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out of the dim past, with terrible freshness and in all its details, the vision of their dark crime of old.—The dry pit by Dothan-the tears and entreaties of their victim—the company of the Ishmaelites with their camels bearing spicery and balm, going to carry it down into Egypt, the bargain struck for twenty pieces of silver—their brother handed over to be a bondsman—the cruel device by which they deceived their father—the coat of many colours dipped in the kid's blood—all this that they had done—the transaction of twenty years ago—rose up now to confront, and to condemn them. Out of their own mouth came the long pent up denouncement.— We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we could not hear : therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them saying, Spake I not unto you saying, Do not sin against the child, and ye would not hear ; therefore behold also his blood is required !
And brethren, what is the lesson of this for ourselves ? Surely it is the old lesson—but not for that the unneeded lesson—that sin finds us out--that even here on this side of the grave God is an avenger-an exactor of payment from the evil doer-a God that will by no means spare the guilty.
This surely is the lesson for us to learn from the conviction of Jacob's sons. Let us not refuse to take it to heart. We need it for our safeguard,—we need it, as we do every other note of alarm, which sounds throughout the Bible to preserve us from sin.
Then again, let me say it, let none of us think, if we have done any secret wrong, to escape being punished. Satan indeed would persuade us to the contrary. Satan whispers—“ You will never be found out, you may do it so secretly, so safely, that it will never come to light. Besides—for he is very crafty, and can adapt his bait to every disposition--besides, he says—what harm is there? -the thing you meditate will hurt nobody, and give you pleasure-then away with scruples—follow your inclination, eat the forbidden fruit.”
But, brethren, be not deceived—sin and misery, and not sin and pleasure, are by God's ordinance true yokefellows. God has joined them together, and try as we may, we can not long keep them asunder.
I grant, indeed, that we may not always be able to trace the connection. I grant that many evil doers go about the world, apparently unpunished, unsuspected ; perhaps receive honour and respect from their neighbours. -But we can not see what inward torment they are made to endure. We cannot hear that voice which they carry with them, ever crying out against them, ever bringing them in as guilty before God.
It is said indeed, that sin hardens men's hearts, and stifies their conscience, and makes them insensible to the twinge of remorse. And it may be so for a while—80 long as they keep their health and strength, so long as the grave appears yet distant.
But let their health fail—let some mortal sickness overtake them, let the hour come when they must depart this life, and go where concealment is impossible, go to appear before God in judgment—and then how is it with hardened sinners? Why, conscience re-asserts her power, and claims to be heard—extorts not unfrequently from the
dying man the accusing cry—I am verily guilty—I do remember my faults this day. My sins have taken such hold upon me that I am not able to look up: yea, they are more in number than the hairs of my head, and my heart hath failed me!
O my brethren, if you would not be thus utterly confounded and terror-stricken, when you come to die, try to have always a conscience void of offence towards God and man. Do nothing that may need concealing. Walk as children of light ; proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.
But again—there is a further lesson for us in the text - They said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother,-note the last words, concerning our brother. They tell us that the remorse of Jacob's sons, was for a wrong done against another person, and that other person their own brother !
Now it is not every sin that affects others. Some sins are strictly personal sins—done against our own body and soul-and when the awakening for these comes, bitter as it will be, it will yet have in it this consolation, “I am free from blood guiltiness—I have sinned, deeply sinned, but I have sinned by myself and against myself
- I have had no partner in my guilt: I have not decoyed others from the path of right."
There will be, I say, this thought,-such as it is—to alleviate their sufferings, who in the day of repentance, shall not have upon their souls acts of evil done against their brethren.
But, alas! in how very few cases can men reckon on such comfort! Most sins by their very nature are double --they are sins that in their consequence affect more than the single agent-sins against ourselves, and against our neighbours. For example, the drunkard who spends on himself the wages that ought to have gone to make his home more comfortable—to clothe his wife and children decently, to provide them with better and more abundant food—the drunkard is most assuredly guilty concerning his brother—he sins not only against his own soul, but against all who are in any way dependent on him. The Sabbathbreaker again, who loiters at the corner of the streets when the bells are chiming for Church—sins a double sin—against God, and against his neighbours. So, too, does the man who uses foul and profane language. So does the seducer - the selfish libertine who to gratify his passion seeks the ruin of a fellow-creature. All these, and most of all the last, sins a double sin. And as their sin is double, so when God visits them, it will be with a double stroke.
We can imagine nothing more terrible than will be their awakening—no cry so sharp as that which shall proclaim their inward agony—“I am verily guilty. concerning my brother-concerning my neglected wife and children—concerning the young companion-my fellow servant perhaps—to whom I set so bad an example, whom I first taught to make a mock at sin-concerning my sister, the poor girl whom I beguiled into shame!”
I repeat, brethren, it is impossible to over draw the misery and anguish that awaits these sinners when they come-if they ever do—to repentance. With the thought that they have plunged others into guilt : that at their door lies not one burden, but many—that a brother or a sister's blood is crying against them before God-hope to
obtain mercy must be well nigh shut out ! With them the words are realized—my soul is sore troubled. I stick fast in the deep mire where no ground is. I am so fast in prison that I cannot get forth / We do not say, even for such as these, that pardon is impossible. The Blood that cleanseth from all sin, can cleanse even sin like theirs—wipe it utterly and for ever away. But this we say, that pardon can only come to them after a terrible wrestling of inward agony—that their repentance must be accompanied with the deepest self-loathing, and with the acutest stings of their avenging conscience. This we say, that although God may forgive, they will hardly dare to take His forgiveness. They will never cease to heap reproaches upon themselves. Be where they may, go where they may, they will be haunted by the recollection of their sin—the echo of that old upbraiding will be ever sounding in their ears—Where is Abel thy brother ? O my friends, let us spare ourselves such an awakening as this We have sins enough of our own to answer for, without adding to the burden the guilt of our brother's ruin. Let us then walk circumspectly. Let us not by word or deed of ours be any hindrance to those with whom we live. Especially, I would say, let us as parents, as teachers, as older companions, consider well the effect of our conduct upon the young. Let there be no opening for Reuben’s charge hereafter—Spake I not unto you saying, Do not sin against this child; and ye would not hear ! Let us as elder brothers or sisters set an example to the