Leviticus 26 - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Bible Comments
  • Leviticus 26:40-42 open_in_new

    DISCOURSE: 143

    Leviticus 26:40-42. If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, end that also they have walked contrary unto me: and that I also hare walked contrary unto them, and hare brought them into the land of their enemies; if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity; then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and alto my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.

    WE are apt to feel a jealousy respecting the divine mercy, as though a free and full exhibition of it would cause men to make light of sin. But the inspired writers seem never apprehensive of any such effects. In the passage before us God has set forth his promises to his people, if they should continue obedient to them; and the most tremendous threatenings, in case they should become disobedient. Yet even then, though he foreknew and foretold that they would depart from him and bring upon themselves his heavy judgments, he told them, that, if even in their lowest state they should return to him with humiliation and contrition, he would restore them to his favour, and to the land from whence they should have been expelled. What encouragement the pious Nehemiah derived from these declarations, may be seen in the prayer he offered: in which he reminded God of them, and sought the accomplishment of them to his nation in a season of deep distress [Note: Nehemiah 1:5-9.]. May the contemplation of them be attended with similar effects to our souls, while we consider,

    I. What is that repentance which God requires—

    We find in the Scriptures a great variety of marks whereby true repentance may be known: but we shall confine our attention to those which are set forth in the text. It is there required,

    1. That we should acknowledge our guilt—

    [Our fathers’ sins, as well as our own, are just grounds of national humiliation: in the repentance that is purely personal, our own sins, of course, are the chief, if not the exclusive, sources of sorrow and contrition. But our sins should be viewed in their true light, not as mere violations of our duty to man, but as acts of hostility against God. Sin is “a walking contrary to God,” or, in other words, a wilful, persevering, habitual opposition to his holy will: nor do we ever appreciate our own character aright, till we see our whole lives to have been one constant scene of rebellion against God — — — Even adultery and murder, though so directly militating against the welfare of society, were considered by David as deriving their chief aggravations from this source; “Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned [Note: Psalms 51:4.],”]

    2. That we should justify God in whatever judgments he may inflict—

    [Though we think ourselves at liberty to “walk contrary to God,” we do not consider him as at liberty to “walk contrary to us,” but murmur and repine if at any time he punish us for our iniquities. But whatever judgments he may have inflicted on us, we must say, “Thou hast punished us less than our iniquities deserved [Note: Ezra 9:13.] ” — — — We should even view his denunciations of wrath in the future world as no more than the just desert of sin; and be ready to acknowledge the justness of the sentence, if we ourselves be consigned over to everlasting misery on account of our sins — — — I know that, when we consult only our proud reasonings on the subject, it is hard to feel entirely reconciled to the declarations of God respecting it: but a sight of sin in its various aggravations will silence us in a moment, and compel us to cry out, “Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments [Note: Revelation 16:7.]!”]

    3. That we should be thankful, for any dispensation that has been the means of “humbling our uncircumcised hearts”—

    [This is one of the most decisive evidences of true repentance. Nothing but real contrition can ever produce this. We may submit to afflictive dispensations with a considerable degree of patience and resignation, even though we have no just view of our guilt before God: but we can never be thankful for them, till we see that sin is the greatest of all evils, and that every thing is a mercy which leads us to repent of sin. Till we are brought to this, we can never be truly said to “accept the punishment of our iniquity.” We must accept it as a fatherly chastisement, a token of love, a blessing in disguise: we must say from our hearts, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted “— — —]
    These marks sufficiently characterize the repentance which God requires. We now proceed to mark,


    The connexion between that and the exercise of mercy—

    It is strange that any should imagine repentance to be meritorious in the sight of God. Our blessed Lord has told us, that obedience itself can lay no claim to merit; and that “when we have done all that is commanded us, we should confess ourselves unprofitable servants.” Who does not see that an acknowledgment of a debt is a very different thing from a discharge of that debt; and that, if a condemned criminal be ever so sorry for his offences, and acknowledge ever so sincerely his desert of punishment, his sorrow cannot cancel the debt which he owes to the laws of his country; much less can it give him a claim to great rewards? It is not then on a ground of merit, that God pardons a repenting sinner. Nevertheless there is a connexion between repentance and pardon: there is a meetness and suitableness in the exercise of mercy towards the penitent;

    1. On God’s part—

    [Repentance glorifies God, as much as any action of a creature can glorify him. It expresses an approbation of his law, and of the penalties annexed to it: it exalts the goodness and mercy of God, by the hope which it entertains of ultimate acceptance with him. There is not any perfection of the Deity which repentance does not honour — — — Hence Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him [Note: Joshua 7:19.].”]

    2. On the part of the penitent himself—

    [If a man were pardoned without repentance, he would feel little, if any, obligation to God: and would be ready to commit the same iniquities again, from an idea that there was no great enormity in them. But when a person is truly penitent, he admires and adores the riches of that grace that is offered him in the Gospel — — — and, having tasted the bitterness of sin, he is desirous to flee from it, as from the face of a serpent — — —]
    Hence it is that so great a stress is laid on repentance, in the text: “If they be humbled, then will I pardon:” then I can do it consistently with my own honour; and then will they make a suitable improvement of the mercy vouchsafed unto them.—It will be profitable yet further to inquire into,


    The ground and measure of that mercy which penitents may expect—

    [The expressions in the text are very peculiar. Thrice is mention made of that covenant which God made with Abraham, and renewed with Isaac and Jacob. And wherefore is this repetition used, but to shew that that covenant is the ground and measure of all God’s mercies towards us? As far as it related to the Jewish nation, it assured to them the enjoyment of the promised land. But it relates also to the spiritual children of Abraham; and assures to them all the blessings of grace and glory. It is that covenant whereby God engaged that” in Abraham’s Seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Of that covenant Christ was the Mediator and Surety. He undertook to fulfil the conditions of it, that we might partake of its benefits. These conditions he did fulfil: “he made his soul an offering for sin;” and now claims the accomplishment of the promise, that “he should see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied.” This covenant God remembers on behalf of penitent transgressors; and all his engagements contained in it he will perform. It is not because penitents deserve mercy, that he will impart it to them, but because he has promised it in that covenant: and for the very same reason will he impart unto them all the blessings of salvation. All the riches of his glory shall be given them, because they lay hold of that covenant, and look to him to approve himself faithful to his own engagements — — —]

    As an improvement of this subject, we would suggest to you two things:

    Be thankful that you are yet within the reach of mercy—

    [The state represented in the text is such as might be thought altogether hopeless. But God says. “If then they be humbled, and they then accept the punishment of their iniquity, He will even then remember his covenant.” Surely this shews us that none should despair of mercy, but that, whatever be our state of guilt or misery, we may yet “cry unto God, even as Jonah did, from the belly of hell [Note: John 2:2.].” But how many are there who are now beyond the reach of mercy! God does not say. that, if we cry unto him in another world, he will regard us. No: we shall then cry in vain for “a drop of water to cool our tongues.” O that we might improve this day of grace, this day of salvation! — — —]

    2. Have especial respect unto the Covenant of Grace—

    It is to that that God looks: and to that should we look also. It is that alone which is the real ground of all our hopes. This matter is by no means sufficiently understood amongst us: we do not consider, as we ought, the stupendous plan of salvation revealed to us in the Gospel. If we saw more clearly the nature and necessity of the covenant which God entered into with his only dear Son for the redemption of a ruined world, we should form a far better estimate of the malignity of sin, and of our obligations to the mercy of God. Beloved brethren, remember this covenant, both for the humiliation and encouragement of your souls. Independent of that, you must expect nothing: but by pleading it before God. you shall obtain what “neither eye hath seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived” — — —]

    END OF VOL. I.