Images de page
PDF
ePub

could not foresee, they stood agitated and trembling in the presence of that very brother whom they had so wickedly sold. He knew them, but they did not know him. And conscience could no longer sleep. They looked at one another, and all seemed to have, at once, the same self-reproving thoughts. And they said unto one another, "We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us !"

Conscience is the great betrayer of secret sin. It is one of the laws of God's government, that the apprehensions and forebodings of the mind under remorse shall, sooner or later, force the offender to the confession of his own guilt, and constrain him to be the publisher of his shame. No vigor of intellect, no strength of nerve, no sworn purpose of secrecy is able to stand out against the urgent pressure of a guilty and incensed conscience. When God commands her to speak, she will speak, and speak out, to the confusion of all the workers of iniquity. As nothing can suppress the inward complaints, so nothing can suppress the outward murmurings, of that inward condemnation which a guilty and terrified mind feels when bleeding, writhing under the agonies of an accusing conscience. You can go into no society where conscience is not one of your associates; you can enter no solitude where conscience does not follow you; conscience can make you pale on your lonely pillow; and even sleep, when it covers you with its heavy pall, does not so overpower the mind, but agitating dreams and visions creep stealthily beneath its folds, and this unwelcome messenger whispers, "Thou art the man!"

But this is not all: I remark

II. The man who practises secret sin may expect to be detected and exposed by the providence of God.

"Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth." That God is everywhere. He is present with all his creatures, and with every one of them at the same time. He is in all places, even the most distant, without being separated by distance, or confined by space. Go beyond the height of the heavens, he is there; beyond the length of the earth, and the breadth of the ocean, he is there. The king's palace, and the seaman's cabin, alike contain him. The most lonesome as well as the most populous haunts of iniquity, the most hidden recesses and the deepest caverns of wickedness are always under his immediate inspection. Impious the thought, and vain the attempt, to fly from the face of God. Neither land, nor sea, nor earth, nor heaven, nor hell itself, has any retreat for man, where he can lurk unseen, and remain hidden from that all-seeing eye to which even the blackest darkness is not dark, and night itself is as light as day.

In a thousand ways, unknown and unsuspected by men, he can expose their sin. Strange indeed is it, that they should ever be so infatuated, as to persuade themselves that they can keep it secret when he undertakes to bring it to light. They may be politic and wise in their commission of it, while their very policy and wisdom may be so directed by his providence as to indicate the means of its discovery; and the very plans on which they have relied for concealing it may proclaim their guilt. How often has it been verified in the history of crime, that wonted forethought and prudence so forsake the transgressor, that it would seem

as though he was determined to be his own accuser! Studied secrecy is sometimes too artful and defeats its own designs. While men are attempting to circumvent the providence of God, they are only throwing themselves into his hands, and giving his providence the better opportunity of circumventing them. Man is wise, but God is wiser; he is artful, but God is above him; it is in vain for the artful transgressor to say, "Can he see through the dark cloud ?"

We are told in the Bible, that "the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the earth, to show himself strong in behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him." Are they not also ever present, and ever wakeful to detect the secret transgressor? Your eye cannot see him, your ear cannot hear him, your touch cannot feel him; yet are you everywhere encircled with God. You cannot be so unknown, but he knows your downsetting, and your uprising, and understands your thoughts afar off. You cannot be so forgotten, but he remembers all your wickedness. It is a comfort to good and Christian men, that amid all their sorrows— sorrows unknown to the world-sorrows which they may not or cannot disclose-He who sees the sparrow and the worm, and counts the sands on the shore, sees them all. And what a discomfort to the wicked? How withering the thought, that God sees them; watches them; follows hard after them! What fearful terrors to the secret transgressor, amid sins which, it may be, neither friends nor foes have witnessed, and which no human being knows, that the great Witness and Judge sees them all; that the next page of his providence may disclose the public record of them, and that his own

voice will rehearse them, though the recital should make every ear that hears him to tingle.

Nor is this all: I remark,

III. There are others besides the Almighty God, who know more of the secret wickedness of men than they themselves suppose, and who are interested to tell of it.

Men know it, and will tell of it too. Your guilty accomplice knows it; all your guilty companions know it. Now it may be for their interest to keep it secret ; but it will not be so always. They may be sworn to secrecy; but their oath of secrecy will be laughed at and broken when the time comes that their selfishness and pride shall be the gainer by the perjury. Your friend may know it; but he may become your enemy. Your dearest friend may know it; she that sleeps in your bosom; your wife, your child may know it, and may chide you with it in a moment of inconsiderate rashness; or may turn against you in order to protect themselves. Or they may whisper it in the closet; or may utter it in their dreams.

There are others, besides men, who know and may declare it. There are invisible spirits everywhere about you; spirits of good, and spirits of evil. Evil spirits know it, for they tempted you to commit the wickedness. They helped you to excuse it, and when you hesitated, they promised to cover it with the veil of secrecy. But the devil is not to be trusted with such 'secrets. He is a liar from the beginning. He is very artful in getting men into difficulty, and very faithless in getting them out of it. He only waits permission from his great Sovereign, not only to proclaim your folly, but to aggravate your shame. He at least despises you for being the victim of his devices; and is

just mean enough to triumph over you when you have fallen. He is your greatest enemy, and would cover you with confusion. He is quite familiar with scenes of wickedness. He notes and marks them, and visits them to see who is there, and to offer his counsel, and lend a helping hand in all their iniquity. And, believe me, no sooner do they become the victims of his subtlety, than he glories in it, and boasts himself that they were taken captive by him at his will.

There are good spirits, too, everywhere hovering around men. These winged messengers of heavenly mercy, are ever and anon fulfilling their errands of love; and never more opportunely than by warning the tempted of their danger, and suggesting those more virtuous resolutions which may break the snare of the Evil One. Through their watchful ministrations, many a dark and dreary path is changed as though by magic, and becomes radiant with light and beauty. Though unseen by you, they saw the sin you vainly hoped to conceal. They stood near you, and entreated you, with silent and matchless eloquence, not to touch "that abominable thing which God's soul hateth." They came down from heaven on purpose to resist the seduction of those foul spirits that were tempting you. They could have foiled the adversary but for you; but you would not listen to them. And when you committed that deed of wickedness, they noted it down. They were grieved that you committed it, and wondered at your presumption. And they have preserved it in long remembrance, and are witnesses against you. You would not be diverted from your purpose; and now these holy and angelic ones stand ready, when

« PrécédentContinuer »