Seven sins among professing Christians (London’s Lamentations)

Posted at Christian in Canada:

An educational look at how Christians used to think about natural disasters and judgments from God. Here is Thomas Brooks writing about the Great Fire of London, September 2–5, 1666:

London’s Lamentations

By Thomas Brooks, 1670

A serious discourse concerning “The Great Fire”
which recently turned our once renowned City
into a ruinous heap. Also the several lessons
that are incumbent upon those whose houses
have escaped the consuming flames.

Seven sins among professing Christians

The next thing we have to inquire after is those sins for which the Lord inflicts so heavy a judgment as this of fire upon men. Now for the opening of this, give me permission to propose this question—namely,

Question. What are those sins which bring the fiery dispensation, which bring the judgment of fire upon cities, nations, and countries? Now, that I may give a full and fair answer to this necessary and important question, will you please to PREMISE with me these four things—

[1.] First, We need not question but that some of all sorts, ranks, and degrees of men in and about that once great and glorious city, did eminently contribute to the bringing down of that dreadful judgment of fire, which has turned that renowned city into ashes. Doubtless superiors and inferiors, ministers and people, husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, rich and poor, honorable and base, bond and free—have all had a hand in the bringing down that judgment of fire that has turned London into a ruinous heap. But,

[2.] Secondly, Premise this with me—namely, That it is a greater argument of humility, integrity, and holy sincerity to fear ourselves, and to be jealous of ourselves—rather than others, as the disciples of Christ did: Mat. 26:21-22, “And as they did eat, he said, Truly I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me. And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began everyone of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?” It is better for every man to do his best to ransack and search his own soul, Lam. 3:40, and to find out the Achan, Josh. 7, the accursed thing in his own bosom, which has brought that dreadful judgment of fire upon us; than for men, without any Scripture warrant, to fix it upon this party—or that party, this sort of men—or that sort of men. There is no Christian compared to him, who smites upon his own heart, his own bosom, his own thigh, saying, “What have I done?”

The neglect of this duty the prophet long since has complained of: “No one repents of his wickedness, saying—What have I done?” Jer. 8:6—that is, none comparatively. Just so, how rare is it to find a burnt citizen repenting of his wickedness, and saying, “What have I done?” Most men are ready to blame others—more than themselves; and to judge others—rather than themselves to be the people that have brought down this judgment of fire upon us, Mat. 7:1-4. It was a good saying of one of the ancients, [Augustine,] “God will judge those who judge others rashly—but not those that judge themselves piously.” But,

[3.] Thirdly, Premise this with me, In times of common judgments, common calamities, and miseries—other saints and servants of God have looked upon their own sins as the procuring causes of the common calamity. Thus David did in that 2 Sam. 24:15, “So the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.” But mark the 17th verse, “When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the Lord—I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall upon me and my family.”

And thus did good Nehemiah, chapter 1:3, 6-7, “They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” Verses 6-7, “I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses.” Now certainly it is as much our glory as our duty—to write after these blessed copies that these worthies have set before us.

Alexander had somewhat a bent neck, and his soldiers thought it an honor to be like him. How much more should we count it an honor to be like to David and Nehemiah in such a practice as is honorable to the Lord, and advantageous to ourselves! But what Plutarch said of Demosthenes, that “he was excellent at praising the worthy acts of his ancestors—but not so at imitating them,” is applicable to the present case, and to many who have been burnt up in our day. But,

[4.] Fourthly and lastly, Premise this with me, There were many sins among those who did profess to fear God in that great city, which may and ought to work them to justify the Lord, and to say that he is righteous in his fiery dispensations. I may well say to the burnt citizens of London what the prophet Oded said to those in 2 Chron. 28:10, “But aren’t you also guilty of sins against the Lord your God?”

But you will say, What sins were there among the professing Christians in London that may and ought to work them to justify the Lord, and to say that he is just and righteous, and that he has done them no wrong, though he has burnt them up, and turned them out of all?

I answer, That there were these seven sins, among others, to be found among many of them, I say not among all of them, all which call aloud upon them to lie low at the foot of God, and to subscribe to the righteousness of God, though he has turned them out of house and home, and burnt up their substance on every hand.


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