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have destroyed the accursed person, and every thing belonging to him, from among them. No option therefore remained to Joshua, but to execute the sentence according to God's command.
The sentence, though dreadful, was not too severe
[Achan, with all his children, and his cattle, were stoned to death, and afterwards, with his tent and stolen property and every thing belonging to him, consumed by fire. Now it is true, that God had expressly forbidden that parents or children should be put to death for each other's iniquities: but God is not restrained by the laws which he gives to man; he may alter or reverse them as he sees good: and in the present instance he was fully justified in the sentence he pronounced. The sin that had been committed, was peculiarly heinous. View it in itself; it was a sacrilegious robbing of God, who had ordered the gold and the silver to be appropriated to his use in the sanctuary. View it in its circumstances; it was committed immediately after a most solemn surrender of himself to God by circumcision and at the paschal feast, and at the very instant that God had magnified his power and love in causing the walls of Jericho to fall at the sound of rams' horns and the people's shout. Had Achan scaled the walls of Jericho and gained the spoils by his own sword at the peril of his life, it would have been some little extenuation of his crime: but God had disarmed his enemies, and made them like sheep for the slaughter and therefore to rob him of the spoils was the basest ingratitude. In a word, it was direct atheism; for the very idea that he could hide the matter from God was a practical denial of his omnipresence. View it, lastly, in its effects; what evil it had brought upon the whole nation; what a calamitous defeat, accompanied with the loss of six and thirty Israelites; and what inconceivable misery it would have entailed upon the whole nation, if it had not been duly punished, even the entire loss of God's favour, and the utter destruction of all the people. View the transaction, I say, in this light, and the punishment, awful as it was, will be acknowledged just: he who sought in this manner the destruction of every family in Israel, might well be destroyed together with his own family.
If our proud heart still rise against the sentence, let us silence every objection with this unanswerable question, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"]
The execution of it was calculated to produce the best effects
[It was necessary that, in the commencement of this new scene of things, the people should know what a God they had e ver. 12, 13, 15. f Deut. xxiv. 16.
to do with; and that, whilst they learned from his mercies how greatly he was to be loved, they might learn also from his judgments how greatly he was to be feared. This lesson they were now effectually taught: they could not but see that "God is greatly to be feared, and to be had in reverence by all them that are round about him." To impress this lesson more deeply on their minds, an heap of stones was raised over the ashes of this unhappy family; that, as a lasting memorial of God's indignation against sin, it might declare to all future generations, that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
Now if we consider what incalculable benefit was likely to arise, not only to the people then existing, but to all future generations, from that act of severity, and that the good issuing from it would in many instances be, not merely temporal in relation to their bodies, but spiritual also and eternal in relation to their souls, we shall see that severity to them was kindness to millions; and that therefore the punishment inflicted on them comported no less with the goodness of God than with the sterner rights of justice.]
That we may gather yet further instruction from the history, let us BEHOLD in it,
1. The deceitfulness of sin
[Achan at first contemplated only the satisfaction he should feel in possessing the Babylonish garment, and the comforts which the gold and silver would procure for him. The ideas of shame and remorse and misery were hid from him; or, if they glanced through his mind, they appeared as visionary, and unworthy of any serious attention. But O! with what different thoughts did he contemplate his gains, when inquisition was made to discover the offender! or, if at first he thought that the chances were so much in his favour, as to preclude all fear of discovery, how would he begin to tremble when he saw that his own tribe was selected as containing the guilty person! How would his terror be increased when he saw his own family pointed out! and what dread would seize hold upon him when the lot fell upon his household! Methinks, when the different members of that household came before the Lord, it might have been seen clearly enough who the guilty person was, by the paleness of his cheeks and the trembling of his limbs. What now becomes of all his expected enjoyments, when once he is detected? With what different eyes does he view the garment and the money when brought forth before the people, from what he did when first he coveted them in the house of their owner! how glad would he now be if he could recall the act, which had thus brought him to shame and ruin! Thus then will it be with all who violate the laws
of God. The seducer, the whoremonger, the adulterer, the thief, thinks of nothing at first but the pleasure he shall receive in the gratification of his lusts; and congratulates himself on the attainment of his wishes: but he has no sooner attained his object, than he begins to be filled with apprehensions of a discovery he is carried on perhaps by the impetuosity of his passions; but he is a stranger to peace. Perhaps he silences his convictions, and follows his sinful ways without much compunction: but it will not be always so there is a time coming when he will view his gratifications with other eyes; or if he be so blinded by the devil as to make light of sin unto the last, his illusions will vanish the very instant that his soul is departed from the body. For the most part, that is found true which is spoken of hypocrites in the book of Job; "Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue; though he spare it, and forsake it not, but keep it still within his mouth; yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him." How awfully was this experienced by our first parents! When tempted to eat of the forbidden tree, they thought of nothing but the delicious flavour of the fruit, and the prospect of being made "wise as gods." But they were soon convinced, by bitter experience, that "to regard lying vanities was to forsake their own mercies." Some indeed, by continuance in sin, are become "past feeling, having their consciences seared as with an hot iron:" but death and judgment will speedily undeceive them, and the wrath of an almighty God shall teach them, that "sin was indeed exceeding sinful."]
2. The certainty of its exposure
[It is profitable to observe how often God interposes to discover the hidden iniquities of mankind. Some sins in particular appear to engage him in more decided hostility against the perpetrators of them. I refer more especially to murder and adultery. The interest which the guilty persons feel in concealing their iniquity makes them as cautious as possible to prevent discovery: yet is their very caution oftentimes the cause of their detection. To such sinners we may almost universally address that solemn warning, "Be sure your sin will find you out." It not unfrequently happens that men are so harassed in their minds, as no longer to be able to conceal their guilt like Judas, they cast back the wages of their iniquity, and court even death itself, by their own hand, or by the hand of a public executioner, as a relief from the torment of a guilty conscience. But be it so: they hide their wickedness from man: but can they hide it from God? Is there "any darkness or shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may
g Job xx. 12-14.
hide themselves?" No: if they go up to heaven, or down to hell, or flee to the remotest parts of the earth, there does God behold them, and from thence will he bring them to judgment. In that day shall the book of his remembrance be opened, and men shall see the records of their own actions. Then shall the proofs of our guilt be exhibited before the assembled universe, and we shall be unable to utter one syllable in arrest of judgment. O that we could realize the thoughts of that day! What a day will it be, when the secrets of all hearts shall be exposed to view, and every hidden abomination be brought to light! Happy, happy they, who in that day shall be found to have an interest in Christ, and in whom his love and mercy shall be for ever magnified! Now since it is certain that our sins will sooner or later find us out, let us consider how we shall view them in that day: and, as we would not now commit a scandalous iniquity in the sight of a fellow-creature, lest he should proclaim our wickedness, so let us bear in mind that there is One, "unto whom all things are naked and opened," and who has declared that he "will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart." Surely, however skilfully we conceal our abominations now, he will be a swift witness against us in that day to our everlasting confusion.]
3. The awfulness of its award
[Who does not shudder at the thought of that vengeance which was executed on Achan and his family? Who does not see how hot the indignation of God against sin was, when the sin of one single person prevailed more to incense him against the whole nation, than the innocence of the whole nation did to pacify his wrath against the individual, and when nothing but the most signal punishment of the individual could reconcile him to the nation to which he belonged? Yet was all this but a faint shadow of the indignation which he will manifest in a future world. Surely we should profit from such a history as this: we should learn to dread the displeasure of the Almighty, and to glorify him now by an ingenuous confession, that he may not be glorified hereafter in our eternal condemnation.
Hear ye then, Brethren, what the weeping prophet speaks to us in the name of the Lord: "Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud, for the Lord hath spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness. But, if ye will not hear, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride; and mine eyes shall weep sore, and run down with tears" for the destruction and misery that shall come upon you".
h Jer. xiii. 15-17.
Blessed be God, though Achan's confession did not avert punishment from him, ours shall from us, provided it be truly ingenuous, and deeply penitential. The Lord Jesus Christ never yet spurned from his feet a weeping penitent. He shed his blood even for the chief of sinners, and "will save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him." But confession on our part is indispensable: his word to us is, "Return, thou backsliding sinner, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever: Only acknowledge thine iniquity." Let us but do this aright, and we shall soon be enabled to say with the Psalmist, "I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and so thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin."]
i Jer. iii. 12, 13.
PERSEVERING ZEAL RECOMMENDED.
Josh. viii. 26. Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.
WHATEVER instruments God is pleased to make use of, it is by his hand alone that any thing is wrought: and he will be seen in his works. For this end, he has frequently appointed such means to be used, as had, in reality, not the smallest degree of fitness to the end proposed; and which were of no other use, than to direct the eyes of men to him as the true agent, and to constrain them to acknowledge him in the effects produced. The stretching forth of Moses' rod neither had, nor could have, any direct influence in producing the plagues of Egypt, or in opening a passage through the depths of the sea: but it marked, in the most signal manner, the power of Almighty God, who had engaged to accomplish his wonders by those means. Thus it was, that God decreed to give to Joshua the victory over Ai, by the stretching forth of his spear. The Israelitish host had been repulsed before Ai: but now they were ordered to attack it again. Means of every kind were to be used, as if the victory were to be gained by human skill and valour. Thirty thousand men were to be placed in ambush and a feigned retreat was to be made, in