I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?
1. There may be dissension betwixt the good and the good; and hereof is the devil the author. It is the enemy that sows those tares. Christ came not to send this fire, yet He wisely tempers it to our good.
2. There may be dissension betwixt the wicked and the wicked; and hereof also is Satan author. He sets his own together by the ears, like cocks of the game, to make him sport. Hereupon he raised these great heathen wars, that in them millions of souls might go down to people his lower kingdom, Hereupon he draws ruffian into the field against ruffian, and then laughs at their vainly spilt blood. All the contentions, quarrels, whereby one evil neighbour vexeth another, all slanders, scoldings, reproaches, calumnies, are his own damned fires.
3. There is a dissension between the wicked and godly; nor yet is Christ the proper and immediate cause of this. For "if it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men" (Romans 12:18).
4. There is an enmity betwixt grace and wickedness, a continual combat between sanctity and sin; and this is the fire Christ came to send.He is to some a living stone, whereupon they are built to life; to others a stone of offence, whereat they stumble to death.
I. The FIRE is discord, debate, contention, anger, and hatred against the godly.
(1) Debate is like fire; for as that of all elements, so this of all passions, is most violent.
(2) Contention is like fire, for both burn as long as there is any exhaustible matter to contend with. Only herein it transcends fire — for fire begets not matter, but consumes it; debate begets matter, hut not consumes it.
(3) As a little spark grows to a great flame, so a small debate often proves a great rent.
(4) As fire is proverbially said to be an ill master but a good servant, so anger, where it is a lord of rule, is a lord of misrule; but where it is subdued to reason, or rather sanctified by grace, it is a good servant. That anger is holy that is zealous for the glory of God.
II. The FUEL whereon this fire works is the good profession of the godly. LESSON
1. That we have need of patience, seeing we know that the law of our profession binds us to a warfare; and it is decreed upon that "all that will live godly in Christ shall suffer persecution." When fire, which was the god of the Chaldeans, had devoured all the other wooden deities, Canopis set upon him a caldron full of water, whose bottom was full of holes artificially stopped with wax; which, when it felt the heat of that furious idol, melted and gave way to the water to fall down upon it, and quench it. The water of our patience must only extinguish this fire; nothing but our tears, moderation, and sufferance can abate it. But this patience hath no further latitude than our proper respect; for in the cause of the Lord we must be jealous and zealous.
2. That we must not shrink from our profession, though we know it to be the fuel that maintains this fire.
3. That we think not much of the troublous fires that are thus sent to wait upon the gospel.
4. That we esteem not the worse of our profession, but the better. It is no small comfort that God thinks thee worthy to suffer for His name. This was the apostles' joy, not that they were worthy, but "that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ " (Acts 5:41).
5. Seeing the fuel is our integrity — and this they specially strike at — let us more constantly hold together, confirming the communion of saints, which they would dissolve.
Parallel VersesKJV: I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?