For wickedness burns as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest…
The prophet affirms that there are resemblances between a fire and sin. It is not a common fire to which he refers, such as is employed for domestic or public purposes. It is a great conflagration which burns the humble shrubbery, the gigantic forest, extends over the land, and sends a mighty column of smoke and flame up to heaven
I. THE ORIGIN OF A GREAT FIRE. Recently we read an account of a great fire, and the paragraph closed with these words: "the origin of the fire is unknown" The same with the origin of sin. We know it had a beginning, for God only is from everlasting. We know it had a beginning before Eve and Adam felt its power, since they were tempted: We know it began with him who is called Satan and the father of lies. Still, there are three questions about it which we cannot answer.
(1) Where did it begin?
(2) When did it begin!
(3) How did it begin?
II. THE PROGRESS OF A GREAT FIRE. Place one spark amid combustible material in London. Let it alone. It will leap from point to point, house to house, street to street, until the whole city is in flames. Sin has spread in as exactly similar way. One sin, to the individual; one wrong action, to the family; one immoral look, to thousands; one crime, to a kingdom.
III. THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF A GREAT FIRE. Wood, coal, etc., it transforms into its own essence, because it makes fire of these. It is even so with sin. It turns everything, over which it gains the slightest control, into its own nature — that is into a curse. The desire to possess, sin has turned in a different direction, and made it an autocratic passion. Take the principle of ambition in the same Way. Take commerce in the same way. Thus the richest blessings, yea, all the which God has given to us, sin can so transform that they shall become curses.
IV. THE DESTRUCTIVE ENERGY OF A GREAT FIRE. Who can calculate the amount of property in London alone, which has been destroyed by fire! But the destruction which sin has caused in London is infinitely greater and more momentous. Some have bodies, once beautiful, now bloated and withered by sin. Some have feelings, once tender, now petrified by sin. Some whose intellectual powers were once strong, now feeble by sin. Some, who were once full of hope, now hopeless by sin. The destruction Which sin has caused is awful.
V. THE TERMINATION OF A GREAT FIRE. It terminates when an the material is reduced to ashes. Can the fire of sin ever he put out in this way? The body in the grave is scorched by it no more; but what of the soul? Look at the rich man. He is tormented, in pain, not by a literal flame, but by the fire of sin. He will be so forever, because the soul is immortal. A great fire has been terminated by a superior quenching power. There is also an element which can completely remove sin from the soul. What is it? Ask those in heaven, and those on earth, who have been saved. They all say that they "have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
(A. M'Auslane, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up like the lifting up of smoke.