Providence demonstrates that it is the rule of His retributive justice to bring on men the very evil they try to escape by doing violence to their convictions, or even to what should have been their convictions, for the stupidity, obtuseness, or indistinct conceptions of truth, or duty, do not in anywise invalidate their paramount claims. It requires no argument to prove that it is common for men to pursue what they suppose, at the time, to be for their own interest, in spite of their convictions, and it is scarcely necessary to present illustrations of God's punishing such men for their disregard of right principle, by bringing on them the very calamities which they hoped to escape by wrong doing. The forms under which the principles that are stated and illustrated in the cases just cited—of the Pharisees and priests—may have been various at different times, and with different persons, but the lapse of centuries has not changed the Divine Rule. It has never been repealed. There has been no dying out of the principle. Our streets and prisons are full of illustrations of a retributive Providence.
DIVINE JUDGMENTS JUST.
Let it, then, be repeated, the history of the world, in the light of Divine Providence, is but an illuminated volume of Retributive Justice. The punishment which God inflicts, seen from a Bible stand-point, takes the shape of the very calamity which men sacrificed principle to escape, or hoped to avert by continuing in sin. This was, literally, the case with the Jews. They thought to propitiate the Romans by crucifying Jesus ; but, because of their rejection of Christ, God stirred up the Romans to come and destroy them. And so, always, the resort to unlawful means to avert an impending evil, or to prevent evil, is only to make the matter
And the Divine judgments frequently, if not always, carry in them the stamp and print of the sin for which they are inflicted. There is a conformity between the crime and the punishment. Nor is there any view of sin, or of the Divine Justice, more awful than this. The Romans did come and take
the place and nation of the very men who sinned in trying to propitiate them. The Jews acted on the principle of doing evil that good might come, but the good did not come, and the evil increased to sevenfold vengeance. This is a striking case, but by no means the only one in the Bible. In the conquest of Canaan, we find that a certain king seems to have been treated in a barba
His thumbs and great toes were cut off. But even the heathen and savage Adoni-bezek recognized the principle that he was treated as he had treated others. “ Three score and ten kings,” said he, “having their thumbs and great toes cut off, gathered their meat under
: as I have done, so hath the Lord God requited me.” Pharaoh decreed that all
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the Hebrew male children should be drowned, and he was himself and his host drowned in the Red Sea. Eli's great sin was in not restraining his sons, and he was punished in their death. Hezekiah's weakness was in showing his treasure to the servants of the king of Babylon, and he was punished in having it taken from him, and his own eyes put out.
Now, as we are not endowed with omnipresence and with omniscience, so it is not fair to require us to support this rule by an appeal to individual histories in our day. And yet I am perfectly sure that, in every community, intelligent observers will be at no loss to find illustrations in point. The rule of God's retributive justice is, that when conscience is set at nought and principle sacrificed, for the sake of some imagined advantage, then the result is a reaction, that brings upon the sinner a punishment, in kind and sort, appropriate to the nature of his sin. To support the truth of this rule, it is not necessary to prove that it is applied, in the present world, in every individual case; but only, that we have sufficient proof that it is the general rule. And this, we think, can hardly be denied. How is it with the tradesman or mechanic, who, against the principles of his education and his conviction of right, continues his business on the Lord's Day, for the sake of some supposed necessity or temporary advantage? In the long run, is he prosperous ? Is any Sabbath-breaking community, in the long run, a truly happy one? And the merchant, or banker, who, for the sake of preventing apprehended bankruptcy, sacrifices principledoes he come out well in the end ? Does not all experience prove that honesty is the best policy? Take any
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given period of twenty-five years, or even half of that number, in any of our commercial emporiums. Give us the full and faithful history of all the young traders, merchants and clerks who have figured, during that time, in Boston, New York or New Orleans, and say, who are the happiest and best to do in the world? With whom would you prefer your lot to be cast ? With those who have maintained a conscience void of offense toward God and man, or with those who have sacrificed principle for the sake of some temporary benefit? On which side of the divine rule does your observation of every day life place those who are blighted in name, bankrupt in estate, and broken in heart? Is not the preponderance of such vastly on the side of those who are palpable violators of right principle? And do you not believe, from the lessons of our streets, that if faithful biographies were written of its moving masses, that it would be seen that their wrongdoing is the fruit of wrong principles, either avowed, or allowed to enter into their calculations, and that the turning point of their moral delinquency was just where right and expediency battled for the supremacy—the point just where conscience rose in arms, and made a stand against corrupt principle, marking out clearly the pachway of duty, and where, on the contrary, imagined interest said, stoutly and defiantly, No; but this line of conduct must be pursued, at least, for the presentand they yielded, and are lost. Every one has witnessed such cases—perhaps numerous instances of singular vicissitude. One misfortune after another falls man; and, like a camel in the slime-pits of the Dead Sea, his flounderings only sink him the deeper. All
his efforts to recover himself prove unavailing. The Romans are upon him, and, to escape them, he sacrifices principle; but, instead of being appeased by his sacrifice, they come upon him with tenfold vengeance, and, now, of all men, he is the most miserable. The bitterness of present degradation is enhanced by the recollections of former prosperity, and by the consciousness that he sold his convictions of right for the purpose of some imagined benefit. The sting of the neverdying worm, that gnaws in his vitals, is, that he feels that he is reaping what he sowed. His punishment has an awful and mysterious conformity to his sin. The avenging eye and drawn sword of Nemesis are ever and always upon him. He himself is hell. A monument of the justice of God upon one that swerves from right for the sake of what appeared to be profitable. And even if it be possible for some individual, or for several, who have adopted expediency rather than principle, as their rule of conduct, to go on, unvisited by the Romans, to the end of life; it only proves that there is a future state where the account must be settled; and, unless repented of and forgiven, the delay only enhances the terribleness of the retribution. Nor is there any fact or principle revealed in science or religion that annuls this fearful connection of sin and punishment; and, if the same character is preserved to retributive justice in a future state, then will the sins of the finally impenitent and unforgiven eternally reproduce themselves in their self-procured tormentings. We have only to suppose a remorseful and agitated conscience, pursuing the incorrigibly wicked, and we have an agent of torment as endless as their own existence, fixing the