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"The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar." — Numbers 16:38.

He had solemnly forewarned and admonished the rebels themselves before they suffered and thus, in wrath he remembered mercy. When Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, who headed the conspiracy, were buried alive, and their companions, the two hundred and fifty princes, men of honour, were burned with fire he would make them beacons, and prevent others from coming into the same condemnation. Orders, therefore, were given to take up the censers in which they had dared to burn incense, and make of them broad plates to cover the altar of burnt offering, that they might "be a sign unto the children of Israel;" that is, a memorial to the Levites, and the comers thereunto, of the revolt of these men and that they were punished for invading an office which God had forbidden them.

Whence we note, that the sin which is hurtful to the transgressors should be useful to the observers.

"These sinners against their own souls." Whenever men sin, they sin against themselves. Society cannot exist without laws and laws are nothing without penalties. Connivance at the guilty would be cruelty to the innocent. In every well-ordered government crimes are punished. And will they, can they escape in the empire of a Being, holy in all his ways, and righteous in all his works? What would you think of a magistrate, who bore the sword in vain, and who was not a terror to evil doers as well as a praise to them that do well? What would you think of him, if, when you brought before him the incendiary of your house, or the murderer of your child, he should say, This does not regard me; and smile, and say, Go in peace? We dislike the word vindictive justice; there seems something malignant in it; but substitute in the room of it, the vindicatory, or punitive justice of God, and we contend that this is essential to the excellency of his character, and that you could not esteem, or even love him, without it. What regard could you have for a being, who equally respected lies and truth, cruelty and kindness — a Nero and a Howard ? We readily own, that when anger and wrath are ascribed to God in the Scriptures, they do not imply any thing in him like passion in us, but only principle. But principle they do establish, and this principle is the soul of order, adherence to rectitude, determination to punish.

And we may see this in his threatenings. For his wrath is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men. If this book be true, the wicked shall not stand in his sight. He hateth all workers of iniquity.

He has also confirmed and exemplified it in his conduct. Look to heaven, and see the angels sinning against themselves, and cast down to hell. See Adam and Eve driven from the garden of Eden. See the Flood carrying away the world of the ungodly. See the inhabitants of the Plain, and Pharaoh, and the nations of Canaan, and the Jews, though so peculiarly indulged of God. Yea, he even visits the transgressions of good men with a rod; and though he forgives their iniquities, he takes vengeance on their inventions. See Moses and Aaron forbidden to enter the Land of Promise, and Eli and David so awfully judged in this life. And if these things are done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? And if the righteous are recompensed in the earth, how much more the sinner and the ungodly?

It would be easy to trace the injury of sin with regard to every thing of which the welfare of the sinner is compounded. His connexions ought to be dear to him. But how does he sin against these! How does the wicked child rend the heart of his parents, and bring down their gray hairs with sorrow to the grave! How does the husband, instead of providing for those of his own house, by his vices, reduce the wife he ought to love even as himself, to indigence and wretchedness, and her hapless babes along with her! What a blessing is health! But how does he sin against this! By intemperance and sensuality, he is made to possess the iniquities of his youth, which lie down with him in the dust. Envy is the rottenness of the bones. So are hatred and malice. And so are all those corroding anxieties and fears which they must feel who have no confidence in God, or hope of heaven. Reputation is desirable, as it enables us to live in the esteem of others, and valuable, as it is an instrument of usefulness; a good name, says Wisdom itself, is better than great riches. But who regards the sinner? Who confides in him? What is his friendship, or his promise? The name of the wicked shall rot. "A wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame." We must be measured, and weighed, by our souls. The mind is the standard of the man. This is the seat of happiness or misery. But he that sinneth against me, says God, wrongeth his own soul. Wrongs it of peace, for there is no peace to the wicked. Wrongs it of liberty and pleasure, for he is in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Wrongs it of safety, for the wrath of God abideth on him; he is condemned already.

But let not these sinners suffer in vain. They are our martyrs; they die and perish for us. Their loss should be our gain, and their destruction our salvation.

The first advantage we may derive from an observation of the sins and sufferings of others, is the confirmation of our faith. And nothing can tend more to establish our belief in the truth of the Scripture, than to take its declarations and decisions, and compare them with the documents of men's lives. The Bible tells us that "the way of transgressors is hard;" that they proceed from evil to evil; that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump; that the companion of fools shall be destroyed; that the love of money is the root of all evil. And who has not seen this, as well as read it?

Another benefit, is gratitude. When we see the wicked, we see what we should have been, but for preventing and distinguishing grace. Who made me to differ? Have I a heart of flesh, while they are insensible? Am I light in the Lord, while they are darkness? Am I walking in the way everlasting, while destruction and misery is in their paths? By the grace of God, I am what I am.

The observation should also awaken and excite zeal. Surely none so much need our compassion, as those who are destroying themselves for ever. We talk of doing good. What advantage can we procure a fellow-creature like that godliness, which is profitable unto all things? What enemy can we rescue him from, like his lusts and vices? If we convert a sinner from the error of his way, we save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins.

It should also serve to wean us from the present world. What a bedlam it is! What a sink of corruption too! What righteous soul is not daily, hourly, vexed with the filthy conversation of the ungodly? Thus the ear, the eye, the heart, is constantly sickened. We behold the transgressors, and are grieved. Oh that I had in the wilderness a lodging-place of way-faring men! Oh that I had wings like a dove, for then would I flee away, and be at rest, with the spirits of just men made perfect, dwelling in love, and dwelling in God!

Finally, let us fetch from it warnings. When Daniel, addressing Belshazzar, reminded him of his father's pride and destruction, he aggravates his guilt, by saying, "Thou knewest all this." When the Apostle mentions "the sins and plagues that Israel knew," he says, "Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."

And surely, O my soul, if the sins of others may be rendered thus profitable, I ought to be concerned to gain something from my own. Let me derive wisdom from my follies, strength from my weakness, and standing from my very falls. Let me see more of my depravity, and put on humbleness of mind and apply to the blood of sprinkling; and never more trust in my own heart, but be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus; and be sober and vigilant, and, till I am beyond the reach of evil, pray, "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe."

Morning Exercises For Everyday In The Year
By Rev. William Jay

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