2Pe_2:4-9. If God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; and spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; and delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished.
THERE were in the Apostles’ days a set of religious professors, such as, I would fondly hope, scarcely exist at this time. If we take the chapter before us, and the Epistle of St. Jude, and mark the characters which are there portrayed, we shall not know where to look for persons of a similar description: or, if we find a few, they are so few and so insignificant, that they have no influence whatever in the Church. If they were at all numerous, we should not wonder that “the way of truth should be evil spoken of [Note: ver. 2.].” But what has been, may be: and, if we be not alive to the dangers of an Antinomian spirit, we may yet see “false teachers amongst us, privily bringing in their damnable heresies, and denying the Lord that bought them, and bringing both on themselves and their followers a swift destruction [Note: ver. 1.].” One of the most fearful and disgusting traits of such characters is, the boldness and confidence with which they propagate their errors; professing to expect for themselves, and promising to others, impunity in “their pernicious ways.” But, whatever they may dream of in relation to their security, “their judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not [Note: ver. 3.].” In confirmation of this truth, the Apostle adduces many striking examples, which attest, that God will put a difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve him, and those who serve him not.
The truths deduced from these records will form the ground-work of our present discourse:
God knows how to punish impenitent transgressors—
He has inflicted terrible judgments on account of sin—
[Angels in heaven have experienced his wrath. Respecting the fall of the angels we know but little. But this we know: there were a countless multitude of angels, once as holy and as happy as any that are now around the throne of God; but, on some temptation, they fell, and “left their first estate” of holy obedience, and for their wickedness were cast down from heaven, into a place of inconceivable horror and misery created on purpose for their reception, where they are “reserved in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” Their sin will in that day be made known before the whole assembly of men and angels, and the justice of God in their punishment be universally acknowledged. Their misery is not yet complete. God has seen fit to give them somewhat of a respite, as it were, till the counsels of God respecting the redemption of the world shall be completely fulfilled: but then, together with the ungodly from amongst our fallen race, they shall receive their final doom. They are indeed yet continually adding to their former impiety, by labouring with all their might to frustrate the counsels of heaven in the salvation of mankind: and thus are they treasuring up continually an augmented weight of wrath, which at the appointed season shall come upon them to the uttermost.
On men too, even on the whole world, has God inflicted vengeance on account of sin. Scarcely had the world existed fifteen hundred years, before wickedness abounded in it to such a degree, that “God repented that he had made man.” On this account, he determined to destroy the world: and for that purpose he sent a deluge, which soon covered the face of the whole world, and overwhelmed every living thing, with the exception of those which, with Noah and his family, were assembled in the ark.
Another instance of God’s displeasure against sin has been manifested in the destruction of Sodom and the cities of the plain. Grievous beyond measure, and beyond sufferance, was the iniquity of those cities. Yet, if only ten righteous persons had been found in them, God would have spared the whole for their sake. But their being one only, he rained down fire and brimstone upon them from heaven, and reduced them all to ashes, making them a terrible example to the whole world, of the vengeance that should overtake all who should thereafter live ungodly.]
From these instances it is undeniably clear, that he both can, and will, inflict judgments on sin and sinners—
[Here are facts; facts, which cannot be denied; facts, which bear upon them the stamp and character of divine agency; facts, which speak so loudly, that we cannot shut our ears against them.
There are doubts on the minds of men: ‘Can God, or will he, execute his threatenings, when, if he should proceed according to his word, so many will be destroyed? Shall the great and noble be of no more account in his eyes than the meanest of mankind? or, if some notice shall be taken of sin, shall it be so severe as we are taught to expect?’ Look, brethren, into the divine records, and all these doubts shall vanish in an instant. Angels confessedly are a far more exalted race of beings than men: yet not even angels were spared, when once they had sinned against their God; but were cast headlong from heaven into the bottomless abyss of hell. But will God proceed against so many? Look to the old world, where not a human being, except Noah and his family, was saved. But shall it indeed be so terrible? Look at the cities of the plain, and see what terrible destruction was brought on them: and bear in mind, that these very judgments were intended “for an example unto them that should thereafter live ungodly.” Look, I say, at these things; and then doubt whether that judgment which is threatened shall be executed; “God will rain down upon the wicked snares, fire and brimstone, storm and tempest; this shall be their portion to drink [Note: Psa_11:6.].” If, after seeing such proofs of the Divine veracity, we will not believe, we shall be constrained to believe when our own bitter experience shall leave no room for a possibility of doubt. The judgments may be delayed, even as the deluge was: but at the appointed season the vengeance shall come, and shall not tarry.]
But from the forementioned dispensations we are taught, that,
He knows also how to deliver and to save his tempted people—
Wonderfully did God interpose in behalf of Noah and of Lot—
[Noah was a righteous man, and “a preacher of righteousness” to others. For the space of one hundred and twenty years he ceased not to warn and to exhort the world around him: but in all that time we read not of one whom he was the means of converting unto God. He however maintained his steadfastness amidst all the aboundings of iniquity: and God instructed him how to build an ark, for the saving of himself and his household. Of his family there were seven given to him; and he was “the eighth;” not the eighth lineal descendant from Adam; (for he was the tenth;) but one of eight, or the eighth of those who were saved in the ark. Besides him and those embarked in the same vessel with him, not a creature upon earth was saved: but he was brought forth to the new world in perfect safety.
Nor was the deliverance of Lot less wonderful. He also was “a righteous man:” and his piety was made evident, by the deep interest which he took in the welfare of his fellow-citizens, and by the grief with which the iniquities of all around him oppressed his soul. And, till this righteous man was placed beyond the reach of harm, God himself could not proceed to execute his threatened vengeance. Two angels were sent from heaven to bring him forth, and by a holy violence, as it were, to urge him forward, that he might not be overwhelmed by the impending storm.]
And is he less concerned about his people now?
[Your temptations and trials may be such as no human wisdom could foresee or avoid. But such were the calamities from which Lot and Noah were delivered. You may be a poor despised creature, derided as an enthusiast by all around you, and accounted either conceited or mad, on account of your hope and confidence in God: but such was the light in which those holy men were viewed by their contemporaries; yet they were dear to God, and were saved by him with a great and glorious salvation: and so shall you be saved also from your trials, whether they regard your temporal or your eternal welfare: nor shall so much as one thing occur, which shall not be ultimately over-ruled for your good.]
Express ye then your faith in God as they did—
[Fear to offend him. No doubt those holy men were sorely tempted at times to yield to the solicitations, and to comply with the practices of those around them. But they maintained their integrity, and walked before God in all good conscience in the midst of all the abominations that surrounded them. So then do ye: let your one concern be to serve and please him. Never forget that God is a holy God, and that he will punish iniquity: and “though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished.” Walk uprightly before him; and none can hurt you: but give way to sin; and none can deliver you.
Learn also to trust him. Neither Noah nor Lot had any human help. They trusted in God: and he was all-sufficient for them. Confide ye then in God, as they did. Bear in mind, that he is Almighty to effect whatever will conduce to your welfare; and that he is faithful to all his promises; not one jot or tittle of which shall ever fail.
Finally, dare to serve him. “Fear ye not the reproach of man, neither be afraid of his revilings: for the moth shall eat him up.” What if, through the aboundings of iniquity you be as singular as Noah was in the old world, or Lot in Sodom? it is not your fault, but the fault of those who will not serve God. Let the world deride your fears: they will ere long see who was right; they who mocked at the impending judgments, or you who sought to escape them. Let them deride your hopes: the time is quickly coming, when they will wish that they also had entered into the ark, or fled to the mountain appointed for their abode. Be content to be derided now; in certain expectation, that God will ere long “appear to their shame, but to your unspeakable and everlasting joy.” Whilst they are laughing at you, or sleeping in their sins, “their judgment lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” And, whilst you are faithfully adhering to the service of your God, “the mansions in heaven are preparing for you; and your Lord will quickly come to take you to the possession of them.”]