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.
Though sin in the general lays people under the fiery
dispensations of God—yet if we will but diligently search into the blessed book
of God, which never spoke an untruth, we shall find that there are
several specific sins which bring the heavy judgment of
fire upon cities and countries. As,
1. Gross ATHEISM, practical atheism, is a sin that brings desolating and destroying judgments upon a people.
Atheism denies God either:
(1.) In opinion—saying there is no God; or
(2.) In affection—wishing there were no God; or
(3.) In practice—living as if there were no God, Rev. 22:12.
Psalm 14:1, "The fool says in his heart—There is no God!" Zeph. 1:12, "And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men who are settled upon their lees, that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil." What horrid blasphemy, what gross atheism is here! How do these atheists ungod the great God! How do they deny his omnipotence and omniscience! What an idol-god do they make the great God to be, when they make him to be such a God as will neither do good nor hurt! Epicurus denied not God's essence—but only his providence; for he granted that there was a God, though he thought him to be such a one as did neither good nor evil; but certainly God sits not idle in heaven—but has a sharp and serious eye upon all that is done on the earth. And this both saints and sinners shall find by experience, when in the great day he shall distribute both his rewards and punishments according to what they have done in the flesh.
Atheism is the main disease of the soul, not only pestilent to the person in whom it is harbored—but also to the whole land where it is practiced and permitted. Atheism is worse than idolatry; for idolatry only robs God of his worship—but atheism robs God both of his attributes and being; and therefore mark what follows: verse 13, "Therefore their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation; they shall also build houses—but not inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards—but not drink the wine thereof."
Ezekiel 20:47-49, "Say to the southern forest: 'Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am about to set fire to you, and it will consume all your trees, both green and dry. The blazing flame will not be quenched, and every face from south to north will be scorched by it. Everyone will see that I the Lord have kindled it; it will not be quenched.'" Then I said, "Ah, Sovereign Lord! They are saying of me, 'Isn't he just telling parables?'" Here was a pack of atheists, who mocked and scoffed at the prophet and his parables; they told him that he talked like a madman, and that he spoke of such things that neither himself nor others understood; for he talked of the south, and of the forests of the south, and of fire, and of flaming fire, and of green and dry trees, and that all these things were dark and obscure to them: they put off all the prophet spoke as allegorical, as mystical, and as enigmatical, and as dark visions, and as dreams, and imaginations, and divinations of his own brain—and therefore they needed not much mind what he said. Now mark these atheists, what do they do? They provoke the Lord to kindle a fire, a universal fire, an unquenchable fire, an inextinguishable fire in the midst of Jerusalem, which is here termed a forest, by reason of its barrenness and unfruitfulness, and the multitudes that were in it; and because it was fit for nothing but the axe and the fire.
Atheism is a sin that has brought the greatest woes, miseries, destructions, and desolations imaginable upon the most flourishing kingdoms and most glorious cities in the world. Holy Mr. Greenham was accustomed to say that he feared rather atheism than Popery would be England's ruin. O sirs! were there none within the walls of London, who said in their hearts with David's atheistical fool, "There is no God!" Psalm 14:1. Caligula the emperor was such a one; and Claudius thought himself a god until the loud thunder affrighted him, and then he hid himself and cried, "Claudius is not a God!" Leo X., Hildebrand the magician, and Alexander VI., and Julius II. were all most wretched atheists, and thought that whatever was said of Christ, of heaven, of hell, of the day of judgment, and of the immortality of the soul—were but dreams, impostures, toys, and old wives' fables.
Pope Paul III., at the time of his death, said he would now be resolved of three questions that he had doubted of all his life:
(1.) Whether the soul was immortal or not;
(2.) Whether there were a hell or not;
(3.) Whether there were a God or not.
And another grand atheist said, "I know what I have here in this world—but I know not what I shall have hereafter." Now were there no such atheists within the walls of London before it was turned into ashes? The atheist in Psalm 10:11 says, "He will never see;" and in Psalm 94:7, they rise higher; they say, "The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it." They labor to lay a law of restraint upon God, and to cast a mist before the eye of his providence. And in Isaiah 29:15, they say, "Who sees us? who knows us?" And in Ezek. 9:9, they say, "The Lord has forsaken the earth, and the Lord sees not." These atheists shut up God in heaven as a blind and ignorant God, not knowing, or not regarding, what is done on the earth; they imagine him to be a forgetful God, or a God that sees not. Psalm 73:11, they say, "How does God know? and is there knowledge in the most High?" Thus they deny God's omniscience and God's omnipresence, which to do is to ungod the great God, as much as in them lies.
Now were there no such atheists within the walls of London before it was destroyed by fire? Oh how did practical atheism abound in London! How many within your walls, O London! did profess they knew God—but in their works did deny him, being abominable and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate! Titus 1:16. O sirs! some there are who live loosely under the gospel, who run into all excess of riot—and that, in the face of all promises and threatenings, mercies and judgments, yes, in the very face of life and death, of heaven and hell.
"Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think—Who sees us? Who will know?" Isaiah 29:15. And there are others who sin freely in secret, who can be drunk and filthy in the dark, when the eye of man is not upon them. Certainly those men's hearts are very atheistic, who dare do that in the sight of God—which they tremble to do before the eyes of men! How many are there who flatter themselves in their sins, and conclude that surely the bitterness of hell and wrath is past, and that they are in a fair way for heaven—when every step they take is towards the bottomless pit, and divine vengeance hangs over their heads, ready every moment to fall upon them!
Are there not many that seldom pray, and when they do, how cold, how careless, how dull, how dead, how heartless, how irreverent—are they in all their addresses to the great God? Are there not many such atheists that use no prayer, nor Bible—but make novels their Old Testament, and newspapers their New Testament? Are there not many who grant there is a God—but then it is such a God as is made up all of mercy, and thereupon they think, and speak, and do as wickedly as they please? And are there not some that look upon God as a sin-revenging God, and thereupon wish that there were no God? And are there not others who have very odd and foolish conceptions of God, as if he were an old man, sitting in heaven with royal robes upon his back, a glorious crown upon his head, and a kingly scepter in his hand, and as if he had all the parts and proportion of a man, as the papists are pleased to picture him? Some there are who are so drowned in sensual pleasures, that they scarce remember that they have a God to honor, a hell to escape, a heaven to secure, souls to save, and an account to give up. And others there are who, when they find conscience begin to accuse and terrify them, then, with Cain, they go to their fine buildings, or with Saul to their music, or with the drunkards to their cups, or with the gamesters to their sports, Gen. 4; 1 Sam. 18:6, 10; Job 31:24; Phil. 3:19.
The covetous make their gold their god. The drunkard and the glutton make their bellies their god. The ambitious make honors their god. The voluptuous make pleasures their god. The religionists make pious duties their god. The honest make their moral virtues their god, Amos 6; Mat. 23. Now what abundance of such atheists were there within the walls of London before the fiery judgment passed upon it! The Scripture attributes the ruin of the old world to atheism and profaneness, Gen. 6; and why may not I attribute the ruin and desolation of London to the same? Practical atheists are enough to overthrow the most flourishing nations, and the most flourishing cities which are in all the world.
But to prevent all mistakes in a business of so great a concernment, give me permission to say, that if we speak of atheists in a strict and proper sense, as meaning such as have simply and constantly denied all deity, then I must say that there was never any such creature in the world, who simply and constantly to deny that there is a God. It is an inviolable principle, and indelibly stamped upon man's nature, that there is a God. Those who shall deny that there is a God, must extinguish the very light of nature, by which the very heathen in all the ages of the world have acknowledged a supreme divine Being. Bion of Borysthenes was a very great atheist all his lifetime; he denied the gods, despised their temples, and derided their worship; yet when death came, he would rather have endured the greatest torment than to have died, and that not so much for fear of a natural death—but for fear of what followed after, lest God, whom he had denied, should give him up into the hand of the devil whom he had served; and therefore at the time of his death he put forth his hand, crying,"Welcome, devil, welcome!" —foolishly thinking to pacify the devil by this flattering salutation.
The stoutest atheists that ever lived cannot resolutely and constantly believe there is no God; hence heathens have condemned some to death who denied there was a God. Tully observes of Epicurus, that though no man seemed more to despise both God and death—yet no man feared more both the one and the other. The philosophers did, with one consent, affirm that there is a God—but knew him not. He who shall deny there is a God, sins with a very high hand against the light of nature; for every creature, yes, the least gnat and fly, and the basest worm that crawls upon the ground, will confute and confound that man who disputes whether there be a God or not. The name of God is written in such full, fair, and shining characters upon the whole creation, that all men may run and read that there is a God. The notion of a deity is so strongly and deeply impressed upon the tables of all men's hearts, that to deny a God is to quench the very principles of common nature; yes, it is formally, a killing of God, as much as in the creature lies.
There are none of these atheists in hell; for the devils believe and tremble, James 2:19. The Greek word which is here used, signifies properly the roaring of the sea; it implies such an extreme fear, as causes not only trembling—but also a roaring and screeching out, Mark 6:49; Acts 16:29. The devils believe and acknowledge four articles of our faith, Mat. 8:29,
(1.) They acknowledge God;
(2.) They acknowledge Christ;
(3.) They acknowledge the day of judgment;
(4.) They acknowledge that they shall be tormented then; so that he who does not believe that there is a God, is more vile than a devil. To deny there is a God, is a sort of atheism that is not to be found in hell.
"On earth are atheists many,
In hell there are not any."
Augustine, speaking of atheists, says, "That albeit there are some who think, or would persuade themselves, that there is no God; yet the most vile and desperate wretch who ever lived would not say—there was no God." Seneca has a remarkable speech, "They lie," says he, "who say they perceive not there is a God; for although they affirm it to you in the daytime—yet by night they doubt of it. Further, I have heard of some who have denied that there was a God; yet never knew the man but, when he was sick, he would seek unto God for help; therefore they do but lie who say there is no God; they sin against the light of their own consciences; they who most studiously go about to deny God—yet cannot do it—but some check of conscience will fly in their faces!"
Tully would say that there was never any nation under heaven so barbarous as to deny that there was a God. I have seen a city without walls—but never any city but acknowledged a God. Whatever you see, and whatever you see not, is God; that is, all things visible and invisible do express unto you a deity, and lead you as by the hand to contemplate heavenly, spiritual, and eternal things. God is known by his effects, though not by his essence. The creation of the world is a mirror, wherein, says Paul, we may behold his eternal power and Godhead, Romans 1.
I think Zeno hit the mark when he said, "To hear and see an atheist die, will more demonstrate that there is a God, than all the learned can do by all their arguments." That epitaph which was written upon Sennacherib's tomb, may well be written upon every atheist, "He who looks upon us, let him believe there is a God, and learn to fear him." In all the ages of the world, God has given a most severe testimony against atheists. That Assyrian who bragged at a feast that he did never offer sacrifice to a God, was eaten up by lice. And Lucian, a great atheist, going to supper abroad, left his hounds fast when he went, and as he returned home, having railed against God and his word, his dogs fell mad, met him, and tore him in pieces. I have read of some heathens who, being at sea in a very dangerous storm, where they were likely to be cast away, they each began to examine themselves what would be the reason of so dreadful a storm, and after that they had all cast up their accounts by querying with themselves, "What have I done," said one, and "What have I done," said another, "that has occasioned this storm?" At last it issued thus, they remembered that they had Diagoras the atheist on board; and rather than they would all perish for that atheist's sake, they took him by the heels and hurled him overboard, and then the storm ceased, and the sea was quiet.
It will be hard to name an atheist either in the Holy Scripture, or in ecclesiastical histories, or in heathen writings, which came not to some fearful end; and therefore no wonder if Austin would not be an atheist for half an hour for the gain of a million of worlds, because he knew not but God might in that time make an end of him. I have been the longer upon this head, because atheist and atheism did never so abound in this land as it has done these last years, and that you may the clearer see who they are, who have brought that sad judgment of fire upon that once glorious city of London. Ah London, London! it was the gross atheism and the practical atheist who have turned you into a ruinous heap!
Mark, I readily grant that there is the seeds, relics, stirring, and moving of atheism in the best and holiest of men; but then,
(1.) They disallow of it, and discountenance it;
(2.) It is lamented and bewailed by them;
(3.) They oppose it, and conflict with it;
(4.) They use all holy and conscientious means and endeavors to be rid of it;
(5.) By degrees they gain ground against it, and therefore God never did, nor ever will, turn cities or kingdoms into flames for those seeds and remains of atheism which are to be found in the best of saints.
It is that atheism that is rampant, that reigns in the hearts and lives of sinners, as a prince reigns upon his throne, that brings desolating and destroying judgments upon the most flourishing kingdoms and the most glorious cities which are in the world. But,
2. Secondly, LUXURY and INTEMPERANCE bring desolating and destroying judgments upon places and people.Joel 1:5, "Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips." verse 19-20, "To you, O Lord, I call, for fire has devoured the open pastures and flames have burned up all the trees of the field. Even the wild animals pant for you; the streams of water have dried up and fire has devoured the open pastures." [In ecclesiastical history you may read of one drunkard, who, being touched with his sin, wept himself blind; but the drunkards of our days are more apt to drink themselves blind than to weep themselves blind.]
Luxury is a sin which brings both famine and fire upon a people; it brought the Chaldeans upon the Jews, who by fire and sword laid all waste. The horses of the Chaldeans destroyed their pastures, vines, fig-trees, pomegranates, etc., which grew in many places of the land, and their soldiers set their houses on fire, and so brought all to ruin. Amos 6:1, "Woe to those who are at ease in Zion;" verse 3, "That put far away the evil day." "You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end. The Sovereign Lord has sworn by himself—the Lord God Almighty declares: "I abhor the pride of Jacob and detest his fortresses; I will deliver up the city and everything in it." Amos 6:4-8. Verse 11, "For the Lord has given the command, and he will smash the great house into pieces and the small house into bits."
Luxury is a sin that forfeits all a man's enjoyments, that turns him out of house and home. Samaria was a very glorious city, and a very strong city, and a very rich city, and a very populous city, and a very ancient city, etc., and yet luxury and intemperance turned it into ashes—it brought desolating and destroying judgments upon it. The rich citizens of Samaria were given up to mirth and music, to luxuries and excesses, to riotousness and drunkenness, to feasting and carousing; and by these vanities and debaucheries they provoked the Lord to command the Chaldeans to fall on and to rob them of their riches, and to lay their glorious city in ashes.
Just so, it was luxury and intemperance that provoked the Lord to rain hell out of heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah, Gen. 18; luxury turned those rich and populous cities into ruinous heaps.
Ah London! London! the luxuries and excesses, the riotousness and drunkenness, the mad feasting and carousing that have been withinbyour walls, that have been within your great halls, taverns, and other great houses—has turned you into ashes, and laid your glory in the dust. O you burnt citizens of London! what shameful spewing has been in some of your feasts! How often have many of you poured into your bodies such intoxicating drinks as has many times laid you asleep, stripped you of your reason, took away your minds, robbed you of yourselves, and laid a beast in your stead! Drunkenness is so base, so vile a sin, that it transforms the soul, deforms the body, bereaves the brain, empties the strength, defiles the affections, and metamorphoses the whole man; yes, it unmans the man. Cyrus the Persian monarch being demanded of his grandfather Astyages why he would drink no wine, answered, "For fear lest they give me poison; for yesterday, when you celebrated your birthday, I judged that somebody had poisoned all the wine they drank, because not one of all those who were present at the feast arose in his right mind!" Has it not been thus with many of you? If it has, lay your hands upon your mouths, and say, "The Lord is righteous, though he has laid your houses in ashes!"
Anacharsis used to say that "the first cup of wine was for thirst, the second for nourishment, the third for mirth, and the fourth for madness!" But what would he have said had he lived within the walls of London these last six years? Isaiah 5:22; Hab. 2:17. Ah London! London! were there none within your walls, who were strong to drink, and that gave their neighbor drink, and that put the bottle to them to make them drunk, that they might look on their nakedness? Were there none within your walls, that with Marcus Antoninus, Darius, Alexander the Great, etc., did boast, and brag, and pride themselves in their great abilities to drink down any who should come into their company? Were there none within your walls, O London! who cried out, "If you take away our liquor, you take away our lives?"
Austin brings in the drunkard, saying, "He had rather lose his life than his wine." And Ambrose speaks of one Theotimus, who being told by his physicians that much quaffing would make him blind, answered then, "Farewell sweet light, farewell sweet eyes; if you will not bear wine, you are no eyes for me!" Were there none within your walls, O London! who did abuse the good creatures of God so profusely, so prodigally, so prodigiously, as if they had been sent into the world for no other end but thus to abuse themselves, reproach their Maker, and abuse those choice blessings which God had given for more noble ends?
The custom of drunkenness has been so great within your walls, O London! that it is no wonder if the Lord for that alone has laid your glory in the dust; yes, and that shameful spewing is upon all your glory, Hab. 2:16, considering what shameful spewing have been in your streets, taverns, halls, alehouses, and other great men's houses, where temperance, righteousness, justice, and holiness should have dwelt in glory and triumph! Ah London! how many within your walls have been drinking wine in bowls, when they should have been mourning over their sins, and grieving for the afflictions of Joseph, and sighing over those distressed Christians whose drink was nothing but sorrow and blood and tears! These are the men who have kindled a burning upon all your glory.
O sirs! that you would forever remember that intemperance, luxury, is a sin, an enemy that,
[1.] First, Intemperance robs God of his glory. It denies him all service and obedience. Intemperate people are neither fit for praying to God, nor praising of God, nor receiving from God. Intemperance turns the temple of the Holy Spirit into a sepulcher, a kitchen, a hog-stye; and what glory then can God have from an intemperate person? 1 Cor. 6:19. But,
[2.] Secondly, Intemperance robs both God and man, of much precious time. Time is a precious jewel, more worth than all the world. [When Ignatius heard a clock strike, he would say, I have one hour more to answer for: so precious a jewel was time in his eye.] One called his friends thieves, because they stole time from him; and certainly there are no worse thieves than intemperance; for that robs men of their hearing-times, and their praying-times, and their reading-times. There is so much precious time spent in the tavern and in the tippling-house, that the intemperate person cannot be at leisure to spend any time in his family or in his closet, etc., to save his own or others' souls. But there will come a time, either in this or the other world, wherein all intemperate people will wish that they had spent that precious time in serving of God, and in saving their own and others' souls, which they have spent in luxury and excess, carousing and drinking; but all too late, all too late! Time is not only the fruit of God's indulgence—but also the fruit of Christ's purchase. That doom passed upon Adam, "In the day you eat thereof, you shall die the death," or dying, you shall die, would have been put in execution immediately, had not Christ interposed immediately between man's sin and God's wrath. What can there be of more weight and importance, than eternity? It is the heaven of heaven, and the very hell of hell, without which neither would heaven be so desirable, nor hell so formidable. Now eternity depends upon time. Time is the prologue to eternity; the great weight of eternity hangs upon the small wire of time! Our time, whether it be longer or shorter, is given us by God to provide for our everlasting condition, 2 Cor. 6:2; Isaiah 49:8. We have souls to save, a hell to escape, a heaven to make sure, our pardon to sue out, our saving interest in Christ to make good; and all this must be quickly done, or we undone, and that forever. Man's eternal weal or woe depends upon his good pr bad improvement of that inch of time which is allotted to him. Now what a dreadful account will such give up at last, who have wasted away their precious time in luxury and excess. But,
[3.] Thirdly, Intemperance robs men of their names. Bonosus, a beastly drunken emperor, was called a tankard; and Tiberius was surnamed Biberius for his tippling; and Erasmus was called Eccius Jeccius for the same cause, and Diotimus of Athens was called a tun-dish, and young Cicero a hog's-head. But,
[4.] Fourthly, Intemperance robs men of their health; for how many are there, that by drinking to other men's healths, have destroyed their own! Many more perish by intemperance than by violence. Intemperance is the source and nurse of all kinds of diseases. More perish by surfeiting than by suffering. Every intemperate person digs his own grave with his own mouth and teeth, and is certainly a self-tormentor, a self-destroyer, a self-murderer. I have read of a monk at Prague, who having heard the confessions of many drunkards, wondered at it, and for an experiment he would needs try his brain with this sin, so accordingly he drank himself drunk. Now after the vexation of three days' sickness, to all who confessed that sin he enjoined no other penance but this, "Go and be drunk again!" intimating thereby that there was no punishment, no torment which could be inflicted upon a drunkard so great as, "Go and be drunk again!" Besides all the other plagues which attend this sin, drunkenness is a woe to itself. Temperance is the best and noblest medicine, and those who use it commonly are most long-lived. But,
[5.] Fifthly, Intemperance robs men of their estates. It robs the wife many times of her dowry, and the children of their portion, and the husband of his inheritance, his trade, his all. The very word luxury, properly signifies the wasting of the good which at the present we enjoy. Solomon hit the mark when he said, "The drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty," Proverbs 23:21. The full cup makes an empty purse, and a fat dish makes a lean money-bag. He who draws you wine his keg, puts your money into his own pocket. Mr. Livius, when he had spent a great estate in luxurious living, jesting at his own folly, he said that he had left nothing for his heir more than air and mire. Philip king of Macedon, making war upon the Persians, understood that they were a luxurious people; he presently withdrew his army, saying it was needless to make war upon them, who by their luxury would shortly overthrow themselves. But,
[6.] Sixthly, Intemperance robs men of everlasting happiness and blessedness. Gal. 5:19-21. It shuts them out from all the glory of that upper world, and tumbles them down to the lowest hell, as you may see in that great instance of luxurious Dives, Luke 16:19-26. The intemperate man's table proves a snare to his soul. Fullness breeds forgetfulness, wantonness, blockishness, and stupidity; and therefore no wonder if God shuts the gates of glory against intemperate people. Look! as no leper might be in the camp of Israel, Num. 5; and as no Gileadite might pass over Jordan, Judges 12; and as no fearful man might enter into the wars of Midian, chapter 7; and as no bastard might enter into the sanctuary, Deut. 33; so no luxurious person shall enter into heaven. Of all sorts of sinners, the luxurious sinner is most rarely reformed. The adulterer may become chaste, the thief may become an honest man, the swearer may obtain a sanctified tongue; but how rare is it to see a luxurious person repent, break off his sins, close with Christ, and walk to heaven! Luxurious people eat and drink away their Christ; yes, they eat and drink away their souls, nay, they eat and drink away their own salvation! Mat. 21:31-32; Luke 23:43. Those who serve their own bellies, serve not the Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore they shall never reign with him in eternal heaven. Certainly that man who makes his belly his god, shall be forever separated from God, "For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things." Philippians 3:18-19. All belly-gods shall at last be found in the belly of hell. The intemperate person has his heaven here; his hell is to come. Now he has his sweet cups, his merry cups, his pleasant cups. Oh, but there is a cup of shame and sorrow to come! "Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup." Psalm 11:6. The intemperate person has been a gulf to devour many mercies, and therefore he shall at last be cast into a gulf of endless miseries. In a word, intemperance is a mother sin, a breeding sin; it is a sin which is an inlet to all other sins; we may call it "Gad, for behold, a troop comes," Deut. 32:17, 24. Oh the pride, the oppression, the cruelty, the security, the uncleanness, the filthiness, the profaneness which comes trooping after intemperance, Jer. 5:7-9. And therefore Aristotle concludes, that double punishments are due to drunkards; first for their drunkenness, and then for other sins committed in and by their drunkenness.
Now seeing that intemperance and luxury is so great a sin, is it any wonder to see divine justice turn the most glorious cities in the world into a ruinous heap, when this sin of intemperance is rampant in the midst of them? Ah, London! London! the intemperance and luxury that has been within your walls, has brought the desolating judgment of fire upon you, that has laid all your glory in ashes and rubbish! How many great houses were there once within your walls, that should have been public schools of piety and virtue—but were turned into mere nurseries of luxury and debauchery! How have the rules of the Persian civility been forgotten in the midst of you Est. 1:6-7. How many within your walls did make their belly their God, their kitchen their religion, their dresser their altar, and their cook their minister, whose whole felicity lay in eating and drinking, whose bodies were as sponges, and whose throats were as open sepulchers to take in all precious liquors, and whose bellies were as graves to bury all God's creatures in!
And how have many men been forced to unman themselves, either to please some, or to avoid the anger or wrath of others, or else to gain the honorable character of being a high boy, or of one who was strong to drink among others, or to drink down others! Oh the drunken matches that have been within your walls, O London!—the Lord has seen them, and been provoked by them to kindle a fire in the midst of you.
Luxury is a sin which never goes alone; it has many other great sins attending and waiting on it. Idleness, fighting, quarreling, whoring, cheating, stealing, robbing, are the handmaids which wait on luxury, Proverbs 23:29-33; and therefore no wonder if God has appeared in flames of fire against it. I have been the longer upon this head, because luxury, intemperance, is one of the great darling sins of our age and day; it is grown to epidemic, not only in the city—but in other countries also, and it is a very God-dishonoring, and a God-provoking, and a soul-damning, and a land-destroying sin: and oh, that what I have writ might be so blessed as to put some effectual stop to those notorious public excesses and luxuries that have been and still are rampant in most parts of the land. "You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter." James 5:5. "Those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces." Luke 7:25
But now, beloved, this sin of luxury and intemperance I cannot charge with clear and full evidence upon the people of the Lord, who truly fear him and sincerely serve him, whose habitations were once within the walls of London; nay, this I know, that for this very sin among others, their souls did often mourn before the Lord in secret. And truly of such professors who live and wallow in luxury and intemperance, if we compare their lives and Christ's laws together, I think we may confidently conclude, "Either this is not Christianity, or they are not Christians." And thus Tertullian, Cyprian, Justin Martyr, and others concluded against the luxurious and intemperate Christians of their times. Salvian relates how the heathen did reproach such luxurious Christians, who by their lewd lives made the gospel of Christ to be a reproach: "Where," said the heathen, "is that good law which they do believe? Where are those rules of godliness which they learn? They read the holy Gospel, and yet are unclean; they hear the apostles' writings, and yet are drunk; they follow Christ, and yet disobey Christ; they profess a holy law, and yet do lead impure lives!" Panormitan, a heathen, having read the 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters of Matthew, and comparing the loose and luxurious lives of professing Christians with those rules of Christ; concluded that those people were not Christians.
The loose and luxurious lives of many Christians was made by the heathen, the reproach of Christ himself, "How can we think the master to be good—whose disciples we see to be so bad?" Epiphanius says that in his days many shunned the society of the Christians because of the looseness and luxuriousness of their lives. And Augustine confessed that in his time the loose and luxurious lives of many who professed the Christian religion gave a great advantage to the Manichees to reproach the whole church of God and the ways of God. The Manichees were a sort of people who affirmed that there were two principles or beginnings of things—namely, a summum bonum and a summum malum. A summum bonum, from whence sprang all good, and a summum malum, from whence issued forth all evil. Now the loose and luxurious lives of such as had a profession upon them hardened these in their errors, and caused them with open mouth greatly to reproach and deeply to censure the sincerest saints.
Chrysostom preferred brute beasts before luxurious people; for they go from belly to labor, when the luxurious person goes from belly to bed, or from belly to cards or dice, if not to something that is worse.
Augustine well observes that God has not given to man talons and claws to rend and tear in pieces—like bears and leopards; nor horns to push—like bulls and rams; nor a sting to prick—like wasps, and bees, and serpents; nor a bill to strike—like eagles and ostriches; nor a wide mouth to devour—like dogs and lions; but a little mouth, to show that man should be very temperate both in his eating and drinking. How applicable these things are to the luxurious people that lived within the walls of London before it was turned into ashes, I shall leave the wise in heart to judge. But,
3. Thirdly, Those great and horrid sins that were to be found in many men's callings—namely, excessive worldliness, extortion, deceit, bribery, etc.—these brought the severe judgment of fire upon us. Proverbs 28:20, 22, and see Josh. 7:15, 21, 24-25. When men are so greedy and mad upon the world that they make haste to be rich by all sinful devices and cursed practices, no wonder if God burns up their substance, and turns their persons out of house and home. The coal the eagle got from the altar—the sacrifice—and carried it to her nest, set all on fire; so that estate that men get by sinful ways and unwarrantable courses sooner or later will set all they have on fire. He who resolves to be evil, may soon be rich, when the spring of conscience is screwed up to the highest pin, and is ready to crack; when religion is locked up in an out-room, and forbidden upon pain of death to look into the shop or warehouse. No wonder such men thrive and grow great in the world; but all the riches such men store up, is but fuel for the fire!
Hab. 2:9, "Woe to him who builds his realm by unjust gain to set his nest on high, to escape the clutches of ruin!" verse 11, "The stones of the wall will cry out, and the beams of the woodwork will echo it." verse 13, "Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people's labor is only fuel for the fire, that the nations exhaust themselves for nothing?" ["He," says Chrysostom, "who locks up ill-gotten riches in his counting-house, locks up a thief in his counting-house, which will carry all away, and if he look not the better to it, his precious soul also!"] They had gotten great estates by an evil covetousness, and God was resolved that he would make a bonfire of all their ill-gotten goods; and though they should venture their lives to save their goods and quench the flames—yet all should be but labor in vain.
Jer. 51:58, "This is what the Lord Almighty says—Babylon's thick wall will be leveled and her high gates set on fire; the peoples exhaust themselves for nothing, the nations' labor is only fuel for the flames." Though Babylon was a city of great fame and state and riches, and deservedly accounted one of the world's nine wonders; though the length of the walls was forty-six miles, and the height fifty cubits, and of so great a breadth that carts and carriages might meet on the top of them; yes, though it was so great and vast a city; yet at last, according to the word of the Lord, it was set on fire; and though the inhabitants did weary and tire out themselves to quench the flames, and to save their stately houses and ill-gotten riches—yet all was labor in vain, and to no purpose. In the days of Pliny it was an utter desolation, and in the time of Jerome it was turned into a park, in which the king of Persia used to hunt.
Just so, Ezek. 28:18-19, "By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more." Tyre, among the sea-bordering cities, was most famous and renowned for merchandise and trade; for there resorted the merchants of all countries of Palestina, Syria, Egypt, Persia, and Assyria. They of Tarshish brought iron, lead, brass, and silver there. The Syrians brought there carbuncles, purple, broidered work, fine linen, coral, and pearl there. The Jews brought their honey, oil, treacle, cassia, and calamus there. The Arabians brought lambs, muttons, and goats there. The Sabeans brought their exquisite spices and apothecary stuff, with gold and precious stones there. Now by fraud and deceit they grew exceeding rich and wealthy; which in the close issued in their total ruin, according to that of the prophet: Zech. 9:3-4, "Tyre has built herself a stronghold; she has heaped up silver like dust, and gold like the dirt of the streets. But the Lord will take away her possessions and destroy her power on the sea, and she will be consumed by fire!" The Tyrians did hold themselves invincible, because of their situation being round about environed by the sea; but yet the prophet tells them, that though they were compassed about with deep waters—yet they should be destroyed by fire, which was executed by Alexander the Great, as historians testify.
It is not the strength, nor riches, nor situation, nor trade, nor honor, nor fame, nor antiquity of a city—which can preserve it, when God beforehand has by fire determined the destruction of it. Tyre was a city of the greatest merchandising, it was a city of mighty trade, they were set upon heaping up of riches by hook or by crook; so riches came in, though it were at the door of oppression, violence, or injustice, Ezek. 27; Isaiah 23:5-9. The trade of Tyre was great, and the sins which attended that trade were very great, and for these God sent a devouring fire among them, which destroyed their palaces and treasuries, and reduced their glorious city to ashes. By the iniquity of their trade, they had built palaces and stately houses, and filled their shops and warehouses and cellars with rich and choice commodities; but when God brought Nebuchadnezzar upon them, what the Chaldeans could not destroy by the sword they consumed by fire, turning all their glorious palaces, and stately buildings, and costly shops, and warehouses, into ashes, as historians testify.
Just so, Nineveh, for greatness, riches, and antiquity, was one of the noblest cities in the world, it was the capital and chief city of the Assyrian empire; and though God, upon their repentance and humiliation, did spare them for a time, Jonah 3—yet afterwards, she returning to her old trade of robberies, covetousness, extortions, fraud, deceitful dealings, etc., God delivered her up as a prey into the hands of many of her enemies, who astonishingly pillaged her; and at last God gave her into the hands of the Medes, who brought her to a final and irrecoverable desolation, according to the prophecy of the prophet Nahum, chapter 2:9-10, "Plunder the silver! Plunder the gold! The supply is endless, the wealth from all its treasures! She is pillaged, plundered, stripped! Hearts melt, knees give way, bodies tremble, every face grows pale!" Verse 13, "I am against you," declares the Lord Almighty. "I will burn up your chariots in smoke." See also chapter 3:12-15. "There the fire will devour you; the sword will cut you down and, like grasshoppers, consume you."
The like judgment fell upon Sidon, and upon that rich and renowned city of Corinth, which, through the commodiousness of the haven, was the most frequented place in the world for the trade of merchants out of Asia and Europe, and great and many were their sins about their trade; and for these she was finally destroyed, and turned into cinders and ashes by the Romans!
Just so, BRIBERY is a sin which brings desolating and destroying judgments both upon people and places: Amos 5:11-12, "You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts." Bribery is one of those mighty sins, or one of those bony or big-boned sins, as the Hebrew has it, for which God threatens to turn them out of house and home. Bribery is a bony sin, a huge sin, a heinous sin, a monstrous sin, a sin which is capable of all manner of aggravations, and therefore the Lord punishes it with desolating judgments! Job 15:34, "And fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery," or the receivers of gifts, as both the Hebrew and the Septuagint may be read. When wicked men build their houses, their tabernacles, by bribery, cheating, defrauding, or overreaching others, it is a righteous thing with God to set their houses on fire about their ears! Thus Diocletian had his house wholly consumed by lightning and a flame of fire that fell from heaven upon it, as Eusebius tells us.
Upon such a generation of men as build their houses by bribery, or oppression, or deceit, etc., God many times makes good that word, Job 18:15, "Brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation;" and that word, Micah 3:11-12, "Her leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the Lord and say, "Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us." Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets." Bribery and covetousness had overrun all sorts of such as were in power and authority, whether civil or ecclesiastical, and for this Zion must be ploughed as a field, and Jerusalem become heaps. By these exquisite terms the total and dismal desolation and destruction of Zion, Jerusalem, and the temple, that famous house which was once worthily reckoned one of the seven wonders of the world—is set forth unto us. That Jerusalem, that God's house and temple wherein they so much trusted and gloried, should become as a mountainous forest and wilderness, was incredible to them as the jumbling of heaven and earth together, or the dethroning of God by taking the crown from his head and thrusting of him from his chair of state; and yet all this was made good according to that dreadful prophecy of Christ, "There shall not be left one stone upon another," Luke 19:43-44. These are the sad effects of bribery, covetousness, etc. Just so, Proverbs 29:4, "By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down."
Ah London! London! were there none within your walls, who took bribes to pervert the ways of justice? Proverbs 17:23; were there none whose right hands were full of bribes? Psalm 26:10; were there none like Samuel's sons, who turned aside after filthy lucre, and took bribes, and perverted justice in the midst of you? 1 Sam. 8:3; were there none within your walls, who asked for a bribe? Micah 7:3; or who with Gehazi run after rewards? or who were not ready to transgress for a piece of bread? Proverbs 28:21; or who were not like the horse-leech's daughter, still crying out, 'Give, give!' Proverbs 30:15. Themistocles caused the brand of infamy to be set upon Athmius' children, and all his posterity after him, because he brought gold from the king of Persia to corrupt, bribe, and win the Grecians. If all who were within the walls of London that received bribes, and run after rewards, had the brand of infamy set upon them, I am apt to think many of them would be ashamed to walk the streets!
Ah London! London! were there none within your walls, who had the balance of deceit in their hands, and who loved to oppress, falsifying the balances by deceit, and who had in their bags different weights, who sold by one measure—and bought by another, who had wicked balances, and the bag of deceitful weights in their hands, their houses, their shops, their warehouses? Hosea 12:7; Amos 8:5; Deut. 25:13; Micah 6:11. Well, suppose there were many such within the walls of London, what of that? why then, I would say,
[1.] First, Such run counter-cross to divine commands: Lev. 19:35-36, "'Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. Use honest scales and honest weights." Ezek. 45:10, "You shall have just balances." Deut. 25:13-16, "Do not have two differing weights in your bag—one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house—one large, one small. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. For the Lord your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly." Lev. 19:13; Mark 10:19; 1 Cor. 7:5. We have a common saying, Weight and measure, is heaven's treasure. But,
[2.] Secondly, Such people and such practices are an abomination to the Lord: Deut. 25:16, "For all who do such things, and all who do unrighteousness, are an abomination unto the Lord your God." Proverbs 11:1, "A false balance is abomination to the Lord;" chapter 20:10, "Differing weights and differing measures— the Lord detests them both." Now mark, the very weights and measures are an abomination to the Lord; how much more the men who make use of them! But,
[3.] Thirdly, Such act counter-cross to God's delight: Proverbs 11:1, "A just weight is his delight;" chapter 16:11, "Honest scales and balances are from the Lord." They are commanded by the Lord, and commended by the Lord, and they are the delight of the Lord. But,
[4.] Fourthly, Such act counter-cross to God's nature, which is holy, just, and righteous, and to all his administrations, which are full of righteousness, justice, and equity, Ezek. 18, and 33:17, 20, 29. But,
[5.] Fifthly, Such act counter-cross to the very light and law of nature, by not dealing by others as they would have others deal by them, Mat. 7:12. They are the ruiners of the land, and enemies to all civil society. But,
[6.] Sixthly, Such stir up the anger and indignation of God against themselves: Ezek. 22:13, "I will surely strike my hands together at the unjust gain you have made and at the blood you have shed in your midst." God is here said to strike his hands at their dishonest gain, to note the greatness of his anger, wrath, and indignation against them; and his readiness and resolvedness to take vengeance on them, by animating, instigating, encouraging, and stirring up the Chaldeans to destroy their persons by the sword, and to consume their riches and houses by fire, chapter 21:17. God has no physical hand to smite; but this is spoken after the manner of men, who oftentimes express the greatness of their wrath and rage by striking their hands one against another. God, to show the greatness of his spleen and rage, in a holy sense, against them for their dishonest gain, expresses it by the striking of his hands: 1 Thes. 4:6, "In this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you." Sooner or later, vengeance will reach those who make it their business, their trade, to overreach others. But,
[7.] Seventhly, Such act counter-cross to the examples of the most eminent saints. To the example of Moses: Num. 16:15, "I have not taken a donkey from them, neither have I hurt one of them." Of Samuel, 1 Sam. 12:3-5; of Zacharias and Elizabeth, Luke 1:5-6; of Paul, Acts 24:16; yes, to the examples of all the apostles, Judas excepted: 2 Cor. 1:12, and 7:2, "Receive us; we have wronged no man, we have corrupted no man, we have defrauded no man." But,
[8.] Eighthly and lastly, Such act counter-cross to their own everlasting happiness and blessedness: 1 Cor. 6:8-9, "Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers. Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?" Unrighteous people may hear much of heaven, and talk much of heaven, and set their faces towards heaven; but they shall never inherit the kingdom of heaven. God himself has locked fast the gate of blessedness against the unrighteous; and therefore all the world shall never be able to open it. Heaven would be no heaven—but a hell, if the unrighteous should inhabit there.
To sum up all: If such people run counter-cross to God's commands, if their persons and practices are an abomination to the Lord, if they act counter-cross to God's delight and to his nature, yes, to the very light and law of nature, to the best examples, and to their own happiness and blessedness—is it any wonder then to see divine justice set such men's houses on fire about their ears, and to see the flames consume such estates as were gotten either by fraud or force, by craft or cruelty, etc.?
Now the gaining of the things of this world by hook or by crook, or by such wicked courses and cursed practices that we have been discoursing on, I cannot charge upon the people of God, who did truly fear him, whose habitations were once within the walls of London, because such practices would neither stand with grace, nor with the honor of God, nor with the credit of religion, nor with the law of God, nor with the law of nature, nor with the peace of a saint's soul. Besides, it is very observable to me, that those who have the balances of deceit in their hand, are called Canaanites in that 12th chapter of Hosea, 7th verse, "He is a merchant; the balances of deceit are in his hand; he loves to oppress"—Heb., he is Canaan, that is, a mere natural man, who has no common honesty in him, a money-merchant, one who cares not how he comes by it, just so that he may have it; one who counts all good fish which come into his net, though it be through cunning contrivances or violent practices. But,
4. Fourthly, Desperate incorrigibleness and unreformedness under wasting and destroying judgments, brings the desolating judgment of fire upon a people, Lev. 25; Deut. 28; Jer. 30:23-24. Isaiah 42:24-25, "Who handed Jacob over to become loot, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned? For they would not follow his ways; they did not obey his law. So he poured out on them his burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart."
"If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over. You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars and pile your dead bodies on the lifeless forms of your idols, and I will abhor you. I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings. I will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled. I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins!" Leviticus 26:27-33
"Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness— only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with oil. Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire; your fields are being stripped by foreigners right before you, laid waste as when overthrown by strangers. The Daughter of Zion is left like a shelter in a vineyard, like a hut in a field of melons, like a city under siege." Isaiah 1:5-8
"I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another. One field had rain; another had none and dried up. People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me," declares the Lord. "Many times I struck your gardens and vineyards, I struck them with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured your fig and olive trees, yet you have not returned to me," declares the Lord. "I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me," declares the Lord. "I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. You were like a burning stick snatched from the fire, yet you have not returned to me," declares the Lord." Amos 4:7-11
By all these scriptures it is most evident that desperate incorrigibleness and unreformedness under wasting and destroying judgments brings the fiery dispensations of God upon a people. Ah London, London! how long has the Lord been striving with you by his Spirit, by his word, by his messengers, by his mercies, and by lesser judgments—and yet you have been incorrigible, incurable, and irrecoverable under all! God saw to it, that the plagues, fevers, small-pox, strange sicknesses, lack of trade, and poverty which came on you like an armed man upon you, with all the lesser fires which have been kindled in the midst of you—should have awakened you to repentance; and yet under all, how proud, how stout, how hard, how obdurate have you been! God saw to it, that the bloody sword that the nations have drawn against you, should have humbled you, and brought you to his foot: and yet you have rejected the remedy of your recovery. God saw to it, that the raging, devouring pestilence that in 1665 destroyed so many ten thousands of your inhabitants should have astonished you, and have been as a warning unto you, to have affrighted you out of your sins, and to have turned you to the Most High: but yet after so stupendous and amazing judgments, you were hardened in your sins, and refused to return.
By all these divers kinds of judgments, how little did God prevail with your magistracy, ministry, and the common people—to break off their sins, to repent, and to abhor themselves in dust and ashes! Has not God spent all his rods in vain upon you? Were not all sorts of men generally seven times worse after those wasting judgments, than they were before? Jer. 24:2-3. And therefore you have cause to fear that this is that which has kindled such a devouring fire in the midst of you, and that has turned your glory into shame; and your riches, palaces, and stately houses into ashes!
When after the raging pestilence, men returned to the city, and to their estates and trades, etc., they returned also to their old sins; and as many followed the world more greedily than ever, so many followed their lusts, their sinful courses, more violently than ever; and this has ushered in your desolation, O London! The physician, when he finds that the potion which he has given his patient will not work, he seconds it with a stronger one; and thus does the surgeon too. If a gentle plaster will not serve, then he applies that which is more corroding; and to prevent a gangrene, he makes use of his knife, and cuts off the joint or member that is so badly diseased. Just so, does the great God; when men are not bettered by lesser judgments, he sends greater judgments upon them. God was first as a moth to Ephraim, which consumed him little by little. But when that would not better him, and reform him, then the Lord comes as a lion upon him, and tore him all to pieces! Hosea 5:12, 14. If the dross of men's sins will not come off, he will throw them into the refining-pot again and again, he will crush them harder and harder in the wine-press of his judgments, and lay on such irons as shall enter more deep into their souls. If he strikes, and they grieve not; if he strikes again, and they tremble not; if he wounds, and they return not—then it is a righteous thing with God to turn men out of house and home, and to burn up their comforts round about them. Now this has been your case, O London! and therefore God has laid you desolate in the eyes of the nations.
Now this desperate incorrigibleness and unreformedness under wasting and destroying judgments I cannot groundedly fix upon those who did truly fear the Lord within the walls of London, because they made it their business, according to the different measures of grace they had received, to mourn under wasting judgments, and to lament after the Lord under wasting judgments, and to be bettered and reformed under wasting judgments, and not only to understand—but also to obey the voice of the rod! Their earnest prayers, strong cries, bitter tears, sad sighs, and heavy groans under wasting judgments, may sufficiently evidence that they were not incorrigible under wasting judgments. But,
5. Fifthly, Insolent and cruel oppressing of the poor, is a sin which brings desolating and destroying judgments upon a people.God sent ten wasting judgments one after another upon Pharaoh, his people, and land, to revenge the cruel oppression of his poor people, Exod. 3:9. Proverbs 22:22-23, "Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them." To rob and oppress the rich is a great sin; but to rob and oppress the poor is a greater sin. To rob and oppress the poor, because he is poor, and lacks money to buy justice, is the top of all inhumanity and impiety. To oppress anyone is a sin; but to oppress the oppressed is the height of sin. Poverty and need and misery should be motives to pity; but oppressors make them the whetstones of their cruelty and severity, and therefore the Lord will plead the cause of his poor oppressed people against their oppressors; yes, he will plead their cause with pestilence, blood, and fire!
Gog was a great oppressor of the poor, Ezek. 38:8-14, and God pleads against him with pestilence, blood, and fire: verse 22, "And I will plead against him with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people who are with him, an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone." Such as oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage, they take the surest and the readiest way to bring ruin upon their own houses, Micah 2:1-2. Isaiah 5:8, "Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land!" But mark what follows: verse 9, "The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing—Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants." This is an emphatical form of swearing; it is as if the Lord had said, "Let me not live, or let me never be owned or accounted a God, or let me never be looked upon as a God of truth, a God of my word; let me never more be believed nor trusted for a God—if I do not lay desolate the houses of oppressors, the great houses of oppressors, the fair houses of oppressors; yes, the multitude and variety of the houses of oppressors."
Just so, Amos 3:9-11, "Proclaim to the fortresses of Ashdod and to the fortresses of Egypt: "Assemble yourselves on the mountains of Samaria; see the great unrest within her and the oppression among her people." "They do not know how to do right," declares the Lord, "who hoard plunder and loot in their fortresses." Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: "An enemy will overrun the land; he will pull down your strongholds and plunder your fortresses." Now mark the 15th verse, "I will tear down the winter house along with the summer house; the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished, declares the Lord." In their palaces, and in their winter and summer houses, they stored up all the riches, preys, and spoils, which they had gotten by oppression. But God tells them that their palaces would be robbed, and that he would smite the winter-house upon the summer-house—so the Hebrew runs. God was resolved that he would dash one house against the other, and lay them all on heaps. Though their palaces and houses were ever so rich, and strong, and stately, and pompous, and glorious, and decked, and adorned, and enameled, and checkered—yet they would all come down together!
Just so, Zech. 7:10-12, "Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other. But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry." Well now, mark what follows: verse 14, "I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land was left so desolate behind them that no one could come or go. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate." Palestine was a very pleasant land—a land which flowed with milk and honey, a land which was the glory of all lands; God had made it as his paradise, and enriched it with all plenty and pleasure, and, above all, with his presence and residence in his city and temple; but they by oppressing the poor, the widow, and the fatherless, laid all desolate. Jer. 21:12, "O house of David, this is what the Lord says: Administer justice every morning; rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed, or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done— burn with no one to quench it!" Oppression lays a people open to God's fury, it provokes the Lord to turn their all, into unquenchable flames: Psalm 12:5, "Because of the oppression of the weak and the groaning of the needy, I will now arise, says the Lord. I will protect them from those who malign them." Upon these words Chrysostom says, "Fear—whoever you are, who do wrong the poor, you have power and wealth, and the favor of the judges; but they have the strongest weapons of all, sighings and moanings, which fetch help from heaven for them. These weapons dig down houses, throw down foundations, overthrow whole nations!" Thus you see by all these clear scriptures that oppression is a sin that brings wasting and destroying judgments upon a people.
Ah, London! London! was there no oppression and cruelty to be found within your walls? Eccles. 4:1, "So I returned, and considered all the oppressions which are done under the sun: and behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there was power; but they had no comforter." And behold the tears of such as were oppressed. The original word signifies a tear, not tears; as if the oppressed had wept so long, and wept so much, that they could weep no longer, nor weep no more, having but only one tear left them. Were there not, O London! many of your poor oppressed inhabitants, who wept so long, that they could weep no longer; and who wept so much, that they had but one tear left? Oh, the cries and tears of the oppressed within your walls did so pierce God's ears, and so work upon his heart, that at last he comes down in flames of fire to revenge the oppressed!
Were there no rich citizens who racked their tenants, and ground the faces of the poor, who took an advantage from their poor condition to beat down the price of their commodities, so that they might raise themselves on the poor's ruin? Were there no false weights, false wares, false lights, false measures to be found within your walls by which the poor have been cheated, deceived, and oppressed? Were there none within your walls, O London, who used his neighbor without wages, and gave him no reward for his work? Who kept back the hire of the laborer, and who were the poor labourer's purse-bearers and cofferers, whether they wanted or not? Who fleeced the poor, to feather their own nests? Deut. 24:14-15; Exod. 22:22-23; Zeph. 3:3.
Oh how did the rich work upon the necessities of the poor, bringing them to such under-prices as has undone both them and their making good that word, Amos 8:4, "They trample the needy, and make the poor of the land to fail!" Oh the heavy burdens that have been laid upon the poor by their Egyptian taskmasters! what defrauding of the poor, has been within your walls, O London! Your poor, O London, did rise early and go to bed late; they did fare hard, and rest hard, and work hard; and yet by reason of the cruelty, oppression, and unmercifulness of many of your wealthy citizens, they were hardly able to have necessary supplies for themselves and their families.
Oppression turns princes into roaring lions, and judges into evening wolves: it is an unnatural sin, it is a sin against the light of nature. No creatures oppress those of their own kind. Look upon the birds of prey, as upon eagles, vultures, hawks, and you shall never find them preying upon their own kind. Look upon the wild beasts of the forest, as upon the lion, the tiger, the wolf, the bear, etc., and you shall find them favorable to them of their own kind; and yet men unnaturally prey upon one another—like the fish in the sea, the great swallowing up the small.
Oppression is a sin against that great and common rule of equity, Mat. 7:12, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you." Now no man in his wits would have another to wrong and oppress; and therefore he should not wrong or oppress others; and therefore no wonder if God punishes this sin with flames of fire! It is your oppressors, O London, who has turned your glory into ashes!
Now this insolent oppressing of the poor is a sin that I cannot make good against the people of God, who did truly fear him in that great city. It is a sin they have often bewailed and lamented before the Lord in their solemn addresses to God. Where this sin is rampant, where it rules as a prince upon the throne, it is a clear evidence that the fear of the Lord is not in such men's hearts: Lev. 25:17, "You shall not oppress one another—but you shall fear your God." Those who oppress others—they do not fear God. And such as do fear God—they will not oppress others.
Amalek was a great oppressor of the poor people of God, and the Holy Spirit has set this black brand of infamy upon him, that he feared not God, Deut. 25:18. [Oppressors are people destitute of the fear of God; and the lack of the fear of the Lord, is the spring and fountain of the worst of sins, and that against which the Lord will surely visit in judgment, Mal. 3:5.] Had Amalek feared the Lord, he would have been so far from oppressing the poor people of God, that he would have comforted them, and succored them, and relieved them in the midst of their necessities, miseries, and distresses. The Jews oppressing one another is attributed to their not fearing of God, Neh. 5:9. Oppression is so crying a sin against the law of God, the law of grace, the law of nature, and the law of nations—that certainly it cannot be justly charged upon such as have set up God in their hearts as the great object of their fear.
The word for oppression in the Hebrew is mispach, which signifies a scab, a wound, a leprosy. Now oppression is such a scab, a wound, a leprosy—as is not to be found upon those who have fellowship with the Father and the Son. Oppressors may boast of their profession, and call themselves saints, or the people of God—but God accounts them worse than Scythians. Witness those dreadful woes that God has denounced against them in the blessed Scriptures: Zeph. 3:1, "Woe to the oppressing city!" Jer. 22:13, "Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his countrymen work for nothing, not paying them for their labor!" Isaiah 10:1-3, "Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?" Micah 2:1-2, "Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning's light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance." Now by all these dreadful woes, it is further evident that this horrid sin of insolent oppression cannot be charged upon the called and chosen of God; for where do you find in all the Scriptures the vessels of glory under those woes which are denounced against the ungodly? But,
6. Sixthly, Rejecting the gospel, despising the gospel, and slighting the free and gracious offers of Christ in the gospel, brings the fiery judgments upon a people, and causes the Lord to lay their cities desolate! Matthew 22:1-7, "Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. "Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' "But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city!"
In this parable the calling of the Gentiles and the rejection of the Jews is set forth. The Jews have the honor to be first called to the marriage-feast—they are invited by the prophets, and afterwards by the apostles to partake of Christ, and of all his royal benefits and favors which are displayed in the gospel, Isaiah 25:8-9; Proverbs 9:1-6; Isaiah 55:1-3. God the Father was very willing and desirous to make up a match between Christ and the Jews, and between Christ and the Gentiles; and he is here called a King, to declare his divine majesty, and to set forth the stateliness and magnificence of the feast. Marriage-feasts which are usually made by kings are full of joy, and full of state, full of splendor and glory. Who can sum up the variety of dishes and dainties that then the guests are feasted with? The variety of the glorious excellencies, favors, and mercies of Christ which are revealed and offered by God in gospel-offers, in gospel-ordinances, is the wedding-feast to which all sorts of sinners are invited.
But here you see they slight, and scorn, and despise both the master of the feast and the matter of the feast, and all those servants who were sent to invite them to the feast; and hereupon the king was enraged, and sent forth his armies—the Romans, as most interpreters do agree—and destroyed those murderers, and burnt up their city. About forty years after the death of Christ, the Lord, to revenge the blood of his Son, the blood of his servants, and the contempt of his gospel upon the Jews, brought his armies, the Romans, against Jerusalem, who by fire demolished their temple and city, and by sword and famine destroyed eleven million men, women, and children; and those who escaped fire, sword, and famine, were sold for slaves, and scattered among all the nations.
Christ and the way of salvation by him is the subject-matter of the gospel. The word which is rendered "gospel," signifies glad tidings, good news; and certainly salvation by Christ is the best news, it is the greatest and the gladdest tidings that ever was brought to sinners' ears. What the psalmist had long before said of the city of God, "Glorious things are spoken of you," Psalm 87:3, that I may truly say of the blessed gospel, "Glorious things are spoken of you, O you gospel of God." The gospel is called "the glorious gospel of the blessed God," 1 Tim. 1:11. The gospel is a glorious gospel in respect of the Author of it, and in respect of the penmen of it, and in respect of the glorious discoveries that it makes of God, of Christ, of the Spirit, of heaven, and in respect of its glorious effects, in turning of poor sinners "from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God," Acts 26:18, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them who are sanctified. Certainly Solomon's natural history, in which he treated of all trees, "from the cedar to the hyssop, of all beasts, fowls, and creeping things," 1 Kings 4:33, was a very rare and incomparable piece in its kind; yet one leaf, yes, one line of the gospel is infinitely more worth, and of greater importance to us, than all that large volume would have been. For what is the knowledge of trees, and birds, and beasts, and worms, and fish, compared to the knowledge of God in Christ, to the knowledge of the great things of eternity, to the knowledge of a man's sinful estate by nature, or to the knowledge of his happy estate by grace?
Doubtless to a soul that has tasted that the Lord is gracious, there is no book compared to the Bible. Acts 19:19: When the Lord had made it the day of his glorious power to their conviction, conversion, and salvation, they burnt their costly books of magic arts. And no wonder; for they had found the power and the sweet of a better book, even of God's book, upon their hearts. Luther, speaking of the gospel, says, "that the shortest line is more worth than all heaven and earth." He tasted so much of the sweetness of the gospel, and saw so much of the glory and excellency of the gospel, that he would often say to his friends, that he would not take all the world for one leaf of the Bible.
How divinely did that poet speak, who said he could read God in every leaf on the tree, and that he found his name written on every green herb; and shall not we read God, and Christ, and grace, and mercy in every leaf, yes, in every line of the gospel? "The Bible," says Luther, "is the only book; all the books in the world are but waste paper compared to it," so highly did he prize it, and so dearly did he love it.
Contempt of the gospel is a great indignity cast upon the great God, and a great indignity cast upon Jesus Christ; for though the law was delivered by Moses—yet the gospel was delivered by Jesus Christ. "How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?" Heb. 2:3, and 10:28-29. If the book of the law happened to fall upon the ground, the Jews' custom is presently to proclaim a fast. O sirs! what cause then have we to fast and mourn, when we see the glorious gospel of God fallen to the ground; scorned, despised, disdained, and trampled upon by all sorts of sinners! Contempt of the gospel is a sin of the greatest ingratitude. In the gospel God offers himself, his Son, his Spirit, his grace, his kingdom, and all the glory of the eternal world. Now for men to despise and scorn these offers, is the highest ingratitude and unthankfulness imaginable; and therefore no wonder if God burns such men up, and turns them out of house and home!
Such justly deserve the worst of judgments, who despise the best of mercies. The strongest and the sweetest wine always makes the sharpest vinegar; the freest, the richest, and the choicest offers of mercy, if slighted and despised, turn into the greatest fury and severity. Divine wrath smokes and burns against none so fiercely, as it does against those who are despisers of gospel mercies. When gold is offered, men care not how great or how base he is who offers it: neither is it important by whom the gospel is brought unto us, whether it is brought unto us by Isaiah, as some think, a prophet of the blood-royal, or by Amos the herdsman of Tekoa. Let the hand be more noble or more base that brings it, if it be slighted and despised, provoked justice will revenge it.
Such as slight the gospel, and despise the gospel—they sin with a high hand against the only remedy, against the only means of their recovery. "This is the condemnation," John 3:19, this is that desperate sin that hastens judgments upon cities and countries, as Jewry, Asia, Bohemia, and other parts of the world have sadly experienced. He who has eaten poison, and then shall despise the means of his recovery, must certainly die for it. He who, when he has committed treason against his prince, shall not only refuse—but scorn and slight his prince's favor and pardon, and fling it from him with disdain, is assuredly past all help and hope. Sins against the gospel are sins of a greater size, of a louder cry, and of a deeper dye, than sins against the law are, and accordingly God suits his judgments. Where the gospel shines in power, it will either mend a people or mar a people: it will either better them or worsen them; it will either fit them for the greatest good, or it will bring upon them the greatest evils: where it does not reform, there it will destroy. And this London has found by woeful experience.
Slighting and despising of the offers of grace in the gospel, is a sin that is not chargeable upon the greatest part of the world, which "lies in wickedness," and who "sit in darkness, and in the region and shadow of death," 1 John 5:19; Mat. 4:16; yes, it is a sin that is not chargeable upon the devils themselves, and therefore the more severely will God deal with those who are guilty of it. The gospel has for above this hundred years shined forth out of the dark and thick clouds of popery and antichristianism which had overspread the nation. And in no part of the land has the gospel been preached with more clearness, spiritualness, life, power, and purity than in London. And oh, that I had not cause to say that there was no part of the nation where the gospel was more undervalued, slighted, and despised by many—than in London! For,
[1.] First, Where the faithful and laborious ministers of the gospel are slighted and despised—there the gospel is slighted and despised, Mat. 23:37, and Luke 10:16. Now were there none within your walls, O London! that did slight, scorn, reproach, and despise the ambassadors of Christ, who were faithful to their light, their Lord, their consciences, and the souls of their hearers? But,
[2.] Secondly, Where the ministrations of the gospel, where the ordinances of the gospel are slighted and despised—there the gospel is slighted and despised; yes, where any one ordinance of the gospel is slighted and despised, there the gospel is slighted and despised. Where baptism is slighted and despised, there the gospel is slighted and despised. Where the Lord's supper is slighted and despised, there the gospel is slighted and despised. Where the offers of the gospel are slighted and despised, there the gospel is slighted and despised. Where the commands of the gospel are slighted and despised, there the gospel is slighted and despised. Where the threatenings of the gospel are slighted and despised, there the gospel is slighted and despised. Where the promises of the gospel are slighted and despised, there the gospel is slighted and despised. Where the comforts of the gospel are slighted and despised, there the gospel is slighted and despised. A man upon whom the gospel has wrought savingly, he will,
(1.) Prize all the ordinances;
(2.) Practice all the ordinances;
(3.) Praise the Lord for all the ordinances.
Now were there none within your walls, O London! that did slight and despise the ministrations of the gospel, "the ordinances of the gospel"? Luke 1:5-6. When old Barzillai had lost his taste and hearing, he cared not for David's feasts and music, 2 Sam. 19:35. There were many within the walls of London that had lost their spiritual taste and hearing, and so cared not for gospel ministrations, for gospel ordinances. There were many who, under a pretense of living above ordinances, lived below ordinances, and made light of ordinances; yes, who scorned, vilified, and despised the precious ordinances of Christ. "You are to them as a lovely song," says the prophet, Ezek. 33:31-32. In the Hebrew it runs thus, "You are to them as one who jests." The solemnity and majesty of the word was but as a dry jest unto them. Ordinances were but as dry jests to many within the walls of London; and therefore no wonder if God has been angry with those who have made but a jest of those precious ordinances, which are more worth than heaven and earth. Many came to the ordinances too much like the Egyptian dog, which laps a little as he runs by the side of Nilus—but stays not to drink. But,
[3.] Thirdly, Such as are weary of the gospel, such slight the gospel, such despise the gospel. Never were the Israelites more weary of manna, than many within the walls of London were weary of the plain and powerful preaching of the gospel, Num. 11:6; Amos 8:5. "We were better have a biting gospel than a toothless mass," said blessed Bradford. But were there not some that had rather have a toothless mass than a biting gospel? Were there not many that were willing to let God go, and gospel go, and ordinances go, and all go, so that they might greaten their relations, and have peace with all nations, and enjoy a sweeping trade, and everyone sit under his vine and under his fig-tree, eating the fat, and drinking the sweet, and enjoy liberty to dishonor the Lord, to gratify their lusts, to damn their own souls—so weary were they of the blessed gospel?
[4.] Fourthly, Such as have but a low and base opinion of the gospel, such are slighters and despisers of the gospel. Such as prefer every toy, and trifle, and fashion, and sinful custom, and base lust above the light of the gospel, the power of the gospel, the purity and simplicity of the gospel, the holiness and sweetness of the gospel, such are slighters and despisers of the gospel, 1 Cor. 1:23. Though it is better to present truth in her native plainness than to hang her ears with counterfeit pearls—yet there were many that set a greater price upon the arts, the parts, the gifts, the studied notions and seraphic expressions of their ministers, than they did upon the gospel itself; and what was this but to prefer the handmaid before the mistress, the servant before his Lord, the flowers around the dish above the food which was in the dish, the chaff above the wheat, and pebbles above the richest pearls? The gospel is the field, and Christ is the treasure that is hidden in that field! The gospel is a ring of gold, and Christ is the diamond in that ring of gold! And yet how many were there within the walls of London, who put no considerable price or value upon the gospel! But,
[5.] Fifthly, Such as willfully disobey the gospel, and live and walk in ways quite cross and contrary to the gospel, such are slighters and despisers of the gospel, and accordingly the Lord will deal with them. Take one text for all, 2 Thes. 1:6-9, "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power."
This is a more dreadful text against all such as are either ignorant of the gospel, or that disobey the gospel, than any is to be found in all the Old Testament. In the last day Christ will take vengeance in flaming fire on those who disobey his gospel, and who walk contrary to the rules of his gospel; and therefore no wonder if before that day he lays their habitations desolate by a flaming fire, whose lives give the lie to his glorious gospel. These men above all others expose the gospel to the derision and contempt of the basest and vilest men. When some of the heathens have looked upon the loose lives of professors, they have said, "Either this is not the gospel, in which there is so much goodness, or these are not Christians, in whom there is no goodness at all." Did you never hear nor read of one who, eyeing the loose lives of professors, cried out, "Let my soul be rather with the honest philosophers—who were heathen—than with these wicked lewd men who are called Christians!" Now were there none within the walls of London who willfully disobeyed the gospel, and who walked in ways quite cross and contrary to the gospel? Surely there were! and therefore at their doors we may safely lay the burning of London. But,
[6.] Sixthly and lastly, Such as slighted, scorned, and despised the faithful, sincere, serious, gracious, and conscientious professors of the gospel—such slighted, scorned, and despised the gospel itself. When the Jews were in prosperity, it was the manner of the Samaritans to repute themselves their nearest cousins. When the Jews were in a thriving and flourishing condition, then the Samaritans could derive their pedigree from Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph; but when the Jews were in any great affliction, or under persecution, then they would deny all acquaintance with them and all relation to them. Just so—when profession was in fashion and religion was in credit, how many were there within the walls of London who pretended to be kin, to be cousins to the serious, conscientious, and sincere professors of the gospel, who since the day of their affliction have not only denied all acquaintance with them, and renounced all relation to them—but also are turned slighters, scorners, and despisers of them! If these may not be reckoned among the slighters, scorners, and despisers of the gospel—I do not know who may.
To sum up all, I have showed you that slighting, scorning, and despising of the gospel, is a sin of so high a nature, that it provokes the Lord to lay cities desolate. I have showed you the greatness of that sin, and the people who are guilty of it; so that now you may point with a finger to those people who have laid London in ashes.
But before I close up this particular, give me permission to say, that this sin of slighting, scorning, and despising of the gospel, I dare not charge upon those who truly fear the Lord, and who have found the gospel to be a gospel of power upon their own souls, turning them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to Jesus Christ, 1 Thes. 1:5-7; Acts 26:18. And I shall freely give you my reasons, that you may be the better satisfied that it was not so much their sins as your own sins—which have brought down that heavy judgment of fire upon the city, wherein once you and they had your respective habitations. My reasons are these—
[1.] First, Those who did truly fear the Lord, and that had experienced the power of the gospel in a saving way upon their own souls, they did frequently before the Lord bewail and mourn over—both together and apart—that heinous sin of slighting, scorning, and despising of the gospel which many were guilty of, Ezek. 9:4, 6. The Jews have a law which enjoins them to take up any paper which they see lying on the ground, and the reason is, lest haply the name of God be written in the paper, and ignorantly trodden under foot. Though Christians ought to be free from such superstitions—yet they ought to be very careful that the least tittle of the gospel, the least command of the gospel, be not trod under foot. Now the saints who once lived within the walls of London, who through grace have experienced the saving power of the gospel upon their own souls, how have they mourned and lamented to see that glorious gospel of Christ trodden under foot, which they have laid so near their hearts! and therefore I cannot fairly charge this sin upon them. But,
[2.] Secondly, Slighting, scorning, and despising of the gospel, is a great step towards the sin against the Holy Spirit, and a sin of so great a cry, and so deep a dye, that I cannot at present find where it is in Scripture charged upon such as truly fear the Lord, and who have really experienced the power of the gospel in a saving way upon their own souls, Heb. 2:3, and 10:28-29; and therefore I cannot fairly charge this sin upon them.
[3.] Thirdly, Next to God, the gospel is the most sweet and delightful thing in all the world to gracious souls, who have experienced the saving power of it upon themselves. [Psalm 19:10-11, and 119:72, 103, 127; Job 23:12. Austin cries, "Away with our writings, that room may be made for the book of God!"] Luther found so much sweetness in it, that it made him say, that he would not live in paradise if he might without the word—but with the word he could live in hell itself. Dolphins, they say, love music, and so do gracious souls love the music of the gospel. The gospel is like the stone garamantides, which has drops of gold within itself, enriching all who will embrace it and conform to it: and this the saints have found by experience, and therefore they cannot but delight in it, and draw sweetness from it. The saints relish that gospel best, which others distaste most; and therefore I cannot charge this sin fairly upon them. But,
[4.] Fourthly, There are none who so highly prize the gospel, and who set so high a value upon the gospel, as those do who have experienced the saving power of the gospel upon their own souls, Rev. 12:11, and 2:12-13; Heb. 11:33, 38. Such prefer the gospel before all their nearest and dearest concernments and enjoyments that they have in this world; as might be made evident from their practice in the primitive times, and in the Marian days, and in those recent years which are now passed over our heads. [Luther, speaking of the gospel, says, that the shortest line and the least letter thereof is more than all heaven and earth.] We must defend the truth of the gospel, even to the effusion of blood—and this they have made good in all the ages of the world, who have found the saving power of the gospel upon their own souls.
Tertullian concludes, that the gospel must needs be a precious thing, because Nero hated it; and indeed it was so precious to the saints in his days, that they very willingly and cheerfully laid down their lives for the gospel's sake. Now the same spirit rests upon the saints in our days, and therefore upon this ground I cannot charge that horrid sin of slighting, scorning, and despising of the gospel upon them.
[5.] Fifthly, Who were so ready and free to countenance the gospel, and to maintain the gospel, and to encourage the faithful and painful preachers of the gospel, as those who had found the sweet of the gospel, and the saving power of the gospel, upon their own souls?
Many like a religion without expense, and a gospel without charge; but if it grows costly, it is no commodity for their money. Now this was the very frame and temper of many thousands in London, who never experienced the saving work of the gospel upon their poor souls: but they were of another frame and temper of spirit in London upon whom the gospel was fallen in power; and therefore I may not charge upon them this odious sin of slighting, scorning, and despising the gospel. But,
[6.] Sixthly, Who were there within the walls of London that were so much in a hearty and serious blessing, praising, and admiring of the Lord and his goodness for bringing them forth in gospel times, as those who had a saving work of the gospel upon their own souls? When Alexander was born, his father Philip blessed such gods as he had, not so much that he had a son, as that he had him in Aristotle's days; he was thankful for natural and moral discoveries. The clearest, the choicest, the fullest, and the sweetest visions and discoveries that we have of God on this side eternity—we have in the gospel; and this they frequently experience, who have found the gospel falling in power upon their souls; and therefore they cannot but always have harps in their hands, and hallelujahs in their mouths, upon this very account, that they have lived under the warm sunshine of the gospel, Rev. 14:1-4, and 19:1-8. And therefore I shall not charge this vile sin of slighting, scorning, and despising the gospel upon them who, above all other men, were most exercised in a serious and hearty blessing and praising of God for his glorious gospel.
Some there were who blessed God for their yearly incomes, and others there were who blessed God for their prosperous relations and friends, and many there were who blessed God for their deliverance from various perils and dangers; but those who had the gospel working in power upon them, they made it their business and work above all to bless the Lord for the gospel; and therefore who dare charge upon them the contempt of the gospel? But,
[7.] Seventhly and lastly, There were none within the walls of London who have suffered so many things and such hard things, for the enjoyment of the gospel in its power and purity, as they have done, who have found the powerful and saving work of the gospel upon their own souls. Such have been as signs and wonders in Israel, in London, Isaiah 8:18. Now what folly and vanity would it be to charge them with slighting, scorning, and despising of the gospel, who have been the only sufferers for the gospel's sake. And thus much for the sixth sin that brings the fiery dispensation upon cities and people.
7. The sin that brings the fiery dispensation upon a people, and that provokes the Lord to lay their cities desolate, is a course, a trade of LYING.Nahum 3:1, "Woe to the city of blood, full of lies!" Verse 7, "All who see you will flee from you and say, 'Nineveh is in ruins—who will mourn for her?' Where can I find anyone to comfort you?" Verse 13, "Look at your troops— they are all women! The gates of your land are wide open to your enemies; fire has consumed their bars," that is, your strongholds; for so the word bars is frequently taken, as you may see by comparing these scriptures. [1 Sam. 23:7; 1 Kings 4:13; 2 Chron. 8:5, and 14:7; Jer. 49:31, and 51:30; Lam. 2:9; Amos 1:5.] Nineveh was a great city, a rich city, a populous city, a trading city, it was a city that was wholly made up of fraud and falsehood; it was all full of lies, or it was full of all sorts of lies; there was no truth to be found either in her private contracts or in her public transactions and capitulations with other nations; and therefore the Lord resolves to lay her desolate, and to consume her with fire.
Just so, Jer. 9:3, "They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies;" verse 5-6, "Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning. You live in the midst of deception;" verse 9-12, "Should I not punish them for this?" declares the Lord. "Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?" I will weep and wail for the mountains and take up a lament concerning the desert pastures. They are desolate and untraveled, and the lowing of cattle is not heard. The birds of the air have fled and the animals are gone. "I will make Jerusalem a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals; and I will lay waste the towns of Judah so no one can live there." What man is wise enough to understand this? Who has been instructed by the Lord and can explain it? Why has the land been ruined and laid waste like a desert that no one can cross?" Jer. 13:23.
The Jews had so inured and accustomed their tongues to speak lies, they had got such a haunt, a habit, and custom of lying, that they could not leave it; and this was the procuring cause of that dreadful and utter devastation that befell their city and country: Hosea 4:1-3, "Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: "There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land mourns, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the fish of the sea are dying." This people made it their common practice to lie; they were given up to a course, a trade of lying, which God here threatens to punish with an extreme and universal desolation.
A lie is a voluntary and wilful telling of an untruth, with a purpose to deceive; so that three things are required to the nature of a lie:
(1.) There must be an untruth and falseness in the thing;
(2.) This untruth must be known to be so, he must be conscious to himself that it is false;
(3.) He must have an intent and purpose to utter this falsehood with a desire or design to deceive another by it.
Augustine makes eight sorts of lies—but the schoolmen reduce all to three:
1. the sporting lie;
2. the helpful lie;
3. the pernicious and hurtful lie.
(1.) First, There is the SPORTING lie; and this is when men will lie and tell untruths to make men sport, to make men merry. Of this sin the prophet Hosea complains, chapter 7:3, "They make the king glad with their wickedness, and the princes with their lies." Courtiers frame fictions, and tell ridiculous stories to delight princes. Among many courtiers loud lies are esteemed ornaments and elegancies of speech; and none are accounted so sweet and pleasant in their discourse as those who can tell the most pleasing lies; but such mirth-mongers and mirth-makers may do well to remember that such a kind of mirth will bring bitterness in the end. If for "every idle word that men shall speak, they must give an account in the day of judgment," Mat. 12:36, then surely much more for every lying word. And if foolish talking and jesting be condemned, then surely lying talking and jesting shall be much more condemned, if not here—yet in the great day, when all lying jesters shall hold up their hands at Christ's bar. Now were there none within the walls of London who were guilty of merry lies, of sporting lies? But,
(2.) Secondly, There is the BENEFICIAL lie; and that is when a man lies to help himself in a pinch. When men lie, either to prevent some danger they fear, or else to bring about some good they desire, then they tell a beneficial lie. Thus the Egyptian midwives lied, and thus Rahab lied, and thus the old prophet lied, who, contrary to the command of God, persuaded the man of God to go back and eat bread with him under the pretense of a divine revelation, Exod. 1:15-20; Josh. 2:1-9; 1 Kings 13:14-27. And thus Jacob told his father a beneficial threefold lie, Gen. 27:19—but he hardly ever had a merry day, a good day after it; for God followed him with variety of troubles, and his sorrows, like Job's messengers, came hastening in one after another, even to his dying day, that both himself and others might see what bitterness is wrapped up in officious lies.
Solon, reproving Thespis the poet for lying, Thespis answered him, That it was not material, seeing it was but in sport; then Solon, beating the ground with his staff, said, If we commend lying in sport, we shall find it afterwards in good earnest. In all our bargains and dealings let us make it our wisdom and our work to remember, "That we must not do evil, that good may come," Romans 3:8; yes, we must not tell a lie to save all the souls under heaven.
The Priscillianists in Spain, a most pestilentious sect, taught in Augustine's time that it was lawful to lie for the helping of a good cause, and for the propagating of the gospel, and for the advantage of religion. But Augustine confuted them, and stoutly asserts in two books that we are not to tell a lie for good, though it were to save all the world. "Will you speak wickedly for God, and talk deceitfully for him?" says Job, chapter 13:7, to his friends. A man may as well commit fornication with the Moabites to draw them to our religion, or steal from the rich to give to the poor, as lie to do another man a good turn. Nepos reports of Epaminondas, a nobleman of Thebes, and a famous warrior, that he would never lie in jest nor in earnest, either for his own or another's gain. This refined heathen will one day rise in judgment against such kind of Christians who take a great pleasure in beneficial lies. Now were there none within the walls of London that delighted themselves in beneficial lies? But,
(3.) Thirdly, and to come closer to our work, There is the HURTFUL lie; and this of all lies is the worst, Gen. 39:13-20, and 2 Kings 5:22,23. When men will lie out of a design to hurt, to cheat, to defraud, or to make a prey of those they deal with, this is the worst of all lies. Now, how rampant was this sort of lying among all sorts of citizens before London was in flames! What a common trade of lying did many, I say not all, drive in their buying and selling! The trade of lying was got into every trade, as if there had been no living but by lying. Many sellers had their lies to set off their commodities. "It is good," "it is very good," "it is special good," "it is the best of its kind!" When it was bad, very bad, yes, stark bad!
Now, as the seller abounded with his lies, so the buyer had his lies too, and all to bring down the price: "It is bad, it is bad, it is very bad," says the buyer. "I will not give you your price," and yet gives it before he goes out of the shop or warehouse. "I have bought as good a product, yes, better product, for a lower price than what I offer you," says the buyer, when yet he had never bought of that commodity before. "Give me a good price," says the buyer, "and you shall have my trade another time," when in his heart he resolves never more to come into the seller's shop.
Ah, London! London! it is these lies and liars who have made you desolate, and who have laid your glory in the dust. O sirs! a man were better be a loser—than a liar! A man were better, much better, to keep his commodity—than to sell his conscience with his commodity. We hate the Turks for selling of Christians for slaves; and what shall we then think of those citizens, who by lying sell themselves and their precious souls for a dollar, yes, oftentimes for a penny? I have read that there was a time when the Romans wore jewels on their shoes; but liars do worse, for they trample that matchless jewel, namely, their precious souls, under feet. Doubtless the lies that were told in London, and the liars who lived in London, did more than a little help on the ruin of London. Now, that you may the better read and understand the righteousness of God in his highest acts of severity against lies and liars, premise with me briefly these four things:
[1.] First, That lying is a very great sin. It is a transgression not of one—but of many of the royal laws of heaven: Lev. 19:11, "You shall not lie one to another;" Zech. 8:16, "Speak every man the truth to his neighbor;" Eph. 4:25, "Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another." In the body of man one member will not lie to another; the hand will not lie, in telling what it touches; the tongue will not lie, in telling what it tastes; the eye will not lie, in telling what it sees; but every member is a true witness to another, a true witness to his neighbor. Just so it should be both in the politic body and in the mystical body of Christ, seeing we are members one of another. Everyone should speak the truth with his neighbor. One member in the natural body will not mock another, nor make a fool of another; and why then should one Christian by lying mock another, or make a fool of another?
Tremellius translates it thus: Do not play the fool with him. For certainly he is the greatest fool who by lying thinks to make a fool of another. Col. 3:9, "Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds." God's commands are not like those which are easily reversed—but they are like those of the Medes, which cannot be changed, Dan. 6. To act or run cross to God's express command, though under pretense of revelation from God, is as much as a man's life is worth, as you may see in that sad story, 1 Kings 13. It is a dangerous thing for a man to neglect one of God's commands, who by another is able to command him into nothing, or into hell. What God commands must be put in speedy execution, without denying, or delaying, or disputing the difficulties which attend it. The great God will not endure to be called to an account by the poor creature concerning his royal commands; but expects that with all readiness and cheerfulness we should obey what he requires, even when the reason of our obedience is hidden from our eyes; for then grace shines most transparently and gloriously, Gen. 22.
I have read of one Johannes Abbas, who being commanded by his priest to go some miles every day to water a dry stick, which he accordingly did out of a pure respect to the command of his superior, without disputing the reason of it. Oh, how much more then should we readily obey divine commands, which are all holy, spiritual, just, and good, considering the authority, sovereignty, and majesty of the great God, without disputing the reasons of our obedience; for let a man's reasons, though ever so many and weighty, be put into one scale, and God's absolute command weighed against them in the other, the man may well write TEKEL, "They are weighed in the balance, and found too light!" Dan. 5:27.
O Sirs! (Psalm 103:20,) "the angels that excel in strength do his commandments;" and shall the peasant scorn that work in which the prince himself is engaged? The commands of God, both in the Old and New Testament, lie fair and full against lying; and therefore no wonder if God revenge the habitual breach of them in flames of fire. The Holy Spirit in the Hebrew tongue calls a lie aven, which also signifies iniquity, implying that all lies are iniquity, and that all iniquity is after a sort included in a lie, which does sufficiently evidence that lying is no small sin.
I might further argue thus, that which is contrary to God, who is the choicest and the chief good, yes, who is goodness and truth itself, that must needs be the greatest evil: but lying is contrary to the nature, essence, and being of God. Witness the description that he gives of himself, both in the Old and New Testament: Exod. 34:6, "And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth." So Moses in his song, "He is a God of truth, iniquity, just and right is he." Deut. 32:4. Just so, Isaiah, "He who blesses himself in the earth, shall bless himself in the God of truth; and he who swears in the earth, shall swear by the God of truth," Isaiah 65:16. Just so, the psalmist, "You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth," Psalm 31:5. Again, "You, O Lord, are plenteous in mercy and truth," Psalm 86:15.
Just so, in the New Testament, "Let God be true, and every man a liar," Romans 3:4. Again, "They themselves show how you turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God," Acts 14:15. Though God can make a world with a word of his mouth, Gen. 1, and mar a world with a word of his mouth, chapter 6—yet he can neither die nor lie: Tit. 1:2, "In hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before the world began;" yes, it is impossible for God to lie: Heb. 6:18, "That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie." Now by all these plain pregnant texts it is most evident that lying is most opposite and contrary to the very nature, essence, and being of God; and therefore no wonder if the anger and wrath of God rises high against it. But,
[2.] Secondly, Consider this, That lies and liars are very DESTRUCTIVE to all human societies, kingdoms, and commonwealths. Lying destroys all society, all commerce and converse among men. "Man," as the philosopher observes, "is a sociable creature." Speech is the means whereby men have society and commerce one with another. Now lying perverts that order which the God of truth has appointed to be among men. It is the will and pleasure of God that men, conversing together, should by their words and speeches and discourses impart and communicate their minds, designs, intentions, and meanings one to another, for the mutual good of one another, and for the profit and benefit of the whole. Now if there be nothing in men's words but lying, deceit, and fraud, instead of truth—what can follow but confusion and desolation? When the language of men was confounded, so that one could not tell what another spoke, then presently followed the dissolution of their combination; for the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city, Gen. 11:7-8. "When one asked brick," says a Rabbi, "another brought clay, and then they fell fighting, and one dashed out the other's brains; and by this means their plan was dissolved, and God brought on them the evil which they sought to prevent," verse 4. But surely a lying tongue is a far worse enemy to society than an unknown tongue; and much better it is for a man to have no society at all, than with such as he cannot believe what they say, or if he does, he shall be sure to be deceived by them. Concerning such we may well pray with David: "Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue," Psalm 120:2.
Jeremiah did so loathe and abominate the society of liars, that he had rather live in a wilderness than live among them, or have anything to do with them, Jer. 9:1-6. Liars destroy that communion and society that by the law of God, nature, and nations they ought to preserve and maintain. Lying dissolves that mutual trust that we should have with one another; for hereby all contracts, covenants, and dealings between man and man, which is, as it were, the life of the kingdom or commonwealth, are quite overthrown. When men make no conscience of lying, nor of keeping their word any further than either fear of loss, or force of law, compels them—all civil society is at an end. There can be no trust where there is no truth, nor any commerce with those who cannot be trusted. The Scythians had a law, that if any man did bind two sins together, a lie and an oath, he was to lose his head, because this was the way to take away all trust and truth among men. Had this law been put in execution in London, I have reason enough to fear that many citizens would have lost their heads long before they had lost their houses by the recent dreadful fire. Now, seeing that pernicious lying, a course, a trade of lying—is so destructive to human society, why should we wonder to see the Lord appear in flaming fire against it? But,
[3.] Thirdly, Consider, That lying is a sin which is most odious and hateful to God; yes, a sin which makes men odious and hateful to him. Lying is repugnant unto God; for God is one who cannot lie, Titus 1:2. He is the God of truth, Isaiah 65:16, and therefore lying cannot but be odious to him. God is said not only to forbid a lie—but to hate a lie. A lie—it is an abomination. Now we abominate that which is contrary to our natures. Among those things which are an abomination to the Lord, a lying tongue is reckoned: Proverbs 6:16-17, "These six things does the Lord hate: yes, seven are an abomination to him—a lying tongue," or as the Hebrew runs, "a tongue of lying," that is, a tongue that has learned the trade, and can do it automatically; a tongue that is accustomed to lying, a tongue that is delighted in lying. Just so, verse 19, "A false witness who speaks lies, and him who sows discord among brethren." Among these seven things abominated by God, lying is twice repeated, to note how great an abomination lying is in the eye and account of God.
Proverbs 12:22, "Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord;" not only offensive or odious—but abominable. Liars pervert the end for which God created speech, which was to give light to the notions of the mind, and therefore the Lord loathes them, and plagues them in this life with great severity, as you may see in those sad instances of Gehazi, whose lie was punished with a perpetual leprosy upon himself and his posterity, 2 Kings 5:20 to the end; and of Ananias and Sapphira, who for their lying were punished with present and sudden death, Acts 5:5-11; and of Haman, who slandering Mordecai and the Jews, and by his lies plotting their ruin, was taken in the same snare that he had laid for them, and both he and his sons hanged upon the same gallows which he had made for innocent Mordecai, Esther 3:8-11. The same liar that was feasting with the king one day was made a feast for crows the next day! chapter 7:9, and 9:13-14.
Dreadful are the threatenings that the great God has given out against liars: Psalm 5:6, "You shall destroy those who tell lies." Such as lie in jest will, without repentance, go to hell in earnest! Psalm 12:3, "The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaks proud things." God, by one judgment or another, in one way or another, will cut off all flattering lying lips, as a rotten member is cut off from the body, or as a barren tree—that it may no more cumber the ground. Psalm 120:2-4, "Save me, O Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues. What will he do to you, and what more besides, O deceitful tongue? He will punish you with a warrior's sharp arrows, with burning coals of the juniper tree." The coals of juniper burn hot and last long, some say a month and more, and smell sweet. Now upon these coals will God broil lying lips and a deceitful tongue, pleasing himself and others in the execution of his wrath upon a lying tongue!
Proverbs 19:5, "A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he who speaks lies shall not escape." Though men sometimes by lying may escape the displeasure of men—yet they shall never by lying escape the wrath and displeasure of God! Wrath is for that man, and that man is for wrath—who has taught his tongue the trade of lying: Hosea 12:1, "Ephraim daily increases lies and desolation." Desolation is the fruit and consequent of lying. Sin and punishment are inseparable companions. "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." Galatians 6:7 "When the time comes for Me to punish, I will punish them for their sin." Exodus 32:34. "I will punish their sin with the rod, their iniquity with flogging." Psalm 89:32. "He will punish your sin and expose your wickedness." Lamentations 4:22. Those who heap up lies hasten desolation, both upon themselves and the places where they live. Now, if lying be a sin so hateful and odious to God, no wonder if God appears in flaming fire against it. But,
[4.] Fourthly and lastly, Lying is a sin against the light and law of nature. It is a sin against natural conscience, and therefore it is that a little child will blush many times when he tells a lie. It was observed of Pomponius Atticus, Cicero's great friend, that he never used lying, neither could he with patience lend his ear to a liar. Tennes, the son of Cycnus, who was worshiped as a god, was so strict in judgment that he had an axe held over the witnesses heads, to execute them immediately, if they were taken with falsehood or a lie. Among the Scythians, when their priests foretold an untruth, they were dragged along upon hurdles full of heath and dry wood, drawn by oxen, and manacled hand and foot, and burnt to death. Aristotle says, by the light of natural reason, that a lie is evil in itself—it being contrary to the order of nature; for, says he, we have tongues given us to express our minds and meanings one to another by. Now, if our tongues tell more or less than our minds conceive, it is against nature.
It is said of Epaminondas, a heathen, that he abhorred a jesting lie. Plutarch calls lying a tinkerly sin, a sin that is both hateful and shameful. Euripides says, that he is unhappy who rather uses lies, though seemingly good, than truths when he judges them evil. To think the truth, says Plato, is honest; but a filthy and dishonest thing to lie. I could, says my author, both sigh and smile at the simplicity of some pagan people in America, who having told a lie, used to let their tongues bleed in expiation thereof,—a good cure for the squinancy [quinsy]—but no satisfaction for lying. These heathens will one day rise in judgment against such among us as make no conscience of lying. To bring things close, those who lived within the walls of London, that were given up to a trade, a course of lying, those people sinned with a high hand, not only against the light of nature—but also against as clear, as glorious a gospel-light as ever shined round a people since Christ was upon the earth; and therefore no wonder if God has laid their city in ashes. He who shall seriously dwell upon these four things—namely, (1.) That lying is a very great sin; (2.) That lies and liars are very destructive to all human societies, kingdoms, and commonwealths; (3.) That lying is a sin most hateful and odious to God; (4.) That lying is a sin against the light and law of nature,—he will see cause enough to justify the Lord in that recent dreadful fire that has thus been among us.
But before I close up this particular, give me permission to say, that this trade, this course of lying which brings that severe judgment of fire upon cities and countries, I cannot charge with any clear evidence upon those who did truly fear the Lord, whose habitations were once within the walls of London before it was turned into a ruinous heap; and that upon these grounds—
[1.] First, Because a trade, a course of lying is not consistent with the truth or state of grace, Psalm 139:23-24; 1 John 3:6-10. A trade, a course of drunkenness, of whoring, of swearing, of cursing, is as inconsistent with a state of grace—as a trade, a course of lying is. I know Jacob lied, and David lied, and Peter lied—but none of these were ever given up to a trade of lying, to a course of lying.
"No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him." 1 John 3:6. A trade, a course of sin—is inconsistent with a state of grace. The best saints have sadly miscarried as to particular actions; but he who shall judge of a man's
spiritual state by particular acts, though notorious bad, will certainly condemn, where God acquits. We must always distinguish between some single evil actions, and a serious course of evil actions. It is not this or that particular evil action—but a continued course of evil actions—which denominates a man wicked. Just so, it is not this or that particular holy act—but a continued course of holy actions—which denominates a man holy. Every man is—as his course is. If his course is holy—the man is holy. If his course is wicked—the man is wicked. No man ought to conclude, because of some particular good actions—that his spiritual state is good. No man ought to conclude, because of some particular sinful actions—that his spiritual state is bad. A course of sinning can never stand with a course of godliness. Though the needle of the seaman's compass may jog this way and that way—yet the bent of the needle will still be northward. Just so, though a Christian may have his particular sinful joggings this way or that way—yet the bent of his heart will still be God-wards, Christ-wards, heaven-wards, holiness-wards.
A trade of lying can never stand with a trade of holiness; a course of lying can never stand with a course of godliness. But,
[2.] Secondly, Such as did truly fear the Lord within the walls of London, such did in their solemn addresses to the Lord, both together and apart, lament and bewail that trade, that course of lying which was predominant among many that day; and therefore I dare not charge the trade, the course of lying upon their scores. But,
[3.] Thirdly, A lie draws its pedigree from the devil, and such as make a trade of lying, such are certainly Satan's children, 1 Kings 22:22; Acts 5:3-10; John 8:44, "You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies." Gen. 3. Satan is the father of all sins, as well as the father of lies; but here he is said to be a liar and the father of lying, because by lying he first brought sin into the world. Satan began his kingdom by a lie, and by lies he still labors to uphold it. He is the inventor and author of all the lies which are in the world. "The devil's breasts," says Luther, "are very fruitful with lies." Liars are the devil's children by imitation. There are none who resemble him so much to the life, as liars do. They are as like him as if they were spit out of the his very mouth. Lying is a part of the devil's image. Other sins make men like beasts; but this of lying makes men like devils.
Now upon this account also I dare not charge the trade of lying upon such who feared the Lord within the walls of London. Though many who make a profession of Christ are no more like Christ than Michal's image of goats'-hair was like David; yet all such as are really united to Christ, they are like to Christ, they bear upon them the image of Christ, they resemble him to the life. Jesus Christ is such a fountain, in which whoever bathes, and of which whoever drinks, they shall be sure to be changed into the same likeness from glory to glory, that is, from a lower degree of grace to a higher degree, even as by the Spirit of the Lord, 2 Cor. 3:18. Such as truly fear the Lord have an image of righteousness and holiness stamped upon them, and do more resemble Christ than Satan, Phil. 4:23-24; and therefore the trade of lying may not be charged upon them. But,
[4.] Fourthly, Have they not chosen rather to suffer, than by lying either to free themselves from sufferings, or to secure themselves against sufferings? Jerome writes of a brave woman, that being upon the rack, bade her persecutors do their worst; for she was resolved rather to die than to lie. Has not much of this spirit been upon them? and therefore I dare not charge the trade of lying upon them. But,
[5.] Fifthly, Such as truly fear the Lord, they hate lying. Psalm 119:163, "I hate and abhor lying." David hated lying as he hated hell itself. Just so, Proverbs 13:5, "A righteous man hates lying." Lying is a detestable, stinking weed, and therefore a righteous man abhors to touch it, he hates to come near it, and can by no means endure the scent of it in others, least of all in himself. Justin Martyr, speaking of the persecuted Christians, has this memorable saying: "It is in our power, when we are sought for and examined, to deny what we are, what we believe; but we will not live speaking anything untruly." These blessed souls so hated and abhorred lying, that they would rather die than lie. "A lie," says Plato, "is odious not only to the gods—but also to every wise man." Cleobulus, another heathen, affirms that every wise prudent man hates a lie. Erasmus had such an antipathy against lying, that from his youth he world usually tremble at the sight of a noted liar. Now upon this account also I dare not charge the trade of lying upon their score that truly fear the Lord. But,
[6.] Sixthly, Lying is that sad character and black brand, which the Lord has only put upon wicked and ungodly men. Psalm 58:3, "Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies." No sooner could they do anything—but they were doing evil, lisping out lies even as soon as they were born! Isaiah 30:8-9, "Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come forever and ever." Why, what must he write? mark verse 9, "That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord." Now upon this account also I dare not charge the trade of lying upon those who feared the Lord in that great city before it was laid in ashes. But,
[7.] Seventhly, A trade of lying is inconsistent with the relation of God to his children: Isaiah 63:8, "Surely they are my people, children who will not lie: so he was their Savior." God makes this the earmark of his people, that they are children that will not lie, Col. 3:9. When the heathen philosopher was asked in what things men were most like unto God, he answered, "In their speaking of truth." Not lying is one of the choice characters by which the Lord does difference and distinguish his own peculiar people from other men: Zeph. 3:13, "The remnant of Israel shall do no iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth." In the primitive times this was a common saying, "He is a Christian—he will not lie!" Rev. 14:5, "And in their mouth was found no lie—for they are without fault before the throne of God." Now upon this account also I dare not charge the trade of lying upon those gracious souls that feared the Lord within the walls of London, before it was turned into a ruinous heap. But,
[8.] Eighthly and lastly, Liars are reckoned among the basest and the worst of sinners that you read of in all the book of God: Lev. 19:11, "You shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another." Proverbs 6:16-19, "There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers" So the apostle Paul, setting down a catalogue of the basest and worst of sinners, he ranks liars in the end of them: 1 Tim. 1:9-10, "We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers." So John numbers liars among the damned crew that shall be sent to hell, and that must perish forever: Rev. 21:8, "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur!" In this catalogue of the damned crew, the "fearful" are placed in the front, and the "liars" in the rear. See once more how the Holy Spirit couples liars: Rev. 22:15, "Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood." Thus you see in all these scriptures that liars are numbered up among the rabble of the most desperate and deplorable wretches who are in the world; and therefore upon this account also I cannot charge the trade of lying upon those who feared the Lord, whose habitations were once within the walls of London.
8. The eighth sin that brings the judgment of fire, is men's giving themselves over to IMMORALITY.Jude 7, "In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire." In these words there are these three things observable—
[1.] First, The places punished—and they are Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, which were Admah and Zeboiim, Deut. 29:23; Hosea 11:8. The overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them was total, both in respect of the inhabitants, and the places themselves. Their sin was universal, and their punishment was as universal. That pride, idleness, and fullness of bread which is charged upon them by the prophet Ezekiel, did usher in those abominable wickednesses that laid all waste and desolate, Ezek. 16:49-50.
[2.] Secondly, The sins that brought these punishments—namely, "The giving themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion."
The first is, "sexual immorality." The heathen thought sexual immorality was no vice, and therefore they made it a common custom, and were accustomed to pray thus: "The gods increase the number of the harlots."
The second sin that is charged upon them is, "sexual perversion". The apostle in this modest and covert expression, does hint to us their monstrous and unlawful lusts, that were against the course, light, and law of nature. They gave themselves up to such filthiness as is scarce to be named among men; they went after other flesh than what nature or the God of nature had appointed. The great God never appointed that male and male—but only that male and female should be one flesh; it is impossible that man and man in that execrable act should make one flesh, as man and woman do: Gen. 2:21, seq. The apostle Paul expresses their filthiness thus, "God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion." Romans 1:26-27. The Gentiles had left the God of nature, and therefore the Lord in his just judgment allowed them to leave the order of nature, and so to cast scorn and contempt upon the whole human nature.
Again, there is another sort of pollution by strange flesh, and that is a carnal joining of a man with a beast, which is prohibited: "Neither shall you lie with any beast," Lev. 18:23. Oh what a sink of sin is in the nature of man, the heart of man! And as this pollution is prohibited, so it is punished with death: "And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death, and you shall slay the beast," chapter 20:15. The Lord, to show the horridness and the heinousness of this beastly sin, commands that even the poor, harmless, innocent beast, that is neither capable of sin, nor of provoking or enticing man to sin, must be put to death. Oh how great is that pollution that pollutes the very beasts, and that makes the unclean more unclean, and that does debase the beast below a beast! Now to this sort of pollution the beastly Sodomites had without doubt given up themselves.
[3.] The third thing observable in the words is, the severity of their punishment: "the punishment of eternal fire." We commonly say that fire and water have no mercy, and we have frequently experienced the truth of that saying. When God would give the world a proof of his greatest severity against notorious sinners and notorious sins, he does it by inflicting the judgment of fire. When the Sodomites burned in their lusts one towards another, "Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah--from the Lord out of the heavens." Genesis 19:24. Now this fiery vengeance came not from any inferior cause—but from the supreme cause, even God himself. This brimstone and material fire that was rained by the Lord out of heaven, was not by any ordinary course of nature—but by the immediate almighty power of God. Doubtless it was the supernatural and miraculous work of the Lord, and not from any natural cause, that such showers, not of water—as when the old world was drowned; but of material fire and brimstone, should fall from heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah—to which add Admah and Zeboiim, for all these four cities were burned together.
God rained, not sprinkled, yes, he rained not fire only—but fire and brimstone for the increase of their torment, and that they might have a hell above-ground, a hell on this side hell. They had hot fire for their burning lusts, and stinking brimstone for their stinking brutishness. They burned with vile and unnatural lusts, and therefore against the course of nature fire falls down from heaven and devours them, and their stinking abominable filthiness is punished with the stench of brimstone mingled with fire.
Thus God delights to suit men's punishments to their sins; yes, that temporal fire which God rained out of heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah was but a forerunner of their everlasting punishment in that lake which burns with fire and brimstone for evermore, Rev. 21:8. The temporal punishment of the impenitent Sodomites did but make way to their eternal punishments, as Jude tells us, verse 7.
The fire and brimstone that fell upon Sodom and Gomorrah was a type and figure of that eternal fire, or those eternal torments which shall be inflicted upon all impenitent sinners forever and ever. The sum of all is this, that the Sodomites, by giving themselves over to "sexual immorality and perversion", did provoke the Lord to rain hell out of heaven upon them; they did provoke the Lord to rain material fire and brimstone both upon their persons and their habitations.
Doubtless the body of the inhabitants of that famous city, which is now laid in ashes, were as free from giving themselves over to sexual immorality and perversion, as any in any part of the nation; yes, more free than many in some parts of the nation. Also, I cannot see how these sins which are charged upon the Sodomites can be clearly or groundedly charged upon any of the precious servants of the Lord, who did truly fear him in that renowned city; and my reasons are these—
[1.] First, Because in all their solemn and secret addresses to the Lord they have seriously lamented and mourned over these crying abominations.
[2.] Secondly, Because men's giving themselves over to sexual immorality and perversion, are such high and horrid sins against the light and law of nature, that God commonly preserves his chosen from them. He shall be an Apollo to me, who can produce any one instance in the Old or New Testament of any one person that, after real and through conversion, did ever give himself over to sexual immorality and perversion. Aristotle calls beastiality a surpassing wickedness. By the laws of those two emperors, Theodosius and Arcadius, Sodomites were adjudged to the fire. In the Council of Vienna the ones who were found guilty of this sin were decreed to be burnt. And among the Romans, it was lawful for him who was attempted to that abuse to kill him who made the assault. Tertullian brings in Christianity triumphing over paganism, because this sin was peculiar to heathens, and that Christians never changed the gender, nor accompanied with any but their own wives. This and such like, as Tertullian speaks, being not so much to be called offences as monsters, and not to be named without holy detestation by saints, though they are committed without shame by Sodomites. The Saxons, who of old inhabited this land, strangled the adulteress being taken, and then burnt her body with fire, and hanged the adulterer over a flaming fire, burning him by degrees until he died. Opilius Macrinus, an emperor, caused the body of the adulterer and the whore to be joined together, and so burnt with fire. Aurelianus caused the adulterer's legs to be bound to the boughs of two trees bent together, and then violently being lifted up again, his body was torn asunder. And the Julian law, among the Romans, punished adultery with death, by cutting off the heads of those who were guilty of that fact. And the Turks stone adulterers to death. Zaleucus, king of the Locrians, ordained that adulterers should have their eyes put out; and therefore, when his son was taken in adultery, that he might both keep the law and be compassionate to his son, he put out one of his own eyes to redeem one of his son's. I have read of some heathens that have punished this sin with a most shameful death, and the death was this: they would have the adulterer's or adulteress's head to be put into the paunch of a beast, where lay all the filth and uncleanness of it, and there to be stifled to death. This was a fit punishment for so filthy a sin. In old time the Egyptians used to punish adultery on this sort: the man with a thousand lashes with a reed, and the woman with cutting off her nose; but he who forced a free woman to his lusts, had his private members cut off. But,
[3.] Thirdly, Such who give themselves over to fornication, overthrow the state of mankind, while no man knows his own wife, nor no wife knows her own husband, and while no father knows his own children, nor no children know their own father. Families are the joints and sinews of the world; lose these and loser all. Now what families can there be when there is nothing but confusion of parents—the son knows not his father, nor the father the son? But,
[4.] Fourthly, These expressions of giving themselves over to sexual immorality and perversion, implies—
First, Their making constant provisions for their base lusts, Romans 13:14. Oh the time, the pains, the cost, the charge that such are at to make provision for their unsatiable lusts!
Secondly, It implies an excessive violent spending of their strength beyond all measure and bounds in all lasciviousness and Sodomite uncleanness. Pliny tells of Cornelius Gallus and Elerius two Roman knights, who died in the very action of filthiness. Theodebert, the eldest son of Glotharius, died among his whores; so did Bertrane Ferrier at Barcelona; Giachet Geneve who had both wife and children of his own, being carnally joined with a young woman, was suddenly smitten with death; his wife and children wondering why he stayed so long in his study, when it was time to go to bed called him, and knocked at his door very hard—but when no answer was made, they broke open the doors, that were locked on the inner side, and found him lying upon the woman stark dead, and her dead also. Claudus, counselor of the parliament of Paris, a desperate persecutor of the Protestants, while he was in the very act of committing filthiness with one of his waiting-maids, was taken with an apoplexy, which immediately after made an end of him. Many other instances might be produced—but let these suffice.
Thirdly, It implies their impudency and shamelessness in their filthiness and uncleanness. They had a whore's forehead; they proclaimed their lasciviousness before all the world; they were not ashamed, neither could they blush: hence it is that the men of Sodom are said to be sinners before the Lord—that is, they sinned openly, publicly, and shamelessly, without any regard to the eye of God at all, Jer. 3:3, and 6:15; Isaiah 3:10; Gen. 13:13. "Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them!" Gen. 19:5. Oh, the faces marked with impudency! they shroud not their sins in a mantle of secrecy—but proclaim their filthiness before all the world, they had out-sinned all shame: and therefore they gloried in their shame: they were so arrogant and impudent in sinning, that they proclaimed their filthiness upon the house-top. But,
Fourthly, It implies their resolvedness and obstinacy in sinning in the face of all the dreadful warnings and alarms that God had formerly given them by a bloody war, and by the spoiling and plundering of their cities, and by taking away of their food—"fullness of bread" was a part of their sin, and now "cleanness of teeth" is made a piece of their punishment in God's just judgment—and by Lot's admonition and mild opposition, Gen. 14:10-12, and 19:11. It is observable, that when they were smitten with blindness, they wearied themselves to find the door. God smote them with blindness, both of body and mind; and yet they continued groping to find the door, being highly resolved upon sodomy, though they died for it. Oh the hideous wickedness and prodigious madness of these Sodomites, that when divine justice had struck them blind, their hearts should be so desperately set upon their lusts, as to weary themselves to find the door! But what will Satan's bond-slaves and firebrands of hell not do? Sottish and besotted sinners will never tremble when God strikes! Phil. 2:12. But,
Fifthly, These expressions of giving themselves over to sexual immorality and perversion, implies the delight, pleasure, contentment, and satisfaction that they took in those abominable practices: Romans 1:32, "They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations." "They had pleasure in unrighteousness," Isaiah 66:3; 2 Thes. 12; 2 Pet. 2:13. Luther tells us of a certain nobleman in his country, that was so besotted with the sin of whoredom, that he was not ashamed to say, that if he might ever live here, and be carried from one whore-house to another, there to satisfy his lusts, he would never desire any other heaven. This filthy nobleman did afterwards breathe out his wretched soul between two notorious harlots. All the pleasure and heaven that these filthy Sodomites look after, was to satisfy their brutish lusts. "Hark, scholar," said the harlot to Apuleius, "it is but a bitter-sweet that you are so fond of!" And this the Sodomites found true at the long run, when God showered down fire and brimstone upon them. But,
Sixthly and lastly, These words of giving themselves over to sexual immorality and perversion, implies their great settled security in those brutish practices. The old world was not more secure when God swept them away with a flood, Gen. 6, than the Sodomites were secure when God rained fire and brimstone out of heaven upon them, Gen. 19:14. Mercury could not kill Argus until he had cast him into a sleep, and with an enchanted rod closed his eyes. No more could the devil have hurt these Sodomites, if he had not first lulled them asleep in the bed of security. Carnal security opens the door for all impiety to enter into the soul. Pompey, when he had in vain assaulted a city, and could not take it by force, devised this stratagem in way of agreement; he told them he would leave the siege, and make peace with them, upon condition that they would let in a few weak, sick, and wounded soldiers among them to be cured. They let in the soldiers, and when the city was secure, the soldiers let in Pompey's army. A carnal settled security will let in a whole army of lusts into the soul; and this was the Sodomites' case.
To sum up all, those expressions in Jude, (verse 7,) of giving themselves over to sexual immorality and perversion, do imply or take in these six things last mentioned, which things will not stand with the truth of grace or state of grace; and therefore those sins which are specified by Jude cannot be charged with any clear, fair, or full evidence upon the people of God, who did truly fear him within the walls of London.
But should this treatise fall into any of their hands who have given themselves over to fornication, or to go after strange flesh, then I would say that it very highly concerns all such people to lay their hands upon their loins, and to say, we are the very men, the sinners, the monsters that have turned a rich and populous city into a ruinous heap! But,
9. The profaneness, lewdness, blindness, and wickedness of the CLERGY, of them in the ministry, brings the judgment of fire, and provokes the Lord to lay all waste before him:"Her prophets are arrogant; they are treacherous men. Her priests profane the sanctuary and do violence to the law. The Lord within her is righteous; he does no wrong. Morning by morning he dispenses his justice, and every new day he does not fail, yet the unrighteous know no shame. "I have cut off nations; their strongholds are demolished. I have left their streets deserted, with no one passing through. Their cities are destroyed; no one will be left--no one at all." Zephaniah 3:4-6. Their prophets and priests were rash, heady, and unstable people—they were light, faithless men, or men of faithlessness, as the Hebrew runs. They were neither faithful to God, nor faithful to their own souls, nor faithful to others' souls. They invented and pretended prophecies of their own, and then boldly maintained them, and imposed them upon their hearers; they were profane and light in their lives, they fitted their doctrines to all fancies, humours, parties, and times; they betrayed their trust, they betrayed the lives of men into the hand of divine justice, and the souls of men into the hands of Satan; they polluted the sanctuary, they polluted the holy things of God, by managing of his worship and service in a profane carnal way, and with a light, slight, treacherous spirit, and by perverting the true sense of the law in their ordinary teaching of the people. They did violence to the law, or they despised, removed, or cast away the law, as the original runs: the Hebrew word here used signifies also to dishonor, Psalm 50:17. Their prophets and priests did dishonor the law of God by corrupting the law, and by putting false glosses upon it, and by turning of it into such shapes and senses as would best suit the times, and please the humours of the people. Now for these abominations of their prophets and priests, God denounces a dreadful woe against the city of Jerusalem in verse 1, "Woe to her that is filthy and polluted, to the oppressing city!"
"The Lord has given full vent to his wrath; he has poured out his fierce anger. He kindled a fire in Zion that consumed her foundations. The kings of the earth did not believe, nor did any of the world's people, that enemies and foes could enter the gates of Jerusalem. But it happened because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed within her the blood of the righteous." Lamentations 4:11-13. God sent a consuming flame into Jerusalem, which did not only burn the tops of their houses—but also the foundations themselves, leaving no mark whereby they might know where their houses stood, nor any hopes of building them up again.
But why did God kindle such a devouring fire in Jerusalem, which was one of the world wonders, and a city that was not only strong in situation and building, and deemed impregnable—but a city that was God's own seat, the palace of his royal residence; yes, a city that the Lord had for many years, to the admiration of all the world, powerfully and wonderfully protected against all those furious assaults which were made upon her by her most potent and mighty adversaries?
Answer. For the sins of her prophets, and the iniquities of her priests, as God himself testifies, who can neither die nor lie. You may see this further confirmed, if you please but seriously to ponder upon these scriptures, Ezek. 22:25-26, 31; Jer. 23:11, 14-15, 39-0. Micah 2:11; Isaiah 30:10-11; Jer. 5:31; Hosea 4:9; Isaiah 9:16; Lam. 2:14; Ezek. 18.]
Look! as the body natural, so the church body cannot be long in a good constitution, whose more noble and essential parts are in a consumption. The sins and enormities of ministers have the strongest influence upon the souls and lives of men, to make them miserable in both worlds. Their falls will be the fall and ruin of many; for people are more prone to live by examples than by precepts; and to mind more what the minister does than what he says. Precepts may instruct—but examples persuade. The complaint is ancient in Seneca, that commonly men live, not by reason—but by example. The people commonly make the examples of their ministers, the rules of their actions; and their examples pass as current among them as their prince's coin. The common people are like tempered wax, easily receiving impressions from the seals of their ministers' vices. They make no bones of it to sin by prescription, and to damn themselves by following the lewd examples of their ministers. The vulgar unadvisedly take up crimes on trust, and perish by following of bad examples. I will leave the serious reader to make such application as in prudence and conscience he judges fit.
"Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them. "'Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them. Ezekiel 34:2-10. But,
10. Sometimes the sins of princes and rulers bring the fiery dispensations of God upon people and places.[It is a strange saying in Lipaius, namely, that "the names of all good princes may easily be engraved or written in a small ring."] Jer. 38:17-18, 23, "Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, "This is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: 'If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down; you and your family will live. But if you will not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be handed over to the Babylonians and they will burn it down; you yourself will not escape from their hands. All your wives and children will be brought out to the Babylonians. You yourself will not escape from their hands but will be captured by the king of Babylon; and this city will be burned down;" that is, you, by your obstinacy, will be the means to procure the burning of this city, which by a rendition of yourself you might have saved.
Just so, Jer. 34:2, 8-11, compared with chapter 37:5-22. "Judges and magistrates are the physicians of the state," says Lake in his sermon on Ezra, "and sins are the diseases of it." What does it matter whether a gangrene begins at the head or the heel, seeing both ways it will kill, except this be the difference, that the head being nearer the heart, a gangrene in the head will kill sooner than that which is in the heel; even so will the sins of great ones overthrow a state sooner than those of the lowest sort, 2 Sam. 24:9-18. But,
11. The abusing, mocking, and despising of the messengers of the Lord is a sin that brings the fiery dispensation upon a people.2 Chron. 36:15-19; Mat. 34, 37-38, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." [Turn to these two pregnant texts, and ponder seriously upon them; for they speak close in the case.] Here Jesus uses the present for the future, to note the certainty of the desolation of their city and temple, and their own utter ruins; and about forty years after the Romans came and burned their city and temple, and laid all waste before them. They had turned the prophets of the Lord out of all, and therefore the Lord resolves to turn them out of all.
O sirs! will you please seriously to consider these six things: That all faithful, laborious, conscientious ministers or messengers of the Lord, are great instruments in the hand of the Lord--
(1.) For stopping or stemming the tide of all profaneness and wickedness in a land, which bring all desolating and destroying judgments upon cities and countries, Isaiah 58:1.
(2.) For converting souls to God, for turning poor sinners from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to Jesus Christ, Acts 26:15-18, and Dan. 12:3.
(3.) For promoting of religion, holiness, and godliness in men's hearts, houses, and lives, which is the only way under heaven to render cities, countries, and kingdoms safe, happy, and prosperous.
(4.) For the weakening of the kingdom of Satan and antichrist, the weakening of whose kingdom is the glory, safety, and security of the land.
(5.) For the turning away of wrath, either felt or feared.
(6.) For the bringing down of the greatest, weightiest, and noblest of temporal favors and blessings upon cities and countries, as might be proved from scores of scripture, James 5:16-18.
And therefore never marvel if God revenges the abuses done to them in flames of fire.
12. Shedding of the blood of the just is a crying sin, that brings the judgment of fire, and lays all desolate.[See Ezek. 21:28, 31-32, and 25:3-5.] I will turn your towns into ruins and you will be desolate. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
Ezekiel 35:4-15 "'Because you harbored an ancient hostility and delivered the Israelites over to the sword at the time of their calamity, the time their punishment reached its climax, therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will give you over to bloodshed and it will pursue you. Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you. I will make Mount Seir a desolate waste and cut off from it all who come and go. I will fill your mountains with the slain; those killed by the sword will fall on your hills and in your valleys and in all your ravines. I will make you desolate forever; your towns will not be inhabited. Then you will know that I am the Lord. "'Because you have said, "These two nations and countries will be ours and we will take possession of them," even though I the Lord was there, therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will treat you in accordance with the anger and jealousy you showed in your hatred of them and I will make myself known among them when I judge you. Then you will know that I the Lord have heard all the contemptible things you have said against the mountains of Israel. You said, "They have been laid waste and have been given over to us to devour." You boasted against me and spoke against me without restraint, and I heard it. This is what the Sovereign Lord says: While the whole earth rejoices, I will make you desolate. Because you rejoiced when the inheritance of the house of Israel became desolate, that is how I will treat you. You will be desolate, O Mount Seir, you and all of Edom. Then they will know that I am the Lord.'"
The Edomites were deadly enemies to the Israelites—their hatred was old and strong, and active against them; and they took hold on all occasions wherein they might express their rage and cruelty against them, both in words and works. And therefore when the Babylonians took Jerusalem, they cried, "Tear it down, tear it down to its foundations!" Psalm 137:7. When the Babylonians entered Jerusalem, many of the Jews fled to the Edomites for support, they being their brethren; but instead of sheltering them, they cruelly destroyed them, and greatly insulted over them, and were glad of all opportunities wherein they might vent all their rage and malice against them, so that they might the better ingratiate themselves with the Babylonians. Now for these cruel practices and barbarous severities of theirs towards the poor, afflicted, and distressed Israel of God, God is resolved to bring utter desolation upon them: verse 3, "This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Mount Seir, and I will stretch out my hand against you and make you a desolate waste!" or as the Hebrew is, Shemamah Umeshammah, desolation and desolation. Now this doubling of the Hebrew word shows the certainty of their desolation, the speediness of their desolation, and the greatness and thoroughness of their desolation.
That was good counsel which Tertullian gave Scapula, a pagan persecutor: "God will surely make inquisition for our blood, therefore, if you will not spare us—yet spare yourself; if not yourself—yet spare your country, which must be responsible when God comes to visit for blood!"
"The Lord has given full vent to his wrath; he has poured out his fierce anger. He kindled a fire in Zion that consumed her foundations. The kings of the earth did not believe, nor did any of the world's people, that enemies and foes could enter the gates of Jerusalem. But it happened because of the sins of her prophets and the iniquities of her priests, who shed within her the blood of the righteous." Lamentations 4:11-13. The prophets and the priests enraged the people against them, and engaged the civil power against the just and the innocent, to the shedding of their blood. But this innocent blood could not be purged away but by fire. To shed the blood of the just, is a most crying sin, and that for which God has turned the most glorious cities in the world into ashes. Calvin upon the text well observes, "the true prophets of God are meant by the just, for whom they had prisons, dungeons, and stocks to put them into; and sometimes stoning, or otherwise tumults, which they stirred up among the people, whereby their blood was shed."
Rome has much of the blood of the saints upon her skirts, and for this very sin she shall be utterly burnt with fire, as you may see at large, if you will please to read the 18th chapter of the Revelation at your leisure, Rev. 16:6, 17:6, 19:2, and 18:24. Though Rome was a cage of unclean birds, and full of all manner of abominations—yet the sin that shall at last burn her to ashes, is the blood of the saints. Mark, though the people of God are in Babylon, and may partake of her plagues, and fall under the fiery dispensation with her, it is not the sins of the saints—but the sins of Babylon which bring the judgment of fire upon Babylon. Mark, the people of God may live in a city that may be burnt to ashes, and yet their sins may not be the procuring causes of that judgment. Lot lived in Sodom, and had his failings and infirmities as well as other saints, Gen. 19; but it was not his sins that brought the judgment of fire upon that city—but the sins of the citizens, as the Scripture assures us.
But you may say, Pray, sir, why is God so severe as to turn stately cities, rich and populous cities, great and glorious cities, into a ruinous heap, for shedding the blood of the just? Answer. Because, next to the blood of Christ, the blood of the just is the most precious blood in all the world. Mark, There are these nine things that speak out the preciousness of the blood of the just—
[1.] First, Clear and plain scriptures speak out the blood of the saints to be precious: "He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence, and precious shall their blood be in his sight." And so Psalm 116:15, "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints;" Psalm 73:32-33, and 72:14. But,
[2.] Secondly, The cry of their blood reaches as high as heaven, and this speaks it out to be precious blood, Gen. 4:10-11. The blood of one Abel had so many tongues as drops, and every drop a voice to cry for vengeance, and the cry of his blood did strongly engage the justice of God to punish it: [Crying is ascribed to blood by a figurative speech.] Rev. 16:6, "Give them blood to drink, for they are worthy." But,
[3.] Thirdly, God's cursing their blessings, who have shed the blood of his saints, speaks out their blood to be precious blood: Gen. 4:10-11, "And now are you cursed from the earth, which has opened her mouth to receive your brother's blood from your hand." Now this is added by the way—1. To aggravate the sin of Cain; 2. To show the fitness of the punishment: it is as if he had said the earth did, as it were, in compassion receive into her bosom that blood which you did cruelly and wickedly shed; and therefore out of the earth, which has sucked in your brother's blood, shall spring a curse that shall plague you for shedding that blood. The earth, which was created for your blessing and service, shall execute this curse against you in vengeance, not yielding you the fruits which otherwise it would have done. As is expressed in verse 12, "When you till the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto you her strength"—Heb., "It shall not go on to give you its ability." This was a second curse, whereby the earth became worse for Cain's sin than it was for Adam's. Now if this curse were not general—yet doubtless it was a particular curse upon Cain's portion, so that wherever or whensoever he should until the earth as a farmer, the earth by its barrenness should upbraid him as a murderer. But,
[4.] Fourthly, God's pouring out of the blood of the wicked as water is poured out upon the ground, to prevent the effusion of his children's blood, speaks out their blood to be precious blood, Isaiah 43:4-5. At the Red Sea, God made way not only through the sea—but also through the blood of the Egyptians, to preserve the blood and lives of his poor people, Exod. 14. God, to preserve the lives and blood of his people, destroys a hundred and eighty-five thousand of Sennacherib's army by the hand of his angel in one night, Isaiah 37:36. And you know in Esther's time, Esther 9, how God made way for the preservation of the lives and blood of his people through the blood of Haman, his sons, and the rest of their enemies who hated them. I might give you twenty other scriptures to the same purpose—but enough is as good as a feast. But,
[5.] Fifthly, The strict inquisition that God has made after the blood of the just in all ages of the world, argues the preciousness of their blood: Psalm 9:12, "When he makes inquisition for blood, he remembers them, he forgets not the cry of the humble." Did not Pharaoh, [Crying is ascribed to blood by a figurative speech.] Ahab, Jezebel, Haman, Herod, Amalek, Moab, Ammon, Sennacherib, etc., find by woeful experience that God did make a strict inquisition after the blood of the just? And so did those men of violence who shed the blood of the just in the primitive times, etc. But,
[6.] Sixthly, The speedy and dreadful vengeance of God upon such as have shed the blood of the just, speaks out their blood to be precious in his eyes: Psalm 4:23, "But you, O God, shall bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men, shall not live out half their days;" Psalm 94:21, 23, "They gather themselves together"—Heb., "run by troops, as thieves do"—"against the soul of the righteous, and condemn the innocent blood. He shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness: yes, the Lord our God shall cut them off." Richard III and Queen Mary were cruel princes, and shed the blood of the just, and they had the shortest reign of any since the Conquest.
Charles IX was a great shedder of the blood of the just. He had a deep hand in the massacre of the Protestants in Paris, and in other parts of his kingdom he glutted himself with the blood of the just, and gloried greatly in their ruins. In his latter days he was surprised with a great debility and tormenting pains in his body; after a great effusion of blood, which flowed out all the passages of his body, he breathed forth his wretched soul. Oh the horrid butcheries that were committed and commanded by this bloody prince his reign, throughout his whole realm! But at last divine vengeance overtook him, and he died wallowing in his own blood, etc.
The Duke of Guise, next to the king, had the greatest hand in the massacre of the Protestants. He was a most barbarous prince, and at last he falls by barbarous hands; for he being called to come to the king into his cabinet, as he lifted up the tapestry with one hand to enter, he was charged with swords and daggers—and so died by the hands of murderers. He who had murdered many thousands of the Protestants was at last murdered by men of his own religion.
Henry III, king of France, was a most cruel enemy to the Protestants, and he was by James Clemmont, a monk, stabbed in the same chamber, and on the same day wherein he had helped to contrive the French massacre. Doubtless God will one day reckon with France for all that Protestant blood that they have shed.
Maximinus was a great persecutor of the people of God; he set forth a proclamation, engraved in brass, for the utter abolishing of Christ and his religion; he was at last eaten up of lice. The same judgment befell Philip king of Spain. Thomas Blair, one of the privy counselors of the king of Scots, was a severe persecutor of the people of God in that land; when he lay on his dying-bed he fell into despair, and cried out that he was damned, he was damned: and when the monks came about him to comfort him, he cried out upon them, saying, "that their masses and other trash would do him no good; for he never believed them—but all that he did was for love of money, and not of religion, not respecting or believing that there was either a God or a devil, a hell or a heaven; and therefore he was damned, there was no remedy but he must go to hell, and in this state, without a sign of repentance he died."
A popish magistrate having condemned a poor Protestant to death, before his execution he caused his tongue to be cut out, so that he could not confess the truth. But the Lord did retaliate it upon him; for the next child he had was born without a tongue.
Cardinal Crescentius  was a most desperate persecutor of the people of God. He was the pope's ambassador to the Council of Trent, and being one night busy in writing to his master the pope, a huge black dog, with great flaming eyes, and long ears dangling down to the ground, appeared to him in his chamber, and went under the table where he sat. Upon which the cardinal was amazed; but as soon as he had recovered himself, he called his servants to put out the black dog that was come into his chamber; but they looked round about his chambers, and the next chambers—but could find no black dog: upon which the cardinal fell presently brain sick, which never left him until his death, still crying out, "Drive away the black dog, drive away the black dog!" which seemed to him to be climbing up his bed; and in that sad state he died.
After the martyrdom of Gregory, the bishop of Spoleta, Flaccus the governor, who was the author thereof, was struck with a disease, and vomited up his entrails at his mouth, and died.
Mammea Agrippitus, when he was fifteen years old, because he would not sacrifice to their idols, was apprehended at Preneste, and whipped with scourges, and hanged up by the heels, and at last slain with the sword; in the midst of whose torments the governor of the city fell down dead from the tribunal-seat.
Gensericus, king of the Vandals, an Arian, was a most cruel persecutor of the orthodox Christians; he was possessed of the devil, and died a most miserable death in the year 477.
Herod the Great, who caused the babes of Bethlehem to be slain, hoping thereby to have destroyed Christ, shortly after was plagued by God with an incurable disease, having a slow and slack fire continually tormenting of his inward parts; he had a vehement and greedy desire to eat, and yet nothing would satisfy him; his intestines rotted, his breath was weak and stinking, some of his members rotted, and in all his members he had so violent a cramp, that nature was not able to bear it, and so, growing mad with pain, he died miserably.
Herod Antipas, who beheaded John Baptist, not long after, falling into disgrace with the Roman emperor, with his incestuous Herodias, the suggester of that murder, they were banished, and fell into such misery and poverty that they ended their wretched lives with much shame and misery.
Herod Agrippa was a great persecutor of the saints, Acts 12; he was eaten up of worms in the third year of his reign, as Josephus observes. The gown he was in, as the same author relates, was a gown of silver wonderfully wrought, and the beams of the sun reflecting upon it, made it so glisten, that it dazzled the eyes of the beholders; and when he had made an end of his starched oration, his flatterers extolled him as a god, crying out, "It is the voice of a god, and not of a man!" Acts 12:21-23. Whereupon he was presently smitten by the angel of the Lord, and so died with worms that ate up his entrails. The blow the angel gave him was an inward blow, and not so visible to others; and his torments more and more increasing upon him, the people put on sackcloth, and made supplication for him—but all in vain; for his pains and torments growing stronger and stronger every day upon him, they separated his wretched soul from his loathsome body within the compass of five days.
Caiaphas the high priest, who gathered the council, and suborned false witness against the Lord Christ, was shortly after put out of his office, and one Jonathan substituted in his room, whereupon he killed himself.
Not long after Pontius Pilate had condemned our Lord Christ, he lost his deputyship and Caesar's favor; and being fallen into disgrace with the Roman emperor, and banished by him, he fell into such misery that he hanged himself.
Oh the dreadful judgments that were inflicted upon the chief actors in the ten persecutions! Shall I give you a brief account of what befell them?
Nero, that monster of men, who raised the first bloody persecution, to pick a quarrel with the Christians, he set the city of Rome on fire, and then charged it upon them; under which pretense he exposes them to the fury of the people, who cruelly tormented them, as if they had been common burners and destroyers of cities, and the deadly enemies of mankind. Yes, Nero himself caused them to be apprehended and clad in wild beasts' skins, and torn in pieces with dogs; others were crucified, some he made bonfires of to light him in his night-sports. To be short, such horrid cruelty he used towards them, as caused many of their enemies to pity them. But God found out this wretched persecutor at last; for being adjudged by the senate an enemy to mankind, he was condemned to be whipped to death, for the prevention whereof he cut his own throat.
Domitian, the author of the second persecution against the Christians, having drawn a catalogue of such as he was to kill, in which was the name of his own wife and other friends; upon which he was, by the consent of his wife, slain by his own household servants with daggers in his privy-chamber; his body was buried without honor, his memory cursed to posterity, and his arms and ensigns were thrown down and defaced.
Trajan raised the third persecution against the church; he was continually vexed with seditions, and the vengeance of God followed him close. For, first, he fell into a palsy, then lost the use of his senses; afterwards he fell into a dropsy, and died in great anguish.
Adrian being vexed with great and perpetual commotions in his life, died with much anxiety.
Maximinus being declared an enemy by the senate, was killed in his own tent.
Decius, by the Goths, in their first invasion of the empire, with his whole army was cut off.
Valerianus was overcome by the Persians, and made use of by Sapor as a stirrup for his foot when he went to mount his horse.
Julian, in his height of contempt against Christ, was deadly wounded in battle against the Persians, and throwing his blood in the air, died with that desperate expression in his mouth, Vicisti tandem Galilaee.
Valentius, being a great favorer of the Arians, and a great persecutor of the orthodox—the Arians exceeding the heathens in cruelty—was in battle against the Goths in Thracia wounded, and being carried to a house that was near, it was set on fire by the enemy, in which he miserably perished.
Maxentius and his chief officers being put to flight on the other side of the river Tiber, by Constantine, was necessitated to return by a bridge, whereupon he had made devices in a secret way to have drowned Constantine, by which he and those who were with him were drowned in the river; [The Christians compared his destruction in the water to Pharaoh's drowning in the Red Sea.] upon which occasion the Christians took occasion to sing that word, Psalm 9:16, "The Lord is known by the judgments which he executes: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hand:" and that word, Psalm 7:15, "He made a pit and dug it, and he himself is fallen into it."
Diocletian being sent for by Constantine, upon suspicion, chose rather to poison himself than to see him.
Maximianus Herculeus, endeavoring again to recover his authority, was discovered in his design by his daughter, Constantine's wife: whereupon he was pursued and besieged by Constantine, and was either killed, or during the siege hanged himself, as is diversely reported by several writers.
Maximinus Jovius, through intemperance, becoming obese, was smitten with boils in the secret parts, out of which issued abundance of vermin; his physicians were either suffocated by the odious smell of his loathsome disease, or else they were killed by him because they could not cure him. One of his physicians told him that it was God's judgment on him for persecuting the Christians, which no man could cure. At last he fell under such convictions, as forced him to confess that the wrongs and injuries that he had done to the people of God were the cause of that plague; and therefore being struck with terror and horror, gave out edicts that the persecution should cease, and that churches should be built, and that in their meetings prayers should be put up for him, as formerly used to be.
The other tyrant in the east, namely, Maximinus, had been industrious to invent cruel tortures for the Christians, especially to pull out their eyes; but at last he was defeated, and made to hide himself, and afterwards he was pursued by such a sickness which made both his eyes to drop out of his head, by which judgment he was necessitated to confess that the God of the Christians was the only true God, and that he had been mistaken concerning the gods whom he chose to worship; which words were uttered by him when he was even expiring, as Eusebius testifies. By all these dreadful instances, you may run and read that heavy vengeance that has been inflicted upon those who have shed the blood of the just.
Foelix, Earl of Wurtemburg, was a great persecutor of the saints, and did swear that before he died, he would ride up to the spurs in their blood: but the very same night wherein he had thus sworn and vowed, he was choked to death with his own blood.
The judgments of God were so famous and frequent upon those who shed the blood of the saints in Bohemia, that it was used as a proverb among the adversaries themselves, That if any man be weary of his life, let him but attempt against the Christians—and he should not live a year to an end.
Sir Thomas More, once Lord Chancellor of England, was a sworn enemy to the gospel, and persecuted the saints with fire and faggot; and among all his praises he reckons this as the chiefest—that he had been a persecutor of the saints. But what became of him? he was first accused of treason, and then condemned, and at last beheaded.
Judge Morgan was a great persecutor of the people of God; but shortly after he had passed the sentence of condemnation upon that virtuous lady, the Lady Jane Grey, he fell mad, and in his mad raving fits, he would continually cry out, "Take away the Lady Jane, take away the Lady Jane from me!" and in that horror he ended his wretched life.
Drahomiza, after the death of her husband, usurped the government of Bohemia, and was a cruel persecutor of the people of God; but by a righteous hand of God it so fell out, that on that very place where the ministers' bones lay unburied, the earth opened of itself, and swallowed her up alive with her chariot, and those who were in it; which place is now to be seen before the castle of Prague. There is no end of instances of a later date. But,
[7.] Seventhly, The strange, miraculous, and wonderful preservation of the lives and blood of the just, speaks out their blood to be precious blood. [Hesiod speaks of thirty thousand demi-gods that were keepers of men; but what are so many thousand gods, compared to that one God, who neither slumbers nor sleeps—but day and night keeps his people as the apple of his eye, Zeph. 5:8; as his jewels, Mal. 3:17; who keeps them in his pavilion, as a prince his favorite! Psalm 31:20.] Who can sum up the many miracles of divine love, power, wisdom, and care, etc., that God manifested in the preservation of Joseph in the prison, Jeremiah in the dungeon, Daniel in the den, and the three children in the fiery furnace, and not say, "Surely the blood of the saints is very precious in the eyes of the Lord!"
I have read of a certain witch that sent her spirits to kill Ambrose; but they returned her this answer, that God had hedged him in, as he did Job, and therefore they could not touch him, they could not hurt him. Another came with a drawn sword to his bedside to have killed him—but he could not stir his hand, until, repenting, he was by the prayer of Ambrose restored to the use of his hand again. For Luther to stand it out against the pope and all the power of Rome, was a great miracle; and that he should prevail against all that power, was greater; and that after all he should die in his bed, was the greatest of all. There are many thousand instances more of the like nature—but enough is as good as a feast.
[8.] Eighthly, The spiritual judgments that God has given such up to, who have shed the blood of the just, speaks out their blood to be precious blood. Oh the dreadful horrors and amazing terrors of conscience that such have been given up to! Take a few instances among the many that might be given. Vaivod, who had betrayed Zegedine, a godly man, professed to Zegedine that he was so haunted with apparitions and the furies of his own conscience, that he could not rest day nor night. Dionysius, a cruel tyrant, a bitter enemy to all good men and good things, was so troubled with fear and horror of conscience, that, not daring to trust his best friends with a razor, he used to singe his beard with burning coals.
A sleepy conscience, when awakened, is like a sleepy lion; when he awakes he roars and tears his prey. It is like Prometheus' vulture, it lies ever gnawing. Conscience is God's preacher in the bosom. Conscience is a thousand witnesses for or against a man. Conscience has a good memory. Sin brings a stain and a sting. Horror of conscience meets a man in the dark, and makes him leap in the night, and makes him quake in his sleep, and makes him start in every corner, and makes him think every bush is a man, every man a devil, and every devil a messenger to fetch him quick to hell.
Because of an accusing conscience, Theodoric saw the face of a man in the mouth of a fish; Nessus heard the noise of murder in the voice of birds; Saundes ran demented over the Irish mountains. This made Cain wander, Saul stab himself, Judas hang himself, Latomus cry desperately, he was damned, he was damned; and Julian confess that he was conquered. An accusing conscience makes man, the lord of all, to be slave to all. Certainly it is better with Evagrius to lie secure on a bed of straw, than to have a turbulent conscience on a bed of down, having curtains embossed with gold and pearl. But,
[9.] Ninthly and lastly, The shedding of the blood of the just is a sin of so high a cry, and so deep a dye, that for it God is resolved, except men repent, that he will shut them out of the highest heaven, and cast them down to the lowest hell; as you may see by comparing the scriptures in the margin together; [Gal: 5:21; Rev. 21:8, and 22:15; 1 John 3:15; Mat. 22:7.] and therefore certainly the blood of the just is most precious blood. Now, seeing that the blood of the just is such precious blood, who will wonder if God sets such cities and towns and countries into a flame about their ears, upon whose skirts the blood of the just is to be found? Josephus, speaking of the desolation of Jerusalem, says, Because they have sinned against the Lord God of their fathers, in shedding the blood of just men and innocents that were within you, even in the temple of the Lord, therefore are our sorrowful sighings multiplied, and our weapons [weepings?] daily increased. It was the blood of the just, the blood of the innocents, that turned Jerusalem into ashes.
I have read of one Rabbi Samuel, who six hundred years since writ a tract in form of an epistle to Rabbi Isaac, master of the synagogue of the Jews, wherein he does excellently discuss the cause of their long captivity and extreme misery, and after that he had proved that it was inflicted for some grievous sin, he shows that sin to be the same which Amos speaks of: "For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof, because they sold the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes." The selling of Joseph he makes the first sin; the worshiping of the calf in Horeb, the second sin; the abusing of God's prophets, the third sin; and the selling of Jesus Christ, the fourth sin. For the first, they served four hundred years in Egypt; for the second, they wandered forty years in the wilderness; for the third, they were captives seventy years in Babylon; and for the fourth, they are held in pitiful captivity even until this day.
When Phocas, that bloody cut-throat, sought to secure himself by building high walls, he heard a voice from heaven telling him, that though he built his bulwarks ever so high—yet sin within, blood within, would soon undermine all. Shedding the blood of the just is a sin that has undermined the strongest bulwarks, and that has blown up, and burnt up, the most glorious cities that have been in the world. And who can tell but that the blood of the just that was shed in the Marian days (Bloody Mary), might now come up into remembrance before the Lord? For in four years of her reign there were consumed in the heat of those flames, two hundred and seventy-seven people. I say, who can tell but that the blood of these precious servants of the Lord has cried aloud in the ears of the Lord for vengeance against that once glorious—but now desolate city? Men of brutish spirits, and who are skillful to destroy, make no more of shedding the blood of the just, than they do of shedding the blood of a swine; but yet this hideous sin makes so great a noise in the ears of the Lord Almighty, that many times he tells the world by his fiery dispensations that it cannot be purged away but by fire. And thus much for the sins which bring the fiery judgment. Our way now to the application is plain.