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THE VINDICTIVE JUSTICE OF GOD.
AND Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal. - 1 SAMUEL, XV. 33
Agag was king of the Amalekites, who were the natural enemies of the Israelites. Both nations sprang from the same orig. inal stock. The Israelites sprang from Jacob, and the Amalekites sprang from Esau, the brother of Jacob. Esau's posterity imbibed the spirit of their father, and harbored a mortal enmity to the posterity of Jacob. Accordingly, as soon as the Israelites left Egypt, and set out upon their journey to Canaan, the Amalekites, without receiving any provocation from the Israelites, came out and fought against them at Rephidim. But at the prayer of Moses and by the arm of Joshua, God defeated them; and at the same time devoted the whole nation to utter ruin. “ And the Lord said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua; for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. And Moses built an altar and called the name of it Jehovahnissi; For he said, Because the Lord hath sworn, that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation." God delayed, for more than a hundred years, to put this irreversible sentence into execution. But after the Israelites were established in the land of promise, and had a king set over them, God gave a commission to Saul their king, by the hand of Samuel, to go and extirpate the whole race of Amalek. “ Samuel said unto Saul, The Lord sent me to anoint thee to be king over Israel; now therefore hearken thou unto the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt. Now go and smite Ama
, lek and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” Saul immediately raised an army of more than two hundred thousand men, and went and took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. But he spared Agag, and the best of the sheep and oxen, and all that was good. For this disobedience to the express command of God, Samuel, under a divine impulse, rebuked him and brought him to confess his offence. And under the same impulse, Samuel said, , “Bring ye hither Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past. And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.” Though Agag had been an enemy to Saul and to his people, and was still an enemy to both, yet Saul was disposed to save him from punishment. But God, who viewed Agag as an enemy to himself and to his people, would not release him from the punishment he deserved; but inspired Samuel to give him a just recompense of reward. This striking instance of the divine conduct teaches us,
That God is more disposed to punish his enemies than sinners are to punish theirs. I shall,
I. Show that sinners are disposed to punish their enemies; and,
II. That God is still more disposed to punish his enemies than they are to punish their enemies.
I. I am to show that sinners are disposed to punish their enemies. This will appear both from their character and conduct.
1. It appears from their character, as drawn by the Searcher of hearts. God perfectly knows their real feelings, and has clearly described them in his word. And according to his infallible description, they are entirely selfish. They possess not the least spark of holy love, but are under the entire dominion of selfishness. They have not the love of God in them, but are emphatically lovers of their own selves. Though their selfishness disposes them to love those who love them, yet it no less disposes them to hate those who hate them, whether they are friendly or unfriendly to God. Satan, who knew the nature of selfishness, told God that if he should only touch the interest of Job he would curse him to his face; and had Job been the selfish person he represented him to be, his assertion would undoubtedly have been verified when God stripped him of his dearest interest. Esau hated Jacob because Jacob had injured his interest; and there was a time when he would have wreaked his vengeance upon him, had it not been for a divine restraint. Sinners, who are under the reigning power of selfishness, are not only hateful, but they hate one another." Their throat is an open sepulchre; their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace have they not known.” They are always disposed to punish their enemies; and nothing prevents them from doing it, but either interest, impotence, or fear. But,
2. It more clearly appears from their conduct than from their character, that they are disposed to punish their enemies. They have been in all ages imbruing their hands in each other's blood. Nations have destroyed nations, and filled the earth with violence. Thousands of individuals have destroyed their supposed enemies by duels and assassinations. Sinners are disposed not only to punish their enemies, but to punish them in the most cruel and barbarous manner. No species of animals have ever been found, that are so cruel to one another as men are to men. They have invented a thousand ways of putting one another to the most excruciating tortures, for the most trilling offences. But it is needless to enlarge upon this part of the subject. I proceed, therefore, to the principal point proposed, which is, to show,
II. That God is more disposed to punish his enemies than sinners are to punish theirs.
God knows that sinners are his enemies, and hate his existence, his perfections, his designs, and his whole government. He knows that they hate him without a cause, as he has always treated them perfectly right. He knows that they are enemies to one another, and to all intelligent creatures. He viewed Agag as an enemy to all righteousness; and he views all sinners in the same light. Hence he must be displeased with them; and if displeased, disposed to express his displeasure towards them; and if disposed to express his displeasure towards them, he must be disposed to punish them; for nothing but punishment is a proper expression of his displeasure towards them. There is precisely the same reason to believe that God is disposed to punish his enemies, that there is to believe that he is really displeased with them for hating and opposing him without a cause. And who can seriously think that God is not displeased with his unholy, impenitent and incorrigible enemies? But if this be true, must we not suppose that he is as much disposed to punish them, as they are to punish their enemies? and indeed much more disposed to punish them? He was more disposed to punish Agag than Saul was. As soon as he had gotten Agag in his power, and was able to restrain him from doing any more mischief to himself and to his people, he was willing to spare his life. But God, who had been disposed to punish him, and had devoted him to destruction, remained inflexibly disposed to give him his reward ; and by the sword of Samuel, made him an example of his arniable and awful justice. But still it may be inquired, why God was more disposed to punish Agag than Saul was? and why in all cases, he is more disposed to punish his enemies, than sinners are to punish their enemies? To this I answer,
1. It is because he hates the conduct of his enemies simply considered, but sinners do not hate the conduct of their enemies simply considered. Though their enemies may act sinfully, it is not their sinfulness that they hate. It is only because their sinfulness is pointed against them, and does them hurt, that they hate it. They love the spirit which their enemies possess, and would be pleased to see it acted out against other persons, whose interest or happiness they wish to have destroyed. They love selfishness, when it is exercised to promote their interest. They love avarice, injustice, malice and revenge, when these sinful affections are exercised in their favor, and never hate them only when they operate to their disadvantage. They do not hate the conduct of their enemies because it is in its own nature sinful, but merely because it is injurious to their own personal good. Saul did not hate Agag for any cruelty, malice, or revenge, which he had exercised before he came against him and his people in battle, and therefore was not disposed to punish him, after he had disarmed him of his power to do him and his subjects any more hurt. And this holds true in all cases in respect to sinners; they are not disposed to punish their enemies as sinners, but only as opposers of their own safety or happiness. But God hates the conduct of his enemies because it is sinful, and not merely because it is hurtful. He is of purer eyes than to behold sin with the least complacency. It is the abominable thing that his soul hateth. And he is disposed to punish it in his enemies, because he hates it in itself considered. He hates it as much as he loves holiness. We are told, “ The righteous Lord loveth righteousness.” God is infinitely holy, and therefore hates all unholiness and sin with infinite hatred. Though he knows that he can overrule all sin to his own glory, and cause it to promote his own interest, yet he hates it perfectly, and is as much disposed to punish it as to hate it. He hates his enemies because they are in their own nature hateful; and he is disposed to punish them because they are in their own nature deserving of punishment. He is
therefore far more disposed to punish his enemies than sinners are to punish their enemies.
2. God is more disposed to punish his enernies than sinners are to punish theirs, because his hatred to his enemies cannot be turned into love. The ha ed of sinners can be turned into love, because they do not hate the character, but only the conduct of their enemies, which they view detrimental to themselves. As soon as their enemies any way atone for the evil which they have done to them, and turn about and unite with them in promoting their interest, their enmity or disposition to punish them softens into love and friendship. Thus Ahab king of Israel became reconciled to his enemy, Benhadad king of Assyria, as soon as he meanly prostrated himself before him with a rope upon his neck and humbly begged for mercy. Ahab loved that enemy to God and to his people, as soon as he appeared friendly to himself. And this highly displeased God, who sent his prophet to reprove him for his sinful and selfish compassion to one who deserved to die. Jehoshaphat was an enemy to the king of Israel, and the king of Israel was an enemy to him. But when the king of Israel invited him to his court, treated him with great attention, and proposed to unite with him in regaining Ramoth-Gilead, which he claimed as part of his kingdom, Jehoshaphat the king of Judah consented to go with him to Ramoth-Gilead, where God punished him for his friendship to an idolatrous and wicked king. Herod and Pontius Pilate were bitter enemies to each other; but as soon as Christ stood in their way, they could become cordial friends, and unite in destroying their common enemy. Thus kings, and princes, and subjects, all over the world, become cordially reconciled to those whom they have punished, or wish to punish, as soon as they cease to do them personal injury, or begin to do them personal good. The reason is, in all these cases, that they hate their enemies and feel disposed to punish them, only on account of personal injuries done to them. But God feels very differently towards his enemies. He hates their character, as well as their conduct. He sees every imagination of the thoughts of their heart to be evil, only evil continually. He sees not only their enmity to him, but their enmity to his subjects and to his whole kingdom. He hates their apparent friendship as much as their open opposition; and he hates both for what they are in themselves considered, and not merely for the mischief they do. His hatred, therefore, cannot be turned into love by any alteration in their mere outward conduct, while their hearts remain the same. So long, therefore, as his enemies remain sinners, his hatred of them and his disposition to punish them still remain. He is disposed to