Hab_1:13. Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.
MEN do not sufficiently contemplate the character of God. The Psalmist, speaking of some in his day, says, “These things thou hast done; and I kept silence: and thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself [Note: Psa_50:21.].” In like manner, we, if we do not see hefore our eyes some visible displays of God’s displeasure, are ready to imagine that he will suffer our iniquities to pass unpunished. But, whoever he be that commits sin, whether he be an avowed enemy of God, or one that is numbered amongst his people, let him know that “God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity” but with the utmost abhorrence. Primarily, these words have respect to the Chaldeans, who were about to invade Jud
a, and to execute upon the whole Jewish nation the most fearful vengeance [Note: Compare ver. 2, 3. where the very same terms are used.]. In reference to them, the prophet calls upon the holy God to arise and vindicate the cause of his people. But the words of my text contain a general truth, which it becomes us all most seriously to consider.
Let me then shew you,
What evidence God has given us of this truth—
If we look into the Holy Scriptures, we shall find them full of this truth. “Holiness” is that perfection which, above all others, is celebrated in heaven [Note: Isa_6:3.] — — — and in which God is pre-eminently glorious [Note: Exo_15:11.].” But not to enumerate passages expressive of this truth, let one suffice: “Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity [Note: Psa_5:4-5.].” It is by an appeal to facts that I propose to establish the truth before us. See how God has manifested it,
In a way of judgment—
[Go back to the very fall of man in Paradise. An offence was committed; an offence against a merely positive command; and which therefore had in it no intrinsic evil, except as a violation of, what I may call, an arbitrary appointment. Yet behold, on account of that one offence were our first parents, and all their posterity, consigned to death; yea, and the whole creation also, rational and irrational, animate and inanimate, was subjected to a curse.
Go on to the time of Noah, when, for the sins of men, the whole world, with every living creature, was overwhelmed with one universal deluge; one single family alone, with a small selection of the brute creation, being saved.
Go on to Sodom and Gomorrha, and to all the cities of the plain; and see them destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven; not so much as a new-born infant being spared, or any, except righteous Lot and his two daughters. Are these no evidences of the truth before us? Methinks they declare, in language that cannot be mistaken, God’s hatred of sin, and his determination to punish it to the uttermost.
Behold, at a later period, Achan keeping for himself a wedge of gold, and a Babylonish garment, which ought to have been destroyed. No one was robbed; and the offence was not known to any human being; but yet, on account of that, did God leave for a season all the whole nation, and never return to them in mercy, till the offender was sought out and punished with death.
A terrible act of vengeance also was executed on Uzzah, who, to keep the ark from falling, inadvertently stretched out his hand, and touched it; he himself not being of the Levites, who alone were authorized to touch it. Say, brethren, is not God a holy God? and is not sin, of what kind soever it be, “that abominable thing which he hates?”
Take but one more instance; that of David numbering the people. For that one offence were seventy thousand of his subjects slain. What further proof can any man desire of God’s irreconcileable abhorrence of all sin?]
In a way of mercy—
[When the whole human race were involved in Adam’s guilt and misery, God could no more look upon them with the smallest measure of complacency. Before he could cast an eye of love upon so much as one single soul, its sins must all be expiated; and a perfect righteousness must be given to it; and its every desire must be renewed. But how could all this be effected? It could be effected only through the mediation of God’s only dear Son, and by the operation of his own Almighty and eternal Spirit. To exercise mercy, was God’s desire: and that he might exercise it in consistency with his own immaculate holiness, he determined to give his only-begotten Son, that through him, and in his sacred person, his hatred of sin might be made manifest; and to give his Holy Spirit also, that, through his effectual agency, his love of holiness might be displayed. Tell me, then, whether this does not confirm the declaration in my text? To all eternity, God will not look upon any sinner that is not washed in the blood of Christ, and clothed in his unspotted righteousness: nor will he ever look on one who is not “renewed in the spirit of his mind,” and transformed by the Holy Ghost into that very image of the Deity which sin has effaced.
Verily, let these things be considered; and you will say, that “God is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look upon iniquity:” for when sin was found upon his only dear Son, and that only by imputation, the cup of God’s indignation must be drunk by him, even to the very dregs: nor, till that was done, should any soul of man find mercy at his hands.]
This truth being so clear, let us consider,
What lessons it inculcates on every one of us—
Of the admiration which this sublime character of the Deity demands, I shall forbear to speak. I will notice only those more plain and obvious duties, which are of prime importance to every child of man. This view, then, of God’s holiness, may teach us all,
To repent of our former sins—
[Who is there that has not, in instances without number, grieved and offended this holy God? — — — Look back, my brethren, upon your lives, from the earliest childhood even to the present hour, and consult the records of conscience; and then say, whether God can ever look on you but with just and holy indignation? — — — O that all of us were duly sensible of our transgressions, and were humbled before God on account of them! To hope for mercy without deep contrition is in vain. We might as well hope that God should cease to exist: for whilst he continues a holy Being, he never can behold but with anger an impenitent transgressor. He tells us plainly, that, “except we repent, we must all perish [Note: Luk_13:5.];” and it is “the broken and contrite heart alone that he will not utterly despise [Note: Psa_51:17.].”]
To flee to the Lord Jesus Christ for refuge—
[Christ is the city of refuge appointed for sinful man: and to him must every human being flee, if ever he would escape the sword of Divine vengeance. As for repentance, though it be necessary to prepare the soul for pardon, it can never of itself obtain pardon. Whole rivers of tears could never wash away so much as one single sin. Nothing but that which satisfied Divine justice can ever obtain for us the remission of any sin whatever — — — Indeed, Brethren, “no man can come unto the Father but by Christ:” “nor is there any name given under heaven but his, whereby any man can be saved.” Bring then your sins to Christ, and lay them upon his sacred head, as the high-priest laid the sins of all Israel on the head of the scape-goat. Take also to yourselves his perfect righteousness, that in that you may “stand before God without spot or blemish.” In that way you may hope for acceptance with a holy God: but in no other way shall any soul of man come up with acceptance before him — — —]
To implore of God the sanctifying influences of his Holy Spirit—
[To your latest hour will you find, that, in some respect or other, “the law of sin which is in your members will prevail over the better law of your minds,” and bring defilement on your souls. In truth, if you be not upheld continually by the Spirit of God, there is not any sin into which you may not relapse. Your own wisdom will not suffice to keep you from temptation; nor will your own strength suffice to preserve you from falling by it. A new-born infant does not more need to be carried in its mother’s arms, than you do to be upheld continually by the Spirit of the Living God. Be earnest, then, in crying to God for help: for it is through the Spirit alone that you can mortify the deeds of the body, or bring forth the fruits of righteousness to the honour of your God, And do not presume on God’s past mercy to you: for it is an unalterable truth, that “God cannot behold evil:” and, “if you indulge iniquity in your heart, God neither will, nor can, regard you.” To be accepted of him, “you must be holy, even as he is holy.”]