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Who that knows the dreadful consequences of offending God, the terrors of almighty justice, executed by almighty power-who that views with the eye of faith the woes inflicted by the worm that dieth not, and the worm that never shall be quenched, can see a mistaken fellowcreature ruining his soul, and sinning away every hope of its eternal salvation, without being moved to sorrow, and agitated by a regret, too frequently as vain, as it is poignant. And shall not this very grief of others like-minded with the compassionate Saviour, be reckoned by a just and holy God as aggravations of the transgressors' guilt? My brethren, if Christian friends have expostulated with any of you upon the evil of your way,—if tears have flowed from the eye, and anguish has filled the heart of a parent, a brother, a sister, or a friend, in consequence of the dishonour which you have done to the mercy of God, the blood of Christ, the pleading of the Holy Ghost,-if they have remonstrated with you, besought you to have pity upon yourselves, laid your awful case before God in prayer, and still found you obdurate, will not this, suppose ye, be required of you in the day of final retribution? Will it not add to the guilt of the devoted city in judgment, that Jesus wept over it, and would have saved it? And shall you be guiltless of this additional item in the awful
reckoning for sin? Alas, no! Bear the conviction deeply in your minds: and while there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth-while the Eternal Father waits your recovery, to bid heaven and earth rejoice over it, and to cry, "This my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found;”— while the Lamb of God desires to see in you of the travail of his soul, and to be satisfied-and while the hearts of Christian friends yearn over you, to bring you to salvation, listen to the united voice, obey the holy impulse, and be saved.
(3.) Against considerations of this kind, however, Achan might have been steeled and fortified but there were consequences to himself, which would repay his transgression, and make its folly and bitterness come home to his mind, with terrible regret. For a time the garment, and the shekels, and the wedge, lay in his tent: and though he could not wear the one, nor spend the others, he might pride himself upon possessing them, in the miserable delusion of a covetous spirit. But the Israelites were summoned before the Lord, and the hour of recompence was at hand. The lots were given forth. At first he might stand enwrapped in security, and little fearful, that among the mighty multitude assembled round him, he
alone should be detected: but this unholy confidence could not abide. The tribe of Judah, to which he belonged, is taken; and the probabilities of discovery are vastly increased. Some rising fear begins to struggle with his unholy confidence and now his heart throbs with a quicker and louder alarm; for the family of the Zarhites, of which he was a member, is selected from the rest, as containing the guilty man. That family comes near by its households; and lo the household of Zabdi is taken. Whither now shall Achan flee, and where is the hope of secresy with which he lulled his soul to sleep, in its guilt and crime? The family of Zabdi advances, the last lots are given forth; and behold, Achan the son of Carmi is found, and stands among the countless thousands of Israel, pointed out by the unerring finger of God, as the man who had taken of the accursed thing, and made himself a curse by this presumptuous act of sacrilege. The talents, and the raiment were beautiful in the eyes of Gehazi, when he bestowed them in the house: but how dim and worthless would they appear, when the prophet's voice thundered in his ear, and he went forth from the presence of the man of God, a leper white as snow. Ananias and Sapphira came boldly before the Apostles, doubtless taking credit to themselves for the craft with which
they had cheaply earned a good report of being merciful to the poor: but when they fell dead at the apostle's feet, the value of their money must have perished with them. Of all the delusions which the God of this world can spread before the heart, that practical infidelity which whispers the hope of impunity for sin is the most common and the most dreadful. Be sure, however, that your sin will find you out-probably before men; assuredly in that day, when the thousands of Israel who surrounded Achan will be as a drop of water, to the ocean, compared with the unimaginable multitude of the assembled world. Every secret sin will then shine as clearly before the eye of God, as the sun appears in the unclouded heaven. There is no darkness, neither shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves. Wrath will descend upon them. As Achan, his family, and all that he had, were stoned and burned in the fire, so must obdurate transgressors perish in the fierceness of that flame which the breath of an offended God will enkindle in judgment. Where then was Achan's joy in the accursed thing? Where also shall be the pleasure which the wicked and those who forget God took in the toys and trifles for which they have been contented to barter their eternal peace? What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and
lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? O, what will be the deep, the unavailing anguish of the convicted offender, when the last lot falls upon him, and when, in answer to his cry, "Hast thou found me O mine enemy?" the judge shall exclaim, and with it give his eternal sentence, "I have found thee!" My brethren, let the fate of Achan warn you to flee temptation, as Absalom's brethren fled from the feast, when they saw their brother Amnon murdered at the table for his offence. If you have already ventured upon the dark and downward way of wilful transgression, let the example of this lost Israelite meet you in the sad career; even as they who pursued Abner stood still, when they saw the bloody body of Asahel in the path before them. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
I. The experience of the Israelites on this occasion should teach us, never to undervalue the strength of a sinful temptation. The spies whom Joshua sent to view Ai thought meanly of its defences, and said "Let not all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai, and make not all the people to labour thither, for they are but few." In this