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Saviour assures to us by a most tender and endearing comparison : “ if ye that are evil, know how to give good things to your children ; how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those that ask it ?” Luke 11. 13.
From hence it follows, that it is from the perverseness of the will, and the love of sin, that men do not obey the gospel. For the Holy Spirit never withdraws his gracious assistance, till “resisted, grieved, and quenched by them.” It will be no excuse, that divine grace is not conferred in the same eminent degree upon some as upon others that are converted : for the impenitent shall not be condemned for want of that singular powerful grace that was the privilege of the elect, but for “ receiving in vain” that measure of common grace that they had. If he that received “ one talent” had faithfully improved it, he had been rewarded with more; but upon the slothful and ungrateful neglect of his duty, he was justly deprived of it, and cast into a dungeon of horror, the emblem of hell. The sentence of the law has its full force upon impenitent sinners, with intolerable aggravations for neglecting the salvation of the gospel.
Concerning the heathens, the scripture declares,
Ist. That although the law published by Moses was not communicated to them, yet there was a silent, though less perfect impression of it in their hearts. The law of nature in the fundamental precepts of religion, and society, and temperance, was better known than obeyed by them. Therefore the apostle indicts them for atrocious crimes, Rom. 1. 26, 27. such as natural conscience, consenting with the law of God, severely forbids upon the pain of damnation. Thus it is said of the heathens, “ who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death ; not only commit the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” Rom. 1. 32. And at the last day, “ as many as have sinned without the law, as delivered to the Jews, shall be judged and perish, not according to the law of Moses,” Rom. 2. but the law of nature that obliged them to do good, and restrain themselves from evil ; of which the counterpart was not totally deleted in their hearts.
2dly. Although the revelation of Christ in his person, office and benefits, is not by the preaching of the gospel (that is necessary for the “ begetting of faith") extended to all nations ;
yet the grace of the Redeemer is so far universal, that upon his account the indulgent providence of God invited the heathens to repentance. His renewed benefits that sweetened their lives, Rom. 2. 4. and his powerful patience in forbearing so long to cut them off, when their impurities and impieties were so provoking, was a testimony of his inclination to clemency upon their reformation, Acts 14. 17. And for their abusing his favours, and resisting the methods of his goodness, they will be inexcusable to themselves, and their condemnation righteous to their own consciences.
Eternal death is wisely and justly ordained to be the punishment of sin. It
is the wisdom of the Lawgiver to appoint such a punishment as might over. poise all temptations to break the law. It is just to make a proportion between the quality of the offence, and the degrees of punishment. Sin is a contempt of God's majesty that is truly infioite. The obligations of reasonable creatures to the Creator, extremely increase the guilt of sio. The meanness of the motives that induce men to sin, aggravates the offence. The despising of eternal life, and the choosing the pleasures of sio, with hell in its retinue, makes the punisiunent to be justly inflicted on them. The obstinate and incurable lusts of men, justly make themn objects of re. venging justice for ever.
are next to consider the sanction of the law that enforces obedience; and it will appear that God is not extreme, but wisely and justly ordained eternal death to be the punishment of sin.
This will appear by considering,
1. The end of the sanction is to preserve the authority of the law in its full vigour, to render it most solenın and awful; and consequently it is the wisdom of the Lawgiver to ordain a punishment so heavy, as to overpoise all temptations that might otherwise induce the subjects to transgress its precepts.
Therefore to Adam, the first and second death was threatened upon his disobedience; and fear, as a sentinel, was planted in his breast, that no guilty thought, no irregular desire, no deceitful suggestion should enter to break the tables of the law deposited therein. Now since, notwithstanding the threatening, man was so easily seduced by the insinuations of the tempter to break the law, and disorder the government of God in the world, it is evident that such a restraint was not over vigorous to secure his obedience. I shall not insist on what is sadly visible since the first apostacy, that there is in mankind such a prodigious propensity to sensual things, that without the fear of hell, no arguments are strong enough to prevent the bold violation of the divine law.
2. It is consented to by common reason, that there ought to be a proportion between the quality of the offence, and the degrees of the punishment. * Justice takes the scales into its hand before it takes the sword. Now, sin against God is of such an immense guilt, that an eternal punishment is but equivalent to it. This will appear by considering, (1.) The perfections of the Lawgiver who is infinitely above
One act of sin is rebellion against God, and includes in it the contempt of his majesty, before whom the highest angels “ cover their faces” with reverence and adoration, as unworthy to behold his glory; and “cover their feet,” as unworthy that he should behold them, Isa. 6. 2, 3. the contradiction of his holiness that is his peculiar glory; the denial of his omniscience and omnipresence, as if he were confined to the superior world, Job 22. 14. and busy in regulating the harmonious order of the stars, and did not discern and observe what is done below; the defiance of his eternal power, and “ provoking him to jealousy, as if we were stronger than he.”
(2.) If we consider the obligations of the reasonable creatures to obey his commands, the guilt of sin rises prodigiously. They were made by his power, with this special character of excellency, according to his iinage : they were happy in his love : they were endowed with intellectual faculties capable to understand and
* Adsit regula peccatis, quæ pænas irroget æquas. Horat.
consider their obligations to their bountiful Lord. From hence it appears that sin is the most unnatural rebellion against God, and in it there is a concurrence of impiety, ingratitude, perfidiousness, and whatever may enhance a crime to an excess of wickedness.
(3.) The meanness of the motives that induce men to prefer the pleasing their depraved appetites before obedience to his sacred will, extremely aggravates the offence. Of this we have a convincing instance in the first sin committed upon earth. Deceitful curiosity, flattering pride, a secret pleasure of acting according to his will, joined with the low attractives of sense, blinded and transported Adam to eat the mortal fruit, against the express command of God. And ever since, the vanishing shadows of honour, or gain, or pleasure, are the only persuasives to sin. And what can be more provoking, than for a trifle to transgress the law of God, and equally despise his favour and displeasure? Can any punishment less than eternal, expiate such impieties? The rules of human justice may discover to us the equity of the divine justice. It is ordained by the wisest states, that many crimes which may be done in a few minutes, shall be punished with death, and the offender be deprived of his natural life for ever. And is it not most just that treason against the “ great and immortal King,” should be revenged with everlasting death?
(4.) That which farther clears the divine justice in punishing sin with hell, is this, that God by his infallible promise assures us, that all who sincerely and uniformly obey him, shall be rewarded with heaven for ever: a blessedness most worthy the greatness and love of the eternal God to bestow on his servants : a blessedness that surpasses our most comprehensive thoughts. Now if everlasting glory be despised, what remains but endless misery to be the sinner's portion? The consequence is remediless. If sin with an eternal hell in its retinue be chosen and embraced, is it not equal that the rational creature should inherit his own choice? How just is it that those who are the slaves of the devil, and maintain his party here, should have their recompence with him for ever ? That those who “ now say to the Almighty, depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways,” should hear the dreadful “ depart from me into everlasting fire ?" As there will be no vain boasting in heaven, where the reward is the gift of pure bounty; so there will be no righteous complaint against God in hell, where the punishment is inflicted by powerful justice. He that voluntarily sins, by consequence chooses the punishment due to it.
(5.) The estimation of an offence is taken from the disposition of him that does it. When it is done with pleasure and obstinacy, there is no place for favour. Now final impenitence alone makes sin actually and eternally damning to the sinner. Those that, notwithstanding all gracious means, live continually in rebellion against God; those that impenitently die in their sins; those that desire to live here for ever, that they might enjoy their sweet sins; those that are so hardened and naturalized in their vices, that if they were revived and brought again into this world of temptations, would certainly return to the pleasures of sin; * is it not righteous that their incorrigible obstinacy should be punished for ever? Is it not just that those who would continue under the “ dominion of sin,” should forfeit all their claim to the divine mercy ? For if we consider them as unrepentant and irreclaimable from their wickedness, there are in them the just provocations and true causes of God's final rejection and hatred : and if we consider God as revealed in his word and works, his essential properties, wisdom, purity, justice, necessarily work upon such objects in such a manner. How zealous an indignation did the Son of God express against the obdurate pharisees? “ You serpents, you generation of vipers, how should you escape the damnation of hell ?” Mat. 23. 33. They in despite of all his miracles, the equal expressions of his goodness and power, resisted his authority, blasphemed his person, and slighted his salvation. Now though other sins are of an inferior nature, and weaker evidence, yet obstinacy added to them, makes a person unworthy and incapable of mercy. From hence the misery of the damned is without redemption, without hope, without allay for ever.
* Poenæ qualitas non nude spectanda ut in ponderibus & mensuris, sed expenso proposito, & voto ejus qui deliquit. Grot.