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PEACHED AT A PUBLIC PENANCE.
THE POWER OF GOD's MINISTERS TO REBUKE SINNERS AND RECEIVE THEM ON
JOSH. vii. 19, 20.
AN! JOSHUA SAID UNTO ACHAN, MY SON, GIVE, I PRAY
THEE, GLORY TO THE LORD GOD OF ISRAEL, AND
THE very text 1
HE very text I have chosen, (the occa
fion of which you may see at your leisure) the text, I say, teacheth us after what manner we ought to treat such as have fallen into any grievous sins, in order to bring them to a sense of their error.
My Son, faith Joshua, the prince and leader of the people of Israel; My Son!—to a man who for his sin had deserved and was imme. diately put to death.
And shall not we, with the same tenderness, and with greater if it be possible, receive the
See the Ecclefiaftical Constitutions of the Isle of Man, in the Life of the Author; and Vol. IV. the Form of receiving Peniteuts. VOL. IV.
confession of one of our fellow-Christians; who professeth, and we hope sincerely, to turn from his evil ways? What passions other people have upon
such occasions as these, I cannot tell; but for myself, I profess, so many mortifying and sorrowful thoughts come into my heart at such times as these, that those who undergo the shame of publick pénance scarce suffer more than I do, who have inflicted it. I consider myself as one subject to the same infirmities, the same temptations, and the same dangers, with those that have fallen; and that it is owing to the mere mercy of God, and not to my own wisdom, or strength, or holiness, that fin and hell have not got the dominion over me.
Such a forrowful occasion as this even forces one to remember, every man his own failings, which have been enough to have provoked God to have given the very best of us up to our own hearts' lusts, but that Godis gracious and merciful, long-suffering, forgiving iniquity and transgresion.
Add to this, that as we are Christians, and all of one body, the church; one member cannot suffer, but all the members must suffer with it.
We have a notable instance, in this very chapter, (of which the text is a part) to what judgments a whole church and people are liable for the transgressions of particular persons, until the crimes are confessed and punished.
The children of Israel are beaten by their enemies; their leader rends his clothes; the elders of Israel are under great forrow and confusion, and know not which way to turn themselves for help; and all this, because of one man who had finned, who had broken the command of God.
It was for this reason, amongst others, that St. Paulo so sharply blames the Corinthians, that they had not bewailed the incestuous person, who had not only given scandal to all sober Christians, but would be a curse to them if he were not put away from among them: : So that as no man is safe while notorious fins are unpunished, so in truth no good man can be unconcerned when such punishments are inflicted by the governors of the church.
But we that are God's ministers have still greater reason to be very sensibly affected, when we consider, that perhaps it is for some fault of ours, some great neglect of our duty; and that it is to reprove us; that God has suffered
any of our flock to fall into such dangerous and repeated crimes.
All these things laid together, you will all be satisfied, as well as I am, that tears will become the very best of us upon these occasions, and that every one for himself, as well as for this our brother, ought with penitent hearts, and humble spirits, to smite our
breasts, and say, God be merciful unto us miserable finners.
And oh! that I could so speak upon this sad occasion, and you would so seriously attend to what I say, that by the favour of God, we might, for the future, have fewer instances of the wickednesses we are subject to, when God gives any of us up to ourselves for the hardness of our hearts.
My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confeffion unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done, bide it not from me.
From this exhortation we learn, first, that when any man has done foolishly, and broken the commands of God, the greatest glory he can give to God, and the only amends he can make, is to confess his fault, not only to God, but (where scandal has been given) unto man also.
And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have finned against the Lord God of Israel, and tbus and thus have I done.
From this humble and ready confession (even where his life was at stake) we may learn, secondly, That when a man's conscience is truly awake, and well informed, he will not scruple to confess his fault, and take shame to himself.
And these are the two things that I shall endeavour to convince you of in the discourse I am now going to make to you, which I pray God to give his blessing to.
I. And first, I will shew you how we are said to glorify God in the publick confeffion of our crimes.
We all profess to believe, that God is almighty, that he can do whatever he pleaseth; which belief ought in all reason to keep us from offending him by breaking his laws; for by the fear of the Lord, (faith the wife man) men depart from evil. And whom shall we fear, if we fear not him who can destroy both body and soul in bell.
But notwithstanding we all profess to believe the almighty, power of God, there are but too many who live without any fear of God in their hearts.
Now when a finner, struck with a sense of his guilt, and the terrors of the world to come, freely professeth that he fears the mighty power of God, and that God can punish him both in this world, and in the next, though he should escape in this; when this fear forceth him to confess those crimes, which otherwise he would be ashamed and afraid to own; this is proper to convince all that hear and fee him, that God is indeed great and greatly to be feared.
And God is glorified by such a confession, and men are made more careful, and fearful of offending against his almighty power, while they see the greatest finners humbling themselves before his majesty; professing themselves overcome and conquered, and their