Therefore it never comes at all into notice here. When the mariners asked Jonah why he had done so, he was silent as to any justification of himself; their question is recorded, but not his answer, for he had none to give. And when they again asked him, “What shall we do unto thee, that the sea may be calm to us?” his reply was at hand: “Take me up, and cast me forth into the sea; so shall the sea be calm to you: for I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.” His companions in trouble had now got full permission to do their worst upon him; but, partly won by the simplicity and frankness of Jonah’s behaviour, and partly overawed by the manifestation of divine justice which was proceeding before their eyes, they still strove to avert the calamity which seemed to be inevitable. Anxious, if possible, to save this stranger’s life, and afraid the vengeance which seemed to pursue him for having sinned against God in one respect should fall upon them by sinning in another, “they rowed hard to bring the ship to land.” Their efforts, however, were in vain; and when, at last, no alternative appeared to be left but that of executing the awful doom, they proceeded to it with a trembling heart, and a solemn appeal to Heaven for the integrity of their purpose: “We beseech thee, O Lord, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not upon us innocent blood: for thou, O Lord, hast done as it pleased thee. So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea: and the sea ceased from her raging.”
Behold, then, the severity of God! how sternly impartial in its executions of judgment! It was not enough that Jonah had become alive to his transgression, and condemned himself on account of it; nay, while the men around him melt at the thought of his fate, and would fain have it averted, there is no relenting on the part of Heaven, but a rigorous enforcement of the demands of justice. Why such painful severity here? Because the ends of the divine government required it—required it, in the first instance, for Jonah himself: he had sinned presumptuously against God, and he must bear the penalty; it was a righteous thing for God in such a case to inflict, and for him to yield to the appointed doom. But still more was this example of severity needed for the good of others. The honour and cause of God were at the time peculiarly bound up with the faithfulness of Jonah; and, having failed in the way of duty to promote the glory of God, he must in another way become instrumental in advancing it—he must be made, by the things he suffered, a witness for God’s righteousness, since he had ceased to do the part of a witness by the active performance of the duty required of him. We thus learn from his experience, that near relationship to God purchases no immunity to sin; it only ensures, when sin is indulged, a speedier execution of judgment: so that, if the shepherd of the Lord’s flock should prove unmindful of his charge, or the Church itself should as a whole, or in any of its members, become backsliding and corrupt, there especially must God show himself in severity; he is pre-eminently dishonoured there, and the work of judgment must proceed, that others may see and fear.