2 Peter 2Observe here, 1. How the apostle foretels the coming of false teachers into the gospel-church, as there had been false prophets in the Jewish church; no age of the church ever was or will be free of them; but the run of the last times is most likely to have most of these sour dregs. There shall be false teachers among you, false teachers then may find a Scripture-prophecy for their being in the church, but they will hardly find a Scripture-warrant for their being there.
Observe, 2. The doctrines which they will teach; and they are damnable heresies.
Where note, That Almighty God never intended a certain remedy against heresy, any more than he did against sin and vice: It is certain, that there is no certain and effectual remedy against either of them; God does what he sees best and fittest, not what we think to be so.
Note also, That infallibility itself is no effectual remedy against heresy; the apostles were certainly infallible, and yet they could neither prevent nor extinguish heresy, which never more abounded than in the apostles times; St. Paul says, there must be heresies, 1Cor 1:19 St. Peter here says, that there shall be false teachers: Now, if there must be heresies and false teachers, either the church is not infallible, or infallibility is no effectual remedy against heresy.
Observe, 3. That Christ is here called the Lord that bought these men who brought destruction upon themselves, denying the Lord that bought them; because none should perish for want of a sufficient sacrifice for sin; Christ by his blood purchased for them pardon and life, to be theirs, upon condition of believing acceptance.
Observe lastly, As the seeds-men, false teachers, and the seed they sow, damnable heresies, so the crop they shall reap, and that is swift destruction; as damnable heresies are brought in privily, so the blasphemous heretic, the seducing heretic, the seditious heretic, brings upon himself swift destruction; sometimes temporal destruction in this world, certainly eternal, without repentance, in the next.
As if the apostle had said, "Notwithstanding heretics bring such fatal destruction upon themselves, yet many that profess Christianity shall be seduced by them, and follow their pernicious ways, by reason of whom the enemies of religion will speak evil of it, and the professors of it.
Observe here, 1. The thriving and growth of heresies, many shall follow their pernicious ways.
Where note the nature of error, it is pernicious and destructive; and the efficacy of error, not a few, but many are in danger of being perverted by it.
Observe, 2. The sad sequel or fruit of this, by reason of whom the way of truth is evil spoken of.
Here note, 1. The title given to the Christian religion, it is the way of truth, so stiled from its parentage and original, the God of truth; in regard of its efficacy, it works truth in the inward parts, and because it brings those that embrace and practice it, to the enjoyment of him who is the God of truth.
Note, 2. The coarse usage which religion meets with from many in the world, it is blasphemed or evil-spoken of by persons following seducers, by reason of whom the way of truth is evil spoken of. It is no new or unusual thing for religion, and the sincere professors of it, to be traduced and slandered by heretical seducers and false teachers.
Observe here, 1. What is the root of all heresy; it is covetousness, which the apostle calls the root of all evil; they are covetous worldy-minded men generally, who hope some way or other to make an advantage of their opinions, who broach errors and false doctrines.
Observe, 2. The miserable condition of the seduced, they are sold by heretics like beasts; they make merchandise of you: The business of heretics to sell their own and others souls, as Judas did Christ, for some outward benefit.
Observe, 3. The arts which heretics and seducers use to circumvent and deceive, and that is feigned words, artifically composed to seduce, drawing into error with a deceitful eloquence.
Observe, 4. The dreadful punishment which attends their sin, swift destruction; their damnation slumbereth not; their judgment lingereth not.
Learn, That the righteous judgment of God brings damnation upon the wicked, and their damnation will come swiftly, very swiftly upon them.
Our apostle having asserted in the foregoing verse, that the judgment of the wicked in general lingereth not, and that the damnation of seducers in particular slumbereth not; he comes here in these verses to make his assertion good by a three-fold instance, namely, the angels, the old world, and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah; from whence he would have them conclude, that, if God spared not these, he would not long spare false prophets and their followers.
Observe, 1. The example of God's severity on the fallen angels; they sinned, and kept not their first state, they fell from that state of holiness in which they were originally created; and their punishment followed, they were cast down to hell, and delivered into chains of darkness, reserved unto judgment.
But are they not judged and punished already?
Yes, no doubt, but the full wrath of God will not be poured out upon them until the day of judgment; if they are now as full of sin as they can be, it is certain they are not so full of misery and torment as they shall be.
Learn hence, 1. That the angels, though created in an holy, yet are they not in an immutable state.
2. The freedom of their own wills was the cause of their sin, and their sin the cause of their misery.
3. That for sin they were cast down to hell, where their misery is much, but they expect more.
Observe, 2. The example of the old world, upon whose sinning God brought a flood, drowning them all, except eight persons.
Where note, That the greatest multitudes and number of sinners does not hinder God's justice from executing judgment upon them for their sins; a whole world sinning are as easily destroyed by God as a single sinner.
Observe, 3. He instances in the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, who were consumed by fire from heaven, and rendered by the Almighty a dreadful spectacle to all that should live ungoldily. Sin lays the foundation of ruin in the most flourishing cities and kingdoms; the strongest walls cannot keep judgments out, when sin enters in; Sodom's plenty and power could not secure her inhabitants, when sin had once exposed them to the wrath of God.
Note also, The intention, end, and design of God, in punishing some sinners; it is to make them examples unto others.
Observe here, 1. As bad as Sodom was, it had a good man in it; God leaves not himself without witness, in the vilest and worst of places God has some that profess his name, and bear witness to his truth.
Observe, 2. The character given of him, just Lot; the denomination was taken from the habitual frame of his heart, and the general tenor of his life.
Observe, 3. How this good man laid to heart the wickedness of Sodom; he was grieved for their wicked and filthy conversation before God, more than for their unkind and cruel behavior towards him; the spirit of a child of God is a sympathizing spirit, it sadly lays to heart both the sins and the sufferings of others.
Observe, 4. The care that God took for this good man's preservation, he delivered just Lot; he delivered him both from the company and conversation of the wicked, which was a continual vexation to him; and also delivered him from the judgments which were righteously brought upon the wicked; and delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked.
From the particular example of Lot, and his gracious preservation in Sodom's destruction, the apostle draws this general conclusion, "That Almighty God knows how to preserve his own faithful servants from the evil of temptations and trials, which they here meet with, in the world, and from the world, and can and will reserve the wicked to the day of judgment to be punished."
Note here, 1. That the Lord has a perfect and exact knowledge both of the righteous and the wicked, and of their several ways and doings.
2. That God knoweth many ways how to deliver the righteous, (but considering the tenor of his revealed will), he knoweth no way how to deliver the wicked, they having refused all ways of his appointment for their own deliverance.
3. That although the wicked sometimes escape trouble, yet they are never delivered from it; all their preservations from evil are but reservations for future and farther evil; the wicked are not so much preserved from, as reserved unto future wrath: Thus we see how Almighty God very well knows how to perform all those things which he has promised to the godly, and threatened to the wicked: The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly, but reserveth the wicked, &c.
As if the apostle had said, "Though God reserves all wicked men to punishment, yet especially heretics and seducers, who second their corrupt doctrine with a wicked conversation, wuch as walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness."
Here note, That heretics are frequently unclean persons, monstrous opinions and vile affections accompany one another; such as oppose the faith are flesh-defilers.
Note farther, That seducers are opposers of civil government and dominion, they despise government, and are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Some think the dignities here intended were the angels, others the apostles, but most understand it of civil rulers: it is a very heinous sin in the sight of God to despise government, and oppose rulers.
That is, "Whereas the blessed angels, who have more power than men, when they plead against devils themselves, do it not by railing accusation."
Note here, That angels are far superior to men in dignity and power.
2. That purity of affection does accompany angelical illumination; as the angels are above us, so are they the patterns of holiness to us.
3. They are eminently so with respect to the government of their passions; when they contend with devils themselves, it is without disturbance, without railing accusations.
It is our duty to learn this angelical lesson, or forbearing railing accusations; not to return evil for evil, but being defamed, to entreat; we are to be as just to another's reputation as our own; they that handle the names of others rudely, must expect their own will be, at one time or other, handled as roughly; nothing is more just with God, than to suffer others to open their mouths against those who will open their own mouths against others.
Observe here, What our apostle compares these heretical seducers to, and sets them forth by, brute beasts.
1. Because their minds run after sensual objects violently and impetuously, and they know no measure in the using of them; like swine, they wallow over head and ears in the mud of their sensual lusts.
And, 2. They were also as secure as the brute beasts; they mock at the denunciation of God's judgments, saying, Where is the promise of his coming? Seducers are perfect sensualists; it is a righteous thing with God to leave them to be governed by sense, who will not be guided by grace: they would not be saints, and at length they cease to be men; but like brutes, fall into the ditch of beastly sensuality. O Christian! beg of God that thy grace may be true and supernatural; for if it be only in appearance, and doth not arise to true sanctity, it may soon degenerate and sink down into sensual bestiality.
In a word, 3. They are to perish, and to be destroyed like brute beasts; all seek to destroy them for their hurtfulness, but these moral beasts destroy themselves; sensual seducers perish in their own corruptions: in their natural corruptions, by their luxury and intemperance, bringing diseases and death upon their bodies; In their civil corruptions, over-throwing their families, by swallowing down their estates; yea, they corrupt themselves eternally, destroying body and soul by their excess. Lord! how will the fatted glutton (without repentance) fry in hell; how dismal a recompence will a sea of brimstone be for a river of wine! They who are drowned in profuseness, shall certainly be drowned in perdition.
Here we have many sad and dreadful instances given of the height of sensuality and brutishness which these seducers were arrived at, and had attained unto. Lord! how do fleshly lusts, and sensual affections, obscure the light of conscience, and corrupt its judgment? There is such an intimate communion between the soul and the body, that they interchangeably corrupt one another. To what a desperate degree of hardness and insensibility, had the flames of lust seared the consciences of these men? They had lost all the ingenuous bashfulness of human nature, and pleased themselves in their licentious principles and practices, not declining to do that at noon-day which Heathens would have blushed to be found doing at mid-night.
Observe particularly, how luxury and uncleanness accompany each other; they took pleasure in rioting and sporting themselves in their feasts, and their eyes were full of adultery. They feasted and fed immeasurably, impurely, and lustfully, making their plenty fodder and fuel for their lusts: for having fed to the full, every one neighed after his neighbour's wife, and, putting out the candles after supper, they gave way promiscuously to the ravings of unbridled lust, turning the temple of the Holy Ghost into an hog-sty: But know, O unclean sinner! that God will return flames for flames, and revenge this fire in thy heart with the fire of hell. How nearly does it concern thee, who has burnt in these impute flames of uncleanness, and kindled the flames of God's wrath, to labour to cool and quench them with the blood of Christ, and the tears of repentance, which alone can allay the heats of sin in thee, and of wrath in God? Let unclean sinners improve examples, lest they be made examples.
Our apostle, having charged these men with insatiable lust in the former verse, proceeds next to tax them with insatiable covetousness in this verse, declaring that this sin had diverted them from the right way of truth and godliness, and caused them to imitate Balaam of old, whose love of honour and wealth so blinded his eyes, that the ass he rode upon could see beyond him, whose mouth God miraculously opened to rebuke the madness of the prophet.
Note here, 1. How the wicked in after ages do in their courses and practices imitate such wicked persons as lived before them in former ages: These men followed the way of Balaam, imitate his covetousness and insatiable desire of wealth.
Note, 2. That as it is the nature of all sin to carry men out of the way, so covetousness in particular will carry a man astray, and put him upon the practice of any wickedness: It neither fears nor forbears any sinful course to attain its end; they that will be rich meet with many enticements unto sin, and they will not fear to embrace any enticement. Nay, verily, a thirst after gain, will make a man thirst after blood, to get gain. Witness Balaam and Judas, who were both covetous and bloody. Covetousness is oft-times the cause of uncleanness. How many, for the sake of money, have violated their matrimonial faith, allured more with the adulterer's purse than by his person. Let no person hope to escape any sin that embraces this one sin.
Note, 3. What a mighty struggle there sometimes is in a natural man's conscience concerning sin. The light of Balaam's conscience made him refuse the wages of unrighteousness, and speak honourably: If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot, &c. but at the same time lust in his heart led him forth strongly to desire it. He loved the wages of unrighteousness: loved it, yet durst not touch it.
Note, 4. How extremely, yea, brutishly mad, such men are upon their lusts, who will not be rebuked or stopped in their progress of impiety without a miracle. Balaam's running was so greedy, and his march so furious, that he had cursed the people, had not the angel stopped him, and the ass spoken to him. Little thanks to a resolute sinner that he does not rush on, when the arm of omnipotency pulls him back. O let the heart-changing power of the grace of God influence us to good, as well as his almighty arm restrain us from evil, or we are miserable.
Still our apostle proceeds in characterising and describing these seducers, which were then amongst them. He describing them before by their luxury and licentiousness, by their incontinency and uncleanness, by their insatiableness and covetousness, now he proceeds to discover their vanity and emptiness. They pretended indeed to be deep fountains of saving knowledge, but they were like wells without water; and to be clouds, containing abundance of rain, for the watering of the church; whereas they were like clouds carried about with the tempest of pride and ambition, from one vicious doctrine and practice to another, darkening the church; for whom, by the just judgment of God, is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
Note here, 1. The ministers of the gospel ought to be as wells, for depth of knowledge, for purity of doctrine, for residency and fixed-ness of abode; every one knows where the town-well stands; though ministers are wells of clay, yet should they be always full of the water of life, and always at hand for the people to have recourse unto.
Note, 2. The ministers of Christ must be full and watery clouds, able and apt to teach, able to open Scriptures, able to convince gainsayers, continually dropping down the heavenly dew; but not as clouds without water, without the water of true knowledge, without the water of holiness, sanctify both of heart and life, nor without the water of consolation and refreshment. The highest commendation of a minister is industry for, and usefulness to the souls of others: clouds consume themselves by watering others.
Note, 3. That although seducers are wont to make great shews and appearances of worth in themselves, yet it is a great and inexcusable sin to make shew of that goodness of which we are wholly void, and to which we are also opposite; to be wells without water, and clouds without rain, big and black, accompanied with emptiness and dryness. Appearing goodness sets men at the farthest distance from real goodness; they that satisfy themselves in appearances, will never labour after holiness in reality.
The next sin charged upon these seducers is pride and ostentation, they speak big, great swelling words of vanity; with a lofty and affected style they propound their false doctrines to amuse the simple. It is the usual practice of seducers to speak in an high-flown strain of words, that, being not understood, they may be the more admired.
Next they allure to their party such novice Christians who had left the Heathenish bestiality, and made an outward profession of the Christian religion. The word rendered to allure, is a metaphor taken from fishers or fowlers, who produce the bait or shrape, but hide the net or snare. Seducers bait their hook with such baits as are proper to the fish they would catch, else they are no good anglers.
But observe, why the bait is here before us, it is liberty, it is licentiousness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh; no bait like this.
Learn hence, That the true reason why seducers have so many followers is this, because their doctrine is libertinism, and most agreeable to the carnal lusts and corrupt affections of men. This is the true reason why Popery has had so many proselytes; they allure through the lusts of the flesh. Never was a religion better calculated for gratifying men's beastly lusts than Popery; it indulges a liberty to all abominable lusts and unchristian practices, yet after all will blanch over wilful violations of God's laws with the favourable title of venial crimes. Sit anima mea cum philosophis: Let my soul, at the great day, be rather found among the sober Heathen philosophers, than among sensual and brutish Christians.
Observe here, 1. How the old pretence for the most unbounded licentiousness has been liberty; they promise you liberty; a liberty to do any thing without fear: But this is not liberty poperly, but licentiousness, which in reality is the greatest slavery.
Accordingly it follows, they themselves are the servants of corruption; that is, such as promise you a sinful liberty, are the greatest slaves to sin and corruption themselves. All sin is servitude and slavery; and when sin and sinners flatter men with the great opinion of liberty, it makes them the most miserable vassals, and the worst of slave; for so many lusts, so many lords, so many vices, so many tyrants has a sinner over him; for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. As when the conqueror brings the vanquished into captivity, he makes them slaves, and imposes on them vile and servile offices; in like manner, those lusts, by which sinners have been conquered and brought in bondage, they must needs be slaves unto. Is this liberty, to obey every lust as a petty slave? Call you this freedom, when a man cannot choose but sin? If to sin be the only liberty, they have no liberty in heaven; no, this is the service of corruption; a thraldom, not a freedom: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.
By escaping the pollutions of the world, understand their renouncing of them in baptism; their conversion from Heathenism to the profession of Christianity, by the knowledge of the gospel. Now, if afterwards they return to it again, and are intangled in their idolatry, and other gross sins, their latter end is worse than their beginning, their Christian Heathenism worse than their old Heathenism.
Learn hence, That a person may forsake many gross and scandalous sins, and have a visible change and reformation wrought in his life; but, not being a thorough and prevailing change, he is still in an unsafe state; his latter end may be worse than the beginning.
As if the apostle had said, The sin and misery of these men had been far less, if they had never known the way of righteousness revealed by the gospel of Christ, than after they have known it, to forsake the practice of holiness, which by their baptismal profession they had obliged themselves unto.
Learn hence, That to sin against light and knowledge received in and by the gospel is a very heinous aggravation of sin. The condition of persons simply ignorant is not so sad by far as theirs who have been enlightened, and yet afterwards have apostatized. A relapse is ever more dangerous than the first sickness, more soon incurred, more hardly cured. Wo to those that relapse from God to the world, from truth to error, from grace to vice; their latter end will be worse than their beginning, if they recover not themselves again by timely repentance.
Observe here, The odious character given of apostates; the apostle compares them to dogs and swine, who, though washed in the water of baptism externally, yet their natures were never internally renewed by the Holy Ghost, as Christ's sheep are. All the outward reformation of life which is found in unrenewed persons, is but like the washing of a swine, which you may make clean, but can never make cleanly; upon occasion it will again to the mire; make the swine a sheep, change its nature, and it will never delight in filth more; but whilst it retains its filthy nature, it will delight in filthiness. Dogs that have disgorged their stomachs are dogs still; and swine washed are swine still. No wonder then if temptation draw them to return to their vomit, and mire again.
O our God! as thou hast outwardly washed us in baptism, do thou inwardly renew us, and thoroughly sanctify us by thy Holy Spirit: as we are the workmanship of thine hands, make us also the sheep of thy pasture, that our love to purity may daily more and more increase: That when apostatizing sinners return to their vomit with the dog, and to the mire with the swine, and so draw back unto perdition, we may be of the number of those that persevere to the salvation of ours souls. Amen.
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