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ON DELAYING OUR REPENTANCE
Exodus 10:3. Thus saith the Lord God of the Hebrews, How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me?
IT cannot be denied that Pharaoh was a remarkable character, raised up by God himself to be a monument of God’s power throughout all generations [Note: Exodus 9:16.]. Yet we mistake if we think that the dispositions which he exercised were peculiar to him: the occasions that called them forth into exercise, were peculiar; but the dispositions themselves were the common fruits of our corrupt nature, visible in all the human race. The command given to Pharaoh to permit all the Hebrews to go into the wilderness to offer sacrifice to their God, he chose not to comply with: and all the judgments inflicted on him, and the mercies vouchsafed to him, were ineffectual for the subduing of his rebellious spirit, and for the reducing of him to a willing obedience. And every one who reads the history of these events stands amazed at the pride and obduracy of his heart. But if we would look inward, and see how we have withstood the commands of God, and how little effect either his judgments or his mercies have produced on us, we should find little occasion to exult over Pharaoh: we should see, that, however circumstances then elicited and rendered more conspicuous the evils of his heart, the very same corruptions, which he manifested, are in us also, and that every individual amongst us has the same need as he of the expostulation in the text; “How long wilt thou refuse to humble thyself before me?” And it is remarkable that this very account of Pharaoh was ordered to be transmitted to the latest posterity, in order that the children of all succeeding generations might see in it what his enemies are to expect at His hands, and what his friends [Note:, 2.].
That we may render this subject the more generally useful, we will,
Shew wherein true humiliation consists—
A full and abstract investigation of this point would lead us too far: we shall therefore confine ourselves to such particulars as the context more immediately suggests. True humiliation then consists in,
A deep and ingenuous sorrow for sin, as contrasted with forced acknowledgments—
[If confessions extorted by sufferings or by fear were sufficient evidences of humility, Pharaoh would never have received the reproof in our text: for on the plague of hail being inflicted, he sent for Moses and said, “I have sinned this time. The Lord is righteous; and I and my people are wicked [Note: Exodus 9:27.].” But notwithstanding this, in God’s estimation he still, as the text expresses it, “refused to humble himself before God.” Yet is this the only humiliation which many amongst ourselves have ever experienced. In a time of sickness perhaps, or under any great and accumulated afflictions, we have been constrained to confess our desert of God’s judgments. We have seen, that He has been contending with us; and that yet heavier judgments awaited us, if we did not humble ourselves before him. We have trembled perhaps at the prospect of approaching dissolution, and at the thought of appearing in an unprepared state at the tribunal of our Judge. Hence have arisen some forced acknowledgments of our sinfulness, whilst yet we neither hated our sins, nor lothed ourselves on account of them: and hence, on our restoration to health, we have returned, like fused metal from the furnace, to our wonted hardness and obduracy.
True humiliation is widely different from this. It implies a deep and ingenuous sorrow for sin, not only on account of the judgments it will bring upon us, but on account of its own intrinsic hatefulness and deformity. It leads us to smite on our breasts with conscious shame; and fills us with self-lothing and self-abhorrence: and this it does not only before we have obtained mercy, but afterwards; yea, and so much the more because God is pacified towards us [Note: Job 42:6 with Ezekiel 16:63.].
We readily acknowledge that tears are no certain sign of penitence; and that the sensibility that produces them depends rather on the constitutional habit, than on the convictions of the mind. Yet whilst we read so much in the Scriptures respecting men sowing in tears, and going on their way weeping, and whilst we behold the Saviour himself weeping over Jerusalem, and pouring out his soul before God with strong crying and tears, we cannot but think, that those who have never yet wept for sin, have never felt its bitterness: and there is just occasion for us to weep over all who have not yet wept for themselves. It is scarcely to be conceived that any man has a truly broken and contrite spirit, whose sighs and groans have not often entered into the ears of the omnipresent God, and whose tears have not been often treasured up in his vials.]
An unreserved obedience to God, as contrasted with partial compliances—
[Pharaoh, under the pressure of his successive calamities, yielded in part to the commands of God: he resisted altogether at the first; but gradually receded from his determinations, and permitted the Hebrews to offer their sacrifices in Egypt; then to go into the wilderness, provided they did not go very far into it: then he would let the men go: then at last the women and children also: but he would net suffer them to take away their cattle: those he was determined to keep, as a pledge of their return. In all this there was nothing but pride and stoutness of heart. He held every thing fast, till it was wrested from him by some fresh judgment, and conceded nothing but from absolute compulsion. And thus it is that many amongst ourselves part with their sins. They would retain them all, and gladly too, if the indulgence of them would consist with their hope from heaven. If they part with any, they do it as a mariner who casts his goods overboard to lighten his ship and keep it from sinking: but it is with reluctance that he parts with them; and he wishes for them all again, the very instant he is safe on shore. From the same motive flows his performance of certain duties: he engages not in them from any delight that he has in them, but from a self-righteous desire of purchasing heaven by these sacrifices.
But in all this there is nothing of true humiliation, nothing of real piety. The sinner, when his heart is right with God, desires to fulfil all the commandments of his God: “not one of them is grievous unto him:” he would not wish to be allowed to violate any one of them; but desires to “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” He would not retain a right eye or a right hand, that should be an occasion of offence to his God and Saviour. As it is his prayer that “God’s will may be done by him on earth as it is in heaven,” so is it his daily endeavour to carry it into effect: and, could he but hare the desire of his soul, he would be “pure as Christ himself is pure,” and “perfect as his Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
This union of deep sorrow for the past, and of unreserved obedience for the future, is marked by God himself as constituting that state of mind which alone will prove effectual for our acceptance with him.]
Having explained the nature of true humiliation, we proceed to,
Expostulate with those in whom it is not yet wrought—
There is but too much reason for this expostulation wheresoever we look—
[Their need of humiliation, none, I apprehend, will venture to deny. Let us only look back and see how we have acted towards God, as our Creator, our Governor, our Benefactor — — — Let us mark our past conduct also towards the Lord Jesus Christ, who assumed our nature, and died upon the cross to save us — — — Let us yet further call to mind all the resistance which we hare given to the motions of the Holy Spirit within us — — — and we shall find ground enough for our humiliation before God.
Yet who has humbled himself aright? Who has sought the Lord from day to day “with strong crying and tears?” — — — Who has given up himself wholly and unreservedly to God, determining through grace to have no other will but his?— — —
Does not conscience testify against us in relation to these matters, and warn us that there is yet much, very much wanting, to perfect our humiliation before God? — — —]
We beg leave then, in the name of the Most High God, to expostulate with all whose consciences now testify against them—
[“How long will ye refuse to humble yourselves before God?” Have ye ever fixed a time in your minds? Do ye fix upon old age? What certainty have ye of living to old age? Do ye fix upon a time of sickness and of death? How know ye that ye shall have space then given for repentance, or that the Spirit of God, whom ye now resist, shall be imparted to you for the producing of true repentance? How know ye, that if you do then repent, your repentance will proceed any further, or be more effectual for your salvation than Pharaoh’s was?
Consider, I pray you, the guilt, the folly, and the danger of delaying your humiliation before God. Will you make the very forbearance of God which should lead you to repentance, the ground and occasion of protracting your rebellion against him? — — — Think ye that God will not overcome at the last? Will ye set briers and thorns in battle against the devouring fire? or did ye ever hear of one who hardened himself against God and prospered? — — — Will not sin harden you in proportion as it is indulged? And “will the Spirit strive with you for ever?” Have you not reason to fear, that, if you continue impenitent under your present circumstances, God will give you up to judicial hardness, and a reprobate mind? — — —
Beloved Brethren, I entreat you to fix some time when you will cast down the weapons of your rebellion, and humble yourselves in truth before God— — —]
Two encouragements I would set before you:
It is never too late—
[At “the eleventh hour” those who give themselves up to Him shall be received. Let not the aged, or the sick, say, ‘There is no hope.’ Let not the vilest of the human race indulge despair. A Manasseh holds forth to every child of man the richest encouragement — — — and an assurance that of those who come to Christ in penitence and faith, “not one shall ever be cast out [Note: 2 Chronicles 33:12-14.33.13.] ” — — —]
It is never too soon—
[It was not the men only, but the children also, yea, even “the little ones,” whom God required to go forth into the wilderness to offer sacrifice to him [Note:, 10.]: and in the New Testament our blessed Lord says, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” O that young people did but know the blessedness of serving God! Who ever yet regretted that he had begun to repent too soon? Who ever yet made it a matter of sorrow that he “had served the Lord from his youth?” “Remember then, my Brethren, your Creator in the days of your youth.” Let not Satan have the best of your time; and the mere dregs be reserved for God: but “to-day, whilst it is called to-day,” begin that life, which is the truest source of happiness in this world, and the most certain pledge of glory in the world to come.]
DISTINGUISHING PRIVILEGES OF THE LORD’S PEOPLE
Exodus 10:23. But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.
OF all the plagues which in rapid succession were inflicted upon Egypt, not so much as one fell upon the children of Israel: their cattle, and every thing belonging to them, enjoyed the same exemption as themselves. And this distinction was well calculated to convince Pharaoh, that Israel’s God was the only true God, and that the idols of the heathen were vanity [Note: Exodus 8:22.]. But, whilst we admit that this was the primary end of all the judgments, and of the plague of darkness amongst the rest, we cannot but think that this particular plague had something in it more than ordinarily instructive; inasmuch as it served to shew, that between the Lord’s people and others there is at all times as great a difference, as there then was between Goshen and the rest of Egypt. We say not, indeed, that this particular application of the subject is anywhere suggested by the inspired writers; but we do say, that it may well be so applied, in a way of accommodation at least, to the elucidation of this most important point.
I will take occasion from it then to shew,
The difference which God has put between his own people and others—
In their state, and nature, in their relation to God and to each other, in their prospects also, and in their end, the two descriptions of persons are widely different from each other: the one are quickened from the dead, and partakers of a divine nature; united to Christ and to each other in one body and by one spirit; with an heavenly inheritance before them, which they are speedily and for ever to possess; whilst the others are yet “children of the wicked one,” with no other prospect than that of a banishment from the divine presence, and an everlasting participation with the fallen angels in their unhappy lot. But without entering into this large view of the subject, I will endeavour to shew what light the children of Israel are privileged to enjoy in,
[In appearance, “all things come alike to all;” or, if there be any particular difference in relation to temporal things, it is rather in favour of the ungodly. But the godly, whether they possess more or less of this world, have an enjoyment of it, of which the world at large are destitute, and in their present state incapable. They taste God’s love in every thing; and hare a more vivid apprehension of the smallest blessings, than an ungodly man has of the greatest. The “blessings” of the ungodly are, in fact, “cursed to them:” “their table is a snare to them;” and even their bodily health and strength are made occasions of more flagrant transgressions against their God. To God’s Israel, on the contrary, their severest afflictions are made sources of good; insomuch that they can “glory in their tribulations [Note: Romans 5:3.],” and “take pleasure in their sorest infirmities [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:10.].” Whatever trials assault them, they “all work together for their good [Note: Romans 8:25.] ;” yea, “light and momentary as they are, they work out for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:17.].” The very best portion of the wicked is lighter than vanity; whilst the worst of a good man’s lot is received by him not only with “patience and long-suffering, but with joy and thankfulness [Note: Colossians 1:11-51.1.12.].” Though he be the poorest of mankind, he does in effect “inherit the earth;” yea, he “inherits all things.”]
[The ungodly man is truly in darkness with respect to every thing that is of a spiritual nature. He neither does, nor can, comprehend any thing of that kind, for want of a spiritual discernment. But God’s highly favoured people “have light in their dwellings,” whereby they can discern things invisible to mortal eyes. The evil of sin, the beauty of holiness, the glory of Christ, the blessedness of heaven, are open to their view, and are contemplated by them with a zest which can be conceived by those only who actually experience it in their souls. What shall I say of “the light of God’s countenance lifted up upon them,” or of “the love of God shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost?” What shall I say of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them as “a Spirit of adoption,” “witnessing with their spirits that they are God’s children,” and “sealing them unto the day of redemption,” and being “an earnest of heaven itself” in their souls? To attempt to describe these things would be only to “darken counsel by words without knowledge.” If we should in vain attempt to convey to one immured in a dungeon a just conception of the lustre and influence of the meridian sun; much more must we fail, if we would attempt to give to a natural man a just apprehension of “the things of the Spirit:” for neither have we any language whereby adequately to express them, nor have they any faculties whereby duly to apprehend them.]
[What can an ungodly man see beyond the grave? Truly in relation to the future world he is in darkness, even in “a darkness that may be felt.” If he reflect at all, he can feel nothing but “a certain fearful looking-for of judgment and fiery indignation to consume him,” and have no prospect but that of “the blackness of darkness for ever.” But in reference to eternity, the child of God is seen to the greatest advantage. O, what prospects are open to his view! What crowns, what kingdoms, await him! Truly he stands as on Mount Pisgah, and surveys the Promised Land in all its length and breadth. He joins already with the heavenly hosts in all their songs of praise, and, according to the measure of the grace bestowed upon him, anticipates “the pleasures which are at God’s right hand for evermore.”]
But, that I may not tantalize you with joys which you can never taste, let me proceed to shew you,
How we may secure to ourselves their happy lot—
Can an Egyptian become an Israelite? Yes, he may—
[An Israelite is a descendant of Abraham, in the line of Jacob. But how then can this relation be transferred to a foreigner? After the flesh indeed, an Edomite must remain an Edomite; an Egyptian must continue an Egyptian. But after the Spirit, the transition may be made by all, of whatever nation, provided only they earnestly desire it. Through faith in that blessed Saviour in whom Abraham believed, we may be brought to a participation of all the blessings which were conferred on him. Hear what the Scripture saith: “Know ye, that they who are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham:” the same, too, are “blessed with faithful Abraham;” yea, “the blessing of Abraham comes on them through Jesus Christ:” “if we be Christ’s, then are we Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise [Note: Galatians 3:7; Galatians 3:9; Galatians 3:14; Galatians 3:29.].”]
And, under this character, we shall be exempted from all the Egyptian plagues, and entitled to all the distinctions that ever were conferred on God’s chosen people—
[Truly, however gross the darkness which may have covered us in past times, we shall have “light in our dwellings;” yea, we shall be brought out of darkness into God’s marvellous light; and not only “be turned from darkness unto light, but from the power of Satan unto God.” Say, Brethren, whether this does not accord with the experience of some amongst you? Say, whether the brightest hours of your former life are comparable even with your darkest now? I well know that in this present life there will be clouds that will occasionally intercept the full radiance of the Sun of Righteousness, and induce a transient gloom over your horizon: but I ask with confidence, whether at such a season you would exchange your portion for that of the happiest worldling upon earth? No: you well know, that though your “darkness may continue for a night, joy will come in the morning [Note: Psalms 30:5.]:” and even in the darkest night some gleams of light are wont to shine into your soul, according to that sure promise, “Unto the godly there ariseth up light in the darkness [Note: Psalms 112:4.].” True it is, that sin will bring darkness upon the soul: and true it is, also, that bodily disease may sometimes operate unfavourably in this respect: but, if we be upright before God, “when we walk in darkness, the Lord will be a light unto us [Note: Micah 7:8.] ;” and, in due season, “our light shall shine in obscurity, and our darkness be as the noonday [Note: Isaiah 58:10.].”]
Those who are walking in the light of their own carnal enjoyments—
[Truly it is but a taper that ye possess, whilst ye are regardless of the radiance of the noonday sun — — — And what does God say to you? “Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled: but this shall ye have of mine hand at last, ye shall lie down in sorrow [Note: Isaiah 50:11.].” “Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty: behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed: behold, my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit [Note: Isaiah 65:13-23.65.14.].”]
Those who, though Israelites indeed, are yet walking in somewhat of a gloomy frame—
[We have before said, that such seasons may occur: but the direction given you by God himself is that which must be your consolation and support: “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, and yet walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God [Note: Isaiah 50:10.].” There may be reasons for the withdrawment of light from your souls, reasons of which you at present have no conception. Peradventure God has seen that you have not duly improved the former manifestations of his love; or he may see that an uninterrupted continuance of them might give advantage to Satan to puff you up with pride. But, whether you can trace these suspensions of the divine favour to any particular cause or not, learn at all events to justify God in them, and to improve them for the deeper humiliation of your souls: and look forward to that blessed period when you shall “dwell in the light as God is in the light,” and enjoy a day that shall never end [Note: 1 John 1:7; Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:5.].]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Exodus 10". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany