1. There is a generation of atheists, that neither fear God nor regard man; that say in their heart, “There is no God;” and vainly wish there were none. There is a generation of deists, which is but a second edition of atheism, whereby the providence of God is denied, and so the God of providence blasphemed: but beside the gross, contracted, and almost professed atheism of many, what a huge generation is there that was never purged from their natural atheism! And though they would take it ill to be called atheists, are evidently and practically so, while, though they profess to know God, yet in works they deny him. Surely these are not purged from their filthiness.
2. There is a generation of ignorant persons, that know not God, know not religion, know not the principles of Christianity; they are grossly and stupidly ignorant, notwithstanding the means of knowledge: they are artfully ignorant, neglecting the opportunities of instruction, diets of examination, and other seasons of learning. They are ignorant of Christ, and the way of salvation through him; ignorant both of law and gospel; the covenant of works, and covenant of grace. Are these washed from their filthiness? No; “It is a people of no understanding,” saith God; “Therefore he that made them, will not have mercy upon them; and he that formed them, will shew them no favour.” And, beside the grossly ignorant, there is a generation that hath a smattering of knowledge, some notional views of gospel‑mysteries; but they never had the eyes of their understandings opened; the God of this world having blinded their eyes: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” They are not washed from their filthiness; no, the ignorant person is filthy still.
3. There is a generation of mockers, that despise all things, serious and sacred. If they come to church to attend ordinances, they but slight and despise these ordinances in their hearts. If they hear a preaching, they but despise and contemn the word that they hear, and know not what it is to hear to edification. If public prayers be an offering up, they but despise the same; their eyes are roving, and they know not what it is to join in prayer with their souls. If public psalms be a singing, they despise that piece of worship, and can sit with their mouths close, when the mouths of others are opened, to sing praises to God. I have sometimes observed, with regret, how, while the congregation were professing at least, to praise God with open mouth, some will sit with such a close mouth, as if they were openly professing that they despised and contemned that heavenly exercise. They that love not to join with a congregation on earth, to praise God, how unfit are they for joining with the heavenly company, whose exercise is to praise him forever? There is, I say, a generation of mockers and despisers: and some that slight and despise ordinances altogether, of whom God saith, “Behold, ye despisers! wonder, and perish!” Surely these are not washed from their filthiness.
4. There is a generation of hypocrites and formalists, that surely are not washed from their filthiness, that make a fashion of reading, and hearing, and praying, and praising, and singing; and rest satisfied, with the external performance of duty, and were never acquainted with the love, the power, the life of religion; that have a name to live, but are dead. Woe to you hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside; but are not washed from your internal filthiness you are as whited sepulchers, having a fair outside; but within are full of rottenness and putrefaction.
5. There is a generation of legalists and moralists: they go about to establish a righteousness of their own, and will not submit to the righteousness of God. They are your pretenders to works, and holiness, and righteousness: but discover their want thereof, by their estrangement from, and ignorance of the righteousness of Christ. They seek heaven in a legal way; they seek to enter in, but they shall not be able, (Luke 13:24). They seek salvation, but they seek it not by faith; but, as it were, by the works of the law. They pretend respect to the law, and yet affront it by refusing the only law‑biding, law fulfilling righteousness of Christ. They profess holiness, and yet are not washed from their filthiness; for they are under the law. For that word “Sin shall not have dominion over you; for you are not under the law, but under grace,” may be read just backward, with respect to them: Sin shall have dominion over them, because they are not under grace, but under the law.
6. There is a generation of superstitious worshippers and ceremony‑mongers, who will worship God in ways not enjoined in his word. A heathen Socrates would say, “God will be worshipped with that kind of worship which himself hath commanded:” and surely, those that profess themselves Christians should fear and learn. Now, I not only here mean, all gross superstition, of whatsoever sort, but all impurity of worship. Surely they are not washed from their filthiness, who have no concern upon their hearts to stand up for the purity of religion, in its worship and ordinances, in opposition to all mixtures and corruptions whatsoever. Nothing exasperates a holy God more than this, that there should be defilements in his worship; for mixture in his worship, not only crosses his command, but impeaches his wisdom, as if we should supply the defects of his word, by our inventions; therefore, God condemns it as ill‑worship, saying, “Their fear toward me [or their worship of me], is taught by the precepts of men,” (Isa. 39:13; Col. 2:22,23). In a word it makes God’s worship a vain worship, “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men,” (Matt. 15:6). As mixing copper with gold, debaseth the metal, it cannot pass: therefore, God giveth that awful certification, “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book,” (Rev. 22:18,19).
7. There is a generation of erroneous persons; that err in heart, and err in practice, and err in principle. Some have no principles at all, but Latitudinarian; they are any thing you please. Other are of abominable and corrupt principles, subversive of the gospel, and destructive to pure religion and undefiled. It was an old principle long ago, which is yet living, “That the doctrine of free grace, and justification by faith, without the works of the law, was an adversary to the law of Moses, and to holiness.” No wonder then, that some have this doctrine to defend against such a charge, when Christ himself had this ado; “I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it.” It is a day of error; and to speak of all the errors that are like to be imbibed and drunk in, were a task not to be managed in a passing word, but would take much time. Pollution in principle is a great pollution; and where the error is fundamentals, surely the person is not washed from his filthiness.
8. There is a generation that makes no manner of bonds of offence; to offend the generation of the righteous, is become a common and easy thing with many professors: and yet the Lord says, “Woe to the world, because of offences; better that a millstone were put about his neck, and he thrown into the midst of the sea, than to offend one of those little ones. Offences must come; but woe to them by whom they come.” Surely, these that have no regard whether they offend, and lay stumbling‑blocks in people’s way, or not, they seem not to be washed from their filthiness.
9. There is a generation that are drowned in security and stupidity, having no sense of sin or danger: though sin be imminent and danger imminent; they go on incorrigibly, in their own evil way; and live securely notwithstanding all the means of mercy, and motives of judgment, the Lord gives for their recovery. When the language of providence, and the alarms thereof cry, “Arise, O sleeper, and call upon thy God.” While the stormy tempest threatens the shipwreck of the church and state: and particularly the storm of division and animosity threatens the overthrowing the church visible: yet they sleep on, saying, all is safe: “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep.” When security is universal, surely it is a sign we are not washed from our filthiness.
10. There is a generation of apostates, who begin in the spirit, and end in the flesh; that begin like Nebuchadnezzar’s image, with a head of gold, but end with the feet of the image, that were feet of clay. Apostasy, and backsliding, and defection are no rarity in our day, wherein the love of many waxeth cold; and the church hath left her first love; and many backslide with a perpetual backsliding; and are, it is to be feared, or will be of these who draw back to perdition. Concerning all such, the scripture speaketh very awfully: “The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways. Whoso putteth his hand to God’s plough, and looketh back, is not fit for the kingdom of heaven.” Surely habitual apostates, who return with the dog to the vomit, and the sow that was washed, to the swallowing in the mire, are not washed from their filthiness. A generation that is making defection from God, his work, cause, and interest, are not washed.
11. There is a generation of lukewarm Laodiceans, who are neither cold nor hot, whom God threatens to spew out of his mouth; having no zeal for God, no public spirit, to witness faithfully for the cause and interest of Christ. Instead of this, carnal policy, under the false notion of prudence and moderation, doth carry many off their feet, while they follow the counsels of flesh and blood, and condemn, reproach, and discourage those who take other measures, and desire to be faithful. If any zeal for the declarative glory of God appear with this or the other person, in a day of general lukewarmness, no wonder that the particular person, who would make any appearance against the common defection, be flouted for singularity, as if they set up themselves, and would be reckoned eminent beyond all others: But calumny will never make zeal culpable, nor lukewarmness justifiable. However, the neutralizing temporizer is abominable to God; he who cares not whether the ark or Dagon be set up, whether Christ or antichrist prevail: “He that is not withme, is against me,” saith Christ, upon this head. I have read of Anastatius the emperor, that he was, by the hand of God, shot to death with a hot thunder‑bolt, because he was lukewarm in the catholic cause, and not zealous against the Arian faction, which became so universal, that it was said, The whole world was turned Arian.
12. There is a generation of profane persons, like Esau, who, for one morsel of meat, sold his birth‑right. Many, for a little morsel of worldly good, will sell their souls, and sell their heavenly inheritance. Many, for fear of losing any little outward inheritance, or temporal advantage in the world, will make shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. Many think they make a good bargain at a public market, (such as you have in view this week), though they cheat their neighbor with never so many lies and falsehoods, in buying and selling, if they may but gain a little worldly advantage upon them. They will quit with their conscience, before they quit with a sixpence. Surely these are not washed from their filthiness.
But what shall I say? There would be no end of speaking to this purpose. There is a generation that have no care of their own souls, nor the souls of others: they are running fast to hell; and by their ill example, drawing their children to hell with them: their friends and neighbors to hell with them. There is a generation of vile whoremongers, and adulterers, and unclean persons, that go on, without remorse or reformation: and to whom the custom of the sin hath worn out the conscience of the guilt. Most certainly they are not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation of drunkards and tipplers, that cannot mortify the lust of drunkenness unto drunkenness: it is their right hand and right eye; which, because it cannot be cut off, or plucked out, it is like to go to hell with them. They are not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation of horrid swearers, and profaners of the name of God, whether by broad oaths, or minced oaths: not to insist upon the open perjury, by the abominable use and abuse of state‑oaths. O the perfidy and perjury of the nation! Surely the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor knowledge of God in the land; “By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood; therefore shall the land mourn,” (Hosea 4:1‑3). There is a generation of liars, who make no conscience of speaking the truth to their neighbor: They are of their father the devil, who is the father of lies. Are they washed from their filthiness? No: There shall in no wise enter into the new Jerusalem anything that defileth, or worketh abomination, or maketh a lie. There is a generation of Sabbath‑breakers, by whom God’s holy day is as little hallowed and sanctified as any other day; though they come to the church for the fashion; yet they do not make conscience to abstain from thinking their own thoughts, speaking their own words, or doing their own works on the Lord’s day: No, if it were not for the custom, they would not make so much as any outward mark of distinction. Are they washed from their filthiness? No, by no means. There is a generation of malicious persons and fire‑brands, living in the fire of contention and discord: not living in love, nor following peace with all men: but living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another: loving to have an ill tale to tell, and an evil report to make of one another; pursuing idle clashes, and entertaining them. Surely they are not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation of unjust and injurious persons, who think nothing to build up their own worldly fortune upon the ruin of their neighbor’s estate; not remembering, that which is won by theft, robbery, injustice, or oppression, is won at the peril of their souls and the curse of God. Of the same nature is injustice in judging and determining of causes, at whatsoever court, whether civil or ecclesiastic, when friendship and courtesy is preferred above justice and equity; and when the decision of judges goes not by justice, but by favor, or fraud, or bribery. Surely all such are not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation of rotten‑hearted professors, that join in intimate society and close familiarity with stated enemies to God and religion, and monstrous swearers, profane, loose, abandoned, and malignant persons; they reckon them perhaps to be good fellows, and honest neighbors, and have not the least reluctance at intimate fellowship with them: and, it may be, prefer their company to that of the godly and serious. They walk in the counsel of the ungodly, they stand in the way of sinners, and sit in the way of the scornful, and yet would be called professors. But it seems plain that they are not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation of prayerless persons; they bow not a knee to God in their families, and perhaps as little in their closets. The prayerless man is an impure man; he is not washed from his filthiness. There is a generation of proud and selfish persons; if they pray, or bring forth any fruit, they are but empty vines that bring forth fruit to themselves. Spiritual pride and self is as great an enemy as God hath: and even pride of duties, pride of prayer, pride of preaching, pride of grace, proud desires of being applauded, and thought better of than others, where it is in its reign, evidences the person is not washed from his filthiness. In a word, there is a generation of unregenerate persons, which include all the Christless and graceless world, that were never convinced or converted, never drawn to Christ in a day of power. Surely all they who were never born again, of water and of the Spirit, whose operations are like water, who were never saved by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, they are not washed from their filthiness.