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"And Nathan said unto David, The Lord hath put away thy
sin ; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, the child that is born unto thee
shall surely die."' — 2 Samuel xii. 13, 14-

"And Nathan said unto David, The Lord hath put away thy
sin ; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, the child that is born unto thee
shall surely die."' — 2 Samuel xii. 13, 14-

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Nov 09, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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FORGIVENESS NOT IMPUNITY.BY SAMUEL COX"And Nathan said unto David, The Lord hath put away thysin ; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, the child that is born unto theeshall surely die."' — 2 Samuel xii. 13, 14-There arc not many Chapters in the Old Testamentwhich are more famih'ar to us than this. We have allread it again and again, and have been moved by it towonder and awe and pity. How marvellous, for instance,and how admonitory is the lordly unconsciousness withwhich David listens to the story of his own crime,although it is but thinly veiled in Nathan's parableof the poor man's " little ewe Iamb " ! How hotly hisindignation flames up against the rich neighbour who"spared to take of his own flock," but took withoutcompunction the poor man's only lamb, which " lay inhis bosom and was as a daughter unto him," and dressedit for the traveller that was come to him ! How strangeand thrilling — and to us who are in the secret, and seebehind the screen, how tragic — is the outburst of hisindignant anger, " As the Lord liveth, the man that hathdone this shall surely die ! " What, indeed, can be144 FORGIVENESS NOT IMPUNITY.more terrible than to hear the sinner unconsciouslycondemn his own sin, and pass sentence on himself?What more stranj^e than that a conscience, ordinarily soquick and sensitive as that of David, should be so in-sensible to its own burden and stain — a burden so heavy,a stain so deep ? It is hardly possible to read the storyand miss the solemn warning, that we too, even thoseof us in whom conscience is commonly the most keento mark and the most swift to avenge, may carry about
with us a secret guilt which we have not so much asrecognized, much less renounced. And as we considerthat warning, which of us does not cry, " Search me,O God, and know my heart ; try me, and know mythoughts : see if there be any wicked way in me, andlead me in the way everlasting " ?Nor is the sentence which the Prophet passes onDavid less pathetic, or less suggestive, than that whichDavid passes on himself Nathan's "Thou art the man!"turns the king's indignation into contrition. It quickensin him a profound sense of the debasement and pollu-tion into which he has fallen, and a prophetic fear of  judgment. He casts himself on the ground, and fastsseven days and seven nights — afflicting the flesh throughwhich evil has reached him. He exhausts himself, aswe learn from Psalm li., in penitential confessions. Helooks back, and all his life, noble as for the most partit seems to us, is, to him, polluted with dark taints of iniquity. He bewails his evil nature, and crowning sin,with tears of anguish. He beseeches God to forgiveand spare him, and to save his sick boy from death.FORGIVENESS NOT IMPUNITY. 145And yet the boy dies ! God has listened to his prayer,has put away his sin. David ktiows that he is forgiven.But his prayer is not answered ; or, rather, it is answered,but not according' to his asking. The child dies. TheDivine Will overrides the human will. And Davidcomes before God with the sacrifices of a broken heartand a contrite spirit, consciously submitting his will tothe Will of God. In token of his submission he putsoff the ordinary shows of mourning ; he anoints himself,he eats bread, he puts on royal apparel, and worships inthe house of the Lord.Thus, observe, the circle comes full home. David's
will had diverged from the will of God, when he wentafter his sin. It had flown off into unknown depths of darkness. N'ow it is drawn back to its true centre andrest. It is shewn to be once more in accord with theDivine Will by an obedience stronger than love or death.Here, then, we have a striking illustration of twopractical lessons of immense worth : (i) that forbear-ance, forgiveness even, does not mean impunity ; and(2) that punishment is intended to induce repentance.I. Forgiveness does not ineafi Impunity. A man maybe pardoned, and nevertheless he may be punished.His sin may be put away from him, and yet its painfulissues and results may flow in upon him as if his sinwere unpardoned. God forgave David ; yet God be-reaved David. God announced his forgiveness, and yetin the same breath foretold his punishment : " Thy sin isput away ; nevertheless, the child that is born unto theeshall surely die." And this is no exceptional, no extra-II146 FORGIVENESS NOT IMPUNITY.ordinary, case. It is simply a notable illustration of a general law. In all ages the sins of penitent men areforgiven them ; and in all ages penitent men have toendure the punitive results of the very sins that havebeen forgiven. Whatsoever they sow, that they reap,however bitterly they may repent having mingled tareswith the wheat. Abraham sinned, in his eagerness tosecure "the child of the promise," by taking Hagarto wife. His sin was forgiven him. But none the lesshe was troubled with strife and discord in his tent : i.e.,the natural result of his deed came upon him. In hiseagerness to secure the promised birthright, Jacobdeceived his father, defrauded his brother. God forgave

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