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النشر الإلكتروني

DISCOURSE XXII.

THE PUNISHMENT OF ADONI-BEZEK IM-
PROVED.

But Adoni-bezek fled: and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. And Adoni-bezek said, threescore and ten kings having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me.-Judges i. 6, 7.

DESTRUCTION had long been denounced upon the inhabitants of Canaan, for their sins. At length the measure of their iniquity is full; and the Jews are appointed to be the executioners of the divine vengeance. But Moses dies before they enter on the dreadful task. Joshua succeeds him, and becomes the Scourge of this devoted race. But even he dies before the complete reduction of the promised land. Immediately after his death, Judah and Simeon assemble their forces, and attack the enemy at Bezek, and gain a dreadful victory. They slew a thousand men, and took Adoni-bezek prisoner. On this bloody tyrant they inflict a punishment, as singular as it was severe" They "cut off his thumbs and his great toes.' This drew from him the words which you have heard. "Adoni-bezek said, threescore and ten kings having "their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered "their meat under my table: as I have done, so God "hath requited me."

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This passage of scripture is a picture. Let me hold it up to view, and call upon you to mark the principal contents of the representation.

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And I. I see in it the instability and uncertainty of worldly greatness. Look at this man-and behold in what slippery places God sets the mighty and noble. How great was he in the field-where armies fled before him how great in the palace-where a number of vanquished princes fed under his table-But behold him now-dethroned, insulted, dismembered; and his present extremity of wretchedness, embittered by the recollection of the prosperity that once crowned his head. "And seekest thou great things to thyself? "Seek them not. Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for "thou knowest not what a day will bring forth."

From the eagerness with which mankind pursue the distinctions of life, we should conclude, not only that they were very valuable in themselves, but that no kind of precariousness attached to them. We should suppose that they were able to ensure durable possession-and God, who in his word always gives language to actions, tells us "their inward thought is that their "houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling pla"ces to all generations: they call their lands after their "own names." But let not the strong be secure; let not the honorable be vain : let not the rich be highminded. Connect certainty with the motion of the wind, or with the waves of the sea-but O, do not trust this treacherous, this changeable world. Lay not "up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth "and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break "through and steal. Riches make to themselves "wings and fly away. Man being in honor abideth "not; he is like the beasts that perish."-What is all history, but a narrative of the reverses to which all earthly things are liable, however firmly established they once appeared to be; of the revolutions of empires, the destruction of cities; of the mighty put down from their seats, of councellors led away spoiled, of politicians disgraced, generals banished, and monarchs put to death?

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II. I see in it judgment overtakes the sinner in this

life. Nor does Adoni-bezek stand alone as an instance of the present punishment of sin. Behold Adam and Eve driven out of Paradise. See the flood sweeping away the world of the ungodly. See the smoke of the cities of the plain, remember Lot's wife-she looked back contrary to the divine command, and she became a pillar of salt. The servant of Elisha enters his master's presence-tells a lie and goes out a leper as white as snow. Ananias and Sapphira utter a known falsehood before the apostle, and are both instantly number. ed with the dead. And-of such importance is truth, to the welfare of the community-and so hateful is it to the Supreme Being that not only are all liars to have their portion in the lake, which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death-but in these instances we see "hell from beneath, moved to meet "them at their coming!"

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It may however be necessary to observe, that this is not always the case. The misery of the sinner is principally reserved for a future world, and we are now in a state of probation. But God would confirm our faith in his adorable providence. If all sin was punished here, we should look no further: if no sin, we should not easily believe in the power, the holiness, the truth of God. He therefore sometimes signally interposes; and will be known by the judgments which he executeth: "so that a man shall say, verily there is a reward "for the righteous; verily he is a God that judgeth the "earth."

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Present punishment too, is less frequently executed under the gospel, than under the law and the reason is-that a future state of retribution, was not so clearly and fully revealed to them, as to us. Hence, their threatenings are often filled with expressions of temporal evils, while our's only announce miseries beyond the grave. Then an adulterer was to be stoned, but now he is to be damned.

We may add, that the punishment of sin in this world, is sometimes unavoidable. Thus if nations are

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punished at all, they must be punished in time-for they have no existence in eternity: there men exist only as individuals. And nearly the same may be said of a family. Hence, we read" the cause of the Lord is in "the house of the wicked, but he blesseth the habita"tion of the just."

Yea, the present punishment of sin is in some measure natural. For how frequently do men's sufferings arise from the very sins they commit? Extravagance breeds ruin; indolence, poverty; intemperance, disease. "Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who "hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath "wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes? "They that tarry long at the wine, they that go to seek "mixed wine." Why are men so unhappy-but because they are unholy. They walk contrary to God, and God walks contrary to them. They transgress his commands, and expose themselves to his wrath; and then they are alarmed with fear. They yield to vile passions, and appetites, and then they groan by reason of bondage. They violate all the rules which conduce to the welfare of the community, and then they are expelled from the esteem and regard of their fellow creatures. And what can hinder all this?

So that sin does not recompence, or even indemnify the sinner here. The way as well as the end of transgressors is hard. As the righteous here have some foretastes of their future happiness, so the wicked have here the beginnings of sorrows. As godliness has the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come, so sin has the curse of this world, as well as of another.

III. I see in it punishment inflicted after long delay. Behold the career of this sinner. Threescore and ten kings he had thus inhumanly mangled. Thus he repeated his crime again and again—even until seventy times! What a lengthened course of iniquity was here?" So long and so often had I done this, that I ts thought God had not seen, or did not remember

"but he has found me out; and I live long enough to "be a miserable instance of this awful truth-that "however long punishment may be delayed, it will at "last be inflicted as I have done, so God hath requi❝ted me."

The wonder is not that he was overtaken so soon -but that he was spared so long; and seemed to be allowed to triumph in his iniquity. The flourishing condition of sinners for a time, and especially for a long time, unchecked by calamity; is an event which has often perplexed even pious minds. Thus Jeremiah exclaims, "righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead "with thee; yet let me talk with thee of thy judg"ments wherefore doth the way of the wicked pros"per? Wherefore are all they happy that deal very "treacherously ?" David also tells us : "but as for "me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well "nigh slipped; for I was envious at the foolish, when "I saw the prosperity of the wicked,"

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But what is more to be lamented is, that hereby the unhappy creature himself is frequently deluded. He is apt to mistake forbearance for connivance; and what God does not immediately punish, he concludes that he entirely neglects: "he hath said in his heart, I shall "not be moved; for I shall never be in adversity. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed "speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is "fully set in them to do evil." But we should remember the end of providence in such a dispensation. He frequently spares the ungodly for the sake of the godly: the extraction of the tares would injure the wheat. By forbearing the blow, he would give space for repentance: "the long-suffering of our God is sal"vation." He has therefore ends to answer, worthy of himself. But be convinced of this-that he never designed to cherish in you a hope of impunity. His patience is not forgiveness. "Be sure your sins will "find you out. He that being often reproved harden"eth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that

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