Charles Simeon Commentary - Amos 6:1 - 6:1

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Amos 6:1 - 6:1


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CARNAL EASE AND SECURITY REPROVED

Amo_6:1. Woe to them that are at ease in Zion.

ONE would scarcely conceive it possible, that the Jews, with so many instances of God’s displeasure before their eyes, could indulge in security, whilst they were evidently, in the whole course of their lives, provoking him to anger. But the blindness both of Israel and Judah was almost incurable. The ten tribes having wholly addicted themselves to idolatry, were the first monuments of God’s indignation. Yet on them the divine judgments fell at first but partially, in order that they might be stirred up to penitence, and avert, by timely reformation, their impending fate. But they continued obdurate, under all the chastisements that were inflicted on them: nor did Judah make any suitable improvement, either of the judgments inflicted on others, or of the forbearance that was exercised towards themselves. God, by the Prophet Jeremiah, complains of Judah thus: “I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also [Note: Jer_3:8.].” A similar complaint was made by the Prophet Amos in our text. God had “begun to cut Israel short;” but neither did they nor Judah lay it to heart, as they should have done: they saw what had been done to nations less guilty and more powerful than themselves; to Calneh, in Chaldea; to Hemath, in Syria; to Gath of the Philistines; and yet “they put away the evil day” from themselves [Note: ver. 2, 3.], as though the cup of bitterness should never be put into their hands. But the prophet denounces against them the heavy judgments of God: “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion!”

It is my intention from these words, to shew you,

I.       The evil which is here reproved—

We are not to suppose that the mere circumstance of a person’s being “at ease” is sinful: on the contrary, it is the privilege of God’s people to enjoy that very state, and that, too, in relation both to their temporal and spiritual concerns. In reference to temporal matters, God has said, “Whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and be quiet from fear of evil [Note: Pro_1:33.].” And in the book of Job, Eliphaz states this point at large: “He shall deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee. In famine, he shall redeem thee from death; and in war, from the power of the sword. Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue; neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh. At destruction and famine thou shalt laugh; neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth: for thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field; and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee: and thou shalt know that thy tabernacle shall be in peace [Note: Job_5:19-24.].” Nor is spiritual peace a whit less the portion of the godly: for it is expressly said, “What man is he that feareth the Lord? His soul shall dwell at ease [Note: Psa_25:12-13.].”

Yet, that there is a sinful kind of ease, is evident, from the woe denounced against it. The state, then, that is here condemned, is a state,

1.       Of carnal confidence—

[“Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria!” Both Judah and Israel were ready to place an undue confidence in the capitals of their respective countries, as being well fortified both by nature and art: and when they had been made to see how weak such fortresses were, when defended only by an arm of flesh, they would “say in the pride and stoutness of their hearts, The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones; the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars [Note: Isa_9:9-10.].” In their outward relation to God, also, they trusted; as the reproof administered to them shews: “Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are we [Note: Jer_7:4.].” Because “they had Abraham to their father,” they thought that no evil could befall them [Note: Mat_3:9.].

And is not this a common evil amongst ourselves? What is there in which we do not trust, rather than in God? In all our concerns, whether personal or public, we lean on an arm of flesh, and find it altogether foreign to our habits to “cast all our care on God.” Even in relation to our eternal interests we find it exceeding difficult to realize our dependence on God. Our own wisdom and strength and righteousness are, for the most part, the objects of our reliance, and the grounds of our ease. But the whole of this is most displeasing to God; according as it is written, “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is; but cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and that maketh flesh his arm [Note: Jer_17:5; Jer_17:7.].”]

2.       Of sensual indulgence—

[To possess indulgences, or to use them, is no ground of offence; for “God has given us all things richly to enjoy [Note: 1Ti_6:17.]:” But to place our happiness in them, is to provoke God to jealousy; since he ought to be to us the one only fountain and source of bliss. The Jews, whom the prophet reproves, were greatly guilty in this particular. When both the sins which they committed, and the judgments which they suffered, were rather “calling them to mourning and to fasting and to weeping [Note: Isa_22:12-14.],” they were living in all the indulgences of the most luxurious ease: as the prophet says: “they lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; they chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David; they drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointment [Note: ver. 4–6.].” Now this is the very state in which happiness is supposed to consist: it is universally spoken of as the very summit of human enjoyment; and is held forth as an object greatly to be envied and desired. But how different are these things in God’s estimation! To all who spend their lives in such a way as this, our Lord, no less than the prophet, says, “Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall weep [Note: Luk_6:25.].”

Let it not however be imagined that this woe attaches only to the opulent: for the lower classes of society are equally obnoxious to the same condemnation; whilst, with less refinement indeed, but not an atom less of sensuality, they gratify themselves with those indulgences which every public-house supplies. I forbear to specify their enjoyments with the same minuteness as the prophet does the gratifications of the rich: but your own minds will present you with a detail of the accompaniments of carousals amongst the poor, and of the gratifications wherein they consume their time, their property, their health, their souls.]

3.       Of selfish apathy—

[Swallowed up with their vain amusements, the Jews “were not grieved for the affliction of Joseph [Note: ver. 6.].” They laid not to heart the miseries of others; nor considered either from whom the judgments had come, or for what cause they had been inflicted. “The harp and the viol, the tabret and the pipe, and wine, were in their feasts; but they regarded not the work of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands [Note: Isa_5:12.].” And this constitutes a very essential part of that wickedness, which a state of self-indulgent ease invariably brings with it. None feel so little for others, or for the Church of God, as those who are immersed in worldly pleasures. The chief butler, when restored to his office in Pharaoh’s household, forgat the interests of the suffering Joseph; as all in prosperity are but too apt to do: so that it is well said by the apostle, “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth [Note: Gen_40:23 and Est_3:13; Est_3:15. with 1Ti_5:6.]. In truth, such persons are dead to all holy feelings, whether towards God or man. But this is a state of grievous criminality. We ought all of us to consider ourselves as members of one body, and to have the same care one for another, every member participating in both the joys and sorrows of all the rest [Note: 1Co_12:25-26.]. We should all be able to make to God the very same appeal as Job did: Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? and was not my soul grieved for the poor [Note: Job_30:25.]?” But in a more especial manner ought we to be concerned for the souls of men: and when we view the lamentable condition of Jews or Gentiles, or of the souls of nominal Christians, without pity and compassion, we may well tremble, as obnoxious to the displeasure of our God, as being most unreasonably and unmercifully “at ease in Zion.” If we would have any evidence that we are right with God, we must be able, like St. Paul, to appeal to the all-seeing God, that for our perishing brethren, whoever they may be, “we have great heaviness and continual sorrow in our heart [Note: Rom_9:1-2.].”]

That we may not think lightly of this evil, I will proceed to shew,

II.      The equity of the judgments denounced against it—

We are ready to think that nothing but gross and flagrant immorality deserves God’s wrath. But the habit of the mind may be as offensive to God as any overt act whatever: and we hesitate not to say, that the evil which is here reproved, deserves the woes that are denounced against it.

The judgments which are threatened in the Old Testament are chiefly of a temporal nature. In truth, nations, as nations, are incapable of sustaining any other. But individuals, so far as they are implicated, will have to bear that wrath of God which, in the New Testament, is fully “revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men [Note: Rom_1:18.].”

That the evil which we have been considering deserves this, will be seen, if we reflect that it implies,

1.       A total alienation of heart from God—

[How impossible would it be to conceive of an angel in heaven, or of Adam in Paradise, in such a state as our text imports! Not one of them could for a moment forget his dependence on God. However crowned with comforts suited to their nature, not one of them would rest in those things as his happiness, or cease to seek his happiness in God. And, if we suppose any part of the creation reduced to a state of suffering, not one of them would be indifferent to their welfare, or indisposed, if it were in his power, to promote it. It is in consequence of our departure from God, that all this evil is come upon us; and that we resemble rather the devil in pride, the beasts in sensuality, and the very stones in an insensibility to all around us. And let me ask, Docs not such a state as this deserve the wrath of God? And is not a woe most justly denounced against it? Look at the Saviour; do you find any symptom of such a disposition in him? Was not the very reverse manifested by him, when for our sakes “he made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross?” If we are so far from his image, and so far from seeking his glory, as my text implies, it is in vain to hope that we shall have any part with him in the world above.]

2.       An utter insensibility to all the wonders of Redemption—

[Among the ends for which our blessed Lord came into the world, one of prime importance was, “that we should not henceforth live unto ourselves, but unto Him who died for us and rose again.” But the sensual life, which we have before described, is altogether foreign from this, or, rather, directly opposed to it. Shall one then “in Zion” be thus at ease? It would be bad enough for those who have never heard of redeeming love to rest in such a state; but, for those who profess to have “come unto Mount Zion,” and to belong to the Church of Christ, to be thus lost to all that is good, is an abomination that merits, and will assuredly be visited with, God’s heavy displeasure. If we would dwell with Christ in a better world, we must “have the mind that was in him,” and “walk as he walked” — — —]

3.       An entire forgetfulness of the future judgment—

[Could any man living on the borders of eternity rest in such a state as is here described? What if we were to see a dying man immersed in carnal confidence, and sensual indulgence, and selfish apathy; should we think such dispositions suited to his state? Would not even an ungodly man judge it better for him to rise above the things of time and sense, and to have his mind occupied with the concerns and interests of eternity? Think, then, of an immortal being thus occupied; not knowing, but that, before another day shall arrive, he may be summoned to the judgment-seat of Christ, and receive his doom, either in heaven or in hell, for ever: is it not almost incredible that a human being of this description should be found? But so it is, even with the great mass of mankind: they “put far from them the evil day,” and scarcely think of eternity till they are constrained to meet it with all its horrors. What, then, shall I say to such persons? What can I say, but “Woe unto them?” I am aware that it must appear harsh; and that it would be more pleasing to the generality, if we were to “prophesy unto them smooth things, and prophesy deceits.” But we dare not do so. Our blessed Lord, when addressing such persons—even persons in Zion, who, whilst they “professed to know God, in works denied him”— repeated no less than seven times, in one short chapter, this solemn warning, “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” and then closed his address with this terrible denunciation: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how shall ye escape the damnation of hell [Note: Mat_23:13-33.]!” This, by the way, shews us what is meant by the woe denounced in my text. Yes, it is nothing less than “the damnation of hell” that must be the portion of such self-deceiving professors. I pray you, Brethren, be not satisfied with having it supposed that ye belong to Zion, whilst ye really “belong to the synagogue of Satan.” To “have a name to live,” will be an awful state, if ye be found “dead” at last. Indeed, if you would obtain the prize, you must “run as in a race:” if you would gain the victory, you must “fight the good right of faith:” if ever you would have eternal life, glory and honour and immortality must, to the latest hour of your lives, be the one object of your pursuit.]