By Thomas Brooks, 1670
A serious discourse concerning "The Great Fire"
which recently turned our once renowned City
into a ruinous heap. Also the several lessons
that are incumbent upon those whose houses
have escaped the consuming flames.
Objection. Sir, we readily grant that it is our duty to lament and mourn over the ruins and desolations of London; yes, some of us have so lamented and mourned over London's dust and ashes, that we have almost reduced ourselves to dust and ashes; and therefore, what cordials, what comforts, what supports can you hand out to us that may help to cheer up our spirits, and to bear up our hearts, so as that we may not utterly faint and sink, either under the sight of London's ruins, nor under a deep sense of our many great and severe losses?
Now that I may be a little serviceable and useful to you
in the present case, give me permission to offer to your most serious
consideration these following particulars by way of support—
(1.)First, Consider, for your support and comfort, That the great God might have burned up all; he might not have left one house standing, nor one stone upon another. It is true the greatest part of the city is fallen; but it is rich mercy that the whole is not consumed, Luke 19:41, 44. Though most of the city within the walls was destroyed—yet it is a wonderful grace—that the suburbs are standing. Had not God spared some houses in the city, and the main of the suburbs, where would thousands have had a livelihood? How would any trade have been maintained? yes, how would the lives of many thousands have been preserved? It is true the fire was very dreadful—but God might have made it more dreadful! He might have laid every house level; he might have consumed all the goods and wealth which was there treasured up; and he might have refused to have plucked one man "as a brand out of the fire," Zech. 3:2. He might have allowed London to have been as totally destroyed as Jerusalem was. Mat. 24:1-2, "Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down." In these words Christ foretells the utter destruction and devastation of Jerusalem, which came to pass by Titus and the Roman army; destroying all with fire and sword, and leveling with the ground that magnificent temple and city, which was the glory of the world. Though Titus, by a strict edict at first storming of the city, forbade the defacing of the temple—yet the soldiers burned it and the city. The temple was burned, say some, August 10th, when it had stood five hundred and eighty-nine years; and the city was burned September 8th, in 71 A.D.
Question. But why did Christ's disciples show him the buildings of the temple, which they knew were not unknown unto him?
Answer. To move him to mercy, and to moderate the severity of that former sentence, of leaving their houses desolate unto them, Mat. 23:38. Herod had been at work in building and beautifying the temple. Josephus tells us, that for eight whole years, he kept ten thousand men at work on the temple: and that for magnificence and stateliness it exceeded Solomon's temple. The disciples might very well wonder at these stately buildings, at these goodly, stately, fair stones, which were, as Josephus writes, fifteen cubits long, twelve high, and eight broad. Now the disciples fondly thought that Christ, upon the full sight of these stately, glorious buildings, which to see laid waste was pity, might have been so worked upon as to reverse his former sentence of laying all desolate. But here they were mistaken; for "his thoughts were not as their thoughts."
Others think that the disciples showed Christ the stately buildings of the temple, that upon a serious consideration of the strength, pomp, stateliness, greatness, and magnificence of the buildings, he might be the more careful to preserve them from destruction. Others think that the disciples showed him these strong and stately buildings, to insinuate secretly thereby how difficult, yes, impossible, it was for them to be destroyed, especially considering the strength of the city also. And hence our Savior seems to answer, "Do you see all these things? I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down"
Question. But when was this prediction fulfilled, that not one stone should be left upon another, which should not be thrown down, etc.?
Answer. This was fulfilled forty years after Christ's ascension, by Vespasian the emperor, and his son Titus, as Eusebius and Josephus do declare.
Ah London, London! this might have been your doom, that there would not have been one house standing, neither within your walls; yes, this might have been your doom, that there should not have been "one stone left upon another that should not have been thrown down." In that it is otherwise with you, you have cause, O London, to cry, "Grace, grace! To him who sits upon the throne, and is blessed forever!" etc.
Carthage was a noble city, mistress of Africa, and paragon to Rome. She made her part good against Rome for many years—but at length, by means of her own inward civil jars, she was utterly destroyed by Rome. For the inhabitants being not able to stand any longer in their own defense, were constrained to yield themselves to the mercy of their enemies—the women, to the number of twenty-five thousand, marching first forth, and after them the men, in number thirty thousand, following—all of these poor captives were sold for bond-slaves, a few only excepted. And then fire was put to the city, which burnt seventeen days without ceasing, even until it was totally consumed. This might have been your doom, O London—but God in the midst of judgment, has remembered mercy.
Athens was once the most famous flourishing city of
Greece, for her fair buildings, large precincts, and multitude of
inhabitants; but especially for her philosophy, by means whereof recourse
was made from all parts to her, as the fountain and well-spring of arts, and
the school and university of the whole world: whose policy and manner of
government was so much esteemed by the Romans, that they drew from thence
their laws: but now she lies dead and buried in the ashes of forgetfulness,
not carrying any of her former proportion or appearance. If this had been
your doom, O London, we must all have set to our seals that the Lord had
been righteous; but blessed be the Lord, London is not, and I hope never
shall, let Rome and hell do their worst, be buried in the ashes of
forgetfulness, etc. But,
(2.)The second support to bear up the hearts and to cheer up the spirits of all who has smarted by the recent fiery dispensation, is this, namely, That God has spared them, their lives. O sirs, what a mercy is it, that though the fire has reached your houses, your shops, your goods, your commodities, your warehouses, your treasure, that yet it has not reached your lives, nor the lives of your relations or friends! though your habitations are consumed, and your losses have been great—yet that in the midst of so many deaths and dangers by the flames, and by the press of the people, and notwithstanding all the confusions that were in all parts of the city, you should save your lives, and be snatched as so many "firebrands out of the burning"! Oh how should this miraculous providence of God be owned and admired by you! The devil hit the mark when he said, "Skin for skin; yes, all that a man has, will he give for his life," Job 2:4. Men's estates in those times did lie mostly in cattle. Now, says Satan, Job is a very great life-lover, he is fond of life, and afraid of death; and therefore he will give skin upon skin to save his life: he will give many skins, abundance of skins, yes, all his skins, to save his life: he will give his cattle's skins, and his servants' skins, and his sons' skins, to save himself in a whole skin.
By this proverbial speech, "Skin for skin," etc., Satan intimates that Job cared not for the loss of his cattle, nor for the loss of his servants, nor for the loss of his children, just so that he might secure his own life. Job set a higher price upon his own life than he did upon all other lives: let others sink or swim, just so that he might escape, all was well. Natural life is a precious jewel; a man will cast all overboard, when he is in danger of drowning, to save his life. A man will hold up his arms to save his head, or suffer the loss of a limb to save his life. Men will bleed, sweat, part with an estate, yes, with some of their limbs, to preserve their lives. As he who cried out, "Give me any deformity, any torment, any misery, just so you spare my life."
"Why should any living man complain (or murmur) when punished for his sins?" Lamentations 3:39. Oh what a foolish, senseless, brutish, blockish thing is it for a man, a mortal man, a sinful man, a man on this side the grave, on this side hell—to complain or murmur against a holy and righteous God! He who is alive on this side everlasting burnings, Isaiah 33:14, on this side a devouring fire, has no just cause to complain, whatever his losses, crosses, or sufferings are. He who has deserved a hanging, if he escapes with a whipping, has no cause to complain or murmur. Men who have deserved a damning, if they escape with the loss of house, goods, estates, etc., they have no cause to complain or murmur.
Mark, at this time Jerusalem was burnt, city and temple was laid in ashes, the citizens were turned out of house and home, and stripped of all their comforts and contentments. "Those who once ate delicacies are destitute in the streets. Those nurtured in purple now lie on ash heaps." Lam. 4:5. And yet, says the prophet, "Why does the living man complain?" Though city, and temple, and goods, and estates were all consumed in the flames—yet some still had their lives; and upon that very account they ought not to complain. God might have turned them into ashes, as he had turned their houses into ashes, and it was mere grace that he did not; which the church wisely and sincerely observes, when she says, "It is of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed," chapter 3:22. She does not say, it is of the Lord's mercy that our houses are not consumed; but it is of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed: nor she does not say, it is of the Lord's mercy that our goods are not consumed; but it is of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed. The church saw mercy, much mercy, tender mercy, yes, affections of mercy, as the word there imports, that a remnant had their lives given them, when their city and substance was turned into ashes. O sirs! others have lost their goods and their lives together, and it is miraculous mercy that you have not; when men's wits were puzzled, their hearts discouraged, and their industry tired out; when the wind was at the highest, and the fire at the hottest, and the hopes of most at the lowest, that then you should be as brands plucked out of the fire—was glorious mercy, etc.
In the reign of Achmat, the eighth emperor of the Turks, a great fire arose in the city of Constantinople, wherein many, both men and women, perished, with more than five hundred shops and warehouses full of rich merchandise, most of which belonged unto the Jews, of whom almost two hundred were said to be burned. These lost their goods and their lives together—but it hasn't been so with you; the greater obligation lies upon you, both to think well of God, and to speak well of God, and to lay out your lives to the uttermost for God.
Certain Tartars at Constantinople in their insolence set fire upon a certain Jew's house, whereof arose such a dreadful fire, as burned not only many houses—but a great many of the Jews themselves. Here lives and estates went together. Though outlandish hands have set our city, our houses on fire—yet God has preserved our lives in the midst of the flames; and this is a mercy more worth than all we have lost, etc.
There was a stately palace in Jerusalem that Solomon had built, which joined near to the temple. This palace the Jews abundantly anointed all over with brimstone and pitch, so that when the Romans pursued the Jews unto this palace, they entered the palace after the Jews, who went out again another way, and shut up the palace, and set fire on the gates, which they had before anointed with brimstone and pitch; and straightway the side walls of the house, and the whole building, began to be on a-light fire, so that the Romans had no way to escape, because the fire compassed the house on every side. The Jews also stood round about the palace, with their drawn swords, to cut off any that should attempt to escape the flames. Now there were twenty-two thousand Romans destroyed in this fire. Titus, hearing the lamentable cry of the Romans who were compassed about in flames of fire, made speed with all his army to come and rescue them; but the fire burned so vehemently that he could save none of them. Upon which Titus and his army wept bitterly.
O sirs! when London was in flames, if men of a Romish faith had compassed the city round about with their drawn swords that none should have escaped the furious flames, how dreadful would such a day have been! Whether such a thing was intended or designed, and by any strange providence prevented, we shall know in the fittest season.
Numantium, a city in Spain, being besieged by the Romans, and after it had borne the brunt of war a long time, and made many desperate sallies upon their enemies, and were almost consumed with famine, rather than they would bow their necks to the Roman yoke, they barred their gates, and set all on fire, and so burned themselves in the flames of their city, so that they might leave the enemy nothing but ashes for his prey and triumph. Here city and citizens are destroyed together; and it is infinite mercy that this was not the fate, the doom of the citizens of London. They and their city might have fallen together; "but God was good, and a very present help in time of trouble," Psalm 46:1. O sirs! if not only your houses, your shops, your goods, your wares—but also your persons, had been enclosed with flames, and no possibility of escape, how dreadful would the fire have been then! Oh, what tongue can express, or heart conceive—the sighs, the groans, the cries, the tears, the ghastly looks, the horrible shrieks, the dreadful amazement, and the matchless astonishment which would have been upon all sorts and ranks of people, that had been compassed round about with flames, and could see no door of deliverance open to them! Oh what a mercy is it that we are yet alive, though we are stripped of many comforts and contentments which formerly we have enjoyed! Now here give me permission to open myself a little in these following particulars—
[1.] First, What a mercy was this to all unregenerate and UNCONVERTED people, that they have kept their lives, when London was in flames! [Austin says that he would not be a wicked man one half hour for all the world, because he might die in that half hour, and then he was undone forever.] Had God by the flames or any other accident put an end to their natural days, they might at this time have been a-rolling up and down in unquenchable flames. Sinners, sinners, the greatest weights hang upon the smallest wires. Eternity, eternity depends upon your improvement of that time, that life, and those seasons and opportunities of grace that yet you do enjoy!
That Rabbi hit it who said, "Every man has his hour. He who overslips that season, may never meet with the like again all his days." O sirs! to have a little more time to believe, to repent, to secure your interest in Christ, a changed nature, a sanctified frame of heart, a pardon in the bosom, is a mercy more worth than ten thousand worlds. To have a little more time to make your calling and election sure, and to get the new name and white stone that none knows but those who are the favorites of heaven; to have time to make sure a city that has foundations, a kingdom that shakes not, riches that corrupt not, an inheritance that fades not away, a house not made with hands—but one eternal in the heavens; to have time to make sure to yourselves a crown of righteousness, a crown of life, a crown of glory, a crown of immortality, are mercies beyond all the expressions, and above all the valuations of men! [2 Peter 1:10; Rev. 2:17; Heb. 11:10, and 12:28; 1 Peter 1:4; 2 Cor. 5:1; 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 2:10; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4.]
The poets paint time with wings, to show the rapidity and swiftness of it. "Time is of precious commodity", says Theophrastus. "Know time, lose not a minute," says Psittacus. Aelian gives this testimony of the Lacedaemonians, "That they were hugely covetous of their time, spending it all about necessary things, and allowing no citizen either to be idle or play." Titus Vespasian having spent a day without doing any man any good, as he sat at supper he uttered this memorable and praiseworthy aphorism, "My friends, I have lost a day!" O sirs! will not these poor heathen rise in judgment against all those who trifle and fool and sin away their precious time? Take heed of crying "Tomorrow, tomorrow!" Oh play not the courtier with your precious souls! The courtier does all things late: he rises late, and dines late, and sups late, and goes to bed late, and repents late. Remember that manna must be gathered in the morning. The orient pearl is generated of the morning dew.
There is nothing puts a more serious frame into a man's spirit than to know the worth of his time. It is very dangerous putting off that to another day, which must be done today, or else undone tomorrow. "Now or never!" was the saying of old. If not done now, it may never be done, and then undone for ever. Eternity depends on this moment of time. What would not many a man give for a day—when it is a day too late? While many blind Sodomites have been groping to find a door of hope, God has rained hell out of heaven upon them. The seasons of grace are not under your locks and keys. Many thousand poor sinners have lost their seasons and their souls together. Judas repented and Esau mourned—but neither timely nor truly; and therefore they perished to all eternity. The damned in hell may weep their eyes out of their heads—but they can never weep sin out of their souls, nor their souls out of hell, etc.
Oh, that the flames of London might be so sanctified to every poor sinner, who have had their lives for a prey, in that doleful day, that they may no longer neglect those precious seasons and opportunities of grace that yet are continued to them, lest God should swear in his wrath, "that they should never enter into his rest!" Heb. 2:3, and 3:18. O sirs! yet you have a world of gracious opportunities, and oh, that God would give you that heavenly wisdom, that you may never neglect one gracious opportunity, though it were to gain a whole world! God by giving you your lives in the midst of those furious and amazing flames, has given you time and opportunity to secure the spiritual and the eternal welfare of your precious and immortal souls, which is a mercy which can never be sufficiently prized or improved. But,
[2.] Secondly, What a mercy was this to poor doubting, STAGGERING Christians, that they kept their lives, when London was in flames! For by this means they have gained time to pray down their doubts, and to argue down their doubts, and to wrestle and weep down their doubts, etc. Christ ascended to heaven in a cloud, and the angel ascended to heaven in the flame of the altar, Acts 1:9-10; Judges 14:20. It is ten to one but this had been the case of many doubting, trembling Christians, had they died when London was in flames. I know it is good getting to heaven any way, though it be in a whirlwind of affliction, or in a fiery chariot of temptation, or in the flames of persecution, or in a cloud of fears, doubts, and darkness; but yet that man is more happy, who gets to heaven in a quiet calm of inward peace, and in the fair sunshine of joy and assurance. ["The whole Scripture," says Luther, "does principally aim at this thing, that we should not doubt—but that we should hope, that we should trust, and that we should believe, that God is a merciful, a bountiful, a gracious and patient God to his people."]
It is a good thing for a man to get into a safe harbor, though it be in a winter night, and through many storms and tempests, hazards, dangers, and deaths, with the loss of masts, cables, and anchors; but yet he is more happy that gets into a safe harbor in a clear, calm, fair, sunshiny day, and with colors flying and trumpets sounding. The prudent reader knows how to apply it. Oh, that all poor doubting Christians would seriously lay this to heart, namely—That for them to have time, to have their judgments and understandings enlightened, their doubts resolved, their objections answered, their consciences settled, and their souls assured that all is well, and shall be forever well between God and them—is a mercy more worth than all the world. But,
[3.] Thirdly, What a mercy was this to poor languishing, declining, and DECAYING Christians, that they kept their lives when London was in flames! There were a great many in London who were "fallen from their first love," and whose sun was set in a cloud. There were many whose graces were languishing, whose comforts were declining, whose souls were withered, and whose communion with God was greatly impaired, Rev. 2:4. Many within the walls of London had a worm gnawing at the root of their graces. They had lost their spiritual relish of God, of Christ, of ordinances, as dying men lose their relish. Dying men can relish nothing they sip, or eat, or drink. They had lost their spiritual strength, and they knew it not, as Samson had lost his natural strength and knew it not, Judges 16:20. Oh what an image of death was upon their highest professions! Now for these men to live—for these men to have time to get their graces repaired, their comforts revived, their spiritual strength restored, their souls fattened, and their communion with God raised—oh what a matchless, what an incomparable mercy is this! But,
[4.] Fourthly, What a mercy was this to poor clouded, deserted, and BENIGHTED Christians, that they kept their lives when London was in flames! Beloved, it is sad dying under a cloud; it is sad dying, when he who should comfort a man's soul stands afar off, Lam. 1:16. Some think that the face of God was clouded when David thus prayed, "O spare me, that I may recover strength, before I go hence, and be no more," Psalm 39:13. And some think Hezekiah's sun was set in a cloud, and God had drawn a curtain between Hezekiah and himself, when, being under the sentence of death, Isaiah 38:1-3, "He turned his face toward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord, and said, Remember now, O Lord, I beseech you, how I have walked before you in truth and with a perfect heart, and have done that which was good in your sight. And Hezekiah wept severely;" or with great weeping, as the Hebrew runs. It is with clouded and deserted Christians as it was with Samson when his locks were cut off, "his strength was gone;" and therefore, though he thought to go out and do wonders, as he had formerly done—yet by sad experience he found himself to be but as weak as any man, Judges 16:18-21. Just so, when God does but withdraw, the best of saints have their locks cut; their strength, which lies not in their hair—but in their head Christ Jesus, Phil. 1:22-23, is gone, and they are as weak as other men. They think, they speak, they act, they walk like other men.
Christians under spiritual desertions commonly fall under severe temptations, great indispositions, barrenness, flatness, dullness, and deadness of spirit. And is this a fit season for such to die in? Christians under a cloud usually have their joys eclipsed, their comforts dampened, their evidences for heaven blotted, their communion with God impaired, and their title to heaven is by themselves, in such a day, much questioned. And is this a case for them to die in? O clouded and deserted Christians, who have kept your lives in the midst of London's flames! and ever since those flames, what a great, what a glorious obligation has the blessed God put upon you, to labor to recover yourselves from under all clouds and desertions, and to spend your days in a serious and deep admiration of that free, that rich, that infinite, and that sovereign grace that spared you, and that was active for you, in that day when you were compassed about with flames of fire on every hand! But,
[5.] Fifthly, What a mercy was this to poor solicited, TEMPTED Christians, that they kept their lives when London was in flames! For by this means they have gained time to strengthen themselves against all Satan's temptations. The daily request which were given in, to pray for poor tempted Christians, did sufficiently evidence how active Satan was to distress and perplex poor Christians with all sorts of hideous and blasphemous temptations. Were there not many tempted to distrust the power of God, the goodness of God, the faithfulness of God? Were there not many tempted to deny God, to blaspheme God, and to turn their backs upon God? Were there not many tempted to slight the Scriptures, to deny the Scriptures, and to prefer their own fancies, notions, and delusions above the Scriptures? Were there not many tempted to have low thoughts of ordinances, and then to leave ordinances, and then to vilify ordinances, and all under a pretense of living above ordinances? Were there not many tempted to presume upon the mercies of God; and others tempted to despair of the grace of God? Were there not many tempted to destroy themselves, and others tempted to destroy their relations? Were there not many tempted to draw others to sin, and to uphold others in sin, and to encourage others in sin, and to be partners with others in sin? Were there not many tempted to have hard thoughts of Christ, and others to have low thoughts of Christ, and others to have no thoughts of Christ? Now for these poor tempted souls to keep their lives, and to have precious seasons and opportunities to recover themselves out of the snares of the devil, and to arm themselves against all his fiery darts—is a comprehensive mercy—a big-bellied mercy—a mercy which has many thousand mercies in the womb of it. But,
[6.] Sixthly and lastly, What a mercy was this to all slumbering, slothful, sluggish, LAZY Christians, who had blotted and blurred their evidences for heaven, and who, instead of running their Christian race, Heb. 12:1, were either at a stand-still, or else did but halt in the way to heaven, that they have had their lives for a prey when London was in flames; and that they have had time to clear up their evidences for heaven, and to quicken up their hearts, to run the ways of God's commands! Psalm 119:32. Surely, had all the world been a lump of gold, and in their hands to have been disposed of, they would have given it for a little time to have brightened their evidences, to have got out of their sinful slumber, and to have set all reckonings even between God and their poor souls. And let thus much suffice for this second support.
(3.)The third support to bear up the hearts and to cheer up the spirits of all who have suffered by the recent fiery dispensation, is this—namely, That this has been the common lot, the common case, both of saints and sinners. God has dealt no more severely with you than he has with many others. Have you lost much? so have many others. [The commonness of our sufferings does somewhat mitigate the sharpness of our sufferings, etc.] Have you lost half? so have many others. Have you lost all? so have many others. Have you lost your trade? so have many others. Have you lost your goods? so have many others. Have you lost your credits? so have many others. Have you lost many friends, who before the fire were very helpful to you and yours? so have many others. Have you lost more than your all? so have many others.
This very cordial the apostle hands out to the suffering saints in his time: 1 Cor. 10:13, "There has no temptation taken you—but such as is common to man." By temptation, he means affliction; as the word is used, James 1:2; 1 Peter 1:6—that is, there has no affliction befallen you but that which is incident either to men as men, or to saints as saints: or thus, there has no affliction befallen you but such as is common to man—that is, there is no affliction that has befallen you but such as men may very well bear without murmuring or buckling under it.
Just so, 1 Peter 5:9, "Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished," or finished, "in your brethren, who are in the world." Afflictions are the common lot of the saints. Whoever shrugs, repines, complains, murmurs, or faints under a common lot, it is at the sun because it scorches, etc., John 16:33; Acts 14:22. There are none of the brotherhood but, sooner or later, they shall know what the fiery trial, what the fiery furnace means. Jerome, writing to a sick friend, has this expression, "I account it a part of unhappiness not to know adversity. I judge you to be the more miserable, because you have not been miserable;" it being the common lot of the people of God to be exercised with adversity and misery. I think Bernard hit it who said, "Freedom from affliction is the mother of carnal security, the poison of religion, the moth of holiness." "There is nothing more unhappy than he who never felt adversity," said the refined heathen, Seneca. And shall not grace rise as high as nature? The calamity has been common, therefore wipe your eyes, and do not say, There is no sorrow like my sorrow, no loss like my loss, no ruin like my ruin, Lam. 1:12. Under common calamities, men should neither groan nor grumble.
Look! as no man may conclude, upon the account of common
mercies, that he is really beloved by God; just so—no man may conclude, upon
the account of common calamities, that he is really hated by God, Eccles.
9:1-2. And therefore bear up sweetly, bear up cheerfully, under your present
trials. In the common calamity of the plague, the destroying angel,
perceiving the blood of sprinkling upon the posts of your doors, and upon
the doors of your hearts, passed you by, and said unto you, "Live," Exod.
12:7, 13. But by the common calamity of the fire, the Lord has turned you
out of house and home, and burnt up your substance before your eyes. Now do
but lay your hands seriously upon your hearts, and tell me whether you have
not more cause to admire at the mercy of God towards you in sparing you in
1665, than you have cause to complain of the severities of God towards you
(4.)The fourth support to bear up the hearts and to cheer up the spirits of the people of God who have been sufferers, deep sufferers, under the recent fiery dispensation, is this—namely, That though they have lost much as they are men, as they are citizens, merchants, tradesmen; yet they have lost nothing as they are Christians, as they are saints, as they are the called and chosen of God. Though they have lost their goods—yet they have not lost their God, Rev. 17:14. Though they have lost their shops and chests—yet they have not lost their Christ. Though they have lost their outward comforts—yet they have not lost the comforts of the Holy Spirit. Though they have lost their houses made with hands—yet they have not lost their "house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens," John 14:16, 26; 2 Cor. 5:1. Though they have lost their earthly inheritance—yet they have not lost their heavenly inheritance, 1 Pet. 1:4. Though they have lost their temporal portions—yet they have not lost their eternal portions, Psalm 73:25. Though they have lost their open public trade—yet they have not lost their secret trade, their private trade to heaven, Mat. 6:6.
I readily grant that your stately houses and your well-furnished shops are turned into ashes, and that your credit is gone, and your trading gone, and your money gone, and you utterly undone as to this world; and yet in all this, God has done you no hurt, he has done you no wrong, Gen. 18:25: and though this at first sight may seem to be a great paradox, a very strange assertion—yet I shall thus evidence it to be an unquestionable truth. The happiness of man in this life consists,
(1.) In his union with God;
(2.) In his communion with God;
(3.) In his conformity to God; and
(4.) In his spiritual fruition and enjoyment of God.
Now none of those losses, crosses, and afflictive dispensations that have passed upon you, have or can make any breach upon your happiness, or upon any one of those four things of which your happiness is made up. The apex of man's happiness in heaven, lies in his near union with God, and in the beatifical vision of God, and in his full communion with God, and in his exact and perfect conformity to God, and in his everlasting fruition and enjoyment of God. Now the more of these things any Christian enjoys in this world, the more of heaven he enjoys on this side heaven, the more happiness he has on this side happiness; and therefore I would willingly know how it is possible for any outward troubles or trials to make a breach upon a Christian's happiness.
Doubtless Job was as happy when he sat upon the ash-heap, Job 2, without a rag on his back or a penny in his purse, as he was when he sat chief, and dwelt as a king, chapter 29:25. If God is the most perfect being, then to enjoy him and resemble him is our greatest perfection. If God be the best of beings, then our communion with him and fruition of him must be our greatest glory and highest felicity. Let what will befall our outward man, as long as our union and communion with God holds good, as long as our precious and immortal souls are in a safe and flourishing condition, as long as the springs of grace, of holiness, of comfort, of assurance rises in our souls—we are happy, and no outward miseries can make us miserable!
"There are," says Augustine, "goods of the throne—such as God, Christ, the Spirit, grace, the favor of God, pardon of sin, peace of conscience, etc.; and there are goods of the footstool—such as food, raiment, house, honors, riches, trade, credit, and all bodily conveniences and accommodations." Now it was not in the power of the flames to burn up the goods of the throne; they still remain safe and secure to you. All that the flames could reach to, was only the goods of the footstool, the lumber of this world. And therefore what cause have you to bear up cheerfully, quietly, sweetly, and contentedly under all your crosses and losses, trials and troubles! "He is poor," says Gregory the Great, "whose soul is void of grace, not whose coffers are empty of money."
By these short hints, you may clearly see that the people
of God are never the worse for all their losses. They are as happy now that
they are houseless, moneyless, breadless, friendless, tradeless, as ever
they were when they were most surrounded with all the comforts of this life.
Woe, woe would be to the people of God, if their happiness should hang upon
the comforts of this world, which like a ball are tossed from man to man. A
ball of fire, a storm at sea, a false oath, a subtle enemy, a treacherous
friend may easily deprive a man of all his earthly blessings in an instant.
Now who so miserable as that man whose blessedness lies in earthly
(5.)The fifth support to bear up the hearts of the people of God under the recent fiery dispensation, is this—namely, That the Lord will certainly, one way or another, make up all their losses to them. Sometimes God makes up his people's outward losses by giving them more of himself, more of his Son, more of his Spirit, more of his favor, more of his grace, as he did by the disciples of Christ, John 16. When God takes away your carnals and gives you more spirituals, your temporals, and gives you more eternals, your outward losses are made up to you.
Now this was the very case of those believing Hebrews, who were turned out of house and home; and who were driven to live in holes and caves and dens of the earth, and who had lost all their goods; not having a bed to lie on, or a stool to sit on, nor a dish to drink in, and who had lost all their apparel, not having a rag to hang on their backs, and therefore clothed themselves in sheep-skins and goat-skins. "They took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing in themselves that they had in heaven a better and an enduring substance," Heb. 10:34. When under outward losses, God shall seal to his people a bill of exchange for better and greater things than any they have lost; their losses then are made up to them. When God takes away a Christian's estate in this world, he looks for a better and enduring estate in heaven. If a man should lose several bags of pennies, and have a bill of exchange sealed to him for the receiving of so many bags of gold, would not his loss be abundantly made up to him? When God takes away our earthly treasures, and seals up in our hearts a bill of exchange, to receive all again with interest upon interest in eternal treasures, then certainly our losses are abundantly made up to us. If men should take away your old clothes, and give you new clothes; if they should take away your rags, and give you robes; if they should take away your chaff, and give you wheat; if they should take away your water, and give you wine; if they should take away your tin, and give you silver; if they should take away your brass, and give you gold; if they should take away your pebbles, and give you pearls; if they should take away your cottages, and give you royal palaces— certainly you would have no cause to complain, you would have no cause to cry out, "Undone! undone!"
If God takes away your houses, your goods, your trades, your honors, and gives you more of himself, and more grace, and more assurance of glory, he does you no injury. It is an excellent exchange, to get eternals for temporals. If God takes away your earthly riches, and makes you more rich in grace, in spiritual comforts, in holy experiences, in divine enjoyments, then you are no losers—but great gainers. What are all the necessary comforts of this life, compared to union and communion with God, to a saving interest in Christ, to pardon of sin, to peace of conscience, and to that loving-kindness that is better than life? Psalm 63:3.
If you put many lives together, there is more excellency and glory in the least discovery of divine love, than in them all. Many a man has been weary of his life—but never was any man yet weary of the love and favor of God. The least drop of grace, the least smile from heaven, the least cast of Christ's countenance, the least kiss of his mouth, the least embrace of his arm, the least hint of his favor—is worth more than ten thousand worlds! Cant. 2:3-7. That Christian cannot be poor—who is rich in grace. That Christian cannot be miserable—who has God for his portion. That Christian cannot be unhappy—who has a mansion prepared for him in heaven, though he has not a cottage to hide his head in, in this world. That Christian has no cause to complain of lack of food for his body—whose soul is feasted with manna, with the dainties of heaven, with those rarities which are better than angels' food. [Rev. 2:8-9; Lam. 3:24; John 14:1-4; Heb. 11:37-38; Rev. 2:17; John 4: 30-31.] He who has but rags to cover his back, if his soul is clothed with the garments of salvation, and covered with the robe of Christ's righteousness, he has no reason to complain, Isaiah 61:10.
When Stilpo the philosopher had his wife, and children, and country all burnt up before him, and was asked by Demetrius what loss he had sustained, answered, "That he had lost nothing; for he counted that only his, own which none could take from him, namely, his virtues." Shall blind nature do more than grace? Shall the heathen put the Christian to a blush?
Again, sometimes God makes up his people's outward losses, by giving greater outward mercies than those which he took from them; as you may see by comparing the first chapter of Job and the last chapter of Job together. Job had all doubled to him. I have read of Dionysius, how he took away from one of his nobles almost his whole estate, and seeing him as cheerful and contented as ever, he gave him all that he had taken from him again, and as much more. God many times takes away a little, that he may give more; and sometimes he takes away all, to show his sovereignty, and then he gives them all back again with interest upon interest, to show his great liberality and noble bounty. That is a lovely loss, that is made up with so great gain.
Question. But, sir, how shall we know, or probably conjecture, whether in this world God will make up our worldly losses to us or not? If you please to speak a little to this question, it may be many ways of use unto us.
Now that I may give you a little light to the question, give me permission to put a few questions to such who have been sufferers by the recent fiery dispensation—
[1.] First, Did you make conscience of improving your estates to the glory of God, and the good of others, when you did enjoy them; or did you only make them subservient to your lusts?If you have laid out your estates for God, and for his children's good, it is ten to one but that the Lord, even in this world, will make up your losses to you, Deut. 32:15-16; Hosea 4:7; James 4:3. But if you misimproved your estates, and turned your mercies into encouragements to sin, then you have more cause to fear that the Lord may further blast you, than you have to hope that God will make up your losses to you. But,
[2.] Secondly, Did you daily and seriously labor to enjoy much of God in all those worldly enjoyments which formerly you were blessed with?If so, it is very probable that the Lord may make up all your losses to you; but if you made an idol of your worldly enjoyments—if they had more of your thoughts, and hearts, and time, than God himself had, then you have more cause to fear a further curse, than to expect a future blessing, Proverbs 3:33; Mal. 2:2. But,
[3.] Thirdly, Did your hearts commonly, ordinarily, habitually lie low under your worldly enjoyments?Abraham, under all his worldly enjoyments, was but "dust and ashes." And Jacob under his worldly enjoyments was "less than the least of all mercies," Gen. 18:27, and 32:10. And so David, under all God's royal favors, his heart lies low: Psalm 22:6, "But I am a worm, and no man." David in the Arabic tongue signifies a worm, to which he seems to allude. The word in the Hebrew for worm, signifies such a very little worm that a man can very hardly see it or perceive it. Though David was high in the world—yet he was little, yes, very little, in his own eyes. Was it commonly, mostly thus with you, when your comforts compassed you round about? If so, then it is very probable that the Lord in this world will make up all your losses to you. But if your pride did commonly rise with your outward goods, and if your hearts did usually so swell under your worldly enjoyments as to say with Pharaoh, "Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice?" Exod. 5:2; or to say with Nebuchadnezzar, "Who is that God that can deliver you out of my hands?" Dan. 3:15; or to say with those proud atheists, "Who is Lord over us?" Psalm 12:4; or to say with those proud monsters, "We are lords, we will come no more unto you," etc., Jer. 2:31, then you have great cause to fear that God that has yet some further controversy with you, and, "except you repent," will rather strip you of what you enjoy, than multiply further favors or blessings upon you. But,
[4.] Fourthly, Since God has burnt up your worldly goods, have you been fervent and frequent with God that he would burn up those lusts which have burnt up your comforts before your eyes?Have you pleaded hard with God that a spirit of burning might rest upon you, even that spirit of burning which alone can burn up your sins, your dross? Isaiah 9:2, and 4:4. Since London has been laid in ashes, have you made it your great business to treat and trade with God about the destruction of those sins, which have laid all desolate? If so, then you have cause to hope that God will turn your captivity, and make up all your losses to you, Job 42:10. But,
[5.] Fifthly, Since God has turned you out of all, are you turned nearer and closer to himself?Though you have been prodigals—yet have you in the light of London's flames seen and found your way to your Father's house? Luke 15. Then God will make up all your losses to you. When judgments are so sanctified as to bring a people nearer to himself, then God will drop down mercies upon them, Hosea 2:18, 20. But,
[6.] Sixthly, Has the fire of London been as a pillar of fire to lead you heaven-wards?Exod. 13:21-22. Has God, by burning up the good things of this world, caused you to set your hearts and affections more than ever upon the great things of the eternal world? If so, then it is a hundred to ten but that the Lord will make up all your losses to you. But,
[7.] Seventhly, Are your hearts, under this fiery dispensation, brought into such a quiet submission to the good will and pleasure of God, as that you can now be contented to be at God's allowance?Phil. 4:12-14. Can you now be contented to be rich or poor, to have much or little, to be high or low, to be something or nothing, to have all again or to have nothing but necessaries again? Are you now willing that God shall choose for you? Can you sit down satisfied with God's allowance, though it be far short of what once you had? Contentment is the deputy of outward felicity, and supplies the place where it is absent. A contented frame of heart, as to all outward occurrences, is like ballast to a ship, which will help it to sail boldly and safely in all waters. When a man's mind is conformable to his means, all is well. Augustine upon Psalm, brings in God rebuking a discontented Christian thus: "What is your faith? Have I promised you these things? What! were you made a Christian that you should flourish here in this world?"
It is an excellent expression that Bellarmine has in his Catechism: "Suppose," says he, "a king, having many children of several ages, should apparel them in cloth of gold: now he who is sixteen years old has more gold in his robe than the child that is but five or six years old—yet the child would rather have his own garment than his elder brother's, because it is fitter for him." Surely the fittest estate is the best estate for us. Look! as a large shoe fits not a little foot, nor a large sail a little ship, nor a large ring a little finger—just so, a large estate is not always the fittest for us. He who has most, lacks something; and he who has least, lacks nothing—if he lacks not a contented spirit. O sirs! let not heathens put you to a blush.
"He who can be content to be at God's allowance, as a guest at a table, who takes what is carved for him, and no more—he needs not fawn upon any man, much less violate his conscience for the great things of the world." When a man's heart is brought down to his condition, he is then temptation-proof. A man who can be contented with a little, will keep his ground in an hour of temptation.
Diogenes the cynic, housed in his tub, and making even with his victuals and the day together, being invited to a great feast, could say, "I had rather lick salt at Athens, than feast with Craterus." Diogenes had more content with his tub to shelter him from the injuries of the weather, and with his wooden dish to eat and drink in, than Alexander had with the conquest of half the world, and the fruition of all the honors, pomps, treasures, and pleasures of Asia.
"The way to true riches," says Plato, "is not to increase our heaps—but to diminish the covetousness of our hearts." And says Seneca says, "A contented man cannot be a poor man."
I have read of another philosopher, who seeing a prince going by, with the greatest pomp and state imaginable, he said to some about him, "See how many things I have no need of."
And says another, "It were well for the world if there were no gold in it." But since it is the fountain whence all things flow, it is to be desired—but only as a pass, to travel to our journey's end without begging.
When Croesus, king of Lydia, asked Solon, one of the seven wise men of Greece, who in the whole world was more happy than he? Solon answered, "Tellus, who though he was a poor man—yet he was a good man, and content with that which he had."
So Cato could say, "I have neither house, nor plate, nor costly garments in my hands; what I have, I can use: if not, I can lack it. Some blame me because I lack many things; and I blame them because they cannot lack." Now shall nature do more than grace? Shall the poor blinded heathen outstrip the knowing Christian? O sirs, he who can lose his will in the will of God, as to the things of this world; he who is willing to be at God's allowance; he who has had much—but can now be satisfied with a little; he who can be contented with God's allowance—he is of all men the most likely man to have all his losses made up to him. But,
[8.] Eighthly and lastly, Are your hearts more drawn out to have this fiery dispensation sanctified to you, than to have your losses made up to you?Do you strive more with God to get good by this dreadful judgment, than to recover your lost goods, and your lost estates? Is this the daily language of your souls, "Lord, let this fiery trial be so sanctified to me, as that it may eminently issue in the mortifying of my sins, the increase of my graces, the mending of my affections, the reforming of my life, the weaning of my soul from everything below You; the fixing of my heart upon eternal realities!" If it be thus with you, it is ten to one but God even in this world will make up your losses to you. But,
(6.)The sixth support to bear up the hearts of the people of God under the recent fiery dispensation, is this—namely, That by fiery dispensations, the Lord will make way for the new heavens and the new earth: he will make way for the glorious deliverance of his people. Isaiah 9:5-6; Psalm 66:12. Isaiah 66:15-16, 22, "For, behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For "by fire and by his sword," or by his sword of fire, "will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many. For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain." The great and the glorious things that God will do for his people in the last days are set forth by new heavens and new earth; and these God will bring in by fiery dispensations. [Isaiah 65:17; Joel 2:1-5, 30-32; Zeph. 3:8-9.] The glorious estate of the universal church of Jews and Gentiles on earth is no lower an estate than that of a new heaven and a new earth. Now this blessed church-state is ushered into the world by fiery judgments. By fiery dispensations God will put an end to the glory of this old world, and bring in the new. Look! as God by a watery deluge made way for one new world, so by a fiery deluge, in the last of the last days, he will make way for another new world, wherein "shall dwell righteousness," as Peter speaks, 2 Pet. 3:10-13.
All men in common speech call a new great change a new world. By fiery dispensations God will bring great changes upon the world, and make way for his Son's reign in a more glorious manner than ever he has yet reigned in the world, Rev. 19, 20, and 21.
The sum of that I have, in short, to offer to your consideration out of these chapters is this—"Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries." Then I heard another voice from heaven say: "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, 'I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.' Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her." Revelation 18:2-8
"After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great
multitude in heaven shouting: "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power
belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the
great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged
on her the blood of his servants." And again they shouted: "Hallelujah! The
smoke from her goes up for ever and ever." The twenty-four elders and the
four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the
throne. And they cried: "Amen, Hallelujah!" Then a voice came from the
throne, saying: "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him,
both small and great!" Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude,
like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
"Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has
made herself ready." Revelation 19:1-7. God, by his fiery dispensation upon
Babylon, makes way for Christ's reign, and the saints' reign in the new
heavens and new earth. But,
(7.)The seventh support to bear up the hearts of the people of God under the recent fiery dispensation, is this—namely, That by fiery dispensations God will bring about the ruin and destruction of his and his people's enemies, Psalm 50:3. Psalm 97:3, "A fire goes before him, and burns up his enemies round about." Hab. 3:5, "Plague went before him; pestilence followed his steps." Verse 12-13, "Sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear. In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations." Jer. 50:31-32, "See, I am against you, O arrogant one," declares the Lord, the Lord Almighty, "for your day has come, the time for you to be punished. The arrogant one will stumble and fall and no one will help her up; I will kindle a fire in her towns that will consume all who are around her." There is nothing more fearful or formidable, either to man or beast, than fire: and therefore by fiery dispensations God will take vengeance on the wicked. This will be the more evident, if you please but to consider to what the wicked are compared to, in Scripture.
[1.] First, They are compared to stubble and chaff, which the fire easily consumes: Isaiah 5:24, "Therefore as the fire devours the stubble, and the flame consumes the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust." Nahum 1:10, "They will be entangled among thorns and drunk from their wine; they will be consumed like dry stubble." Mark that word "dry stubble," and so as it were prepared and fitted for the flame.
[2.] Secondly, The wicked are compared to thorns: and how easily does the flaming fire consume them! Isaiah 27:4, "Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together." Chapter 33:12, "And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burnt in the fire." Mark, it is not said as thorns standing and rooted in the earth, and growing with their moisture about them; but as thorns cut up, as dead and dry thorns, which are easily kindled and consumed, etc.
[3.] Thirdly, The wicked are compared to the melting of wax before the fire, and to the passing away of smoke before the wind, Micah 1:4; Psalm 8:2.
[4.] Fourthly and lastly, The sudden and certain ruin of the wicked is set forth by the melting of the fat of lambs before the fire. Psalm 37:20, "But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be as the fat of lambs," (which of all fat is the most easiest melted before the fire:) "they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away." The fat of lambs in the sacrifices was wholly to be burnt and consumed, Lev. 3:15-17.
Thus you see, by the several things to which wicked men
are compared, that God by fiery calamities will bring ruin and destruction
upon his and his people's enemies. Such as have burnt the people of God out
of house and home, may in this world have burning for burning. God loves to
retaliate upon his people's enemies, Judges 1:6-7. Such as have clapped
their hands at the sight of London's flames, may one day lay their hands
upon their loins, when they shall find divine justice appearing in flames of
fire against them. But,
(8.)The eighth support to bear up the hearts of the people of God under the recent fiery dispensation, is this—namely, That all shall end well, all shall work for good. [Consult these scriptures, Isaiah 1:25, and 27:8-11; Zech. 13:9; Heb. 12:10; Hosea 2:6; Acts 14:22; John 16:33; Jer. 29:11.] God, by this fiery dispensation, will do his people a great deal of good. God cast Judah into an iron furnace, into a fiery furnace—but it was for their good. Jer. 24:5, "Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge those who are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good." Psalm 119:71, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted." Though afflictions are naturally evil—yet they are spiritually good; for by the wise, sanctifying, overruling providence of God, they shall either cure the saints of their spiritual evils, or preserve them from spiritual evils. Though the elements are of contrary qualities—yet divine power and wisdom has so tempered them, that they all work in a harmonious manner for good.
So, though severe afflictions, though fiery trials seem to work quite cross and contrary to the saints' prayers and desires—yet they shall be so ordered and tempered by a skillful and omnipotent hand, as that they shall all issue in the saints' good. In the long run, by all sorts of fiery trials, the saints shall have their sins more weakened, their graces more improved, and their experiences more multiplied, their evidences for heaven more cleared, their communion with God more raised, and their hearts and lives more amended. God, by fiery trials, will keep off from his people more trials. God loves by the cross to secure his people from the curse; and certainly it is no bad exchange, to have a cross instead of a curse.
God led the Israelites about and about in the wilderness forty years together—but it was to humble them, and prove them, and do them good in their latter end, Deut. 8:2, 16. God led them through fire and water, Psalm 66:12; that is, through variety of severe and sharp afflictions—but all was in order to his bringing them forth into a wealthy place. God stripped Job—but it was in order to his clothing of him in scarlet: he brought him low—but it was in order to his raising him higher than ever: he set him upon a ash-heap, that he might the better fit him to sit upon a throne. [Compare the first and last chapter of Job together.]
"Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and you will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me!" says old Jacob, Gen. 42:36; but yet as old as he was, he lived to see all working for his good, before he went to his long home. Under all fiery dispensations, God will make good that golden promise, Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God." Mark, the apostle does not say, we suppose, or we hope, or we conjecture—but we know, I know, and you know, and all the saints know by daily experience, that all their sufferings and afflictions work together for their good! The apostle does not say they shall work—but they do work. All second causes work together with the first cause for their good who love God, and who are called according to his purpose. Look! as several poisonous ingredients put together, being well tempered and mixed by the skill and care of the prudent apothecary, makes a sovereign medicine, and work together for the good of the patient; just so, all the afflictions and sufferings which befall the saints, they shall be so wisely, so divinely tempered, ordered, and sanctified by the hand of God, as that they shall really and remarkably work for their good. Those dreadful providences which seem to be most harmful to us, shall in the issue prove most beneficial to us!
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good!"
Genesis 50:20. Look! as vessels of gold are made by fire, so by fiery
dispensations God will make his people vessels of gold, vessels of honor, 2
Tim. 2:20-21. Commonly the most afflicted Christians are the most golden
Christians, Zech. 13:9, "This third I will bring into the fire; I will
refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name
and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say,
'The Lord is our God.'" The fire of London was rather physic than poison.
There was more of a fatherly chastisement, than there was of an extirpating
vengeance in it; and therefore certainly it shall work well, it shall issue
(9.)The ninth support to bear up the hearts of the people of God under the recent fiery dispensation, is this—namely, That there was a great mixture of mercy in that dreadful judgment of fire that has turned London into a ruinous heap! At the final destruction of Jerusalem there was not one stone left upon another, Luke 19:41, 45. This might have been your case, O London, had not mercy triumphed over justice, and over all the plots and designs of men. Though many thousand houses are destroyed—yet to the praise of free grace, many thousand houses in the city and suburbs have been preserved from the rage and violence of the flames. What a mercy was that, that Zoar should be standing, when Sodom was laid in ashes! Gen. 19. And what a mercy was this, that your houses should be standing, when so many thousand houses have been laid desolate! Is more than a third part of the city destroyed by fire? Why, the whole city might have been destroyed by fire, and all the suburbs round about it. But in the midst of wrath, God has remembered mercy, Psalm 136:23: in the midst of great severity, God has exercised great clemency. Had the fire come on with that rage, fury, and triumph, as to have laid both city and suburbs level, we must have said with the church, "The Lord is righteous," Lam. 1:18. Had the three children their songs in the midst of the fiery furnace; and why should not they have their songs of praise, whose houses, by a miraculous providence, were preserved in the midst of London's flames?
O sirs, what a mixture of mercy was there in this fiery calamity, that all your lives should be spared, and that many of your houses should be preserved, and that much of your goods, your wares, your commodities, should be snatched as so many firebrands out of the fire! If ever there were an obligation put upon a people to cry, "Grace, grace, grace!" the Lord has put one upon you, who have been sharers in that mixture of mercy that God has extended to the many thousand sufferers by London's flames. Had this judgment of fire been inflicted when the raging pestilence swept away some thousands every week, and when the city was even left naked as to her inhabitants, and when the whole nation was under a dreadful fear, trembling, and dismayed in spirit, Josh. 2:9-11, might there not have been far greater desolations, both of houses, goods, and lives, in the midst of us? Had God contended with London by pestilence and fire at the same time, who would have lodged your persons in their beds, or your goods in their barns? Had these two dreadful judgments met, Londoners would have met with but few friends in the world.
Well, when I look upon London's sins and deserts on the one hand, and upon the principles, old hatred, plots, designs, rage, and wrath of some malicious people, on the other hand, Ezek. 25:15, instead of wondering that so much of the city and suburbs is destroyed, I rather wonder that any one house in the city or suburbs is preserved! While London was in flames, and all men under a high distraction, and all things in a sad confusion, a secret, subtle, designing, powerful enemy might have risen up in the midst of you, that might have plundered all your goods, ravished your wives, deflowered your daughters, and after all this have sheathed their swords in all your hearts! And in that it did not happen thus, what cause have Londoners to bow forever before preventing and restraining grace!
Since the creation of the world, God has never been so severe in the execution of his most dreadful judgments, as not to remember mercy in the midst of wrath. When he drowned the old world, who before were drowned in lusts and pleasures, he extended mercy to Noah and his family. When he rained hell out of heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah, turning those rich and pleasant cities into ruinous heaps, he gave Lot and his daughters their lives for a prey. And when by fire and sword he had made Jerusalem a dreadful spectacle of his wrath and vengeance—yet then a remnant did escape, Isaiah 6:11-13; Jer. 5:10, 18. This truth we citizens have experienced, or else we and our all before this day had been destroyed. Every citizen should have this motto written in characters of gold on his forehead, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed!" Lam. 3:22. God might have made London like Sodom and Gomorrah; but in the day of his anger some beams of his favor darted forth upon London. By which means the hopes of some are so far revived as to expect that London yet may be rebuilt and blessed. That is a dreadful word, "When he begins he will make an end; and the fire of his wrath shall burn, and none shall quench it," 1 Sam. 3:12; Jer. 4:4, and 21:12. These eradicating judgments had certainly fallen upon London, had not the Lord in the midst of his fury remembered mercy. "If the Lord had not been on our side," Psalm 124:1-3, may London now say, "if the Lord had not been on our side when the fire rose up against us—then the fire had swallowed us up quick, when its rage was kindled against us." Doubtless God never mingled a cup of wrath with more mercy than this.
Though the fire of London was a very great and dreadful fire—yet it was not so great nor so dreadful a fire as that of Sodom and Gomorrah was: for that fire of Sodom and Gomorrah,
[1.] First, It was a miraculous fire—a fire that was, besides, beyond and against the course of nature. [They sinned against the light and course of nature; and therefore they were destroyed against the course of nature by fire from heaven.] Gen. 19:24, "Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven." Fire mingled with brimstone has been found,
(1.) Most obnoxious to the eyes;
(2.) Most loathsome to the smell; and
(3.) Most fierce in burning.
He hit the mark who, speaking of fire and brimstone, said, "It is easily kindled, violently swelled, and hard to be extinguished." Brimstone and all that vast quantity of sulphurous fiery matter, by which those rich and populous cities were turned into ruinous heaps, were never produced by natural causes, nor after a natural manner, no ordinary fire being so speedy in its consumptions—but immediately by God's own miraculous power and almighty arm. But the fire that has laid London in ashes was no such miraculous or extraordinary fire—but such a fire which divine providence permitted and allowed to be kindled and carried on, by such means, instruments, and concurring circumstances as has buried our glory under heaps of ashes. But,
[2.] Secondly, The fire which fell upon Sodom and Gomorrah consumed not only the greater part of those cities—but the whole cities: yes, and not only Sodom and Gomorrah—but all the cities of the plain, except Zoar, which was to be a sanctuary to Lot. But the fire of London has not destroyed the whole city of London; many hundred—may I not say thousands?—houses are yet standing, as monuments of divine power, wisdom, and goodness: and the greatest part of the suburbs are yet preserved; and all the rest of the cities of England are yet compassed about with loving-kindness and mercy; and I hope will be reserved, by a gracious providence, as shelters, as sanctuaries, and as hiding-places to poor England's distressed inhabitants. But,
[3.] Thirdly, The fire which fell upon Sodom and Gomorrah consumed not only places but people, not only houses but inhabitants. But in the midst of London's flames, God was a wall of fire about the citizens, Zech. 2:5; in that day of his fiery indignation, he was very tender of the lives of his people. Though the lumber was burnt—yet God took care of his treasure, of his jewels—namely, the lives of his people. But having spoken before more largely of this particular, let this touch now suffice.
[4.] Fourthly, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire suddenly and unexpectedly; they were destroyed by fire in a moment! Sodom and Gomorrah sustained no long siege from foreign forces, neither were they kept long in sorrows and sufferings, in pains and misery—but they were quickly and suddenly and instantly despatched out of this world—into the eternal world. Men had no hand in the destroying of Sodom; no mortal instrument co-operated in that work. God by his own immediate power overthrew them in a moment! Sodom was very strangely, suddenly, and unexpectedly turned upside down, as in a moment, by God's own hand, without the help of armed soldiers: whereas the Chaldeans' armies continued for a long time in the land of Judah, and in Jerusalem, vexing and plaguing the poor people of God. Now in this respect, the punishment of the Jews was a greater punishment than the punishment of Sodom, which was overthrown as in a moment. But that fire that has turned London into a heap of ashes, was such a fire that was carried on gradually, and which lasted four days, God giving the citizens time to mourn over their sins, to repent, to lay hold on everlasting strength, and to make peace with God. But,
[5.] Fifthly and lastly, Sodom's and Gomorrah's judgment is termed eternal fire, Jude 7, which expression, as it refers to the places themselves, do import that they were irrecoverably destroyed by fire; so as that they shall lie eternally waste. Those monstrous sinners of Sodom had turned the glory of God into shame, and therefore God will turn them both into a hell here, and a hell hereafter. God will punish unusual sinners with unusual judgments! The punishment by this fire is lasting, yes, everlasting: it is a standing monument of God's high displeasure, Deut. 29:23. We never read that ever God repented of the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah. Those cities are under a perpetual destruction, and so shall continue to the end of the world. It well befits the wisest and best of Christians seriously to consider how God sets forth the destruction of his church's enemies.
"For the LORD has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion's cause. Edom's streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulfur; her land will become blazing pitch! It will not be quenched night and day; its smoke will rise forever. From generation to generation it will lie desolate; no one will ever pass through it again. The desert owl and screech owl will possess it; the great owl and the raven will nest there. God will stretch out over Edom the measuring line of chaos and the plumb line of desolation." Isaiah 34:8-11. In these words you have a rhetorical description of that extreme devastation that God will bring upon the enemies of the church, in way of allusion to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
But I hope London's doom is not such; for God has given to thousands of her inhabitants a spirit of grace and supplication, Zech. 12:10; which is a clear evidence that at the long run they shall certainly carry the day with God. I have faith enough to believe that God will give London's mourners "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness," Isaiah 61:3. And that London may yet be called "a city of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified." I hope that God will one day say to London, "Arise, shine; for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. The Lord shall arise upon you, and his glory shall be seen upon you," Isaiah 60:1-2.
By what has been said, it is evident enough that there has been a great mixture of mercy in that fiery dispensation that has passed upon London. And therefore why should not this consideration bear up the hearts of the people of God from fainting and sinking under their present calamity and misery? But,
(10.)The tenth support to bear up the hearts of the people of God under the recent fiery dispensation, is this—namely, That there are worse judgments than the judgment of fire which God might—but has not, inflicted upon you. Let me evidence the truth of this in these five particulars—
[1.] First, The bloody sword of war, is a more dreadful judgment than that of fire. Fire may consume a man's house and his estate—but the sword cuts off a man's life. Now at what a poor rate do men value the whole world, when it stands in competition with their lives. He very well knew that man was a very great life-lover, who said, "Skin for skin—and all that a man has will he give for his life," Job 2:4. God might have brought upon England, ay, and upon London too, the sword of a foreign enemy, as he did upon Jerusalem and the land of Judea. In that one only city of Jerusalem, during the time of the siege by Vespasian's armies, which were made up of Romans, Syrians, and Arabians, a million people were killed. At this time there were slain in all Judea in several places to the number of twelve hundred and forty thousand Jews. The whole city of Jerusalem flowed with blood, insomuch that many parts of the city that were set on fire were quenched by the blood of those who were slain. In seventeen years' time the Carthaginian war only in Italy, Spain, and Sicily, consumed and wasted fifteen hundred thousand men. The civil wars between Pompey and Caesar swallowed down three hundred thousand men. Caius Caesar did confess it, and gloried in it, that, eleven hundred ninety and two thousand men were killed by him in wars. Pompey the Great wrote upon Minerva's temple that he had scattered, chased, and killed twenty hundred eighty and three thousand men. Q. Fabius killed a hundred and ten thousand of the Gauls. C. Marius put to the sword two hundred thousand of the Cimbrians. Aetius, in that memorable battle of Catalonia, slew a hundred sixty and two thousand Huns. Who can number up the many thousands that have fallen by the bloody sword in Europe, from the year 1620 to this year 1667?
Ah London! London! your streets might have flowed with the blood of the slain, as once the streets of Jerusalem, Paris, and others have done. While the fire was a-devouring your stately houses and palaces, a foreign sword might have been a-destroying your inhabitants. While the furious flames were a-consuming your goods, your wares, your substance, your riches, a secret and clandestine enemy, spirited, counseled, and animated from Rome and hell, might have risen up in the midst of you, that might have mingled together the blood of husbands and wives, and the blood of parents and children, and the blood of masters and servants, and the blood of rich and poor, and the blood of the honorable with the blood of the vile. Now had this been your doom, O London! which many feared, and others expected, what a dreadful day would that have been! It is better to see our houses on fire than to see our streets running down with the blood of the slain. But,
[2.] Secondly, God might have inflicted the judgment of famine upon London, which is a more dreadful judgment than that of fire. [Gen. 45:46; Joel 1:2, and 2:3; Jer. 24:10; Ezek. 6:11; 2 Sam. 21:1.] How sad would that day have been, O London! if you had been so sorely put to it, as to have taken up that sad lamentation of weeping Jeremiah: Lam. 2:11-12, 19-20, 4:4-5, 7-10, and 5:4, 6, 9-10, "My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city. They say to their mothers, "Where is bread and wine?" as they faint like wounded men in the streets of the city, as their lives ebb away in their mothers' arms. Arise, cry out in the night, as the watches of the night begin; pour out your heart like water in the presence of the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint from hunger at the head of every street. Should women eat their offspring, the children they have cared for? Because of thirst the infant's tongue sticks to the roof of its mouth; the children beg for bread, but no one gives it to them. Those who once ate delicacies are destitute in the streets. Those nurtured in purple now lie on ash heaps. Their princes were brighter than snow and whiter than milk, their bodies more ruddy than rubies, their appearance like sapphires. But now they are blacker than soot; they are not recognized in the streets. Their skin has shriveled on their bones; it has become as dry as a stick. Those killed by the sword are better off than those who die of famine; racked with hunger, they waste away for lack of food from the field."
So great was the famine in Jerusalem, that a bushel of wheat was sold for a talent, which is six hundred crowns, and the rubbish was considered food; and such pinching necessities were they under, that they acted against all piety, honesty, humanity, etc. Women ate their children; yes, the hands of kind women did boil their own children, and men ate one another; yes, many did eat the flesh of their own arms, according to what the Lord had long before threatened: Isaiah 9:19-20, "By the wrath of the Lord Almighty the land will be scorched and the people will be fuel for the fire; no one will spare his brother. On the right they will devour, but still be hungry; on the left they will eat, but not be satisfied. Each will feed on the flesh of his own arm."
In the reign of William the First there was so great a dearth and famine, especially in Northumberland, that men were glad to eat horses, dogs, cats, and rats, and what else is most abhorrent to nature. In Honorius's reign there was such a scarcity of all manner of provision in Rome, that men were even afraid of one another; and the common voice that was heard was, Set a price on man's flesh. In Italy, when it was wasted by the Goths under Justinian, the famine was so great, that in Picene only, fifty thousand people died with hunger, and not only man's flesh was made food of—but the very excrements of men also. In the reign of Hubid, king of Spain, there was no rain for six and twenty years together, so that the drought was so great that all the fountains and rivers, except Iber and Baetis were dried up; so that the earth gaped in several places, that whole fields were parted, and that many who had thought to have fled into other parts were hindered, and could not get passage over these fearful openings of the earth. Hereby Spain, especially those places nearest the Mediterranean Sea, being stripped naked of all herbs, and the glory of trees being dried up, except a few trees which were preserved upon the banks of the river Betis, men and beasts being consumed with thirst and famine, was turned by this judgment into a miserable solitude and wilderness. The royal line of the kings was by this means extinct; and the poorer sort of men, whose means were short and provision small, went into other places as they could conveniently and with all speed, not being able to stand out this six and twenty years' misery.
In the Peloponnesian war, at Potidwa, men ate one another, [Thucydides.] When Utica was besieged by Hamilcar, the father of Hannibal, men ate one another, the famine was so great among them, [Polybius.] At Antioch in Syria many of the Christians, in the holy war, through famine, devoured the dead bodies of the late slain enemies. At the siege of Scodra, horses were dainty meat; yes, they were glad to eat dogs, cats, rats, and the skins of beasts. A little mouse, and puddings made of dogs' guts, was sold at so great a price as exceeds all credit. When Hannibal besieged Casilinum, the famine was so great, that a mouse was sold for three pounds eighteen shillings and eight pence. That was a severe famine in Samaria when an donkey's head was sold for eighty pieces of silver—that is, say some, for four or five pounds, 2 Kings 6:25; others say ten, for a shekel of silver was with the Jews as much as two shillings and sixpence with us. By this account an donkey's head was sold for ten pounds sterling.
In Edward the Second's time, in 1316, there was so great a famine, that horses, dogs, yes, men and children, were stolen for food; and the thieves newly brought into the jails were torn in pieces and eaten presently, half alive, by such as had been longer there. In war, oppression, captivity, and many other calamities, much of the hand of man is to be seen; but famine is a deep, evident, and apparent judgment, which God himself brings upon men by his own high hand. Many or most of those calamities which are brought upon us by human means are avoidable by human helps; but famine is that comprehensive judgment, that the highest power on earth cannot help against: "If the Lord does not help you, where can I get help for you?" said the king of Israel in the famine of Samaria, 2 Kings 6:27.
Ah London, London! if the Lord had inflicted upon your inhabitants this severe judgment of famine, making "the heavens as iron, and the earth as brass;" if the Lord had cut off all your delightful and necessary provisions, and your citizens had been forced to eat one another, or everyone to eat the flesh of his own arms, and the fruit of his own body, how dismal would your condition have been! Lev. 26:19; Hab. 3:17; Deut. 28:23. Certainly such as have been swept away by the raging pestilence ashore, and such as have been slain by the bloody sword at sea, might very well be counted happy—in comparison of those who should live and die under that lingering judgment of a famine. Doubtless famine is a greater judgment than either sword, fire, or pestilence. There are many deaths in a dearth. Famine is the apex of all human calamities, as Basil terms it. Extreme hunger has made mothers into murderers, and so turned the sanctuary of life into the shambles of death.
[3.] Thirdly, God might have overturned London and her inhabitants in a moment by some great and dreadful earthquake, as he has done several great, rich, strong, and populous cities and towns in former times, Isaiah 13:13, and Psalm 18:7. Under Tiberius the emperor thirteen cities of Asia fell down with an earthquake, and six under Trajan, and twelve under Constantine. In Campania, Ferrara in Italy, 1569, in the space of forty hours, by reason of an earthquake, many palaces, temples, and houses were overthrown, with the loss of many a man, the loss amounting to forty hundred thousand pounds. In the year 1171, there was such a mighty earthquake that the city Tripoli, and a great part of Damascus in Antiochia, and Hulcipre, the chief city in the kingdom of Loradin, and other cities of the Saracens, either perished utterly. In the year 1509, in the month of September, there was so great an earthquake at Constantinople, that there were thirteen thousand men destroyed by it, and the city miserably shattered and ruined by it. In the reign of Henry the First, the earth moved with so great a violence, that many buildings were shaken down. Also in divers places it yielded forth a hideous noise, and cast forth flames. In Lombardy there was an earthquake that continued forty days, and removed a town from the place where it stood a great way off. In the eleventh year of the reign of King Henry the Second, on the twenty sixth day of January, was so great an earthquake in Ely, Norfolk, and Suffolk, that it overthrew those who stood upon their feet, and made the bells to ring in the steeples. In the twenty fourth year of his reign, in the territory of Darlington, the earth lifted up herself in the manner of a high tower, and so remained immovable from morning until evening, and then fell with so horrible a noise, that it frighted the inhabitants thereabouts, and the earth, swallowing it up, made there a deep pit, which is seen at this day; for a testimony whereof, Leland says he saw the pits there, commonly called hell-kettles. In the year 1666, the city of Raguza was overthrown by a most dreadful earthquake, and all the inhabitants, which were many thousands, except a few hundred, were destroyed, and buried in the ruins of that city. At Berne, in 1584, near unto which city a certain hill, carried violently beyond and over other hills, covered a whole village, that had ninety families in it, one half house only excepted, wherein the master of the family, with his wife and children, were earnestly calling upon God. Oh the terror of the Lord! and oh the power of fervent prayer!
At Pleures in Rhetia, in 1618, Aug. 25, the whole town was over-covered with a mountain, which with its most swift motion oppressed fifteen hundred. In the days of Uzziah king of Judah, there was such a dreadful earthquake, that the people with fear and horror fled from it: Zech. 14:5, "Yes, you shall flee, like as you fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah," Amos 1:1. This dreadful earthquake was a horrible sign and presage of God's wrath to that sinful people. Josephus tells us that by it half a great hill was removed out of its place, and carried four furlongs another way, so that the highway was obstructed, and the king's gardens utterly marred. The same author further tells us, that at that time that Caesar and Anthony made trial of their titles in the Actian war, and in the seventh year of the reign of king Herod, there happened such an earthquake in the country of Judea, that never the like was seen in any other place; so that ten thousand men were overwhelmed and destroyed in the ruins of their houses. The same author says that in the midst of the Actian war, about the beginning of the spring time, there happened so great an earthquake, as slew thirty thousand people.
Ah London, London! if the Lord had by some dreadful earthquake utterly overthrown you, and buried all your inhabitants under your ruins, as he has dealt by many cities in the past, how dreadful would your case then have been over what now it is! Certainly such earthquakes as overwhelm both cities and citizens are far greater judgments than such a fire or fires, which only consumes men's houses—but never hurts their persons. God might have inflicted this severe judgment upon you, O London—but he has not; therefore it concerns you to be still a-crying, Grace, grace! But,
[4.] Fourthly, God might have inflicted that judgment, both upon city and citizens, that he did upon Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and all that appertained to them: "As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah's men and all their possessions. They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting—The earth is going to swallow us too!" Numbers 16:31-34. Thus they all perished, leaving behind them an example of God's power and judgments! And this accident was the more miserable, in that there were no one who had compassion of them; so that all the people, forgetting those things which were past, did allow God's justice with joyful acclamations, esteeming them unworthy to be bemoaned—but to be held as the plague and perverters of the people.
Oh what a dreadful judgment was this, for people to be buried alive; for houses and inhabitants, and all their goods, to be swallowed up in a moment! What tongue can express, or heart conceive, the terror and astonishment that fell upon Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, when the earth, which God had made firm, and established by a perpetual decree to stand fast under men's feet, was weary of bearing them, and therefore opened her mouth and swallowed them up, and with everything they owned! Ah London, London! if the earth had opened her mouth and swallowed up all your houses and inhabitants, with all your goods and riches in a moment; would not this have been ten thousand thousand times a greater judgment than that fiery dispensation that has passed upon you? But,
[5.] Fifthly and lastly, God might have rained hell out of heaven upon you, as he did upon Sodom and Gomorrah, and this would have been a sorer judgment than what he has inflicted upon you, Gen. 19. If God, by raining fire and brimstone from heaven, had consumed your people, houses, riches, and relations, would not this have been the height of judgment, and infinitely more terrible and dreadful to you than that fiery dispensation that has consumed part of your estates, and turned your houses into ashes?
Now by these five things it is most evident that there
are worse judgments than the judgment of fire, which God in justice might
have inflicted upon you. But free mercy has so interposed, that God has not
stirred up all his wrath; and though he has severely punished you—yet
it is less than your iniquities have deserved, Ezra 9:13; and therefore let
this consideration support and bear up your hearts under all your present
sorrows and sufferings. But,
(11.)The eleventh support to bear up the hearts of the people of God under the recent fiery dispensation, is this—namely, Though your houses are burnt, and your habitations laid desolate—yet your outward condition is not worse than Christ's was when he was in the world. The estate and condition of Christ was low, yes, very low and humble in this world. Witness his own account when he was upon the earth: "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests," Mat. 8:20, or resting-places where they go to rest, "but the Son of man has no place to lay his head." He does not say, Kings have palaces—but I have none; nor he does say that rich men have houses and lands and mansions to entertain their followers—but I have none; but, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests—but the Son of man has no place to lay his head."
Christ was willing to undeceive the scribe, and to show him his mistake. You think, O scribe, by following me, that you will get riches, and honor, and preferment, and to be somebody in the world—but you are highly mistaken; for I have neither silver nor gold, lands nor lordships, no, not so much as a bed to lay my head in. When I was born, I was born in a stable and laid in a feeding trough, Luke 2:17; and now I live upon the charity of others, and am maintained by others, Luke 8:3. I am not rich enough to pay my taxes, and therefore do not deceive yourself, Mat. 17:27.
The great Architect of the world no place to lay his head—but emptied himself of all, and became poor to make us rich, not in goods—but in grace; not in worldly wealth—but in the treasures of the eternal world, Phil. 2:7; 2 Cor. 8:9. He who was heir of both worlds had not a no place of his own to lay his head. Christ lived poor and died poor. As he was born in another man's house, so he was buried in another man's tomb. Austin observes, when Christ died he made no will, he had no crown-lands, only his coat was left, and that the soldiers parted among themselves. Are you houseless, are you penniless, are you poor, and low, and base in this world? So was Christ! Remember "the servant is not greater than his Lord," John 13:16. It is good seriously to ponder upon that saying of Christ, "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master." Mat. 10:24-25.
If Joab the general is in tents, it is a shame for Uriah
to take his ease at home in a soft bed. It is unfitting to see the head all
begored with blood and crowned with thorns, and the members to be decked
with roses and jewels, and to smell of rich spices, and perfumes. Are you in
a worse condition than Christ was in this world? Oh no, no! Why then do you
murmur and complain? Why do you say there is no sorrow compared to your
sorrow, nor any suffering compared to your suffering? O sirs! it is honor
enough for the disciples of Christ to fare as Christ fared in this world.
Why should the servant be in a better condition than his Lord? Is not that
servant happy enough that is equal with his Lord? Did the burnt citizens but
seriously and frequently meditate and ponder upon the poverty and low estate
of Christ while he was in this world, their hearts would be more calm and
quiet under all their crosses and losses than now they are. But,
(12.)The twelfth support to bear up the hearts of the people of God under the recent fiery dispensation, is this—namely, Though your houses are burnt, and your habitations laid desolate, and you have no certain dwelling-place, etc.—yet your outward condition in this world is not worse than theirs was "of whom this world was not worthy." Lam. 5:2, "Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens;" Psalm 107:4-5, "They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their souls fainted within them;" 1 Cor. 4:11, "Even unto this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place;" Heb. 11:37-38, "They wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented. They wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens, and in caves of the earth." Chrysostom well observes from these words, that they did not only wander and were removed from their own habitation—but that they were not quiet even in the woods, deserts, mountains, dens, and caves of the earth—but were hunted by their persecutors from desert to desert, and from mountain to mountain, and from den to den, and from one cave to another.
But hereupon some might be ready to object and reply, OBJECTION. "These were the very worst of the worst of men. Surely these were very vile, base, and unworthy wretches, these were the greatest of sinners, etc."
ANSWER. Oh no! They were such, says the Holy Spirit, "of whom the world was not worthy." The heathenish world, the poor, blind, ignorant, atheistical world, the profane, superstitious, idolatrous, oppressing, and persecuting world was not worthy of them—that is, they were not worthy,
(1.) Of their presence and company.
(2.) They were not worthy of their prayers and tears.
(3.) They were not worthy of their counsel and advice.
(4.) They were not worthy of their gracious lives and examples.
In this scripture you may plainly see that their wandering up and down in deserts, and on the mountains, and in dens, and in the caves of the earth, is reckoned up among those great and dreadful things that the saints suffered in that woeful day. Those precious souls that dwelt in caves and dens, and wandered up and down in sheep-skins and goat-skins, might have rustled in their silks, satins, and velvets; they might, Nebuchadnezzar-like, have vaunted themselves on their stately turrets and palaces, if they would have wounded their consciences and have turned their backs upon Christ and true religion.
Now if the burnt-up citizens of London would but
seriously lay to heart the sad dispensations of God towards his choicest
worthies, then their hearts would neither faint nor sink under their present
losses; crosses, and sufferings. "By faith Moses, when he had grown up,
refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be
mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures
of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of
greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to
his reward." Hebrews 11:24-26.
(13.)The Thirteenth support to bear up the hearts of the people of God under the recent fiery dispensation, is this—namely, There is a worse fire than that which has turned London into a ruinous heap—namely, the fire of HELL, which Christ has freed believers from.
(Continued in the next chapter!)