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Text Sermons : ~Other Speakers M-R : Old Paths Magazine - Issue 18 : Perilous Times by John Owen

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Warning Of Imminent Dangers

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come." II Timothy 3:1
THE WORDS CONTAIN A warning of imminent dangers. And there are four things in them: First, the manner of the warning: "This know also," Secondly, the evil itself that they are warned of: "Perilous times." Thirdly, the way of their introduction: "They shall come." Fourthly, the time and season of it: "They shall come in the last days."

The Manner Of The Warning

First. The manner of the warning: "This know also" - "Thou Timothy, unto the other instructions which I have given thee how to behave thyself in the house of God, whereby thou mayest be set forth as a pattern unto all gospel ministers in future ages, I must also add this, 'This know also.' It belongs to thy duty and office to know and consider the impending judgments that are coming upon churches." And so, as a justification of my present design, if God enable me unto it, I shall here premise that it is the duty of the ministers of the gospel to foresee and take notice of the dangers which the churches are falling into. And the Lord help us, and all other ministers, to be awakened unto this part of our duty! You know how God sets it forth (Ezekiel 33) in the parable of the watchman, to warn men of approaching dangers. And truly God hath given us this law: If we warn the churches of their approaching dangers, we discharge our duty; if we do not, their blood will be required at our hands. The Spirit of God forsaw negligence apt to grow upon us in this matter; and therefore the Scripture only proposeth duty on the one hand and on the other requires the people's blood at the hands of the watchmen, if they perform not their duty. So speaks the prophet Isaiah, chap. 21, vs. 8, "He cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watch-tower." A lion is an emblem of approaching judgment. "The lion hath roared; who can but tremble?" saith the prophet Amos. It is the duty of ministers of the gospel to give warning of impending dangers.

Again: the apostle, in speaking unto Timothy, speaks unto us also, to us all, "This know ye also." It is the great concern of all Christian professors and believers, of all churches, to have their hearts very much fixed upon present and approaching dangers. We have inquired so long about signs, tokens, and evidences of deliverance, and I know not what, that we have almost lost the benefit of all our trials, afflictions, and persecutions. The duty of all believers is, to be intent upon present and imminent dangers. "O Lord," say the disciples, Matt. 24, "what shall be the sign of thy coming?" They were fixed upon His coming. Our Savior answers, "I will tell you:

Abounding Errors and False Teachers

There shall be an abounding of errors and false teachers: many shall say, 'Lo here is Christ,' and, 'Lo, there is Christ.' There shall be an apostasy from holiness: 'iniquity shall abound, and the love of many shall wax cold. There shall be great distress of nations: 'Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom There shall be great persecutions: 'And they shall persecute you, and bring you before rulers; and you shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.' 5. There shall be great tokens of God's wrath from heaven: 'Signs in the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars."

Look For His Coming

The Lord Christ would acquaint believers how they should look for His coming; He tells them of all the dangers. Be intent upon these things. I know you are apt to overlook them; but these are the things that you are to be intent upon. It is that frame of heart which, of all others, God doth most detest and abhor. Nothing is more hateful to God than a secure frame in perilous days. I will not fear to say this, and go with it, as to my sense, to the day of judgment: A secure person, in perilous seasons, is assuredly under the power of some predominant lust, whether it appears or not. This secure, senseless frame is the certain pressage of approaching ruin. This know, brethren, pray know this, I beg of you, for yours and my own soul, that you will be sensible of, and affected with, the perils of the season whereinto we are cast. What they are, if God help me, and give me a little strength, I shall show you by-and-by.

Times Of Great Difficulty

There is the evil and danger itself thus forewarned of, and that is hard times, perilous times, times of great difficulty, like those of public plagues, when death lies at every door; times that I am sure we shall not all escape, let it fall where it will. I will say no more of it now, because it is that which I shall principally speak to afterward.

The manner of their introduction, "shall come." We have no word in our language that will express the force of the original. The Latins express it by "immineno, incido," - the coming down of a fowl unto his prey. Now, our translators have given it the greatest force they could. They do not say, "Perilous times will come," as though they prognosticated future events; but, "Perilous times shall come." Here is a hand of God in this business; they shall so come, be so instant in their coming, that nothing shall keep them out; they shall instantly press themselves in, and prevail. Our great wisdom, then, will be to eye the displeasure of God in perilous seasons; since there is a judicial hand of God in them, and we see in ourselves reason enough why they should come. But when shall they come?

They "shall come in the last days." The words "latter" or "last days" are taken three ways in Scripture: sometimes for the times of the gospel, in opposition to the Judaical church-state; as in Heb. 1:2, "Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son"; and elsewhere it may be taken (though I remember not the place) for days towards the consummation of all things and the end of the world; and it is taken often for the latter days of churches; I Tim. 4:1, "The Spirit of vile lusts, and the practice of horrible sins." This rendered the seasons perilous. Whether this be such a season or not, do you judge. And I must say, by the way, we may and ought to witness against it, and mourn for the public sins of the days wherein we live. It is as glorious a thing to be a martyr for bearing testimony against the public sins of an age, as in bearing testimony unto any truth of the gospel whatsoever.

Churches And Professors Are Infected

Now, where these things are, a season is perilous: Because of the infection. Churches and professors are apt to be infected with it. The historians tell us of a plague at Athens, in the second and third years of the Peloponnesian war, whereof multitudes died; and of those that lived, few escaped but they lost a limb, or part of a limb - some an eye, others an arm, and others a finger - the infection was so great and terrible. And truly, brethren, where this plague comes - of the visible practice of unclean lusts under an outward profession - though men do not die, yet one loses an arm, another an eye, another a leg by it: the infection diffuses itself to the best of professors, more or less. This makes it a dangerous and perilous time.

It is dangerous, because of the effects; for when predominant lusts have broken all bounds of divine light and rule, how long do you think that human rules will keep them in order? They break through all in such a season as the apostle describes. And if they come to break through all human restraints as they have broken through divine, they will fill all things with ruin and confusion.

They are perilous in the consequence: which is, the judgments of God. When men do not receive the truth in the love of it, but have pleasure in unrighteousness, God will send them strong delusion, to believe a lie. So II Thess. 2:10-11 is a description how the Papacy came upon the world. Men professed the truth of religion, but did not love it they loved unrighteousness and ungodliness; and God sent them Popery. That is the interpretation of the place, according to the best divines. Will you profess the truth, and at the same time love unrighteousness? The consequence is, security under superstition and ungodliness. This is the end of such a perilous season; and the like may be said as to temporal judgments, which I need not mention.

Greatly Mourn For Public Abominations

We ought greatly to mourn for the public abominations of the world, and of the land of our nativity wherein we live. I would only observe that place in Ezekiel 9, God sends out His judgments, and destroys the city; but before, He sets a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh for all the abominations that are done in the midst thereof. You will find this passage referred in your books to Revelation 7:3, "Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads." I would only observe this, that such only are the servants of God, let men profess what they will, "who mourn for the abominations that are done in the land." The mourners in the one place are the servants of God in the other. And truly, brethren, we are certainly to blame in this matter. We have been almost well contented that men should be as wicked as they would themselves, and we sit still and see what would come of it. Christ hath been dishonored, the Spirit of God blasphemed, and God provoked against the land of our nativity; and yet we have not been affected with these things. I can truly say in sincerity, I bless God, I have sometimes labored with my own heart about it. But I am afraid we, all of us, come exceedingly short of our duty in this matter. "Rivers of waters," saith the Psalmist, "run down mine eyes, because men keep not thy law." Horrible profanation of the name of God, horrible abominations, which our eyes have seen, and our ears heard, and yet our hearts been unaffected with them! Do you think this is a frame of heart God requireth of us in such a season - to be regardless of all, and not to mourn for the public abominations of the land? The servants of God will mourn.

John Owen (1616-1683) - English Puritan Minister. Known as the ‘king of the puritans’ His writings and works are still used widely today.

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