REV. JOHN MORGAN, D.D.
Punishment of Sin
The Bible and all rational observation testify that wickedness is followed by misery, known to be punishment for sin. A sense of guilt and a fear of evil always follow wickedness. When God placed man in the world, and laid on him a command as a test of his loyalty, he said to him: "In the day thou transgressest thou shalt surely die." The words may be interpreted as a prediction, or a threat, or both. The result, as well as the nature of the case, is our best guide to the correct interpretation. It could not but be that sin would introduce into the soul intensive war, a sense of degradation, remorse, and fear.
Cain was a miserable, soul-harassed wretch,--a trembler, full of agitation, afraid that whoever met him would slay him, although his brothers. He hardly needed to be told that the voice of his brother's blood cried to God from the ground. He felt that he was accursed of God, though protected from violent death. The consequence of sin is not merely the disordering operation of sin on the inner man and its wasting influence on the body, working independently of the will of God or man by virtue of its own tormenting power. One of its consequences is the wrath of God on the sinner, pressing him every day. He is cursed when he lies down and when he rises up, when be sits in the house and when he walks in the way, and accursed in all the works of his hands and of his mind. A flaming sword turns every way to keep him from the tree of life. The ground is accursed for his sake, and he is driven out from his Heavenly Father's beautiful paradise. Mourning, lamentation, and woe fill the world.
The flood, the fire and brimstone that devoured Sodom and Gomorrah, the countless calamities visited upon man attest that the punishment of sin is not its mere natural working within the soul or on the body and the outward world. Positive punishment of sin is just as natural as any punishment at all; and the idea of a divine nemesis is universal to man, except where an artificial philosophy has perverted the spontaneous sentiments of the soul.
The natural apprehension of the sinner is that he is shut out from mercy; for he knows that he deserves eternal punishment as truly as he deserves any punishment at all. Ill-desert, when once incurred, can never cease to be. Even George Eliot, in her Daniel Deronda, recognizes this. The degree of punishment incurred must of course depend on the degree of light in which the sin was committed. The state into which the sinner falls is a state of exposure to all the punishment which the wisdom and goodness of God must inflict, as well as the misery of that internal laceration which no will can control.