« PreviousContinue »
The Author of the following sermon is recommended to state the circumstances attending its publication. It was delivered to a village congregation without any idea of reporters being present, but a few days after a sketch of it appeared in the NORFOLK News, with a hope expressed that the whole might be published. Permission was granted to the Editor to use his reporter's notes for the purpose, as the whole had been delivered extemporaneously, and only an imperfect review could be given. May the God of all mercy and grace attend it with the power of His Holy Spirit to the awakening of some the warning of others-and the rejoicing of the partakers of the grace of God. The Author would take this opportunity of expressing his gratitude for the sympathy of his numerous praying friends under his trying labours in the condemned cell.
Ephraim is joined to idols ; let him alone.”-Hosea iv, 17.
How can we account for it that sinners go on so quietly day by day in sin ? It is because they think that sin will never be found out, or that there will be some way of escaping its punishment, w eas GO is bound to punish sinners for their sins; every one of his perfections bind him to it. Is He not a God of justice? Then He can by no means clear the guilty. Is He not a God of Holiness ? Then He must hate sin, and must shew His hatred to it by punishing it. Is He not also a God of truth? Then He has said that “the wicked shall not go unpunished.” How then can a just, a holy, and a righteous God be such if He does not punish sin? Now there are many ways in which God punishes sin. In the other world He will convince the impenitent of His knowledge and abhorrence of iniquity, and power to punish it, by the never
r-dying worm, the unquenchable flame, and the wrath which will ever be wrath to
But He also punishes it in this world ;-and how? by sending His judgments upon the sinner, as bodily affliction, removal of friends, loss of property. But of all the ways, in which God in this world punishes sinners, this in the text is the most terrible. He sees the sinner going on in his iniquity, persisting in his evil course, disregarding mercies and judgments, when in righteous indignation the sentence goes forth, “ Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone." Whilst we are considering this subject, on this solemn occasion, may the Spirit of God in all His convincing, instructing, and saving influence, be poured upon us for the sake of our mediator and advocate Jesus Christ.
The subject naturally divides itself into two parts, the Sin and the Punishment. Let us then consider :
I. The sin of Ephraim.—“Ephraim is joined to idols.” Ephraim is put for the ten tribes of Israel, who had set up two golden calves, one in Dan and the other in Bethel; there they were accustomed to worship. God used many means to separate them from their idols. He sent them ministers, and threatened them with judgments; but all in vain. Ephraim not only worshipped idols, but he was joined to them; his affections were glued to them ; his heart was set on them, there was no separating him from them
This was Ephraim's sin; and now my dear people, may we not here be reminded of the sin of the Stanfield murderer, and what was his sin ? In one word, it was the sin of EphraimIdolatry. You will say, perhaps," he was guilty of many, very many sins.” That is indeed true, and I verily believe that this, in connection with his regard for his dear children, was a bar to his confession; indeed I told him this at our last interview, and he made no direct reply to my charge. But this leads me in justice to myself to say a word about his confessing. Many false reports have gone abroad calculated to impress persons with the idea that I was afraid of being with him alone, or that I was negligent in seeking to be allowed to do so. With regard to being afraid, it was my full expectation and earnest wish to be with him privately; for besides being assured that he still had feelings of kindness towards me, I knew that it was written, “He shall give his angels charge concerning thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. To the charge of neglect, I reply, I discovered that a rule of the castle might prevent my object. Still, however, urged by my friends, I visited the Chaplain, for the express purpose of requesting that I'might see the criminal alone. The Chaplain manifested towards me on this, as well as on every other occasion, the greatest kindness, but he did not consider it consistent with his sense of duty to accede to my wishes. I had always felt that Rush would open his mind to me, and my interviews with him during the first week after his condemnation confirmed this conviction ; but no opportunity of seeing him alone being granted, he never intimated any desire to confess his crime of murder, though I could not but remark, he did not during that week once assert his innocence, but as the time of his execution drew nearer, his denial of guilt and assertion of his innocence became stronger. But let us return to our question. “What were the peculiar sins of this man ?”—sensuality and covetousness-these two seem to comprehend the whole catalogue, and yet both may be reduced to one, and what is that? the sin of Ephraim-Idolatry.
It is not necessary for a man to worship gods of wood and stone to make him an Idolator. God says “ they have set up their idols in their hearts,” so you see there is such a thing as spiritual idolatry. What does the Scripture say of sensuality? It says that there are some who make a God of their belly, who glory in their shame, who mind earthly things, making these
their gods. His sensuality led also to other sins, such as deceit and fornication. Ah, my dear young people, it is the very nature of sin to increase unto more ungodliness. “Sin first deceives, then slays :" Rom. vii, 11. Deceit was a prominent part of his character, as seen in intercepting the correspondence between that unfortunate young woman and her mother; but never did his deceit manifest itself more diabolically, than when, for the satisfying his lusts, he employed the divine word to sanction his Satanic act of fornication, and in many other things did his sensuality manifest itself, to which it is not necessary to allude, as the Lord knows my intention in bringing the subject before you is not to darken the stain of his character, but to shew to you the depravity of your nature, and the necessity of divine renewal and preserving grace. Here then take notice of this ! I say the idol to which he was joined was sensuality ; but he had another idol, covetousness. You find in Col. iii, 5, that covetousness is declared to be idolatry. How different does this sin appear in the eyes of the world: men generally think at most, it is only an infirmity, whilst some think it a virtue, and call it carefulness. Men bless the covetous whom God abhors: Psalm x, 3. It was covetousness that led this man to defraud others-it was the love of money, that was the root of all this evil. In the
of business he was continually indulging in fraud, his forgeries were a complete system of fraud, and even at his trial, whilst standing at the bar he extracted a banker's cheque from a pocket book, which at his desire was passed to him for inspection, and though he afterwards denied any knowledge of it, yet finding his family would suffer by the concealment, he produced it from under the lining of his hat. How closely allied are lying and deceit; yea, they are spoken of as one: Psalm cxix, 118.
There was another crime connected with his fraud, and sprung from the same parent sin, idolatry-I mean violence. This did not come upon him all at once; he first had thoughts of violence. Then those thoughts grew into words, insomuch that he was not afraid to threaten the life of his benefactor; and then came the notable deed, the deed of murder, and that too of the grossest description; so that the blood, crying against the murderer from the ground, might seem to say: " It was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it; but it was mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, that hath lifted up his heel against me.” If this