Volume 8, Issue 1: The Puritan Eye
National Sins and National Judgments
John Owen (1616 -- 1683)
Is there not a confluence of all sorts of sins among us whereof mankind can contract
guilt, especially of those sins upon the commission of which God pronounces a
nation ruinedatheism and profaneness, blood and murder, adultery and uncleanness,
and pride? When these sins are predominant in a nation that makes profession
of the knowledge of God, God Himself saith, and we may say, that nation is ruined.
Those things have prevailed among us.
Then let us mourn over those sins as we ought to do. Have we done so in this
congregation? Hath it been done in any congregation in England as it ought?
Hath it been done in private, in our retirement, to mourn over that confluence
of sins that hath prevailed and spread itself over the nation till it hath reached
to the very neck? We have not done it to this very day. There is not the least
attempt for any reformation. Do we think in such a day as this a little prayer
is enough to save a dying nation?
Judgments are of two sortstemporal and spiritual. Temporal judgments are of
two sorts. They are either monitory tokens of God's displeasure, or they are actual
punishments. All these various judgments have been upon us. We have had monitory
tokens of God's displeasure: God is making the nation thin of persons ancient,
honourable, counsellors, the wise. He threatens to do this. They are persons
rarely to be found, who are the stay and staff of a nation. It is a monitory
judgment, and so laid down by the prophet. The strange and unaccountable differences
and divisions that are in the minds and affections of men. Multitudes in these
nations stand at this day with their swords in their hands, ready to sheathe
them in the bowels of their neighbours. And, lastly, the warnings God hath given
us of making us base and dishonourable, which I will not insist upon. We have
had these monitory judgments. We have had judgments which consist in punishments:
the plague, the fire, the sword, great distres s and poverty, that are come upon
the nation; enough to make the hearts of men to tremble, but that we are grown
hard like the nethermost millstone, and are sensible of nothing at all. I say
these judgments and warnings of God are generally disregarded.
There are spiritual judgments also; and they are found among us so many faithful
labourers in the dispensation of the gospel, in the midst of their days and strength,
as he hath done of late years in this nation. And in driving the remnant of his
faithful ministers, many of them, into corners where they are not able to serve
the interest of Christ and the nation by promoting and furthering its return
unto God: and thereby that which would have been the greatest means of the preservation
of it and deliverance from ruin, is made the greatest means of the restraining
and shutting up their ministerial abilities and graces.
But you will say, 'When God doth thus in His Word declare that a nation is fallen
and ruined by such causes, is there no hope but that it must be ruined, that
destruction must overtake it?'
I answer, There is no hope at all while that place, that nation, continues in
those ways and sins whereby God declares that they are ruined. A nation cannot
be saved abiding in those ways which are the causes of its ruin, which God declares
to be the causes of it. And let men have what expectations they will, please
themselves as they will, I neither can desire nor will look for deliverance for
a nation while it continues in those sins against which God pronounces judgments.
I do acknowledge it is frequent with God to declare a nation ruined with respect
to merit, and yet to prevent their ruin with respect to the event. They may
be delivered from that state and condition, and so be saved. The case is stated
[in] Jeremiah 18:7-8, "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and
concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that
nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of
the evil that I thought to do unto them." God declares what they do deserve,
but yet they may never feel it as to the event. Wherefore it is not in vain
that we have designed to seek the Lord this day. There is room yet left to deal
with God about London, about the nation, though plainly in the word they are
declared to be under ruin.
But it will have no success without these three things:
1. That there be a visible reformationI will not say a conversion, but a visible
reformationvigorously attempted in and upon the body of the people.
2. Unless those who truly fear the Lord do mourn over the sins of the people
3. Unless they are fervent in their prayers for their deliverance. It doth
not stand with the honour of God, the glory of His righteousness, holiness, word
and truth, to save this nation without these things: without an attempt at visible
reformation of the body of the people, without his own people to mourn over the
sins of the nation, and abide in fervent prayer for that end. Without these,
as Jeremiah the prophet told the Jews, "Though ye had smitten the whole army of
the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among
them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with
fire" (Jer. 37:10); so say I of our Chaldeans at this day: If half of them were
executed, and the other half wounded, they should rise up and smite this city,
unless we turn thus unto God.
We are called to consider the sins of the nation, and to deplore its state and
condition upon the account of those sins. That is our present work; and these
plain things God hath directed me unto from the reading of these words.