By Thomas Brooks, 1670
A serious discourse concerning "The Great Fire"
QUESTION. But you will say, What are they?
ANSWER. These that follow—
[1.] First, It highly concerns you who have escaped the fiery dispensation, to take heed of those sins which bring the fiery rod, and which have turned many of your neighbors out of house and home.2 Pet. 2:6; Luke 17:32; Jer. 7:12; 1 Sam. 4:11; Psalm 78:60. What they are, I have already declared at large. If those sins that have brought the fiery judgment upon your neighbors are to be found among you, you have cause to fear the fiery rod, or else some other judgment that shall be equivalent to it. If you sin with others, you shall suffer with others, except there be found repentance on your side, and pardoning grace on God's. The Lord has punished your neighbors with that judgment of judgments,—the fire; and he expects that you should take notice thereof, and be instructed thereby, to take heed of those sins that they have been judged for, else the same or worse judgments will certainly befall you! Because Edom made no good use of Jerusalem's sufferings, therefore the Lord threatens her that shame should cover her, and that she should be cut off forever, Jer. 3:8; Obad. 11-14. God expects that the judgments that he has executed upon all round about you should awaken you out of security, and work in you a holy dread of his name, and provoke you to repentance for what is past, and engage you to a more exact walking with him for the time to come. But,
[2.] Secondly, It highly concerns you not to think those who are burnt up to be greater sinners than yourselves who have escaped the consuming flames.Isaiah 5:22-24, and 51:17, 22-23; Jer. 25:15, 30. Some there were, who told Christ of certain Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices—an argument of God's severe displeasure in the eye of man, to be surprised with a bloody death even in the act of God's service—"Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." Luke 13:1-5. And Christ confirms it by another parallel to it, of the men upon whom the tower in Siloam fell: Luke 13:4-5, "Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." Doubtless there are many in London whose habitations are laid desolate, who were more righteous than many of those whose houses have escaped the consuming flames.
Judgments many times begin at the house of God: the hand of God is many times heaviest upon the holiest of people, 1 Pet. 4:17; Ezek. 9:6. Job was stripped of all his earthly comforts, and set upon an ash-heap to scrape his sores with potsherds, Job 1; and yet Job had not at that time his equal in all the east country for a man fearing God and eschewing evil. Job was a perfect, peerless man, and yet had his habitation laid in ashes, and his substance destroyed, when his neighbors round about him enjoyed their all without disturbance. Doubtless many of those whose houses are turned into a ruinous heap were godly people—people of unblamably lives, people of exemplary lives, yes, earthly angels—if compared with many of those who have escaped the fiery rod. Many have drunk deep of this cup of wrath, who are a people of his choicest love; and therefore do not judge all those to be greater sinners than yourselves, who have not escaped the fiery rod as well as yourselves. You who have escaped the consuming flames should make other men's lashes your lessons, and their burnings your warnings. You should not so much eye what others have suffered—as what yourselves have deserved. But,
[3.] Thirdly, It concerns you to be much in blessing of God that your habitations are standing, when others' habitations are laid desolate round about you.But here look that your thankfulness is, (1.) Real; (2.) Great; (3.) Cordial; (4.) Practical; and, (5.) Constant. No thankfulness below such a thankfulness will befit such whose habitations are standing monuments of God's free mercy. I have largely pressed this duty before, and therefore a touch here must suffice. But,
[4.] Fourthly, Do not be carnally secure.Do not say, "The bitterness of death is past," as Agag did when he came before Samuel, stately and haughtily, with the garb and gait of a king, 1 Sam. 15:32. Many times, when wicked men are in the greatest security, they are then nearest the highest pitch of misery. Is there not guilt enough upon all your hearts, and upon all your habitations, to expose them to as great a desolation as London lies under? Answer. Yes, yes! Why, then, do not you get off this guilt by frequent exercises of faith in the blood of Christ, or else prepare to drink of the same cup that London has drunk of, or of a worse? Ponder seriously and frequently upon these scriptures: Isaiah 51:17, "Awake, awake! Rise up, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath, you who have drained to its dregs the goblet that makes men stagger." Verse 22-23, "This is what your Sovereign Lord says, your God, who defends his people: "See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, 'Fall prostrate that we may walk over you.' And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked over."
"This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: "Take from my hand this cup filled with the wine of my wrath and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it. When they drink it, they will stagger and go mad because of the sword I will send among them." So I took the cup from the Lord's hand and made all the nations to whom he sent me drink it: Jerusalem and the towns of Judah, its kings and officials, to make them a ruin and an object of horror and scorn and cursing, as they are today." Jeremiah 25:15-18. Verse 28-29, "But if they refuse to take the cup from your hand and drink, tell them, 'This is what the Lord Almighty says: You must drink it! See, I am beginning to bring disaster on the city that bears my Name, and will you indeed go unpunished? You will not go unpunished, for I am calling down a sword upon all who live on the earth, declares the Lord Almighty.'"
When Jerusalem has drunk of the cup, if God be God, the nations round shall certainly drink of it. [The particular kings and kingdoms that must drink of this cup are set down from ver 19 to verse 28. See Lam. 4:21, and Ezek. 23:31-34.] God has begun with London: poor London has drunk deeply of the cup of God's fury; and therefore let the nations round repent, or prepare to drink of London's cup. Most of those sins that bring the fiery rod, if not all, are to be found in all the great cities of the world. And therefore let all the great cities in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, England, Ireland, Scotland, etc., take warning by London's desolation, and prepare to meet the Lord in the way of his fury: let them cease from doing evil, and learn to do well: let them repent in dust and ashes, lest they are laid in dust and ashes. Let them break off their sins, lest God throws down their walls and habitations by furious and devouring flames. Let all those whose habitations are still standing remember that the same sins, the same wrath, and the same malicious hands that has laid so many thousand habitations desolate, can lay theirs also desolate, except they reform and turn to the Most High.
[5.] Fifthly, It highly concerns you whose houses are standing monuments of God's mercy, to show much love, affections, pity, and compassion to those who are burnt up and turned out of all—who are houseless, harborless, and penniless this day.Gen. 18; Psalm 102:13; 2 Cor. 11:29. God takes it well at our hands when we pity those whom he thinks meet to punish. One of God's great ends in punishing of some—is to stir up pity and compassion in others towards them. It should melt your hearts to see other men's substances melted in the flames. God has threatened an evil, and only evil, without the least mixture of mercy—to such as show no mercy to those in misery, Obad. 12-13; James 2:13. Who ever have beheld London in its former prosperity and glory, that cannot lament to see London laid desolate? The ashes of London seems to cry out, "Have pity upon me, O my friends!" Job 6:14. Those who will not lament upon the burnt citizens as the greatest objects of their pity, may one day be engulfed under the greatest misery themselves! He was a Nabal, a heartless fellow—who shut up all affections of pity against David in his misery, 1 Sam. 25:10-11. They were cursed Edomites who did behold the ruin of Zion and not mourn over it, Psalm 137:6-8. Let all burnt citizens remember, that usually God pities those most, whom men pity least. Burnt citizens are not to be mocked or menaced—but mourned over.
[6.] Sixthly, It highly concerns you whose houses are standing monuments of God's mercy, to lift up a prayer for all those as are fallen under this heavy judgment of fire.Num. 11:1-3; 2 Kings 19:4. When you are in the mount, be sure you bear the sad condition of the burnt citizens upon your hearts: Neh. 1:3, "And they said unto me—Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire!" Well, what does Nehemiah do? Answer. He lifts up a prayer for them, verse 5-11. O sirs, your prayers must not be pent or confined to your own private interests—but extended to the benefit of all God's suffering servants.
Philo the Jew, discoursing of Aaron's ephod, which he put on when he went to pray, says it was a representation of the whole world, having in it all colors, to represent the condition of all states of all people whatever. It is noble, when we are in the mount, to bear the conditions of others upon our hearts, as well as our own, especially theirs whom the hand of the Lord has severely reached. The best of men have been much in prayer for others; witness Moses, David, Job, Jeremiah, Daniel, Paul, Romans 1:9; 2 Tim. 1:3. And it is very observable that our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our great pattern, was very much in this noble work, for you shall find in John 17 that he puts up but one petition for himself, in verse 1, which petition is repeated again in verse 5. And all the rest of his time he spent in praying both for the converted and unconverted. Now shall our Lord Jesus Christ put up many requests for others and but one for himself, and shall we put up all our requests for ourselves and not one for others? Among the Persians, he who offered sacrifice prayed for all his countrymen. These Persians will one day rise in judgment against many who are called Christians, and yet make no conscience of lifting up a prayer for those who are under the afflicting hand of God. He who prays for himself and not for others, is fitly compared by some to a hedgehog, who laps himself within his own soft down, and turns his bristles to all the world besides. The Jews have a saying, "That since the destruction of Jerusalem, the door of prayer has been shut up." Oh, that we had not cause to fear that, since the burning of London, the door of prayer both for ourselves and one another has been too much shut among us! Oh, that all you whose habitations are standing, would seriously consider—
(1.) That none need prayer more than the burnt citizens.
(2.) You do not know how soon their case may be yours; the same hand or hands that has made them desolate, may make you desolate also.
(3.) Else what do you more than others? Mat. 5:47.
(4.) To pity and pray for those who are in misery, is honorable and commendable.
(5.) It is one of the most compendious ways in the world to prevent all those calamities and miseries that now you fear, and that you think you shall shortly feel.
(6.) To lift up a prayer for those whose sufferings have been severe, is no costly nor chargeable duty, and therefore buckle to it. But,
[7.] Seventhly, It highly concerns you whose houses are standing monuments of God's mercy, seriously to consider that some men's escaping of very great judgments is not properly a preservation—but a reservation to some greater destruction, Gen. 14 and 19 compared; Exod. 14:28; 1 Kings 19. Witness those kings who escaped the edge of the sword, and were afterwards destroyed by fire and brimstone from heaven; and witness Pharaoh, who escaped all the ten plagues of Egypt in order to his being buried with his army in the Red Sea. And witness Sennacherib, who escaped the sword of the destroying angel in order to his falling by the swords of his own sons. Certainly this was a far greater judgment than if he had fallen by the sword of the destroying angel. And witness those very people who escaped pestilence, were now burnt in the very flames, as well as their houses and estates.
O sirs, though you have escaped the burning flames—yet you do not know what other judgments you may be reserved to; and therefore be not secure—but be wakeful and watchful, and provide for the worst. Unexpected judgments many times seize upon people, and slay them, as the soldier slew Archimedes, while he was busy in drawing lines in the dust. Take heed of saying, "surely the worst is past!"
[8.] Eighthly and lastly, Do not rejoice in the fiery calamity which has passed upon others. Do not glory in your neighbors' ruins. The fire-fly leaps and dances in the fire; and so do many wicked men rejoice in the sufferings of others, Proverbs 24:17-18. [Seriously ponder upon chapter 25 and 35 of Ezekiel, and Lam. 1:21; 2 Sam. 16:17, 25; and Lam. 3:14, 45.] Such as rejoice in the sufferings of others, are sick of the devil's disease; but from that disease the Lord deliver all your souls! It is sad to insult over those whom God has humbled; it is high wickedness to triumph over those to whom God has given a cup of astonishment to drink. Such as make the desolations of their neighbors to be the matter either of their secret repast or open exultation, such may fear that the very dregs of divine wrath is reserved for them. It is bad playing upon the harp, because others have been put to hang their harps upon the willows. There cannot be a greater evidence of a wicked heart, than for a man to be merry because others are in misery. Just so, without repentance such may one day dance in infernal flames, who have sung and danced at the remembrance of London's flames: Proverbs 17:5, "He who is glad at calamities," that is, at the calamities of others, "shall not be unpunished." If God be God, such as congratulate our miseries, instead of condoling them, shall be sure to be punished with the worst of punishments; for such do not only sin against the law of grace—but also against the very law of nature—the law of nature teaching men to sympathize with those who are in misery, and not to rejoice over them, because of their miseries. O sirs, do not make others' mourning your music, do not make others' tears your wine, as you would not be made drunk at last with the wine of astonishment.