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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 32

Expositor's Dictionary of TextsExpositor's Dictionary

Verses 1-42

Moral Consequences of Single Sins

Numbers 32:23

Few men are great saints. There is always a something; I am not speaking of wilful or admitted sins sins against the conscience (they of course exclude a man altogether from any hope), but of a defect of view and principle, a perversion of character. This is the common case even with the better sort of Christians; they are deformed in stature, they are not upright, they do not walk perfectly with God. And you cannot tell why it is; they have ever lived religiously, they have been removed from temptation, had good training and instruction, and they fulfil their calling, are good husbands or wives, good parents, good neighbours still when you come to know them well, there is in them this or that great inconsistency. This consideration, moreover, tends to account for the strange way in which defects of character are buried in a man. He goes on, for years perhaps, and no one ever discovers his particular failings, nor does he know them himself, till at length he is brought into certain circumstances, which bring them out. Hence men turn out so very differently from what was expected; and we are seldom able to tell beforehand of another, and scarcely even dare we promise for ourselves as regards the future. The proverb, for instance, says, power tries a man; so do riches, so do various changes of life. We find that after all we do not know him, though we have been acquainted with him for years. We are disappointed, nay sometimes startled, as if he had almost lost his identity; whereas perchance it is but the coming to light of sins committed long before we knew him.

Who can pretend to estimate the effect of an apparently slight transgression upon the spiritual state of any one of us? Who can pretend to say what the effect of it is in God's sight? What do the angels think of it? What does our own guardian angel, if one be vouchsafed us, who has watched over us, and been intimate with us from our youth up; who joyed to see how we once grew together with God's grace, but who now is in fear for us? What is the real condition of our heart itself? Dead bodies keep their warmth a short time; and who can tell but a soul so circumstanced may be severed from the grace of the ordinances, though he partakes of them outwardly, and is but existing upon and exhausting the small treasure of strength and life which is laid up within him? Nay, we know that so it really is if the sin be deliberate and wilful; for the word of Scripture assures us that such sin shuts us out from God's presence, and obstructs the channels by which He gives us grace.

J. H. Newman.

References. XXXII. 23. Marcus Dods, Christ and Man, p. 188. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii. No. 1916. A. W. Potts, School Sermons, p. 56. XXXII. 27. H. W. Adler, Our Provincial Brethren, p. 1.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Numbers 32". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/numbers-32.html. 1910.
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