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SAINTS DESIRE GOD TO PUNISK SINNERS.
PSALM, XXVIII, 4-- Give them according to their deeds and according to the wickedness of their endeavours : give them after the work of their hands, render to them their desert.
These are the words of the man after God's own heart, who possessed pure benevolence and who ex: pressed the genuine feelings of his heart, in his address to the throne of divine grace.
It appears from the preceding petitions, that he presented this with peculiar solemnity and tenderness. "Unto thee will I cry, O Lord my rock ; be not silent to me, lest if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands towards thy holy oracle. Draw me not away with the wicked and with the workers of iniquity.”
And to manifest the sincerity of his request, he continues to cry, “Give them according to their deeds and according to the wickedness of their endeavours : give them after the work of their hands ; render to them their desert." He had prayed, that God would not draw him away with the wicked, nor cast his future and final lot among them. For they appeared so odious in bis sight and so deserving of the marks of the divine displeasure, that he could not only approve of their being punished, but could sincerely desire God would punish them for his own glory and the good of all holy beings. His petition is an expression of that love to holiness and hatred ef sin, which reigns in every pious, benevolent heart. Hence we may justly draw this general conclusion.
Good men do desire God to punish finally impenitent sinners according to their deserts. I shall,
1. Show why impenitent sinners deserve to be pun. ished ;
II. Show that some impenitent sinners more deserve to be punished than others ;
III. Show what is in plied in God's punishing them according to their deserts ; And,
IV. Show why good men desire God to punish them according to their deserts.
1. Let us consider why impenitent sinners deserve to be punished.
It seems to be supposed in the text, that there are three things, for which they deserve to be punished, their deeds, their works and their endeavours. But every one knows, there is no criminality or ill desert in mere external actions. Deeds and works are external actions, and simply considered, have no criminality. The ill desert of sinners, therefore, consists in something different from their works, or deeds, or external actions; and the text suggests the only ground of their ill desert. “Give them according to their deeds & according to the wickedness of their endeavours.” Their wickedness lies in their endeavours, or their intentions to do evil. All sin consists in selfishness ; and all selfishness lies in the heart. The heart is the seat of sin ; and a sinful heart consists in sinful desires, intentions, or affections. When men desire or intend, or endeavor to do evil, they are really guilty and deserve to be punished. It is the dictate of common sense, that no man deserves to be punished for his conduct, when he had no evil design in it, and it is equally the dictate of common sense, that every man deserves to be punished, when he has intended, or endeavoured to do evil. It is the character of all sinners, that every imagination of the thoughts of their heart is evil, only evil continually. All their free, voluntary exercises are entirely selfish and criminal, for which they deserve to be punished. Sin and guilt are naturally and inseparably connected. Of this all sinners are conscious. They know that when they commit sin, they are guilty and deserve to be punished. Joseph's brethren acknowledged that they were verily guilty and deserved to be punished for selling him into Égypt ; and Judas condemned and punished himself, for betraying his Lord and Master. The hearts of impenitent sinners are fully set in them to do evil, for which they are conscious that they deserve to be punished, whether they are punished, or not punished. They know the reason why God threatens to punish them both in this life and the life to come. They know it is because they are continually committing sin, which is the abominable thing that God hates and that he ought to punish them for. They know that sin creates guilt and guilt creates desert of punishment. This leads us to consider,
II. That some sinners more deserve to be punished, than others. So David thought when he said to God,
give then according to the wickedness of their endeavors, render to them their desert.” These phrases convey the idea, that some sinners may be more ill deserving than others. This must be true, if ill-desert is founded in the ill intention, or design of sinners. It is evident that one sinner may have a more selfish & malevolent design, than anuther ; and of course may be more deserving of punishment. Though all sinners act from selfish and sinister motives, yet they may act from different motives and contract different degrees of guilt. One may design to take away a man's property ; another may design to take away a man's life and another may design to destroy a nation..-These are all bad designs ; but the second is worse than the first and the third is worse than the second. Cain was more criminal than Achan, and Pharaoh was more criminal than Cain. It does not appear, that Achan intended to destroy any man's life, but Cain meant to destroy his brother's life, and Pharaoh meant to destroy a whole nation.
whole nation. Ill desert is always in
proportion to the ill design of the agent; and the ill design of the agent is always in proportion to the magnitude of the evil he designs to do. I know it is supposed, that ill desert is to be measured by the strength and tendency of an evil intention. But neither the strength, nor tendency of an evil intention is the proper measure of ill desert. It is as criminal to kill a man in cool blood, as in a violent passion. This is the dictate of common sense and agreeable to the laws of God and man. Cool, premeditated acts of killing are denominated murder, but violent and unpremeditated acts of killing are called man-slaughter. And there is a just foundation for this distinction. The man, who kills another from a cool,' deliberate intention, has more time and opportunity of viewing the act in its nature and dreadful consequences, than the man, who kills another suddenly and without previous consideration. Indeed, the badness of any evil intention does not depend upon the strength of the af. fection from which it flows, nor upon its evil tendency, any further than its evil tendency is foreseen. Some imagine, that erery sinful exercise of heart is infinitely criminal and ill deserving, because it tends to do infinite mischief and would produce this effect, if it were not under a divine control. But granting here what might be questioned, that every sin has a natural tendency to do infinite mischief, if it were not divinely controlled ; yet no man can be reasonably accountable for the evil tendency of his evil intention or action, any further than he foresaw its evil tendency,
If every sinner were accountable for all the evil consequences of his evil actions, he could not so much as conjecture the degree of guilt or ill desert that would be chargeable to his account. It must be supposed, therefore, that the sinner's guilt is only in proportion to the evil he intends to do and not in propor. tion to the evil he may actually do, or would have done, had not his evil action been overruled or restrained in its consequences. This may be illustrated by a scripture example. You remember that when Da..
vid fled from Saul, he went to Nob, under a pretence of consulting Abimelech, the priest, and by deception induced him to give him the shew-bread and Goliah’s sword This
This act was followed with most serious and fatal consequences. For when Saul was informed of it, he sent and destroyed four-score and five priests of the Lord. Now, if David did not foresee these fatal consequences of his conduct, what propriety could there be, that he should be chargeable with them? If be had no thought, that his deceiving Abimelech would have a tendency to destroy his father's house, how could he be guilty of murdering Abimelech and his father's house ? His guilt could not extend any further than his real intention extended ; nor could he be chargeable for the evil tendency of his action any further than he foresaw the consequences of it. And the same may be said of every other evil action. Its guilt cannot extend any farther than the agents knowledge of its evil tendency extends. But so far guilt always will extend. The evil intention of a sinful agent is the exact measure of his guilt, or ill desert. And according to this measure, the guilt of one person may be much greater than the guilt of another. There is a great difference in the views and designs of sinners. Some act upon a smaller and some upon a larger scale. The sins of some men are much more heinous in the sight of God than others. This doctrine Christ abundantly taught. He represented some sins as motes & others as beams. He said, “the servant, that knows his master's will and does it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.” He said, if he had not come and spoken to the Jews, they had not had comparatively any sin. He said to Pilate, he that delivered him unto him had the greater sin meaning Caiphas, the high priest. Though Pilate was guilty in condemning Christ, yet he was not so guilty as Caiphas in delivering him into his hands. Caiphas had more light than Pilate ; and this rendered his guilt much greater than Pilate's. Pilate intended to crucify Christ to please the people ; but Caiphas intended to get Christ cru