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MEN'S SINS GOING BEFORE AND AFTER
“ Some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment ; and some men they follow after."
IT is not often that you find united in the same
mind the keen penetration which can distinguish finely between unapparent differences, and the large grasp of thought which can ascend to the universal laws of being. But the intellect of the Apostle Paul possessed both of these mental qualities. We find in his writings the sharpest distinctions joined with the broadest generalizations. The above passage from his first letter to Timothy is an instance of his power of delicate analysis. He here describes two kinds of human characters in a very
There are sins of two kinds," says the Apostle, “and virtues of two kinds; recognize them both.” Some men's sins are open, patent to all; vices of éclat, bringing down swift and present retribution. These sins all see. They go before men to judg
ment. The man's sins precede him ; we see them before we see him. We read them in his face, hear them in his voice, recognize them in his whole being. The judgment of those sins is falling upon them almost before he can commit them. He is a careless man; he is reckless ; he is passionate; he is self-indulgent; he is conceited; he is lazy. His character in all such particulars announces itself from afar. Poor fellow! We know that he is guilty of such faults before we hear of them. They go before him to judgment.
As the band of music precedes the military company, announcing its approach, so this sounding troop of follies marches before the man, causing him to be judged, to be censured, to be disliked, to be shunned by his fellow-men.
But other men's sins are latent, following after them. They are not the vices of éclat, but more subtle and interior, consuming slowly the centre of their being. In their case the judgment is deferred, not speedily executed, and they deem they have escaped the penalty. Thus there are two sorts of hidden lives, -- the life of goodness, “hid with Christ in God;" the life of evil, hid with Satan in hell. But there is nothing covered, good or bad, which shall not be revealed, nor anything hid which shall not be known. The evil which follows after us will overtake us at last if we do not repent of it and forsake it. The good which follows after us will bless us with its presence and glory.
The story of the Pharisee and Publican gives us an example of the two kinds of evil. The sins of the Publican went before him, apparent to all. He belonged to a class whose temptations to injustice were great.
It had the power of oppressing men by its extortions, of grinding the face of the poor, of cheating the treasury for its own benefit. These sins marched before these men, and the best of them were believed to be guilty of such extortion and dishonesty. They had the credit of all the wrong they did, and more. They were condemned, as a class, to infamy and dishonor. If they tried to do right, to be just and honest, no one would believe it of them. Their evil was seen, their goodness hidden.
Of the Pharisee the opposite was true. His virtues went before him, in full sight. He was what we should now call "a professor of religion,"
a poor term, which ought to be banished from the church dictionary. Every one saw his fasts, heard his prayers, beheld his large contributions to the treasury of the Temple. His vices were less apparent; they were egotism, spiritual pride, want of charity, of humility, and of the love of truth. He was like the tree, fair outwardly, but rotten within, ready to fall with the first strong wind.
Within the past few years we have had many examples of men who stood fair before the community, while they were secretly doing wrong. Presidents and treasurers of manufacturing corporations and