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Therefore our Saviour warns his disciples, “ fear not them that can kill the body" (make that part die that is mortal)" but fear him that after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, fear him." Now if the threatening of an everlasting hell, through infidelity and inconsideration, be not effectual in the minds of men to restrain them from sin; if temporary torments in the next state were only threatened, which are infinitely more easy and tolerable, carnal sinners would follow the swinge of their corrupt appetites, and commit iniquity with greediness : this would seem to reflect upon the wisdom of the lawgiver, as if he were defective in not binding his subjects firmly to their duty, and the ends of government would not be obtained.
2. God, as the sovereign ruler of the world, has established an inseparable connexion between the choice and actions of men here, and their future condition for ever. The promised reward of obedience is so excellent and eternal, that all the allurements of the world vanish in comparison with it: and there is such an infallible assurance of this reward in the word of God, that all, and only those who sincerely obey his commands, shall enjoy it in the future state ; that a serious believer who ponders things, cannot be diverted from his duty by present temptations. Besides, by a chain of consequences sinful pleasures are linked with eternal punishment threatened in the divine law; and he that will enjoy forbidden pleasures, binds himself to suffer all the pains annexed to them. Now when God has, from his excellent goodness and undeserved mercy, assured men of the glory and joys of heaven that are unspeakable and eternal, upon the graeious terms of the gospel; and, upon their despising it, threatened eternal misery, if men obstinately neglect so great salvation; how reasonable is it they should inherit their own choice? Those who do not seek the kingdom of heaven, cannot escape hell, but by eternal consequence it will be their portion. There is no middle state in the next world, no tolerable mediocrity, but two contrary states; yet alike in this, that the happiness and misery are equally eternal : and it is just, that all who neglect eternal life, should suffer eternal death; for it is the natural and necessary consequence of their option: therefore sinners are charged with extreme madness, “ to wrong their own souls, and to love death.” Prov. 8. 26.
3. It will appear how unqualified the damned are for the least favour, if we consider their continual hatred and blasphemies of God. The seeds of this are in wicked obstinate sinners here, who are styled “ haters of God;" but in the damned this enmity is direct and explicit, the fever is heightened into a frenzy, the blessed God is the object of their curses and eternal aversation. Our Saviour tells us, that in hell there “ is weeping and gnashing of teeth ;" extreme sorrow, and extreme fury. Despair and rage are the proper passions of lost souls. For when the guilty sufferers are so weak, that they cannot by patience endure their torments, nor by strength resist the power that inflicts them, and are wicked and stubborn, they are irritated by their misery, and foam out blasphemies against the righteous judge. If their rage could extend to him, and their power were equal to their desires, they would dethrone the Most High. Hatred takes pleasure in revenge, either real or imaginary: and although God is infinitely above the transports of their fury, and all their rancorous imprecations are reflexively pernicious to themselves, like arrows shot against the sun, that fall down upon their heads that shot them; yet they are always venting their malice against the just power that torments them. It is said of the worshippers of the beast, " that they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains." Rev. 16. 10, 11, The torment and blasphemies of those impenitent idolaters, are a true representation of the state of the damned. From hence it appears they are the proper objects of revenging justice. How can we reasonably conceive, that God, in favour to the reprobates, should cross the established order of creation ? For two ranks of beings were made, the material, of perishing principles, the spiritual, of an immortal duration : and will God withdraw his conservative power of the guilty soul in its immortality, and to put an end to its deserved misery, and self-tormenting reflections, annihilate it? If a criminal were justly condemned to a severe punishment, and should contumeliously and fiercely reproach the prince, by whose authority he was condemned, could it be expected there should be a mitigation of the sentence? And is it a thought consistent with the reasonable mind, that the righteous judge of the world will reverse or mitigate the sentence against the damned, who blaspheme his majesty and justice ? And if they were as omnipotent to effect, as they are malicious to desire, would destroy his being. It is true, the divine threatening does not bind God VOL. III.
to a rigorous execution of it upon sinners: he has declared, if “ sinners will turn from their evil ways, he will repent of the evil he purposed to do unto them." Jer. 26. 3. But when threatenings are part of the laws whereby men are goverued, it is congruous to the wisdom and justice of the lawgiver to exe.cute them in their full force upon the obstinate offenders; withal considering the inflicting of them is so far from working any ingenuous change in those rebels, that thereby they become more fierce and obdurate.
Lastly, The immense guilt that adheres to sing requires a proportion in the punishmeut. It is a rule in all courts of judicature, that the degrees of an offence arise according to the degrees of dignity of the person offended. Now the majesty of God is truly infinite, against whom si is committed; and consequently the guilt of sin exceeds our boundless thoughts. This is the reason of the sentence, “ cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the look of the law to do them." The curse threatened, includes the first and the second death. What a dishonour is it to the God of glory,” that proud dust should fly in his face, and control his authority? What a provocation, that the reasonable creature, that is naturally and necessarily a subject, should despise the divine law, and lawgiver ? Though carnal minds alleviate the guilt of sin, yet weighed “in the scales of the sanctuary,” it is found so heavy, that no punishment inflicted on sinners exceeds, either in the degrees or duration, the desert of sin.
God's justice is not satisfied in depriving them of heaven, but inficts the most heavy punishunent upon sense and conscience in the damned ; for as the soul and body in their state of union in this life were both guilty, the one as the guide, the other as the instrument of sin; so it is equal, when reunited, they should feel the penal effects of it. Sinners shall then be tormented wherein they were most delighted; they shall be, invested with those objects that will cause the most dolorous perceptions in their sensitive faculties. The “ lake of fire and brimstone, the blackness of darkness for ever,” are words of a terrible signification. But no words can fully express the terrible ingredients of their misery: the pusishment will be in proportion to the glory of God's majesty that is provoked, and the extent of his power. And as the soul was the principal, and the body but an accessary in the works of sin; so its capacious faculties shall be far more tormented than the limited faculties of the outward senses. The fiery attributes of God shall be transmittted through the glass of conscience, and concentred upon damned spirits : the fire without is not so tormenting as the fire within them. How will the tormenting passions be inflamed? What rancour, reluctance, and rage against the just power that sentenced them to hell? What impatience and indignation against themselves for their wilful sins, the just cause of it ? How will they curse their creation, and wish their utter extinction, as the final remedy of their misery? But all their ardent wishes are in vain; for the guilt of sin will never be expiated, nor God so far reconciled as to annihilate them. As long as there is justice in heaven, or fire in hell; as long as God and eternity shall continue, they must suffer those torments, which the strength and patience of an angel cannot bear one hour.
Practical inferences. The tender mercies of God to men, in revealing the
prepared plagues for sinners, to prevent their misery. Carnal mea are more capable of conceiving the torments of hell, than the joys of heaven. They are more apt to be moved by them. The desperate folly of sinners, to choose the pleasures of sin, notwithstanding the dreadful and everlast. ing torments that follow sio. The steadfast belief and serious considera. tion of eternal death, the wages of siņ, is a prevailing motive to abhor and forsake it. Our dear obligations to our Saviour, who delivers us from the wrath to come.
I SHALL now draw some practical inferences, and conclude this subject.
1. From the revelation in scripture of the dreadful punishment prepared for unreformed sinners in the next state, we may understand the tender mercies of God to men; how willing he is they should be saved, who are so wilful to be damned. Hell is represented to them by the most violent figures, to terrify their imaginations, and strongly affect their minds, that “they may flee from the wrath to come.” God counsels, commands, entreats, urges sinners to be wise, to foresee and prevent the evil that every hour is approaching to them ; and with compassion and indignation laments their misery, and reproaches their folly in bringing it upon themselves. The divine mercy is as eminently and apparently declared to men in the present corrupt state, in threatening hell to excite their fear, as in promising heaven to allure their hopes. For if carnal indulgent sinners are not roused by a quick apprehension of hell, they will securely enjoy their pernicious pleasures, and despise the blessed reward, and heaven would be “ as empty of human souls as it is full of glory.”
(1.) Because they are more capable to conceive of the torments of hell, than the joys of heaven. Storms and darkness are more easily drawn by a pencil, than a clear calm day. Fire