Luk_10:10-16. Into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell. He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me.
NOTWITHSTANDING all the care which our Lord took to prepare the minds of men for the reception of his Gospel, his success was very small, insomuch that after his resurrection and ascension to heaven, his disciples amounted to no more than five hundred. He foresaw it would be so; and when sending forth his seventy disciples into all the places whither he himself was about to come, he guarded them against the offence which the contracted influence of his word might occasion. He directed them how to act towards any city which should not receive them: they should express towards its inhabitants the indignation of God, and should make known to them both their iniquity and their folly. In confirmation of what he instructed them to do, he himself denounced his judgments against the cities that had rejected him; and then proceeded to give a general admonition to all to whom his Gospel should come.
Were we addressing ministers, we should consider the subject more immediately in relation to them: but in an address intended only for private Christians, it will be more profitable to wave what relates to the conduct of the ministry, and to suggest rather such reflections as are applicable to mankind at large, especially that part of them which is disobedient to the Gospel of Christ.
How awful is their obduracy!
[Our Lord complained that the cities to which he had ministered had resisted such means as, if used for the awakening of the inhabitants of Tyre and Sidon, or even of Sodom and Gomorrha, would have been effectual to bring them to repentance: “they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.” Now, without stopping to inquire, why God withheld from Sodom the means of grace which would have been effectual, and vouchsafed them to Jewish cities, where he knew they would not be effectual, (a question which no human wisdom can solve,) we would call your attention to this fact as illustrated in the present day.
We acknowledge that the hearers of our Lord had many and great advantages which we have not: but on the other hand, we have great advantages which they had not. We admit, that they were instructed by One who “spake as never man spake;” and that they saw the mighty works which he wrought in confirmation of his word: but on the other hand, the meanness of his appearance and of his followers was a stumbling-block, which it was exceeding difficult to get over, and which is entirely removed out of our way. Besides, they saw the plan of Christianity only in a very obscure and partial light; whereas we see it in all its fulness and completion: and the evidence we have from that great miracle of all, his resurrection from the dead, is stronger than all those which they beheld. We may, therefore, justly say that our advantages are greater than theirs: and yet multitudes hear the Gospel now, and are unmoved by it: some sneer at it as folly and enthusiasm; and others rest in a mere formal profession of it, without any experience of its transforming power. What then shall we say of them? Are not they blind and hardened in a very awful degree? Are not they also more obdurate than the idolatrous Syrians, or the filthy Sodomites? Yes: far less evidence, and an obscurer statement of the Gospel, would have brought them to “repent in dust and ashes;” whereas the unbelievers of the present day are proof against an accumulated weight of evidence, and against the full splendour of evangelic truth.
Let this then be considered by us: and when we wonder at the blindness and obduracy of the Jews, let us remember how blind we ourselves have been, and how unaffected by the most stupendous miracles of love and mercy that ever were vouchsafed to men.]
How heinous their guilt!
[Unbelief is in general scarcely ever thought of as a sin: the open infidel justifies himself by a pretended want of evidence; and those who maintain a form of religion fancy themselves possessed of saving faith: so that, whatever men have to condemn in their own conduct, they never think of bemoaning their unbelief. But behold what was Christ’s judgment respecting this! He considered unbelief as a more heinous sin than any which Tyre and Sidon, or even Sodom and Gomorrha, had committed, and as involving his hearers in a deeper condemnation than any to which the vilest of those cities would be doomed. He also commanded his Disciples to “wipe off the dust from their feet against those who received them not,” in token of God”s indignation against them, and his abandoning of them to the evil of their own ways [Note: Act_13:51.]. Nor can we wonder at it, when Christ and his Father identify themselves with all the ministers of the Gospel: “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me.” What a view does this representation give us of unbelief! And how little idea have the unbelieving world of the light in which they are regarded by a holy God! But when once the Holy Ghost is sent into their hearts to convince them of sin, they become convinced of this sin in particular; and view it in its proper colours, as a mixture of ignorance, impiety, and rebellion.
Let the towering imaginations of the formalist then fall to the ground: let the most decent amongst us see what guilt he has contracted: and let every one acknowledge that God is just in consigning over to perdition those who, either in theory or in practice, reject Christ, and thus eventually “make God himself a liar.”]
How great their folly!
[The seventy Disciples were especially commanded to testify to those who rejected them, that the contempt which they manifested for their message did not at all invalidate the truth or importance of it: “Notwithstanding, be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come unto you.” Thus must we say to those who disregard the Gospel: “Your unbelief cannot make the faith of God of none effect.” If your neglect of the Gospel could set aside its authority, so that you should stand excused for your disobedience to it, your folly would not be so great: but you cannot alter one single word in it: Christ will still be the only Saviour of the world, though you should pour ever so much contempt upon him: and faith in his name will be the only means of obtaining an interest in him, though you should dispute ever so much against it: and that declaration, “He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned,” will be carried into execution, however you may complain of its harshness and severity. The ridicule and contempt poured on Noah whilst building the ark, did not at all affect the truth of his warnings: the flood came precisely as he had foretold, and swept away all the inhabitants of the earth. And so will it be in the day of judgment: the Gospel will prove true, and its sanctions will be executed, “whether men will hear it or whether they forbear.” What folly and madness then is it to trifle thus with the words of life! Common sense, methinks, should lead men to consider what they hear, and to search the Scriptures daily whether these things be so. If they can disprove the truth of the Gospel, well: let them then despise it if they please: but if they cannot disprove it, let them obey it; and that not in a partial and formal manner, but unreservedly, and with their whole hearts.]
How pitiable their condition!
[Could we behold the present state of those who once inhabited Sodom and Gomorrha; could we see their weeping, their wailing, their gnashing of teeth, how would our bowels yearn over them! Yet, grievous as their condition is, it is more tolerable than that which is prepared for the despisers of the Gospel. This is not declared once, but often; and that, too, by him who will assign to all their proper doom. Say, then, whether we should not be filled with pity towards the thoughtless, deceived, and deceiving world? Suppose them enjoying all that earth can give; yet, with such prospects before them, who must not regard them as objects of the tenderest compassion? Behold a man just about to be racked upon the wheel, or to be burned on a slow consuming fire; give him what you will preparatory to his sufferings, you cannot but view him with most heartfelt grief. Thus then should we view the contemners of Christ, whether they manifest that contempt in a way of open infidelity or of secret disaffection. There will be degrees of misery, indeed, proportioned to the degrees of guilt which each has contracted; but the least miserable of those who perish under the light of the Gospel, will have a heavier doom than shall ever fall to the lot of Sodom and Gomorrha. O that our head were a fountain of tears to run down for them night and day; and that we might labour, all of us, whilst yet there is time, to pluck them as brands out of the burning!]
Let all who hear the Gospel consider their responsibility—
[The generality think little but of hearing such or such a man: but be it known to you, that the word you hear is “not the word of man, but of God,” and is to be so received, if it be agreeable to his revealed will. You know that an ambassador is the representative of his king, and that the reception or rejection of his message is considered as affecting, not him, but his master who sent him. So it is with the ambassadors of Christ [Note: Text, with Joh_13:20.] — — — O that whenever we attend upon the house of God, we might attend as if Christ himself were come down to instruct us, or as if God the Father spoke to us by an audible voice from heaven!]
Let them improve their privileges—
[It is an inestimable privilege to have the Gospel faithfully administered to us. What if Sodom and Gomorrha had enjoyed that privilege? they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes, and would probably “have remained to this very day.” So, if millions that are now in hell had heard what we have, they would perhaps have obeyed the truth and been saved by it. We are sure that many have made a far better improvement of it than we; and therefore we should humble ourselves on a view of our unprofitableness, and labour to bring forth fruits worthy of the culture bestowed upon us.]