When Christians have gone wrong in any way, whether in belief or in practice, scandalously or secretly, it seems that pardon is not explicitly and definitely promised them in Scripture as a matter of course; and the mere fact that they afterwards become better men, and are restored to God's favour, does not decide the question whether they are in every sense pardoned; for David was restored and yet was afterwards punished. It is still a question whether a debt is not standing against them for their past sins, and is not now operating or to operate to their disadvantage. What its payment consists in, and how it will be exacted, is quite another question, and a hidden one. It may be such, if they die under it, as to diminish their blessedness in heaven; or it may be a sort of obstacle here to their rising to certain high points of Christian character; or it may be a hindrance to their ever attaining one or other particular Christian grace in perfection,—faith, purity, or humility; or it may prevent religion taking deep root within them and imbuing their minds; or it may make them more liable to fall away; or it may hold them back from that point of attainment which is the fulfilment of their trial; or it may forfeit for them the full assurance of hope; or it may lessen their peace and comfort in the intermediate state, or even delay their knowledge there of their own salvation; or it may involve the necessity of certain temporal punishments, grievous bodily disease, or sharp pain, or worldly affliction, or an unhappy death. Such things are "secrets of the Lord our God,"—not to be pried into, but to be acted upon.
We are all more or less sinners against His grace, many of us grievous sinners; and St. Paul and the other Apostles give us very scanty information what the consequences of such sin are. God may spare us, He may punish. In either case, however, our duty is to surrender ourselves into His hands, that He may do what He will. "It is the Lord," said pious Eli, when judgment came on him, "let Him do what seemeth Him good." Only let us beg of Him not to forsake us in our miserable state; to take us up where we are, and make us obey Him under the circumstances into which sin has brought us. Only let us beg of Him to work all repentance and all righteousness in us, for we can do nothing of ourselves, and to enable us to hate sin truly, and confess it honestly, and deprecate His wrath continually, and to undo its effects diligently, and to bear His judgments cheerfully and manfully. Let us beg of Him the spirit of faith and hope, that we may not repine or despond, or account Him a hard master; that we may learn lovingly to adore the hand that afflicts us, and, as it is said, to kiss the rod, however sharply or long it smites us; that we may look on to the end of all things, which will not tarry, and to the coming of Christ which will at length save us, and not faint on the rough way, nor toss upon our couch of thorns; in a word, that we may make the words of the text our own, which express all that sinners, repentant and suffering, should feel, whether towards God or towards their tempter. "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him; until He plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold His righteousness."