For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.
~ Jeremiah 4:22
The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.
~ Proverbs 14:32, Isaiah 3:11
Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you:
~ 1 Peter 4:4
Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.
~ Proverbs 6:25
For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment.
~ Isaiah 34:5
And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.
~ 1 Kings 18:18
Behold, these caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.
~ Numbers 31:16
And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay. Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.
~ Numbers 22:30-31
And their nobles have sent their little ones to the waters: they came to the pits, and found no water; they returned with their vessels empty; they were ashamed and confounded, and covered their heads.
~ Jeremiah 14:3
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
~ Jude 1:6
They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.
~ Psalm 73:8-9
Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
~ James 5:5
A Brief Exposition Of The Second Epistle General, Chapter 2, In Verses 12 through 18, by Alexander Nisbet.
But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
~ 2 Peter 2:12-18
Vers. 12. But these, as natural bruit beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things they understand not, and shall utterly perish in their own corruption.
The Apostle, having shown how unlike these false teachers who despise Magistracy and Government among Christians, are to the most glorious creatures of God, the good Angels, He sheweth here how like they are in this, and the rest of their carriage, to the basest of the creatures, the bruit beasts: and the resemblances betwixt them, which, the Apostle’s words may lead us unto, are especially three,
1. As the beasts are void of humane reason; so are they of heavenly wisdom.
2. As the beasts do readily trample under foot the most precious things; so do they speak evil of the things they understand not: whereby is especially meant their opposing of Magistracy and Government among Christians, and their slandering of the doctrine of holinesse, so much prest by the Apostles, as if it had been contrary to the liberty of Christians.
3. As the beasts are framed for destruction; so are they for utter perdition: which is not to be understood as if they that have immortal souls could come to nothing as the beasts, but that they are appointed for eternal torment, which they do procure to themselves, as the beast is appointed for the slaughter. Hence Learn,
1. However men of erroneous opinions, and vile affections, may be in so high esteem in the Church, by reason of their fair pretences and specious titles they assume to themselves, as to draw a very considerable faction therein after them; yet doth the Lord esteem such (and will in his own time discover them to be, what they are in effect) base and beastly in their disposition and carriage: for, here these false teachers, who pretended to be the only fountains of consolation to the Church, ver. 17. and patrons of christian liberty, ver. 19. by such fair pretences, gaining to themselves a numerous party, ver. 2. are declared by the Spirit of the Lord, to be as natural bruit beasts.
2. When men are led by their sensual appetite, not by holy reason, and do become very adventrous in passing most hard sentences against things they understand least, they have then the characters of a beastly disposition and carriage: for, both these are here made resemblances betwixt the beasts and false teachers, who as natural bruit beasts speak evil of the things they understand not.
3. When men do thus resemble the beasts in their disposition and carriage, it is the clearest evidence that can be, that they are appointed for destruction, as the beast is for the slaughter; and that however they may, as fed beasts, prosper for a time; yet their end shall be much worse than theirs: for, the Apostle makes the resemblance also in this, that as the beast is to be taken and destroyed, so shall they utterly perish.
4. The punishment that abideth the wicked, doth consist in a through and continual torment of soul and body, in the privation of all comfort, and that to all eternity, without any hope of recovery: which is imported in this, they shall utterly perish. 5. Whatever destruction cometh upon wicked men, it is of their own procuring, they do in time by their sins treasure-up the wrath, and gather the fewel which shall seize upon them, and burn them up to all eternity: for, they shall utterly perish in their own destruction.
Vers. 13. And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, at they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time: spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings, while they feast with you;
14. Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin, beguling unstable souls, an heart they have exercised with covetous practises: cursed children.
Here is a further amplification of the sin and judgement of these false teachers, whom the Apostle hath formerly described and threatened. The substance whereof, is, That they shall want nothing of the wrath due to those who count it their heaven to exceed in all carnal delights, notwithstanding of the light of the Gospel, thereby disgracing their holy profession, and making but a sport of deceiving their own souls, since they can in the mean time deceive others, insinuating themselves in the esteem and society of the Godly, whether in their religious or ordinary feasts, ver. 13. who are so under the power of their unclean lusts, that they cannot but manifest their filthy disposition, being altogether impotent to resist temptations themselves, and ensnaring with their errors and vile practices such others as are not well setled in knowledge and grace; And who are so sold to the love of their gain, that they make it their heart-exercise to attain thereto: for all which, he pronounceth them heirs of God’s fearful curse.
Doct. 1. The wrath of God against sin had need to be oft inculcated to the guilty, and knit unto the several branches of their sin, that so they may have the more lively apprehensions of that wrath, and may have their hearts accustomed to think upon it, whensoever they think upon their sins, that so they may be either stopped in the course of their sin, and hastened to repentance, or left the more inexcusable: Therefore the Apostle, in branching out the sin of false teachers and their followers, doth so frequently intermix threatenings, or some new representation of that wrath they have to expect, They shall utterly perish, in the former Verse, and here, they shall receive the reward of unrighteousness: and they are cursed children.
2. When God reckoneth with the wicked, they shall not want a grain weight of the wrath due to them; for, since they have slighted the use-making of Christ’s righteousnesse, which makes sinners righteous; and the study of holinesse, which proveth them righteous, they shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, which, in the Original, doth signifie a due proportion of wrath to their sin.
3. That which doth ripen wicked men for wrath, is not their sins only, simply considered, but mainly the several aggravations ordinarily attending their sins, whereof there may be seen here nine in number, As,
1. This doth exceedingly aggrege mens sin, when they count it their very paradise to satisfie their lusts; for, so the word in the Original, They count it their Eden to riot. The more Heaven men apprehend in their sins, the more Hell they will find.
2. When men become so impudently bent upon their lusts, that neither the light of the worlds knowledge of their sin, nor the light of the Word discovering the evil and hazard thereof doth restrain them; both which may be comprehended in this other aggravation of their sin, They count it pleasure to riot in the day time.
3. When men by their sins, do stain a holy profession that they have made before the world: for, if these men had not had a fair profession and high esteem in the Church, they could not have been spots and blemishes while they feasted with the Lord’s people; which is here made another aggravation of their guilt.
4. When men do not only live in sin, but do make a sport of it, beguiling their own hearts with groundlesse apprehensions that there is neither such evil nor hazard therein, as the Word holdeth forth, and their own conscience sometimes suggesteth: for, this is another aggravation, They sport themselves in their own deceivings.
5. When in the mean time of their living in the slavery of their lusts, they are carefull to keep up their esteem with the Godly, and attend all occasions of converse with them, that so they may cloak their sins: for, it is here made another aggravation of their guilt, that all this wickednesse is committed while they feast with the Lord’s People.
6. When mens lusts are so vigorous within, that they manifest their predominancy in their very outward carriage: for, this is a further aggravation of their sin, They have eyes full of adultery,
7. When men become so impotent to resist their lusts, that the satisfying thereof becometh their very element, out of which they cannot rest, as the word here signifieth, They cannot cease from sin: which is also another aggravation of their guilt.
8. When sinners become infectious, and insnaring, with the bait (as the word, beguiling, in the Original signifies) of fair pretences, many others, to swallow down their foul errors and profane practices: this also is a high aggravation of their guilt.
9. When men make it their heart-exercise, whereabout they spend their wit and affections to fulfill their fleshly desires: for, this is here the last aggravation of their sin. An heart they have exercised with covetous practices.
Doct. 4. Although it be possible that the Lord’s People may without guiltinesse admit into their ordinary and intimate society, the worst of men, while they do not discover themselves, as is clear concerning Ahithophel and Judas; Yet doth the admission of such into their society oftentimes prove a great snare, especially to those that are admitted, while they take occasion there-from to harden themselves in those sins, and to count the lesse of that vilenesse, the commission whereof doth not mar their esteem and society with the Godly: for, this is one thing that helped these soul-deceivers to deceive themselves and willingly to overlook the evil of their own condition, that notwithstanding of all their wickednesse, they were admitted to the society of the Godly, and did passe among them for such; While they feast with you.
5. When men labour not to mortifie their inward lusts, the Lord oftentimes doth justly suffer them to manifest the predominancy of these lusts over them in their outward carriage; As grace which is lively within, will put some beauty upon the outward man, Eccl. 8.1. So corruptions vigorous within will readily bewray the person to be its slave, Isa. 3.9. Having eyes full of adultery, or (as it is in the Original) of the adultress.
6. So bewitching is the spirit of error where it entereth, and so devoted are deluded souls unto their seducing teachers, That though these teachers be judicially plagued of God (as ordinarily such are) with profanity of life; Yet this doth not make their followers loath at them, or abhor their errors: for, though they did riot in the day time, and had eyes full of adultery, Yet were they still beguiling unstable souls.
7. Those who are not rooted in knowledge by clear information and frequent meditation of the Truth, and have not their hearts established with Grace by the frequent exercise thereof, will readily be a prey to soul-deceivers: for, these whom they beguile are here called Unstable souls.
8. No man doth serve one idol alone, but many at once: he that is wedded to worldly pleasures, will be also to his credit the want whereof, doth mar his pleasure; and if pleasure and credit be two of a man’s idols, readily gain will be the third, that so he may the more easily attain to the other two. Therefore doth the Apostle describe these men here as slaves to all these three idols at once, to their pleasures, which were their Eden; to their credit, which made them hold forth baits to take many followers; and to their gain, wherewith their heart was exercised, that so their pleasures and credit might be attained and upheld. Lastly, They who, professing themselves to be the Children of the Lord, do spend their immortal spirits upon the unworthy things of this present life, not trusting to his care and providence in the moderate use of lawfull means whereunto their profession doth oblige them, They do forfeit their right they pretend to have to the Priviledges of His Children, and serve themselves heirs to His curse: for, because their heart is exercised with covetous practices, they are cursed children.
Vers. 15. Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousnesse:
Vers. 16. But was rebuked for his iniquity; the dumb asse speaking with man’s voice, forbad the madnesse of the prophet.
The Apostle, having shown what idols these false teachers did set up, he sheweth here two wofull effects that their love to them, especially to their gain had upon them. The first, is, their apostasie from the Truth and way of Christ. The second, is, extream violence in the prosecution of these idols; Which last he setteth forth by comparing them with Balaam, who was so mad in the prosecution of these same idols, that even extraordinary opposition could not restrain him. Hence Learn,
1. However men that really enter the way of Christ can never totally or finally fall from it, by reason of the Lord’s undertaking, Joh. 10.28. and unchangeablenesse, Rom. 11.29. Yet they who have been once in opinion sound, and in external practice blamelesse, remaining in the mean time without any inward saving change, may make apostasie from both: for, such had these men been, of whom the Apostle saith, They have forsaken the right way.
2. Love to some unmortified lust, especially covetousnesse, is the prime cause both of much apostasie, and of extream violence in sinful courses: for, so was it with these false teachers and their followers, their heart was exercised with covetous practices in the former Verse, and therefore they forsook the right way, imitating Balaam in the violent prosecution of that idol.
3. When the right way, which is the way of truth and holinesse, is forsaken, men can keep no certain course, but must needs be like wandring stars or planets (as the word here signifieth) ever seeking, and never finding, that true satisfaction they might have had, and have forsaken, by forsaking the right way; And are gone astray.
4. When the Lord’s ordinary means, to reclaim sinners from their lusts, doth not prevail with them, the Lord is justly provoked to give them up to go on in their own way, over the belly of more than ordinary opposition, if they have it, till they perish: for, Balaam was not restrained by means more ordinary in his time, and therefore he is not reclaimed by means more extraordinary; He loved the wages of unrighteousnesse, though he was rebuked for his iniquity by the dumb asse.
5. Covetousnesse being once rooted in the heart, and proposed as a man’s main end, it is so powerful and imperious an idol, that it will make the covetous man adventure upon any course, though never so unrighteous, and go over never so much opposition in the way of his gain: for, though the wages that Balaam desired, were wages of unrighteousnesse, because they could not be had but by cursing the People, whom God had blest; Yet he loved them, and pursued them, though the dumb asse forbad his madnesse in so doing.
6. The more opposition from the word, or dispensations of God, men do go over in the prosecution of their lusts, the greater is their guilt, and the more wrath have they to expect from God, especially when they trace the steps of sinners, whom God hath by His Word and Providence opposed before them: for, it is here made an aggravation of sin, and cause of a special measure of wrath, that these men followed the way of Balaam, who would go on after his lusts, though the dumb asse, speaking with man’s voice, forbad his madnesse.
7. It is in some respect more easie to work the greatest miracle in nature, than to stop the course of a sinner, violently pursuing his lusts; the reasonlesse creatures, who have no active opposition in them to their Maker’s will, being more prone to obey Him, contrary to their ordinary course, than reasonable creatures, without special grace and assistance, can be, either to follow the direction of His Word, or their own reason contrary to their corrupt and vile affections: for, while Balaam goeth on in his sinful course, The dumb asse, speaking as if it had a man’s voice, forbad his madnesse.
8. A crosse providence meeting sinners in a course contrary to the revealed Will of the Lord, hath a language to them, proclaiming their madnesse, and prohibiting them to go on in their sins, which they ought to hear and obey, although it be not so expresse, as when one man reproves another; See Mica. 6.9. for, though we read not, (Numb. 22.) that Balaam’s asse did either expresly call him mad, or prohibit his course; Yet here the Spirit of God putteth that commentary upon what it spake, which also Balaam should have done, That the dumb asse speaking with man’s voice, forbad the madnesse of the prophet.
9. It is the height of madnesse to walk contrary to the revealed Will of God, how much use of reason soever men may have to cover their wickednesse, and attain to their idols: for, though much carnal reason and policy did appear in Balaam’s way, Yet the dumb asse forbad the madnesse of the prophet. 10. A man who is mad in the pursuit of his lusts, and so incorrigible, that even extraordinary means do not reclaim him, may, notwithstanding, be imployed by the Lord for revealing of His Will to His People, and for the edifying of His Church; and in the discharge of that imployment may be furnished with much heavenly matter, and suitable expressions, and ought to be heard and obeyed by the Church in the discharge of his imployment, while he is not discovered to be what he is, and is not according to the order established in the House of God put from that imployment: for, such a man was Balaam, whom the Lord did imploy, and by whom He did deliver most comfortable and edifying Truths to His Church: all which is clear by comparing this place of Scripture, with Numb. 21,22. chapters.
Vers. 17. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest, to whom the mist of darknesse is reserved for ever.
In this, and the two following Verses, the Apostle holdeth forth several of those means, which false teachers make use of for attaining their forenamed idols, especially their gain and applause. The first, which is in this vers. is their fair promises of doing much good to the Church: They give out themselves to be wel-springs of comfort to the Lord’s People, and clouds to drop down their doctrine as rain, to make the Church fruitful, whileas in effect they did but disappoint poor souls, and darken the Truth; for which, the Apostle threateneth them with everlasting darknesse, as their portion. Hence Learn,
1. They that do most hurt to the souls of the Lord’s People, by venting most dangerous errors among them, make oftentimes the fairest promises of doing most good to them, that so they may feed People with vain expectations of more than ever they can find from them; faithful Ministers, being sensible of their own insufficiency, 2 Cor. 3.5. and of the necessity of a divine concurrence with their pains, 1 Cor. 3.7. are more ready to expresse their fears of Peoples disappointment, 2 Cor. 11.2, 3. than to make such large promises of much comfort and profit to People by their means, as false teachers use to do: for here, these seducers give out themselves to be what faithfull Ministers ought to be, Wells of consolation, receiving from Christ the Fountain, and giving out to His People what may comfort them; and Clouds, to drop down their doctrine as rain in season, to make them fruitful. 2. Whatever be the fair pretences and promises of false teachers, the Lord’s People can meet with nothing but disappointment from them; and whatever esteem they may have among the best for a time, God will take His own time to manifest what they are in effect, and to undeceive His own People: for here, they that gave out themselves, and were esteemed to be the chief instruments of the comfort and fruitfulnesse of the Church, as the similitudes of Wells and Clouds, whereby they set out themselves, do import, are here discovered to be such as did disappoint, and in disappointing, increase the anxiety of these that expected comfort from them, as Wells without water do the weary travellor; and to be such as are acted by the restless spirit of Satan into every airth where their fore-named idols of gain and applause can be had, as clouds that are carried with a tempest. 3. The judgment of false teachers, whereof their followers shall get a share, shall be very proportionable to their sin; for, they promise to be Wells of consolation to the Lord’s People, and do disappoint them; they themselves delight to walk, and to lead others in the works of darknesse: they darken the Truth of God; and in this course they are restlesse, as clouds carried with a tempest: and therefore the threatening is exactly suited to these sins; For them the mist of darknesse is reserved for ever.
Vers. 18. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonnesse, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.
Here is the next course which soul-deceivers take to ensnare poor souls by their errors, to wit, a high and lofty stile of language, which their love to their lusts made them to affect, and whereby they were very taking with unmortified wanton professors, especially such as have been turned from Paganism, to the profession of Christianity. Hence Learn,
1. They that vent error do ordinarily hold it forth under some lofty strain of language, and high-bended expressions, beyond what is ordinary, such as may be most taking with, and admired by the hearers; while as faithfull Ministers can trust Christ, to make plain Truth, spoken in the simplicity of words, effectual for the salvation, comfort and edification of His own, which is their main scope, 1 Cor. 2.4. for, it is here a character of false teachers, They speak great swelling words.
2. When the vail of odd and soaring expressions, wherein false teachers delight, is laid aside, and the naked purpose, held forth under them, is considered, it will be found of no worth, but either some untruth, or that which maketh nothing to the true advantage of souls; both which are vanity: for here their great swelling words, are words of vanity.
3. An affected lofty stile of language in uttering things divine, doth ordinarily flow from some unmortified lust in the speaker, especially the love of applause; and is also mainly taking with wanton unhumbled souls, when it doth provoke to more vanity and lightnesse, by diverting them from the study of their natural vilenesse, their need of Jesus, and the necessity of the mortification of their heart-evils: for, they who speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonnesse: both which last clauses may be understood, as well of the principle which doth bend the preacher to that strain, as of the qualification of these hearers with whom it is most taking.
4. There may be a very remarkable external change from vile and blasphemous opinions, idolatrous and profane practices, to a profession of Truth and suitablenesse of the outward conversation to it, where there is no saving or inward change made of the heart, from the love of secret lusts to the love of Christ and His grace; the one without the other may be occasioned by the power of example, the majesty and clearnesse of Truth, which is in nothing contrary to natures light, the beauty of holinesse shining in the conversation of Professors, and outward advantages which sometimes may attend the profession of Truth and Holinesse: for, these here who were yet given to the lusts of their flesh, and much wantonnesse had once clean escaped from the blasphemous opinions, profane and idolatrous practices of those without the Church, who are here called them that live in error.
5. Whatever change of this sort be wrought upon men, unless they labour to find the power of Christs Spirit changing, their nature, and mortifying their inward lusts, they will easily be a prey to seducing spirits, and carried to those sins which are no lesse dishonourable to God, and destructive to their own souls, than those wherein they lived before: for here, those who had once clean escaped from the vile opinions, and wicked practices wherein Pagans live, are now by the seduction of false teachers, turned profane and licentious Christians.