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promises to the upright. They have a peculiar interest in the love of God that is the fountain of felicity : “ The prayer of the upright is his delight.” Prov. 15. 10. He is most graciously ready to supply all their wants, satisfy their desires, allay their sorrows, overcome their fears. “ The Lord is a sun and a shield: he will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from those that walk uprightly.” Psal. 84. A comprehensive promise of the blessings of time and eternity.
The highest honour is the reward of subduing our rebellious lusts. “He that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty : and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.” Proy. 16.32. The quality of the enemy makes the victory more illustrious. Now the rebellious passions that war against the soul, are enemies infinitely more dangerous than those who destroy the bodies and estates of men. The
of armies and cities is achieved by boldness and strength, that are not the peculiar excellencies of man, for the horse and the lion are superior to him in those respects : but the reducing his unruly affections into holy order, is the effect of divine grace, wherein we resemble God. How many of the famous heroes, in the world's account, were worse than wild beasts, enemies to humanity, that unnaturally and barbarously spilt the blood of thousands to purple their usurped royalty? But in subduing the tyrannous passions of lust and anger under the sovereignty of the renewed mind, there is the happy union of innocence and victory.
There are degrees in the exaltation of the saints, as the passions their inward enemies which they subdued, were more stubborn, and hardly to be overcome. In some there is such a concord of humours, such a placid mild temper, that they enjoy a pacific possession of themselves : but this is the benefit of nature, not of victorious grace. * Where there is little resistance, there is no honour to overcome; where there is no matter of triumph, there is no glory in triumphing. But when in the natural temper
there are seeds of incitation to fierce anger and inordinate lust, and when those propensities are inflamed by temptations, if we subdue those disorderly and violent passions, it is the most noble effect of divine grace. On the contrary, the sinner that yields himself to the sway of the carnal appetites, is “the ser
• Magis extra vitia quam cum virtutibus. Tacit. Lib. 1. de Claudio, VOL. II.
vant of corruption :" 1 Pet. 4. is defiled and debased in such a manner, that he is sunk below the beasts that perish: for what is baser than corruption, except the sinner that obeys it?
The peace and joy that is the reward of victory over our sins, cannot be understood but by experience. What a savour of life is the death of a reigtring sin? What an angelical comfort was it to Joseph and the blessed mother of Christ, when the advice was brought from heaven to them in Egypt; “ Arise, for they are dead that sought the young child's life?” What consolation does it afford, when the holy spirit witnesses with our spirits, that the enemy in our bosoms, that sought the life of our souls, is mortified by repentance ? the psalmist tells us, “ Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart." Psal. 97. 11. The present sense of God's favour, and the future hope of glory, shed abroad that bright serenity in their breasts, that is, a reflection of heaven.
In our extremity, when a good and quiet conscience will be more valuable than crowus and sceptres, and solid comforts more worth than the world, how refreshing will the inward testimony be of our uprightness ? When Hezekiah was under the sentence of death, and his kingdom could afford him no comfort, this allaved his sorrows, “Remember, O Lord, that I have walked before thee with an upright heart." Isa. 38. 3. This testimony of conscience will calm our agonies, and expel the terrors of that last enemy: this when we are ready to die, will assure us that our Redeemer lives. The two substantial joys, (how divine!) the one from the reflection upon the past life, the other from the prospect of eternal life, are the blessed reward of uprightness. In short, the sum of felicity is expressly assured to them: “ The upright shall dwell in thy presence, where is fulness of joy, and rivers of pleasure flow for ever.
(6.) Consider the woful effects of indulging the lusts, that by pleasure or profit bribe men to give consent to their commission. The naked light of reason discovers sin, and makes it uneasy to conscience: but a strong light armed with terrors, the law of God, with the doom annexed to the precept against rebellious sinners, makes it fearful. The command is peremptory and universal, with respect to all temptations and allurements to sin, be they as dear and difficult to be parted with, as the “right eye, or right hand,” Mat, 5, the most useful and precious instru
ments of life, yet they must with abhorrence be cast from us, or " the whole man will be cast into hell fire, where the worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.” Mark 9. This terrible threatening is sadly repeated by our Saviour three times, to make the more powerful impression upon sinners.
The guilty accusing conscience begins the everlasting hell here. Our Saviour saith, that " a woman when she is in travail, hath sorrow because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into world :" but a sinner, after he hath brought forth his sin with pleasure, is struck with horror at the monstrous birth. When conscience is strongly awakened, it arraigns and condemns without partiality: the sinner is the executioner of the sentence upon himself. The torment of the spirit is invisible to others, and in that the liker hell, and unavoidable. It is as the cruel practice of the tyrant, related by the poet, who fastened a dead body and a living together, that the putrefaction and stench of the one, might cause a lingering death in the other : this is a little resemblance of the effect of the guilty conscience charged with “dead works,” and inseparable from the sinner. All the pleasure of the world cannot stupify the sense, or mitigate the torments of the wounded spirit.
In the approaches of death, the sins men have indulgently committed, return to the memory, and the ghastly apparition strikes them into consternation: the thoughts are fearfully transferred from the sick body to the guilty soul, from the consideration of the first death to the second, that immediately attends it. In vain they desire to live, for time is irrevocably passed, and the season of mercy expired: in vain they desire to die entirely, and put an end to their misery, for immortality is the inseparable but fatal privilege of their nature. If they look upward, revenging justice is ready to pass a heavy doom; if beneath, a fearful depth is ready to swallow them up. Who can express the agonies and throws of the guilty conscience, the dismal degrees of the tormenting passions in the wicked, under the apprehensions of eternal judgment ? Yet the most fearful apprehensions are not commensurate to the prepared plagues by vindictive justice for impenitent sinners. “Who knows the power of God's wrath ?” The chosen expressions in scripture to represent it, will be verified in higher degrees, than can be inflicted from the most vehe
ment and terrible things in the world. Fire is so tormenting to sense, that no man can endure the point of the flame of a candle upon his flesh: “Who then can dwell with devouring fire, and with everlasting burning?"
Besides, the damned are not only passive, but active in their wretched state: there is a hell of rancour and indignation within, and of fire and brimstone without them : what furious reflections will they make upon their votary madness, that for the seeming pleasures of sin that were but for a season, they should continue their rebellion against omnipotent Deity, and bring upon themselves his fierce and unchangeable displeasure. This infinitely aggravates their misery: after a million of years, the entire sum remains that revenging justice will exact for ever. The righteous Judge will never so far be reconciled as to annihilate them. Perfection of misery! Desperate sorrow! A life in torments that never dies, a death that never ends.
Surely it is impossible for men that have reasonable minds to choose the pleasures of sin, that are like bubbles on the water that presently break and vanish, when attended with misery that admits no ease or end. Is there any possible comparison between them ? The serious belief of hell cannot consist with the knowledge and purpose of sin, and the delightful practice of it: either the belief of it will infuse and impress such efficacious virtue into men's minds that will restrain them from sin, or the habitual course of sin will extinguish or eclipse the belief of the punishment.
It is recorded of Croesus, when pursued by the army of the Persians, he filled a strait passage between the mountains with boughs of trees and set fire to them, and thereby secured his retreat : if men were so wise as to set the fire of hell between the temptations of sin and their affections, it would be a sure defence from their spiritual enemies. But the scene of torments prepared for unreformed sinners, is little understood and less believed by men whilst they are in prosperity: though the Saviour of the world has in great mercy revealed them in such expressions, as may terrify even secure carnalists, that only live to sense. Infi. delity lies at the bottom, and renders the most terrible truths ineffectual. There is such a riddle in the tempers of men, they are not sensible of divine mercies till deprived of them, nor of divine judgments till they feel them, But if right reason were attended to, they must be convinced of unseen rewards and punishment to be dispensed in the next state. For the light of na
ture discovers an essential difference between moral good and · evil : from hence proceed the reflections of conscience either ap
proving or condemning our own actions, and making a judgment upon the actions of others by that common rule, according to which all acknowledge that men ought to live. This truth is so engraven in the human nature, that even the most wicked sinners, who endeavour, if it were possible, to make conscience so blind as not to see, and stupid as not to feel, yet cannot totally exclude the application of it to themselves, and will acknowledge the obligation of it in the general, and with respect to others. Now the law of God written in man's heart necessarily infers a judgment upon the transgressors of it, and the judgment includes a punishment becoming the majesty of the Lawgiver that ordains it, and the extent of his power that executes it. Divine revelation makes this truth much more clear and certain. The apostle tells us, “ If we live after the flesh, we shall die:” and will God cease to be holy, and just, and true, that impenitent sinners may escape punishment ?
But there are some poisonous principles infused into the hearts of men, that encourage them in their sins, notwithstanding their assent to the doctrine of a future judgment.
Some cannot persuade themselves, that God will be so strict and severe, that for a single forbidden pleasure, when they re spect other commands of his law, he will condemn them for ever. The secret presumption that one transgression will not provoke their Judge to extreme wrath, hardens them in a sinful course. But St. James declares, “ He that offends in one point is guilty of all.” One known allowed sin that a man habitually commits, involves him in the guilt of rebellion against the divine authority that made the law. It was observed before, Herod did some things according to John's divine instructions, but he would not part with Herodias, and that one sin denominated him wicked. Many are like him, they observe some rules of religion, perform some duties, are zealous against some sins, but there is an Herodias, a sin pleasant to the taste of their temper, that they will not relinquish, and without any promise, nay against the threatenings of God, they believe he will be merciful to them notwithstanding their wickedness. This presumption is an unnatural