THE GREAT SIN OF DOING

NOTHING.

 

 

A SERMON DELIVERED ON THURSDAY EVENING,

AUGUST 5TH, 1886

 

BY C. H. SPURGEON,

 

AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.

 

“But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure

your sin will find you out.” — Numbers 32:23.

 

THERE are many dear friends engaged in business who can only reach the

Tabernacle in time for the middle of the service, and therefore they lose the

reading of the Scriptures and the exposition, which make up a whole with

the sermon. This is a great loss to them, but as it is not their fault we must

not let them suffer for it, so far as we can remedy the evil. With this design

let me explain to them that, according to the chapter which we have read

and expounded, the Israelites had conquered the country possessed by Og,

king of Bashan, and Sihon, king of the Amorites; and the tribes of Reuben

and Gad, having great quantities of cattle, thought that so rich a pasture country

would be eminently suitable for them and for their flocks. They

were no bad judges, for the country was specially fitted for sheep-farming.

They therefore asked of Moses that they might have that country to be

theirs. But Moses objected. Did they mean to sit still and enjoy that

country, and then leave the rest of the tribes to cross the Jordan, and to

fight for their possessions? If so, he declared that it was a very evil course

to take — that they were selfish in seeking their own ease, and that they

would be discouraging God’s people, and doing all sorts of mischief: He

therefore proposed to them that, if they were to have that conquered

country for their own, they should at least cross the river with their

brethren, and fight and continue fighting until the land on the other side of

Jordan had been cleared of its old inhabitants, and the whole of Israel could

take the whole of the country, and each tribe could possess its portion. He

put it to them as a matter of honor, and as a matter of right, that they

ought to help in conquering the rest of the land. Why should they receive

their lot without fighting, and leave the other tribes to bear the toil and

danger of war? Had not God bidden them all to go up and drive out the

condemned Canaanites? How could they evade their duty without great

sin? He would have them take their full share in the war, and on that

condition they might have the rich meadows of Bashan, but not else. This

was clearly just and equitable, and commended itself to those concerned.

They at once agreed to the proposal, and Moses, to enforce the agreement,

told them in the words of the text that, if they did not keep their covenant,

and give all due aid to their brethren, then they would sin against God; and

they might be sure that their sin would find them out.

I remarked in reading the chapter that Moses spoke very wisely, very

forcibly, very honestly; and the people were very pliant. They yielded to his

persuasions, and the difficulty which threatened to divide the nation was

readily got over. It is well to have a wise leader. It is well for him when he

leads a reasonable people. Oh, that I may be able to-night to speak a word

in season, and may your ears be ready to hear it! May the Lord bring as

gracious an issue out of this service as he did out of the discourse of his

servant Moses! To his Holy Spirit shall be all the praise.

We shall speak at this time, first, of what was this sin? Secondly, what

would be the chief sin of that sin? “If ye will not do so, behold, ye have

sinned against the Lord.” This would be the peculiar atrocity of their sin,

that it would be leveled at God himself. And then there is a third point:

What would the consequence of such sin? “Be sure your sin will find you

out.” They would be guilty, and would not long go unpunished.

 

I. First, then, WHAT WAS THIS SIN? What is this sin about which the Spirit

of God says by Moses, “Be sure your sin will find you out?” A learned

divine has delivered a sermon upon the sin of murder from this text,

another upon theft, another upon falsehood. Now they are very good

sermons, but they have nothing to do with this text, if it be read as Moses

uttered it. If you take the text as it stands, there is nothing in it about

murder, or theft, or anything of the kind. In fact, it is not about what men

do, but it is about what men do not do. The iniquity of doing nothing is a

sin which is not so often spoken of as it should be. A sin of omission is

clearly aimed at in this warning, — “If ye will not do so, be sure your sin

will find you out.”

 

What, then, was this sin? Remember that it is the sin of God’s own people.

It is not the sin of Egyptians and Philistines, but the sin of God’s chosen

nation; and therefore this text is for you that belong to any of the tribes of

Israel — you to whom God has given a portion among his beloved ones. It

is to you, professed Christians and church members, that the text comes,

“Be sure your sin will find you out.” And what is that sin? Very sadly

common it is among professed Christians, and needs to be dealt with: it is

the sin which leads any to forget their share in the holy war which is to be

carried out for God and for his church. A great many wrongs are tangled

together in this crime, and we must try to separate them, and set them in

order before your eyes.

 

First, it was the sin of idleness and of self-indulgence. “We have cattle:

here is a land that yields much pasture: let us have this for our cattle, and

we will build folds for our sheep with the abundant stones that lie about,

and we will repair these cities of the Amorites, and we will dwell in them.

They are nearly ready for us, and there shall our little ones dwell in

comfort. We do not care about fighting: we have seen enough of it already

in the wars with Sihon and Og Reuben would rather abide by the

sheepfolds. Gad has more delight in the bleating of the sheep and in the

folding of the lambs in his bosom than in going forth to battle.” Alas, the

tribe of Reuben is not dead, and the tribe of Gad has not passed away!

Many who are of the household of faith are equally indisposed to exertion,

equally fond of ease. Hear them say, “Thank God we are safe! We have

passed from death unto life. We have named the name of Christ; we are

washed in his precious blood, and therefore we are secure.” Then, with a

strange inconsistency, they permit the evil of the flesh to crave carnal ease,

and they cry, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take

thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” Spiritual self-indulgence is a

monstrous evil; yet we see it all around. On Sunday these loafers must be

well fed. They look out for such sermons as will feed their souls. The

thought does not occur to these people that there is something else to be

done besides feeding. Soul-saving is pushed into the background. The

crowds are perishing at their gates; the multitudes with their sins defile the

air; the age is getting worse and worse, and man, by a process of evolution,

is evolving a devil; and yet these people want pleasant things preached to

them. They eat the fat and drink the sweet, and they crowd to the feast of

fat things full of marrow, and of wines on the lees well refined — spiritual

festivals are their delight: sermons, conferences, Bible-readings, and so

forth, are sought after, but regular service in ordinary ways is neglected.

Not a hand’s turn will they do. They gird on no armor, they grasp no

sword, they wield no sling, they throw no stone. No, they have gotten their

possession; they know they have, and they sit down in carnal security,

satisfied to do nothing. They neither work for life, nor from life: they are

arrant sluggards, as lazy as they are long. Nowhere are they at home

except where they can enjoy themselves, and take things easy. They love

their beds, but the Lord’s fields they will neither plough nor reap. This is

the sin pointed out in the text — “If ye do not go forth to the battles of the

Lord, and contend for the Lord God and for his people, ye do sin against

the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out.” The sin of doing nothing

is about the biggest of all sins, for it involves most of the others. The sin of

sitting still while your brethren go forth to war breaks both tables of the

law, and has in it a huge idolatry of self, which neither allows love to God

or man. Horrible idleness! God save us from it!

 

This sin may be viewed under another aspect, as selfishness and

unbrotherliness. Gad and Reuben ask to have their inheritance at once, and

to make themselves comfortable in Bashan, on this side Jordan. What

about Judah, Levi, Simeon, Benjamin, and all the rest of the tribes? How

are they to get their inheritance? They do not care, but it is evident that

Bashan is suitable for themselves with their multitude of cattle. Some of

them reply, “You see, they must look to themselves, as the proverb hath it,

‘Every man for himself, and God for us all.’” Did I not hear some one in

the company say, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I know that gentleman. I

heard his voice years ago. His name is Cain, and I have this to say to him:

it is true that he is not his brother’s keeper, but he is his brother’s killer.

Every man is either the keeper of his brother, or the destroyer of his

brother. Soul-murder can be wrought without an act or even a will; it can

be, and is constantly, accomplished by neglect. Yonder perishing heathen

— does not the Lord enquire, “Who slew all these?” The millions of this

city unevangelized — who is guilty of their blood? Are not idle Christians

starving the multitude by refusing to hand out the bread of life? Is not this a

grievous sin?

 

“But oh,” says another, “they can conquer the land themselves. God is with

them, and he can do his own work, and therefore I do not see that I need

trouble myself about other people.” That is selfishness; and selfishness is

never worse than when it puts on the garb of religion. The boy at school,

who selfishly feeds himself upon his luxuries, and gives nothing to his

young companions, is generally their ridicule. He is the greedy boy whom

all despise. A man with large stores, who, in time of famine, would feed

himself but never think of the poor, is despised among men. But what shall

I say of the man who, concerning the things of the soul — concerning

heaven, and hell, and Christ, and eternity — is so selfish that, being saved

himself, he cares not one jot for others? He is so unbrotherly that I am half

afraid he is no brother. He is so inhuman that I can scarcely think a touch

of the life of Christ can ever have quickened him. How is he a Christian

who is not like Christ, but who just feels, “Well, I am all right; and if I look

to myself other people must look to themselves. God will see to them all,

no doubt! I have nothing to do with it?” Now unless we shake off that

horrible selfishness, and feel that the very essence of our religion lies in

love, and that one of the first-fruits of it is to make us care about the

salvation of our fellow-men — unless, I say, we shake that off and go forth

to fight the Lord’s battles — then this text threatens us very solemnly, —

“If ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure

your sin will find you out.” O my brothers, hear ye this text, and let it

operate with salutary influence to produce in you constant effort for the

salvation of those around you!

 

But with this there was mingled ingratitude of a very dark order. These

children of Gad and Reuben would appropriate to themselves lauds for

which all the Israelites had labored. God had led them forth to battle, and

they had conquered Sihon and Og, and now these men would take

possession of what others have struggled for, but they are not to fight

themselves. This is vile ingratitude; and I fear it is common among us at

this very day. How come we to be Christians at all? Instrumentally, it is

through those holy missionaries who won our fathers from the cruel

worship of the Druids, and afterwards from the fierce dominion of Woden

and Thor. We must also trace our gospel light to those stakes at

Smithfield, where men of God counted not their lives dear to them, but

willingly gave up all they had, and their lives also by a painful death, that

they might keep truth alive in the land. Some of you came to be Christian

men through the earnest labors of men who preached by the roadside, or

by the loving entreaties of tender mothers who wept you to the Savior, or

by the faithful ministry of some brother from the pulpit, or the equally

faithful teaching of an earnest Sunday-school teacher. We owe under God

much to past ages, and much to present laborers. There is no man among

us but stands immensely indebted to the church of God. Though God be

our Father, yet the church is our mother, and through her various agencies

we have been born to God. Do we acknowledge all this debt, and are we

not going to pay it? Are we to receive all, and then give out nothing at all?

Are we to be like candles burning under bushels? Are we to waste our life

by much receiving and little distributing? This will never do. This will not

be life, but death. I do not charge this home upon anybody personally; but

if this cap fits anybody, pray let him wear it. If any man must acknowledge

his obligation to the church of God, and yet he is not repaying it, let him

cover his face for very shame. Wilt thou not hand on the light thou hast

received? Verily thou deservest to perish in darkness. Art thou fed, and

wilt thou not break thy bread to the hungry, or pass a cup of cold water to

the thirsty? What art thou at, strange ingrate! that thou shouldst simply be

a stagnant reservoir into which streams of mercy fall never to run out of

thee again, but to stand and putrefy in selfishness? Remember the Dead

Sea, and tremble lest thou be like it, a pool accursed and cursing all around

thee! O God, have mercy upon the great mass of thy professing people to

whom this must be solemnly applied: that they do receive, but give to thee

and to thy cause so little either of time, substance, talent, prayer, or

anything else!

 

The text, when spiritually interpreted, says concerning our personal service

in the conquest of the world for Christ, — “if ye do not so, behold ye have

sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out.”

Again, we may view this from another point of view. It is the sin of

untruthfulness. These people pledged themselves that they would go forth

with the other tribes, and that they would not return to their own homes

until the whole of the campaign was ended. Now, if after that they did not

go to the war, and did not fight to the close of it, then they would be guilty

of a barefaced lie. It is a wretched thing for a man to be a covenantbreaker.

It is sacrilege for any man to lie, not only unto man, but unto God.

I would speak very tenderly, but if any man has been converted from the

error of his ways, by that very conversion he is bound to serve the Lord. If

he has been baptized as a believer, by that baptism he declared that he was

dead to the world, and buried to it, that henceforth he might live in

newness of life. Now, if he lives only to make money and hoard it, and he

does nothing for God’s church and for poor sinners, is not his baptism a

lie? Such a baptized person was buried, but he was never dead: is not this

to turn baptism into a farce? He gave himself up to the church of God, he

became a member of it; and by that act and deed he pledged himself to do

all he could for its growth and its prosperity; and if he does nothing, he is a

deceiver. If his joining a church meant anything, it meant that he would

take part in the common service of God. A do nothing professor is a

merely nominal member, and a nominal member is a real hindrance. He

neither contributes, nor prays, nor works, nor agonizes for souls, nor takes

any part in Christian service, and yet he partakes in all the privileges of the

church. Is this fair? What is the use of him? He sits and hears, and

sometimes sleeps under the sermon. That is all. Is not his union with the

church a practical falsehood? I will not say so, but I will ask the question.

It does seem to me that if I belong to the Israelites, and they are sent by

God to conquer a country, and I do not go forth to the war with them, and

take my part in the conflict, I am not a true Israelite. I am unworthy of my

nation; I am disloyal to the standard; I am false to my fellow-soldiers. I

think it is so: do not you? Having entered the Christian ministry, if I did

nothing in it, I should feel that I disgraced it. If I simply tried to enjoy

religion without an effort to spread it, I ought to be drummed out of the

army of preachers. If there be any in the church who have talent that they

do not use for God, or money which they do not lay out for Christ, or time

which they do not use for holy purposes, they are sinning, and their sin will

find them out. Your buried talent, will it not rust, and rusting, will it not

create within your spirits a most horrible disease, and be a peril to you?

Must it not be so? Are they not guilty of an acted lie before high heaven

who call themselves servants of God, and yet do not serve him? You often

sing:

 

“‘Tis done! the great transaction’s done;

I am my Lord’s, and he is mine:

He drew me, and I follow’d on,

Charm’d to confess the voice divine.

High heaven, that heard the solemn vow,

That vow renew’d shall daily hear:

Till in life’s latest hour I bow,

And bless in death a bond so dear.”

 

Is that hymn true? Do you mean those verses, or do you mock God? You

have all sung the hymn many times, and mark, “Happy day! Happy day!”

the chorus; but is your singing true or false? If any man or woman among

you shall after such a song sink back into himself, and do nothing for his

Lord, what truth is there in him? God save us from using our lips to mock

his holy name! It can be little short of blasphemy to sing such words and

yet live a selfish, indolent life. Will a man thus insult his God? O sirs, I

beseech you make such language true, or else have done with it, lest the

record of it destroy your souls!

 

Once more, and I will have done with this painful subject. What would

their sin be? According to Moses it would be a grave injury to others. Do

you not notice how he put it to them? “Moses said unto the children of

Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall

ye sit here?” What an example to set! If one Christian man is right in never

joining a Christian church, then all other Christian men would be right in

not doing so, and there would be no visible Christian church. Do you not

see, you non-professing believers, that your example is destructive of all

church-life? What are you at? If one Christian man, with the talent to

preach, is right in not preaching, then other Christian men have a right to

trifle in the same way, and then there would be no ministry left. An idler is

a great waster, and makes others wasters too: his example is likely to make

all around him as indolent as himself. I notice in our churches that a few

earnest men and women lead the way, and others are sweetly drawn to

follow them. How precious are the earnest few in a Christian community.

David knew the value of the first three in his band. But if the leading spirits

are dead, cold, indifferent, what happens? Why, lethargy spreads over the

whole. I am sorry to say that I hear of instances in which a minister

laments, “I labor with all my might, but I am persuaded that nothing will

ever be done while Mr. So-and-so is there.” He is often a coldblooded

deacon, or a purse-proud member. When you come to know him, you feel,

“While there is such a great big iceberg floating close to the shore, the

garden by the sea must be frostbitten: nothing can grow.” It were a pity

that any of us should freeze others. God save us from it! “Oh,” says one,

nobody knows me, and therefore I cannot have much influence either for

good or for evil.” Not over your own child — your daughter, your son?

That influence which you have over even one or two little ones may spread

far further than you imagine. We cannot calculate the range of moral

influence: it is immeasurable. I suppose that there is not a single moving

atom of matter which does not influence in some measure the entire

universe. One atom impinges upon another, and that upon another, and so

it reaches the remotest star. Whether we do or do not do, what we do or

do not do, will have an influence upon all that are round about us, perhaps

to all eternity. Perhaps the word I speak tonight shall thrill when yonder

sun has burned out like a coal, and the moon has become black as

sackcloth of hair. I am not sure but that our thoughts upon our bed may

throb throughout the ages in their incessant results. “None of us liveth to

himself, and no man dieth to himself:” for good or for evil we are yoked

with the universe, and there is no possibility of severance. There is much

influence for evil in an idle example: possibly such an example would not

be set by certain persons if they would but think of the consequences. To

such consideration of consequences I invite all whose gravest fault is

forbearing to do good. O barren tree, do not excuse thyself because thou

dost not drip with poison like the upas! It is crime enough that thou

cumberest the ground!

 

Moses goes on to remark that if these people did not go forth to war they

would discourage all the rest. “Wherefore discourage ye the heart of the

children of Israel from going over into the land which the Lord hath given

them?” It is no slight sin to discourage holy zeal and perseverance in

others. May we never be guilty of killing holy desires even in children!

How often has a burning desire in a boy’s heart been quenched by his own

father, who has thought him too impulsive, or too ardent! How frequently

the conversation of a friend, so called, has dried up the springs of holy

desire in the person with whom he has conversed! Let it not be so. Yet

without cold words our chill neglects may freeze. I know a terrace where

the shutting up of one or two shops has a deadening effect upon the trade

of the other shops. Somehow, the closed shutters give a gloomy look to

the place, and customers are repelled. Does not the same thing happen to

groups of workers when one grows idle? Does not the one call brother

deaden the rest? We cannot neglect our own gardens without injuring our

neighbors. Do you live anywhere near a house that is not let, which has a

back garden left to run to waste? All manner of seeds are blown over upon

your ground; and, though you keep the hoe going, yet the weeds baffle

you, for there is such a nursery for them just over the wall. One mechanic

coming late among a set of workmen may throw the whole company out of

order for the day. One railway truck off the rails may block the entire

system. Depend upon it, if we are not serving the Lord our God, we are

committing the sin of discouraging our fellow-men. They are more likely to

imitate our lethargy than our energy. Why should we wish to hinder others

from being earnest? How dare we rob God of the services of others by our

own neglect? O God, deliver us from this sin!

 

If I had preached a sermon about murder or theft, you would all have

escaped the lash; but few of us will be without rebuke now that I have kept

the text in the setting in which God originally put it, and in which he meant

it to be presented for our rebuke and exhortation.

 

II. Secondly, let us carefully notice WHAT WAS THE CHIEF SIN IN THIS

SIN? Of course, if the Reubenites did not keep their solemn agreement to

go over Jordan, and help their brethren, they would sin against their

brethren; but this is not the offense which rises first to the mind of Moses.

Moses overlooks the lesser, because he knows it to be comprehended in

the greater; and he says, “Behold, ye have sinned against the Lord.” In this

he anticipated the confession of David, “against thee, thee only have I

sinned, and done this evil in thy sight.” To refuse to help their brethren

would be disobedience to the Lord. Did he not command all Israel to drive

out the Canaanites? In like manner, neglect of holy work is positive sin

against the Lord. It is disobedience against the Lord not to be preaching his

truth if we are able to do so. Did not our Lord say, “Go ye into all the

world, and preach the gospel to every creature?” This command was not

confined to a dozen or so, but was meant for all his people, as they have

opportunity and ability. We who hear the gospel are bidden to proclaim it,

for it is written, “Let him that heareth say, Come.” The hearer of the gospel

is bound to be a repeater of the gospel. We are all called upon, as we know

the Lord, to tell to others what the Lord has told to us; and if we do not

so, we are guilty of disobedience to a great gospel precept.

We are certainly guilty, dear friends, of ingratitude, if, as I have already

said, we owe so much to other men, and yet do not seek to bless mankind;

but chiefly we owe everything to the grace of God, and, if God has given

us grace in our own hearts, and saved us with the precious blood of the

Only-Begotten, how can we sit still, and allow others to perish? As we

value salvation we are under bonds to make it known. We rejoice to be in

the kingdom of God — should we not spend and be spent for the growth

of that kingdom? He that doth not bear arms in this war is a traitor to his

sovereign Lord.

 

There would be sin against God in the conduct of these people, if they did

not aid in the conquest of Canaan for they would be dividing God’s Israel.

Shall the Lord’s heritage be rent in twain? God meant them all to keep

together. They all came out of Egypt together; they all marched through

the wilderness together, and now he meant them to fight his battles

together. Were these to take their inheritance, and abide among the sheepcotes,

and leave the other ten and a half tribes to go over Jordan and wage

the war alone? This would be scattering the family of God. Can it be that

any of us are dividing the church of God; that is, dividing it into drones and

workers? This would be a terrible division: and I fear that it exists already.

It is apparent to those who are able to observe; and it is mourned over by

those who are jealous for the God of Israel. Half the schisms in churches

arise out of the real division which exists between idlers and workers. Mind

this. Be not sowers of division by being busy-bodies, working not at all.

If you are not serving the Lord, you are sinning against the sacred Trinity.

You sin against our Father, who would have you do good and be imitators

of him as dear children. You sin against the Son of God, who has bought

you with a price that you might be zealous for his glory. You sin against

the Holy Ghost, whose impulses are not to sleep and idleness, but to

quickening and to holiness. May we no longer sin against the Lord by

refusing to perform his will!

 

III. We have now reached the last point, and the point that is most

serious: WHAT WILL COME OF THIS SIN OF DOING NOTHING? What will

come of it? “Be sure your sin will find you out.” Now, as the time is nearly

gone, I will not do more than show that these Gadites and Reubenites

would be sure to be found out by their own neglect. Their sin would find

them out to their shame and sorrow if they did not lend all their strength to

their brethren according to their promise.

 

 

It would find them out thus: they would be ill at ease. One of these days

their sin would leap upon their consciences as a lion on its prey. They

would wake up and say, “We were wrong. We were bound to have taken

our share in that war;” and every man among them that was good for

anything would be troubled in heart because he had failed to do his duty in

the hour of need. He would feel uneasy: he would not want anybody to

point him out with the finger, but he would point himself out and he would

say to himself, “I failed in that case. I know I did. I acted very wrongly. I

ought to have been with Joshua chasing out those Canaanites: I received

my own portion of the land, and ought therefore to have helped others to

win their portions.”

 

When conscience was thus aroused, they would also feel themselves to be

mean and despicable. As king after king was conquered, and the notes of

victory were heard all over Canaan, they would think themselves mice

rather than men to have shunned so glorious a conflict. They would feel

disgraced by their own inaction. Their manhood would be held cheap by

the other tribes: in fact, they would become a by-word and a proverb, as

men do who are notoriously greedy and selfish. Surely it is an intolerable

disgrace to any one to profess to be a man of God, and to have no care

about the souls of others, while they are perishing by millions.

 

More than that, the tribes who went not to the war would be enfeebled by

their own inaction. God would have his people learn war; but if these men

did not go to the fight they would not be soldierly, and they would not be

able to take care of themselves when their land was invaded. How much of

sacred education we miss when we turn away from the service of God! I

believe that no man understands salvation so well as the man who, having

tasted it for himself, has also preached it to those about him. If you want to

know the evil of the human heart, try to do good to the unconverted, and

endeavor to guide the unbeliever to Jesus. Get a dozen girls around you,

my sister, and watch the workings of their hearts as you seek to lead them

to Christ, and you will learn much more than you knew before. My dear

brother, gather a number of youths about you, and observe their feeling

and conduct while you seek their conversion. You will soon know the

depravity of human nature if you watch for souls for a little season; and if

you get souls converted, and act as a spiritual father to them, you will soon

see how much they need the Holy Spirit to keep them; and how much you

need him to keep you also, for your patience will be tried. You will learn

both the sweet and the bitter of the things of God by being engaged in

Christ’s service. Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me”:

service is a yoke we must bear in order to learn of Christ. The only way to

learn to swim is to get into the water. To be a soldier and never know the

smell of gunpowder is impossible: at least, such soldiers are little to be

relied on in case of war. No, no; our sin, if we do nothing, will find us out

in our being enfeebled, in our being disgraced, in our feeling that we are

mean, and in the accusation of our conscience. Let us find this sin out, and

shake ourselves free from it before it finds us out.

 

Their sin would also have found them out, had they fallen into it, because

they would have been divided from the rest of God’s Israel. If they had not

gone across the Jordan to fight, the ten and a half tribes would always have

said, “What have we to do with you? The Jordan rolls between us, and so

let it do. We do not want any connection with those who acted so basely to

us in our hour of need.” They would practically have cut themselves off

from union with the Israel of God, and they would have secured to

themselves the loss of all fellowship with earnest men. Those who are nonworkers

lose much by not keeping pace with those who are running the

heavenly race. The active are happy: the hand of the diligent maketh rich in

a spiritual sense. There is that withholdeth more than is meet, and it

tendeth to poverty: I am sure it is so in a spiritual sense.

 

To come more practically home, brethren beloved, if you and I are not

serving the Lord, our sin will find us out. It will find us out perhaps in this

way. There will be many added to the church and God will prosper it, and

we shall hear of it: but we shall feel no joy therein. We had no finger in the

work, and we shall find no comfort in the result. We did not point out the

way to troubled consciences; we never went to early morning prayermeetings,

nor to any prayer-meetings, to pray for a blessing; we never

spoke a word or even gave a tract away; and therefore we shall see the

blessing with our eyes, but we shall not eat thereof. While God’s people lift

up their loud hallelujahs of joy we shall only mourn, “My leanness, my

leanness, woe unto me!” It is no joy to see a harvest reaped from fields

which we refused to plough.

 

It may be that you will begin to lose all the sweetness of public services. By

doing nothing you lose your appetite. Many a person who has no appetite

needs a wise doctor to say to him, “Of course you cannot eat, for you do

not work. Exercise yourself; and your appetite will return.” He that earns

his breakfast enjoys his breakfast; and he who labors for Christ finds that

the services of the sanctuary are exceedingly sweet to him. I know some

dear brethren here who cannot get to a Sunday sermon because they have

something to do for their Lord throughout the Sabbath; therefore they drop

in to this Thursday evening sermon. Thus they gain a Sabbath in the middle

of the week, which is exceedingly sweet to them. They can only attend one

service on the Sunday, but that is doubly refreshing to them. They are

engaged at the ragged-school, or at the corner of the street, where they are

accustomed to preach: and the Lord makes up to them their lost

opportunities. Believe me, when they do get a meal they heartily appreciate

it; for they come with an appetite which they have gathered in the service

of their Master. If you do not work, your sin will find you out in the loss of

enjoyment when present at the means of grace.

I have known this sin find people out in their families. There is a Christian

man: we honor and love him, but he has a son that is a drunkard. Did his

good father ever bear any protest against strong drink in all his life? No; he

did not like the blue ribbon, of course. I will not dispute about total

abstinence, but I do not feel much astonished at a boy drinking much when

he sees his godly father drink a little regularly. Every man should labor by

precept and example to put down intemperance, and he who does not do

so may be sure that his sin will find him out.

 

Here is another. His children have all grown up thoughtless, careless,

giddy. He took them to his place of worship, and he now enquires, “Why

are they not converted?” Did he ever take them one by one and pray with

them? Did he ever speak earnestly to each boy and each girl, and labor for

the conversion of each one? I am afraid that in many cases nothing of the

sort has been attempted. Certain mistaken individuals almost think it wrong

to seek the conversion of their children while they are children, and their

sin finds them out when they see them growing up in ungodliness.

Besides, if we do not look after God’s children, it may be that he will not

look after ours. “No,” says God, “there were other people’s children in the

streets, and you had no concern about them, why should your children fare

better? You never opened a ragged-school for the poor, why should I bless

you? There were men in your employment by whom you gained your

living, but you never spoke to them about their souls, nor cared whether

they were saved or damned, and I am not going to look after your family

when you have no concern for mine.” “Be sure your sin will find you out.”

I do not know how this warning may come home to any brother or sister

here who has been idling: but it is better that my warning should find him

out than that his sin should find him out. I do not know whether there are

any idlers here, though I have a pretty shrewd guess that there are. Friends,

neglect of the Lord’s work will come home to you, and I will tell you when

it will come to you, if it does not do so before. When you are sick and ill,

your faith in Christ will bring you great comfort, but you will be sorrowful

if you have to say to yourself, “Oh, that I had served God while I was

young!” A friend said to me not long ago, “My dear sir, you are often laid

aside, and no doubt the reason is the imprudent manner in which you

worked away in your youth. You preached ten times in a week almost all

the year round, year after year, and of course you wore yourself out.” “Oh,

yes,” I said, “it may be so, but I do not regret it in the least. Thank God, I

preached with all my might all over the land when I could do so; and I

would again if I could only get renewed strength!” If I cannot work so

much as in earlier days, I have not the misery of saying, “I wasted my

opportunities, and spent my best days in ease.” I do say to myself, “Would

God I had done more, or had done it better; but I am thankful to be able to

exonerate myself from all charge of sloth.” If those of us who do much

have to whip ourselves a bit, what should those do who practically do

nothing at all, and discourage others? What can idlers do but fear that their

sin will find them out?

 

Thus far have I spoken to God’s people, and if you think that this is rather

rough upon them, what shall I say to you who do not love the Lord at all?

O sirs, if the fan that is in Christ’s hand purges his own floor in this stern

way, what will that fan do with you who are as chaff to the wheat! If he

sits here as a refiner, and purifies the sons of Levi, and puts even the gold

into the fire, what will become of the dross? “If the righteous scarcely be

saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” If the language of

God is sharp even to his own beloved, because he says, “As many as I love,

I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent,” what will his

language be to those who are not his children, but are living in open

rebellion against him? Tremble, ye that forget God. Hear his own words,

they are none of mine: “Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear

you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.” God help you to flee from the

sin of doing nothing! The Lord Jesus Christ himself lead you into the

Father’s service! Amen.

 

 

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