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Their punishment was sudden, quick, and instantaneous. It overtook them in the very act: it hurried them while the profane words were still in their mouths, before God, to answer for them at his bar. God sometimes bears with sinners a long time, and sometimes he cuts them off in the midst of their sin, saying to them, Thou fool this night thy soul shall be required of thee. This he does that we may not think their death an accident; but may see it to be the punishment of God for their iniquity.
How often do sinners put off repentance till their death bed, but how foolish is it to do so? Here was no time to repent, no time to escape. As they lived in sin, they died in sin. They had neglected to repent hitherto, and now there is no opportunity afforded them.
It was certain and unavoidable. There was no escaping from it, there was no resisting of it. What could be done by little children against the great ravening bears: and i so, what can be done against God. Can you escape him? Can you resist him? When he comes out with vengeance against sin, it will be in vain to oppose. You may appease him now, but cannot oppose then. Oh then, fly to Christ for pardon of
your sins, and the wrath of God, however dreadful, shall never hurt you.
There are many useful lessons to be learnt from this story. Let us take care that we remember them, and act according to them.
1. God sees us at play as well as at worship. When you go into the house of God, you think you must mind how you behave, because God sees you; you think very right. But remember he sees you at play also. You are very apt to forget him then, but he never forgets you. His eye is always upon you: he observes your actions, your words, and even your thoughts: he puts them all down in his book, and will produce them in the day of judgment against you, unless you repent.
2. Youth is no excuse for sin, nor defence from punishment. I wish I could impress this deeply upon your minds. You see these sinners were destroyed, awfully destroyed, notwithstanding they were children, little children. Do you say you are ignorant and do not know your duty; it is partly true, it is a great pity, and you are brought to school, that you may be ignorant no longer. But God has given you a conscience: Does not your own heart often tell you that you are doing wrong; that you
ought not to play about on the Sunday; that you ought not to pilfer and steal, no, not so much as an apple; that you ought not to tell a lie; and a many more such things? It is plain therefore you do know your duty in many things, and for these God will judge you.
Do you say you are little, young, and insignificant,, who minds what a child does? God minds. He loves little children dearly; loves to have them seeking after him; has promised them many blessings if they will; and has threatened many punishments if they will not.
You are neither too little, nor too young, to die: and when you have a conscience to know good from evil, you are not too young if you chuse the evil, to bear the punish
ment of it.
Do you say you are thoughtless, and do it only in joke; that when you take his name in vain, you do not mean any harm? Remember this, it is dangerous to trifle or joke with serious things. If you do not think, it is the more shame for you. God has given you power to think, and expects you therefore to be careful. If you do not think what you are about now, when thinking will do you good; you will be obliged to think in
hell, when every thought will torment you
3. Doing as others do is no excuse. you are no worse than your neighbours, it will be but little comfort, when your neighbours and you are in hell. Here were a great number of children together, but that did not save them. Two and forty were torn by the wild bears. See what it is to keep bad company. Perhaps some of these were not so bad as others, yet they had none of them any right to do as they did. "A companion of fools shall be destroyed.
4. Every insult to holy things, is an insult to an holy God. These children reviled the prophet of God, and God himself revenges the insult. So Christ tells us, those who give a cup of water only to his diciples, give it to him. And those who offend any that belong to God, offend him. Never therefore despise God's people, for therein you despise him: never slight or ridicule his word, you offend the God who spoke it: never neglect his worship: never prophane his day nor take his name in vain for the Almighty will revenge it, and who can withstand his anger?
5. Never call any sin little; 'tis perhaps greater than you think for. These children perhaps thought it no great harm
to tease an old man: but that old man was a prophet, and instead of being merely ill behaved, they were really impious. So you may think it but a little matter to tell a lye, and deceive your playmates, or your parents; but you at the same time break God's commandment, and that makes a lye a very great crime. It is the same by any thing that is wrong, 'tis against God, and therefore cannot be a trifle.
6. God can defend his own cause. this old man could not quiet so many chil dren, God was able. If wicked men persecute the people of God ever so furiously, he can easily stop them, and certainly will punish the wicked, however they may seem now to prosper. Therefore never join the wicked, but the godly, for they will be best off in the end. And never fear man when
God is on your side.
7. God will certainly punish sin. He destroyed Sodom with fire, and the world with water, for sin. You see how he did it here. He will chastise good people if they sin, and certainly, therefore, he will not let the wicked escape. Sometimes indeed a wicked man prospers greatly, grows rich, enjoys health, is honored by all, and dies in peace: but dont think he escapes punishment, be