Sinners Are Self Destroyers, But Salvation Is Of God.

Adapted From A Sermon By

George Burder

O Israel, you are destroyed, But your help is from Me.

(Hosea 13:9 NKJV)

The title of the sermon is: Sinners Are Self Destroyers, But Salvation Is Of God.

Our text this morning is verse 9 of the chapter we have just read: The NKJV renders this verse: O Israel, you are destroyed, But your help is from Me.

Now where the ESV has "He destroys you", most other version have either "you have destroyed yourself" or "your are destroyed." In any case the context shows that the destruction is caused by Israel's awful idolatry. By this they had brought destruction upon themselves.

Now "Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction."(Romans 15:4) Those things, especially, which were written to the Jews, are full of instruction to us. The literal meaning of the words is this---"Israel," that is to say, the ten tribes, exclusive of Judah and Benjamin, were awfully prone to idolatry, and it proved their destruction. In the 16th verse of this chapter it is said, "Samaria shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword; their little ones shall be dashed in pieces."(Hosea 13:16) Notwithstanding which, God was pleased to promise that he would be "their help."

It may appear to us very strange, that a people so singularly favored of God as Israel was, should be so prone to depart from him---that a people so mercifully singled out, who were brought out of Egypt, sustained in the wilderness, and introduced into the promised land, by a series of miracles, that they, of all people on the earth, should forsake the God of their mercies, and fall into abominable idolatry! But sadly! in this they were but a picture of fallen nature in general; indeed we may say, a picture of ourselves, who have received so much from God and yet made so ungenerous a return.

The words of the text are directed to us; it may be said to every one of us---"Sinner, you have destroyed yourself;" but, for your consolation hear this, "your help is from me." These words may be said to include both law and Gospel; they describe the sad condition of man as a fallen sinner, and yet they open to him the door of hope. From these words we will see,

First, That sin is a most destructive evil.

Secondly, That every sinner is a self-destroyer.

And Thirdly, That there is help and salvation in Jesus Christ, even for self-destroying sinners. "O Israel, you are destroyed, But your help is from Me."

In the first place we will see how sin is a most destructive evil; and if men were convinced of this, the great point in religion would be gained: but men's persistence in sin; their false peace; and their neglect of the Gospel, all prove they are not convinced of this; and we ourselves, in fact, seem to be but half convinced.

To dull the impression of this awful truth---that sin is a destructive evil---Satan intrudes with his first lie---"You will not surely die,"(Genesis 3:4) said he to our first mother, though God had said, "In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die;"(Genesis 2:17) and in the same way, Satan has ever maintained his destructive system; it is by this means, mainly, that he has "deceived the whole world."(Revelation 12:9) We are likewise cautioned against the “deceitfulness of sin;"(Hebrews 3:13) and we are told that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick."(Jeremiah 17:9) And when these three notorious deceivers meet together, what a great danger it is to man---a deceitful heart, deceitful sin, and a deceitful devil, aided by the general opinion and practice of a deceitful world in every successive age!

Transgressors think it very hard that their beloved pursuits should be deemed so dangerous and destructive; but we appeal to the word and to the testimony. The same word which assures you that there is a God, that you have an immortal soul, that it is appointed for men to die and come to judgment, that there is a future resurrection, that there is a heaven and a hell; the same word assures you that sin is a most destructive evil.

What was it but sin that destroyed the happiness of angels in heaven---transformed them into infernal demons, and rendered them miserable forever? What was it that destroyed the happiness of our first parents in the garden of Eden? Why did God drive them out? What destroyed the image of God in human nature? for man was made in the image of God; but what is he now? an awful mixture of the brute and the fiend. Now we find darkness instead of knowledge, depravity instead of holiness, guilt instead of righteousness.

Turn your eyes to the surface of the earth. What destroyed its original fertility, and made it productive of "thorns and thistles?"(Genesis 3:18) The ground was "cursed for man's sake,"(Genesis 3:17) because he was a sinner. What has destroyed the general tranquility of man? It was sin that opened the door to millions of evils. The poor infant enters weeping into the world, while it risks the life of its mother! What legions of fierce and loathsome diseases assail us in every stage of life---in infancy, in youth, and in old age! Behold the youth carried headlong by his tumultuous passions into vice, extravagance, and destruction. See then the man in middle age, struggling with labor, poverty, care, vexation, and disappointment; and then behold age, bending under the weight of infirmities, and saying, You are righteous, O God, but “you write bitter things against me and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth."(Job 13:26)

Sin is the grand disturber of the world. It is sin that disturbs the conscience, that disturbs families, churches, cities, and nations. None will deny that it has destroyed hundreds of millions of the human race, sweeping away, once in about every thirty years, all its numerous inhabitants, "for we are dust, and to dust we shall return."(Genesis 3:19) What vast multitudes die in their infancy! What multitudes are cut off by intemperance! How many have perished by bloody persecutions! and still more by direful wars! What myriads have been drowned in the seas, or consumed by lightning, or swallowed up, by hundreds and thousands at a time, by fearful earthquakes! and O that this, awful as it is, were the worst! but still further destruction awaits the impenitent, and without an interest in the great salvation of Christ, the soul as well as the body must be destroyed---not, indeed, by annihilation, which the wicked would earnestly desire, but by "a second death"---an eternal banishment from the presence of God.

Fear him, then, who can not only "kill the body but who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”(Matthew 10:28) Yes, sin is indeed destructive. "The wages of sin is death,"(Romans 6:23) and, as James says, "Desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death."(James 1:15) Hear also what the holy law of God denounces against every transgressor: "Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them."(Deuteronomy 27:26) This then is the state of the case, and is it not most true that sin is a destructive evil? O Israel, that you have destroyed yourself? and this will appear more plainly by showing,

In the second place, that

Sinners are self-destroyers.

What is more shocking than for persons, renouncing that natural self-love which rules all mankind, to prepare for their own death? Here we pity, while we blame; and yet all willful sinners are behaving the same; they are destroying themselves, and yet they are not aware of it; and if they are at all anxious about their errors, they are apt to throw the blame on others, indeed, even upon God himself. Against this presumption the Apostle James cautions us, "Let no one say when he is tempted, I am being tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire."(James 1:13)

Sinners, although they are self-destroyers, always endeavor to throw off the blame from themselves upon others. Our first parent wished to transfer the blame from himself, and therefore said, "The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate."(Genesis 3:12) She also, as unwilling to bear the blame, said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."(Genesis 3:13) Thus also it is that sinners blame their passions, and charge their vices upon their constitutions, or upon their companions, or upon their situations in life, and sometimes upon Satan: but unless the tempter had found a proneness in us to sin, all his temptations would be fruitless, as they were when they were exercised upon the Lord of life and glory.

Sadly! all the sins we commit flow from our own polluted hearts. So our Lord says, in the Gospel of Matthew, "What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person."(Matthew 15:18) It will be found therefore, that the blame is all our own; that there is an obstinate persistence in sin against the objections of conscience, and the admonitions of God. And so, of old, he spoke to the house of Israel, "As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?"(Ezekiel 33:11) This challenge plainly throws the guilt upon man, as his own destroyer; why will you die, O house of Israel?---it arises from the willful obstinacy and hardness of the human heart.

The prophet also charges the Jews with a willful resistance to the Gospel, they shut their eyes that they might not see; they stopped their ears that they might not hear;(Ezekiel 12:2) and our blessed Lord says expressly to the unbelieving Jews, "You refuse to come to me that you may have life;"(John 5:40) and in our Lord's discourse with Nicodemus, as recorded in the 3rd chapter of John’s Gospel, it is expressly said, "Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed."(John 3:18-20)

True penitents will readily confess this; they will be ashamed of themselves; and say with David, "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight."(Psalm 51:4) Yes, real Christians, under their deepest afflictions, will adopt this language, “Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins?"(Lamentations 3:39) And, depend on it, whatever excuses men now make, the time will come when "every mouth will be stopped, and all the world become (and confess themselves) guilty before God."(Romans 3:19) "The books will be opened,"(Revelation 20:12) and a clear impartial statement made, and the righteous judgment of God will be apparent to all; it will then appear that the way of sin was chosen; that it was preferred, and that willful unbelief ruled. Sinners know the thoughts of their own minds concerning this; they harden themselves, and stifle all convictions; resolving, whatever the consequences may be, that they will go on in sin and unbelief. Sinners are self-destroyers---but we go on,

In the third and last place, to show that

There is salvation in Jesus Christ, even for self-destroying sinners.

And what news, what, good news, what unexpected news, do we find in this third part of our subject! "O Israel, you are destroyed"---and what might be expected to follow---You must suffer the consequences---it is the fruit of your own doings---but, instead of this, God has been graciously pleased to say, "But your help is from me." As in another place, where we have a long and a black catalog of the sins of Israel---where the heavens and the earth are called upon to witness their iniquity, yet it is followed up with this encouraging language---"Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool."(Isaiah 1:18)

The help---the salvation which sinners stand in need of, can only come from God. "To us, O Lord, belongs open shame,”---but it is added, (And a wonderful addition it is!)---“To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him."(Daniel 9:9) The truth is, man neither wants this help, nor could procure it if he did. Man does not want it; he sees little or no need of pardon; he justifies his offenses, and is inattentive to that Gospel which proclaims redemption. And as to another great branch of it, the sanctification of our nature---he not only does not desire it, but he dreads it; he has no sort of wish for it, and the name of a Saint is, in his opinion, nearly the same as that of an hypocrite, or a fanatic.

But if men really desired it, how could they obtain it? Who could have devised that wonderful plan of redemption which is laid before us in the Gospel? Who could have made atonement for the sins of the world? Who could have cleansed the foul hearts of men, and made them new? Who could have purchased a good title to endless glory? As well might a sinner create a new sun, a new moon, or a new world, as bring about the least part of this great salvation. But God says, "Your help is from Me." Mercy, unsought as well as undeserved, first moved his gracious heart: "It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever."(Psalm 136:23) And so we have that marvelous, that unparalleled, that unspeakable gift---God's own dear Son, incarnate in our nature.

He came, "not to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”(John 3:17) In the 89th Psalm he says, "I have granted help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people."(Psalm 89:19) It pleased God to punish the sin of man in the person of his Son. "He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed."(Isaiah 53:5) He died "the righteous for the unrighteous;"(1 Peter 3:18) he bore the curse to remove it from us; "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God"(2 Corinthians 5:21)---through him there is pardon for the worst of sins. And, if any one sinner had as much guilt as usually falls to the lot of a thousand, there is pardon even for such a one, if he comes to God through Jesus Christ.

In order to encourage the chief of sinners, we find examples held forth, such as that of the Apostle Paul in the 1st Epistle to Timothy, "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life."(1 Timothy 1:15-16)

There is sufficient help for every purpose of our salvation, not only for the pardon of the greatest sinners, but grace that can conquer the most hardened hearts, even those that are as hard as granite. God will “remove the heart of stone and give a heart of flesh."(Ezekiel 36:26) Powerful lusts, though deeply fixed in our very nature, may be rooted out by the grace of Christ; even confirmed habits of sin may be destroyed. Although the "Ethiopian cannot change his skin, or the leopard his spots,"(Jeremiah 13:23) yet those who have long been in the habit of doing evil, may learn to do well. God can raise up children to Abraham, out of the very stones; and the power which brings this about is compared to that which brought about the resurrection of the dead body of Christ from the grave.

The same grace is sufficient to preserve the soul in the midst of the strongest temptations. He is able to keep his people unhurt in the most dangerous circumstances, even as the three confessors remained un-singed in the burning fiery furnace; or as Jonah was kept alive for three days and three nights in the belly of the fish. We daily witness the miracles of divine grace, as marvelous as if a stone were suspended in the air, or a spark kept alive in the ocean. We are “kept by the power of God through faith for salvation."(1 Peter 1:5 NKJV)

And so we see that sin is a most destructive evil---that every sinner is a self-destroyer---and that there is help and salvation in Christ even for the self-destroying sinner.


As we close, from the whole, let us learn,

First, to think rightly of sin.

Here is the soul-ruining mistake of men. They are not told, or will not believe, that sin is a destructive force. Beware of light thoughts of sin. Sin is no light thing. Only "fools mock at sin."(Proverbs 14:9) "Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap."(Galatians 6:7) "Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience."(Ephesians 5:6) Do not listen to your deluded companions, who would persuade you that there is no danger. In this way Satan deceived our first mother, and ruined the world. Beware, lest it ruin you.

Rather believe God, and disbelieve the enemy; believe your ears; believe your eyes; believe your feelings; surely you may believe when you see around you so many horrid effects of sin, and hear, as it were, the groans of the damned, all uniting to say---Depend upon it, sin is a destructive evil.

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus,(Luke 16:19-31) the rich man, who, after a worldly life of self-indulgence, is represented as lifting up his eyes in torment, and in vain requesting the momentary relief of a drop of water to cool his tongue, requests that a messenger may be sent to his father's house, to testify to his surviving brethren, lest they also come into the same place of torment. What was the message he wanted them to hear? Was it not this---that sin indulged, destroys the soul?---that sinners are, as has been, self-destroyers? But in vain did he request that such a message might be sent. It was needless. The same testimony had been made by Moses and the prophets, whom he and they refused to hear. The same testimony is now made to you. Would that you would hear it, receive it, and act accordingly.

But there is another, an additional evil; something, if possible, more destructive than sin itself---and that is: unbelief---a rejection of the Gospel, which will prove more fatal than all other sins; for, as we have already said from God's word, "This is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light."(John 3:19) How then "shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?"(Hebrews 2:3) That is a question which is not answered; it is a question that cannot be answered; it is a question that is not intended to be answered; "How can we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?"

How earnestly, then, should every sinner cry to the Lord for help! He says, "Your help is from me." In me. In me only. I am the God of salvation. In vain shall it be looked for anywhere else. But in me you may find it. In me, who was justly offended, but am now reconciled through the blood of my Son. I was angry, but my anger is turned away. Now I wait to be gracious. Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find: knock, and the door of mercy will fly open. Then will you say and sing, "Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation."(Isaiah 12:2)

So ready is the Lord to bestow this blessing, that he would have the good news of it published to every creature; he is so ready to bestow it, even upon the worst of sinners, that when he ordered his apostles to go into all the world, he told them to begin at Jerusalem; that those persons who had stained their hands in his blood, should be the first to receive the advantage of the shedding of that blood for the pardon of their sins.

It has been said that "Now is the favorable time,"(2 Corinthians 6:2) but you cannot be sure that it will ever be said so again; you cannot be sure that you will ever have an opportunity after this present moment, of hearing this good news. Then do pay attention and hear his voice while it is called today. Retire to your rooms this very evening, you who have neglected it before: pour out your hearts before God, and seek an interest in this great salvation.

Finally, We learn from what has been said, that grace must have the whole glory of our salvation. We can destroy ourselves, but we cannot save ourselves; God says, "Your help is from me." Salvation is invented, procured, bestowed, and applied by God himself; and every believer will gladly ascribe the praise to him.

The language of his heart will be, "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory."(Psalm 115:1) Grace first contrived the plan; grace begins the work; grace carries on the work; grace will crown the work; and when the top stone will be laid, it will be with shoutings, crying Grace! Grace! to it.(Zechariah 4:7)