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Vol. 8, No. 6
June, 1999


by Glenn Conjurske

Joseph is one of the fullest types of Christ which we find in the Old Testament, and particularly a type of “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” In what is more personal, we find in Joseph a telling exemplification of the fact that in the ways of God the way of suffering is the way to glory.

Joseph was born to a life of suffering. His first misfortune was his birth, for he was born into a world of strife in his father's house, where two sisters were engaged in an intense rivalry for their husband's love, and where the bearing of children was the chief battle ground. The polygamy of Jacob was as innocent as any polygamy could be, having been forced upon him in spite of himself, and quite against his own inclinations, but polygamy is polygamy, and it never can breed anything but envy and quarrels and strife. The birth of Joseph brought joy unmixed and unmeasured to the heart of Rachel, but we can scarcely suppose it brought any joy to the heart of Leah. By this birth she was robbed of her one little sphere of superiority, for which she had wrestled with God and with Rachel, and to which she had so tenaciously clung for so many years.

Leah no doubt felt all this most deeply, but we are hardly to suppose that she gathered her sons around her and told them tearfully, “Boys, the battle is over now, and Rachel is the victor. Rachel is a mother now, and I am conquered. She has taken away my one little sphere of superiority, and I have nothing left. She had almost everything before, but now she has all, and I have nothing.” Her feminine pride would scarcely allow of this. However she may have wept out such things to God in secret, in company she must put on another face:

“Yonder walks the sum of feminine beauty, in all her glory! She has a baby! One baby, after all these years, but this will no doubt make her too proud to speak to a mother of six. And you would think that with all her boasted beauty she could have had a good-looking one, but look at the ugly little thing!” Joseph was probably not Joseph in Leah's mouth, but “Rachel's glory,” or some such reproachful epithet. We know how quick the tongue of Leah was to deal out pettish reproaches to Rachel's face, and we can hardly suppose that tongue would be silent behind her back. And to whom would she speak such things, if not to her boys? They would no doubt laugh, and take up the reproaches, for “Mocking is catching.”

Some will doubtless be ready to affirm that I put too much into the mouth of Leah, but they will hardly contend that I put too much into her heart. Feminine jealousy is as incorrigible as it is inveterate, and I have heard just such talk from some Christian women in the present day, where there was no contention at all over a husband's love, but only over the acceptability of their children. By contemptuous reproaches they seek to establish the worth of their own unruly children in finding fault with the children of their sisters. We know the bitterness of Leah's plight, the desperation of her rivalry with her sister, and the pettishness of her reproaches. We know, therefore, what her attitude must have been towards Joseph, and “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Her feelings would certainly make themselves known to her boys.

Thus Joseph was probably despised by his brethren as soon as he entered the world, and as he grew older their disdain grew into a settled hatred. Three things contributed to this: his own goodness, his father's love, and his God-given dreams.

Joseph was no doubt loved supremely by Rachel. This we would expect, and it could hardly be otherwise. Neither would this cause any difficulties in the standing of Joseph with his brethren. What would they care if his mother loved him? But he was loved supremely by Jacob also, and this they could not so easily pass over. Jacob's love for Joseph was quite understandable, for Joseph was the only son of his beloved Rachel, and it was perhaps unavoidable that Jacob should love him as he did. But Jacob was not very discreet, and as he showed great partiality towards Rachel, so he did towards Joseph also. And as his partiality for Rachel excited all the envy of Leah, so his partiality for Joseph excited all the envy of his brethren. “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age, and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.” Parents might love one son above another, and yet treat them all alike. Those who are partial to one child do him no favor----indeed, do him no justice----for he is certain to be despised by the rest of the children for it. This was Joseph's unhappy lot. His coat of many colors was the permanent badge of his favored place, and a constant provocation of the envy of his brethren.

Emotions are for the most part involuntary, and we would not pretend that Jacob could help loving Joseph above his brethren, but the coat of many colors he might have helped. This was the grand provocation. By this “his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren.” 'Tis a wonder that Jacob, shrewd as he was, did not foresee this, and it is another wonder that Joseph continued to wear it, for he must have heard many bitter taunts about his coat of many colors, from brethren who “could not speak peaceably unto him.”

Joseph's goodness was no doubt a further reason for the strength of his father's love for him. “Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives, and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.” It is easy to love a good son, but evil sons will take this very ill. Little worth always feels itself slighted, when it gets neither more nor less than its due, and frets and complains when true worth gets its own. The leader who trusts and promotes true worth is always severely blamed by those who neither earn nor deserve nor receive that trust.

Joseph's goodness gained him nothing, therefore, with his brethren, but quite the reverse. The unworthy can bear anything but goodness. That goodness, however, was known in heaven, and while Joseph was hated by his brethren, God showed him that he would yet be exalted above them. “And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren, and they hated him yet the more. And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: for, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf. And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.”

The extreme simplicity of Joseph is rather surprising. His brethren hated him already----”could not speak peaceably unto him”----and will he tell them such a dream as this? This was casting his pearls before swine, and the only possible issue of it was that they would trample those pearls under their feet, and turn again and rend him. But mark, it is not sinful to cast our pearls before swine, only unwise. “The bad man always suspects knavery,” but the good are the last to suspect evil, and those who are harmless as doves must usually be taught in a hard school to be wise as serpents. That school was soon to open its doors to Joseph.

First, however, he must dream another dream, and tell it, too. The glory of the second dream was far in advance of that of the first. In the former it was their sheaves bowing down to his sheaf. Now it is, “Behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.” If the first dream was galling to his brethren, this one must have been much more so.

Yet those dreams were of God. The Bible relates no other kind, and if it be thought that this is an exception, and that these dreams are related not for their origin, but for their effect, I reply that their nature proves that they came from God. We all know that the workings of nature are very confused in our dreams, but they are never confused after this fashion. If this was the mere working of nature, these were not dreams at all, but hallucinations. No man or boy dreams such things by nature. A boy may dream of his dog chasing a rabbit----nay, of a rabbit chasing his dog----but he does not dream of sheaves bowing down to a sheaf, much less of the sun, moon, and stars bowing down to himself. However confused and fanciful the scenes and roles and circumstances may be in our dreams, yet they are confined to the realm of rational thought. They do not attribute personality to the inanimate.

Joseph's dreams were of God, and Joseph doubtless knew that they were, or at any rate came in time to know it. Jacob obviously suspected that they were, and evidently so did his brethren, for though “his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?”----yet “his brethren envied him, but his father observed the saying.” There had been no occasion for his brethren to envy him for his dream, if they had despised it as a vain imagination, nor any occasion for Jacob to “observe” it, if he had not suspected its divine origin. He knew not what to make of the dream, and therefore hid it away in his heart, to observe the issue. Just so when Joseph and Mary “understood not the things which he (Jesus) spake unto them, ... his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.”

So Jacob did also, and though he may have lost hold of these things when he received the manufactured evidence of Joseph's death, yet we can hardly suppose that Joseph ever lost hold of them. These were his sustaining medicaments through all the years of his sufferings. These were the levers by which he added force to his prayers through all his years of languishing in the prison in Egypt, so that if God gave these dreams to Joseph once, Joseph no doubt gave them back to God a thousand times. He who can doubt this has never had a dream from God. He that has ever had a dream from God cannot doubt it.

We need not speak now of dreams of the night. There are dreams of the day as well, dreams of the spirit, dreams of exploits and triumphs for the cause of Christ, which are as much the work of the Spirit of God as ever were any visions of the night. Such dreams are deeply etched in the soul of man by the Spirit of God, and they become the ruling passion and the driving force of the life. Such dreams make an unlearned cobbler the father of the missionary movement, put the wild gipsy boy behind the pulpit and before the multitudes, set the simple coal miner at the head of the Welsh revival, and make the uncouth and uneducated shoe salesman the leading general in the hosts of the Lord. No man who has such a dream from God can ever be again what he was before, nor can he ever relinquish his dream until he sees it fulfilled.

Such a dream Joseph had, and it no doubt sustained his sinking spirit through all the years of his exile, as Moses' dream sustained his through his forty years in the back side of the desert.

Meanwhile, Joseph has been imprudent enough to cast his pearls before swine, and the immediate effect of this was the direct opposite of what God had given him to expect. But this was of God also. The dreams which God gives are always for the future, and the path to their fulfillment is usually a long and hard one, and sometimes a bitter one. Joseph's way was all of the three. If God had meant to give the fulfillment now, there had been no occasion to give the dream. The dream is to nerve and sustain the spirit through the long, hard road to its fulfillment.

Joseph's goodness, Jacob's love, and God's approbation all combine not only to draw out the hatred of Joseph's brethren, but to increase it also. Sent of his father to learn of their welfare, “they saw him afar off”----saw his hated coat of many colors----and “they conspired against him to slay him.” This was bitter hatred, to conspire to slay their own brother. What harm to them, if he breathed and walked the earth? What harm had he ever done them? What harm was he likely to do, if he lived? Ah, his dreams were too much for them. Hatred might allow him to live and breathe, but it could never brook the thought of bowing down to him. Hatred could not brook this because pride could not. As love everywhere appears to be the twin sister of humility, so hatred plainly appears here to be the twin sister of pride. In cold blood, therefore, “they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.”

Little did they dream that they must yet reckon with those dreams, long years after they had put the dreamer out of the way. If a man has a dream from God, this may be for his neighbor's faith as well as his own, and it may be for his neighbor's humility also. To think to set aside the God-given dream by setting aside the human dreamer is impious effrontery, and this was an affront to God as well as to Joseph. They must yet reckon with Joseph's dreams, and till then they must live with an evil conscience.

Joseph is sold into Egypt. His goodness serves him well there, and he is made head over all his master's house. In this position he was doubtless thrown much into the company of his master's wife, and so came to pass that same thing which takes place daily throughout the world. Her heart was quite overset by his pleasing presence, and she, heathen that she was, approached him boldly with the seductive temptation, “Lie with me.” He reasons with her, but to no avail. Her heart is ruled by passion, and reason enters but little into such a heart. He avoids her presence, refusing so much as “to be with her,” but it was too late for this to avail anything. Joseph is all her thought, and she knows where to find him. She has yielded herself wholly to this passion, until her soul is quite immersed in it, and she can take no denial. She continues her enticements “day by day,” doubtless waxing more and more bold, and employing all the instinctive arts of femininity. Her “lips drop as an honeycomb,” as Solomon says, “and her mouth is smoother than oil.” If he withstands her bold assault on the citadel of his virtue, she will take him by smaller steps: “Then at the least kiss me. You can't conceive what one kiss would do for me----and what harm in a kiss?” But here Joseph's goodness shines as gold, being proof against the most powerful temptation which a man can endure. And since all this avails her nothing, and since she is driven by a consuming passion which will take no denial, she at length lays hold of his garment, to press him at close quarters with all her soft and sultry charms.

Yet Joseph's goodness remains untarnished. Where many men have fallen before the first breath of such temptation, Joseph withstands a daily and long-continued assault of all its fiery darts. But now his goodness is to serve him as ill as it had served him well before. He flees from fornication, but in order to do so he leaves his garment in her hand. This was not wise: better far to have wrenched it from her grasp; but goodness suspects no evil. This is now the second time that enmity has had Joseph's coat in one hand and a lie in the other, and she shall make a worse use of it than his brethren did. There is scarcely anything on the face of the earth so implacable as wounded feminine pride, and her pride was wounded to the quick by Joseph's rejection of her advances. Though all his thought was to reject her sin, all her thought was that he had rejected her person, and all her feminine charms. It is the way of women in such a case to conceal their wounds behind professions of disdain for the man who thus dares to spurn them, but it was far too late for this. Doubtless confident of success, she has cast off all her natural feminine restraint, and forcefully and repeatedly made known to him her consuming desires for his love, so that to pretend anything else now would be a transparent falsehood, which could only bring contempt upon herself. And having so forcefully made known her own desires for him, her pride could scarcely bear his rejection, and nothing will do but revenge. This was easy enough, with his garment in her hand. “She laid up his garment by her, until his lord came home,” meditating her revenge, and thus innocence is cast into prison. Thus innocence suffers at the hands of guilt. After the usual manner of noble manhood, Joseph has dealt much more tenderly with her than she deserved. Though her temptations continued day after day, yet his lips were never opened to expose her. He wounded her only so far as necessity absolutely required, to avoid his own complicity in her sin. Nevertheless, the wound which she had thus forced him to inflict upon her was a deep one, and now nothing will do but he must suffer for it.

Yet now his goodness will serve him well again. The keeper of the prison takes note of it, and sets the whole prison under his hand. But what is prosperity without liberty? This was a far cry from the fulfillment of his dreams, yet the hand of God was in all this, as much as ever it was in giving those dreams to him. He who shuts and no man opens has shut Joseph up in the prison, and there is no opening till God opens. The way to advancement is the way of suffering, and there is no help for it. But who would ever choose such a road to advancement? Who among short-sighted mortals can so much as approve it? Who can see any reason in all this languishing in the prison-house? Why this redundance of suffering? Why this waste of tears? Why this waste of years? None of us would enter the prison-house voluntarily, if God did not shut us in. There are shorter and easier roads to advancement----though usually by compromise----and God may allow the impatient to take them. His own chosen vessels might take them also, if they could do so without compromise, and if God would permit it, for we can see no reason for the long delays and the bitter disappointments. God therefore shuts the door of the prison, and leaves his chosen vessel no avenue of escape, till he sees fit to open the door himself.

We know that Joseph would have opened the door of the prison, if he could have. He indeed endeavored to do so. He charged the butler to remember him, when he was restored to his place. Even those who are possessed with no restless unbelief, who have faith in the living God, and who would gladly “let patience have her perfect work, that they may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing”----even these have little understanding of when patience has had its perfect work. We know not when we have suffered enough. We know not when we have waited long enough. God therefore shuts, and no man opens, and all Joseph's endeavors in that direction were perfectly useless.

How could Joseph know when he had suffered enough? What did he know when he was fit for his place? The day in which his prison door was opened was the same in his eyes as a hundred other days. So far as he could understand anything of the matter, he was now no more fit for his place than he was the day before, or a year before. But God works not only to fit the man for the place, but to make the place for the man, and he is never in a hurry. He shuts, therefore, and no man opens. This is the school of God, and in this school the servants of God must be educated.

Man has schools of another sort, where men may learn Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, and perhaps a smattering of English also, with a little of false or shallow doctrine thrown in, and by this means they think to prepare men for the ministry. But the disappointments and delays and sufferings which constitute the chief courses in the school of God will never be found in the curriculums of men. These schools, with the precision of a factory, turn out little wheels and cogs and bearings, fit for nothing but to fill a ready-made place in an existing machine. Men of God are not made after this fashion. No man so much as knew----Joseph did not know himself----what place he would fill, until the hand of God set him in that place, and how could he know what preparation he needed for it? God knew all, and God made the place for the man, and the man for the place.

Having finished his work in Joseph, and set him in his place, he now begins to work on his brethren. They were not let in to the secret of the Lord. They knew nothing of the coming dearth, and made no preparation for it. They now begin to feel the pinch of famine. And here we see how God arranges the affairs of the whole world, merely to vindicate his hated servant, and to exalt him over those brethren who hated him. “And all countries came into Egypt to Joseph for to buy corn, because that the famine was so sore in all lands.” All this merely to do for Joseph what Joseph deserved, and what God had long before taught him to hope for.

And as God deals with Joseph's brethren, so Joseph deals with them also. “He made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them.” Though his heart yearned over them, so that he must turn away from them and weep, yet we see nothing of “My brethren! My brethren! How good it is to see you!” Nothing of the sort. No, there was an old score which must be settled first. I have known people who will wrong a man, and then sweep the whole wrong under the rug, and endeavor to go on as though it had never been. But the man who has received the wrong really has no business to allow such conduct. The man who allows others to wrong him with impunity in fact wrongs them. Joseph therefore makes himself strange to them, and speaks roughly, all to convict them of their sin, and bring them to repentance. In this he is an exquisite type of Christ dealing with the Jews in the last days.

And observe the workings of conscience in Joseph's brethren. Not a word did Joseph speak to them of their great sin against himself. He rather brings against them a false charge, saying, “Ye are spies.” The false charge might rather have led them to a vigorous defense of themselves, but the true charge was lodged against them in their own hearts, and conscience is swift and unerring. It takes them directly to the great sin of their lives----though they had been guilty of a thousand lesser sins----”and they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother.” All this Joseph secured in his first interview with them.

Yet I observe that Joseph is in no hurry in his dealings with them. Though nature would have made haste on every account, and especially on account of his aged father, who was yet mourning his loss, yet Joseph had long been a student in the school of God, and God is never in a hurry. Joseph had learned the ways of the Lord, and learned them well. He is in no hurry in his dealings with his brethren, but will do thorough work in securing their conviction and repentance. He was months in doing what would be done in five minutes today----or not done at all. A respected leader in the church asked me some time ago, endeavoring to impugn the gospel which I preach, what I would tell a man if I had two minutes in which to preach the gospel to him. I told him I would preach the same things as if I had two months----but I do not generally expect to convert a soul in two minutes. There are old scores to be settled, and the determination of the heart against God will rarely be broken down in two minutes.

We must yet observe the faith of Joseph. It is the way of faith to take all things from the hand of God. It therefore lays no blame on its persecutors, or on any of the subordinate agents of its troubles. It says as David said of Shimei, when Abishai was ready to take off his head for his cursing, “What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?” (II Sam. 16:10). This is the viewpoint of faith, and all this shines with peculiar luster in Joseph. His brethren are troubled at his presence, but he says, “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither, for God did send me before you to preserve life. ... So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God.” And once again, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”

Such faith is the royal path to love, for it knows not how to blame its persecutors, and that love overcomes the enmity of its enemies also. Joseph “kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them, and after that his brethren talked with him”----those same brethren who “could not speak peaceably unto him” before.

We observe also that Joseph's sufferings were not for himself, but to fit him to serve others. There are many who say, “Here am I: send me,” who think only of the glory of the ministry, and nothing of the sufferings which lead to that glory. Yet if they are sincere, God may send them indeed, but it may be to the prison, and not the pulpit. “It was not you that sent me hither,” says Joseph, “but God.” All these sufferings are sweetened by the consciousness that they are for the benefit of others. “And whether we be afflicted,” says Paul, “it is for your consolation and salvation.” Some of the keenest sufferings which we endure are to teach us that wisdom by which we may spare others those same sufferings. Faith and love can submit to all this without complaint, for such sufferings establish a sweet bond of fellowship with Christ, all of whose sufferings were for others.

We need say but little more of Joseph. His dreams are all fulfilled, and that in a manner which is exceeding abundantly above all that he asked or thought. Not only are his brethren penitent at his feet, but he is lord of all Egypt, and saviour of the world. His sufferings are forgotten in the glory that follows. With Job and with David he is an eminent example of faith and patience, and in him also we see beautifully portrayed “the end of the Lord,” in his vindication and exaltation, and the fulfillment of all his dreams, in this life.


Ancient Proverbs Explained & Illustrated

by the Editor


First deserve, and then desire.

It is universal among men to desire many things, but rare to find a man who troubles himself about deserving them. Such is the pride of the human heart that most men seem to assume that they do deserve whatever it is they desire. It has never once entered their heads that they might not deserve it.

One of the most universal desires among men is for marriage. Every soul that walks the earth wants a wife or a husband, but every soul does not deserve one. Every man takes it for granted that he deserves a wife, but he will mistreat her when he has her. Every woman assumes that she deserves a husband, but she will be a clog and a trouble to him when she has him. Such folks would best promote their own happiness, not by desiring, and casting about for the object of their desires, but by laboring to deserve what they desire. I have known both men and women still single at the age when many are grandparents, and most earnestly desiring to be married too, and yet I have been obliged to conclude that to introduce these unhappy souls to each other would be to do a disservice to both of them. All their energies have gone into desiring, and they have not troubled themselves about deserving. They are so selfish, peevish, exacting, and unstable that their marriage must be a disaster as soon as it happens, and to put two such folks together would be a double disaster.

But oh! what an impatient age is this in which we live. Whatever a man wants, he must have it now, and it is doubtful it has entered anyone's head to first deserve, and then desire. Who ever supposes himself undeserving of anything that he desires? Faith and patience and humility are out, and pride and unbelief and impatience are in. And as it is in the world, so it is in the church also. We see this everywhere in the ministry of the word. Only let a man desire a little glory, a little influence, and immediately he sets up to preach and write and edit and print, apparently never inquiring whether he is fit for the place he assumes. Modern affluence, modern technology, and the ten thousand divisions of the modern church have put this within the reach of all, whether they deserve it or not.

What a contrast the entrance upon the ministry today presents with that of a century or two ago. How men used to weep and pray, how they used to search themselves, concerning the call of God to the ministry, and how they used to say almost with one accord, “I am unfit for such a responsibility.” How they labored, not to enter the ministry, but to make themselves fit for it. They labored first to deserve, ere they dared to desire. But now every man says, by his actions if not by his words, give me a pulpit, give me a computer, give me a printing press. Of course I am fit. If their imagined gifts are slighted by those from whom they expected to receive a place of ministry, they do not inquire, What do I lack? How may I make myself fit? How may I deserve the place which I desire? This really never occurs to them. Who dreams of making himself fit, when he believes himself fit already? If they would but meekly ask their elders why they are slighted and passed by, they might learn the very things which would enable them to go humbly to work to deserve the place which they desire, but they have no such thoughts as this. Their only thought is to blame those who have failed to promote them, and run across town, or across the country, where they may find someone who is ignorant of truth and spirituality, and who will therefore think as highly of them as they think of themselves, and give them the place of ministry which they desire. Old Bishop Henshaw addresses a most seasonable word to these restless and impatient souls, when he says, “Affect [prefer] the company of those who are abler then thy selfe, and desire rather to partake of others sufficiency, than to publish thine owne; in meaner company thou maist bee admired more, but in this thou shalt profit more: it is better to learne wisdome from those that are wise, then to be thought wise by those that are ignorant: be studious rather of being able, then of being so accounted.”

But who will concern himself to profit, when he is so brimful of wisdom already? He would rather be gaped at by those more ignorant than himself, than to sit at the feet of a wise man and be made fit for the ministry. Oh, Pride and Impatience, the whole church of God, and not least thyself, is the worse for thy restless seeking. Would that thou had a heart in thee to first deserve, and then desire.

The Two Gospels

by Glenn Conjurske

From the time that man was created on the earth, two gospels have been preached to him. One is the gospel of God. The other is the gospel of the devil.

Now the gospel is good news. It is “glad tidings of great joy.” Of what does that glad tidings consist? The gospel is a promise of life. This is its essence. There is no “glad tidings” like this, for above all things man loves life. God came to man in the garden of Eden with a promise of life. The promise was only implied, coming as it did on the back of a threat of death, for man then had life, and he needed no gospel by which to obtain life, but only the terms by which to retain it. That gospel came to him in the solemn declaration and commandment of God,

“Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” In this declaration we have the unchanging and unchangeable doctrine of the gospel of God. Observe that this gospel is conditional. God has never preached an unconditional gospel. If he seems at times to do so, this is only seeming, for he himself in the most solemn terms disclaims any unconditional promise of life. “When I shall say to the righteous,” he says, “that he shall surely live, if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.” (Ezekiel 33:13). The promise appears to be unconditional, but God never made an unconditional promise of life, and he explicitly disclaims it in the most unmistakable language.

Now observe God's condition of life. To Adam he says, “in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” That is, as he states the same principle elsewhere, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” “The wages of sin is death.” This God plainly states to Adam, and in so doing implies that the condition of life is obedience. These are the unchanging principles of the gospel of God----sin and death, righteousness and life.

But God has no sooner preached his gospel to Adam, than the devil begins to preach another gospel. The promise of life which God only implied on the back of a threat of death, the devil preached boldly and explicitly, saying, “Ye shall not surely die.” And observe that while God's promise of life was conditional, the devil's promise of life was unconditional. God set obedience as the condition of life. The devil set no condition at all. God threatened death as the wages of sin. The devil threatened no death at all. Boil down these two gospels to their root essence, and we shall have the following:

The Gospel of God
If ye sin, ye shall surely die.


The Devil's Gospel
Ye may sin, and ye shall not die.


Now it ought to be an axiom with us, not to be questioned, that what God preached to Adam was the truth, while what the devil preached to Eve was a lie. Yet if we examine their declarations in the light of the common gospel of modern Evangelicalism, we must come to exactly the opposite conclusion. According to the modern gospel, God preached the lie, and the devil preached the truth. I refer to the gospel of modern Evangelicalism, Fundamentalism, and Plymouth Brethrenism. These all, in general, have put their stamp of approval on the devil's gospel, and repudiated the gospel of God as some sinister error. Thus they think to uphold the grace of God, but while they seek to uphold the grace of God, they confuse the conditional grace of God with the unconditional grace of the devil, calling the grace of God law, and the grace of the devil gospel.

Our modern preachers would not maintain that the devil preached the truth, while God preached a lie. No, but practically they do preach “Ye shall not surely die” as surely as the devil did. Practically they do maintain that what God preached, and preaches still, was law, while what the devil preached was grace. No one will pretend that when the devil preached “Ye shall not surely die,” he meant to imply that if they but trusted in him, he would deliver them from the hand of God. No such thing. They would not have believed such a message. What the devil was actually preaching when he said “Ye shall not surely die” was faith in God. True, he was preaching unbelief at the same time, but in this he was preaching nothing different from what is preached in pulpits all over Fundamentalism at the present day. He was preaching faith in the grace and mercy of God, though in order to do so he preached actual unbelief in his holiness, and of course unbelief in his word. God had said, “Thou shalt surely die.” In preaching “Ye shall not surely die,” the devil contradicted the word of God, and in this he was in fact the prototype of most of the gospel preaching of the present day, which preaches the grace of God, while it contradicts his solemn word at every turn of the path.

God says that he “will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life; but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, ... but glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh good.” (Rom. 2:6-10). The modern gospel contradicts this, saying that this is law, not grace, or that the case is hypothetical----while in fact none shall receive eternal life because they seek it in well doing, and none shall be damned, though they work evil, if they but believe.

God says, “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” (Rom. 8:13). The modern gospel contradicts this, affirming that ye may live after the flesh if ye please, and that whatever reward ye may lose for it, “Ye shall not surely die” for it. This is exactly what the devil preached to Eve.

God says, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23). The modern gospel contradicts this, holding that sin has no such wages at all, provided we have faith----though it be nothing but faith in the devil's lie, and the rankest presumption in the sight of God.

God says, “The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (I Cor. 6:9). The modern gospel contradicts this, and not by implication only, but explicitly, forcefully, and continually.

God says, “The end of those things is death.” (Rom. 6:21). The modern gospel contradicts this, affirming that we may live in all those things, and yet find life at the end of them.

God says, “This ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Eph. 5:5). The modern gospel contradicts this, affirming that all these, and habitual and impenitent Sodomites besides, may have as much inheritance in the kingdom of God as the purest man on earth, provided they believe in Christ.

God says, “All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth: they that have done the things which are good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done the things which are evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28-29, Greek). The modern gospel contradicts this, affirming that those who do evil are in as fair a way to life as those who do good, provided only they have faith. The life which they live, whether good or evil, is no issue.

God says, “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer, and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (I John 3:14-15). The modern gospel contradicts this, affirming that if Cain had but offered a blood sacrifice, he would have been as saved as Abel.

God says, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life.” (Rev. 22:14). The modern gospel contradicts this, maintaining that we may have right to the tree of life, whether we do his commandments or not.

In short, the modern gospel contradicts every solemn declaration of God to the effect that “The wages of sin is death,” affirming in the most categorical fashion that our state cannot affect our standing, and explicitly denying the moral difference between the saved and the lost. The modern gospel contradicts the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation, affirming every day and every way that we may have life without obedience, and sin without death. It sets aside entirely God's condition of life, and puts a false and presumptuous faith in its place, denying that God's condition has anything to do with the matter. This is nothing other than the devil's promise of life. “Ye shall not surely die,” though ye live in all manner of sin from the cradle to the grave. If the modern promise of life is founded upon a supposed faith in God, so was the devil's. If the modern gospel thinks to stand upon faith in Christ, so much the worse. This is but to make Christ the minister of sin. Any gospel which confirms the devil's lie, “Ye shall not surely die,” is in fact the devil's gospel, and all its talk of faith in Christ but adds to the deception.

We know right well that “without faith it is impossible to please him,” but we know also that it is impossible to please him with an unholy, God-tempting, devil-believing, disobedient faith, which does nothing to restore the image of God to the soul of man, nor to reconcile the heart of man to the ways of God. This is the faith of devils, and it is worse than worthless. Our first parents fell by the disobedience of unbelief, and now God makes known the gospel “to all nations for the obedience of faith.” Those who preach faith without obedience know nothing at all of the ways of God, nor of the way of salvation. Have they never read, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel”? Have they never read “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations”? Have they never read of “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ”? Indeed, have they never read that Paul spent his whole life preaching “that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance”? Their theology consists only of a few proof texts, misunderstood and misapplied, and divorced from the message of the whole Bible. They have actually substituted the devil's gospel in the place of God's. They preach nothing but faith, while they know nothing of what faith is. The devil preached faith to Christ, but it was the faith which tempts God.

We believe in salvation by faith, but the faith in which we believe is that which actually believes the word of God, and actually trusts in God himself----actually trusts that the ways of God are better than the ways of the devil, and so chooses and walks in those ways. We believe in “faith and a good conscience” (I Tim. 1:19). Any other faith but mocks God and tempts him. We quite agree with John Wesley, who wrote, “If we duly join faith and works in all our preaching, we shall not fail of a blessing. But of all preaching, what is usually called Gospel preaching is the most useless, if not the most mischievous: a dull, yea, or lively, harangue on the sufferings of Christ, or salvation by faith, without strongly inculcating holiness. I see, more and more, that this naturally tends to drive holiness out of the world.” That this is the very truth ought to be obvious to all who see the awful carnality which prevails in evangelical churches today, and it ought to go without saying that any gospel which drives holiness out of the world cannot be the gospel of God. It is precisely the devil's gospel.

But to return to Adam, we will freely grant that Adam in Paradise was under law. We think the fact quite irrelevant to the present discussion, but we readily grant the fact. Not only do we readily grant it, but gladly call attention to it, for it is the very point over which modern orthodoxy never fails to stumble. A very pernicious form of dispensationalism prevails in Fundamentalism, exerting an almost universal sway even over those who disclaim its influence. That dispensationalism proceeds on the assumption that the law requires obedience, while grace requires none. This is the assumption which lies at the root of all modern antinomian orthodoxy, and this assumption is as false as the lie of the devil. It stands directly against all those solemn declarations of Scripture which we have just quoted. The fact is, grace requires obedience, as the condition of life, as much as ever the law did, and obedience is as essential under the gospel as it is under the law. The difference between law and grace does not lie here at all. If it does, then all those solemn asseverations of Scripture which we have just quoted from the pens of John and Paul are lies, and the devil's declaration, “Ye shall not surely die,” though ye sin with a high hand, is the very truth of the gospel. Let him believe it who can.

The difference between law and grace lies elsewhere. Both of them certainly require obedience. Under both of them “the wages of sin is death.” Under both of them, sin is the way to death, righteousness the way to life, and holiness the way to heaven. The difference between them lies just here, that where the law requires perfect righteousness, the gospel requires but sincere and habitual righteousness. One sin under law, and all is lost, for there is no possibility of forgiveness under the law, where if a man falls under grace, he may be forgiven and restored. He may not, however, live careless and impenitent in habitual sin. This is the certain way to death, whether under law or grace. All this is so clear in the Bible that it is really a great wonder that anyone could miss it. “He that doeth righteousness is righteous. He that doeth sin is of the devil.” (I Jn. 3:7-8).

Yet men will have life without obedience, and sin without death, and if dispensationalism helps them to it, then they will be sound dispensationalists. If Calvinism helps them to it, they will be sound Calvinists. If modern orthodoxy helps them to it, they will be as orthodox as any, though at the same time they are as ungodly as any. Years ago I spoke with a young convert, who had found a spiritual home under the ministry of one of the most antinomian preachers I have ever known. He was practically ungodly----continuing, for example, to smoke, and not troubling himself about it. I endeavored to preach the true gospel to him, saying none other things than those which were preached by Christ and his apostles, but he soon told me, “If I believed what you say, this would destroy all my peace.” Precisely so, but the real fact is, if he had believed what God said, it would have destroyed all his peace, for that peace stood upon no other foundation than the devil's lie, “Ye shall not surely die,” though ye sin to your heart's content. This is that unconditional promise of life, which the devil preached to Eve in the garden, and which is preached today from a thousand of the pulpits of Fundamentalism.

But it will be said that the modern promise of life is not unconditional as the devil's was, for it is always conditioned upon faith. I answer, so was the devil's, but it was unconditional in the sense that it set aside the condition imposed by God, and put a condition in its place which was practically no condition at all. Only a little presumption, falsely called faith. Many of the leaders of Fundamentalism explicitly define the faith which they preach to be no condition. It is not doing at all, but precisely ceasing to do anything----though the testimony of the Bible is as clear as a sunbeam that that faith which does nothing is dead, and cannot save.

What an awful state the church is come to, when what is commonly preached as trusting Christ for salvation is in reality nothing other than trusting in the devil's lie. If we are to trust Christ, it must be upon his own terms, and in submission to his own claims. Those who “repent and believe the gospel” trust Christ on his own terms, and will surely be saved. Those who “believe the gospel” while they cling to their sins believe nothing but the devil's lie, and to trust Christ on the devil's terms can be of no possible worth to the soul. It is a grand deception, and nothing more. The devil cares not a whit how much you believe, so long as you continue in sin. He will preach faith to you himself, as he did to Eve, if by that means he can but secure your soul for sin, for if he can but secure your continuance in sin, he has secured all. “The wages of sin is death,” and all who continue in sin will find it so, whatever their faith may be.

Richard Baxter sets all this forth in that most excellent of theological treatises, A Call to the Unconverted to Turn and Live. Says he, 'You see by this time that we are commanded to offer Life to you all, and to tell you from God, that if you will Turn you may Live.

“Here you may safely trust your souls: for the Love of God is the Fountain of this offer, John 3.16, and the blood of the Son of God hath purchased it: ... So that the truth of it is past controversy, that the worst of you all, and every one of you, if you will but be Converted, may be Saved.

“Indeed if you will needs believe that you shall be saved without Conversion, then you believe a falsehood: and if I should preach that to you, I should preach a lie: this were not to believe God, but the Devil and your own deceitful hearts. God hath his promise of Life, and the Devil hath his promise of Life. God's promise is, 'Return and Live.' The Devil's promise is, 'you shall live whether you turn or not.' The word of God is as I have shewed you. 'Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven,' Matth. 18.3. Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God, John 3.3,5. 'Without holiness none shall see God.' Hebrews 12.14. The Devil's word is, 'You may be saved without being born again and Converted: you may do well enough without being holy; God doth but frighten you; he is more merciful than to do as he saith: he will be better to you than his word.' And alas, the greatest part of the world believe this word of the Devil, before the word of God; just as our first sin and misery came into the world. God said to our first parents, 'If ye eat ye shall Die.' And the Devil contradicteth him, and saith, 'Ye shall not Die,' and the woman believed the Devil before God. So now the Lord saith, 'Turn or Die.' And the Devil saith, 'You shall not die, if you do but cry God mercy at last, and give over the acts of sin when you can practise it no longer.' And this is the word that the world believes. O heinous wickedness to believe the Devil before God!

“And yet that is not the worst: but blasphemously they call this a Believing and Trusting God, when they put him in the shape of Satan, who was a liar from the beginning, and when they believe that the word of God is a lie, they call this a Trusting God, and say they Believe in him, and Trust on him for Salvation: Where did ever God say, that the unregenerate, unconverted, unsanctified shall be saved? Shew such a word in Scripture. I challenge you, if you can. Why this is the Devil's word; and to believe it is to believe the Devil, and the sin that is commonly called Presumption: and do you call this a believing and trusting God? There is enough in the Word of God to comfort and strengthen the hearts of the sanctified; but not a word to strengthen the hands of wickedness, nor to give men the least hope of being saved, though they be never sanctified.”

“Ye shall not surely die” is the devil's gospel, and it may be supposed that this is his pet doctrine. Whatever a man may believe besides, the devil will surely have him to believe this. Neither will he much concern himself with what else a man believes, so long as he believes this. It may be supposed, then, that all the devil's cunning will be exercised to secure men's belief on this point. He will mix this point with every truth in the Bible, and with every error for which he can find any shadow of countenance in the Bible. He will mix this with the blood of Christ, with the promises of God, with divine sovereignty, with human inability, with law, with grace, with sacraments, with dispensationalism, with the mercy of God, with the forbearance of God, with the gospel of Christ, so by any and all means to give some countenance to this grand lie.

And indeed, his work is an easy one. What pill could ever go down so easily as this one? What truth, what lie, what theory, what philosophy, what sophistry, could ever find so ready a response in the heart of man as 'Ye shall not surely die”? Of all the things which a man may love, by all means he loves life, and on all accounts he loves sin, and here is a pleasing gospel which gives him both, while it requires nothing of him. What wonder is it that this gospel is the most popular message on the earth? What wonder is it if the gospel of God, which requires men to choose between sin and life, can never hold its own against this pleasing gospel of the devil?

But if the devil is to palm off his unholy gospel upon the preachers of Fundamentalism, he must surely do it on some other basis than the love of sin, for many of those preachers are certainly holy men, who love holiness. If he cannot gain them to practice sin, he will at any rate gain them to preach it. How is he to do this? Simply enough, indeed. God's conditional gospel he labels as law, and teaches good men to fear it as heresy. His own unconditional gospel of “Ye shall not surely die” he labels as grace, and teaches with the utmost vehemence of his nature that to deny this is to frustrate the grace of God, and so destroy the souls of men. Oh! cunning devil! who can solemnly teach that holiness will destroy the souls of men, by standing in the way of their faith in Christ, while sin alone can save the grace of God, which alone can save the souls of men. Oh! cunning craftiness! which gains a myriad of adherents to this unholy theology in the very pulpits of Fundamentalism! But the grace of God needs no such supports as this, and all these are but unholy hands upon the ark of God. The intentions may be as pure as Uzzah's were, but the hands are as presumptuous. So is every tongue, and every doctrine, which infuses the devil's promise of life into the gospel of God, or which lends one iota of support to a sinning religion, which stands upon “Ye shall not surely die.” This is the devil's gospel. The gospel of Christ and of God is at the opposite pole from this.

D. L. Moody on the Terms of Salvation


There is no such thing as a man getting to heaven until he repents. You may preach Christ and offer Christ, but man has got to turn away from his sin first, as we tried to show you last night. “Let the wicked forsake his way, the unrighteous man his thoughts, and turn unto the Lord.” Repentance is turning.
----The Great Redemption (Moody's sermons at the Cleveland Tabernacle, 1879). Chicago: The Century Book and Paper Co., 1889, pp. 85-86.

We have got an inheritance, incorruptible, kept in reserve for us, and the moment a man is willing to turn from his sins he can enter into that inheritance. God keeps it in store for all that want it. But do not think for a moment that you are going to enter into that inheritance----into those mansions Christ has gone to prepare, with sin upon you. It is utterly out of the question. In your sins it is impossible for you to enter into that inheritance. “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” We cannot get into the kingdom of God without repentance, without turning from sin, without laying hold of His righteousness and giving up our own.
----ibid., pg. 94.

A great many men make professions on their dying beds; but when the danger of death no longer threatens, and they get well again, they get up and forget all about their conversions. That is fear; that is not what we want. Instead of waiting to be worked up to a certain pitch of alarm, we want cool, calm calculation. It is making up your mind that you will change company, that you will turn from sin and leave the world, and turn to God. And he will receive every one who does so come to him. Any man can repent here to-night; and the Lord is willing to receive and save every one that will. If Nineveh repented, that wicked city, I do not know why New York cannot repent. I am sure if it does, the Lord God will have mercy. If a man truly repents and comes to God for mercy, he will get it. He delights in mercy; and he will have mercy upon every one who turns from his or her sins to him.
----The Gospel Awakening” (Sermons of Moody), edited by L. T. Remlap [Palmer]. Chicago: J. Fairbanks & Co., 1879, pg. 316.

There is one thing you cannot do, unrepentant sinner: you cannot go into the kingdom of God. You can come here; you can get into church; but you will never get into the kingdom of God without repentance.

God is very merciful; he is full of love, and he can pardon me. Well, you can go on in that faith, in that delusion if you like; but God says that if you don't repent you must die. God is true; he does not say that which is false. You can make light of it, young man or young woman, if you wish to, but the time is coming when, if you have not repented, there will not be much hope for you. You must be faithful; you must banish everything that is not good and holy.
----ibid., pg. 317.

No unrepentant sinner will ever get into heaven. Unless they forsake their sin, they cannot enter there.
----ibid., pg. 419.

Another thing: it is not breaking off some one sin. A great many people make that mistake. A man who has been a drunkard signs the pledge, and stops drinking. Breaking off one sin is not Repentance. Forsaking one vice is like breaking off one limb of a tree, when the whole tree has to come down. A profane man stops swearing; very good: but if he does not break off from every sin it is not Repentance----it is not the work of God in the soul. When God works He hews down the whole tree. He wants to have a man turn from every sin.
----The Way to God and How To Find It, by D. L. Moody. Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association, n.d., pg. 74.

I beg you to take warning, make a clear work of sin, cost what it may. Take warning! You must either give up sin, or give up the hope of heaven.
----Sowing and Reaping, by D. L. Moody. London: Morgan and Scott, n.d., pg. 118.

The Other Wages of Sin

Absract of a Sermon Preached on February 21, 1999

by Glenn Conjurske

If I were to ask you “What are the wages of sin?” you would all reply without hesitation, “The wages of sin is death.” While the world may not know or acknowledge this, we all know it, and the fact is, we may know it too well. For while we know that “the wages of sin is death,” we know also that “the gift of God is eternal life.” We know, in other words, that we may escape the wages of sin. The death which is the wages of sin comprises both the physical death of the body, and the second death also, in which both soul and body are cast into hell. While we know that those who continue impenitent in sin shall surely die for it, we know also that by repentance and faith we may escape the second death, and since all men must die, faith or no faith, we somehow learn to treat the first death lightly. And we may even escape the first death, if we live and remain till the coming of Christ. All this we know.

But we fear that the effect of this knowledge is generally to make us careless concerning sin. The dread of death is removed, and with it the dread of sin. The church at large has little fear of sin. It treats it lightly. Besetting sins are excused and retained, where the Bible commands us to lay them aside. It seems to be commonly believed that sin cannot hurt us. Christ has borne all the penalty, and we are free. “Free from the law, Oh, happy condition!” And with many Christians, “free from the law” means nothing other than “free to sin.” Free from the fear of death means free from the fear of sin.

Besides, we know that “the wages of sin is death” in general, while we expect no such wages in particular. We know it as Martha knew that her brother would rise again, “in the resurrection, at the last day,” but not today. We believe in “Pay-day Someday,” as Robert G. Lee used to preach, but not today or tomorrow. We expect to die only as all men die, only as the wages of sin in general, and not as the wages of any particular sin of ours. Whether we sin or no has no effect on the matter. We shall die if we sin, and die if we don't. We know that “there is a sin unto death,” but this does not affect us. This is some gross or heinous sin, of which we will not be guilty. We do not expect to die any the sooner if we sin, nor any the later if we don't. Neither do we fear the second death, since we have faith in Christ.

But supposing all this theology and all this reasoning to be true, it is really quite irrelevant, for there are other wages of sin besides death. I intend to speak to you this morning on the other wages of sin.

First, we must establish the fact that there are other wages. God said to Adam, In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die. Adam ate, and the sentence was passed. But the sentence and the execution are two things. There are a great many criminals in this country who are sentenced to death, and who yet live. They are, as we say, “on death row,” but yet they live. Do they then receive no wages in the mean time? Does the judge sentence them to death, and say, “Your execution will be three months hence. Meanwhile, go home and enjoy yourself?” Oh, no. The condemned man is handcuffed and taken back to his prison cell.

Adam and Eve were sentenced to death, but the execution was delayed. Meanwhile they are paid the other wages of sin. “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow.... And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it, cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee. ... In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” (Gen. 3:16-19). All this is the wages of sin.

Some will doubtless quibble about the term, and insist that death is the wages of sin, and sorrow and thorns and thistles are something else. Then let them call it what they please. Let them call it consequences or results. It all amounts to the same thing. The fact is, it is what we receive because we sin. It all comes “Because thou hast ... eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it.” This is wages.

And observe, all this is “till thou return unto the ground.” All this is from now till death. We can escape death by the faith of the gospel, but the other wages of sin we can only escape by death. We can sing, “free from the law,” but we cannot sing, “free from the curse,” for we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit must groan with the rest of the creation.

Well, but even the curse will generally fail to teach us the seriousness and the sinfulness of sin, for the curse is only the general consequence of sin in general. The curse, in other words, is felt by all alike, whether we sin or no. In some cases we may feel it the more because of our own particular sins, but in general we must all bear it, whether we sin or no.

There are therefore yet further wages of sin, which serve to bring the matter home to us. There are particular wages for particular sins, and these we cannot escape. The Bible is full of examples of this. Perhaps the most conspicuous is David. We are all familiar with the sin which David committed, first of adultery, and then of virtual murder, in order to hide his adultery. When Nathan was sent by God to face him with his sin, he said, “I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin: thou shalt not die.” (II Sam. 12:13). Both the sin and the death which was its wages are put away, by God himself, but David was not therefore to go scot free. He was yet to receive the other wages of sin, and these he could by no means escape.

And first, so soon as Nathan says, “Thou shalt not die,” he adds, “Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.” The sentence was no sooner pronounced than executed. So soon as Nathan leaves the house, the Lord smites the child. David fasts and prays and lies all night on the earth, but all to no avail. He must receive his wages, and the child must die. And this rod, by the way, doubtless fell heavier on Bath-sheba than it did upon David, and we must not forget that she was as guilty of adultery as he was.

But this is not all. Though the sin was put away, David has hard wages to receive for it for many years to come. “Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house, because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.” This is wages, and all to be paid long years after the sin itself was put away, and the death remitted.

And further, “Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” All this is severe and bitter, and there is no way David can escape any of it. No repentance now will avail a whit. He has already repented, and the sin is already put away, and yet he must receive all these bitter payments, for many years to come.

And here we learn something which neither death nor the curse seem to be able to teach us. We ought to learn the seriousness and the sinfulness of sin from death and the curse, but they are too general, and we are too accustomed to them. All men die, regardless of their personal sinfulness. All men feel the curse, sin or no sin. But the rod is reserved for our own particular sins, and it is the rod which teaches us what we fail to learn from either death or the curse.

But in this day of antinomian grace, most Christians fear the rod as little as they fear sin. One reason for this is that they have never yet understood the purpose of the rod. They suppose the rod of God will be employed only to turn them from sin, and knowing that they may turn from sin when they choose, they little expect to feel the rod, and they little fear it. They go on sinning till they feel the rod, or but see it coming, and then repent for all they are worth, and expect the Lord to withdraw the threatened strokes. But those who view the matter after this fashion really know but little of the way of God. It is true that God sometimes uses the rod to turn us from sin, and in that case, “If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged,” but he as often uses the rod long after we have repented, not to turn us from our sin, but to make us feel its sinfulness.

So the matter certainly stood in David's case. Someone will doubtless tell us this was because David was under the law. It is useless to argue with such folks. I only tell them, Dream on, till you feel the rod yourself, and then you will be awake enough. David never felt the rod at all until after he had repented, and after the Lord had put away his sin----and by the way, it is grace which puts away sin. But then, when his sin was renounced in his heart, and put away by the forgiving grace of God, then he felt the rod, and oh! the strokes were heavy. God intends that we should feel the rod, and he usually does not consult us as to what our wages shall be. Only one time, that I can recall, does God consult the sinner concerning his wages. “So Gad came to David, and told him, and said unto him, Shall seven years of famine come unto thee in thy land? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days' pestilence in thy land? now advise, and see what answer I shall return to him that sent me.” (II Sam. 24:13). Here God asks David what his wages shall be, but you will observe, it was no easy choice.

In most cases, however, God gives us no choice at all. We cannot choose which sins he will visit with the rod. Neither can we choose which rod he will employ. The only thing which we can choose is not to sin, but we rarely think of this until it is much too late. David may live as holy as an angel from this day forward, and yet he must feel the rod for the sins of the past. He has already committed adultery and murder. That cannot be changed by anything he does now. He must feel the rod for it, and neither can that be changed by anything he does now. In all this God teaches us the seriousness and the sinfulness of sin, and the sooner we learn it the better. Oh! how I wish that someone had taught me these things when I was five years old! But then all I heard was antinomian grace, and nothing at all to lead me to suppose that sin was a very serious matter.

But we must observe that the discipline of God in this life is never universal, but always selective. In the day of judgement he will deal universally with sin, and with righteousness also, and all of us will receive all of our wages. In the present life he deals selectively and representatively. As he singles out certain sinners to make examples of them, so he chooses to pay us our wages for certain of our sins. If he were to scourge us for every sin, the wages of sin would be death indeed, for who of us would survive our scourgings? His purpose is not to destroy us, however, but to teach us the seriousness of sin, and to that end he chooses to visit certain of our sins with the rod----it may be the most serious of them, it may be the most characteristic, or it may be the most venial. He knows how to teach us. In any case, the wages are likely to be heavy, and we may receive long wages for short sins. Though the church seems to have forgotten this today, the world used to know it, and expressed it in the common proverb, “Short pleasure, long lament.” This is a fact of life, and the reason it is so is that there is a God in heaven. Short folly, long sorrow. Short sin, long wages. Uzziah “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done,” but one time he approached the altar of incense, and he must be a leper till the day of his death.

If God so chooses, we must feel the rod for the sins already committed, already repented of, and already put away. There is no help for that, and the best we can do for it is meekly to submit to the rod----but we need not go on adding to our account. If I must today feel the rod for the sins of yesterday, why should I sin today, and treasure up a further scourging for tomorrow? But men are slow to learn to fear sin, and therefore the strokes of the rod of God are heavy.

David certainly felt them so. When God said to him, “I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house,” David likely had no idea as to the extent of that evil. He did not then suppose that the whole house of Israel would rise up in rebellion against him, or that he would be driven from his house and throne and kingdom. Yet so it happened.

Neither did he dream of the bitterness of his wages. We little feel the bitterness of death. It is far off, and we expect to face it when we must, as every other child of Adam must do, but somehow it fails to teach us the awfulness of sin. The rod comes home to us, and teaches us a lesson which we cannot ignore. Threaten your children with death in the distant future for their rebellion, and this will not reform them, but the rod applied today will do so. And the fact is, these other wages of sin may often be more bitter than death. When David is paid the wages of his sin, we find him crying, “Would God I had died!” The wages which he received were more bitter than those he was spared. To David God had said, “Thou shalt not die,” but Absalom must die, and David must then weep out his grief with, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” The wages which he received were more bitter than the death which was remitted.

But God does not consult us as to what our wages shall be. He chooses that himself, and I suppose that in many cases, when he has prepared our wages, if he were to come to us and inform us what they were, we would say, “Oh, God, anything but that!” The fact is, he means for us to feel the rod, for he means to teach us the seriousness of sin, and it will be of little use for us to complain of the wages. These are often bitter enough, and God knows how to fit the wages to the deed, so that we have no doubt of the connection. Leah takes her sister's husband on her wedding night, and she must have her husband taken by her sister for years together. This was hard wages, but who could doubt the righteousness of it?

In other cases we can see no connection between the sin and the wages. Moses but speaks unadvisedly with his lips, and he must forfeit the land of Canaan. The only reason we know that this was the wages for that, is that God says so. The sin may seem small to us, and the penalty heavy, but that is none of our business. Our business is to learn the sinfulness of sin, to learn to fear it and to shun it. But we are slow to learn this. “Wise men learn by other men's harms; fools by their own.” So says the old proverb, and if so, we must all be fools. Why do we not learn from the rod which falls upon Cain, upon Moses, upon David, upon Leah, upon Samson, to fear sin and to shun it? Why must we feel the rod ourselves? How little men suppose, when they yield their hands, their tongues, their ears, their eyes to sin, how little they suppose that they must one day feel the rod for it. And how little they reckon on the bitterness of the wages.

When Samson told his sacred secret to Delilah, how little he dreamed that he would grind corn in the prison house for it, with both his eyes put out. When Moses smote the rock, and said, “Hear now ye rebels! must we fetch you water out of this rock?” how little he dreamed that he would lose the land of Canaan for it. I heard an old preacher speak on this once, and he described Moses standing upon Mount Nebo, surveying all the goodly land of promise, and saying, “That is where I could be, but this is where I am, because back there I spoke unadvisedly with my lips----because back there I did not sanctify the Lord in the eyes of the people.” And no pleading on Moses' part could alter his wages now.

The rod of God is no light thing, and the only way we may avert it is to avoid the sin. The apostle John writes to the saints to the end “that ye sin not,” and in this he but reflects the purpose of all the Bible. Moses had respect unto “the recompence of the reward,” and this it was which turned him from the pleasures of sin----and “reward,” by the way, is the same thing as “wages.” Some of our modern teachers of grace would like to make a rigid distinction between them, but that distinction is purely imaginary. They are the same thing----ordinarily the same word in the Greek. The “recompence of reward” here is a compound word, the first half of which is the same as that usually translated “wages” or “reward.” This compound is used three times in the book of Hebrews, first in Hebrews 2:2, where we read that under the law “every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward,” and next in Hebrews 10:35, where under grace we are admonished to cast not away our confidence, which has “great recompence of reward.” In the first of these, it is the wages of sin, in the second the wages of righteousness. In the third, in which Moses “had respect unto the recompence of reward,” it is both. He considered the wages of sin on the one side, and the wages of suffering with Christ and his people on the other, and chose the latter.

It is the contemplation of the wages of sin that will keep us from it, but death will not always answer this end, especially in these days of antinomian doctrine. It is the other wages of sin which come closer to home. These wages God pays to the godly and the ungodly alike. As he deals with Moses and David, so he deals with Cain also. The death which he deserved was stayed. God will neither take his life, nor allow anyone else to do so. He sets a mark upon him, lest any should kill him. He even goes so far as to promise a seven-fold vengeance upon any who should dare to take the life of Cain. What, then? Does Cain go scot free? Far from that. He will yet receive the other wages of sin, and these are hard, and of long continuance. “A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.” Cain evidently felt this to be a hard lot, for “Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.” You may think Cain's punishment was not so heavy after all, but you may often enough think your own greater than you can bear, for God knows how to apply the rod where we will feel it.

And as God deals with individuals, so he deals with classes and bodies of men also----with churches and denominations and organizations and nations. If Israel fails to drive out the inhabitants of the land, God will refuse to drive them out, and they shall remain as thorns in their side for many generations to come. When a church rejects a good shepherd, they shall have a bad one, and probably be certain, too, that God has sent him. God has sent him, but not for their blessing, but as the wages of their sin.

And by the way, it is generally in the Old Testament that we shall find these things. The historical portions of the Old Testament set forth the ways of God in living examples, of the sort that go directly home to our hearts. Those who neglect the Old Testament can have but little knowledge of the ways of God, and those who fear the Old Testament must have precious little indeed. Yet their ignorance of these things will not spare them. Far from that. Sin is sinful, and God will have us to know that, and to feel it. He will pay us the same sort of wages as he paid to Samson and Moses and David, and if we are so ignorant or so presumptuous as to expect to be spared, this will not affect his ways in the least. The wages of sin will yet be paid, even to those who stand in the pulpit and solemnly declare that they are all annulled.

But to come back to ourselves. We ought every one of us to pay the most solemn heed to the other wages of sin, which we see in Cain, and Leah, and Moses, and Samson, and David, and Uzziah, for we may expect to be paid in the same kind. If we have imbibed the modern antinomian notions of grace, which give us liberty to sin when we please, repent when we please, and go scot free, those notions will but add to our wages. God will have us to know and feel the sinfulness of sin, and the seriousness of sin, and if our doctrines stand in the way of our feeling it, we may expect the strokes of the rod to be so much the heavier, to reclaim our heads as well as our hearts. Those who sin today but line their nest with thorns for tomorrow. Have we not enough thorns in the nest already, for the sins of yesterday? Why should we add any more to the account?

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