"Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." [Ecclesiastes 8:11]
Century after century of transgression has swept over our world, and although God has given examples of what will overtake those who do evil, and has sent warnings and reproofs entreaties to mankind, yet, because his forbearance has lengthened the opportunities and probation of sinners, and he has not executed his sentence of condemnation, they have presumed upon his mercy, and have walked after the imagination of their own hearts. They have not regarded the counsels of God, nor given heed to his reproofs. They have said, "How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?" [Psalm 73:11] They have acted as if the Creator of the heavens and the earth had no power to behold their ways, no law to govern his creatures, and no regard for justice and righteousness.
If those who contemplate the committal of crime were positive that they would be speedily detected and punished, fear of exposure, disgrace, and suffering would restrain them from outbreaking and revolting deeds; but the tempter has led men to believe that they may cover the knowledge of their guilt from the eyes of God and man. How diligently the guilty one seeks to disguise his real character! He assumes the appearance of innocence and guilelessness. Every avenue that might lead to the discovery of his sin is carefully guarded. Transgressors make their paths in secrecy and darkness. They hate the light, and will not come to the light, because their deeds are evil. They are under the constant necessity of devising means to hide the defilement of their souls, and they may succeed in escaping detection among men; but they have no device that will shield them from the gaze of the all-seeing eye of the eternal One. The word of truth declares, "There is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known." [Matthew 10:26]
This spirit of deception in evil-doers is the spirit of their father, the Devil. Even in heaven, before the light and glory of God, Satan thought to hide his secret thoughts and rebellious counsels. He employed such consummate wisdom in covering his real character and aims that legions of the angels of heaven were deceived, and they fell from their loyalty to the God of the universe to serve the prince of darkness. The same art of deception is displayed by those who partake of the enmity of Satan, and follow in his course of rebellion against the commandments of God. To cover the enormity of sin with the garment of light and innocence, has been the practice of the evil one from the beginning. Thus it is that he has been successful in alluring souls to transgression and destruction.
There are many who profess the name of Christ whose hearts are not engaged in his service. They have simply arrayed themselves in a profession of godliness, and by this very act they have made greater their condemnation, and have become more deceptive and more successful agents of Satan in the ruin of souls. Those who profess to be keeping the commandments of God are not all loyal servants of Heaven. They honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far from him. Do they think that they can hide their ways from Him who tries the secret thoughts of the heart and searches the motive of every word and action?
Let no one seek to excuse himself from taking these words to heart, on the plea that he is not guilty of outbreaking sin. Have you not been guilty of committing sins which, in your finite judgment, you regarded as of little consequence? Says the inspired word, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." [Hebrews 12:14] There is need of every soul humbling himself before God, and seeking for the righteousness of Christ. The least regard for iniquity cherished in the heart will sever us from the communion and help of Heaven. When we seek God with all the heart, then his promise is, "I will be found of you." [Jeremiah 29:14]
"The wages of sin is death." [Romans 6:23] Sin, however small it may be esteemed, can be persisted in only at the cost of eternal life. What is not overcome will overcome us, and work out our destruction. We must wash our robes of character in the blood of the Lamb until they are white and stainless.
Adam and Eve persuaded themselves that in so small a matter as eating of the forbidden fruit, there could not result such terrible consequences as God had declared. But this small matter was sin, the transgression of God's immutable and holy law, and it opened the flood-gates of death and untold woe upon our world. Age after age there has gone up from our earth a continual cry of mourning, and the whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain as a consequence of man's disobedience. Heaven itself has felt the effects of his rebellion against God. Calvary stands as a memorial of the amazing sacrifice required as a propitiation for the transgression of the divine law. Let us not esteem sin as a trivial thing. Are not the hands and feet and side of the Son of the infinite God, to bear an eternal testimony before the universe of its untold malignity and curse?
Oh, that a right impression might be made upon the minds of young and old in regard to the exceeding sinfulness of sin! Oh, that all might have a just realization of its offensiveness to God, and its injury to mankind! The word of truth declares, "Be sure your sin will find you out." [Numbers 32:23] The real character of every act of your life will be made known. It may be even in this life that through the providence of God, some unexpected circumstance will uncover your secret deeds of evil; but should you succeed in hiding your real character from the eyes of men, there is an inevitable day of exposure reserved for every soul who does not repent of his sins and forsake all evil through the strength of Christ, who has died that we might live. The Scriptures declare. "God shall bring every work into Judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." [Ecclesiastes 12:14] There is not a shadow of doubt about this matter. All sin that has not been repented of and forsaken, will not be pardoned and blotted out of the books of record, but will stand to witness against the sinner in the day of God.
He may have committed his evil deeds in the light of day or in the darkness of night; but they were opened and manifest before Him with whom we have to do. Angels of God witnessed their sin, and registered it in the unerring records. Men who do not repent will not fail to receive according to their works. Sin may be concealed, denied, covered up from father, mother, wife, children, and associates. No one but the guilty actors may cherish the least suspicion of the wrong; but it is laid bare before the intelligences of heaven. The darkness of the darkest night, the secrecy of all deceptive arts, is not sufficient to veil one thought from the knowledge of the Eternal. David had some appreciation of this fact when he exclaimed, "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. . . . If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee." [Psalm 139:7-12]
The Lord beheld Adam and Eve as they took of the forbidden tree, in their guilt they fled from his presence, and "hid themselves," [Genesis 3:8] but God saw them; they could not cover their shame from his eyes. When Cain slew his brother, he thought to hide his crime by denial of his deed; but the Lord said, "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground." [Genesis 4:10] The sins of the inhabitants of the world before the flood, were noted and registered in heaven; and because they did not repent at the preaching of Noah, they were visited with destruction. God saw the corruptions of licentious Sodom, and, after hurrying Lot and his family from its borders, he rained fire upon the city, and it was turned to ashes, making it "an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly." [2 Peter 2:6] When the world's Redeemer walked among men, bearing insult, reproach, and scorn, the Father beheld each indignity. Every word of mockery, every sneer, every act of contumely and hate, was marked in the books of remembrance. The Jewish nation suffered terrible judgments, because they rejected the Lord from heaven; but their deeds were not fully requited. Those who mocked and crucified the Son of God will come forth from their graves, and the deeds done in secrecy and darkness, as well as those done in the light of day, will be presented before them as they appear before the infinite Father. Every transgression will receive its just recompense of reward in the day of final retribution.
All sin unrepented of and unconfessed, will remain upon the books of record. It will not be blotted out, it will not go beforehand to Judgment, to be canceled by the atoning blood of Jesus. The accumulated sins of every individual will be written with absolute accuracy, and the penetrating light of God's law will try every secret of darkness. In proportion to the light, to the opportunities, and the knowledge of God's claims upon them, will be the condemnation of the rejecters of God's mercy.
The day of final settlements is just before us. In that solemn and awful hour the unfaithfulness of the husband will be opened to the wife, and the unfaithfulness of the wife, to the husband. Parents will then learn, for the first time, what was the real character of their children, and children will see the errors and mistakes that marked the lives of their parents. The man who robbed his neighbor through false representations, is not to escape with his ill-gotten gains. God has an exact record in his books, of every unjust account and every unfair dealing. The secret doings of the licentious man are all known to God. God is not deceived by appearances of piety. He makes no mistake in his estimation of character. Men may be deceived by those who are corrupt in heart, but God pierces all disguises and reads the inner life. The moral worth of every soul is weighed in the balance of the heavenly sanctuary. Shall not these solemn thoughts have an influence upon us, that we may cease to do evil, and learn to do well? There is nothing gained by a life of sin but hopeless despair.
The Bible presents the law of God as a perfect standard by which to shape the life and character. The only perfect example of obedience to its precepts, is found in the Son of God, the Saviour of lost mankind. There is no stain of unrighteousness upon him, and we are bidden to follow in his steps. We have the instructions and admonitions, the invitations and promises, of the word of God, and shall we imperil our souls by departing one jot or tittle from the divine law? God says to each one of us, "I know thy works." [Revelation 2:2,9,13,19; Revelation 3:1,8,15]
We sustain a most solemn relation one to another. Our influence is always either for or against the salvation of souls. We are either gathering with Christ or scattering abroad. We should walk humbly, and make straight paths, lest we turn others out of the right way. We should preserve the strictest chastity in thought, and word, and deportment. Let us remember that God sets our secret sins in the light of his countenance. There are thoughts and feelings suggested and aroused by Satan that annoy even the best of men; but if they are not cherished, if they are repulsed as hateful, the soul is not contaminated with guilt, and no other is defiled by their influence. Oh, that we each might become a savor of life unto life to those around us!
There is great need of a deeper appreciation of the holy truth of God. If all had a realization of the solemnity and weight of the message, many sins that are now carelessly committed would cease from among us. Is there not too often the common thought and communication mingled with the sacred themes of truth? Wherever this is done, the standard is lowered. Your example leads others to regard the truth lightly, and this is one of the greatest sins in the sight of God.
It is the privilege of every one to so live that God will approve and bless him. You may be hourly in communion with Heaven; it is not the will of your Heavenly Father that you should ever be under condemnation and darkness. It is not pleasing to God that you should demerit yourself. You should cultivate self-respect by living so that you will be approved by your own conscience, and before men and angels. It is not an evidence of true humility that you go with your head bowed down, and your heart filled with thoughts of self. It is your privilege to go to Jesus and be cleansed, and to stand before the law without shame and remorse. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." [Romans 8:1] While we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought, the word of God does not condemn a proper self-respect. As sons and daughters of God, we should have a conscious dignity of character, in which pride and self-importance have no part.
Let faith lay hold on the promises of God. Jesus is mighty to save his people from their sins. Light from heaven has illumined our pathway. Sin has been revealed to us by the word and the spirit of truth, that we may not be found transgressors of the divine precepts; and there is no opportunity to plead the excuse of ignorance. The command is, "Depart from iniquity." [2 Timothy 2:19] We must urge the principles of truth upon old and young. We must reach a higher plane. We must hunger and thirst after righteousness. Let the cry go up to God for wisdom, for light, for divine power. "Ask, and it shall be given you." [Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9] We are in the perils of the last days. The Judgment is before us, and how shall we appear who have had light from the heavenly Sanctuary, unless we "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit," [2 Corinthians 7:1] and perfect "holiness in the fear of God?" [2 Corinthians 7:1]