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Ver. 7. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
In this verse is the third example, fitly suited to the former: the angels had the blessings of heaven, the Israelites of the church, and Sodom of the world. But the angels upon their apostasy lost heaven; the murmuring Israelites were shut out of Canaan; and the Sodomites were, together with their fruitful soil and pleasant land, destroyed. You see heaven -mercies, and church-mercies, and world-mercies, are all forfeited by the creatures’ ingratitude. This last instance is propounded as the first part of a similitude, the reddition of which is in the next verse. In the words observe:—
1. The places or people judged. Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities round about them, in like manner. Those two cities are only mentioned here, as also Gen. xix. 24, because the principal; in Hosea xi. 8, two others are only mentioned, Admah and Zeboim; but Deut. xxix. 23, all four are mentioned, ‘The whole land is brimstone, salt, and burning, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboim, which the Lord overthrew in his anger and in his wrath.’ Now the cities are mentioned rather than 220the persons, to note the utter destruction of the places, together with the inhabitants; for that clause, the cities about them in like manner, in the original, τὸν ὁμοῖον τούτοις τρόπον, the word for them is in the masculine gender, whereas cities, the next antecedent, is in the feminine; therefore some refer it to the remote antecedent: the angels and Israelites, as they were punished, so Sodom and those cities in like manner. So Junius; but I suppose, because cities doth not only imply the places, but the inhabitants, therefore the masculine gender was used by the apostle.
2. Their sin is specified, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh. Here are two great sins charged upon them. (1.) The first is, giving themselves over to fornication, ἐκπορνεύσασαι, the word is unusual, and therefore diversely rendered. One translation, defile themselves with fornication, the Vulgar, exfornicatae, as noting the strangeness and abominableness of their lust; but that is implied in the next expression. Our translation fitly rendereth it by such a phrase as signifieth their excess and vehement addictedness to unclean practices. (2.) The next sin is, going after strange flesh. It is a modest and covert expression, implying their monstrous and unlawful lusts, contrary to the course and institution of nature, a filthiness scarce to be named, from them called Sodomies. The apostle Paul expresseth it thus: Rom. i. 27, ‘Leaving the natural use of the woman, they burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working that which is unseemly.’ It is called here strange flesh, σαρκὸς ἑτέρας, ‘other flesh,’ as being other than what nature hath appointed, or because it is impossible that man and man in that execrable act should make ‘one flesh,’ as man and woman do. (3.) Their judgment is set down, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Sodom, we know, and the cities round about it, were consumed by fire and brimstone rained down from heaven, which, though a dreadful, was but a temporal fire: in what sense doth the apostle call it here ‘eternal fire’? Some, to mollify the seeming austerity of the phrase, read thus, were made an example of eternal fire, suffering vengeance, that is, in that judgment which was executed upon them, God would give the world a type and figure of hell. Others by eternal fire understand the duration of the effects of the first temporal punishment, the soil thereabout wearing the marks of God’s curse to this day. Others, not much differing from the former, by eternal fire understand an utter destruction, and labour to evince it from the use of the phrase in a like sense, and the parallel place in Peter: 2 Peter ii. 6, ‘He turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, and condemned them with an overthrow,’ that is, utterly destroyed them. But why we need to be so tender I know not, the Sodomites being generally represented as men under everlasting judgment, Mat. xi. 24, and the temporal judgment making way for eternal, though as to the state of particular persons we judge not. See Rivet in Gen., Exercit. 97, p. 474.
3. Here is the end and aim of the judgment, are set forth for an example, that is, to be a notable document and instruction to the world to keep them under the law of God; and therefore everywhere in the prophetic threatenings of the word is this instance alluded unto.
The words are explained, but how shall we accommodate them to 221the apostle’s purpose? I answer—Very well; there is a fit correspondency between the case in hand and this example; the Sodomites went after strange flesh, and these apostates after strange opinions. These errors and opinions of theirs tended to sensuality, and so still there is a greater suitableness. The school of Simon, the Nicolaitans, the Gnostics, did defile themselves with monstrous and abominable lust, as the Sodomites did; and therefore he threateneth them with a destruction like to that of Sodom, yea, with eternal fire, figured thereby; especially they having been formerly enlightened with some knowledge of the truth, which the Sodomites were not. Let me now come to the observations.
Obs. 1. Cities and countries suffer for the evil of the inhabitants, as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities round about them were consumed with fire and brimstone, and turned into a dead lake. Original sin brought on an original curse; Adam’s fall a curse upon the whole earth: Gen. iii. 17, ‘Cursed is the ground for thy sake, thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee;’ and actual sins do bring on an actual curse: Ps. cvii. 34, ‘He turneth a pleasant land into saltness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.’ A traitor forfeits not only his life but his goods; so do we not only forfeit our persons, but all our comforts into God’s hands; and it is but fit that the earth should be to us, after all our labours, what we are to God after all his husbandry bestowed upon us; we are barren of good fruits as to God, and so justly may the land be to us. I remember the apostle saith, ‘The creature was made subject to vanity,’ οὐχ ἑκοῦσα, ‘not willingly.’ Rom. viii. 20; the creature hath only a natural tendency and inclination, and that carries it to its own good; we had free-will and choice, but abused it, and so brought ourselves and the creature under the bondage and thraldom of corruption; so that the earth, which was in tended to be a monument of God’s glory, is now in great part a monument of God’s displeasure and our rebellion. It is observable, on the contrary side, that the glorious times of the gospel are expressed by the restoration of the creatures, Isa. xxx. 23-26, and Isa. xi. 6-8. For as the condition of the servant doth depend on the master, so doth the state of the creature upon our conformity or disobedience to God. Well, then, avoid sin, if not in pity to your poor souls, in pity to the poor creatures, to your poor country; as David said, ‘What have these poor sheep done?’ So what have the creatures done that you kindle a burning under their glory? See Jer. ii. 15-19, ‘The land is laid waste, and cities burnt without an inhabitant.’ What is the cause of all this? Even our sins against the Lord, that a man shall be the ruin of his country and native soil; this should go near to us; shall we turn this pleasant land into saltness, and lay these dwellings waste, these streets into ashes? Carnal men are usually moved by carnal arguments, and tremble more to hear of the loss of their estates than of their souls; we are startled to hear of scarcity, and famine, and fires, and pestilences; all these are the fruits of sin.
Obs. 2. Those cities were utterly destroyed, and accordingly is the destruction of Sodom put for an utter overthrow. See Isa. xiii. 19, Zeph. ii. 9, Jer. xlviii. 18, Jer. 1. 40, 2 Peter ii. 6. Observe thence, that in judgments wicked men may be brought to an utter destruction. 222The synagogue of Satan may be utterly destroyed, but not the city of God; in the saddest miseries there is hope of God’s children, that their dead stock will bud and scent again: Zech. ix. 12, ‘Prisoners of hope;’ the cutting off of ‘root and branch’ is the judgment of the wicked, Mal. iv. 1. Their memorial may be blotted out, but Sion’s cannot. It is the design of the enemies to extinguish the memory of the church; and many times, to appearance, there is none left, yet out of their ruins and ashes there springeth up a new brood and holy seed to God: they are ‘sorely afflicted,’ Ps. cxxix. 1, 2; yet Christ stands his ground; they are not wholly prevailed over; the church may visibly fail, but not totally. Well, then, in the midst of sad miseries, bless God for a remnant; it may be bad, but it is not as Sodom, Isa. i. 9. In times of general defection there will be ‘two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough,’ Isa. xvii. 6. Some that may continue the name of God, and survive the church’s troubles, that may yet praise him. Again, do not haunt with the wicked, and suffer your souls to enter into their secret; evil societies may be absolutely destroyed, root and branch. Sodom was ‘condemned with an overthrow.’ It is seasonable advice, ‘Come out of her, my people, lest you partake of her plagues,’ Rev. xviii. 4. Babylon, that was a nest for unclean sinners, will be made ‘a cage for unclean birds.’
Obs. 3. From that, and the cities about them in like manner, observe, likeness in sin will involve us in the same punishment; they perished, and ‘the other cities in like manner:’ none had safety but Lot, who consented not, but grieved for these impurities, 2 Peter ii. 8. God’s wrath maketh no distinction. Quos una impietas profanavit, una sententia dejicit, saith Ambrose; they were found in the same sin, and therefore surprised by the same judgment:; The destruction of the transgressors and sinners shall be together,’ Isa. i. 28; that is, the one as well as the other, by what names or titles soever distinguished. Why? I answer—Fellowship in evil can neither excuse sin nor keep off wrath. It cannot excuse sin; nothing more usual than for men to say, they do as others do; if you do as others do, you shall suffer as others do: example doth not lessen sin, but increase it, partly because their own act is an approbation of the act of others; imitation is a post constat, and so, besides your own guilt, you are guilty of their sins that sinned before; partly because it is hard to sin against example, but we sin against conscience, we allowing that in ourselves which we formerly condemned in another; partly because it is a sin against warning; to stumble at the stone at which we see others stumble is an error and without excuse. Say not, then, it is the fashion and guise, how can we do otherwise?124124 ‘Non ego sum ambitiosus, sed nemo aliter Romae vivere potest,’ &c. Be not conformed to the fashions of this world; you should be like Lot, chaste in Sodom, or like those Christians that were godly in Nero’s court. Again, it doth not keep off wrath; multitudes and single persons are all one to avenging justice; the devouring burning of God’s wrath can break through briars and thorns. It is said, Prov. xi. 21, ‘Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished.’ Confederations and societies in evil are as nothing to the power of God, though sometimes the sons of Zeruiah, powerful oppressors, with their combined interests, 223may be too hard for men. Well, then, learn to live by rule and not by example, and propose the sins of others to your grief, not imitation: ‘Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but reprove them rather,’ Eph. v.; their practice will never afford you excuse nor exemption. Your duty is to be good in a wicked age, fresh, like fish in the salt water. ‘Follow not a multitude to do evil,’ wickedness is never the less odious because it is more common; it is not safe always to keep the road; the bad way is known by the breadth of it, and the much company in it, Mat. vii. 13. To walk with God is praiseworthy, though none do it besides thyself; and to walk with men in the way of sin is dangerous, though millions do it besides thee.
Obs. 4. Again, from that, and the cities about them in like manner. The lesser cities imitated the greater; Admah and Zeboim followed the example of Sodom and Gomorrah. An error in the first concoction is seldom mended in the second; if sin pass the heads and chiefs of the people, it is taken up by others under their command. When the first sheet is done off, others are printed by the same stamps. Magistrates are public fountains of good or evil to the people over whom they are set. If they be cold and careless in the worship of God, given to contempt of the ministry, enemies to reformation, it will be generally taken up as a fashion by others. When ‘the head is sick, the whole heart is faint,’ Isa. i. 5. Diodorus Siculus telleth us of a people in Ethiopia, that if their kings halted, they would maim themselves that they might halt likewise; if they wanted an eye, in a foolish imitation they would make themselves blind, that they might comply even with the defects and diseases of their princes. The vices of them in place and power are authorised by their example and pass for virtues; if they be slight in the use of ordinances, it will be taken up as a piece of religion by inferiors to be so too.
Obs. 5. From the first crime here specified, giving themselves over to fornication, that adulterous uncleanness doth much displease God. When they were given over to fornication they were given over to judgment. (1.) This is a sin that doth not only defile the soul but the body: 1 Cor. vi. 18, ‘Every sin that a man doth is without the body, but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.’ Most other sins imply an injury done to others, to God or our neighbour. This more directly an injury to ourselves, to our own bodies. It is a wrong to the body, considered either as our ‘vessel,’ 1 Thes. iv. 4, or as ‘the temple of the Holy Ghost,’ 1 Cor. vi. 19. If you consider it as our vessel or instrument for natural uses, you wrong it by uncleanness—namely, as it destroyeth the health of the body, quencheth the vigour of it, and blasteth the beauty, and so it is self-murder. If you consider it as the temple of the Holy Ghost, it is a dishonour to the body to make it a channel for lust to pass through. Shall we make a sty of a temple? abuse that to so vile a purpose which the Holy Ghost hath chosen to dwell in, to plant it into Christ as a part of his mystical body, to use it as an instrument in God’s service, and finally to raise it out of the grave, and conform it to Christ’s glorious body? The dignity of the body well considered is a great preservative against lust. (2.) It brawneth the soul; the softness of all sensual pleasures hardeneth the heart, but this sin, 224being the consummate act of sensuality, much more: Hosea iv. 11, ‘Whoredom and wine take away the heart.’ These two are mentioned because usually they go together, and both take away the heart, besot the conscience, take away the tenderness of the affections. So that men are not ashamed of sin, insensible of danger, and unfit for duty, and so grow sapless, careless, senseless. (3.) Next to the body and soul there is the name, now it blotteth the name: Prov. vi. 33, ‘A wound and a dishonour shall he get, and a reproach that shall not be wiped off.’ Sensual wickedness is most disgraceful, as having turpitude in it, and being sooner discerned than spiritual. (4.) It blasteth the estate: Heb. xiii. 4, ‘Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge;’ he will judge others, but surely these, and that remarkably in this life. (5.) This doth exceedingly pervert the order of human societies; Solomon maketh it worse than theft, Prov. vi. 29-32. A thief stealeth out of necessity, but here is no cogent necessity; the loss here is not reparable, as that which is made by theft. It bringeth in great confusion, in families, &c., therefore adultery under the law was punished by death, which theft was not. (6.) It is a sin usually accompanied with impenitency—namely, as it weareth out remorse, and every spark of good conscience. Bead those cutting places: Prov. xxii. 14, ‘The mouth of a strange woman is a deep pit, and he that is abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein;’ so Prov. ii. 19, ‘None that go unto her return again; nor do they take hold of the ways of life.’ So see Eccles. vii. 26-28. It is a sin into which God useth to give over reprobates. Solomon saith he knew but one returning. Well, then, be not drunk with the wine of Sodom, and do not squeeze out the clusters of Gomorrah. Whoredom is a deep ditch or gulf, wherein those that are abhorred of the Lord are suffered to fall. Beware of all tendings that way; do not soak and steep the soul in pleasures; take heed of effeminacy, μάλακοι: ‘The soft or effeminate shall not enter into the kingdom of God,’ 1 Cor. vi. 9. Beware of lustful glances, Mat. v. 28, of rolling the fancy upon undone125125 Qu. ‘unclean’?—ED. objects; heart defilement maketh way for corporal; lust beginneth in wanton eyes many times, and it is fed by a delicacy and unworthy softness. Guard the senses, cut off’ the provisions of the flesh, avoid occasions, be employed. Again, if you have stumbled into this deep ditch, repent the more speedily, the more seriously; the case is sad, but not altogether desperate. We read of a possibility for publicans and harlots entering into the kingdom of God. Bewail your estate as David doth, Ps. li. His adultery left a stain upon him: ‘Except in the matter of Uriah,’ &c. Job saith, ‘It is a fire that consumeth to destruction, and will root out all your increase,’ Job xxxi. 12; therefore quench it the sooner, &c.
Obs. 6. Again, from the other sin, and going after strange flesh, observe, sin is never at a stay; first, uncleanness, and then given over to uncleanness, and then strange flesh. When a stone runneth down hill it stayeth not till it cometh to the bottom; a filthy sinner is growing more filthy still, until he hath outgrown the heart of a man, as the Sodomites did, ‘men with men working that which is unseemly,’ a sin which none but a devil in the likeness of a man would commit, a sin that hath filthiness enough in it to defile the tongue that speaketh of 225it. Well, then, here is a glass wherein to see the wickedness of our natures. Who would think reason should invent so horrid an act? Rom. i. 27. They had no more original corruption than thou and I have. If God remove the bridle, whither shall we run? Let wicked men consider hence how foolishly they promise themselves immunity from drunkenness, adultery, or any gross wickedness. Caution any of them against those things. No, I warrant you, say they; do you think I am such a wretch? ‘Is thy servant a dog?’ 2 Kings viii. 13.
Obs. 7. From that, the vengeance of eternal fire. The wicked Sodomites were not only burnt up by that temporal judgment, but cast into hell, which is here called ‘eternal fire.’ Hell is set forth by two notions: ‘A worm that never dieth, and a fire that never goeth out,’ Mark ix. 44. In both which expressions there is an allusion to the worms that breed in dead bodies, and the fire wherewith they were wont to burn their dead in former times; and the one implieth the worm of conscience, the other the fire of God’s wrath.
1. The worm is bred in the body itself, and therefore fitly representeth the gnawings of conscience. The worm of conscience consisteth in three things, There is memoria praeteritorum, sensus praesentium, et metus futurorum. First, Conscience worketh on what is past, the remembrance of their former enjoyments and past pleasures: Luke xvi. 25, ‘Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime,’ &c. So of time wasted, opportunities of grace slighted, the folly of their own choice, &c., all which are sad reflections to them. Secondly, There is a sense of the present pain. Here when they were corrected they were senseless, like stocks and stones; but then, there being nothing to mitigate their grief or beguile the sense of it, no carnal pleasures wherein to steep conscience, there must needs be sense and feeling, joined with a bitter discontent at their condition. Thirdly, For the future their condition is hopeless; despair is one ingredient into their torment: Heb. x. 27, ‘There remaineth nothing but a fearful looking for the fiery indignation of the Lord.’ Thus for the worm.
2. The next notion is that of the text, fire, or the wrath of God transacted upon them. In the sufferings of the damned God hath an immediate hand, Heb. x. 31; no creature is strong enough to convey all his wrath. In bearing this wrath, the capacity of the creature is enlarged to the uttermost; and in their punishment God sets himself a-work to ‘show the glory of his strength.’ Rom. ix. 22. He upholdeth the creature with one hand, and punisheth it with the other; if his anger be but ‘kindled a little,’ and a spark of it fly into the conscience, the poor creature is at his wits’ end: but how dreadful will their portion be against whom he ‘stirreth Up all his wrath?’ Ps. lxxviii. 38. The human nature of the Lord Christ in a just abhorrency recoiled when he was to taste of this cup. We, that cannot endure the gripes of the cholic, the torment of the stone, the pain of the rack, ‘how shall we dwell with devouring burnings?’ and all this is for ever. As our obligations to God are infinite, and as we turn back upon eternal happiness offered in the gospel, and as the majesty offended by sin is infinite, so that we cannot restore the honour to God which we have taken away, therefore by just reason is our punishment eternal. In the other world men are in their final estate; 226the fuel continueth for ever, the creature is not abolished, and the fire continueth for ever, the breath of the living Lord still keepeth the flame burning. We think a prayer long, a sermon long; what will hell be? In the night, if we cannot sleep, we count the hours, and every minute seems tedious. Oh! what will they do that are ‘tormented night and day for ever and ever’? Rev. xx. 10. Now this is the portion of all that forget God. Oh! who would run this hazard for a little temporal satisfaction? The scourges of conscience that we meet with here are too great price for the short pleasures of a brutish lust, much more ‘the worm that never dieth, the fire that shall never be quenched.’
Obs. 8. There is one note more, and that is from that clause, are set forth for an example. Observe thence, that Sodom’s destruction is the world’s great example. Both Peter and Jude show that this was the end of God’s judgments upon Sodom, that they might be ‘an example to all that live ungodly.’
You will say, What have we to do with Sodom? their sins being so unnatural, their judgments so unusual. (1.) As to their sins, I inquire, Are there none of Sodom’s sins amongst us? If not ‘going after strange flesh,’ yet ‘fornication;’ if not fornication, yet ‘pride and idleness, and fulness of bread?’ I say again, though our sins be not so great in themselves, yet by necessary circumstance and aggravation, they may be greater; as impenitency, unbelief, abuse and neglect of the gospel, despising the offers of grace. The grossest sins against the law are not so great as sins against the gospel: Mat. xi. 24, ‘It shall be more tolerable for Sodom,’ &c. We sin against more light, more love, &c. (2.) As to the judgments, though God doth not now-a-days smite a country with judgments immediately from heaven, or make it utterly unuseful, as he did Sodom, yet his displeasure is no less against sin; and if not the same, a like judgment, one very grievous, may come upon us.
This being premised, let us come to open this example, in which these three things are considerable:—(1.) The state of Sodom; (2.) The sins of Sodom; (3.) The judgment. The first will show you God’s mercy; the second, their guilt; the third, God’s justice. Usually these three follow one another; great mercies make way for great sins, and great sins for great judgments.
1. I begin with the state of Sodom. There—(1.) The quality of the place. There were sundry goodly cities, of which Sodom was the principal, fairly situated in the plain of Jordan, full of people, and well supplied with corn, wine, oil, and all earthly contentments. It is said, Gen. xiii. 10, ‘Sodom was pleasant, and as the garden of the Lord.’ And yet afterwards this was the place which was the scene of so much wrath and utter desolation. What may the world learn from hence? That we must give an account for common mercies. God reckoned with the servant that had but one talent, Mat. xxv. The world is a place of trial, all men have a trust committed to them. The talents of the heathens were ‘fruitful seasons, food and gladness,’ Acts xiv. 17. God, that never left himself ἀμάρτυρον, ‘without a witness,’ hath left us ἀναπολογήτους, ‘without excuse:’ a plentiful soil doth not argue a good people, but a good God. Sodom was 227pleasantly and richly situated. If we bad nothing else to answer for but an island of blessings, how poorly have we discharged this trust? (2.) Take notice of their late deliverance. Four kings made war upon them, by whom they were carried captive, and rescued by Abraham, Gen. xiv. 15, 16. Deliverances from war and. captivity leave a great engagement. When God hath once spared us, if we repent not, the next turn is utter destruction. Deliverances, if not improved, are but reprievals; we are not so much preserved, as reserved to a greater misery; hoisted up that our fall may be the more dreadful, snatched out of one misery that we may be cast into a worse. Oh! what have we to answer for our late deliverances! Sodom was but once saved in war, we many times. It is to be feared that passage recordeth our doom, Ps. cvi. 43, ‘Many times did he deliver them, but they provoked him by their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity.’ Deliverances not improved are pledges of certain ruin. (3.) God’s patience in bearing with them. Sodom for a long time slept quietly in its sins unmolested, undisturbed. ‘The sins of Sodom cry to me.’126126 ‘Misericordia mea suadet ut parcam, peccatorum clamor cogit ut puniam.’—Salvianus. The Lord proffered Abraham, if there were but ten righteous persons found there, he would spare the cities. In four cities not ten righteous persons! God is silent as long as their sins would let him be quiet; but then, when he could no longer bear, he goeth down to take vengeance. How long doth the Lord protract the ruin of these wicked cities? ‘Justice is his strange work,’ but it is his work; mercy does much with God, but not all; justice must be heard, especially when it pleadeth on behalf of abused mercy. God, that would spare the sinner, yet hateth the sin. When a people do nothing but weary justice and abuse mercy, ‘the Lord will rain from the Lord,’ &c.,127127 ‘Domiuus Christus a Domino Patre.’—Council. Syrm. Gen. xix. 24. Christ will interpose for such a people’s destruction; heaven will rain down hell upon a people so obstinately wicked. The Lord is gracious, but not senseless. As he will not always contend, so not always forbear. (4.) Lot’s admonition; it seemeth he frequently reproved them, and therefore do they scorn him: Gen. xix. 9, ‘This one fellow came to sojourn amongst us, and he will needs be a judge.’ His soul was not only vexed with those lewd courses, but, as occasion was offered, he sought to dissuade them. Thence learn that God seldom punisheth without warning: the old world had Noah’s ministry, and Sodom Lot’s admonitions. The Lord may say to every punished people, as Reuben to his brethren, ‘Did not I warn you, and you would not hear?’ Gen. xlii. 22. Seldom doth he hew a people with the sword but first he heweth them by prophets: means of conviction aggravate both the sin and the judgment. Ah! we have a clearer light, and therefore must expect a heavier doom, Mat. x. 15. Sins are aggravated not only by the foulness of the act. but the degrees of light against which they are committed. Sodom sinned sorely as to the act, but they could not sin against so much light as we do; therefore it shall be easier for them at the day of judgment. (5.) They had the benefit of magistracy; those were cities that were brought into government. We read of ‘the king of Sodom,’ Gen. xiv. 2; but it seems he did not interpose 228 his authority, but rather connive at and tolerate the wickedness of this people, yea, rather approve and partake with them in their abominations. Consider, when the vices of inferiors are dissembled and winked at by governors, the Lord himself taketh the matter in hand; and then look for nothing but speedy ruin. The guilt of a nation is much increased when sin is tolerated, yea, favoured and countenanced; especially when righteousness is rather restrained and curbed than sin, as the affronts done to Lot witnessed; the end why magistracy was ordained is then perverted, 1 Tim. ii. 2, Rom. xiii. 5, namely, for ‘the punishment of evil-doers,’ and that goodness be encouraged: they were punished for allowing the filthiness of strange flesh. What will become of us if magistrates should be careless and wink at, yea, countenance, strange opinions, as horrid and as much against the light of Christianity as that was against the light of nature.
2. Let us look upon the sins of Sodom. See Ezek. xvi. 49, ‘Lo! this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy;’ to which add the sins of the text, and then this black roll is complete. I shall consider—(1.) The sins; (2.) The aggravations.
[1.] The sins. (1.) Pride. It is hard to enjoy plenty and not to grow haughty. Prosperous winds soon fill the sails, but, blowing too strongly, overturn the vessel; how few are able to carry a full cup without spilling? to manage plenty without pride? Men grow rich and then high-minded, and that is the next way to ruin. (2.) Idleness; an easy, careless life maketh way for danger. God sent all into the world for action; standing pools putrify, and things not used contract rust; so do idle persons settle into vile and degenerate lusts. (3.) Fulness of bread; that is, corporal delights: Luke xvii. 28, ‘They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they build ed;’ their whole lives were but a diversion from one pleasure to another. How soon are earthly comforts abused into luxury and excess! Fulness of estate maketh way for fulness of bread, and many beastly sins. (4.) Unmercifulness. You never knew any prodigal but they were’ also uncharitable, as Sodom here, and the epicure, Luke xvi.; and you shall see James v. 4, 5, those that ‘nourished their hearts as in a day of slaughter,’ oppressed the labourers. They that set their hearts for ease and pleasure, know not the bitterness of grief, and therefore do not compassionate it in others, Amos vi. 6. (5.) Uncleanness and fornication. This followeth on the former; fulness of bread must be emptied and unladed in lust. (6.) That beastly wickedness implied in the text. When the angels came to destroy them, because they were of a comely visage, they came raging at the doors, Gen. xix., as usually wickedness is increased to the height when God cometh to punish it. Well, then, if we put all these together, they were a lazy, easy, secure, oppressing, filthy, and unclean people. We may wonder more at God’s patience, that he bore with them so long, than at his justice, that he punished them so sorely.
[2.] The aggravations. (1.) Shamelessness: Isa. iii. 9, ‘They declare their sin as Sodom, they publish it as Gomorrah;’ when a people are past shame they are past hope; such do dare God to punish them. (2.) Contempt of reproof, a sure forerunner of ruin, when the reprover 229of sin is blamed more than the actor. Lot seemed ‘as one that mocked,’ Gen. xix. 14. When God’s messengers are contemned, he can hold no longer.
[3.] Their judgment. ‘The Lord rained from the Lord fire and brim stone upon them.’ Observe here—(1.) The suddenness; the sun shone in the morning as at other times, Gen. xix. 23; they had not the least fear of any such mischief at hand. God usually surpriseth a people in their security; after a great calm cometh a storm: ‘Perish in the midway,’ Ps. ii. 11, in their full career, when they dream of no such matter. (2.) The equity: the sin was like the punishment. They first burned with lusts, and then with fire; they burned with vile un natural lusts, and therefore, against the ordinary course of nature, fire falleth down from heaven. In this fire there was a stink for their filthiness.128128 ‘Sulphur foetorem habet, ignis ardorem.’ Thus doth God retaliate. Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire, and they were consumed with strange fire coming down from heaven. Job, professing his innocency in case of adultery, saith, ‘Otherwise let my wife grind to another, and a stranger bow down upon her,’ Job xxxi. 10, implying that God would punish him in his own bed, if he had violated another’s. In the Gospel we read, Luke xvi., that he was denied a drop that would not give a crumb, &c. (3.) Observe the power of God. God a little before had drowned the world with water, now he consumeth Sodom by fire; all the elements are at his beck, the creatures are his hosts, Job xxxvii. 6. If God say, ‘Be thou upon the earth,’ they presently obey. If we find sins, God will find punishments; he can execute judgments by contrary means, now drown and then burn. (4.) The severity of God; he raineth down fire and brimstone, which is a map and type of hell, Isa. xxx. 33; Rev. xxi. 15. The calamities that light upon the godly are ‘a token of heaven,’ Phil. i. 28; namely, as they work to purify us from sin; but those on the wicked are types of hell, preambles to future woes, as darkness on the Egyptians was a figure of utter darkness. So these were first turned to destruction, and then into hell. It is sad to think of the judgment past; worse of judgment to come.
Thus God delighteth to make those that have been examples to others in sinning, examples to them in punishment.
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