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2 Peter 2:1
But there were false prophets also.
False prophets and false teachers
I. A narration.
1. The connection of the words. “Also” implies that there were always true prophets. God never leaves His people without tutors.
2. The corruption of the persons. “False prophets.”
(1) They that came in the name of God, but were never sent by God (Jeremiah 23:21).
(2) They that come in God’s name, and are sent, but deliver a false message.
3. The intrusion of their mischief. “Among the people.” But durst these black impostors press into so famous a light, and not fear discerning? (1Ki 18:19; 1 Kings 22:6.) They say it is half a protection to foreknow a danger: behold the apostle’s fidelity, and therein God’s mercy.
II. A caution.
1. Who they be that assault us. Falsehood insinuates itself always in the semblance of truth. For error is so foul a hag, that if it should come in its own shape, all men would loathe it.
2. Whither they come. Not to the Turks, or Gentiles, or other heretics only; but to “you “that have the gospel. They seem to come unto you, but indeed they come against you; they promise your good, but they perform your hurt.
(1) God suffers these for the trial of our faith (1 Corinthians 11:19).
(2) God suffers them, that the true pastors might more patiently exercise their knowledge. Heresy makes men sharpen their wits, the better to confute it.
(3) God permits them for men’s ingratitude.
3. These false teachers intrude themselves--as sometimes a gamester, being flushed with his luck--and they meet with three encouragements:
(1) The numbers and applaudings of their auditors (Jeremiah 5:31).
(2) The honour and respect that is done them.
(3) Large gifts and riches.
4. Their unavoidable necessity. They will press in, and we cannot easily stave them off. Jesus Christ must enlighten our hearts to decline these false teachers. Now the means whereby Christ teacheth us is the Scripture.
III. A description of these pernicious liars, concerning whom we find a threefold mischief: one that issues from them, another that abides in them, a third that is inflicted on them.
1. Their seminary mischief, offensive and noxious to others.
(1) The matter, what they bring in--“damnable heresies.”
(a) Heresy is that which doth diametrically oppose the truth, and set up an opinion against it. Error is when one holds a wrong opinion alone; schism, when many consent in their opinion; heresy runs further, and contends to root out the truth.
(b) “Heresies,” in the plural, to point at a multitude. The troubles of the Church seldom come single; but either unite their forces, as the five Amorite kings combined against Gibeon (Joshua 10:5); or separately they vex her on every side, as Solomon was assaulted by Hadad, Rezon, and Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:1-43.).
(c) They “shall bring in.” Here is the necessity. “Shall”; though provision spend all her wit, and prevention all her strength, yet no avoiding it.
(d) The malignity of them. “Damnable heresies.”
(i) Because they are reprobated of God.
(ii) Because pestilent to the kingdoms or nations where they are admitted.
(iii) Because they bring destruction to all their followers and defenders.
2. The causes that produce such inevitable effects.
3. The manner of their induction: underhand, “privily.”
(1) Their subtlety, whereby they insinuate their unseen poisonous seeds (Ephesians 4:14).
(2) Their vigilant care to spy out the opportunity, how they may privily bring heresy in (Micah 2:1).
(3) Their hypocrisy, with the covertly carriage of their intended plagues (Romans 16:18). Vice dares not walk without a borrowed shape.
4. Their criminal evil.
(1) They “deny.” It were bad enough to slight Him, worse to forget Him, yet worse to forsake Him; but to deny Him is fearful.
(2) “The Lord.” Not a creature, not a man, not a father, not a friend, not an angel, not themselves; but the Lord, this is more fearful.
(3) “That bought them.” It is much to deny a benefactor, more to deny a parent, more to deny a Creator; but yet there is a step higher: to deny a Redeemer. Denial of Christ is of two sorts--either in judgment or in practice; denial in faith or denial in fact. The latter is of infirmity, the other of infidelity.
5. The punishment.
(1) They “bring upon themselves.”
(a) The wicked are the causes of their own condemnation (Isaiah 50:1; Proverbs 5:22; Psalms 64:8; Jeremiah 2:17).
(b) God is not the cause of man’s transgression or damnation (James 1:13; Romans 9:19).
(c) They themselves bring it; therefore not any fatal necessity out of themselves, but their own malice within them.
(2) “Destruction.” This is the measure of their punishment--total ruin.
(3) “Swift.” Man may shoot and miss, or his arrow be so slow of flight that it may be avoided; but if God shoots, He hits and kills. (Thos. Adams.)
Error in the Church
1. The futility of insisting on having even now what might be called a pure Church. “It must needs be,” said our Lord, “that offences come.”
2. It is none the less the duty of the friends of truth and righteousness to maintain the spirit of a vigilant and strenuous resistance to the assaults of error and corruption.
3. That a doctrine or a practice has many followers, even among church members, affords but a poor presumption that it deserves to be followed (Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:10-12).
4. The certain and irretrievable ruin of ungodly men.
5. finally, let us bless God that, through the waste wilderness of obstruction, deceit, and delusion, His own holy Word has clearly marked for us “the way of the truth.” (J. Lillie, D. D.)
The poison that ended the life of Alexander VI. of Italy was no less destructive because it was concealed in a glass of wine. The virus that sent to the grave Sir Thomas Overbury was not the less fatal because it was hidden in a jelly handed to him by ,. fascinating lady. The bite of the asp that closed the career of Cleopatra was not the less deadly because the reptile rested on roses. Doctrinal poison is none the less mortal because the pen of a prince in erudition inscribes on it the word “scholarship.” (S. V. Leech, D. D.)
1. It is a destructive heresy for a man to think that he can be saved without faith in Christ, while ignoring, or, it may be, denying the redemptive work of Christ.
2. It is a destructive heresy for a man to think that he is safe and in the way of salvation while yielding to corrupt passions and living a careless life.
3. it is a destructive heresy for a man to regard himself as a Christian, and think he is right for heaven, while possessing nothing of the mind and spirit of Christ.
4. It is a “heresy of destruction” for a man to think that if he abstains from great and glaring transgressions he may safely indulge in sins of the heart, and need no be over particular about what has been called “the minor moralities of life.”
5. It is a “heresy of destruction “for a man to think that he is a Christian sheltered by the blood of Christ while he consciously and continually disregards the commands of Christ.
6. It is a “heresy of destruction” for a man to boast that Christ is all in all to him while he withholds himself and all he has from Christ.
7. It is a “heresy of destruction” for a man self-complacently, to suppose that he may “gird up the loins of his mind, be sober, and hope unto the end” while he is conscious of no love to God, and while cherishing hatred of his fellow-man. Let us examine ourselves, lest we should--
(1) Endanger our own soul’s salvation.
(2) Endanger the souls of others.
(3) Deny the Lord that bought us.
(4) And so dishonour God, bring upon ourselves “swift destruction.” (The Study.)
Denying the Lord that bought them.--
The master and his slaves
There were three great stains on the civilisation of the world into which Christianity came--war, the position of women, and slavery. The relation of the New Testament to the last of these great evils naturally connects itself with the words before us. This same wicked thing, slavery, is used as an illustration of the highest, sacredest relationship possible to men--their submission to Jesus Christ. With all its vileness, it is still not too vile to be lifted from the mud, and to stand as a picture of the purest tie that can bind the soul. The word in our text for “Lord” is an unusual one, selected to put the idea in the roughest, most absolute form. It is the root of our word “despot,” and conveys, at any rate, the notion of unlimited, irresponsible authority. Nor is this all. One of the worst features of slavery is that of the market, where men and women and children are sold like cattle. And that has its parallel too, for this Owner has bought men for His. Nor is this all; for, as there are fugitive slaves, who “break away every man from his master,” and when questioned will not acknowledge that they are his, so men flee from this Lord and Owner, and by words and deeds assert that they owe Him no obedience, and were never in bondage to Him.
I. Christ’s absolute ownership. To material things and forces He spake as their great Commander, saying to this one “God” and he went, and showing His Divinity, as even the pagan centurion had learned, by the power of His word, the bare utterance of His will. But His rule in the region of man’s spirit is as absolute and authoritative, and there too “His word is with power.” Loyola demanded from his black-robed militia obedience so complete that they were to be “just like a corpse,” or “a staff in a blind man’s hand.” Such a requirement made by a man is of course the crushing of the will and the emasculation of the whole nature. But such a demand yielded to from Christ is the vitalising of the will and the ennobling of the spirit. The owner of the slave could set him to any work he thought fit. So our Owner gives all His slaves their several tasks. As in some despotic Eastern monarchies the sultan’s mere pleasure makes of one slave his vizier and of another his slipper-bearer, our King chooses one man to a post of honour and another to a lowly place; and none have a right to question the allocation of work. What corresponds on our parts to that sovereign freedom of appointment? Cheerful acceptance of our task, whatever it be. The slave’s hut, and little patch of garden ground, and few bits of furniture, whose were they--his or his master’s? If he was not his own, nothing else could be his own. And whose are our possessions? If we have no property in ourselves, still less can we have property in out” properly. These things were His before and are His still. Such absolute submission of will and recognition of Christ’s absolute authority over us, our destiny, work, and possessions, is ennobling and blessed. We learn from historians that the origin of nobility in some Teutonic nations is supposed to have been the dignities enjoyed by the king’s household--of which you find traces still. The king’s master of the horse, or chamberlain, or cupbearer, becomes noble. Christ’s servants are lords, free because they serve Him, noble because they wear His livery and bear the mark of Jesus as their Lord.
II. The purchase on which that ownership is founded. This master has acquired men by right of purchase That abomination of the auction-block may suggest the better “merchandise of the souls of men which Christ has made when He bought us with His own blood as our ransom. First, then, that is a very beautiful and profound thought, that Christ’s lordship over men is built upon His mighty and supreme sacrifice for men. We are justified in saying to Him, “O Lord, truly I am Thy servant” only when we can go on to say, “Thou hast loosed my bonds.” Then consider that the figure suggests that we are bought from a previous slavery to some other master. He that committeth sin is the slave of sin. If the Son therefore make you free, you shall be free indeed.
III. The runaways. We do not care to inquire here what special type of heretics the apostle had in view in these solemn words, nor to apply them to modern parallels which we may fancy we can find. It is more profitable to notice how all godlessness and sin may be described as denying the Lord. All sin, I say, for it would appear very plain that the people spoken of here were not Christians at all, and yet the apostle believes that Christ had bought them by His sacrifice, and so had a right over them, which their conduct and their words equally denied. How eloquent that word “denying” is on Peter’s lips! It is as if he were humbly acknowledging that no rebellion could be worse than his, and were renewing again his penitence and bitter weeping after all those years. All sin is a denial of Christ’s authority. It is in effect saying, “We will not have this man to reign over us.” It is at bottom the uprising of our own self-will against His rule, and the proud assertion of our own independence. It is as foolish as it is ungrateful, as ungrateful as it is foolish. That denial is made by deeds which are done in defiance or neglect of His authority, and it is done too by words and opinions. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
2 Peter 2:2
Many shall follow their pernicious ways.
I. An attraction.
1. The ringleaders.
(1) The necessity of a head to every schism and faction; never was breach made in the vineyard of Christ but some principal beast led the whole herd. If their reward in heaven be so great that save one soul from death, how great shall their torment be in hell that pervert many souls to destruction!
(a) The way to suppress a schism is to cut off the head; it will be hard for a body to move headless.
(b) Seeing there are such corrupters of our truth, and disturbers of our peace, let us be sure to hold the truth in peace, cleaving to our Head, Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:19).
(2) The great force of example.
(a) Let this teach men of place to look unto their exemplary lives, lest, as they have made themselves examples of transgression, God make them examples of destruction.
(b) Seeing we are all apt to be followers, let us seek out the best patterns (Philippians 3:17; Psalms 16:3).
(3) Their mischiefs.
(a) There is a plurality, diversity of their “ways.” Truth is but one, errors are infinite. Goodness is a uniform simple, sin a multiform compound. Satan baits his hook according to the appetite of the fish. He studies many ways to make you wretched; do you study one way to make yourselves blessed.
(b) These ways are pernicious or damnable. The wicked never rest till they meet with final ruin.
2. The rabble.
(1) Their multitude “many.” Wickedness is never scant of followers.
(2) Their tractableness--“shall follow.” There is a pliable disposition in all men naturally to evil, in these a desperate precipitation.
(a) The greediness of the ungodly to sin, that they scarce tarry for temptation.
(b) Sin is strong when it meets with a weak resister. How easy is it for error to domineer over ignorance!
(c) Observe the power of evil men over their associates, whether in perverting the higher faculties of the soul, reason, and understanding, and conscience, or in corrupting the lower will and affections.
(d) We must not fall off from the faith and Church of Christ because multitudes travel another way.
(e) Seeing there is such certain danger in following after common copies, let me avert you from all these pestilent examples, and propose to you one worth your imitation.
II. A detraction.
1. The patient that suffers.
(1) The singularity--“the way,” that excellent way. There is only one way of truth and of salvation by it.
(2) The sincerity--the way “of truth.”
(a) It is certain. It is called “the testimony” (Isaiah 8:20) because it bears witness unto itself; so is it called “the truth “because it shall accomplish itself.
(b) It is excellent, as being the letters patent of our salvation.
2. The injury that is offered to it.
(1) “By whom.” The instruments or occasioners of this scandal--those misled proselytes. The seminaries of infection have poisoned them, and they spread that pestilence, to the dishonour of Christ and the scandal of His gospel.
(a) Not only the principals, but even the accessories in schism are guilty of sin, and liable to punishment.
(b) The authors of this seducement are not discharged, though their scholars have dissipated the evil.
(2) “The way of truth shall be evil spoken of.” The aspersion laid upon the gospel by their means is blasphemy, the worst kind of evil speaking. (Thos. Adams.)
2 Peter 2:4-10
If God spared not the angels that sinned.
I. That they are the most ancient sinners. They were the first transgressors of Heaven’s eternal law.
1. The uniqueness of their circumstances. They had no tempter. Adam had; so has his race ever since; so have we. All their propensities were in favour of holiness.
2. The force of their freedom. Having neither an outward tempter nor an inward propensity to wrong, they must have risen up against all the external circumstances and internal tendencies of that being.
II. That they are the most influential sinners.
1. They were the original introducers of sin to this world.
2. They are the constant promoters of sin in this world.
III. That they are the most incorrigible sinners. Instances of man’s conversion from sin are numerous. Their incorrigibility shows two things.
1. That intellectual knowledge cannot convert.
2. That an experience of the evil of sin cannot convert.
IV. That they are the most miserable of sinners. There are three things which indicate the extent of their misery.
1. Contrast between their present and past condition.
2. The vastness of their capacity.
3. The utter hopelessness of their state. (Homilist.)
Fallen angels a lesson to fallen men
“These are ancient things.” Most men hunger after the latest news; let us on this occasion go back upon the earliest records. It does us good to look back upon the past of God’s dealings with His creatures; herein lies the value of history. We should not confine our attention to God’s dealings with men, but we should observe how He acts towards another order of beings. If angels transgress, what is His conduct towards them? This study will enlarge our minds, and show us great principles in their wider sweep.
I. Consider our text for our warning. “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell.” Behold here a wonder of wickedness, angels sin; a wonder of justice, God spared them not; a wonder of punishment, He cast them down to hell; a wonder of future vengeance, for they are reserved unto judgment! Here are deep themes and terrible.
1. Let us receive a warning, first, against the deceivableness of sin, for whoever we may be, we may never reckon that, on account of our position or condition, we shall be free from the assaults of sin, or even certain of not being overcome by it. Notice that these who sinned were angels in heaven, so that there is no necessary security in the most holy position. This should teach us not to presume upon anything connected with our position here below. You may be the child of godly parents who watch over you with sedulous care, and yet you may grow up to be a man of Belial. You may never enter a haunt of iniquity, your journeys may be only to and from the house of God, and yet you may be a bond slave of iniquity. The house in which you live may be none other than the house of God and the very gate of heaven through your father’s prayers, and yet you may yourself live to blaspheme.
2. The next thought is that the greatest possible ability, apparently consecrated, is still nothing to rely upon as a reason why we should not yet fall so low as to prostitute it all to the service of the worst of evils. A man may not say, “I am a minister: I shall be kept faithful in the Church of God.” Ah me! But we have seen leaders turn aside, and we need not marvel; for if angels fall, what man may think that he can stand?
3. Neither must any of us suppose that we shall be kept by the mere fact that we are engaged in the sublimest possible office. Apart from the perpetual miracle of God’s grace, nothing can -keep us from declension and spiritual death.
4. I want you to notice, as a great warning; that this sin of the angels was not prevented even by the fullest happiness. The most golden wages will not keep a servant loyal to the kindest of masters. The most blessed experience will not preserve a soul from sinning. No feelings of joy or happiness can be relied upon as sufficient holdfasts to keep us near the Lord.
5. This warning, be it noted, applies itself to the very foulest of sin. The angels did not merely sin and lose heaven, but they passed beyond all other beings in sin, and made themselves fit denizens for hell. Oh my unrenewed hearer, I would not slander thee, but I must warn thee: there are all the makings of a hell within thy heart! It only needs that the restraining hand of God should be removed, and thou wouldst come out in thy true colours, and those are the colours of iniquity.
6. The text may lead us a little farther before we leave it, by giving us a warning against the punishment of sin as well as against the sin itself. “God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell:” They were very great; they were very powerful; but God did not spare them for that. If sinners are kings, princes, magistrates, millionaires, God will cast them into hell. You unbelievers may combine together to hate and oppose the gospel, but it matters not, God will deal with your confederacies and break up your unities, and make you companions in hell even as you have been comrades in sin. Neither did He spare them because of their craft. There were never such subtle creatures as these are--so wise, so deep, so crafty; but these serpents and all the brood of them had to feel the power of God’s vengeance, notwithstanding their cunning.
II. But now I want to ask all your attention to this second point for our admiration.
1. I want you to admire the fact that though angels fell the saints of God are made to stand. Oh, the splendour of triumphant grace! Neither the glory of our calling, nor the unworthiness of our original, shall Cause us to be traitors; we shall neither perish through pride nor lust; but the new nature within us shall overcome all sin, and abide faithful to the end.
2. Now let us learn another lesson full of admiration, and that is that God should deal in grace with men and not with angels. One would think that to restore an angel was more easy and more agreeable to the plan of the universe than to exalt fallen man. I rather conceive it to have been the easier thing of the two if the Lord had so willed it. And yet, involving as it did the incarnation of the Son of God and His death to make atonement, the infinitely gracious Father condescended to ordain that He would take up men, and would not take up the fallen angels. It is a marvel: it is a mystery. I put it before you for your admiration. Behold how He loves us! What shall we do in return? Let us do angels’ work. Let us glorify God as angels would have done had they been restored and made again to taste Divine favour and infinite love. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The punishment of the wicked
I. The certainty of the sinner’s future punishment might be argued from that attribute of justice which belongs to the Divine character, and the entire purity of which is in Scripture so frequently insisted on. For it is manifestly contrary to justice, that no distinction should be made between the righteous and the wicked.
1. The first instance he adduces is that of “the angels that sinned.” The angels, it may be admitted, fell from a loftier elevation in the scale of being than man did; but the final fall of those who perish through their own neglect of the salvation of the gospel, will be more terrible than that of angels.
2. But the apostle deduces the same inference from the Divine judgments at sundry times inflicted upon men--specifying particularly the general deluge, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha. And the inference on this latter ground is as just as in the former. For in the first place there can be no reasonable doubt that these remarkable events were purposely intended to manifest in a conspicuous manner the Divine displeasure against sin.
3. But while they serve as manifestations of the general truth, that God cannot look upon sin with allowance, they serve more particularly, as argued by the apostle, to remind us that a day of still more awful judgment is approaching, in which the ungodly shall be subjected, not to the calamity of a temporal destruction, but to a punishment commensurate with the magnitude of their guilt.
II. The magnitude of the evil and suffering in which their punishment is to consist.
1. It has already been apparent in some degree, that the punishment is indescribably dreadful; and it is farther manifest from the fact that it is a punishment which cannot be inflicted upon them in the present life. Our nature in its present state, if subjected to such a torment, would faint, and be consumed; and the punishment, so far at least as the body is concerned, would presently be ended.
2. There is another terrible indication on this subject, in the circumstance that the punishment is one in which man will be associated with the fallen angels. What must be the nature of that torment which constitutes an adequate punishment to fallen angels I
3. And then to all these considerations is to be added the tremendous thought that the punishment is everlasting. The fearful characteristic of those who die under “the curse of the law” is that they die “without mercy.” “Their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched; and “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.” (T. Crowther.)
The punishment of the angels that sinned
1. He “delivered them”: but into whose hands? Indeed, He delivers guilty mortals into the hands of guilty angels (Mat 18:34; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 1:20). Some answer, that themselves are the instruments to torture themselves. After a sort, every transgressor is his own tormentor; and wickedness is a vexation to itself. Ambition racks the aspiring; envy eats the marrow of his bones that envieth; the covetousness which would be most rich, keeps the affected with it most poor; sobriety begets the headache; lust afflicts the body that nourishes it; and we say of the prodigal, he is no man’s foe but his own.
2. “Into chains of darkness.” Into darkness--there is their misery; into chains--there is their slavery.
(1) Darkness signifies tile wrath of God, and is opposed to that favour of His which is called the light of His countenance (Psalms 4:6).
(a) The power of Divine justice.
(b) The guiltiness of their own conscience. (T. Adams.)
Noah … a preacher of righteousness.
1. Noah had his calling immediately from God; whereas we are mediately ordained by the imposition of hands.
2. The Lord honoured Noah in conferring his office upon him. Certainly a minister’s life is full of honour here and hereafter, too; so it is full of danger here and hereafter, too.
3. Noah faithfully executed this calling, and continued preaching a hundred years. Both in his doctrinal instructions and exemplary life he was a preacher of righteousness.
4. He had not such happy success of his preaching as his own soul desired, and he might in reason have expected. A man may be lawfully called by God and His Church, and yet not turn many souls. It is the measure, not the success, that God looks to; our reward shall be according to our works, not according to the fruit of our works; which is our comfort.
5. So long as Noah preached, the world was warned. God needed not to have given them any warning of His judgments; they gave Him no warning of their sins. Yet, that He might approve His mercy, He gives them long warning that they might have space enough of repenting. Oh, how loth is He to strike that threatens so long before He executes! (T. Adams.)
Sodom and Gomorrha.--
Sodom and Gomorrha
1. The strongest cities are not shot-proof against the arrows of God; but even things ordained for refuge are by His justice made destructive. There is nothing peaceable where God is an enemy.
2. Sin can bring down the most magnificent cities.
3. None of these wicked cities escaped. Men, women, children, houses, plants, monuments, all that grew on the earth were destroyed (Genesis 19:25).
4. Great is the danger of living in opulent and delightful places. Where is no want is much wantonness; and to be rich in temporals hastens poverty in spirituals. In a scantiness, the things themselves do stint and restrain our appetites; but where is abundance, and the measure is left to our own discretion, our discretion is too often deceived. (T. Adams.)
Sodom and Gomorrha an example of the fate of the ungodly
1. No society of men or policy can hinder the judgment of God, which He will bring upon them for their sins.
2. The same judgments of God are executed by contrary causes. The old world was destroyed by water, these cities by fire. Sinners should not think themselves safe because they have escaped one judgment, for when they are farthest off from one evil, another is ready to fall upon them (Amos 5:19).
3. Extreme judgments follow extreme sins.
4. They that are unto others examples of sin shall be also unto them examples of punishment. (Wm. Ames, D. D.)
Delivered just Lot.--
Lot in Sodom
I. The spirit’s testimony concerning lot. Lot was a “just “man and a “godly.” What disclosures shall the last day make! What changes in our views of individuals!
1. His state before God. Only as justified by faith can we be accounted righteous.
2. Lot’s character. The bent and purpose of his soul was towards God. He ran not as he should have done in the way of God’s commandments; trial upon trial was needed to keep alive the flickering lamp of spiritual life.
II. His situation in sodom. He first “pitched his tent towards” it, and the next step was downwards--he dwelt in Sodom.
1. I ask of that residence, was it profitable? I would not make it the chief motive to serve the Lord, that it shall be well with you here; but i would yet say lose not this world and that which is to come.
2. I ask, further, concerning that residence, was it happy? Did it bring peace to his soul? could he rejoice whilst there abiding? What saith the Word of God? It speaks of him as “vexed from day to day.” “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation,” and He did deliver Lot; but He suffered His servant to feel that “an evil and a bitter thing” it is to depart from the narrow way; whilst dwelling in Sodom, happiness must not be his.
3. Nay, was that residence safe? He came forth from it a fugitive who had entered it as a prince. Are you seeking to avoid reproach by some concession contrary to God’s truth? Are you planning for the world’s aid? Cast off your vain confidences, safety is not in them!
III. The hindrances to his removal might be these.
1. The tie of property. There Lot had laid up his goods. For a time, doubtless, worldly prosperity was his, and the entanglement was strong. How strong that tie is to all! How great the grace to those who have burst from its hold!
2. The ungodly amongst whom he dwelt would be opposed to Lot’s departure. He evidently stood in fear (if them, and he might dread to give them any excuse for violence.
3. His family had, fearful to relate, formed alliances in that city of evil; these would cling around him, and prevent the determination to depart.
4. But far more than all was that lethargy of soul the hindrance, which nourished by the atmosphere in which he lived--increased by each day’s sojourn ill the infected city--would make him less and less capable of the effort needed for his escape.
1. What a God is He with whom we have to do!
2. What a world is that with which we have to contend! We dwell as it were on enchanted ground.
3. What depths of heart-deceit does the history of man bring to light! (F. Storr, M. A.)
I. His grace--a just man.
1. What this justice is.
(1) Legal righteousness is of three sorts--
(a) Perfect, which consists in an absolute completion of the law: this is lost beyond all recovery.
(b) Civil, which consists in an outward deportment conformable to the law (Matthew 5:20).
(c) Internal, when a man by repentance, and by endeavour after repentance, inwardly serves God. This may justify our faith; it cannot justify us.
(2) Evangelical righteousness is that which is revealed in the gospel; and should never have been revealed if that of the law could have saved us.
2. Thus is a man just before God, but Lot was also just before men; and there is a visible justice, as well as the invisible.
(1) There is a righteousness of preparation, which is a resolution of heart to be righteous (Psalms 119:106). Though he do sometimes admit sin, he doth never intend sin.
(2) There is a righteousness of separation, because it is seen to decline the places of temptation (1 John 5:18).
(3) There is a righteousness of reparation which consists in the reforming of errors and conforming of manners, salving past defects by a bettered life, and is indeed the righteousness of repentance. Righteous, not because there is no sin committed, but because there is no sin that is not repented.
(4) There is a righteousness of comparison; so was Lot just comparatively among the Sodomites.
(5) There is an operative righteousness. The best traveller may stumble in his journey, yet have his eye observant and his foot constant on his way.
(a) If we will be delivered, let us be just.
(b) Never did man serve God for nothing; if Lot be just, he shall now find the benefit of it.
(c) The Lord first makes us just and then saves us.
II. His place, which was sinful. But why would Lot stay in such a wicked city? Not as a neighbour affected with their customs, but as a physician to cure their diseases. But he that looked for a paradise found a hell, and the cup of his prosperity was spiced with the bitter fruits of a cursed society. What doth Lot in Sodom--a saint among sinners? Fishes may be fresh in salt waters; live in the sea and not partake the brinish quality. It is not so with man; rather some evil for neighbourhood’s sake. Can a man be clean among lepers? Sooner are the good corrupted by the bad than the bad are bettered by the good.
III. His case. “Vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked.”
1. The matter of his vexing was their sin; the evil of the place came from the persons, who were fully, filthily, palpably wicked.
(1) The impudence. It was manifest wickedness; their faces did not blush at it (Isaiah 3:9).
(2) The continuance. As their sins were extant, so constant; their ways were always grievous (Psalms 10:5). It is not so much sin, as the trade of sin, that is damnable.
(3) The uncleanness. Their sin was not only palpable and durable, but detestable. They were exposed to turpitude, their bodies prostituted to fleshly pollutions.
2. “Vexed.” This was no ordinary disturbance, nor common displeasure; but oppressed, excruciated, tormented; his senses, his very soul, exceedingly afflicted. He was not an idle looker-on, as if he minded not what they did; nor in a timorous observation of the proverb, “Of little meddling comes great rest”; but knowing it to be the cause of God, his heart was perplexed about it. He was not vexed with them, but with their deeds; we are to hate none for their creation, but perverting the end of their creation. “Vexed.” That which is here passive is in the next verse active: he “vexed his righteous soul.” Who bade him stay there to be vexed? He vexed himself when he might have quitted himself. Yet because he was vexed he is delivered. Because he avoided their sins he escaped their judgments. And surely they were both miraculous; for his declining their sins was no less a wonder than his deliverance from their flames. As the latter was God’s gracious prevention, so the former was His prevenient grace. (Thos. Adams.)
Vexed his righteous soul.--
A saint’s vexation
I. The incentives.
1. Causal or radical--“He being righteous.” As in natural things, like things are not opposed by like things, fire fights not against fire, but against water; so in moral things, the innocent are not opposed by the innocent; one good man does not persecute another. Wolf and wolf can agree, lamb and lamb fall not out; but who can reconcile the wolf to the lamb?
2. Occasional--“Dwelling among them.” One reason why God suffers evil men is to try the good. They are the best lilies that thrive amongst thorns.
(1) “Amongst them” that hate righteousness, and him for it.
(2) “Among them” that thought Lot to be the only man that molested them.
(3) “Among them” that thought Lot a proud and imperious fellow.
(4) “Among them” that thought him a fool for his labour.
(5) “Among them” that thought him exorbitant, because he walked not after their rule.
(6) “Among them” that hated the truth, and loved the prophecy of wine and strong drink. Among these bad men dwelt this good Lot, and still he was righteous. It is likely they endeavoured to win him to them, either by rewards or menaces.
3. Objectual--“Their unlawful deeds.” Sin is the object or matter of a saint’s vexation. That which grieves God should also vex us: this hath tried the zeal of the saints. (Exodus 32:19; 1Ki 19:14; 1 Samuel 4:22; Numbers 25:7-8).
4. Organical or instrumental--“In seeing and hearing.” The eye and ear are those special doors that let into the heart its comfort or torment.
(1) The sight of sin makes a man either sad or guilty; if we see it, and be not sorrowful, we are sinful.
(2) The most offensive sins are such as be objected to sight and hearing. Spiritual and internal sins may be more culpable, outward are more infamous.
(3) He did see and not see, hear and not hear. Connivance at rank impiety is bad in all men, in tolerable in some; such are the ministers of either gospel or justice.
(4) Sodom’s sin was so much the more heinous to God, for offending man, and vexing the heart of His servant Lot.
(5) He that would not be vexed with evils, let him turn his eyes and ears another way. Let us frequent their company, where in seeing and hearing we may reap comfort.
II. The fire itself. “Vexed his righteous soul.”
1. Its property.
(1) It is the argument of a righteous man to be far from his Maker’s service. As sails to the ship and wind to the sails, so is fervency to righteousness. A soldier without courage,, a horse without mettle, a creature without vivacity, such is a Christian without fervency.
(2) It doth also improve righteousness; like the fire which came down from heaven upon the sacrifices, causing them to ascend thither in acceptation. Fervency is that mark which God would have us set on all His services, that so they may be discerned to be His own.
(3) It honours righteousness; many thousands have been righteous whose names are not on record; but of those who have been zealous in their piety, the Scripture takes special notice.
2. Its sincerity. As this was no common fervency, so no counter feit; he little dissembles whose soul is moved.
(1) There be some that vex them selves out of envy; Lot did not so. This is a black zeal, reckoned among the works of the flesh (1 Corinthians 3:3; Acts 5:17; Galatians 5:21; Jam 3:14; 1 Corinthians 13:4; Romans 13:13).
(2) There be that vex themselves out of choler; transported with in temperate passions. We do not read that Lot was cruel and turbulent, vexing others; but he vexed himself.
(3) There be that vex themselves without cause, and strike their friends for their enemies. Let our zeal come in to part, not to par take the fray; all endeavouring and praying, that peace may be within the gates of Zion.
(4) There be that vex themselves out of hypocrisy; they have other ends than God’s glory.
(5) There be that vex themselves out of Ignorance; for there is a zeal not according to knowledge. Here is a pitiable fervency, like mettle in a blind horse, or a sting in an angry bee.
(6) The very name of a counterfeit pre-supposeth an original. That virtue which even hypocrites put on to grace them, is, questionless, some rare and admirable thing. The true Lot, whose fervency is in the spirit, not in show; in substance, not in circumstance; for God, not for himself; guided by the Word, not by humour; tempered with charity, not driven with turbulency; such a man’s praise is of God, though it be not of men; and through all contempts on earth, it shall find a glorious reward in heaven.
3. Its singularity. One Lot will be righteous amongst and against all Sodom, and express this righteousness in the midst of their vicious customs. It hath been the lot of fervent holiness to be rare, as to be excellent: adherents may hearten, opposites must not dash zeal out of countenance.
(1) So near as we can, let us make choice of the good; for man naturally produces works conformable to the objects before his eyes.
(2) If, like Lot, we be necessitated to the society of bad people, yet let us be good still; yea, therefore the more holy, because in the midst of a perverse generation, shining as lights in a dark place.
(3) Let us follow the examples of the best, not of the most. Who had not rather be righteous with one singular Lot, than perish with all ungodly Sodom?
4. Its constancy. “From day to day.” The fixed stars are even like themselves, whereas meteors and vapours have no con-tinned light. To run with the stream, or sail with the wind, or, like the marigold, to open only with the sunshine, is no praise of piety. Give me that Job that will be as honest a man among his thousands as under the rod, when the number of his present ulcers exceeds his former riches. (Thos. Adams.)
How ought we to bewail the sins of the places where we live
It is the disposition and duty of the righteous to be deeply afflicted with the sins of the places where they live.
I. For the obvious Scripture examples.--Our Lord (Mark 3:5) was “grieved for the hardness of their hearts,” namely, in opposing His holy and saving doctrines. David professeth that “rivers of waters ran down his eyes, because men kept not God’s law”; and that when he “beheld the transgressors, he was grieved; because they kept not His Word” (Psalms 119:136; Psalms 119:158). The next example shall be Ezra’s, who, hearing of the sins of the people in marrying with heathens, in token of bitter grief for it, “rent his garment and his mantle, and plucked off the hair of his beard and of his head, and sat down astonied” (Ezra 9:3); and he did neither ‘“ eat bread, nor drink water: for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away “(Ezra 10:6). To these I might add the example of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 13:17). I shall conclude this with that expression of holy Paul (Philippians 3:18).
II. The manner how this duty of mourning for the sins of others is to be performed.
1. In our mourning for the sins of others in respect of God, we must advance--
(1) His great and unparalleled patience and long-suffering extended toward those whose sins we lament. This was evident in Nehemiah’s bewailing the sins of the sinful Jews (Nehemiah 9:30).
(2) In mourning for the sins of the wicked, advance God in the acknowledgment of His justice and spotless righteousness, should He with utmost severity take vengeance upon offenders.
(3) In spreading before God the wickednesses of great sinners, admire His infinite power, that can not only stop the worst of men in, but turn them from, their course of opposing God by their rebellions. We are not so to mourn for, as to despair of the conversion of, the worst. They are as much within the converting reach as the destructive reach of God’s hand.
(4) In mourning admire that grace and power that hath kept thee from their excesses. It should more comfort thee that thou sinnest not with them, than trouble thee that thou sufferest from them.
2. The second branch of the manner how we must bewail the sins of others is as it respects those for whom and for whose sins we lament and mourn.
(1) We must bewail the sins of our bitterest enemies, as well as of our most beloved relations--a rare and seldom-practised duty I fear that this will be found.
(2) We ought to bewail the sins of our near and dear relations in a greater measure than those of mere strangers--natural affection, sanctified, is the strongest.
(3) They that mourn for others’ sins, especially the sins of those they most love, must mourn more for their sins than their afflictions and outward troubles.
(4) We ought to bewail the sins of others according to the proportion of the sins of the times and places where we live.
(5) We ought to mourn for the sins of others advantageously to those for whom we mourn, with the using of all due means to reclaim and reduce them.
(a) By prayer for their conversion and God’s pardoning them.
(b) We must endeavour to follow the mourning for sinners with restraining them from sin (if we have it) by power.
(c) We must mourn for sinners with advantaging them by example, that they may never be able to tax us with those sins for which we would be thought sorrowful.
(d) We must follow our mourning for others’ sins with labouring to advantage them by holy reproof for the sins we mourn for.
(e) With expressing that commiseration toward a sinner in private which thou expressest for him before God in secret.
(6) We must mourn for those sins of others that are in appearance advantageous to ourselves.
3. I shall consider how we should mourn for the sins of others in respect of ourselves.
(1) They whom God hath set in any place or station of superiority over others, either more public or in families, should be the most eminent mourners for the sins of those committed to their charge.
(2) Those who, now converted, have been the most open sinners in their unconverted state should more lay to heart the sins of the openly wicked than those who have lived more civilly and without scandal.
(3) They that mourn for others’ sins must more mourn because those sins are offensive and dishonourable to God and hurtful to sinners, than because they are injurious to themselves that mourn over them.
(4) They that mourn for others’ sins should mourn more in secret than in open complaining.
(5) They that mourn for others’ sins must mourn to a high degree who have been the occasions and promoters of their sins--either by neglecting to reprove them for, restraining them from, or giving them examples of, sinning. This sanctified conscience will make one of the bitterest ingredients into sorrow for the sins of others.
(6) They that mourn for the sins of others must mourn with a holy reflection upon themselves.
(a) They must reflect upon themselves with sorrow, because they have the same impure natures that the most-to-be-lamented sinner in the world hath.
(b) With a reflection of examination.
(i) Whether you have not some way or other furthered this sinner in his much-to-be-lamented impieties.
(ii) Whether the same open sins that are acted by him--the noted offender--or sins almost or altogether as bad, are not acted and entertained by thee in secret places, or at least in thy heart.
(c) With a reflection of care and watchfulness that thou mayest never dare to fall into the sins that thou bewailest in another; that thou who labourest to quench the fire that hath seized upon thy neighbour’s house, mayest be careful to preserve thine from being set on fire also.
III. To show why this holy mourning is.
1. The disposition, and
2. Duty of the righteous,
I shall express the reasons of both distinctly.
1. It is their disposition, and that under a threefold qualification--
(1) Because they are a knowing people. They know what tears and heart-breakings sin hath stood them in; they know that sin will cost the wicked either tears of repentance or damnation; they know that sin is but gilded destruction, and fire and brimstone in a disguise (2 Corinthians 5:11).
(2) As to a saint’s disposition: he is compassionate and tender-hearted. If sinners mourn, he mourns with them; if not, he mourns for them.
(3) The righteous are a purified, sanctified people. A saint, as such, hates nothing but sin.
2. It is the duty as well as the disposition of the righteous to mourn for the sins of others; and that as they are considerable in a threefold relation.
(1) In their relation to God. As “the sons of God “they are commanded to be “blameless, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation” (Philippians 2:15).
(2) Their relation to the Mediator, the Lord Christ. Here I shall mention only a double relation between Christ and saints, that engageth them to mourn for the sins of others.
(a) The first is His relation to us as a suffering Surety, in respect whereof He paid the debt of penalty which we owed to God’s justice; for it was sin in man that made Christ “a man of sorrows.”
(b) There is a second relation between Christ and saints that should make them mourn for the sins of the wicked; and that is the relation of Teacher and Instructor. We are His disciples and scholars; and it is our duty as much to make Him our Example as to expect He should obtain our pardon. Christ never had a pollution, but oft a commotion, of affection; Christ never wept but for sin or its effects.
(3) Their relation to the wicked, for whose sins they should mourn.
(a) The saints are men with the worst; they have the relation of human nature to the greatest sinners upon earth (Hebrews 13:3). It is a wickedness to hide ourselves from our own flesh (Isaiah 58:7).
(b) The righteous are the same with the wicked in respect of corrupt, depraved nature; born in sin as much as they, with a principle of inclination to all their impieties (Ephesians 2:3). Should it not, then, make thee mourn to consider, by the wickedness of others, thine own inbred depravation? what thou hadst done thyself if God had not either renewed or restrained thee? yea, what thou wouldest do if God should leave thee, and withdraw His grace from thee?
(c) Perhaps the holiest men have been, some way or other, furtherers of the sins of the wicked among whom they live; perhaps by their former sinful example when they lived in the same sins themselves which now the wicked wallow in. Shouldest not thou, then, mourn for killing that soul which God so severely punisheth, though free grace hath pardoned thee? Should we not quench that fire with our tears which we have blown-up with our bellows of encouragement?
(d) In this relation of saints, to sinners that should put them upon mourning for them, it is very considerable that the godly and the wicked make up one community, or political body, in the places where they live. In which respect the sins of some particular offender or offenders may pull down judgments upon the whole body. So that every one had need do his utmost, by mourning, and in whatever other way he can, to redress the sins, and so to prevent the plagues, of the place where he lives.
I. Of information in sundry branches.
1. Godliness is uniform in all times, places, and companies. A righteous man is not, as the swine in a meadow, clean only in clean places; he will maintain opposition to sin in the midst of inducements to sin. His goodness may justly be suspected that only shows itself in good places, companies, and times.
2. The greatest sinners cannot constrain us to sin. The greatest temptation is no plea for committing the least sin: if we give not away, none can take away our holiness.
3. One cause may produce contrary effects. Others’ sins draw the wicked to follow them, but they put the saints upon bewailing them.
4. It is our duty to rejoice in the holiness, if to mourn for the sins, of others. Love to God’s house in others was David’s gladness (Psalms 122:1). It was the greatest joy of holy John that his spiritual “children walked in the truth “(3 John 1:4). Holy ones were Paul’s “joy, crown, and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).
5. Christianity abolisheth not affection, but rectifies it. Grace is like the percolation or draining of salt water through the earth; it only takes away the brackishness and unsavouriness of our affections and faculties.
6. Everything betters a saint. Not only ordinances, word, sacraments, holy society, but even sinners and their very sinning. Even these draw forth their graces into exercise, and put them upon godly, broken-hearted mourning.
7. The great misery that sill hath brought into the world, to make sorrow and mourning necessary. It should make us long for a better world, where that which is here our duty to practise shall for ever be our privilege to be freed from.
8. There must needs remain a better state for the saints.
9. How ought sinners to mourn for their own sins! The nearer the enemy is, the more dreadful he is. Nothing more dismal than to see a sinner to go, not swiftly only, but merrily, to eternal mourning. “He that hath no tears for himself, should be helped by others.”
II. The second use is of reprehension; and that to sundry sorts.
1. To those that reproach the holy mourning of saints for others’ sins. They are falsely esteemed the incendiaries in a state whose great study is to quench God’s burning wrath. If sinners kindle the fire, let saints quench it.
2. This doctrine of mourning for the sins of others speaks reproof to those that take pleasure in the sins of others (Romans 1:32).
3. This doctrine reproves those that mourn for the holiness of others. I have known some parents that have greatly desired their children should be good husbands, to get and increase their estates; but then have been very fearful lest they should be too godly; and it hath been the righteous judgment of God that their children proved spendthrifts, neither godly nor good husbands. It is often seen that, as gardeners with their shears snip off the tops of the tallest sprigs, so men most labour to discountenance the tallest in Christianity.
4. This doctrine reproves those that put others upon sin, so far are they from mourning for their sins. Poor souls! have they not sins enough of their own to answer for? If is little enough to be a leader to heaven, but too much to be a follower to hell; what, then, to be a leader!
III. of exhortation, to mourn for the sins of the wicked among whom we live.
1. If we mourn not for others’ sins, theirs become ours.
2. Mourning for others’ sins is the way to awaken thy conscience for thine own former sins.
3. Without mourning for sinners you will never seek the reformation of sinners.
4. This mourning for others’ sins will make us more fearful to admit sin into ourselves.
5. Mourning for others’ sins speaks thee a man of public usefulness to thy country.
6. Mourning for others’ sins makes the sins of others beneficial to thee.
7. Holy commotion of soul for others’ sins sends forth a most acceptable and fragrant savour into the nostrils of God.
IV. I shall add one use more; and that is direction to the means of practising this duty of holy mourning for others’ sins:
1. Look not upon this duty with self-exemption. As if it belonged only to the highest in the practice of religion, or persons in office. All desire to bc marked, and therefore should be mourners (Ezekiel 9:4).
2. Look upon mourning for sin to be no legal practice, but an evangelical duty. The gospel-grace makes tears sweeter, not fewer.
3. Preserve tenderness of conscience in respect of thine own sins.
4. Strengthen faith in divine threatenings against sin.
5. Be holily, not curiously, inquisitive into the state of the times.
6. Take heed of being drowned in sensual delights. (W. Jenkin, M. A.)
Distress of the pious at the wickedness of the godless
The pious are distressed at the sins of the godless because--
1. These sins sully the glory of God;
2. They show the tyranny of Satan over men;
3. They conduce to the condemnation of the godless. (J. Fronmuller.)
Grief at sin
John Bunyan’s wife having, after several previous applications to different judges, made a specially importunate appeal to Judges Hale and Twisdon for the release of her husband from Bedford gaol, and being again unsuccessful, said: “I remember that though I was somewhat timorous at my first entrance into the chamber, yet, before I went out, I could not but break forth into tears, not so much Because they were so hard-hearted against me and my husband, but to think what a sad account such poor creatures will have to give at the coming of the Lord, when they shall then answer for all things whatsoever they have done in the body, whether it be good or whether it be bad.” (Tinling’s Illustrations.)
A Christian in the world is like a rose among noxious weeds
Does a rose refuse to grow and to emit a sweet odour because there are noxious weeds in the same field? And does the rose complain and declare that it will not fulfil its mission until every weed is pulled up? A rose is a rose in the midst of thorns and thistles. A Christian is a Christian under all circumstances, and whether the world is full of noxious weeds, and the Church swarming with hypocrites, the man of faith continues to grow and bear fruit, exhaling a sweet and salutary fragrance on all around. A Christian who refuses to shed spiritual fragrance upon the desert air, because of the presence of mean and defective church members, is a mere fungus sort of Christian, being devoid of the seeds of truth, and hence empty of spiritual vitality.
The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly.--
The Lord’s knowledge our safeguard
I. The Lord’s knowledge in reference to character.
1. He knows the godly--
(1) Under trial, when they are not known to others.
(2) Under temptation, when scarcely known to themselves.
2. He knows the unjust--
(1) Though they make loud professions of piety.
(2) Though they may be honoured for their great possessions.
II. The Lord’s knowledge in reference to the godly. He knows how to let them suffer, and yet to deliver them in the most complete and glorious manner.
1. His knowledge answers better than theirs would do.
2. His knowledge of their case is perfect.
3. He knows in every case how to deliver them.
4. He knows the most profitable way of deliverance.
5. His knowledge should cause them to trust in Him with holy confidence, and never to sin in order to escape.
III. The Lord’s knowledge in reference to the unjust.
1. They are unjust in all senses, for they are--
(1) Not legally just by keeping the law.
(2) Nor evangelically just through faith in Jesus.
(3) Nor practically just in their daily lives.
2. The Lord knows best--
(1) How to deal with them from day to day.
(2) How to reserve them under restraints. He makes it possible to reprieve them, and yet to maintain law and order.
(3) How to punish them with unrest and fears even now.
(4) How and when to strike them down when their iniquities are full.
(5) How to deal with them in judgment, and throughout the future state. The mysteries of eternal doom are safe in His hand. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
God’s dealings with the godly and their persecutors
I. The deliverance of the godly.
1. A deliverance. It is a great comfort in every distress to hope for a deliverance; to believe it, greater; to be sure of it, greatest of all. Thus certain is every Christian, by the assurance of faith, grounded on the infallible promise of God. God often defers His deliverance.
(1) To return us home: when no man will harbour that unthrift son, he Will back again to his father.
(2) To make us seek our deliverance in the right place: while money can buy physic, or friends procure enlargement, the great Physician Helper is not thoroughly trusted.
(3) To set a better price on His benefits; for suddenly gotten are suddenly forgotten.
2. The persons delivered are the “godly.” Godliness consists in two things:
(1) The devout admiration; and
(2) Sincere imitation of God.
3. From what--“out of temptations.” They, of all men, are most subject to temptations. The higher a tree shoots up, the more tempest-beaten. To suggest evil is Satan’s blame; to resist it our praise. The more we are tried in the furnace, the purer gold we shall go to the treasury of heaven. Lord, make us as strong as the devil is malicious.
(1) We that pray for deliverance from evil must endeavour against evil. Let us have wary eyes, for it is not the self-appearing devil, but the same or transformed angel, that doth corrupt us.
(2) Consider what preventions the provident God useth against our sinnings. Sometimes He shortens our own arms, sometimes strengthens others against us. Sometimes reason is heard, when religion sits out; and the dishonesty, inutility, or difficulty of a sin is perpended. But it is best, when the fear of God hath corrected us, or the Word of God averted us, or the Spirit of God recalled us.
(3) Let us meditate how we are blessed of God, and have reason to bless God, for these happy deliverances.
(4) If we love not evil, let us long for our final and plenary deliver ance from it; that immortal court, where sin can no more enter; out of this the tempter is excluded for ever. Here the Lord delivers us from the damnation and domination of sin, there from the temptation and assault; here it shall not over come us, there it shall not come near us.
4. Our deliverer--“The Lord.” His sovereignty is--
(4) Necessary. We could not live but by His dominion.
(5) Immutable. What God once is, He is for ever,
(7) Glorious and blessed.
5. “The Lord knoweth how.” As there is nothing impossible to His might, so there is nothing concealable from His understanding.
(1) He knows our temptations before they be upon us; He sees the preparing of the potion, weighs the ingredients to a scruple, qualifies the malignity of the purgatives with sweet consolations.
(2) He knows them when they be upon us (Exodus 2:25; Psalms 31:7).
(3) He knows how to rid them from us. They are often so perplexful and intricate, that neither we see, nor the world sees, nor reason apprehends how, yet the Lord knoweth.
II. The end of their persecutors.
1. The malefactors. The wicked are “unjust.”
(1) To God. Righteousness is an obedience to the will of God, and injustice is no other than disobedience.
(2) To man. Such are they that measure their right by their power, and therefore will do injury because they cannot do it. Unjust--
(a) To the commonwealth.
(b) To the Church.
(c) To private persons.
(3) To a man’s self. So is the thriftless, that spends himself into poverty by pride and luxury; the envious, that loses the sweetness of his own by grudging at his neighbours; the covetous, that adds to the continent of his treasure what he should add to the content of his nature.
2. The binding over. “Are reserved.” Whether they sleep or wake, play or work, stand or walk, their time runs on, their judgment is nearer; and they are more surely kept unto it, than any dungeon, with the thickest walls and strongest chains, can hold a prisoner till his arraignment comes.
(1) Wickedness hath but a time, but the punishment of wickedness is beyond all time.
(2) The unjust are already reserved, the decree is passed against them. They are bound over to the last assizes by a threefold recognisance, as it were with infrangible, though insensible, chains of judgment--the bond of their sins, the bond of their conscience, and the bond of omnipotent justice--and this threefold cable is not easily broken.
3. The assizes. “To the day of judgment.”
(1) The sufficiency of the Judge
(2) The necessity of the judgment (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7).
4. The execution. “To be punished.” In this judgment, God respects no persons; He knows no valour, no honour, no riches, no royalty, in the matter of sin; but Romans 2:9. (Thos. Adams.)
The trial and deliverance of the godly
I. Our religion must be fairly tried.
1. The pleasures of life, as they are generally deemed; present themselves before you; many of them decidedly sinful, others of them, though not directly immoral, yet very ensnaring, they invite you to the indulgence of gratifications which war against the soul. Do you habitually resist these salutations?
2. The world, apart from its disgusting vices, exhibits to your mind, in bright colours, the numerous comforts, the many enjoyments, the family advantages, the great interests, belonging to a state of prosperity and affluence. Do you when thus tempted adhere firmly to the great Christian principle of renouncing the world?
3. Even religion itself, with imposing professions, will invite your attention and adherence for the purpose of ensnaring and deceiving your souls. Do you continue steadfast in the faith, true to your only Lord and Master? Do you reject every substitute for Christ Himself?
4. A persecuting spirit, under the pretext of holy zeal for God and religion, has often been exerted, and has proved a severe trial of faith and sincerity. Do you notwithstanding cleave to the Lord?--hold fast the profession of your faith without wavering?
5. Afflictions generally are a trial of our religion. It is when we are brought low in trouble that the excellency of faith, the sincerity of our hearts, the truth of our profession, the reality of our love to God, and the purity of our faith in the Son of God will be most satisfactorily manifested. Yet, let it be seriously remembered, that it is not the impression of the moment, but the subsequent permanent, abiding effects of affliction that become a real test of godliness.
II. The encouraging promise conveyed in this passage to men of truth and sincerity. “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptation.” A faithful God is not only able to comfort and sustain them that wait upon Him, but He will do it most wisely; He knoweth how to dispense His grace most advantageously to them that really love Him and cast their care upon Him. (S. Morell.)
Deliverance from temptation the privilege of the righteous
1. Who are here to be understood by “the godly.” He, and he only, can lay claim to so glorious a qualification who is actually in covenant with God, and that not only by external profession, but by real relation. In a word, he, and he only, ought to pass for godly, according to the unalterable rules of Christianity, who allows not himself in the omission of any known duty, or the commission of the least known sin. And this certainly will, and nothing less that I know of can, either secure a man from failing into temptation, or (which is yet a greater happiness) from falling by it.
2. The other thing to be inquired into is, what is here meant by “temptation”; a thing better known by its ill effects than by the best description. The Greek word signifies “trial,” and so imports not so much the matter as the end of the dispensation. But (the common and most received use of the word having added something of malignity to its first and native signification) generally in Scripture it denotes not only a bare trial, but-such a one as is attended with a design to hurt or mischieve the people so tried. As for the sense in which the word ought to be taken here, it may be, and no doubt with great truth is, in the full latitude of it, applicable to both sorts of temptation: it being no less the prerogative of God’s goodness and power to deliver men from such trials as afflict them, than from such as are designed to corrupt them. Nevertheless, I think it also as little to be doubted, that the text chiefly respects this latter signification, and accordingly speaks here most designedly of such a deliverance as breaks the snares and defeats the stratagems by which the great and mortal enemy of mankind is so infinitely busy, first to debauch, and then to destroy souls. And now, if it be inquired whether they are the righteous only whom God delivers from temptation, and that no such deliverances are ever vouchsafed by Him to any of the contrary character, I answer that I can find nothing in Scripture or reason to found such a doctrine upon, but that such deliverances both may be and sometimes are vouchsafed to persons far enough from being reckoned godly, either in the accounts of God or man. And first, that they may be so we need no other reason to evince it than this, that God in these cases may very well restrain the actions, without working any change upon the will or affections. And in the next place, that such deliverances not only may be, but sometimes actually are afforded to persons represented under no note of piety or virtue, but much otherwise, those three memorable examples of Abimelech, Esau, and Balaam (Genesis 20:1-18; Genesis 33:1-20; Numbers 22:1-41.) sufficiently demonstrate. So that we may rationally conclude that even wicked persons also are sometimes sharers in such deliverances; but still so, that this by all means ought to be observed Withal, that the said deliverances are dealt forth to these two different sorts of men upon very different grounds, viz., to the former upon the stock of covenant or promises; to the latter upon the stock of uncovenanted mercy, and the free overflowing egress of the Divine benignity, often exerting itself upon such as have no claim to it at all.
I. To show how far God delivers persons truly pious out of temptation.
1. God delivers by way of prevention, or keeping off the temptation; which, of all other ways, is doubtless the surest, as the surest is unquestionably the best. For by this is set a mighty barrier between the soul and the earliest approaches of its mortal enemy. Unspeakable are the advantages vouchsafed to mankind by God’s preventing grace, if we consider how apt a temptation is to diffuse, and how prone our nature is to receive an infection. For though the soul be not actually corrupted by a temptation, yet it is something to be sullied and blown upon by it, to have been in the dangerous familiarities of sin, and in the next approach and neighbourhood of destruction. Such being the nature of man, that it is hardly possible for hint to be near an ill thing and not the worse for it.
2. We are now to consider such persons as advanced a step further, and as they are actually entered into temptation; and so also God is at hand for their deliverance. For as it was God who suspended the natural force of that material fire from acting upon the bodies of the three children mentioned in Daniel 3:1-30., so it is God alone who must control the fury of this spiritual flame from seizing upon the soul, having always so much fuel and fit matter there for it to prey upon. And for an eternal monument of His goodness, He has not left us without some such heroic instances as these upon record in His Word, that so the saints may receive double courage and confidence, having their deliverance not only sealed and secured to them by promise, but also that promise ratified and made good to them by precedents and examples, like so many stars appearing, both to direct and to comfort the benighted traveller.
3. And lastly, we are to consider the persons hitherto spoken of as not only entered into temptation, but also as in some measure prevailed upon by it. But that I may give some light to this weighty case of conscience, how far a person truly godly may, without ceasing to be so, be prevailed upon by temptation, I will here set down the several degrees and advances by which a temptation or sinful proposal gradually wins the soul, and those all of them comprised in James 1:14-15.
1. The first of which we may call seduction.
2. The second degree of temptation may be called enticement or allurement.
3. The third degree is, when after such possession had of the thoughts and fancy, the temptation comes to make its way into the consent of the will, and to gain that great fort also, so that the mind begins to propose, and accordingly to contrive the commission of the sin proposed to it.
4. The fourth degree of prevalence which a temptation gets over the soul is, the actual eruption of it in the perpetration or commission of the sin suggested to it.
5. The fifth and last degree, completing the victory which temptation obtains over a man is, when sin comes to that pitch as to reign, and so by consequence put out of all possibility either of resistance or escape. Having thus reckoned up the several degrees of temptation, and set before you the fatal round of the devil’s methods for destroying souls, let us now in the next place inquire how far God vouchsafes to deliver the pious and sincere out of them in answer to which, I first of all affirm, that God’s methods in this case are very various, and not to be declared by any one universal assertion. Sometimes by a total and entire deliverance, He delivers them from every degree and encroachment of a temptation. Sometimes He lets them fall into the first degree of it, and receive it into their thoughts; but then delivers them from the second, which is to cherish and continue it there, by frequent pleasing reflections upon it. Sometimes He gives way to this too, but then hinders it from coming to a full purpose and consent of will. Sometimes He lets it go thus far also, and suffers sin to conceive by such a purpose or consent: but then, by a kind of spiritual abortion, stifles it in the very birth, and so keeps it from breaking forth into actual commission. And lastly, for reasons best known to His most wise providence, He sometimes permits a temptation to grow so powerful as to have strength to bring forth and to defile the soul with one or more gross actual eruptions. But then, in the last place, by a mighty overpowering grace, He very often, as some assert, or always, as others affirm, keeps it from an absolute, entire, and final conquest. So that sin never comes to such a height as to reign in the godly, to bear sway, and become habitual. But though its endeavours are not always extinguished, nor its sallyings out wholly stopped, yet its dominion is broken. It may sometimes bruise and wound, but it shall never kill.
Now the foregoing particulars, upon a due improvement of them, will naturally teach us these two great and important lessons.
1. Concerning the singular goodness as well as wisdom of our great Lawgiver, even in the strictest and severest precepts of our religion. Certainly it is a much greater mercy and tenderness to the souls of men to represent the first movings of the heart towards any forbidden object as unlawful in themselves, and destructive in their consequence, and thereby to incite the soul to a vigorous resistance of them while they may be mastered, and with tea times less trouble extinguished, than after they are once actually committed, they can be repented of. No doubt sin is both more easily and effectually kept from beginning than, being once begun, it can be stopped from going on.
2. The other great lesson is concerning the most effectual method of dealing with the tempter and his temptations; and that is, to follow the method of their dealing with us. A temptation never begins where it intends to make an end.
II. To show what is the prime motive, or grand impulsive cause, inducing God to deliver persons truly pious out of temptation. NOW this is twofold:
1. The free mercy of God; and
2. The prevailing intercession of Christ.
III. To show why and upon what grounds deliverance out of temptation is to be reputed so great a mercy and so transcendent a privilege. In order to which, as all deliverance, in the very nature and notion of it, imports a relation to some evil from which a man is delivered; so in this deliverance out of temptation, the surpassing greatness of it, and the sovereign mercy shown in it, will appear from those intolerable evils and mischiefs which are always intended by, and naturally consequents upon, a prevailing temptation. Four things more especially are designed and driven at by the tempter in all his temptations.
1. To begin with the greatest, and that which is always first intended, though last accomplished, the utter loss and damnation of the soul. For this is the grand mark which the tempter shoots at, this being the beloved prize which he contends so hard for.
2. In the second place, loss of a man’s peace with God and his own conscience, and the weakening, if not extinguishing, all his former hopes of salvation. It confounds and casts a man infinitely backwards as to his spiritual accounts. It degrades him from his assurance; renders his title to heaven dubious and perplexed; draws a great and discouraging blot over all his evidences, and even shakes in pieces that confidence which was formerly the very life and support of his soul, with new, terrible, and amazing objections.
3. The third consequence of a prevailing temptation is the exposing of a man to the temporal judgments of God in some signal and severe affliction. For though in much mercy God may, as we have shown, save such a one from eternal death, yet it rarely happens that He frees him both from destruction and from discipline too; but that some time or other He gives him a taste of the bitter cup, and teaches him what his sin has deserved, by what at present it makes him feel.
4. The fourth and last mischievous consequence of a prevailing temptation is the disgrace, scandal, and reproach which it naturally brings upon our Christian profession. The three former consequences terminated within the compass of the sinner’s own person; but this last spreads and diffuses the mischief much further: nothing in nature casting so deep a stain upon the face of Christianity as the blots which fall upon it from the lewd and scandalous behaviour of Christians. (R. South, D. D.)
And to reserve the unjust unto the day of Judgment to be punished.--
The reality of future punishment
I. Think of the crisis which is indicated by the text. “The day of judgment.” At the day of judgment those of whom our text speaks will be present. These unjust ones will avowedly be all there. They are still existing, because then they will be forthcoming. Yes, and all besides these unjust ones are still existing, in order that they may be forthcoming then. Every descendant of Adam is existing unto this hour; living as much as we are living, away amidst the intermediate blessedness or woe; awaiting there the coming of the Lord to judgment. Public pronunciation must there be of the allotted destiny, world without end. The present does not terminate upon itself.
II. Think of the parties designated by the text. “The unjust.” This word is used to represent the ungodly. To be unjust towards our fellow-man is to do unto him that which should have been avoided, and to neglect to do unto him that which should have been performed. We sustain to him relationships involving manifold obligations. We sustain towards God relationships involving manifold obligations. Certain things are due from us to God; certain tempers of heart; certain modes of thought; certain habits of life. They are in no wise optional Now, in the judgment of the great day inquisition will be instituted accordingly. Not a godly man has lived who will not then be honourably recognised. Not an ungodly man has lived whose ungodliness will not then be brought transparently to light. Compromise will be impossible. Suppression will be impossible. Evasion will be impossible.
III. Think of the doom declared by our text. “Punishment unto which they have been reserved.” There was, according to the intimation, an idea of ultimate escape. The penalty which had been merited would somehow be averted. So in their folly men imagined they should not surely die. But God was knowing them all the while; preparing, moreover, all the while, as His forewarnings told, to execute His will. Dare any man amongst us to suggest that the great God was inconsiderate when He spoke of a fearful looking-for of judgment? Dare any man amongst us to suggest that He who holdeth us responsible for the full sincerity of our own words has been so far indifferent to the full sincerity of His own as to speak of tribulation in the future life when there is no such thing as tribulation? Real, downright positively real, this future punishment of the unjust. Forecast-ings of the punishment are sometimes realised in the present life. Instances of punishment have now and then occurred among the children of men which are enough to silence the objections which some of you are making now. You want the preacher to remember the goodness of God. I have it in remembrance; but I have in remembrance also the blindness of Elymas the sorcerer, and the latter end of Herod, who was eaten up of worms. You want the preacher to remember the goodness of God. I have it in remembrance; but I have in remembrance also the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise; the cherubim with the flaming sword being placed there to dare them ever to return. (W. Brock.)
2 Peter 2:8
Make merchandise of you.
False teachers as merchantmen
The apostle here makes a continuation of their sins and a declaration of their plagues. They extend the thread of their mischief very long, till hell fire burn it off. They broach heresies, corrupt multitudes, sell souls, as merchants do their wares; cozen men’s consciences, colour foul natures with fair words, blaspheme the gospel, deny Jesus Christ. Oh, how constant and long-winded are they in their wickedness! But there is a judgment that wakes while they slumber.
I. The general similitude (merchandising) here used. The calling of a merchant is of great antiquity and necessary use. Merchants are the feet of the world, whereby distant countries meet together. Yet it is a dangerous profession, not only for wreck of life and goods, but also of conscience; which is not always made in their ships abroad, but too commonly in their shops at home.
1. The merchants are false teachers. As Judas sold Christ for thirty pieces, so they sell men to sin, little esteeming the price that a soul cost.
2. The wares--“you”; your estates, liberties, lives, and souls. They set up a mart of holy things, and with their impostures fill their purses. An evil pastor may sell his flock three ways--
(1) By flattery. He that encourages a man in his errors sells him for his own gain.
(2) By heresy. Broaching schisms and factions and erroneous opinions, as it were feeding the people with bones, or rather poisons, instead of wholesome meat.
(3) By silence. The watchman who does not ring the alarm bell at the approach of danger betrays the city to the enemy.
3. “Through covetousness.” This is the ground or motive of their traffic. It is true of every schism, what was said of Lucilla’s faction, with a little inversion: anger bred it, pride fostered it, and covetousness confirmed it.
(1) This sin of covetousness is iniquity in all men, blasphemy in a clergyman. The titles we bear, the office we sustain, the Person we represent, the nearness of our calling to that absolute integrity, are remembrances unto us that we be not covetous.
(2) There is no fault in a minister like covetousness, because there is no sin reigning in the world like worldliness. We may preach our hearts out to dissuade men’s affections from this world; if we embrace it ourselves, they will never believe us.
(3) The vice of covetousness is an epidemical disease, the grand Cairo of mischief, the metropolis of wickedness, a universal plague that has infected all conditions of people.
4. The means of their utterance, “feigned words”! Heresy was never found disjoined from hypocrisy. Their speeches are so ambiguous and equivocal, that they seem to hold both ours and our adversaries’ tenets. What they cannot perform by the evidence of truth, they seek to attain by the eloquence of art. As rebels Drake their proclamations in the name of the king, and pirates intending to rob merchants hang out the flags of other nations, both to scandal them and to conceal themselves; so do hypocrites wear Christian colours that they may be the devil’s cozeners.
II. Their perdition.
1. The severity of it.
(1) Their “judgment.” The menaces of God are not always followed with an infallible event, being sometimes on purpose signified, that they may be by penitence prevented.
(2) For whose sake doth God execute judgment upon these false teachers? For His own glory and the Church’s good, that they may no longer cozen men’s souls with their impostures.
(3) Though the Lord will judge these wicked persons, yet this forbids not magistrates to execute justice upon them.
(4) Their “judgment”--their own; as proper to them as the inheritance they bought with their money. Sin doth naturally draw a punishment.
(5) Their “judgment.” But is it so certainly theirs, that no repentance can prevent it? Yes, serious repentance may avert the vengeance, if their gracious God gives the repentance.
(6) Their “judgment and their damnation.” Observe the proportion and adaptation of their punishment to their sin. It holds in divers analogies.
(a) They denied the Lord that bought them, therefore the same Lord shall judge them.
(b) They acted all their villainy in secret, therefore now it shall be laid open.
(c) The way of truth hath been blasphemed by them, therefore now it is fit that it be glorified on them.
(d) Before they sold men in covetousness, therefore now they shall be sold themselves in justice.
(e) Before they brought in the heresy of damnation, therefore now they shall sustain the penalty of damnation.
(f) Before they did pull on themselves destruction voluntarily, therefore now must father the child of their own begetting, and suffer destruction nesessarily.
(g) Their sin did hasten punishment and make it swift, therefore fit it should no longer tarry; it “lingereth not.”
(7) “Damnation” is principally taken for the censure or sentence condemning; as the sentence follows the trial, and the execution the sentence; here it intends the execution of the judgment.
2. Sleepeth not, lingereth not, slumbereth not. Though it be not yet present, it is propinquant; if not extant, yet instant.
(1) This wakeful vengeance is threatened against the ungodly very fitly; for nothing is more proper to the nature of sin than to sleep in security.
(2) Sin will not let justice sleep, bug sends it up continual challenges, provoking Him to draw that sword, which He had rather should rest in the scabbard, than be sheathed in His own creatures.
3. “Long ago.” There is a preordination of plagues for reprobates, and the very moment of the execution appointed (Jude 1:4).
1. Seeing God doth not sleep in His justice, let not us sleep in our injustice.
2. As this is terror to the ungodly, so comfort to the righteous. As justice is ever waking, so mercy is never asleep. (Thos. Adams.)
Manhood in the market
Who are they that are engaged in this business?
1. The liquor-dealers.
2. Writers and publishers of obscene literature.
3. Purchasers of the virtue of women.
4. Bribers and bribe-takers.
5. Mercenary journalists.
6. Atheistic orators and religious quacks. (A. Little.)
2 Peter 2:10
Them that walk after the flesh,… and despise government.
Walking after the flesh
Now from the thesis he accommodates the general doctrine to his own purpose. If God will take vengeance on all the wicked, let not these pernicious seducers think to escape.
1. They follow “the flesh,” not reason, much less the Spirit.
2. They “walk after” the flesh: the flesh is not like some stranger, whom they meet rarely; or some friend, whom they see but now and then; or a domestic companion, with whom they eat, drink, play, sleep. But it is their commander, whose colours they march under. It is the weight that sets all their wheels a-going; the horses that draw their chariot, the very life of their corruption, and corruption of their life, without which they do nothing.
3. “In the lust of uncleanness”--a sordid, irrational, stinking turpitude. After this the reprobate walks; his whole self, all the parts of him: his eyes walk after to look upon it; his ears walk after to hearken to it; his mouth walks after to talk of it; his feet walk after to pursue it; his hands stay not behind to act it; his heart is foremost of all to desire it.
4. Finally, whatsoever may cross their lusts, they set themselves to contemn. “Despise government.” Not that Almighty Word which rules heaven and earth, but all the beams of God’s omnipotent royalty, in His deputed magistracy. As if they resolved to disgrace that wherein God had imprinted the most immediate characters of His own supreme majesty. (Thos. Adams.)
Presumption is a deliberate and wilful sinning against conscience, example, or warning.
1. There be some that presume of safety in sin, not doubting to fare well, while they fear not to do ill: as if this world were to last for ever, and the corn and tares were never to be parted.
2. There be some that attempt things without warrant, or expect things without promise; this is the common presumption of the world. And they that know they cannot live without feeding, or change placer without moving, yet will hope to be saved without practical obedience.
3. There be some that take their salvation without all question, and are so sure of heaven that they never doubt the contrary; and this is presumption. Every good grace hath its counterfeit: if in the faithful there be a modest assurance of their blessedness in Christ, the carnal will be blown up with an impudent arrogance, as if their footing was as sure in heaven as any man’s. That we may not be thus cozened, observe some differences between presumption and assurance.
(1) Presumption is natural, assurance supernatural: we were born with that, we are new-born to this: that was the legacy of Adam, this of Christ.
(2) Presumption submits not itself to ordinary means, assurance refuses no means of being made better.
(3) Presumption is without all doubting, assurance feels many perplexities: he that doubts not of his estate, his estate is much to be doubted of.
(4) Presumption is joined with looseness of life, persuasion with a tender conscience: that dares sin because it is sure, this dares not for fear of losing assurance. (Thos. Adams.)
is a firework, made up of pride and foolhardiness. It is indeed like a heavy house built upon slender crutches; like dust, which men throw against the wind, it flies back in their face, and makes them blind. Wise men presume nothing, but hope the best; presumption is hope out of her wits. (Thos. Adams.)
I heard the Hon. Thomas Marshall, of Kentucky, make a ten minutes’ speech in Broadway Tabernacle, in which he said, “Were this great globe one chrysolite, and I offered the possession if I would drink one glass of brandy, I would refuse it with scorn; and ] want no religion, I want the temperance pledge.” With that wonderful voice of his he thundered out, “We want no religion in this movement; let it be purely secular, and keep religion where it belongs.” Poor Tom Marshall, with all his self-confidence, fell, and died at Poughkeepsie in clothes given him by Christian charity. (J. B. Gough.)
The natural and unsanctified will of man is hard to tame. No prince can tame the will: he may load the body with irons, vex the sense with pains, yea, surcharge the affections with sorrows; yet still a man’s will is his own: in his will he is a king, even while his body is below a slave. The will can make a man’s life happy or wretched, when fortune cannot do it. The self-willed man needs no greater enemy than he is to himself.
1. The malicious and spiteful (Numbers 16:3).
2. They that despair of proffered grace, and with both hands put back the proffered goodness of God.
3. Contemners of the Word (Hosea 8:12).
4. Blasphemers. (T. Adams.)
The self-willed is a slave to the worst part of himself; that which is beast in him governs that which is man: appetite is his lord, reason his servant, religion his drudge, tits five senses are all the articles of his faith; and he had rather be a famous man upon earth than saint in heaven, lie likes nothing for any goodness, but because he will like it; and he will like it because others do not. If an unseasonable shower cross his recreation, he is ready to fall out with heaven, and to quarrel with God Himself, as if he were wronged because God did not take his time when to rain and when to shine. He is a querulous cur that barks at every horse; and in the silent night the very moonshine opens his clamorous throat. All his proceedings are so many precipices, and his attempts peremptory. He hath not the patience to consult with reason, but determines all merely by affection and fancy. There is no part about him but often smarts for his will. His sides be sore with stripes, and thank his will for it. His bowels are empty, and complain that his will robs them of sustenance. Yea, not seldom, his will breaks the covenant, and his neck pays the forfeit. He is the lawyer’s best client, his own sycophant, and the devil’s wax, to take what impression he will give him. (T. Adams.)
Not afraid to speak evil of dignities.--
Speaking evil of dignities
In the discharging of this artillery of hell against the glories and powers which God has ordained, we may consider four particulars: the bullet, the musket, the powder, and the mark. The musket is the malice of the heart; the powder the spitefulness of the tongue; the bullet is blasphemy, disgracing of magistrates; the mark, or butt, is dignities,
1. This piece is charged with three deadly bullets, libelling, murmuring, mutinying.
(1) Libellers think it a point of wit to traduce magistracy. Scandals of great men have seldom any fathers; they kill, and make no report.
(2) Murmurers, though they disperse not written scandals of the magistracy, yet mutter out repining exceptions against their actions.
(3) Mutineers so speak evil of dignities that they raise up evil against dignities. He that poisons the people with a mal-opinion of their prince, is the most dangerous traitor.
2. The engine that carries this mischievous burden is the tongue. It flies lightly, but injures heavily. It is but a little member, but the nimblest about a man, able to do both body and soul a mischief.
3. The powder that chargeth the tongue, and carries this shot of blasphemy, must needs he malice, the saltpetre of a rancorous hatred.
4. The butts at which this pestilent artillery lets fly the apostle calls dignities, glories. God hath not only set them as vicegerents in His own room, but also enabled them with gifts for so great a design-ment. Good kings are no ordinary blessings: a worthy general is worth half an army; such as Moses and Joshua were, whose faith fought more for the camp than the camp fought for them. Inferences:
(1) Glories they are, why then should they not be glorious? Let their pomp, apparel, diet, dwelling, all be magnificent; let nothing be wanting to their state upon whom depends the state of all.
(2) Dignities they are, therefore should be worthy--
(a) Of admittance.
(b) In performance. No dastards, not proud and disdainful, nor covetous. (T. Adams.)
2 Peter 2:11
Whereas angels … bring not railing accusation
Lessons from the angels
From this angelical moderation we learn--
Not to accuse. This is one of the most significant names of the devil, to be an accuser of the brethren. Love covers a multitude of sins; malice discovers what should be concealed.
2. Not to rail. This is indeed properly the language of hell. Angels do not rail, devils do; angels do not curse, devils do. Your curse is an arrow shot against a stone, it shall wound yourselves.
3. To be afraid of these impieties, as being always before the Lord. A good m,m would not admit them, were he sure that God would never take notice of it; but before the Lord, who dares rail on His delected image? Corrupt fear dreads the penalty, loves the sin. Gracious fear dreads the sin, and escapes the penalty. The fear of the Lord is pure, because it keeps the heart from being defiled. (Thos. Adams.)
2 Peter 2:12
But these, as natural brute beasts.
Men like beasts
I. Their resemblance.
1. What they are like--beasts. You have read many fables and apologues, wherein beasts are feigned to speak like men; but who would endure that theatre, where men be seen to play the beast? Such is the power of sin, it can transform men into beast. While idolaters turn beasts into gods, they turn themselves into beasts.
2. Wherein they are like them.
(1) The whole intendment of the beast is sensuality; and so of wicked men.
(2) Beasts cannot foresee the future, not’ provide for it.
(3) Beasts are not ashamed of their deeds; where is no reason, there is no sin; and where no sin, no shame. These have reason, yet are not ashamed of their abominations (Jeremiah 8:12); and therein are beasts, or worse.
II. Their ordinance. “Made to be taken and destroyed.”
1. God is an absolute Lord over His creatures, and hath as just right of their disposition, as He had power of their creation (Matthew 20:15).
2. God is always most just, nor can lie do other than what is perfectly good. His judgments are sometimes manifest, often secret, always wonderful, never unjust.
3. The will of God is the cause of all causes, in which we must make a stand; and neither beyond it, nor without it, seek for any reason.
4. God hath not ordained any to destruction without the respect of sin.
III. Their ignorance. “Speak evil of the things that they understand not.” Not to understand, is the infirmity of a man; to speak of that he understands not, is the part of a fool; bat to speak maliciously evil, is the part of a devil. They will not understand, they will not be silent, they will not speak well. If they will not know, let them hold their peace; nay, they will speak; but then let them give good words; nay, they will speak evil.
IV. Their vengeance. “Shall utterly perish in their own corruption.”
1. No cause doth more necessarily produce its proper effect, than sin doth naturally beget punishment.
2. Forbearance of punishment is no argument of immunity; though not presently, they shall perish.
3. Obstinate sin would make its own rod, were there none prepared. The grace of God resisted, turns to desperateness; and wicked men, like some beasts, grow mad with baiting. They cannot be quiet till they have wrought out their full destruction. (Thos. Adams.)
1. Sin, where it reigns, turns a man into a brute beast as it were. This is showed in all those places of Scripture where wicked men are compared unto brute beasts, either in general or in special, to horses, mules, dogs, swine, foxes, wolves, bears, lions, etc.
2. The fountain of all this sin and misery is the want of a right and spiritual judgment.
3. A sign of such a condition, that is, of a man turning to a brute beast, is to follow the passions of corrupted nature without reason.
4. Such men do corrupt also whatsoever natural goodness they have in them.
5. Such sinners are entangled in their sins, and kept unto destruction like as brute beasts in their snares, wherewith they are taken (2 Timothy 2:26; Lamentations 1:14). (Wm. Ames, D. D.)
2 Peter 2:13-14
Shall receive the reward of unrighteousness.
1. When we think of the sins of wicked men, we should likewise think of their punishments.
(1) Because these two are in God’s purpose, and their own nature knit together.
(2) Because the consideration of sin often does more hurt than God, if the consideration of the punishment be not joined unto it.
2. Profuse luxury is a sign of a man sinning securely.
3. Luxury, the more it is shown openly, the more it is to be condemned.
4. There is the greatest danger in those sins from which the greatest pleasure and delight ariseth.
(1) Because pleasure is a sign of a perfect habit.
(2) Because pleasure is very hardly left.
5. They that please themselves most in their sins, do most contaminate both themselves and others.
6. The outward members also of wicked men are full of wickedness. Because out of the abundance of the heart all our faculties, and all the instruments of operations receive impressions answerable unto the heart.
7. The uncleanness of the body is oftentimes joined with impurity of religion (2 Peter 2:14).
8. In such men covetousness is oftentimes joined with their impiety.
9. The exercising of the heart unto such sins doth very much strengthen and increase them.
10. They that are after this manner accustomed unto their sins are hardened in them.
11. Such men are most to be detested. (Wm. Ames, D. D.)
Pleasure to riot.
1. Whether a man may take any pleasure in this world, or no? Yes, certainly; one special use of wisdom stands in tempering our pleasures: to be delighted is not evil, but to be delighted in evil. Why ,hath God given man such a choice of earthly commodities, but for his use? The wise man can distinguish between the love of pleasure and the use of pleasure; and while others serve delight, he teacheth delight to serve him.
2. How may a Christian take pleasure in the world? By having respect to three things: whether it be lawful, expedient, or becoming. The pleasure must be lawful, there can be no safety in a sinful delight. Poison may be qualified, and become medicinal; there is use to be made of an enemy; sickness may turn to our better health, and death itself to the faithful is but a door to life; but sin can never be made good. Pleasure therefore first must have the warrant, that it be without sin; then the measure, that it be without excess. If the cup be evil, we may not taste it; though good, yet not carouse it. We are not born to play or sport. Nor is the lawfulness only observable, but the conveniency; a man may wear good clothes unhandsomely. The stuff may be good, yet while the fashion of the garment does not become him, it appears ridiculous. The place, occasion, company, opportunity, all must be fit. (Thos. Adams.)
Spots they are, and blemishes.--
Spots and blemishes
In every sin there is not only guilt, that binds over to punishment, but defilement; which makes the sinner not less filthy than guilty; and even when the guilt is remitted, the filth remains still. The hurt is not so soon cured, as the fault is pardoned.
1. All men are spotted, originally from their parents; of actual spots themselves are the parents. If all our internal spots should break out, we could not endure one another. The whole world would be an hospital, and every man a lazar.
2. The whole world is spotted, that is another step: in the universal blemishes of nature let us read our own. To charge God with this degeneration is the highest blasphemy: coldness may sooner arise from fire, than any evil from the fountain of goodness.
3. But if every man be spotted, who shall then enter into heaven, seeing into that city no unclean thing shall come? (Revelation 21:27.) This is true, yet many that have been unclean persons are since admitted (1 Corinthians 6:11; Revelation 7:14; Jeremiah 4:14). The grace of God may go a great way in our souls, and yet not leave us without spots. Not to have no spot here, but to have no spot imputed hereafter, is the happiness of a Christian.
4. We have all spots, but these are spots; for the apostle speaks not of their actions here, but their persons; not the blemishes of the men, but that the men themselves are blemishes. This is a high degree of sin, to be wholly turned into sin.
5. To whom do these appear spots and blemishes?
(1) To God, who hath pure eyes, and can abide no unclean thing.
(2) To the angels. Iniquities be sport for devils, but an eyesore to the angels; they that rejoice at a sinner’s conversion do rather grieve at his aberration.
(3) To good men, whom nothing pleaseth that displeaseth their Maker.
(4) To bad men; for howsoever sinners love to be evil themselves, yet they would have others good to them.
(5) To the creatures; they grieve that they are compelled to wait on a wrong master.
(6) And do they not offend themselves? No, the sick man may feel, the dead does not.
6. Sin is of a defiling quality; like a bemired dog, when it fawns upon us it fouls us. It may in this one thing be compared to fire, it converts matter into itself.
7. Open and notorious offenders ought to be denied these holy feasts; and instead of communicating with us, to pass under the censure of excommunication from us; till in penitent tears they have cleansed their pollutions.
8. We may not abstain from the sacrament, because there be spots and blemishes in the society.
9. As all sins are spots, so some have a more special resemblance, as carrying in them a natural poison and filthiness. Such particular instances we find in Scripture, wherein God discovered the spots in their consciences by sticking spots on their bodies (Exodus 9:11; Numbers 12:10; 2 Kings 5:27).
1. Learn to see thy spots. Many have unknown sins, as a man may have a mole on his back, and himself never know it (Psalms 19:12). But many a one knows his fault, yet loves it.
2. Confess these spots. The spots that God hateth, are the spots that man hideth.
3. It is madness to confess ourselves foul, and not to wash, therefore let us endeavour our own cleansing. In our making there was work for God only; in our marring there was work for ourselves only; in our restoring there is work for God and ourselves together.
4. There is only one fountain to purge all these spots, the blood of the Lamb. For this purpose Christ was baptized, even to wash us. His first baptizing was with water, His last with blood; both of them wash the world from their sins. (Thos. Adams.)
Sporting themselves with their own deceivings.--
Sporting with sin
It is hard when the fool can find no bauble to play with but sin; casting firebrands, and arrows, and death; and then jeers (Proverbs 26:19). Custom brings sin to be so familiar, that the horror of it is turned into pleasure, and homicide is held but a sport. It is ill for a man to make himself merry with that which angers God. If sin were rightly considered, it were more worthy our tears than our sport; the fool laughs at it, but the saint weeps for it. (Thos. Adams.)
2 Peter 2:14
Having eyes full of adultery.
1. It is a conquering sin, for it hath overcome the strongest.
2. It is a cheating sin, for, instead of repentance, it works the adulterer to labour a concealment. Instead of clearing their sin, they labour to cloak it.
3. It is a commanding sin; no iniquity that stands in the way must be refused if adultery be once admitted.
4. It is a condemning sin, and carries its own sentence about it. It must needs abandon all love of God, for that and the love of a harlot cannot stand together. As malice is damnable, because it is so diametrically repugnant to God who is love; so God is also purity, and therefore nothing more directly contrary to Him than uncleanness.
I. Their eyes be the beagles that hunt after the game.
1. There is no sense which is not at the heart’s command; but the principality of those servants is varied according to the disposition of their mistress. If the heart be gracious, the ear hath the superiority; if vicious, the eye.
2. The eye is of all senses the quickest of apprehension--a port to land the commodities of hell before the soul have warning.
3. The eye is the pander of a lustful heart; the window that lets in the infection, the first betrayer of the fort. Pliny writes of a chalky brimstone that draws to itself distant fire: the wanton eye attracts this adulterous fire to the heart. Alexander refused so much as to see Darius’s wife, a lady of incomparable beauty, fearing lest he that had conquered the husband should be overcome by the wife.
4. Satan’s first project is to take the eye; if that be once his friend, he hopes well of all the rest. Indeed, if the door stand open to the thief, what safety can be in the house?
5. Where be the eyes that have not been faulty? If the eyes have sinned, why should not the eyes be punished? Oh, let those eyes that have been the cisterns of corruption become the fountains of compunction!
II. “adultery” is the game, the beast they hunt.
1. The main attractive of the eye is beauty, and of this the fancy is informed by the eye; yet being so informed, then the eye is ruled by the fancy, and as that imagines her, so the eye sees her. Many a woman’s beauty hath been her ruin; but blessing never forsook a beautiful soul.
2. But if a man’s eye be delighted with beauty, may he not enjoy it with chastity? What a laborious, what a dangerous way the lustful finds out to his pleasure!
3. It is an adulteress they love, and that is but one bow short of Satan. We hate the Turks for selling Christians as slaves. How odious are they that sell themselves!
III. “full of adultery”--this is the pursuit of the game, full cry. The eyes do not engross all their uncleanness; they are not only full, and the other parts empty. The caterer fills his basket with provision, but this serves afterward to fill the mouth and to fill the stomach. The eyes be first full, as the cistern; but the cistern serves all other offices of the house. Nor is this a fulness of satisfaction, for as “he that loveth silver shall never be satisfied with silver,” so he that loves women shall never be satisfied with women. Unnatural desires are infinite: hunger is soon appeased with meat, and thirst allayed with drink; but in burning fevers, the more water is drunk, the more it is thirsted for. “Full.” There is no mediocrity in sin: in extremes can be no mean; and every sin is an extreme, either deficient or excessive. (Thos. Adams.)
That cannot cease from sin--
The fixity of habit
Having eyes full of an adulteress.” All who possess eyes at all have them full of something. I have heard one of exquisite aesthetic sensibility, who had seen some of the glorious painted glass at St. Gudule, in Brussels, on a summer day, declare that for days his eyes were “full of those colours, especially the blue.” The eye of the woman of “meek and quiet spirit,” wherever circumstances may lead her, is full of love. Even so the sensualist’s eye is “full of an adulteress,” filled full, so that it can hold no more. The eyes are fixed in an evil expression which they can never lose. They give signal to all whom it concerns that they are ever on the watch. That which is choke-full often means, in the original, satiated. But such eyes are insatiate and insatiable. This is one of God’s terrible voices of mortal judgment, one of those hints which tell us what a man may become. Let us consider that law of human character which is the foundation of the law of Divine punishment, without which, indeed, the latter cannot be spiritually construed to the spiritual nature. Character, then, as the derivation of the word implies, has a tendency to become, and frequently does become, absolutely stereotyped, from a practical point of view. Generally speaking, up to a certain date, a man may issue a second edition of his moral life, revised and corrected, perhaps even entirely recast. Still a day comes when the second edition, with the “errata” expunged, is not possible any longer. The eye once “full of an adulteress “may be filled with dust, but the ineradicable image has been carried to, and abides for ever in, that “inward eye,” which is the “bliss “or bane, the heaven or hell of “solitude.” This is a solemn argument for youth, when the vapour of imagination and passion are beginning to condense into habit; for that portion of manhood during which habit is becoming of insoluble density. Let us beware of the lust of the eyes. Be ours the prayer, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken Thou me in Thy way.” Nor let any who ponders this argument turn from it with a sigh of despair, “For me it is too late.” If we have enough of will left to desire earnestly a new mind, it is not too late. Such can still hear the voice--“Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.” (Abp. Wm. Alexander.)
Some of us may remember the fable of a covetous man, who chanced to find his way one moonlight night into a fairy’s palace. There he saw bars, apparently of solid gold, strewed on every side, and he was permitted to take away as many as he could carry. In the morning, when the sun rose on his imaginary treasure, borne home with so much toil, behold! there was only a bundle of sticks, and invisible beings filled the air around him with scornful laughter.
Oh do not so marry yourselves to money that you are resolved nothing shall part you but death; be not like the medlar, which is never good till it be rotten. A covetous man may be compared to a Christmas-box--he receives money, but parts with none till death breaks this box in pieces; then the silver and gold comes tumbling out. (T. Watson.)
2 Peter 2:15-16
Following the way of Balaam.
I. We begin with the good part of the character of Balaam. Balaam was a true prophet of God. He was the last prophet under the patriarchal dispensation. He had the knowledge of religion, faith in the future Messiah, and prayer for the great blessing--a death of peace and hope.
II. Let us now consider the character of Balaam; as it may be called, the bad part. The bad part of Balaam’s character was that he united with his religion, faith, and prayer, the errors of the head, which ruined his religion, and the vices of the heart, which ruined his faith and prayer. He complied with the practices of the idolaters that surrounded him; and he was guilty of that love of money which made him desire the wages of unrighteousness and receive the rewards of Balak, against the warnings of his conscience and his knowledge of God. We must now consider the especial reason why the dumb ass, on which the prophet rode, was the fittest channel by which God would reprove, first, his idolatry, and then his covetousness.
1. And first the dumb ass was the fittest channel by which God would reprove the idolatry of Balaam. It was as if a voice came from the God of Israel, saying to the prophet, “Wilt thou forsake the one true God, and join thyself, for the sake of money, to the foolish idolatry of the people around you? I will open the mouth of the most stupid of their idols to reproach thee, the prophet of God, to convince thee, and so convince them, that I am the only God, the only giver of all the usefulness of the instinct which has caused the dumb ass to be worshipped and honoured.”
2. So also the ass was the fittest channel for the reproof of the covetousness of Balaam. The wild ass of the East was not, as is too often imagined, the same sort of animal as that among us. It was selected, because of its size and beauty, to be the bearer of kings, magistrates, and princes; and its use may be said, therefore, to be confined to those who were the leaders and the wealthy among the people. Now the only palliation that can be alleged for the love of money is the poverty which fears want, or which desires the advantages which money confers. Balaam had no excuse for the covetousness which loved the wages of unrighteousness, and the proof of all this was the mere fact of his possessing the animal which was possessed only by the rich, the great, and the wealthy. When the Lord, therefore, opened the mouth of the ass, it was as if God said, “Why should the prophet of the true God thus be led away by the hope of money? why should the prophet of the true God love the wages of unrighteousness? Is not the possession and the use of the dumb ass on which you ride, the proof, and the demonstration to all around you that you already enjoy all that human ambition is wont to desire, and all that human avarice is wont to covet?” Be content. The most wonderful of all God’s miracles was wrought to prove to us God’s abhorrence of the most usual of all the sins that beset us, that we may learn to avoid that “covetousness which is idolatry.” (G. Townsend, D. D.)
Of the melancholy history of this wicked man let us make its proper use.
1. It teaches the danger of giving way in the first instance to temptation. After we have been once conquered, we have lost half our strength.
2. Again, we are taught by this story that a religious disposition makes always the greatest and best part of every man’s character. Shining talents are what men desire, as they procure the admiration of the world; but we see in God’s sight it is otherwise. He often gives them to the most unworthy. A good heart is worth them all, and will make us illustrious, when all the rest become nothing.
3. We learn, further, from this story, the dreadful state of being what the Scriptures call forsaken of God.
4. But the most obvious use of the story is to convince ourselves of the folly and wickedness of acting under two characters--of hiding a bad heart under the pretences of religion. What pains it costs--the constant attention to every word and action. In fact, it would cost less to be good in earnest. Rarely did hypocrisy ever carry its deceit to the grave. Will the best gains of hypocrisy repay us for a bad conscience? (W. Gilpin, M. A.)
The dumb ass … forbad the madness of the prophet.--
Lessons from Balaam’s ass
Balaam’s madness had turned him into a beast, and why might not one beast teach another? In some things the ass excelled her master.
1. She saw the judgment, he was blind: instinct better instructed her than reason and religion had enlightened him.
2. The ass had a tongue of equity; the prophet a tongue, hand, and heart of iniquity.
3. The ass was not capable of sin, and did therefore justify herself; the master was so mad upon sin that he would needs ruin himself.
1. The weaker vessel may hold the better liquor. The uncleansed lay hold on heaven, whereas men of knowledge often wallow in the lusts of flesh and blood. We are ordained to judge the angels; but if we degenerate from our prerogative, angels, men, infidels, harlots, yea, even beasts and stones, shall be our judges.
2. As Balaam proceeds in forwardness, so doth the ass in reprehension. At every turn she answered him, in every passage she was quit with him. We cannot run so fast but God can overtake us, nor be so cunning but He can teach even a beast to overreach us.
3. The sensual creatures are set to condemn our sins and to reflect our evils upon us. Peter hath a cock to tell him his cowardice, and Balaam an ass to reprove his avarice. There is no creature dumb when God bids it to speak. If there were no preachers to declaim, no conscience to accuse, the very creatures themselves would cry. The beds, boards, walls, windows, markets, closets should have tongues to condemn us. (T. Adams.)
To us the narrative as a whole is stamped visibly and broadly with the arrow-mark of heaven. As Canon Kingsley says, it is one which never would have been, never could have been, invented by the Jews. They never would have put into the mouth of a heathen prophet the sublime evangelic statements which Balaam utters. The character is evidently drawn from life, A few of those traits of truth and experience we shall proceed to notice.
I. The first thing which strikes us in Balaam’s history is that we have here a very bad man, though a true prophet. He was covetous--“his heart was exercised with covetous practices,” “he ran greedily after reward.” Some of you may think that not a very great sin, but Scripture brands it as idolatry. Balaam, however, was worse than that. Like Simon Magus, he was desirous of turning the gifts of inspiration to low mercenary gain, and of making the things of the kingdom an affair of barter. Yea, worse than that. He rushed pell-mell to evil; and not only when remonstrated with did he refuse obedience, he became desperate in disobedience. There is no telling what a man may descend to I Gifts are not graces; great men are not always good men. Intellectual attainments, like some other things, may be valued too highly. Better the most drivelling idiot that crawls than the laurelled victor who, to attain his end, has prostituted his powers to the prince of darkness.
II. we have a striking instance of apparent obedience to the divine will masking an insincere heart, Balaam has been called a conscientious man. We should demur to that. Still, he had a remarkably clear idea of the fidelity of God, of His unchangeableness, of His unimpeachable righteousness, of His inflexible truth. He had a conscience, though very poorly he used it. Conscience was strong enough in him to make a coward of him; to make him now this, now that. It was not strong enough in him to lift him above the fascinating power of evil. Hence those inconsistencies which, like the confusing influences of light and shade, render this man as much a problem as any in history. Oh, whatever we are, God help us to be true!
III. We see how God frequently concedes in judgment a man’s wishes. Some of us have greatly wondered why God, the second time of Balaam’s asking Him, said, “Go with the men”; and yet “that His anger should be kindled” because Balaam did precisely what He had told him to do. Now this difficulty is met by two passages of Scripture: one is in Ezekiel 14:1-23., where we are told certain of the elders of Israel came and sat before the prophet, and the Word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Shall I be inquired of at all by them? Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling-block of his iniquity before his face and cometh to the prophet, I, the Lord, will answer him according to the multitude of his idols.” The other passage is in 2 Thessalonians
2. “God will send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie.” He “had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Do you think God was going to give that man repeatedly right and gracious answers when he knew that the thing he asked was displeasing to God? No! to the froward God will show Himself froward. If a man “will have none of the Divine counsel,” it is no use repeating and repeating what God would have him do, nor is it becoming the majesty of God. He will say, “Well, then, you will not take no for an answer; I have told you the consequences; be it then even as you wish.” Often there would be no surer way to afflict us than to give us what we wish.
IV. Here is illustrated that secret law by which the sinner is almost compelled to continue. He thinks he can stop when he pleases. No such thing! except the grace of God aids the endeavour. “Go with the men!” said the angel. I see that your heart still hankers after Balak’s gold, you are not in earnest confessing your sin or in real acquiescence with the Divine judgment. “Go” then with them! Does not that illustrate the way of God’s providence with thousands upon thousands? The sensualist no sooner has indulged a lawless passion than he begins to see the folly of it; but how few turn and implore help and ask pardon of Almighty God! Go on! says the angel. The fear of discovery, the growing power of habit, the augmented strength of evil passion, the shame of acknowledgment, the bonds of association, all, like the weeds around the drowning man, hinder endeavours at self-rescue. There is an inevitable pressure from behind which, once the false step is taken, almost necessitates continuance.
V. We have here presented us the picture of a God-deserted man, not at first, but finally. If we may say so, at first God seemed to have a liking for that man; as indeed for what finally reprobate transgressor at one time had He not a liking? “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” (G. Short, B. A.)
2 Peter 2:17-22
These are wells without water.
I. Their un-profitableness. “Wells without water.”
1. Pastors are like wells--
(1) For constancy. They keep their residence; men know where to find them.
(2) They are wells of piety; the water of life, the word of salvation is in them.
(3) They are wells of sanctity, and therefore must be clean,
(4) They are wells of knowledge, and of sufficient depth, skilled in the mysteries of salvation.
(5) They are wells of pity, full of compassion, yearning over the danger of men’s souls.
(6) They are wells of peace and amity, such as reconcile feuds and appease discords; as the water of a well serves to quench flames.
(7) They are wells of charity, that do not only give good counsel with their lips, but good relief with their hands.
2. False teachers are “wells without water.” A blind guide, an ignorant physician, a candlestick without light, a penny without provision, a well without water, is a miserable provision. Suppose we are thirsty and would drink, foul and would wash, hot and would be cooled, our houses are on fire and we would have them quenched; if we come to the well with our buckets and find it empty, we know not whether our grief or indignation be greater.
II. Their variableness. “Clouds that are carried with a tempest.”
1. The fitness of the metaphor (Ezekiel 20:46; Deuteronomy 32:2).
(1) Clouds are made to contain water, and preachers should be filled with wholesome doctrine.
(2) Clouds are drawn up by the sun, and teachers called to that holy profession by the Sun of Righteousness.
(3) Clouds are nearer to heaven than common waters, and ministers are advanced nearer to the secrets of God than other men.
(4) Clouds hang in the air after a strange manner, and preachers live in the world in a wondrous sort; all the winds of the earth and furies of hell band against them, yet still they are supported by their Ordainer.
(5) Clouds are set to distil rain upon the dry places of earth, and preachers to satisfy the thirsty soul.
2. The levity of these hypocrites. “Carried with a tempest.” Some are not stable in the truth; but it is not possible for any man to be constant in errors, for the next fancy will take him off from the former. As wanton children are won to be quiet with change of toys, so the devil is fain to please such men with variety of crotchets. He forgets what he hath been, understands not what he is, and knows not what he will be.
III. Their unhappiness.
1. The nature or quality of it--“the mist of darkness.” Such a mist shall be on their souls, as comes upon a swooning man, who cannot see though his eyes be open, the organs being (for the time) incapable of illumination.
2. The congruity of it--“reserved.” These black clouds did wholly endeavour to superinduce darkness on the Church, therefore the mist of darkness is reserved for them for ever. It is but justice if God be not found of those that were content to lose Him.
3. The perpetuity of it--“for ever.” (Thos. Adams.)
These false teachers bear the semblance of teachers, lust as, for a little time, a place in Eastern lands where water has flowed will continue green, but disappoint the thirsty traveller who may be led by a little verdure to hope for water. There was water, and perhaps not long ago, but there is none now, and so with these deceivers. They give promise, but that promise is never realised. (Prof. J. R. Lumby.)
Wells without water
Water! How precious it is! Because God has given it to us so plentifully, we are apt to underestimate its worth. Were we tormented with thirst in the desert, we could consider water a priceless boon. In the East wells of water were very precious. Passing through the desert, the traveller would alight at one with joy, quaff the cooling draught, and then refreshed pursue his onward way. “Wells without water.” Travellers in Eastern climes have often come across them. Hot and weary, they have gone with anticipative joy, only to be disappointed at finding parched emptiness. In passing through life’s wilderness, have we not often come across “wells without water”? In the life-endeavour have we not often been disappointed? How many enter into business and anticipate success? They work with a will. But their efforts have all been “wells without water”! Others, again, have succeeded in business. But the dark shadow is there; and, so far as happiness is concerned, successful business men have found that mere earthly possessions have proved “wells without water.” What a desire some persons have to be known! The essential characteristic of their existence is to be prominent. But in mere fame there is little or no satisfaction. Scotland was singing in her crowded towns and in her bonny glens the songs of her favourite poet, Burns, while he wrote as he lay in his last illness, not in the flight of poetic genius, but in the uncoloured utterance of homely prose--“I have known existence of late only by the presence of the heavy hand of sickness, and have counted time by the repercussions of pain.” Then followed these words of anguish: “I close my eyes in misery, and open them without hope.” When Dr. Johnson finished his dictionary, the more particular literary effort of his life, the Earl of Chesterfield offered that patronage to the completed work which he had refused to the struggling writer. Dr. Johnson replied: “The notice which you have taken of my labours has been delayed till I am indifferent and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary and cannot impart it; till I am known and do not want it.” The mere notice of the titled great, earthly reputation, worldly fame, these are but empty wells that mock the thirsty wanderer through the desert--“wells without water”! Some may say we do not aspire to fame. True, but is not excitement sought in other ways? Is happiness being sought in the attractions of society, or in any of the numerous vain amusements of the world? In all walks of life, in all the varied paths of the journey, we find “empty wells.” They are on all sides of us. We see persons standing, thirsting, and unable to gratify their thirst, looking, with disappointment written on their careworn faces, into “wells without water.” You have met with individuals cold, hard, selfish. They live merely for themselves. They have the human head, but the statue’s heart. No word of sympathy escapes their lips, no look of pity comes from their cold eyes. To make appeals to them is like “dropping buckets into empty wells,” which would certainly grow old in drawing nothing up! Then there are some who attempt to build wells. They dig deep. They pile one charitable action upon another. They exercise the greatest self-denial in carrying on their task, and when it is done they find their labour in vain. No man’s thirst is slaked; it may be an elaborate work, but it is a piece of beautiful emptiness--one of the” wells without water.” There is a well of living water. With joy the pilgrim can drink from the well of salvation, a well where the thirsty can drink to their heart’s content, and thirst no more for streams that are impure. (J. P. Hutchinson.)
They allure … those that were clean escaped.--
Deceivers and deceived
I. The deceivers.
1. Their posture.
(1) They think to carry it away with “words.”
(a) Error hath always most words; like a rotten house, that needs most props to uphold it.
(b) In much speaking is foolish speaking: it is very difficult to speak much and well. The ship that hath more rigging and sail than ballast, will never make a good voyage.
(2) Their full-mouthed speeches--“great swelling words.” Nothing is more loud than error: the more false the matter, the greater noise to uphold it (Acts 19:34). “Swelling words” are like the reports of ordnance--they blaze, and crack, and smoke, and stink, and vanish.
(3) The last attribute of their speech is vain, “words of vanity.” If the matter were good, yet many words were vain, great words were vain; but here both the matter and words and all are vanity itself.
2. Their imposture--“they allure.” The metaphor is taken from fishing or fowling. Those fishes that were taken out of the feculent pond of this world, and put into the crystal streams of the church, are by these seducers again drawn out of the streams of the church into the pool of the world. The hook whereby they perform this is fraud: the same devil teacheth his trade to all his followers: the lion is strong enough, but the serpent doth the mischief.
II. The deceived. “Those that were clean escaped.”
1. They were not quite delivered from sin, but from the external profession of sin, and from the doctrine that maintains sin. The children of the world may outwardly be gathered to the congregation of Israel, yet not be of Israel. They are escaped from the lion and the bear, gross and raging impiety and idolatry; but in the house of God they are bitten by a serpent, sly hypocrisy.
2. They are again returned to error. What a poor way went they toward heaven, so soon to turn back! It is but Ephraim’s morning dew; let the sun of prosperity rise but two hours high, the dew is gone. A Galatian humour, to begin in the spirit, and to end in the flesh; like a meteor or gliding star, that seemed in heaven, shot through the air, and lighted on a dunghill.
(1) All sin is a labyrinth; the entrance is easy; all the difficulty is to get out again.
(2) The practice of these deceivers is upon them that are escaped from their errors. The malignant jailer pursues after him that hath broken prison. 3 “Through much wantonness.” This is that little postern set open, to which Satan is so much beholden for his readmittance. (Thos. Adams.)
While they promise them liberty.--
The method of the seducers
I. The allurement of the wear. It was Christ’s charge to Peter (Luke 22:32). It is Satan’s charge to his agents--Now you are confounded, confound your brethren.
II. The way of this allurement is by promise.
1. Promises are the cheapest things man can part with, and yet the strongest enchantments.
2. Fair promises are strong snares to entangle fools.
3. It is ill to promise and to deceive; but it is worse to promise with a purpose to deceive.
4. Seducers refuse no way, so they may deceive; they swear, they forswear, propose and interpose, to make strong their party.
III. The force of that promise is liberty. Sensuality and a carnal freedom is the spell that conjures these wild spirits, and brings them in subjection to their heretical teachers. They may promise them civil liberty: this they are not sure to perform; or consciential: this they will not perform; or spiritual: this they cannot perform; but profane excess, riotous intemperance, the uncontrollable swing of their lusts, this they will endeavour to perform.
IV. The conviction of that force. “They themselves are the servants of corruption.” All sin is a servitude; and that which flatters men with the greatest opinion of liberty, makes them the most miserable vassals (2 Timothy 2:26). They may think that they have the world at command, and not the world them. They have a secret and insensible tether, which that enemy ties to their heels, and holds in his hand: while they run whither he allows them, they shall have scope enough; but if they offer towards goodness, he instantly snatches them up.
V. The proof of that conviction. “For of whom a man is overcome,” etc. The metaphor seems to be taken from war; where the conqueror brings the vanquished into captivity. And this misery of the captive differs according to the disposition of the victor; if he be imperious, and given to cruelty, he doth so much the more embitter the slavery.
1. It is an ignominious state.
2. A hard and troublesome condition.
5. Irretrievable, sold to sin with small hope of recovery.
6. Pitiable, the grief of every Christian.
7. Destructive. The end of every service is wages, and this is a wages without end, even everlasting pain. (Thos. Adams.)
On spiritual or inward liberty
I. My text implies that vicious men are slaves; that it is an absurdity in them to pretend to be advocates for liberty; and that consequently the practice of virtue is necessary to give men true liberty. The wicked men that St. Peter had in view opposed the restraints of law and authority--they vilified civil governors--renounced the obligations of righteousness; and by doing this they boasted that they stood up for liberty; not considering their own slavery, and not distinguishing between licentiousness and liberty. You must be sensible that these observations imply that there is a moral slavery which ought to be the principal object of our detestation, and consequently a moral liberty which ought to be the principal object of our attachment. My present business will be to explain this, and to show its importance and excellence. Now liberty being an exemption from all such force as takes away from us the capacity of acting as we think best, it is plain that whenever any passion be comes predominant within us, or causes us to contradict our sentiments of rectitude, we lose our liberty, and fall into a state of slavery. When any one of our instinctive desires assumes the direction of our conduct in opposition to our reason, then reason is overpowered and enslaved, and when reason is overpowered and enslaved we are overpowered and enslaved. On the other hand, when our reason maintains its rights, and possesses its proper seat of sovereignty within us, then are we masters of ourselves, and free in the truest possible sense. A submission to reason is not in any way inconsistent with liberty; on the contrary, it supposes natural liberty, and is the very idea of that moral liberty which is my present subject. The more we are in subjection to reason, the more power we have to do as we like. The dictates of reason are the dictates of our own hearts; and therefore the very reverse of anything that can be deemed force or slavery.
II. To mention a few reasons in order to recommend this liberty to you. The bare description of it is indeed enough to make every one desire it. It is replete with blessings and advantages.
1. Consider particularly what an honour there is in liberty, and what a baseness in sin. To lose inward liberty is to lose all that can procure esteem, and to become poor, abject, and impotent.
2. Let me desire you to consider what advantages and blessings liberty of mind will bring with it. The discerning faculties of the person who possesses this liberty must be more clear than that of any other man. There is in such a mind a conscious ness of dignity, which is more desirable than any sensual gratification, and which cannot be given by the possession of any worldly honours and titles. (R. Price, D. D.)
Moral theory of civil liberty
This is a true delineation of the fact that animalism leads to despotism, and necessitates it; and the whole chapter illustrates that fundamental idea. There are two essential conditions of civil liberty: first, self government, and second, the civil machinery of free national life. Self-government is a better term than liberty. There is no such thing as absolute liberty. It is quite inconsistent with the very creative notion which we express. We gain strength and bodily ease and comfort in proportion as we obey law. We are not, therefore, free physically, in regard to the body; and just as little are we free mentally; for there is an order within, which is as real, and the observance of which is as indispensable to comfortable liberty, as the order of the body and its physical organisation. Nor are we absolutely free in our relations to the material world. Physical laws round about us are more potent than walls in a prison are round about the prisoner. Do, obey, and live; disobey, and die. A man is hedged up in his own nature; and he is hedged up just as much in the world in which he was born, and in which he moves. All these restraints would seem to be restraints upon the sum of life and individual power; but if you analyse it it will be found that, while there is no such thing as absolute liberty, these restraints all work primarily against the animal nature. So that while a man is restricted at the bottom, he spreads out at the top, and gains again, with amplitude and augmentation, in the higher realms of his being, all that he loses by the restrictions which are imposed by great cardinal laws upon his lower nature. The more effectually, then, these lower elements are repressed, the more liberty is given to the affections. The degree of liberty attainable by an individual depends upon the restraint which he puts upon the lower nature, and the stimulus which he gives to the higher. The liberty which is attainable by masses of men living together depends on the training that the society which they constitute has had in keeping down the animalism, and exalting the true manhood of the citizens in the community. Society cannot be free, except as the reason and the moral sentiments have a sufficient ascendency. You have often heard it said that a free government depends upon the intelligence and virtue of the citizens. This is an empirical fact. It is in accordance with the radical nature of man that it should be so. The first and most important condition of liberty, psychologically stated, is that men should learn how to restrain their lower, basilar, passional natures, and should be willing to restrain them, and so give liberty to their reason, their affections, and their moral sentiments. The other condition which we mentioned as indispensable to civil liberty is the possession of the machinery of free civil society. There is to be the presence of laws adapted to that state of things, and there is to be a knowledge of those laws. Ages were employed in experimenting and finding out what was the mode by which a free people might discuss, deliberate upon, and decide their own questions of policy. It has been a slow invention, improved and improving from age to age. These two elementary conditions--the moral condition of the people, and the apparatus of civil government adapted to freedom--must unite and co-operate, before there can be any permanent civil liberty in any nation. On this foundation I remark--
1. The desire to be free is not a basis broad enough for liberty. All men like liberty, if by that expression is meant dislike of restraint; but if the love of liberty means the repression of all one’s lower nature, and the education and dominancy of all one’s higher nature, then I deny that men desire liberty. The love of liberty is, like virtue and religion, the result of culture in men. The love of liberty is a virtue. It is a moral inspiration. It is not merely a wild disposition to throw away government; it is a disposition to supersede the necessity of an outward government by the reality of a government within. Let me see a man that loves liberty, and I shall see a man that loves freedom not only for himself, but for others. And when it takes on this form, mankind and manhood have advanced far along the road of intelligence and true piety.
2. The adoption of free governments by an untrained and unrestrained people will not secure liberty to them. Liberty does not come from machineries, though it uses them, and must have them. You might build a hundred cotton factories in the wilderness where the Indians are, and the Indians would not on that account be an ingenious and manufacturing people. The manufacturer must precede the machinery, and know how to use it. You might carry cannon, and muskets, and rifles, and endless magazines of ammunition, into the midst of a peace-loving and cowardly nation, and that would not make them a warlike people. The instruments do not make courage, though where there is courage the instruments are indispensable to its use. And where armed tyranny prevails, the whole machinery of free nations substituted in its place does not make the nation free. A nation is not free until it is free in its individual members. Christ makes men free. The spirit of Christ--the spirit of faith, the spirit of self-denial, the spirit of self-government, the spirit of aspiration, the spirit of benevolence--that it is that makes men free.
3. The directest road to civil liberty lies in augmenting the true manhood of a people. You cannot make a people free that are ignorant and animal; and, on the other hand, you cannot for ever keep any people in bondage that are thoroughly educated and thoroughly moral. Schools, virtuous home-training, free religious knowledge, whatever will swell the manhood of the individuals of a nation--these are the means which produce liberty. If, therefore, one desires in Europe to sow the seeds of true liberty, I would not say, “Keep back books that teach about the machinery of society.” Let them be instructed in those things. But do not rely on those things. Ply the bottom of society with schools. Ply the masses with those things which shall teach them how to live with organisation; how to deny themselves; how to live to-day for future periods of time; how to practise the simple virtues; and how to carry those virtues up to the spiritual forms in which they are to eventuate. He that teaches men how to be true men in Christ Jesus is aiming as straight at liberty as ever any archer that bended the bow aimed at the target, That is the reason why true preachers are always revolutionary men. To preach a larger manhood is to unsettle, by prophecy, all thrones. You cannot force knowledge into a man; and just as little can you force liberty into men. It is a thing of development. It is a thing that cannot be brought into a man or a nation, but that has to be wrought out of the elements of the man, or of the nation. Make men’s limbs so large that there is not iron enough to go around them. Make men’s muscles, like Samson’s, so strong that withes and cords are like flax touched with fire when they strain them. That will cure bondage; and that is the best way to cure it. Make men larger; make them measure more about the girt of the conscience, and less around the animalism, and then you cannot oppress them.
4. Modern nations, with a certain degree of civilisation, are all tending to civil liberty; and democracy, as it is called, is inevitable. This is admitted by all heads, crowned as well as others. It is only a question as to how long a time will be required to bring about the result. The universal brain is showing itself to be mightier than the class brain. The crowned head must give way to the thinking head of the millions. In this tendency, the first step should be popular intelligence, or real growth at the bottom of society. Then the institutions of liberty will come gradually themselves. (H. W. Beecher.)
The temptation of liberty
Nothing more strikingly characterises the teaching of the early preachers of Christianity, while it attests their faithfulness, than the uncompromising distinct ness with which they put forth the claims of the gospel to the whole obedience of mankind, and declared the peculiar characteristics of the Christian service. Self crucifixion, the absolute submission of their wills to the law of another will, etc. Such doctrine is not acceptable now, and it was not when St. Peter wrote. Accordingly, we find that while the apostles were busily engaged in enforcing this doctrine, there were other teachers no less busily occupied in endeavouring to counteract their endeavours, and who, to this end, with a thorough knowledge of human nature, addressed themselves to just those cravings of that nature which are at once the strongest and the blindest. The teachers of Christianity preached obedience; they taught the necessity of self-subjugation; they enforced the duty, while they showed the blessedness, of submission to the law of God and of Christ. What, then, was the argument, and what the enticement, with which these false teachers endeavoured to hold men, and too often succeeded in holding them, in disobedience and rebellion? It was then, as now and ever, “liberty.” Liberty! that first temptation that was whispered cunningly amid the fresh leaves and flowers of unfallen Eden, and which has smoothed the way to all other temptations and all other sins whatsoever. Liberty! that form of light with which Satan so often delights to clothe himself. Liberty! that treacherous phantom that has slain more living men--ay, slain them eternally--than all the blood-dripping tyrants of the world. Liberty! that fair child of heaven which for six thousand years men have blindly sought, and which not even six thousand years have taught them, can nowhere else be found than in the house of law.
I. The nature of the temptation which these early opposers of the truth held out to men to keep them from submission to the law of Christ.
1. Doubtless the apostle exactly states the promise made by these opposing teachers; and it is therefore worth while to observe that no limit is placed to the range or application of the liberty promised. These teachers very well knew the corruption and weakness of the human heart; and while therefore they misrepresented the service of Christ as a needless and cruel bondage, they took care to place before men the service of sin as a full and perfect liberty. “They promise them liberty”--deliverance from the iron authority of the Divine will; deliverance from a sense of constant condemnation and restraint; freedom for their whole nature in all its parts; liberty to think and feel and do without hindrance and without fear. And what is this but the temptation which we every day see coiling itself around, and fixing its fascinating eye upon the hearts of men; and to the promise of which we see men everywhere striving to attain?
2. Observe how another fact is brought out by this statement of the apostle--the fact, namely, of a recognised line of separation dividing always between the servants of Christ and the servants of the world. It is its exclusiveness that makes Christianity so repulsive. It is because Christ will divide His claims with none other, that it is so easy to represent His service as a bondage, when compared with the “liberty” of the world.
II. The promise made by the world and its votaries of an absolute liberty is false as a matter of fact.
1. Man, by the requirements of his very nature and condition, must serve. He cannot be without a master--some dominant power, that is, ruling supremely in his heart; and as a moral being there are only two services between which he can choose--the service of good and the service of evil, the service of Christ and the service of the world.
2. There is no greater delusion than to imagine because a man has cast aside his allegiance to his Maker, or has even succeeded in excluding entirely all thought of his Maker from his heart, that therefore he is free. He is not free. There is no such deep bondage--a bondage fixing its relentless grasp upon the inmost powers of the soul--as the liberty of the world. The garlands of its holiday are flowers wreathed on chains; and although its victim himself, owing to the very stupor of his degradation, the delirium which falls on those long bound in prison, may come at times to be ignorant of his state, that state can in no wise be hid from any one who is not himself a servant of the world. No; he is not free.
(1) He is held in bondage, first of all, to the world’s opinions. Boasting, perhaps, of what he calls his intellectual freedom, scoffing, perhaps, at the authoritative teachings of God’s Word, he is yet held in thraldom by the judgments of other men, and does not, in opposition thereto, obey the dictates of his own.
(2) He is a slave again to his own body. His lower nature, that which allies him to the brute, rises up in proud supremacy, and rules triumphantly over all that connects him with his God.
(3) He is a slave, moreover, to his own fears. Ever and anon his torpid conscience will uprear its crest and inflict its sting.
III. The only question with which we, as wise men, are concerned is, which of these two is the better service? which will result to us in the greater recompense of reward? We have not spoken unfairly of the service of the world. We have admitted all its claims, so far as those claims are true. It promises liberty, and we have shown you the liberty that it gives. Undoubtedly there is an earthly gain and a present enjoyment to the natural heart in such freedom--the freedom of an untrammelled will, the freedom to enjoy without stint all the pleasures that this world can give; and if the full results, and therefore the final value, of man’s acts were present and finished in the acts themselves, there would perhaps be little to be said. But the real advantage and value Of all human acts, even the commonest, and therefore of all human states, are decided by their ultimate results, whether, as to time, those results are immediate or remote. To determine, therefore, the true, and consequently the abiding, value, whether of the service of Christ, or the service of the world, we must consider the permanent results of each as they remain fixed in our own nature, or affect permanently the conditions of our own existence.
1. Applying this test, what must we say of the service of the world? How can we characterise results which, as we have seen, are poor and miserable indeed, utterly unworthy of man, debasing and unsatisfying even upon earth, and, instead of brightening, covering with cloud and darkness his real existence, even the eternal existence of his soul? It is, as the apostle says, “corruption.” Yes, “corruption”--slavery to this body which, with all its strength and all its pride and all its lust, shall presently be hid away from sight and sense as an offensive thing;” slavery to this poor world of men around me, corruptible like me, and day by day dropping into this great charnel-house of earth; slavery to the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, which send their destroying power into eternity itself, and turn into “corruption” the immortal soul.
2. Test in the same way the service of Christ, and see if the Christian--Christ’s true servant--is a slave. If deliverance from his greatest adversary, if superiority to all human power, if a constant sense of perfect security and peace--if this be slavery, then he is in bondage indeed; but if, on the other hand, these are the evidences of liberty, then is he free. Through the power of Christ he vanquishes the temptations that once vanquished him. Living a life of obedience like that of the angels, knowing, through the approving witness of the Spirit, that he is accepted as a repentant son by his loving Father, he lives, through faith, in that Father’s home--that home so bright and beautiful upon the summit of the universe; and the laws of that home are the laws of his life. And so, living with angels, what cares he for unrighteous men? or what on earth can harm him? He is above all bondage and above all fear. Death itself has lost all power over him. Its darkness even now is filled with the kindling rays of eternal life. Is not this liberty? and is not such liberty worth seeking for? Is there a sane man here present who, determining this question from the true point of right judgment, even that bed of death which may be spread for him to-morrow, would not give all the honours and all the gains and all the joys that this world can offer to be--a freedman of God? (W. Rudder, D. D.)
The servants of corruption.
The sinner’s natural power and moral weakness
I propose to discuss the moral state of the sinner.
I. The first important fact to be noticed is that all men are naturally free, and none the less so for being sinners. They naturally have freedom of will. This freedom is in the will itself, and consists in its power of free choice. To do, or not to do--this is its option. It has by its own nature the function of determining its own volitions. The soul wills to do or not to do, and thus is a moral sovereign over its own activities. In this fact lies the foundation for moral agency. Still further: man can distinguish between those acts in which he is free, and those in which he is acted upon by influences independent of his own choice. He knows that in some things he is a recipient of influences and of actions exerted upon himself, while in other things he is not a recipient in the same sense, but a voluntary actor. The fact of this discrimination proves the possession of free agency. Again, the Bible always treats men as free agents, commanding them to do or not to do as if of course they had all the power requisite to obey such commands. A young minister once said to me, “I preach that men ought to repent, but never that they can.” “Why not preach also that they can?” said I. He replied, “The Bible does not affirm that they can.” To this I replied that it would be most consummate trifling for a human legislature, having required certain acts, to affirm that its subjects have the power to obey. The very requirement is the strongest possible affirmation that, in the belief of the enacting power, the subjects are able to do the things required. Freedom of will lies among the earliest and most resistless convictions. Probably no one living can remember his first idea of oughtness--his first convictions of right and wrong. It is also among our most irresistible convictions. The fact of personal responsibility is fastened on us so that we might as well escape from ourselves as from this conviction.
II. While it is true, past a rational denial, that men have this attribute of moral liberty, it is equally true that they are morally enslaved--in moral bondage. The liberty they have by created constitution; the bondage comes by voluntary perversion and abuse of their powers. The Bible represents men as being in bondage- as having the power to resist temptation to sin, but yet as voluntarily yielding, to those temptations. What the Bible thus represents, experience proves to be true. Wicked men know that they are in bondage to Satan. What do you think puts it into the heart of young men to plot iniquity and drink it in like water? Is it not the devil? How many young men do we meet with who, when tempted, seem to have no moral stamina to resist, but are swept away by the first gust of temptation! Men are in bondage to their appetites. What can be the reason that some young men find it so hard to give up the use of tobacco? They know the habit is filthy and disgusting. So when a man is in bondage to alcohol, and so with every form of sensual indulgence. Satan helps on the influence of sensuality, and does not care much what the particular form of it may be, provided its power be strong enough to ruin the soul. It all plays into his hand and promotes his main purpose. So men are in bondage to the love of money; to the fashions of the world; to the opinions of mankind. By these they are enslaved and led on in the face of the demands of duty. Every impenitent man is conscious of being really in bondage to temptation. What man, not saved from sin through grace, does not know that he is an enigma to himself? What! does he not know that his weakest desires carry his will, the strongest convictions of his reason and conscience to the contrary notwithstanding? This is a most guilty state, because so altogether voluntary--so needless, and so opposed to the convictions of his reason and of his understanding, and withal so opposed to his convictions of God’s righteous demands. To go counter to such convictions, he must be supremely guilty. Of course such conduct must be most suicidal The sinner acts in most decided opposition to his own best interests, so that if he has the power to ruin himself this course must certainly do it. This is a state of deep moral degradation. Intrinsically it is most disgraceful. Everybody feels this in regard to certain forms of sin and classes of sinners. A drunkard we regard as a long way towards beasthood. Nay, rather must we ask pardon of all beasts for this comparison, for not one is so mean and so vile--not one excites in our bosom such a sense of voluntary degradation. So of the miser when he gets beyond all motives but the love of hoarding; when his practical question is--not, How shall I honour my race, or bless my generation, or glorify my Maker; but, How can I make a few coppers? Even when urged to pray, he would ask--“What profit shall I have if I do pray unto Him?” When you find a man thus incapable of being moved by noble motives, what a wretch he is! How ineffably mean! So I might bring before you the ambitious scholar, who is too low in his aims to be influenced by the exalted motive of doing good, and who feels only that which touches his reputation. Is not this exceedingly low and mean? (C. G. Finney.)
Of the same he is brought in bondage.--
A fatal promise
1. This conquest shows the falsehood of the tempter in his promise. They promise liberty, and here is the result--bondage.
2. This conquest shows the ultimate wretchedness of the victim. He is brought in “bondage.” What is the bondage?
(1) Their slavery is the most real. Chains and prison walls can only enslave the body.
(2) Their slavery is the most criminal. Corporal slavery is generally a misfortune; the sufferer is not responsible for his position.
3. Their slavery is the most lasting. Death destroys corporal slavery. (Homilist.)
On the slavery of vice
Bondage and subjection are disagreeable sounds to the ear, disagreeable ideas to the mind. The advocates of vice, taking advantage of those natural impressions, have in every age employed them for discrediting religion. To be free imports, in general, our being placed in such circumstances that, within the bounds of justice and good order, we can act according to our own deliberate choice, and take such measures for our conduct as we have reason to believe are conducive to our welfare; without being obstructed either by external force, or by violent internal impulse. This is that happy and dignified state which every wise man earnestly wishes to enjoy. The advantages which result from it are chiefly these three: freedom of choice independence of mind; boldness and security.
I. Vice is inconsistent with liberty, as it deprives sinners of the power of free choice by bringing them under the dominion of passions and habits. Religion and virtue address themselves to reason. But vice can make no pretensions of this kind. It awaits not the test of deliberate comparison and choice, but overpowers us at once by some striking impression of present advantage or enjoyment. It hurries us with the violence of passion, captivates us by the allurements of pleasure, or dazzles us by the glare of riches. The sinner yields to the impulse merely because he cannot resist it. After passion has for a while exercised its tyrannical sway, its vehemence may by degrees subside. But when, by long indulgence, it has established habits of gratification, the sinner’s bondage becomes then more confirmed and more miserable. For, during the heat of pursuit, he is little capable of reflection. But when his ardour is abated, and, nevertheless, a vicious habit rooted, he has full leisure to perceive the heavy yoke he has brought upon himself. Vice confirms its dominion, and extends it still farther over the soul by compelling the sinner to support one crime by means of another.
II. The slavery produced by vice appears in the dependence under which it brings the sinner to circumstances of external fortune. One of the favourite characters of liberty is the independence it bestows. He who is truly a free man is above all servile compliances and abject subjection. But the sinner has forfeited every privilege of this nature. His passions and habits render him an absolute dependant on the world and the world’s favour; on the uncertain goods of fortune and the fickle humours of men. Having no fund within himself whence to draw enjoyment, his only resource is in things without. His hopes and fears all hang upon the world. This is to be, in the strictest sense, a slave to the world. Religion and virtue, on the other hand, confer on the mind principles of noble independence. The upright man is satisfied from himself. He despises not the advantages of fortune, but he centres not his happiness in them.
III. Another character of the slavery of vice is that mean, cowardly, and disquieted state to which it reduces the sinner. Boldness and magnanimity have ever been accounted the native effects of liberty. The man of virtue, relying on a good conscience and the protection of Heaven, acts with firmness and courage; and, in the discharge of his duty, fears not the face of man. The man of vice, conscious of his low and corrupt aims, shrinks before the steadfast and piercing eye of integrity; is ever looking around him with anxious and fearful circumspection, and thinking of subterfuges by which he may escape from danger. The one is bold as a lion; the other flieth when no man pursueth. Corresponding to that abject disposition which characterises a bad man are the fears that haunt him. The terrors of a slave dwell on his mind and often appear in his behaviour. For guilt is never free from suspicion and alarm. I have thus set before you such clear marks of the servitude undergone by sinners as fully verify the assertion in the text that a state of vice and corruption is a state of bondage. In order to perceive how severe a bondage it is, let us attend to some peculiar circumstances of aggravation which belong to it.
1. It is a bondage to which the mind itself, the native seat of liberty, is subjected.
2. It is a bondage which we have brought upon ourselves. (H. Blair, D. D.)
I. That God asks us to give him our hearts.
II. What is liberty? Is it licence and lawlessness? Must all conduct be without order and without law in order to constitute it freedom? We know better. Look at Paris and the bloody Commune! There is no tyranny like that of lawlessness. The would-be sinner complains of being tied to the apron-strings of his mother in order that he may put himself under the bonds of Satan. He does this to prove his independence. But no man in any condition of life is allowed to act as he pleases. If he were, society would be impossible.
III. Where the wisest laws are, there is the truest liberty. We voluntarily place ourselves under such laws that our rights of liberty may be protected. It is so in the state, so in society, so in religion. That cannot be a bond which carries with it an endorsement of the high nature within us.
IV. The beginnings of evil are dangerous.
1. It was a bondage of the soul, of the spirit, of the higher nature within us. The fetters of sin were riveted around these.
2. The aggravation of this slavery is its voluntary assumption. It is a bondage more galling because self-chosen.
3. In this slavery we become subjects to our own servants. It is a revolution in our moral nature, by which the highest parts become the lowest, the lowest the highest. (H. Johnson, D. D.)
If … they are again entangled … the latter end is worse.--
I. A proposition.
1. “They have escaped.” Next to the finding an unexpected benefit, it is a great happiness to escape an unsuspected danger; yea, the escaping of a great danger is more joy than the receiving of an ordinary benefit.
2. “The pollutions of the world.”
(1) The pollutions which we contract from the riches of the world.
(2) The pollutions we derive from the honours and dignities of the world pride here challengeth the first place, and let her have it, even to be the queen of all sordid filthiness.
(3) The pollutions we deduce from the pleasures of the world. Oh, what a torrent of turpitudes here stream in upon us!
(a) Immoderate diet.
3. “Through the knowledge,” etc.
(1) There is no knowledge to do good in corrupted nature and filthiness of the flesh.
(2) There is no escaping out of this filthiness and corruption, but by knowledge.
(3) No knowledge can deliver us, but that of our Saviour Christ.
(4) No knowledge of our Saviour can effect this, but that which is sanctified with faith and repentance.
II. A supposition.
1. The easiness of falling back. “If”--it is no impossible thing. Yes, the commonness proves it too easy. Man goes forth in the morning weak and unarmed, to encounter with powers and principalities. To fight this combat he takes a second with him, and that is his flesh, a familiar enemy, a friendly traitor; the devil comes against him with his second, too, and that is the world. Soon doth the flesh revolt to the world, and both stick to Satan; so here is terrible odds, three to one.
2. The difficulty of recovering them, after their relapse.
(1) “They are entangled,” as birds are caught in an evil net; where the more they struggle to get out, the faster they stick.
(2) “And overcome.” That which puts a man from the use of his reason, and a Christian from his exercise of religion, overcomes him. The ambitious are overcome with the desire of honour, so that they are not their own men. Of all, the worldlings are basely overcome; for they think they have the world in a string, when the world hath them in a strong chain.
(3) “Entangled and overcome”--put them both together. It is the depth of misery to fall under the curse of Ham, a servant of servants.
III. A conclusion. “The latter end is worse,” etc.
1. Their sins are worse now than they were at first, therefore their estates must needs be so.
2. Besides all their other sins, they have the sin of unthankfulness to answer for.
3. Because custom in sin hath deadened all remorse for sin.
4. Because their hypocrisy prevents all ways of remedy.
5. Because they wilfully destroy themselves by renouncing all gracious remedies.
6. Because a relapse is even more dangerous than the first sickness; sooner incurred, more hardly cured. (Thos. Adams.)
A great gain, a great loss, and a great curse
I. A great gain. What is the gain? An escape from “the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
1. The world is a scene of moral corruption.
2. To escape these corruptions is of the greatest importance to man.
3. This escape is effected through” the knowledge of Christ.” Other sciences have signally failed to purify the world.
II. A great loss. Peter supposes the position of escapement, after being gained, lost. “They are entangled and overcome.”
1. Good men, being moral agents, can fall.
2. Good men, in this world, are surrounded by influences tempting them to apostasy.
3. Good men in this world have fallen from the positions they have occupied. David, Peter, etc., are examples.
III. A great curse. “The latter end is worse with them than the beginning.”
1. Because he is the subject of greater guilt.
2. Because he has the elements of greater distress.
3. Because he is in a condition of greater hopelessness. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
The danger of relapse
The infant faith of Christ had to encounter three mighty foes. First of all there was the Judaism on the foundation of which the new system was based, or rather the complement or fulness of which the new system was. The next enemy was the ancient Paganism. Here the conquest was more” decisive, though the combat was the sharper. The third enemy of the early Church is not so easily recognised upon the surface of Holy Scripture as the other two, but it is there notwithstanding. The Acts of the Holy Apostles relate a strange passage as occurring at Samaria between St. Peter and Simon Magus, but they do not mention that Simon was the first heretic--was the most active propagator of that deadly Gnosticism which for so many centuries preyed upon the vitals of the Church, and even now in these last days from time to time shows itself in sonic new and strange manifestation. Oriental in its origin, it was founded in a belief of the doctrine of the antagonism between mind and matter, the one of which it held to be good, the other intrinsically evil. Such a system as this was essentially hostile to God’s truth, and accordingly we find that St. John, in his Gospel and Epistles, St. Peter and St. Jude in the works attributed to them, devote themselves to the condemnation of the system. St. John applies himself to confute the doctrinal errors, and to show that Christ the Word is no mere aeon, or personal attribute of the Deity, but very God of very God, as the Creed says. The other apostles direct their teaching against the moral effects of the same system, the vanity and conceit, the shallowness and pretence, the laxity and profanity of the adherents of this vain philosophy. Moreover, not only was the fight against these three foes carried on in fair and open field, but the times called for other solicitudes with regard to them. It was not that they injured the Church by assault from without and by resistance to its holy aggression; they more subtilly worked as a leaven within the Church itself. We have then to inquire, How does this text apply to us?
I. First of all, this text strikes at the root of the error that grace is indefectible: that a man once in the favour of God can never fall away from it. This is a very common belief in this country, and no wonder, for it is well suited to the self-righteousness and slothfulness of fallen human nature. The apostle, however, teaches the very contrary. An awful truth, then, is it that they who have at one time been truly faithful, may totally and finally fall away!
II. But without taking into consideration such a fact as final reprobation succeeding upon the despite of the graces we have received, we have to consider the general proposition of our apostle, that the case of relapse is so much more deplorable than any other spiritual condition; that in the case of those that are entangled and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. Why should this be so?
1. Because the fall is by so much more criminal by how much it has been committed voluntarily and with the eyes open.
2. And next, such an act implies not only rebellion and insolence, but also heinous ingratitude.
3. Relapse is dangerous, on account of the exceeding difficulty of recovery. As in the physical frame in illness a relapse is ever more to be dreaded than the original ailment, and makes the patient worse than he was before; so in the world of faith, the state of the Christian who, after baptism and repentance, falls again into the disorders he has forsworn, is so grievous, that the coarsest similes, such as the vomit of the dog, and the wallowing of the swine, are used by the apostle to picture his condition. In every kind of wickedness relapse is most dangerous, not only in destroying the power of resistance, but in many other ways: for perhaps the most fearful of all the results of sin is the withdrawal of the grace of God. However generous God may be of His benedictions (and never, never till the great day of account shall we know all that He has done for us), He cannot bear that they should be misused. Nor are we to maintain that this law refers merely to great and heinous crimes, such as intemperance, and impurity, and the like; the same runs through every infraction of God’s law. Whenever a man relapses into any wilful sin of which he has repented, he incurs in a degree the condemnation of the text. Whatever his fault may be, ill-temper, touchiness, ambition, avarice, over-solicitude for the things of this life, etc. The conscience has fairly done its work, and being despised, in time refuses to act; the moral sense is blunted; the casuistry of indulgence begins to pervert the whole nature; God begins to withdraw His assistance, and: the stereotyping of an evil habit begins to take effect! A grievous condition to be in! As the man sunk in temporal misfortunes looks back on the days of his departed prosperity and esteems no kind of misery so great as the recollection of his former happiness, so one can conceive no picture so desolate as the retrospect of a man, plunged in some sin which is slowly and surely destroying him, to the scenes of his long lost innocency. He knows them well, he recognises their beauty, he bewails their loss as he turns from them with a sigh, but he cannot have the heart to conquer the evil one. But while I press these serious thoughts upon you, I would not have myself misunderstood. What I have said of deliberate relapse into sin, does not apply to those little backslidings which are the consequence of the weakness of our nature. The grand distinguishing idea between these two states, is the earnest will to keep straight and the fervid desire after holiness. Why should we be disheartened? Is not the Christian course a course of constant falls and risings again? (Bp. Forbes.)
The danger of relapsing
I. The sins of those who relapse are, whilst continued in, more heinous.
1. Because committed against greater knowledge. The surest knowledge of moral duties is that which is attained by practice. It is, indeed, possible for a man to know his duty who never performs it; but still there is as much difference betwixt a speculative and a practical knowledge of our duty, as between our being acquainted with road from a transient view of it in a map, and from our having frequently travelled over it. As well may an experienced pilot pretend not to know his compass, as he, who hath for some time steered his course by the laws of God, pretend to be ignorant of them. They have, during his integrity, taken up his thoughts; he must have frequently meditated upon them, in order to his regulating his actions by them; and when he hath reflected on his past actions, they have been the measure by which he hath examined the rectitude or obliquity of them. By these means they have made a strong impression on his mind, and he must offer great violence to himself before he can deface characters which are so deeply imprinted on his soul.
2. Because committed against greater strength to obey. Our spiritual enemies, when they have once been entirely defeated, cannot on a sudden recover their strength.
3. Because they tend more to the dishonour of God. He who hath for some time made himself remarkable by a strict observance of God’s laws, hath thereby openly declared for the interests of virtue and piety. He is now to sustain no less a character than that of a champion for the cause of God, and men will be apt to judge of the merits of this cause by the conduct of hint who pretends to maintain it. They will think it reasonable to form their opinions of religion by his, and to have no greater concern for it than he hath.
4. Because committed against greater obligations to obedience. Those who have conformed their lives to the precepts of the gospel, must be supposed to have been once convinced that a religious life was to be preferred to a wicked course; the nature of good and evil is not since changed; their experience cannot have convinced them of any mistake; there is no reason for altering their judgment; and whilst that continues the same, their practice ought to be conformable to it. But yet further, such men must reasonably be supposed to have made frequent vows of obedience. They have entered into a solemn covenant with God, and this covenant hath been often renewed.
II. There is much less probability of their recovering themselves out of this sinful state by repentance.
1. There is less probability such persons should ever go about to repent. Those evil habits which require much time to master, and which are not to be rooted out but by slow degrees, yet if after some abstinence they are again indulged, do return upon us with all their former strength. The relapsed sinner meets his former crimes with the same pleasure with which we are wont to receive an old bosom friend, and the intermission gives the sin at its return a new and better relish.
2. Should the relapsed sinner entertain thoughts of repentance, it is yet to be feared that this repentance may not prove effectual. In every work which we undertake, we proceed more or less vigorously in proportion to the different hopes we have of success. Now these are the circumstances of a relapsed sinner; his repentance is a work of great difficulty, and his hopes of acceptance are very faint. There must be some extraordinary effusion of God’s grace to recall the relapsed sinner. But what reason hath he to expect this supernatural aid, who hath already so much abused it?
III. Now if the sin and hazard of relapsing be so great, it will be the duty of all who yet stand, to take care lest they fall; and of those who are fallen, to use all diligence to recover their ground. The state of the former is happy, but not secure, and therefore they ought to be upon their guard; the conduct of the latter is very dangerous, but not quite desperate, and therefore they ought to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. (Bp. Smalridge.)
I. The state supposed.
1. They had escaped, etc. An escape of any kind--from a prison, from shipwreck, from a railway accident, from a dangerous sickness, is ever deemed a cause of thankfulness, and, in some instances, is commemorated for many years after it. But the escape here spoken of is the greatest that a man can ever know.
2. These persons had again become entangled therein and overcome, or “having again become entangled therein,” they “were overcome.” How many sad illustrations of these words might be gathered from the annals of every Church! We have seen young men of great promise and of superior abilities rescued from the snare of the devil--from intemperance, dishonesty, or lust, and becoming earnest members of a Christian community, to the joy of many hearts; but in an evil hour they have listened to the voice of the charmer, they have been led back to their former sinful habits.
3. Hence, “the latter end is worse with them than the beginning,” or “their last state is worse than the first.” It is our Lord’s own saying (Matthew 12:45).
II. The fulfilment of certain proverbs.
1. The dog possesses many valuable qualities, and for its fidelity and kindness is naturally a favourite. But it is often rapacious, and is especially greedy. It seldom knows when it has had enough; and when it vomits its food, it will, as I have seen it, return and lick it up again. Backsliders are compared to it in this respect.
2. The sow is an unclean animal, and loves filth of every kind; wash her, and as soon as she can she will plunge herself again into the mire, and is never so happy as when wallowing in some dirty bog. Are not sinners often like her? How many reformed drunkards have returned to the intoxicating cup, and plunged again into the filthiest excesses of their previous lives! (Thornley Smith.)
Necessity of perseverance in well-doing
If it be not enough for a Christian to begin well unless he continue in the profession and doing of that wherein he hath begun, then followeth it that perseverance is so needful, as without which we cannot see the face of God. This is required in the performance of every duty. Is it prayer? we must always pray. Is it thanksgiving? we must in all things give thanks. Is it fasting? we must continually cease from sin. Is it faith? we must never be without it. Is it obedience to God’s commandments? we must always perform it. Is it love unto our neighbours? we must continue therein. The like may be said of every other duty. It is not enough for a time to escape them who live in error, and thereafter give way unto them, but as Caleb and Joshua constantly followed the Lord, and were partakers of the promised land, so must we constantly go on in the course of godliness that we may obtain that kingdom of heaven. (A. Symson.)
Sin renewed after pardon
Oh, tempt not God’s Spirit any more--ye have provoked Him too much already; let not your consciences soothe you up in your sins; remember that I do now give you warning of them, fall not therein. The more thou renewest thy sins the more thou feedest thy corruptions and makest them the more rebellious. A chained dog breaking loose becometh more fierce; a river long stopped, if a breach be made, runneth the more violently; so for thee to restrain thy sin for a time, and then to give way unto the same, is most dangerous. Thou fallest from God to the devil, from a holy profession to profaneness, thus showing thyself unthankful unto God. What should we not give to obtain grace, to get God’s favour? nothing should so entangle us, as that for the love thereof we should reject both God and grace. Oh, there is no loss compared to the loss of grace, to the loss of God’s favour; no ruin to the ruin of the soul; what will it advantage us, to gain the whole world with the loss of our souls? (A. Symson.)
The way of righteousness.--
The way of righteousness
is so called, because both formally it is a righteous way; and effectively, it makes the walkers in it righteous. Certainly there is but one way to heaven, and this is it. There be many ways to some famous city upon earth, many gates into it. But to the city of salvation and glory there is but one way, one gate, and that is a narrow one too, the way of righteousness. There was a way at the first; the way of the law, or rather of nature; Adam was put into it, but he quickly went out of it. Since that, no man ever kept it one hour; but only He that knew the way, that made the way, that is the way, wen the new way of righteousness, Jesus Christ. What then is the way of righteousness? (John 3:16). This way hath two boundaries, repentance and obedience.
1. Repentance on the one side, a mourning for sins past; which is as sure an effect or demonstration of faith, as faith is a cause of the peace of conscience.
2. Obedience on the other side; for though we live by faith, yet our faith doth not live, if it produce not good works. We suspect the want of sap in the root of a tree, if we find barrenness in the branches. (Thos. Adams.)
The dog is turned to his own vomit again.--
The dog returned to his vomit
I. A conclusion.
1. The verity of the proverb. Good proverbs aye commended to us for five special excellences, wherein they transcend other discourses.
(1) For their antiquity.” The sayings of our fathers and ancestors have a reverend estimation among us; nor do we wrap them up in the bundle of our ordinary lessons, but preserve them as dear relics of their happy memories.
(2) For their brevity. They are concise and compendious, and so more portable for the memory.
(3) For their significancy, comprehending much matter in few words.
(4) For experience. The sages have tried that doctrine themselves, which they commend to others.
(5) For their truth. False proverbs are Satan’s logic, which he hopes will be received for their wit, though they savour not of honesty or verity.
2. The verification of the proverb. “It is happened unto them.” Swine and dogs will return to their old filthiness; but woe unto those men that shall degenerate into such brutish qualities! It becomes them worse than those beasts, and a far worse end shall come unto them than unto beasts.
II. A comparison.
1. Consider the two creatures together.
(1) Sin doth liken men to beasts, to sordid beasts, and that in their basest filthiness.
(2) God made us little inferior to angels, and we make ourselves little superior to beasts.
(1) The dog hath many good qualities, and is divers ways useful and serviceable to man; yet still he is a dog. A wicked man loseth not his substance, or faculties, so that he ceaseth to be specifically a man; but he ceaseth to be a good man. There is such a corruption diffused through all those powers and faculties, that he is a wicked one.
(2) The hog is not without some good properties. There is no creature not endued with some goodness in its kind; though nature be corrupted, it is not abolished. But my argument is their filthiness
(a) The hog is a churlish creature, grudging any part of his meat to his fellows. And have we no such covetous men, whose insatiate eye envies every morsel that enters into their neighbour’s mouth?
(b) The swine is ravenous, and devouring all within his reach: a fit emblem of worldly men, who because they have no inheritance above, engross all below; nor is there any means to keep them quiet, till they see no more to covet.
(c) Swine are ever rooting in the ground, and destroying the very means of increase. If the covetous could have their will, the whole earth should not yield a handful of corn, but that which grows on their own lands, or lies mouldering in their garners.
(d) If the swine be troubled, he sets up his bristles, and foams with anger. Such a savage impatience possesses many hearts, that with fierce wrath they foam at their mouths, and strike with their tusks, and supply the defect of words with wounds. (A. Symson.)
“No place like home”
In a cellar I found a family consisting of five persons, all huddled together in a most miserable condition. Their story moved the compassion of a kind lady, who commissioned me to take better and more healthy lodgings for them at her expense, and remove them out of that wretched, damp place. She said she could get no sleep for thinking of these poor creatures. I soon obtained a two roomed lodging for them, with a good fire, but this failed to please them as well as their old abode. The following day, on calling, I saw that they had darkened the windows with paper; “the light,” they said, “made them feel so cold.” In a day or two after, I found to my surprise that they had gone back to their “own sweet cellar.” “There’s no place like home.” (W. Haslam.)
Altogether become abominable
To describe in all its horror the abysmal depth to which these false teachers have sunk, the apostle makes use of two proverbs, one of which he adapts from the Old Testament (Proverbs 26:11), while the other is one which would impress the Jewish mind with a feeling of utter abomination. The dogs of the East are the pariahs of the animal world, while everything pertaining to swine was detestable in the eyes of the Israelite. But all the loathing which attached to these outcasts of the brute creation did not suffice to portray the defilement of these teachers of lies and their apostate lives. It needed those other grosser features--the return to the disgorged meal; the greed for filth, where a temporary cleansing serves, as it were, to give a relish for fresh wallowing--these traits were needed ere the full vileness of those sinners could be expressed. (J. R. Lumby, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Peter 2". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25