Charles Simeon Commentary - Deuteronomy 29:19 - 29:20

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Deuteronomy 29:19 - 29:20

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Deu_29:19-20. And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: the Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven.

GOD has declared that he “desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness and live:” and this is abundantly evident from the forbearance which he exercises towards sinners, and from the means he has used for their restoration to his favour. When he brought the Israelites out of Egypt, he entered into covenant with them on Mount Horeb: and when that whole generation had perished in consequence of their violations of his covenant, he was graciously pleased to renew the covenant with their children in the land of Moab: and the reason he gives for that condescending kindness is, lest they should presumptuously sin, and miserably perish, after the example of their fathers [Note: See ver. 1, 15, 18–20.].

In the words which we have just read, he intimates,

I.       The astonishing delusion of sinners—

That the greatest part of mankind are walking after the imaginations of their own hearts, is evident ; and that God denounces his vengeance against them, is equally evident: yet on every side we behold,

1.       Their fearlessness—

[God speaks to them in the plainest terms, that “the soul that sinneth shall die,” and that “the wicked shall be turned into hell, even all the people that forget God.” They themselves too cannot but acknowledge, that “the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” Yet they hear the denunciations of God’s wrath with perfect indifference: they account them not worth the smallest consideration: yea, to use the expressive language of the Psalmist, “they puff at them [Note: Psa_10:5.],” ‘What though they do “set at nought God’s law, and walk rather after the imagination of their own hearts ?” What though they do “add drunkenness to thirst,” and “draw out sin as a cart-rope [Note: Isa_5:18.],” adding fresh materials continually, and drawing it out without any intermission to an indefinite length, will God regard such trifling matters ? No: He does not see them, or deem them worthy of his notice [Note: Psa_10:11 and Job_22:13-14.]. He does indeed threaten to punish these things ; but he will never execute his threatenings.’ If any menace their temporal welfare, they are open enough to the impressions of fear, and anxious enough to escape the danger: but if God threaten them with his everlasting displeasure, they regard it as an empty sound. Thus do they cast off all fear of God, and treat both him and his word with the utmost contempt [Note: Psa_10:13.].]

2.       Their self-complacency—

[They can see no evil in sin: they are sensible that they do not conform to God’s law; (nor indeed have they any wish to do so ;) but yet, though their actions are not correct, their hearts are good: they mean no harm: they do as they would be done by; and that, in their estimation, comprehends all that is required of them. It is truly astonishing to see how, in the midst of all their iniquities, men will “bless themselves in their hearts,” as much as if there were nothing amiss in their conduct. They quite resent the idea of being sinners, and of deserving God’s wrath and indignation: they conceive that they are very good sort of people (as the expression is), and deserving of God’s favour. Thus it was with the Jews of old; “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these [Note: Jer_7:4.]:” they thought that no expressions were too strong to characterize their goodness. And thus do sinners in this day boast of their goodness: yea, not only the moral and sober do so, but even the drunken, the sensual, the profane: all are ready to think themselves as good as they need to be, and to answer, like the Youth in the Gospel, “What lack I yet?” So blinded are they by Satan, and hardened through the deceitfulness of their own hearts!]

3.       Their confidence—

[They entertain no doubts or fears: they think that all go to heaven, and that they must of necessity be happy when they die. “I shall have peace,” is the bold assertion of every one amongst them ; nor will they suffer the safety of their state to be once questioned. On some occasions perhaps a suspicion arises in their minds that it is not quite so well with them as they imagine; but in general they go on as assured of happiness as if all the promises of the Gospel were on their side. Nor is this only in the thoughtlessness of youth: their confidence increases with their age: and even in death they frequently retain it to such a degree as to feel no fear of death: and this delusion of theirs is considered by the survivors as an evidence of their final acceptance. Well does the prophet say of them, “A deceived heart hath turned them aside, so that they cannot deliver their souls, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?”]

But God views them with other eyes, and denounces,

II.      Their awful doom—

The terms in which this is declared are sufficient to alarm the most careless sinner. The wrath of God is here denounced against him. This must be his portion: and this doom is,

1.       Infallibly certain—

[Sinners imagine that God cannot inflict punishment: they suppose that if not inconsistent with his justice, it would at least be contrary to his acknowledged goodness and benignity. They think that, when the time comes, he will relent, and spare them. But, in our text, he meets that error, and declares, “The Lord will not spare him.” “I have spared him long enough,” the Lord will say: “I bore with all his wickedness for many years:” “I waited long to be gracious to him:” “I called to him, but he would not hear ; I entreated him, but he refused to hearken: and therefore he now may call, and I will not hear: I will even laugh at his calamity, and mock when his fear is come.” Now God would “repent him of the evil which he has thought to bring” on any sinner: but how inflexible he will be in that day, the prophet has abundantly declared [Note: Eze_8:18; Eze_24:14.]. The sinner may “knock at the door which is shut against him, saying, Lord, Lord, open to me: but I will say, Depart from me, I never knew thee, thou worker of iniquity.”]

2.       Inexpressibly severe—

[What must it be to have “the anger and the jealousy of Almighty God” incensed, and so incensed, as to be, as it were, “smoking against us?” But, to form a just idea of the sinner’s doom, we must take all the most terrific passages of the word of God, and contemplate all the images contained in them, and then conceive of all of them combined to fill up the measure of his misery. Oh, if we think of “that lake that burneth with fire and brimstone,” “where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,” where there is nothing but “weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth,” and “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever,” what an idea does it all give us of the judgments that await the impenitent transgressor! Yet these, yea and “all the curses that are written in the sacred volume ” from one end of it even to the other, shall come upon him, and shall “lie and abide upon him for ever and ever.” Once, if he had sought for mercy through the Lord Jesus Christ, his name might have been “written in the book of life;” but now “God will blot out his name from under heaven,” and it shall be found registered only with those of the devil and his angels.

We are well aware that these truths are unwelcome to the generality of men: but it is infinitely better to contemplate them in time, than to be left to experience them in eternity.]

Let us learn then from this subject,

1.       To compassionate the ungodly world—

[Were we to see men in danger of perishing in the sea, the most hardened amongst us would be moved to compassion: why then do we not pity those who are ready every moment to sink into the flames of hell? That they themselves are not alarmed is rather the reason why we should feel the more alarmed; because their foot will infallibly “slide in due time,” and “the wrath of God will come upon them to the uttermost.” Let “our eyes then run down with tears for them,” and “our head be a fountain of tears to weep for them day and night.” Let our efforts too be exerted to awaken them to a timely care of their own souls.]

2.       To be on our guard against being influenced by their advice—

[Those who see not their own danger will be equally secure respecting us [Note: Eze_13:22.], and will endeavour to lull us asleep by their confident assertions. But, if their presumption will not benefit themselves, it will assuredly not benefit us. The antediluvian world, and the inhabitants of Sodom, despised the warnings given them, and accounted them as idle tales: but the threatened judgments came at last, and the deceivers and deceived perished in one indiscriminate mass. So will it be at the end of the world [Note: 2Pe_2:4-9.]. Every title of God’s word shall be fulfilled; and therefore let those who would draw you back to the world be disregarded by you [Note: Eph_5:6.]. “Let God be true, but every man a liar.”]

3.       To be thankful if God has made us to differ from them—

[What reason had Noah and Lot to be thankful that they were enabled to believe the divine testimony! And truly, if we are enabled to come forth from an ungodly world, and to enter into the true Ark, the Lord Jesus Christ, we have no less reason to be thankful than they. It is no less the fruit of God’s sovereign grace, than was the mercy vouchsafed to them. Let us then be increasingly watchful against presumptuous confidence, and all the delusions of our own hearts; and, in an unreserved attention to all God’s commands, let us “keep ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”]