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be manifested in the day of judgment and recompence. The manner in which the Gibeonites were impressed with the victories of Israel, and the measures induced by these convictions, though mixed with much of debasing alloy, exhibit an instructive lesson of the manner in which men should be persuaded, by the terrors of the Lord, to "flee from the wrath to come, and lay hold on eternal life." In order that we may avoid the evil, and choose the good, it will be necessary to consider,
I. THE STRATAGEM OF THE GIBEONITES. II. THE EXTENT TO WHICH IT SUCCEEDED. I. They were situated in the midst of those guilty nations, whose gross idolatry and daring iniquities had awakened the wrath of God against them, and provoked him to pass upon them a sentence of utter extermination. The armies of Israel were already within the land, as appointed ministers of his threatened vengeance. It had been partly executed: and the ruins of Jericho and Ai were its first dreadful trophies. While the deceitfulness of sin hardened the hearts of their neighbours, the Gibeonites determined upon making an immediate peace with Israel.
(1.) In this resolve there was much to deserve praise and imitation. Had they remained at home until the storm of war burst over their
heads, it would have overwhelmed them with an irresistible ruin. Gathering force as it swept along its destined path, and embracing every moment a wider extent of desolation, the possibility of escaping from it, would have been continually diminished. If the Gibeonites attempted to retreat before it, other nations would probably have resisted their flight, and driven them back again, or exterminated them, as dangerous invaders. They had indeed been told, that God had commanded his servant Moses to give the men of Israel all the land, and to destroy its inhabitants before them: but the sternest enemy might be disarmed by submission. It was at least their only resource; and they fled to it in trembling hope. All the men of Gibeon are reported to have been mighty: but what was human strength that it should contend with the manifest interference of an omnipotent God? They felt its weakness, and wisely declined the unequal
There is a proclamatiom gone forth against all who are enemies to God in their minds by wicked works; against all, who, instead of fleeing to the refuge of a Saviour's mercy, remain in their state of natural condemnation, “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenant of promise, having no hope, and
without God in the world." We are commanded to make this proclamation to you in affectionate fidelity. Do not desire us to repress it, to "prophesy smooth things, to prophesy deceits." Rather encourage us, to make a true representation of your danger, and of the means of your deliverance. If any of you still remain under the imputation of unpardoned transgression, without justification from sin, through faith in the great atonement, and therefore without peace between you and God, do not deceive yourselves by groundless hopes of safety, because the great mass of mankind is on your side. If these things be not cunningly devised fables, but the true sayings of God; if his divine truth be pledged to fulfil every declaration of his word, and if his power to fulfil it be resistless, your only hope of safety lies in immediate submission. Woe to him that striveth with his Maker! Do not wait in listlessness and apathy, or in the pride of disdain, until the denunciation be accomplished. Do not thus, in effect say, Let him make speed and hasten his work that we may see it; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it. When the Saviour would visit you in the first work of his convincing mercy, say not, "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of
God; art thou come hither to torment us before the time?" There is no wisdom in staying till a judgment comes home to us: the only method of avoiding it, is to meet it half way. There is the same remedy of war, and of spiritual danger. To prevent an enemy in his own borders is the best stay of invasion; and to solicit God betimes, in a manifest peril, is the best antidote for death. Surely it had been counted folly to the Jews, if when Ahasuerus had sealed the warrant for their extermination, they had adorned their houses, planted their fields, and prepared their hearts for mirth, without making any effort to obtain a reversal of the decree. More palpable, more ruinous is the delusion of that man who remains in security, thinking only of safety and pleasure, while God hath a controversy with him for his soul. Agree, then, with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him; lest the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison, not to come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. Reflect, that while the decree of excision is passed against all who remain in hostility to the great salvation of God, that salvation is freely offered to those who flee for refuge to
'Bishop Hall's Works, I. 172.
the hope set before them. There is no peradventure, no balance of probabilities to check the steps, or chill the hopes of a believing penitent. Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out. Noah did not put forth his hand with such eager delight to receive the dove, when she came again to the ark, after vainly seeking rest for the sole of her foot, as that with which the compassionate Saviour will receive you, and give you rest, when you come to him weary and heavy laden. The tender father did not with more pity hasten to meet and embrace his returning son, than will the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, receive you to his love, reverse the sentence which his justice had passed upon you, and admit you, through the Spirit of adoption, to the privileges of his children. While he therefore, is thus solicitous for your salvation, will you remain indifferent? While the gracious Spirit of life and mercy is pleading with you for your soul, will you so love present ease and pleasure will you be so much influenced and deceived by that "evil heart of unbelief which departs from the living God," as to say, "Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season I will send for thee?" The rich mercies of the gospel are descending upon others, in love and pardon, peace and hope. Shall your souls then, remain like the fleece of Gi