Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,
~ Proverbs 9:6, Luke 21:36, 2 Corinthians 6:17
For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
~ 1 Peter 2:15
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.
~ 1 Timothy 4:16, Hebrews 3:12-13
Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.
~ Mark 8:38
So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
~ Luke 14:33
An Untoward Generation Characterised, with the Means to be Saved from It, by Thomas Boston.
Sermon Preached at Ettrick, on a Fast-Day, December 7, 1726.
Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
~ Acts 2:40c
These words are a part of the advice which Peter gives to his hearers, particularly to those of them who were convinced of their sin, and desired to know what course they should take to be saved. He bids them repent and be baptised, and return to the Lord by Jesus Christ. And to enforce this, he sets an encouragement before them, assuring them they should be welcome, ver. 39. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And he presses the necessity of it, as they tendered their own. safety, and would not involve themselves in the ruin, that was abiding the generation in which they lived;. Save yourselves from this untoward generation. In which words we may notice,
1. The character of the generation among whom their lot was cast; they were an untoward generation. They were a crooked, perverse, and froward set of men, who were not so much through weakness led out of the way, as through wickedness bent to forsake the way. They were wilful and headstrong in their evil courses, and would not be reclaimed, but proceeded from evil to evil. He points out that generation as a signally-untoward one, this untoward generation, who have signalised themselves for obstinacy, rebellion, and apostasy, having crucified the Lord of life, and being still carrying on the war against him; being the generation which Moses specially pointed at, Deut. xxxii. 20. They are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.
2. The lot abiding that generation, namely, ruin and misery, by the wrath of God breaking out on them, in as remarkable a manner as they had sinned, This is implied in that expression, Save yourselves from them. As if he had said, They are a generation of God’s wrath, a generation devoted to destruction, engaged in a course that will have a fearful end. Our Lord had foretold it, Matth. xxii. 7. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burnt up their city. Chap. xxiii. 35. 36. That upon you may come all the righteous blood bed upon the earth, from the blood of, righteous Abel, unto the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom ye sew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. And accordingly it came to pass in the fearful destruction that was brought on them by the Romans.
3. The right course to be taken for safety in such a case, Save yourselves, &c. Partake not with them in their sins, that ye partake not with them in their plagues. The house is coming down, the breaking will come suddenly at an instant; save yourselves, flee for your life, that ye be not crushed with the fall thereof.
The text furnishes this doctrine, viz.
Doct. They that would see to their own safety: must bestir themselves, and timely save themselves from whom wrath from the Lord is abiding I shall endeavour to prosecute this doctrine in the following method.
I. I shall shew what sort of a generation is an untoward generation, whom wrath from the Lord is abiding.
II. What course one must take that would save himself from such an untoward generation.
III. Lay down some motives to stir you up to save yourselves from this untoward generation.
I. I shall shew what sort of a generation is an untoward generation, whom wrath from the Lord is abiding. They are,
1. A generation become proof against the means of grace, the glorious gospel of Christ. Such was this generation in the text. Christ himself preached to them, and his apostles too: but how did they receive it? Hear the observation of the evangelist upon it, John xii. 37. 38. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? And look to what the apostle Paul faith, Rom. x. 16. But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? It is true, there were three thousand converted at this sermon of Peter’s; but what were they and others that were picked up here and there by preventing grace, in comparison of the body of that generation, who remained obstinate infidels? They were but as a little remnant which God reserves to himself, in the worst of times, for a feed, Rom. ix. 29. So wrath came on that generation, as the apostle observes, I Thess. ii. 16. Wrath is come upon them to the uttermost, according to the threatening, Matth. xxii. 7. forecited.
And is not this the case of the present generation? We have long enjoyed the gospel, and we are as those who are rendered deaf by the continual sounding of many waters. To whom shall we now speak? who now believes the report of the gospel? They have sometimes trembled at the word, who now lit like brazen walls against it. Their consciences have been sometimes easily touched, which are now, as feared with a hot iron. What can be expected, but that God will change his messengers, and try sharp rods after a slighted word?
2. A generation wherein corruption of life and manners is become universal, having overspread all ranks of persons. Thus was it with this generation in the text, wherein priests, and people were all gone wrong. This was the character of the generation swept away with the flood, Gen. vi. 12. God looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt: for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. When David considered his generation as such, how was his heart moved? Psal. xii. 1. 2. Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among. the children of men. They speak vanity every one with his neighbour with flattering, lips, and with a double heart do they speak. And behold his only comfort, ver. 7. Thou shalt keep them, O Lord, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever. When Micah saw his generation such, how does. he lament the case! chap. vii. 1.
2. Woe is me, for I am as when they have gathered the summer-fruits, as the grape-gleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat my soul desired the first ripe fruit. The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none up. right among men: they all lie in wait for blood: they hunt every man his brother with a net, &c. And see the course he resolves on ver. 7. Therefore I will look unto the Lord: I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. And alas! is not this our very case? Is not profaneness and wickedness like a flood gone over all its banks? If we look into the congregation, what profane swearing, drunkenness, biting and devouring one another, and uncleanness abound among us, in the midst of gospel-light! Is this the fruit of plenty, fulness, and thriving in the world? Take heed the day come not wherein the bodies thus abused to the dishonour of God, shall lie upon the face of the ground as dung, and there be none to bury them, whereof the plague has given the French nation a sad experience. If we look abroad through the nations, religion is truly fallen under contempt. Looseness and licentiousness is become fashionables the flood-gates of debauchery are set open, and there is no stemming of the tide. And the generation has not stopt at ordinary crimes, ordinarily found among a corrupt people: but they have proceeded to an open defiance of Heaven, by Atheism and blasphemy. What prodigious blasphemies have been heard of, of late? The foundations of Christianity are sapt by damnable heresies. The power of religion has of a long time been very small; and now the principles of true religion are in hazard of being lost, not only among people, but pastors. What a dreadful conjuncture is this, wherein Arianism, the denying of the supreme Godhead of Christ, and his equality with the Father, is-arisen amongst Dissenters in England and Ireland, and legalism, by which the purity of gospel-doctrine is corrupted, prevails, and is countenanced so much in Scotland at the same time? This universal corruption speaks us to be a generation of wrath.
3. A generation incorrigible, and deaf to all calls of providence, whom mercies draw not, and lesser strokes cannot drive to repentance. Hence the apostle addresses the Romans, chap. ii. 4. 5. Or despiseth thou the riches of his goodness, and forbearance, and long, suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy, hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgement of God. And thus Jeremiah addresses the Jews, chap. v. 3. 9. O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth? thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock, they have refused to return. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord: and so all not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this? This generation in the text had met with several lesser scourges before the fatal stroke came on them; they had the greatest of mercies conferred on them by the preaching of Christ and his apostles; and they got near to forty years space for repentance after they had crucified the Lord of glory: but they waxed worse and worse, instead of being bettered; and so wrath came on them to the uttermost. “And is it not so with us at this day? What a variety of providences has this generation been tryfted with: How often since the revolution has all been in hazard, and yet our ruin has been mercifully prevented, God saying in effect as Hos. xi. 8. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how fall i deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. How were the nations saved from imminent ruin as to all their sacred and civil interests, by King George’s happy accession to the throne, when ready to be swallowed up by a Popish pretender! The nation was gently scourged by the rebellion, which God in his mercy put a stop to, that the whole land was pot filled with blood, as that rebellion threatened. These lands have been much impoverished, by unhallowed projects set up to enrich them. We have been long threatened with the pestilence, raging in a neighbouring nation; yet God has hitherto averted it. And what is the fruit of all these mercies, strokes, deliverances, and long-suffering? Are we bettered thereby? So far from it, that we are. visibly growing worse and worse. One ill step is taken upon the back of another; so that causes of wrath are still multiplying, and the cup now fills so fast, that the measure of our fathers seems to be near the brim.’
4. A generation impatient of cheek, control, or reproof, in their sinful courses, but bent to carry all before them. Such a one was that in the text. The followers of Christ witnessed against them; but what was the effect of it? They were cut to the heart thereby, instead of being pricked at the heart. They were enraged at them, instead of being reformed by them. And so they persecuted them, to fill up the measure of their cup. So the apostle speaks of the Jews at that time, I Thess. ii. 15. 16. Who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway. There is hope of a person, or society, what? ever their faults be, as long as they can bear to have their faults told them, and are willing to amend: but when once it comes to that, that they hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that Speaketh uprightly, Amos v. 10. it is a sad sign of approaching ruin.
How evident is this in our case? Men cannot endure reproof. Well may we apply that to the hopeless case of this generation, Hos. ix. 4. 5. Let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest. Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother. Church-discipline is contemned, private reproofs are apt to incense the reproved against the reprover, people generally being such men of Belial, that one needs scarcely speak to them of what is amiss in their way. And as to public ministerial reproofs in the preaching of the word, men are not able to bear them, if they touch them closely. Credit falsely so called, prevails in that case among all ranks more than conscience. What then can be expected, but that God will reach the generation such a reproof as they shall not get shifted?
II. I proceed to shew what course one must take, that would save himself from such an untoward generation. More generally, he must open his eyes, and look. And,
1. He must look about him, and behold the face of the generation, and consider seriously the way they are going, and the untowardness therein appearing; otherwise he will never bestir himself to save himself, from it. This has been the practice of the godly in all ages of declining from the good ways of the Lord. So did Noah, Heb. xi. 7. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world. And so did David, Psal. xii. 1. Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men. And the neglect of this has been that which has led so many of the godly in all ages, into several steps of the way of the untoward generation. I never liked a public religion, that was all abroad, and nothing at home, taken up in censuring the faults of others, and putting the worst face on them, and in the mean time not humbling themselves and walking softly under their own. But certainly those whose lot it is to live in an untoward generation, had need to have their eyes in their head, and discern what corrupt courses tend to, that they may beware of them.
2. He must look above him unto God, and take notice, how the course of the untoward generation is displeasing to him; how he is thereby dishonoured, and robbed of his glory, that is due to his name; how he is angry with the generation; and what signs of his wrath do appear, Psal lxix. 9. Hab. iii. 16. Matth. xvi. 3. God is the Governor of the world, and he is not an idle spectator of that which men do on earth since he looks to us, let us look up to him.
3. He must look within him, and behold what untowardness is within his own heart, and appears in his own life and way, Isaiah vi. 5. Never man shall save himself from an untoward generation, that does not begin here. Here he must look, and behold how he is in danger of being led aside into the way of the untoward generation, by reason of the blindness of mind, and untowardness of heart and affections within his own breast.
More particularly, if you would save yourselves: from an untoward generation,
1. Return unto God by Jesus Christ, in the way of the everlasting covenant held out to you in the gospel: For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call, Acts ii. 39. Be no longer stiff-necked, but yield yourselves to the Lord. Take salvation closely to heart now at length, and enter into the covenant, ye that are yet strangers to Christ. And renew your covenant, ye that are the friends of Christ, give a new solemn consent to the marriage-covenant betwixt Christ and your souls. And I would advise both to do this, with a particular view to your being saved from this untoward generation. Sirs, we seem to be entering into a cloud, and darkness seems to be coming on: take hold of Christ for your guide in time, lest ye be wrapt up in the cloud without a guide, and there be a sad account of you, and such as you are, ere the darkness be over.
2. Endeavour close walking with God in your personal capacity, as did Noah, Gen. vi. 9. forecited. Strive to be acquainted with religion in the life and power of it on your own souls. In a dark and cloudy day upon the church, it is hard to keep fast an unfelt: religion. When the winds of error and delusion are left to blow, the earth, sea, and trees, there is a sad account of them, Rev. vii. 3. And in a time of common calamity, one that cannot live by faith, will find it hard to live.”
3. Beware of and stand at a distance from the sinful ways and courses of the untoward generation: Eph. v. 11. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. They that will partake of their sins, must lay their account to partake of their plagues also, when God riseth up to plead his controversy. Let it not encourage you to sin, that you see others generally take a liberty to themselves that way; for by that means you enter into the conspiracy against God with the multitude, and shall smart with them.’ If ever you save yourselves from this untoward generation, you will be instructed of God as he was, that he should not walk in the way of this people, If. viii. 11.
4. Mourn over the sins of the untoward generation, as well as over your own, otherwise ye are not free of them, Ezek. ix. 4. forecited. Psal. cxix. 136. Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, said David; because they (the wicked) keep not thy law. Alas! this public spirit is much gone in our day. God is dishonoured, his name is profaned, his ways, truths, and ordinances are trampled upon by an untoward generation; and we stand by as unconcerned spectators, or else join in the affronting of him. Ah! is God our Father? is Christ our elder brother? are we on Heaven’s side? and can we be thus hale-hearted in such a case?
5. Lastly, Take home Zion’s case into your own soul; and be concerned how it shall fare with the church and interest of Christ in this untoward generation. There has been much contending in Scotland even unto blood for all the parts of our covenanted reformation. Few of that generation are to the fore now; but we are arisen a new generation that knew not Joseph, and it is like to go to wreck among our hands. And it is much to be lamented, that professors generally are very easy and secure upon the matter. They see not the danger, they perceive not the weight of the thing, and they will not inquire into it. And hence no wonder, that they are not employed to wrestle with God upon it. But this is a day, that calls you to bestir yourselves on Zion’s behalf, and inquire into and inform yourselves of her true interests, and the weight of them which are at stake; lest ye lay yourselves open to that, Amos vi. I. Woe to them that are at ease in Zion. Our Lord takes notice how men carry themselves in a time of his interest sinking, and will fee to it himself in due time; but their case is dangerous who stand aloof from it, according to what Mordecai told Esther, chap. iv. 14. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed.
III. I shall conclude with some motives to stir you up to save yourselves from this untoward generation.
1. The danger of this untoward generation is very great; Amos iii.
2. You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. For the debt of sin they have entered heirs to, the breach of covenant with God, the blood of the saints, and apostasy of the late times, is very great and heinous. The multiplied causes of God’s controversy, since the Lord returned the captivity of this church, are very many and of a deep die. And the stroke has been long threatened, and of divers kinds, sword, famine, and pestilence. So that, in the ordinary course of providence it cannot miss to be of extreme weight when it comes.
2. It seems to be making haste, and to be very near, Deut. xxxii. 35. Their foot fall side in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. For we see that God is risen up from his place, to punish the nations for their iniquity, in the pestilence that has so long raged abroad. It is time for us to bestir ourselves to save ourselves from this untoward generation, when our neighbours house is on fire. Besides, this untoward generation are visibly mending their pace in departing from God, and are making still quicker and quicker dispatch in filling up the cup of our iniquity. And as natural motions increase the more, the nearer they draw to the centre; so the nearer nations are to the fatal day of wrath, they make the greater speed in pulling it down on themselves. And finally, our divisions speak it to be fo: A house divided against it self cannot stand.
3. Lastly, Now is the time to save yourselves. God is yet on a throne of grace. He is calling to you, however far ye have gone on with the untoward generation, now to save yourselves from this untoward generation.