« ForrigeFortsett »
such a discovery of his righteous judgment, that not only the saints shall glorify his justice in the condemnation of the wicked, but they shall be so convinced of it, as not to be able to charge their Judge with any defect of mercy, or excess of rigour in his proceedings against them. As the man in the parable of the marriage feast, when taxed for his presumptuous intrusion without a wedding-garment, “ How camest thou in hither ?” was speechless : so they will find no plea for their justification and defence, but must receive the eternal doom with silence and confusion. Then conscience shall revive the bitter remembrance of all the methods of divine mercy for their salvation, that were ineffectual by their contempt and obstinacy. All the compassionate calls by his word, with the holy motions of the Spirit, were like the sowing of seed in the stony ground, that took no root, and never came to perfection. All his terrible threatenings were but as thunder to the deaf, or lightning to the blind, that little affects them: the bounty of his providence designed “ to lead them to repentance," had the same effect as the show, ers of heaven upon briars and thorns, that make them grow the faster. And that a mercy so ready to pardon, did not produce in them a correspondent affection of grateful obedient love ; but by the most unworthy provocations they plucked down the vengeance due to obstinate rebels, will so enrage the damned against themselves, that they will be less miserable by the misery they suffer, than by the conviction of their torn minds, that they were the sole causes of it. " What repentings will be kindled within them,” for the stupid neglect of “the great salvation" so dearly purchased, and earnestly offered to them. What a fiery addition to their torment, that when God was so willing to save them, they were so wilful to be damned ? They will never forgive themselves, that for the short and mean pleasures of sense, which if enjoyed a thousand years, cannot recompense the loss of heaven, nor requite the pains of hell for an hour, they must be deprived of the one, and suffer the other for ever.
The sorrow and rage will be increased by despair : for when the wretched sinner sees the evil is peremptory, and no outlet of hope, he abandons himself to the violence of sorrow, and by cruel thoughts wounds the heart more, than the fiercest furies in hell can. This misery that flows from despair, shall be more
fully opened under the distinct consideration of the eternity of hell. Briefly, as the blessed are in heaven, and heaven is in them, by those holy and joyful affections that are always exercised in the divine presence; so the damned are in hell, and hell is in them by those fierce and miserable passions that continually
prey upon them.
The eternity of misery makes it most intolerable. The justice of God
cleared in the eternal punishment of sinners for temporary sins. The wise dom of God requires that the punishment threatened should be powerful to preserve the commands of the law inviolable. There is an inseparable connexion between the choice and actions of man here, and their condi. tion for ever. The damned are unqualified for any favour. The immense guilt of sin requires a proportion in the punishment,
11. THE eternity of the punishment.
The eternity of their misery makes it above all other considerations intolerable. Our Saviour repeats it thrice in the space of a few verses, to terrify those who spare some favourite corruption, " that in hell their worm dies not, and the fire is never quenched.” God will never reverse his sentence, and they shall never change their state. How willingly would carnal men rase the word eternal out of the scriptures; but to their grief they find it joined with the felicity of heaven, and the torments of hell. The second death has all the terrible qualities of the first, but not the ease and end it brings to misery. All the tears of those forlorn wretches shall never quench one spark of the fire, Where are the delicious fare, the music, the purple, and all the carnal delights of the rich man ? they are all changed into a contrary state of misery; and that state is fixed for ever. From his vanishing paradise he descended into an everlasting hell. In this the vengeance of God is infinitely more heavy than the most terrible execution from men. Human justice and power can inflict but one death (that will be soon dispatched) upon a malefactor worthy to suffer a hundred deaths; if he be condemned to the fire, they cannot make him live and die together, to burn and not be consumed. But God will so far support the damned in their torments, that they shall always have strength to feel, though no strength patiently to endure them. Those extreme torments which would extinguish the present life in a moment, shall be suffered for ever.
This consideration infinitely aggravates the misery: for the lost soul, racked with the fearful contemplation of what it must suffer for ever, feels, as it were at once, all the evils that shall torment it in its whole duration. The perpetuity of the misery is always felt by prevision. This is as the cruel breaking of the bones upon the wheel, when the soul is tormented by the foresight of misery, that without allays shall continue in the circulation of eternal ages. To make this more sensible, let us consider, that pain makes the mind obseryant of the passing of the hours. In pleasures, time with a quick and silent motion, insensibly slides away ; but in troubles the hours are tedious; in violent pains we reckon the minutes as long. It is observable, how passionately the afflicted psalm. ist complains, “ Will the Lord cast off for ever? Will he be favourable no more? Doth his promise fail for evermore ? Hath he forgotten to be gracious ? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies ?" Psal. 77. 7. In what various pathetic forms does he express the same affection? Though he had assurance that the gracious God would not be always severe, yet his anguish forced from him complaints, as if the moment of his trouble were an eternity. But what strains of sorrow are among the damned, who besides the present sense of their misery, have always in their thoughts the vast eternity wherein they must suffer it ?
When three terrible evils were propounded to David's choice, pining famine for three years, or bloody war for three months, or devouring pestilence for three days; he chose the shortest, though in itself the heaviest evil.
Many sad days must pass under the other judgments, where death by anticipation in such variety of shapes would be presented to the mind, that the lingering expectation of it would afflict more than the sudden stroke; whereas the fury of the pestilence would be soon over. But the damned have not this relief, “ but shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” nestly “ do they seek for death,” but cannot find it? What a favour would they esteem it to be annihilated ? For certainly, if when the evils in the present state are so multiplied, that no comfort is left, or so violent that the afflicted person cannot enjoy them, and refresh his sorrowful spirit, death is chosen rather than life ; it cannot be imagined that in the future state, where the misery is extreme, and nothing remains to allay it, that the damned should be in love with the unhappy good of simple being, and not choose an absolute extinction if it might be.
If any one should be so foolish to think that custom will render that state more tolerable, he will find a terrible confutation of his vain fancy. Indeed, continuance under light evils may arm the mind with patience to bear them; but in great extremities it makes the evil more ponderous and intolerable.
He that is tortured with the stone, or on the rack, the longer the torture continues, the less able he is to sustain it. In short, as the joy of heaven is infinitely more ravishing, that the blessed are with out fear of losing it; so the misery of hell is proportionably tormenting, that the damned are absolutely destitute of hopes of release.“ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," who lives for ever, and will punish for ever incorrigible sinners ?
There are some who strongly fancy, it is not consistent with divine justice to inflict an eternal punishment for temporary sins. Therefore they soften the sentence, by interpreting the words of Christ, “ these shall go into everlasting punishment,” of the annihilation of impenitent sinners; that is, they shall be for ever deprived of heaven, but not suffer torments for ever.
To this there is a clear answer: 1. The direct “ opposition between everlasting punishment, and everlasting life, in the words of Christ, is a convincing argument they are to be understood in the same extent for an absolute eternity. And the words in the revelation are so express, that they admit no mollifying interpre
they are tormented day and night, for ever and ever :" which necessarily infer, the tormented bave life and sense for ever. Now that in scripture it is evident, that God hath decreed and denounced eternal punishment to obstinate sinners, is suffi
cient to satisfy all inquiries about the justice of it: for divine justice is the correspondence of God's will and actions with the perfections of his holy nature. From hence we may infer with invincible evidence, that whatever he pronounces in judgment, and consequently inflicts, is most righteous. The truth is, we may az easily conceive there is no God, as that God is unjust; because absolute rectitude is an inseparable perfection of his nature. Thus the apostle with abhorrence rejects the question, “is God unrighteous whò taketh vengeance ? God forbid : for then how shall God judge the world ?” Rom. 3. 5, 6. That were to deny him to be God, who is the Creator, and King, and Judge of the world, It is a full reply to all the pitiful shifts that are made use of to elude the plain meaning of the eternal judgınent that will pass upon the wicked : “shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker ?” Job 4. 17. The reprobates have now some bold advocates, that plead those things for favour to them, which they will not dare to plead for themselves at the last day. The holy judge will then cut off all their excuses, and reduce them to a defenceless silence, before he cuts them off. “God will be justified in his sentence, and overcome when he judgeth."
The righteousness of the proceedings at the last day, in determining the wicked to a state of everlasting torments, has been considered in the Discourse on Judgment, and will farther appear by the following considerations.
1. The wisdom of God requires, that the punishment threatened in his law, as it must be so firmly decreed, that all obstirate rebels shall of necessity undergo it, so it must incomparably exceed all temporal evils, to which men may be exposed for their obedience to the divine commands, otherwise the threatening would not be an effectual restraint from sin : for the propinquity of an evil makes a strong impression on the mind, and a present fear makes a person solicitous to avoid the incursion of what is ready to seize on him, without forecasting to prevent an evil looked on at a distance. Therefore that the sanction of the divine law may preserve the precepts inviolable, that there may be a continual reverence of it, and a fixed resolution in the heart not to transgress, the penalty threatened must be in its own nature so terrible, that the fear of it may conquer the apprehension of all present evils that can be inflicted to constrain us to sin,