2 Peter 2:17
In the course of his denunciation of abandoned sinners St. Peter makes use in two places of this remarkable expression, "the wages of unrighteousness," or "the hire of wrong-doing" - in the fifteenth verse as something loved and sought by Balaam, and in the twelfth verse as that which shall be the portion of the impenitent transgressor. The idea was one which evidently took very forcible possession of the apostle's mind, and, however little it may be in harmony with the sentimental and purblind type of religion too prevalent in our time, it is an idea in perfect harmony with the stern and righteous government of God. Upon the suggestion of the twofold application of the thoughts in this chapter, it may be well to treat this serious and awful subject under two aspects.

I. THE SINNER'S ILLUSION AS TO HIS WORK AND HIS WAGES. Life is represented as a bondman's service, and in any case the representation is appropriate and just. But experience of human character and history leads to the conclusion, which coincides with the teaching of revelation, that men constantly engage and continue in the service of sin under a double illusion.

1. They imagine the work which they undertake to be easy and agreeable. By many devices the tyrant sin disguises the evils of his service, and induces his victims to continue in it to their souls' injury and ruin. The pleasures of sin are for a season, and they who indulge in them are like those who eat of the fair apples of the Dead Sea, which turn to ashes in the mouth.

2. They imagine the reward of the service to be liberal and satisfactory. As Balaam lusted for the gold which was to be his hire, as Judas clutched the thirty pieces of silver which were the price of his Master's blood, so the bondmen of ungodliness deceive themselves with the imagination that the reward they will partake will enrich and satisfy their nature. Whether it be wealth or pleasure, power or praise, they set their hearts upon it, and it becomes to them as the supreme good. In such an illusion years of sin and folly may be passed.


1. The service is, sooner or later, found to be mere slavery. The chains may be gilded, but they are chains for all that. The dwelling may have the semblance of a palace, but it is in fact a prison. The master's speech may be honeyed, but it is the speech of a tyrant, cruel and relentless. 2, The hire of wrong-doing is not payment, but punishment. "The way of transgressors" is found to be "hard." "The wages of sin is death."

APPLICATION. Let these considerations lead the sinner to forsake the tyrant's service, repudiate the tyrant's claims, and fling back the tyrant's hire. - J.R.T.

These are wells without water.
I. THEIR UN-PROFITABLENESS. "Wells without water."

1. Pastors are like wells —(1) For constancy. They keep their residence; men know where to find them.(2) They are wells of piety; the water of life, the word of salvation is in them.(3) They are wells of sanctity, and therefore must be clean,(4) They are wells of knowledge, and of sufficient depth, skilled in the mysteries of salvation.(5) They are wells of pity, full of compassion, yearning over the danger of men's souls.(6) They are wells of peace and amity, such as reconcile feuds and appease discords; as the water of a well serves to quench flames.(7) They are wells of charity, that do not only give good counsel with their lips, but good relief with their hands.

2. False teachers are "wells without water." A blind guide, an ignorant physician, a candlestick without light, a penny without provision, a well without water, is a miserable provision. Suppose we are thirsty and would drink, foul and would wash, hot and would be cooled, our houses are on fire and we would have them quenched; if we come to the well with our buckets and find it empty, we know not whether our grief or indignation be greater.

II. THEIR VARIABLENESS. "Clouds that are carried with a tempest."

1. The fitness of the metaphor (Ezekiel 20:46; Deuteronomy 32:2).(1) Clouds are made to contain water, and preachers should be filled with wholesome doctrine.(2) Clouds are drawn up by the sun, and teachers called to that holy profession by the Sun of Righteousness.(3) Clouds are nearer to heaven than common waters, and ministers are advanced nearer to the secrets of God than other men.(4) Clouds hang in the air after a strange manner, and preachers live in the world in a wondrous sort; all the winds of the earth and furies of hell band against them, yet still they are supported by their Ordainer.(5) Clouds are set to distil rain upon the dry places of earth, and preachers to satisfy the thirsty soul.

2. The levity of these hypocrites. "Carried with a tempest." Some are not stable in the truth; but it is not possible for any man to be constant in errors, for the next fancy will take him off from the former. As wanton children are won to be quiet with change of toys, so the devil is fain to please such men with variety of crotchets. He forgets what he hath been, understands not what he is, and knows not what he will be.


1. The nature or quality of it — "the mist of darkness." Such a mist shall be on their souls, as comes upon a swooning man, who cannot see though his eyes be open, the organs being (for the time) incapable of illumination.

2. The congruity of it — "reserved." These black clouds did wholly endeavour to superinduce darkness on the Church, therefore the mist of darkness is reserved for them for ever. It is but justice if God be not found of those that were content to lose Him.

3. The perpetuity of it — "for ever."

(Thos. Adams.)

These false teachers bear the semblance of teachers, lust as, for a little time, a place in Eastern lands where water has flowed will continue green, but disappoint the thirsty traveller who may be led by a little verdure to hope for water. There was water, and perhaps not long ago, but there is none now, and so with these deceivers. They give promise, but that promise is never realised.

(Prof. J. R. Lumby.)

Water! How precious it is! Because God has given it to us so plentifully, we are apt to underestimate its worth. Were we tormented with thirst in the desert, we could consider water a priceless boon. In the East wells of water were very precious. Passing through the desert, the traveller would alight at one with joy, quaff the cooling draught, and then refreshed pursue his onward way. "Wells without water." Travellers in Eastern climes have often come across them. Hot and weary, they have gone with anticipative joy, only to be disappointed at finding parched emptiness. In passing through life's wilderness, have we not often come across "wells without water"? In the life-endeavour have we not often been disappointed? How many enter into business and anticipate success? They work with a will. But their efforts have all been "wells without water"! Others, again, have succeeded in business. But the dark shadow is there; and, so far as happiness is concerned, successful business men have found that mere earthly possessions have proved "wells without water." What a desire some persons have to be known! The essential characteristic of their existence is to be prominent. But in mere fame there is little or no satisfaction. Scotland was singing in her crowded towns and in her bonny glens the songs of her favourite poet, Burns, while he wrote as he lay in his last illness, not in the flight of poetic genius, but in the uncoloured utterance of homely prose — "I have known existence of late only by the presence of the heavy hand of sickness, and have counted time by the repercussions of pain." Then followed these words of anguish: "I close my eyes in misery, and open them without hope." When Dr. Johnson finished his dictionary, the more particular literary effort of his life, the Earl of Chesterfield offered that patronage to the completed work which he had refused to the struggling writer. Dr. Johnson replied: "The notice which you have taken of my labours has been delayed till I am indifferent and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary and cannot impart it; till I am known and do not want it." The mere notice of the titled great, earthly reputation, worldly fame, these are but empty wells that mock the thirsty wanderer through the desert — "wells without water"! Some may say we do not aspire to fame. True, but is not excitement sought in other ways? Is happiness being sought in the attractions of society, or in any of the numerous vain amusements of the world? In all walks of life, in all the varied paths of the journey, we find "empty wells." They are on all sides of us. We see persons standing, thirsting, and unable to gratify their thirst, looking, with disappointment written on their careworn faces, into "wells without water." You have met with individuals cold, hard, selfish. They live merely for themselves. They have the human head, but the statue's heart. No word of sympathy escapes their lips, no look of pity comes from their cold eyes. To make appeals to them is like "dropping buckets into empty wells," which would certainly grow old in drawing nothing up! Then there are some who attempt to build wells. They dig deep. They pile one charitable action upon another. They exercise the greatest self-denial in carrying on their task, and when it is done they find their labour in vain. No man's thirst is slaked; it may be an elaborate work, but it is a piece of beautiful emptiness — one of the" wells without water." There is a well of living water. With joy the pilgrim can drink from the well of salvation, a well where the thirsty can drink to their heart's content, and thirst no more for streams that are impure.

(J. P. Hutchinson.)

They allure... those that were

1. Their posture.(1) They think to carry it away with "words."(a) Error hath always most words; like a rotten house, that needs most props to uphold it.(b) In much speaking is foolish speaking: it is very difficult to speak much and well. The ship that hath more rigging and sail than ballast, will never make a good voyage.(2) Their full-mouthed speeches — "great swelling words." Nothing is more loud than error: the more false the matter, the greater noise to uphold it (Acts 19:34). "Swelling words" are like the reports of ordnance — they blaze, and crack, and smoke, and stink, and vanish.(3) The last attribute of their speech is vain, "words of vanity." If the matter were good, yet many words were vain, great words were vain; but here both the matter and words and all are vanity itself.

2. Their imposture — "they allure." The metaphor is taken from fishing or fowling. Those fishes that were taken out of the feculent pond of this world, and put into the crystal streams of the church, are by these seducers again drawn out of the streams of the church into the pool of the world. The hook whereby they perform this is fraud: the same devil teacheth his trade to all his followers: the lion is strong enough, but the serpent doth the mischief.

II. THE DECEIVED. "Those that were clean escaped."

1. They were not quite delivered from sin, but from the external profession of sin, and from the doctrine that maintains sin. The children of the world may outwardly be gathered to the congregation of Israel, yet not be of Israel. They are escaped from the lion and the bear, gross and raging impiety and idolatry; but in the house of God they are bitten by a serpent, sly hypocrisy.

2. They are again returned to error. What a poor way went they toward heaven, so soon to turn back! It is but Ephraim's morning dew; let the sun of prosperity rise but two hours high, the dew is gone. A Galatian humour, to begin in the spirit, and to end in the flesh; like a meteor or gliding star, that seemed in heaven, shot through the air, and lighted on a dunghill.(1) All sin is a labyrinth; the entrance is easy; all the difficulty is to get out again.(2) The practice of these deceivers is upon them that are escaped from their errors. The malignant jailer pursues after him that hath broken prison. 3 "Through much wantonness." This is that little postern set open, to which Satan is so much beholden for his readmittance.

(Thos. Adams.)

While they promise them liberty
I. THE ALLUREMENT OF THE WEAR. It was Christ's charge to Peter (Luke 22:32). It is Satan's charge to his agents — Now you are confounded, confound your brethren.


1. Promises are the cheapest things man can part with, and yet the strongest enchantments.

2. Fair promises are strong snares to entangle fools.

3. It is ill to promise and to deceive; but it is worse to promise with a purpose to deceive.

4. Seducers refuse no way, so they may deceive; they swear, they forswear, propose and interpose, to make strong their party.

III. THE FORCE OF THAT PROMISE IS LIBERTY. Sensuality and a carnal freedom is the spell that conjures these wild spirits, and brings them in subjection to their heretical teachers. They may promise them civil liberty: this they are not sure to perform; or consciential: this they will not perform; or spiritual: this they cannot perform; but profane excess, riotous intemperance, the uncontrollable swing of their lusts, this they will endeavour to perform.

IV. THE CONVICTION OF THAT FORCE. "They themselves are the servants of corruption." All sin is a servitude; and that which flatters men with the greatest opinion of liberty, makes them the most miserable vassals (2 Timothy 2:26). They may think that they have the world at command, and not the world them. They have a secret and insensible tether, which that enemy ties to their heels, and holds in his hand: while they run whither he allows them, they shall have scope enough; but if they offer towards goodness, he instantly snatches them up.

V. THE PROOF OF THAT CONVICTION. "For of whom a man is overcome," etc. The metaphor seems to be taken from war; where the conqueror brings the vanquished into captivity. And this misery of the captive differs according to the disposition of the victor; if he be imperious, and given to cruelty, he doth so much the more embitter the slavery.

1. It is an ignominious state.

2. A hard and troublesome condition.

3. Intolerable.

4. Useless.

5. Irretrievable, sold to sin with small hope of recovery.

6. Pitiable, the grief of every Christian.

7. Destructive. The end of every service is wages, and this is a wages without end, even everlasting pain.

(Thos. Adams.)

I. My text implies THAT VICIOUS MEN ARE SLAVES; that it is an absurdity in them to pretend to be advocates for liberty; and that consequently the practice of virtue is necessary to give men true liberty. The wicked men that St. Peter had in view opposed the restraints of law and authority — they vilified civil governors — renounced the obligations of righteousness; and by doing this they boasted that they stood up for liberty; not considering their own slavery, and not distinguishing between licentiousness and liberty. You must be sensible that these observations imply that there is a moral slavery which ought to be the principal object of our detestation, and consequently a moral liberty which ought to be the principal object of our attachment. My present business will be to explain this, and to show its importance and excellence. Now liberty being an exemption from all such force as takes away from us the capacity of acting as we think best, it is plain that whenever any passion be comes predominant within us, or causes us to contradict our sentiments of rectitude, we lose our liberty, and fall into a state of slavery. When any one of our instinctive desires assumes the direction of our conduct in opposition to our reason, then reason is overpowered and enslaved, and when reason is overpowered and enslaved we are overpowered and enslaved. On the other hand, when our reason maintains its rights, and possesses its proper seat of sovereignty within us, then are we masters of ourselves, and free in the truest possible sense. A submission to reason is not in any way inconsistent with liberty; on the contrary, it supposes natural liberty, and is the very idea of that moral liberty which is my present subject. The more we are in subjection to reason, the more power we have to do as we like. The dictates of reason are the dictates of our own hearts; and therefore the very reverse of anything that can be deemed force or slavery.

II. TO MENTION A FEW REASONS IN ORDER TO RECOMMEND THIS LIBERTY TO YOU. The bare description of it is indeed enough to make every one desire it. It is replete with blessings and advantages.

1. Consider particularly what an honour there is in liberty, and what a baseness in sin. To lose inward liberty is to lose all that can procure esteem, and to become poor, abject, and impotent.

2. Let me desire you to consider what advantages and blessings liberty of mind will bring with it. The discerning faculties of the person who possesses this liberty must be more clear than that of any other man. There is in such a mind a conscious ness of dignity, which is more desirable than any sensual gratification, and which cannot be given by the possession of any worldly honours and titles.

(R. Price, D. D.)

This is a true delineation of the fact that animalism leads to despotism, and necessitates it; and the whole chapter illustrates that fundamental idea. There are two essential conditions of civil liberty: first, self government, and second, the civil machinery of free national life. Self-government is a better term than liberty. There is no such thing as absolute liberty. It is quite inconsistent with the very creative notion which we express. We gain strength and bodily ease and comfort in proportion as we obey law. We are not, therefore, free physically, in regard to the body; and just as little are we free mentally; for there is an order within, which is as real, and the observance of which is as indispensable to comfortable liberty, as the order of the body and its physical organisation. Nor are we absolutely free in our relations to the material world. Physical laws round about us are more potent than walls in a prison are round about the prisoner. Do, obey, and live; disobey, and die. A man is hedged up in his own nature; and he is hedged up just as much in the world in which he was born, and in which he moves. All these restraints would seem to be restraints upon the sum of life and individual power; but if you analyse it it will be found that, while there is no such thing as absolute liberty, these restraints all work primarily against the animal nature. So that while a man is restricted at the bottom, he spreads out at the top, and gains again, with amplitude and augmentation, in the higher realms of his being, all that he loses by the restrictions which are imposed by great cardinal laws upon his lower nature. The more effectually, then, these lower elements are repressed, the more liberty is given to the affections. The degree of liberty attainable by an individual depends upon the restraint which he puts upon the lower nature, and the stimulus which he gives to the higher. The liberty which is attainable by masses of men living together depends on the training that the society which they constitute has had in keeping down the animalism, and exalting the true manhood of the citizens in the community. Society cannot be free, except as the reason and the moral sentiments have a sufficient ascendency. You have often heard it said that a free government depends upon the intelligence and virtue of the citizens. This is an empirical fact. It is in accordance with the radical nature of man that it should be so. The first and most important condition of liberty, psychologically stated, is that men should learn how to restrain their lower, basilar, passional natures, and should be willing to restrain them, and so give liberty to their reason, their affections, and their moral sentiments. The other condition which we mentioned as indispensable to civil liberty is the possession of the machinery of free civil society. There is to be the presence of laws adapted to that state of things, and there is to be a knowledge of those laws. Ages were employed in experimenting and finding out what was the mode by which a free people might discuss, deliberate upon, and decide their own questions of policy. It has been a slow invention, improved and improving from age to age. These two elementary conditions — the moral condition of the people, and the apparatus of civil government adapted to freedom — must unite and co-operate, before there can be any permanent civil liberty in any nation. On this foundation I remark —

1. The desire to be free is not a basis broad enough for liberty. All men like liberty, if by that expression is meant dislike of restraint; but if the love of liberty means the repression of all one's lower nature, and the education and dominancy of all one's higher nature, then I deny that men desire liberty. The love of liberty is, like virtue and religion, the result of culture in men. The love of liberty is a virtue. It is a moral inspiration. It is not merely a wild disposition to throw away government; it is a disposition to supersede the necessity of an outward government by the reality of a government within. Let me see a man that loves liberty, and I shall see a man that loves freedom not only for himself, but for others. And when it takes on this form, mankind and manhood have advanced far along the road of intelligence and true piety.

2. The adoption of free governments by an untrained and unrestrained people will not secure liberty to them. Liberty does not come from machineries, though it uses them, and must have them. You might build a hundred cotton factories in the wilderness where the Indians are, and the Indians would not on that account be an ingenious and manufacturing people. The manufacturer must precede the machinery, and know how to use it. You might carry cannon, and muskets, and rifles, and endless magazines of ammunition, into the midst of a peace-loving and cowardly nation, and that would not make them a warlike people. The instruments do not make courage, though where there is courage the instruments are indispensable to its use. And where armed tyranny prevails, the whole machinery of free nations substituted in its place does not make the nation free. A nation is not free until it is free in its individual members. Christ makes men free. The spirit of Christ — the spirit of faith, the spirit of self-denial, the spirit of self-government, the spirit of aspiration, the spirit of benevolence — that it is that makes men free.

3. The directest road to civil liberty lies in augmenting the true manhood of a people. You cannot make a people free that are ignorant and animal; and, on the other hand, you cannot for ever keep any people in bondage that are thoroughly educated and thoroughly moral. Schools, virtuous home-training, free religious knowledge, whatever will swell the manhood of the individuals of a nation — these are the means which produce liberty. If, therefore, one desires in Europe to sow the seeds of true liberty, I would not say, "Keep back books that teach about the machinery of society." Let them be instructed in those things. But do not rely on those things. Ply the bottom of society with schools. Ply the masses with those things which shall teach them how to live with organisation; how to deny themselves; how to live to-day for future periods of time; how to practise the simple virtues; and how to carry those virtues up to the spiritual forms in which they are to eventuate. He that teaches men how to be true men in Christ Jesus is aiming as straight at liberty as ever any archer that bended the bow aimed at the target, That is the reason why true preachers are always revolutionary men. To preach a larger manhood is to unsettle, by prophecy, all thrones. You cannot force knowledge into a man; and just as little can you force liberty into men. It is a thing of development. It is a thing that cannot be brought into a man or a nation, but that has to be wrought out of the elements of the man, or of the nation. Make men's limbs so large that there is not iron enough to go around them. Make men's muscles, like Samson's, so strong that withes and cords are like flax touched with fire when they strain them. That will cure bondage; and that is the best way to cure it. Make men larger; make them measure more about the girt of the conscience, and less around the animalism, and then you cannot oppress them.

4. Modern nations, with a certain degree of civilisation, are all tending to civil liberty; and democracy, as it is called, is inevitable. This is admitted by all heads, crowned as well as others. It is only a question as to how long a time will be required to bring about the result. The universal brain is showing itself to be mightier than the class brain. The crowned head must give way to the thinking head of the millions. In this tendency, the first step should be popular intelligence, or real growth at the bottom of society. Then the institutions of liberty will come gradually themselves.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Nothing more strikingly characterises the teaching of the early preachers of Christianity, while it attests their faithfulness, than the uncompromising distinct ness with which they put forth the claims of the gospel to the whole obedience of mankind, and declared the peculiar characteristics of the Christian service. Self crucifixion, the absolute submission of their wills to the law of another will, etc. Such doctrine is not acceptable now, and it was not when St. Peter wrote. Accordingly, we find that while the apostles were busily engaged in enforcing this doctrine, there were other teachers no less busily occupied in endeavouring to counteract their endeavours, and who, to this end, with a thorough knowledge of human nature, addressed themselves to just those cravings of that nature which are at once the strongest and the blindest. The teachers of Christianity preached obedience; they taught the necessity of self-subjugation; they enforced the duty, while they showed the blessedness, of submission to the law of God and of Christ. What, then, was the argument, and what the enticement, with which these false teachers endeavoured to hold men, and too often succeeded in holding them, in disobedience and rebellion? It was then, as now and ever, "liberty." Liberty! that first temptation that was whispered cunningly amid the fresh leaves and flowers of unfallen Eden, and which has smoothed the way to all other temptations and all other sins whatsoever. Liberty! that form of light with which Satan so often delights to clothe himself. Liberty! that treacherous phantom that has slain more living men — ay, slain them eternally — than all the blood-dripping tyrants of the world. Liberty! that fair child of heaven which for six thousand years men have blindly sought, and which not even six thousand years have taught them, can nowhere else be found than in the house of law.


1. Doubtless the apostle exactly states the promise made by these opposing teachers; and it is therefore worth while to observe that no limit is placed to the range or application of the liberty promised. These teachers very well knew the corruption and weakness of the human heart; and while therefore they misrepresented the service of Christ as a needless and cruel bondage, they took care to place before men the service of sin as a full and perfect liberty. "They promise them liberty" — deliverance from the iron authority of the Divine will; deliverance from a sense of constant condemnation and restraint; freedom for their whole nature in all its parts; liberty to think and feel and do without hindrance and without fear. And what is this but the temptation which we every day see coiling itself around, and fixing its fascinating eye upon the hearts of men; and to the promise of which we see men everywhere striving to attain?

2. Observe how another fact is brought out by this statement of the apostle — the fact, namely, of a recognised line of separation dividing always between the servants of Christ and the servants of the world. It is its exclusiveness that makes Christianity so repulsive. It is because Christ will divide His claims with none other, that it is so easy to represent His service as a bondage, when compared with the "liberty" of the world.


1. Man, by the requirements of his very nature and condition, must serve. He cannot be without a master — some dominant power, that is, ruling supremely in his heart; and as a moral being there are only two services between which he can choose — the service of good and the service of evil, the service of Christ and the service of the world.

2. There is no greater delusion than to imagine because a man has cast aside his allegiance to his Maker, or has even succeeded in excluding entirely all thought of his Maker from his heart, that therefore he is free. He is not free. There is no such deep bondage — a bondage fixing its relentless grasp upon the inmost powers of the soul — as the liberty of the world. The garlands of its holiday are flowers wreathed on chains; and although its victim himself, owing to the very stupor of his degradation, the delirium which falls on those long bound in prison, may come at times to be ignorant of his state, that state can in no wise be hid from any one who is not himself a servant of the world. No; he is not free.(1) He is held in bondage, first of all, to the world's opinions. Boasting, perhaps, of what he calls his intellectual freedom, scoffing, perhaps, at the authoritative teachings of God's Word, he is yet held in thraldom by the judgments of other men, and does not, in opposition thereto, obey the dictates of his own.(2) He is a slave again to his own body. His lower nature, that which allies him to the brute, rises up in proud supremacy, and rules triumphantly over all that connects him with his God.(3) He is a slave, moreover, to his own fears. Ever and anon his torpid conscience will uprear its crest and inflict its sting.

III. The only question with which we, as wise men, are concerned is, WHICH OF THESE TWO IS THE BETTER SERVICE? WHICH WILL RESULT TO US IN THE GREATER RECOMPENSE OF REWARD? We have not spoken unfairly of the service of the world. We have admitted all its claims, so far as those claims are true. It promises liberty, and we have shown you the liberty that it gives. Undoubtedly there is an earthly gain and a present enjoyment to the natural heart in such freedom — the freedom of an untrammelled will, the freedom to enjoy without stint all the pleasures that this world can give; and if the full results, and therefore the final value, of man's acts were present and finished in the acts themselves, there would perhaps be little to be said. But the real advantage and value Of all human acts, even the commonest, and therefore of all human states, are decided by their ultimate results, whether, as to time, those results are immediate or remote. To determine, therefore, the true, and consequently the abiding, value, whether of the service of Christ, or the service of the world, we must consider the permanent results of each as they remain fixed in our own nature, or affect permanently the conditions of our own existence.

1. Applying this test, what must we say of the service of the world? How can we characterise results which, as we have seen, are poor and miserable indeed, utterly unworthy of man, debasing and unsatisfying even upon earth, and, instead of brightening, covering with cloud and darkness his real existence, even the eternal existence of his soul? It is, as the apostle says, "corruption." Yes, "corruption" — slavery to this body which, with all its strength and all its pride and all its lust, shall presently be hid away from sight and sense as an offensive thing;" slavery to this poor world of men around me, corruptible like me, and day by day dropping into this great charnel-house of earth; slavery to the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, which send their destroying power into eternity itself, and turn into "corruption" the immortal soul.

2. Test in the same way the service of Christ, and see if the Christian — Christ's true servant — is a slave. If deliverance from his greatest adversary, if superiority to all human power, if a constant sense of perfect security and peace — if this be slavery, then he is in bondage indeed; but if, on the other hand, these are the evidences of liberty, then is he free. Through the power of Christ he vanquishes the temptations that once vanquished him. Living a life of obedience like that of the angels, knowing, through the approving witness of the Spirit, that he is accepted as a repentant son by his loving Father, he lives, through faith, in that Father's home — that home so bright and beautiful upon the summit of the universe; and the laws of that home are the laws of his life. And so, living with angels, what cares he for unrighteous men? or what on earth can harm him? He is above all bondage and above all fear. Death itself has lost all power over him. Its darkness even now is filled with the kindling rays of eternal life. Is not this liberty? and is not such liberty worth seeking for? Is there a sane man here present who, determining this question from the true point of right judgment, even that bed of death which may be spread for him to-morrow, would not give all the honours and all the gains and all the joys that this world can offer to be — a freedman of God?

(W. Rudder, D. D.)

The servants of corruption
I propose to discuss the moral state of the sinner.

I. THE FIRST IMPORTANT FACT TO BE NOTICED IS THAT ALL MEN ARE NATURALLY FREE, AND NONE THE LESS SO FOR BEING SINNERS. THEY NATURALLY HAVE FREEDOM OF WILL. This freedom is in the will itself, and consists in its power of free choice. To do, or not to do — this is its option. It has by its own nature the function of determining its own volitions. The soul wills to do or not to do, and thus is a moral sovereign over its own activities. In this fact lies the foundation for moral agency. Still further: man can distinguish between those acts in which he is free, and those in which he is acted upon by influences independent of his own choice. He knows that in some things he is a recipient of influences and of actions exerted upon himself, while in other things he is not a recipient in the same sense, but a voluntary actor. The fact of this discrimination proves the possession of free agency. Again, the Bible always treats men as free agents, commanding them to do or not to do as if of course they had all the power requisite to obey such commands. A young minister once said to me, "I preach that men ought to repent, but never that they can." "Why not preach also that they can?" said I. He replied, "The Bible does not affirm that they can." To this I replied that it would be most consummate trifling for a human legislature, having required certain acts, to affirm that its subjects have the power to obey. The very requirement is the strongest possible affirmation that, in the belief of the enacting power, the subjects are able to do the things required. Freedom of will lies among the earliest and most resistless convictions. Probably no one living can remember his first idea of oughtness — his first convictions of right and wrong. It is also among our most irresistible convictions. The fact of personal responsibility is fastened on us so that we might as well escape from ourselves as from this conviction.

II. While it is true, past a rational denial, that men have this attribute of moral liberty, IT IS EQUALLY TRUE THAT THEY ARE MORALLY ENSLAVED — in moral bondage. The liberty they have by created constitution; the bondage comes by voluntary perversion and abuse of their powers. The Bible represents men as being in bondage- as having the power to resist temptation to sin, but yet as voluntarily yielding, to those temptations. What the Bible thus represents, experience proves to be true. Wicked men know that they are in bondage to Satan. What do you think puts it into the heart of young men to plot iniquity and drink it in like water? Is it not the devil? How many young men do we meet with who, when tempted, seem to have no moral stamina to resist, but are swept away by the first gust of temptation! Men are in bondage to their appetites. What can be the reason that some young men find it so hard to give up the use of tobacco? They know the habit is filthy and disgusting. So when a man is in bondage to alcohol, and so with every form of sensual indulgence. Satan helps on the influence of sensuality, and does not care much what the particular form of it may be, provided its power be strong enough to ruin the soul. It all plays into his hand and promotes his main purpose. So men are in bondage to the love of money; to the fashions of the world; to the opinions of mankind. By these they are enslaved and led on in the face of the demands of duty. Every impenitent man is conscious of being really in bondage to temptation. What man, not saved from sin through grace, does not know that he is an enigma to himself? What! does he not know that his weakest desires carry his will, the strongest convictions of his reason and conscience to the contrary notwithstanding? This is a most guilty state, because so altogether voluntary — so needless, and so opposed to the convictions of his reason and of his understanding, and withal so opposed to his convictions of God's righteous demands. To go counter to such convictions, he must be supremely guilty. Of course such conduct must be most suicidal The sinner acts in most decided opposition to his own best interests, so that if he has the power to ruin himself this course must certainly do it. This is a state of deep moral degradation. Intrinsically it is most disgraceful. Everybody feels this in regard to certain forms of sin and classes of sinners. A drunkard we regard as a long way towards beasthood. Nay, rather must we ask pardon of all beasts for this comparison, for not one is so mean and so vile — not one excites in our bosom such a sense of voluntary degradation. So of the miser when he gets beyond all motives but the love of hoarding; when his practical question is — not, How shall I honour my race, or bless my generation, or glorify my Maker; but, How can I make a few coppers? Even when urged to pray, he would ask — "What profit shall I have if I do pray unto Him?" When you find a man thus incapable of being moved by noble motives, what a wretch he is! How ineffably mean! So I might bring before you the ambitious scholar, who is too low in his aims to be influenced by the exalted motive of doing good, and who feels only that which touches his reputation. Is not this exceedingly low and mean?

(C. G. Finney.)

Of the same he is brought in bondage
1. This conquest shows the falsehood of the tempter in his promise. They promise liberty, and here is the result — bondage.

2. This conquest shows the ultimate wretchedness of the victim. He is brought in "bondage." What is the bondage?(1) Their slavery is the most real. Chains and prison walls can only enslave the body.(2) Their slavery is the most criminal. Corporal slavery is generally a misfortune; the sufferer is not responsible for his position.

3. Their slavery is the most lasting. Death destroys corporal slavery.


Bondage and subjection are disagreeable sounds to the ear, disagreeable ideas to the mind. The advocates of vice, taking advantage of those natural impressions, have in every age employed them for discrediting religion. To be free imports, in general, our being placed in such circumstances that, within the bounds of justice and good order, we can act according to our own deliberate choice, and take such measures for our conduct as we have reason to believe are conducive to our welfare; without being obstructed either by external force, or by violent internal impulse. This is that happy and dignified state which every wise man earnestly wishes to enjoy. The advantages which result from it are chiefly these three: freedom of choice independence of mind; boldness and security.

I. VICE is inconsistent with liberty, as it deprives sinners of the power of free choice by bringing them under the dominion of passions and habits. Religion and virtue address themselves to reason. But vice can make no pretensions of this kind. It awaits not the test of deliberate comparison and choice, but overpowers us at once by some striking impression of present advantage or enjoyment. It hurries us with the violence of passion, captivates us by the allurements of pleasure, or dazzles us by the glare of riches. The sinner yields to the impulse merely because he cannot resist it. After passion has for a while exercised its tyrannical sway, its vehemence may by degrees subside. But when, by long indulgence, it has established habits of gratification, the sinner's bondage becomes then more confirmed and more miserable. For, during the heat of pursuit, he is little capable of reflection. But when his ardour is abated, and, nevertheless, a vicious habit rooted, he has full leisure to perceive the heavy yoke he has brought upon himself. Vice confirms its dominion, and extends it still farther over the soul by compelling the sinner to support one crime by means of another.

II. THE SLAVERY PRODUCED BY VICE APPEARS IN THE DEPENDENCE UNDER WHICH IT BRINGS THE SINNER TO CIRCUMSTANCES OF EXTERNAL FORTUNE. One of the favourite characters of liberty is the independence it bestows. He who is truly a free man is above all servile compliances and abject subjection. But the sinner has forfeited every privilege of this nature. His passions and habits render him an absolute dependant on the world and the world's favour; on the uncertain goods of fortune and the fickle humours of men. Having no fund within himself whence to draw enjoyment, his only resource is in things without. His hopes and fears all hang upon the world. This is to be, in the strictest sense, a slave to the world. Religion and virtue, on the other hand, confer on the mind principles of noble independence. The upright man is satisfied from himself. He despises not the advantages of fortune, but he centres not his happiness in them.

III. ANOTHER CHARACTER OF THE SLAVERY OF VICE IS THAT MEAN, COWARDLY, AND DISQUIETED STATE TO WHICH IT REDUCES THE SINNER. Boldness and magnanimity have ever been accounted the native effects of liberty. The man of virtue, relying on a good conscience and the protection of Heaven, acts with firmness and courage; and, in the discharge of his duty, fears not the face of man. The man of vice, conscious of his low and corrupt aims, shrinks before the steadfast and piercing eye of integrity; is ever looking around him with anxious and fearful circumspection, and thinking of subterfuges by which he may escape from danger. The one is bold as a lion; the other flieth when no man pursueth. Corresponding to that abject disposition which characterises a bad man are the fears that haunt him. The terrors of a slave dwell on his mind and often appear in his behaviour. For guilt is never free from suspicion and alarm. I have thus set before you such clear marks of the servitude undergone by sinners as fully verify the assertion in the text that a state of vice and corruption is a state of bondage. In order to perceive how severe a bondage it is, let us attend to some peculiar circumstances of aggravation which belong to it.

1. It is a bondage to which the mind itself, the native seat of liberty, is subjected.

2. It is a bondage which we have brought upon ourselves.

(H. Blair, D. D.)


II. WHAT IS LIBERTY? Is it licence and lawlessness? Must all conduct be without order and without law in order to constitute it freedom? We know better. Look at Paris and the bloody Commune! There is no tyranny like that of lawlessness. The would-be sinner complains of being tied to the apron-strings of his mother in order that he may put himself under the bonds of Satan. He does this to prove his independence. But no man in any condition of life is allowed to act as he pleases. If he were, society would be impossible.

III. WHERE THE WISEST LAWS ARE, THERE IS THE TRUEST LIBERTY. We voluntarily place ourselves under such laws that our rights of liberty may be protected. It is so in the state, so in society, so in religion. That cannot be a bond which carries with it an endorsement of the high nature within us.


1. It was a bondage of the soul, of the spirit, of the higher nature within us. The fetters of sin were riveted around these.

2. The aggravation of this slavery is its voluntary assumption. It is a bondage more galling because self-chosen.

3. In this slavery we become subjects to our own servants. It is a revolution in our moral nature, by which the highest parts become the lowest, the lowest the highest.

(H. Johnson, D. D.)

If... they are again entangled... the latter end is worse

1. "They have escaped." Next to the finding an unexpected benefit, it is a great happiness to escape an unsuspected danger; yea, the escaping of a great danger is more joy than the receiving of an ordinary benefit.

2. "The pollutions of the world."(1) The pollutions which we contract from the riches of the world.(2) The pollutions we derive from the honours and dignities of the world pride here challengeth the first place, and let her have it, even to be the queen of all sordid filthiness.(3) The pollutions we deduce from the pleasures of the world. Oh, what a torrent of turpitudes here stream in upon us!

(a)Immoderate diet.



3. "Through the knowledge," etc.(1) There is no knowledge to do good in corrupted nature and filthiness of the flesh.(2) There is no escaping out of this filthiness and corruption, but by knowledge.(3) No knowledge can deliver us, but that of our Saviour Christ.(4) No knowledge of our Saviour can effect this, but that which is sanctified with faith and repentance.


1. The easiness of falling back. "If" — it is no impossible thing. Yes, the commonness proves it too easy. Man goes forth in the morning weak and unarmed, to encounter with powers and principalities. To fight this combat he takes a second with him, and that is his flesh, a familiar enemy, a friendly traitor; the devil comes against him with his second, too, and that is the world. Soon doth the flesh revolt to the world, and both stick to Satan; so here is terrible odds, three to one.

2. The difficulty of recovering them, after their relapse.(1) "They are entangled," as birds are caught in an evil net; where the more they struggle to get out, the faster they stick.(2) "And overcome." That which puts a man from the use of his reason, and a Christian from his exercise of religion, overcomes him. The ambitious are overcome with the desire of honour, so that they are not their own men. Of all, the worldlings are basely overcome; for they think they have the world in a string, when the world hath them in a strong chain.(3) "Entangled and overcome" — put them both together. It is the depth of misery to fall under the curse of Ham, a servant of servants.

III. A CONCLUSION. "The latter end is worse," etc.

1. Their sins are worse now than they were at first, therefore their estates must needs be so.

2. Besides all their other sins, they have the sin of unthankfulness to answer for.

3. Because custom in sin hath deadened all remorse for sin.

4. Because their hypocrisy prevents all ways of remedy.

5. Because they wilfully destroy themselves by renouncing all gracious remedies.

6. Because a relapse is even more dangerous than the first sickness; sooner incurred, more hardly cured.

(Thos. Adams.)

I. A GREAT GAIN. What is the gain? An escape from "the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

1. The world is a scene of moral corruption.

2. To escape these corruptions is of the greatest importance to man.

3. This escape is effected through" the knowledge of Christ." Other sciences have signally failed to purify the world.

II. A GREAT LOSS. Peter supposes the position of escapement, after being gained, lost. "They are entangled and overcome."

1. Good men, being moral agents, can fall.

2. Good men, in this world, are surrounded by influences tempting them to apostasy.

3. Good men in this world have fallen from the positions they have occupied. David, Peter, etc., are examples.

III. A GREAT CURSE. "The latter end is worse with them than the beginning."

1. Because he is the subject of greater guilt.

2. Because he has the elements of greater distress.

3. Because he is in a condition of greater hopelessness.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

The infant faith of Christ had to encounter three mighty foes. First of all there was the Judaism on the foundation of which the new system was based, or rather the complement or fulness of which the new system was. The next enemy was the ancient Paganism. Here the conquest was more" decisive, though the combat was the sharper. The third enemy of the early Church is not so easily recognised upon the surface of Holy Scripture as the other two, but it is there notwithstanding. The Acts of the Holy Apostles relate a strange passage as occurring at Samaria between St. Peter and Simon Magus, but they do not mention that Simon was the first heretic — was the most active propagator of that deadly Gnosticism which for so many centuries preyed upon the vitals of the Church, and even now in these last days from time to time shows itself in sonic new and strange manifestation. Oriental in its origin, it was founded in a belief of the doctrine of the antagonism between mind and matter, the one of which it held to be good, the other intrinsically evil. Such a system as this was essentially hostile to God's truth, and accordingly we find that St. John, in his Gospel and Epistles, St. Peter and St. Jude in the works attributed to them, devote themselves to the condemnation of the system. St. John applies himself to confute the doctrinal errors, and to show that Christ the Word is no mere aeon, or personal attribute of the Deity, but very God of very God, as the Creed says. The other apostles direct their teaching against the moral effects of the same system, the vanity and conceit, the shallowness and pretence, the laxity and profanity of the adherents of this vain philosophy. Moreover, not only was the fight against these three foes carried on in fair and open field, but the times called for other solicitudes with regard to them. It was not that they injured the Church by assault from without and by resistance to its holy aggression; they more subtilly worked as a leaven within the Church itself. We have then to inquire, How does this text apply to us?

I. First of all, THIS TEXT STRIKES AT THE ROOT OF THE ERROR THAT GRACE IS INDEFECTIBLE: that a man once in the favour of God can never fall away from it. This is a very common belief in this country, and no wonder, for it is well suited to the self-righteousness and slothfulness of fallen human nature. The apostle, however, teaches the very contrary. An awful truth, then, is it that they who have at one time been truly faithful, may totally and finally fall away!

II. But without taking into consideration such a fact as final reprobation succeeding upon the despite of the graces we have received, we have to consider the general proposition of our apostle, THAT THE CASE OF RELAPSE IS SO MUCH MORE DEPLORABLE THAN ANY OTHER SPIRITUAL CONDITION; that in the case of those that are entangled and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. Why should this be so?

1. Because the fall is by so much more criminal by how much it has been committed voluntarily and with the eyes open.

2. And next, such an act implies not only rebellion and insolence, but also heinous ingratitude.

3. Relapse is dangerous, on account of the exceeding difficulty of recovery. As in the physical frame in illness a relapse is ever more to be dreaded than the original ailment, and makes the patient worse than he was before; so in the world of faith, the state of the Christian who, after baptism and repentance, falls again into the disorders he has forsworn, is so grievous, that the coarsest similes, such as the vomit of the dog, and the wallowing of the swine, are used by the apostle to picture his condition. In every kind of wickedness relapse is most dangerous, not only in destroying the power of resistance, but in many other ways: for perhaps the most fearful of all the results of sin is the withdrawal of the grace of God. However generous God may be of His benedictions (and never, never till the great day of account shall we know all that He has done for us), He cannot bear that they should be misused. Nor are we to maintain that this law refers merely to great and heinous crimes, such as intemperance, and impurity, and the like; the same runs through every infraction of God's law. Whenever a man relapses into any wilful sin of which he has repented, he incurs in a degree the condemnation of the text. Whatever his fault may be, ill-temper, touchiness, ambition, avarice, over-solicitude for the things of this life, etc. The conscience has fairly done its work, and being despised, in time refuses to act; the moral sense is blunted; the casuistry of indulgence begins to pervert the whole nature; God begins to withdraw His assistance, and: the stereotyping of an evil habit begins to take effect! A grievous condition to be in! As the man sunk in temporal misfortunes looks back on the days of his departed prosperity and esteems no kind of misery so great as the recollection of his former happiness, so one can conceive no picture so desolate as the retrospect of a man, plunged in some sin which is slowly and surely destroying him, to the scenes of his long lost innocency. He knows them well, he recognises their beauty, he bewails their loss as he turns from them with a sigh, but he cannot have the heart to conquer the evil one. But while I press these serious thoughts upon you, I would not have myself misunderstood. What I have said of deliberate relapse into sin, does not apply to those little backslidings which are the consequence of the weakness of our nature. The grand distinguishing idea between these two states, is the earnest will to keep straight and the fervid desire after holiness. Why should we be disheartened? Is not the Christian course a course of constant falls and risings again?

(Bp. Forbes.)


1. Because committed against greater knowledge. The surest knowledge of moral duties is that which is attained by practice. It is, indeed, possible for a man to know his duty who never performs it; but still there is as much difference betwixt a speculative and a practical knowledge of our duty, as between our being acquainted with road from a transient view of it in a map, and from our having frequently travelled over it. As well may an experienced pilot pretend not to know his compass, as he, who hath for some time steered his course by the laws of God, pretend to be ignorant of them. They have, during his integrity, taken up his thoughts; he must have frequently meditated upon them, in order to his regulating his actions by them; and when he hath reflected on his past actions, they have been the measure by which he hath examined the rectitude or obliquity of them. By these means they have made a strong impression on his mind, and he must offer great violence to himself before he can deface characters which are so deeply imprinted on his soul.

2. Because committed against greater strength to obey. Our spiritual enemies, when they have once been entirely defeated, cannot on a sudden recover their strength.

3. Because they tend more to the dishonour of God. He who hath for some time made himself remarkable by a strict observance of God's laws, hath thereby openly declared for the interests of virtue and piety. He is now to sustain no less a character than that of a champion for the cause of God, and men will be apt to judge of the merits of this cause by the conduct of hint who pretends to maintain it. They will think it reasonable to form their opinions of religion by his, and to have no greater concern for it than he hath.

4. Because committed against greater obligations to obedience. Those who have conformed their lives to the precepts of the gospel, must be supposed to have been once convinced that a religious life was to be preferred to a wicked course; the nature of good and evil is not since changed; their experience cannot have convinced them of any mistake; there is no reason for altering their judgment; and whilst that continues the same, their practice ought to be conformable to it. But yet further, such men must reasonably be supposed to have made frequent vows of obedience. They have entered into a solemn covenant with God, and this covenant hath been often renewed.


1. There is less probability such persons should ever go about to repent. Those evil habits which require much time to master, and which are not to be rooted out but by slow degrees, yet if after some abstinence they are again indulged, do return upon us with all their former strength. The relapsed sinner meets his former crimes with the same pleasure with which we are wont to receive an old bosom friend, and the intermission gives the sin at its return a new and better relish.

2. Should the relapsed sinner entertain thoughts of repentance, it is yet to be feared that this repentance may not prove effectual. In every work which we undertake, we proceed more or less vigorously in proportion to the different hopes we have of success. Now these are the circumstances of a relapsed sinner; his repentance is a work of great difficulty, and his hopes of acceptance are very faint. There must be some extraordinary effusion of God's grace to recall the relapsed sinner. But what reason hath he to expect this supernatural aid, who hath already so much abused it?

III. Now if the sin and hazard of relapsing be so great, it will be THE DUTY OF ALL WHO YET STAND, TO TAKE CARE LEST THEY FALL; and of those who are fallen, to use all diligence to recover their ground. The state of the former is happy, but not secure, and therefore they ought to be upon their guard; the conduct of the latter is very dangerous, but not quite desperate, and therefore they ought to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.

(Bp. Smalridge.)


1. They had escaped, etc. An escape of any kind — from a prison, from shipwreck, from a railway accident, from a dangerous sickness, is ever deemed a cause of thankfulness, and, in some instances, is commemorated for many years after it. But the escape here spoken of is the greatest that a man can ever know.

2. These persons had again become entangled therein and overcome, or "having again become entangled therein," they "were overcome." How many sad illustrations of these words might be gathered from the annals of every Church! We have seen young men of great promise and of superior abilities rescued from the snare of the devil — from intemperance, dishonesty, or lust, and becoming earnest members of a Christian community, to the joy of many hearts; but in an evil hour they have listened to the voice of the charmer, they have been led back to their former sinful habits.

3. Hence, "the latter end is worse with them than the beginning," or "their last state is worse than the first." It is our Lord's own saying (Matthew 12:45).


1. The dog possesses many valuable qualities, and for its fidelity and kindness is naturally a favourite. But it is often rapacious, and is especially greedy. It seldom knows when it has had enough; and when it vomits its food, it will, as I have seen it, return and lick it up again. Backsliders are compared to it in this respect.

2. The sow is an unclean animal, and loves filth of every kind; wash her, and as soon as she can she will plunge herself again into the mire, and is never so happy as when wallowing in some dirty bog. Are not sinners often like her? How many reformed drunkards have returned to the intoxicating cup, and plunged again into the filthiest excesses of their previous lives!

(Thornley Smith.)

If it be not enough for a Christian to begin well unless he continue in the profession and doing of that wherein he hath begun, then followeth it that perseverance is so needful, as without which we cannot see the face of God. This is required in the performance of every duty. Is it prayer? we must always pray. Is it thanksgiving? we must in all things give thanks. Is it fasting? we must continually cease from sin. Is it faith? we must never be without it. Is it obedience to God's commandments? we must always perform it. Is it love unto our neighbours? we must continue therein. The like may be said of every other duty. It is not enough for a time to escape them who live in error, and thereafter give way unto them, but as Caleb and Joshua constantly followed the Lord, and were partakers of the promised land, so must we constantly go on in the course of godliness that we may obtain that kingdom of heaven.

(A. Symson.)

Oh, tempt not God's Spirit any more — ye have provoked Him too much already; let not your consciences soothe you up in your sins; remember that I do now give you warning of them, fall not therein. The more thou renewest thy sins the more thou feedest thy corruptions and makest them the more rebellious. A chained dog breaking loose becometh more fierce; a river long stopped, if a breach be made, runneth the more violently; so for thee to restrain thy sin for a time, and then to give way unto the same, is most dangerous. Thou fallest from God to the devil, from a holy profession to profaneness, thus showing thyself unthankful unto God. What should we not give to obtain grace, to get God's favour? nothing should so entangle us, as that for the love thereof we should reject both God and grace. Oh, there is no loss compared to the loss of grace, to the loss of God's favour; no ruin to the ruin of the soul; what will it advantage us, to gain the whole world with the loss of our souls?

(A. Symson.)

The way of righteousness
is so called, because both formally it is a righteous way; and effectively, it makes the walkers in it righteous. Certainly there is but one way to heaven, and this is it. There be many ways to some famous city upon earth, many gates into it. But to the city of salvation and glory there is but one way, one gate, and that is a narrow one too, the way of righteousness. There was a way at the first; the way of the law, or rather of nature; Adam was put into it, but he quickly went out of it. Since that, no man ever kept it one hour; but only He that knew the way, that made the way, that is the way, wen the new way of righteousness, Jesus Christ. What then is the way of righteousness? (John 3:16). This way hath two boundaries, repentance and obedience.

1. Repentance on the one side, a mourning for sins past; which is as sure an effect or demonstration of faith, as faith is a cause of the peace of conscience.

2. Obedience on the other side; for though we live by faith, yet our faith doth not live, if it produce not good works. We suspect the want of sap in the root of a tree, if we find barrenness in the branches.

(Thos. Adams.)

The dog is turned to his own vomit again
I. A conclusion.

1. The verity of the proverb. Good proverbs aye commended to us for five special excellences, wherein they transcend other discourses.(1) For their antiquity." The sayings of our fathers and ancestors have a reverend estimation among us; nor do we wrap them up in the bundle of our ordinary lessons, but preserve them as dear relics of their happy memories.(2) For their brevity. They are concise and compendious, and so more portable for the memory.(3) For their significancy, comprehending much matter in few words.(4) For experience. The sages have tried that doctrine themselves, which they commend to others.(5) For their truth. False proverbs are Satan's logic, which he hopes will be received for their wit, though they savour not of honesty or verity.

2. The verification of the proverb. "It is happened unto them." Swine and dogs will return to their old filthiness; but woe unto those men that shall degenerate into such brutish qualities! It becomes them worse than those beasts, and a far worse end shall come unto them than unto beasts.


1. Consider the two creatures together.(1) Sin doth liken men to beasts, to sordid beasts, and that in their basest filthiness.(2) God made us little inferior to angels, and we make ourselves little superior to beasts.

2. Severally.(1) The dog hath many good qualities, and is divers ways useful and serviceable to man; yet still he is a dog. A wicked man loseth not his substance, or faculties, so that he ceaseth to be specifically a man; but he ceaseth to be a good man. There is such a corruption diffused through all those powers and faculties, that he is a wicked one.(2) The hog is not without some good properties. There is no creature not endued with some goodness in its kind; though nature be corrupted, it is not abolished. But my argument is their filthiness(a) The hog is a churlish creature, grudging any part of his meat to his fellows. And have we no such covetous men, whose insatiate eye envies every morsel that enters into their neighbour's mouth?(b) The swine is ravenous, and devouring all within his reach: a fit emblem of worldly men, who because they have no inheritance above, engross all below; nor is there any means to keep them quiet, till they see no more to covet.(c) Swine are ever rooting in the ground, and destroying the very means of increase. If the covetous could have their will, the whole earth should not yield a handful of corn, but that which grows on their own lands, or lies mouldering in their garners.(d) If the swine be troubled, he sets up his bristles, and foams with anger. Such a savage impatience possesses many hearts, that with fierce wrath they foam at their mouths, and strike with their tusks, and supply the defect of words with wounds.

(A. Symson.)

In a cellar I found a family consisting of five persons, all huddled together in a most miserable condition. Their story moved the compassion of a kind lady, who commissioned me to take better and more healthy lodgings for them at her expense, and remove them out of that wretched, damp place. She said she could get no sleep for thinking of these poor creatures. I soon obtained a two roomed lodging for them, with a good fire, but this failed to please them as well as their old abode. The following day, on calling, I saw that they had darkened the windows with paper; "the light," they said, "made them feel so cold." In a day or two after, I found to my surprise that they had gone back to their "own sweet cellar." "There's no place like home."

(W. Haslam.)

To describe in all its horror the abysmal depth to which these false teachers have sunk, the apostle makes use of two proverbs, one of which he adapts from the Old Testament (Proverbs 26:11), while the other is one which would impress the Jewish mind with a feeling of utter abomination. The dogs of the East are the pariahs of the animal world, while everything pertaining to swine was detestable in the eyes of the Israelite. But all the loathing which attached to these outcasts of the brute creation did not suffice to portray the defilement of these teachers of lies and their apostate lives. It needed those other grosser features — the return to the disgorged meal; the greed for filth, where a temporary cleansing serves, as it were, to give a relish for fresh wallowing — these traits were needed ere the full vileness of those sinners could be expressed.

(J. R. Lumby, D. D.).

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