And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
I. PETER'S ATTESTATION. What is a generation? All that are contained in one list of time — fixed: Seridas under reckons it at seven years, but the ordinary rate is a hundred (Genesis 15:16) — uncertain; so Solomon, "One generation passeth, another cometh." It is with men as rasps: one stalk is growing up, another grown, a third withered, and all upon one root. You see your condition; there is no staying here. Make no other account, but with David to serve your generation, and away. An untoward generation is one froward, perverse, crooked. Let us note —
1. A negative fowardness.
(1) No matters of belief. This is what our Saviour rebuked the two disciples for. The stiff neck, the uncircumcised ear, the fat heart, the blinded eye, the obdurate soul, are expressions of it. If these Jews, then, after the manifest proofs of Christ's Messiahship disbelieved and rejected Him, most justly are they a froward generation. And so is any nation that follows them in their peevish incredulity, shutting their eyes to gospel light, like that Indian tree, which closes itself against the beams of the rising sun, and opens only to the shades of night. It is neither shame nor wonder for those to stumble who walk in darkness, but for a man to stumble with the sun in his face is so much more hateful, as the occasion is more willing.
(2) In .action, i.e., when a nation fails palpably in those duties of piety, justice, charity, which the royal law of their God requires.
2. Positive. In matter of faith maintaining impiety, heresy, superstition, atheism, and whatever other intellectual wickedness; in matter of fact maintaining idolatry, violation of God's day and ordinances, drunkenness, thefts, or any other actual rebellion against God. Whatever succession of men abounds in these is an untoward generation. That which makes a man untoward makes a generation so, for what is a generation but a resultarian of men? But let not our zeal make us uncharitable. Never time was so bad but God left some gracious remainders. But these few, if they give a blessing to the times, cannot give a style.
3. Let me commend three emerging considerations.
(1) The irreparable wrong and reproach that lewd men bring upon the times in which they live. It were happy if the injury of a wicked man could be confined to his own bosom; but his lewdness is like some odious scent diffused through the whole place where he lives. There were worthy saints in St. Peter's time, yet the apostle brands them with being "an untoward generation." It is not in the virtue of a few to drown the wickedness of the more. If we come into a field that hath plenty of corn, notwithstanding the poppies, etc., we still call it cornfield; but if we come upon a barn floor, where there are a few grains among a heap of chaff, we do not call it a corn heap. Thus it is with times and nations, a little good is not seen amongst much ill; a righteous Lot cannot make his city to be no Sodom. A wicked man is a perfect contagion to his age. Hear this, then, ye glorious sinners, who brag that your heads, purses, hands, are pressed for the public good — are your hearts godless, your lives filthy? Your sins do more disservice to your country than yourselves are worth. "Sin is a shame to any people."(2) The difference of terms in respect of the degrees of evil. Never generation was so straight as not to be distorted with some powerful sins; but there are degrees in this distortion. In the first world there were giants (Genesis 4:4) which, as our mythologists add, "bid battle unto heaven." In the next there were mighty hunters and proud Babel builders; after them followed beastly Sodomites. It were easy to draw the pedigree of evils through all times; yet some generation is more eminently sinful than another; as the sea is in perpetual agitation, yet the spring tides rise higher than their fellows. Hence Peter notes his generation with an emphasis of mischief; and what age could compare with that which crucified Christ?
(3) The warrant of the free censure of ill-deserving times. It is a peevish humour that aggravates the evils of the times, which, were they better than they are, would still be decried. But it is the warrantable duty of Peter and his successors when they meet with a froward generation to call it so, although we may be called querulous Micaiahs. Well might Peter do so: his Master did it before him, and the Baptist before Him, and the prophets on every page. And why may we not follow Peter? Who should tell the times of their sins if we be silent?
II. HIS OBTESTATION, "Save yourselves." The remedy is of a short sound, but of a long extent. The saving comprises in it three great duties.
1. Repentance for our sin. Surely those sins are not ours of which we have repented. The skin that is washed is as clean as if it had never been foul. The waters of our tears are the streams of Jordon to cure our leprosy, of Siloam to cure our blindness, of Bethesda to cure our lameness and defects of obedience.
2. Avoidance of sinners; not indeed in natural matters, such as breathing the same air, etc., nor in matters of business, nor in such spiritual matters as attending the services of God, but in their evil deeds (Ephesians 5. ff.). If we would save ourselves from the sin of the time we may not command it, counsel it, consent to it, soothe it, further it, share in it, dissuade it not, resist it not, reveal it not.
3. Reluctation to sin and sinners. We must set our faces against it to discountenance it, our tongues against it to control it, our hands against it to oppose it.
III. OUR DISSUASIVE FROM THE DANGER IMPLIED IN THE WORD "SAVE," for how are we saved but from danger. The danger here is that of —
1. Corruption. One yawning mouth makes many. This pitch will defile us. St. Paul makes that verse of the heathen poet canonical. "Evil communications corrupt good manners."
2. Confusion (Numbers 16:26). The very station, the very touch is mortal. If we share in the work, why not in the wages? "The wages of sin is death."
Parallel VersesKJV: And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.