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appeared, and was not only pardoned, but rewarded for his confidence in the Emperor's clemency. His conduct faintly resembled that which Joshua, on the part of God, exhibited towards the men of Gibeon; and had their surrender been as unreserved, as the submission of the Roman culprit, the result would doubtless have been as satisfactory. Their duplicity, however, demands us next to consider, THE SUCCESS OF THEIR STRATAGEM,
(1.) Their appearance was not sufficiently scrutinized, their story not well examined, their plea too lightly admitted. Their request therefore, was granted, and Joshua gave them assurance of life. Some writers have imagined, that it was permitted the Israelites to make peace with the nations of Canaan, upon condition of their entire subjection. Others have asserted, that the sentence of destruction against them was final and unrepealable. One thing is plain, that conditional mercy might be shown to these people; otherwise, Rahab, her kindred, and family, could not have been lawfully preserved. The threatened destruction was therefore to be put into act, upon all who would not serve Israel, forsake their idolatries, and worship God.
Exod. xxiii. 21-23. xxxiv. 12. Deut. vii. 2. compared with Deut. xx. 11.
In the same manner the message of wrath was sent forth by the mouth of Jonah, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown." But although the precise time of its ruin was thus declared, its King, its nobles, and its people, repented of their iniquities, and their offended "God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil that he had said he would do unto them, and he did it not.". However they might have been deceived, Joshua and the men of Israel had sworn to save the lives of these prostrate Gibeonites; and like the acceptable servant of the Lord described by David, resolved to keep their oath, though it might be to their own hurt and hindrance. Had that oath pledged them to any unlawful act, they could have kept it only with the peril of their souls, as Herod charged himself with the blood of the Baptist, because of his guilty pledge to Herodias-or as those Jews made themselves guilty of the blood of Paul, because they bound themselves under a curse that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed him. The gift of life was plainly conformable to the will and purposes of the God of mercy, because he did not revoke it. Nay, when Saul, under a pretence of zeal, slew the Gibeonites four
'Jonah iii. 10.
hundred and thirty years after this period, their death was solemnly avenged upon his seven sons, so as to make his house almost childless in Israel. Even when the congregation murmured against the princes and Joshua for their clemency in sparing these enemies, after their fraud had been discovered, they still adhered to their purpose, lest God should be dishonoured by the perfidious breach of a promise. "We have sworn unto them by the Lord God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them." A sincerity so unblemished, and a simplicity so holy, well become the Christian soldier, and the man of God. He may be deceived, his kindness may be abused, his love appealed to under false pretences: but let him not therefore repent, that he hath acted according to the will of God, and the rule of charity. It is not for him to see the heart. When he has used all needful and lawful means of discovery, let him not fear to open his hand wide to his brother, to the poor and the needy in the land. If it be a maxim in English law, that many guilty should escape, rather than that one innocent man should suffer, it is equally a maxim in the law of Christian love, that benevolence should be often wronged by the undeserving, rather than that one real object of pity, one truly suffering member of Jesus Christ should be deprived of
that relief which, in the name of our common head he claims from Christian compassion.
Hath this part of the history then, it may be asked, no voice to those, who under much ignorance, much infirmity, and much sin, in the manner of their approach to the Father of mercies, are still trembling at their danger, and would gladly escape it? It hath indeed. Their forfeited souls shall be spared; their trespasses pardoned; and the sentence of eternal death reversed, through the merit and intercession of him who died for them, the "just for the unjust, that he might bring them to God." When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.
(2.) "Lying lips are but for a moment." Three days only had elapsed before the deception of the Gibeonites was discovered. They were not indeed punished with that death which they so fully merited, but they were destined to lose all their civil and national distinctions, and to become servants of the congregation, as hewers of wood and drawers of water for the tabernacle of God. If these men of Gibeon had come to Joshua in simplicity, their pardon would have been accompanied with other mercies, from which they were afterwards excluded. Thus also shall
it happen to him who approaches the author of eternal salvation, in the spirit of truth, laying his heart open before the Lord, confessing all his misdeeds, alive to his danger, and hoping mercy, not through any extenuation of his guilt, but with that contrite heart which God will not despise. That offender against the divine law, who in his plea for mercy underrates his sin, or makes any reservation of his state, puts aside the ample completion of the promise, Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. "Cleanse your hands ye sinners, and purify your hearts ye double minded." Thus "draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you." Thus plead individually with him, "Lord pardon my sin for it is great:" and then hope, that he will " do for you exceeding abundantly, above all that you can ask or think." You are not straitened in him, but in yourselves. The more fully you comprehend, lament, and would avoid your danger, the more certainly will you bespeak the compassions of his Son-the more fully experience the riches of his love. He will be glorified by your confession. That denied, his mercies will be withheld,-that imperfectly made, they will be imperfectly bestowed,—that fully uttered, they will be largely and abund