THE INIQUITY OF THE DAY
Let them that name the name of Christ depart from the iniquity of the times. There are sins that may be called the iniquity of the day. It was thus in Noah’s day, it was thus in Lot’s day, and it was thus in Christ’s day; I mean in the days of his flesh; and it is a famous thing for professors to keep themselves from the iniquities of the times. Here lay Noah’s excellence, here lay Lot’s excellence, and here will lie your excellence, if you are kept from the iniquity of this day. “Keep (or save) yourselves from this untoward generation,” is seasonable counsel (Acts 2. 40), but taken by few, the sins of the time, or day, being as a strong current or stream that drives all before it. Hence Noah and Lot were found, as it were, alone in the practice of this excellent piece of righteousness in their generation. Hence it is said of Noah, “he was a just man, and perfect in his generations.” (Gen. 6. 9.) And again, “The Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.” (Gen. 7. 1.) The meaning is, he kept himself clear of the sin of his day, or of the generation among which he lived.
The same I say of Lot. He was kept from the sin of Sodom. Hence Peter cries him up for such a righteous man. “Just Lot,” saith he, “that righteous man whose righteous soul was vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked.” (2 Pet. 2. 7, 8.) Mark, a just man, a righteous man, his righteous soul, &c. But why was he given this character? Why, he abhorred the sin of his time; he fell not in with the sin of the people, but was afflicted and vexed at it yea, it was to him a daily burden, “For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds.” So David: “I beheld,” saith he, “the transgressors, and was grieved because they kept not thy word.” (Ps. 119. 158.)
By the sin of the times Satan, as it were, sets up his standard in defiance of God, seeking thus to cause his name in a signal way to be dishonoured, and that by the professors of that age. Hence it was that God manifested such wrath against his people who were guilty of the common sin of their day, and that he showed such special favour to them that abstained therefrom.
Unbelief was the sin of the day when Israel was going from Egypt to Canaan; therefore all that were guilty of that transgression must be denied to go in to see that good land; yea, though it were Moses himself. “And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” (Num. 20 12.) “But my servant Caleb, because he had another spirit in him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land whereunto he went, and his seed shall possess it. (Num. 14. 22-24.)
Idolatry was the sin of the day just before Israel were carried
captive into Babylon. “Now those of the priests that went astray then, even they,” says God, “shall bear their iniquity. But the priests, the sons of Zadoc, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near unto me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord God. They shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge.” (Ezek; 44. 10-16.)
Great complaints have we now, among professors, of deadness in duties, barrenness of the ministry, and of the withdrawing of God from his people; but I can tell you a cause of all this; namely, the sin of the day is got into the church of God, and has defiled that holy place. This is the ground and cause of all these things; nor is it like to be otherwise till the cause shall be removed. If any should ask me, “What are the sins of our day?” I would say they are conspicuous, they are open, they are declared as Sodom’s were. (Isa. 3. 9.) They who have embraced them are not ashamed of them; yea, they have got the boldness to plead for them, and to count them their enemies that seek to reform them. All tables are full of vomit and filthiness. And for pride and covetousness, for loathing of the gospel, as these have covered the face of the nation, so they have infected most of them that now name the name of Christ.
And I say again, when you find out a professor that is not horribly tainted with some of these things (I exclude not the ministers and their families), let him be as a beacon upon a hill, or as an ensign in our land. “But,” says one, “would you have us singular?” And, says another, “Would you have us make ourselves ridiculous?” And, says a third, “Such and such, more godly-wise than we, do so.” I answer, “If God has made you singular and called you to grace that’s singular, and bid you walk in ways that are singular and diverse from the ways of all others; yea, if to depart from iniquity will make you ridiculous, then be contented to be counted so. If to be holy in all manner of conversation will make you ridiculous, be content that so it be. As for the godly-wise you speak of, let them manifest themselves to be such by departing from iniquity. I am sure that their being tainted with the sins of the day will not prove them godly-wise”. “Behold, I have taught you,” said Moses, “statutes and judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that ye should so do in the land whither you got possess it. Keep, therefore, and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear of all these statutes, and say. Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”
Here, then, is wisdom, and this is what manifests a people to be understanding and godly-wise, even the keeping of the present commandments of God. And why follow the apish fashions of the world? Hath the God of wisdom set them on foot among us? or is it because the devil and wicked men (the inventors of these vain
toys) have outwitted the law of God? What nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them as his people have, and as he is in all things that we call upon him for? “And what nation is there so great that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law,” said Moses, “which I set before you this day?” (Deut. 4. 5-8.)