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God, he will do as he has said; he will destroy the mountains of iniquity as he has threatened, and there shall be no escaping. How vain are the thoughts of those who flatter themselves that God will not fulfil his threatenings, and that he only frightens and deceives men in them; as though God could in no other way govern the world than by making use of fallacious tricks and deceits to delude his subjects! Those that entertain such thoughts, however they may harden themselves by them for the present, will cherish them but a little while; their experience will soon convince them that God is a God of truth, and that his threatenings are no delusions. They will be convinced that he is a God who will by no means clear the guilty, and that his threatenings are substantial, and not mere shadows, when it will be too late to escape them. Deut. xxix. 18, 19, 20, 21. "Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations: lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood, and it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless him in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: the Lord will not spare him; but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. And the Lord shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this book of the law." Psalm 1. 21. "These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself, but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes."
2. There is no reason to suspect that possibly ministers set forth this matter beyond what it really is, that possibly it is not so dreadful and terrible as is pretended, and that ministers strain the description of it beyond just bounds. Some may be ready to think so, because it seems to them incredible that there should be so dreadful a misery to any creature; but there is no reason for any such thoughts as these, if we consider,
First. How great a punishment the sins of wicked men deserve. The scripture teaches us that any one sin deserves eternal death: Rom. vi. 23. "For the wages of sin is death: but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." And that it deserves the eternal curse of God. Deut. xxvii. 26. "Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them: and all the people shall say amen." Gal. iii. 10. "For as many as are of the works of the law are under
the curse for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Which things imply that the least sin deserves total and eternal destruction. Eternal death, in the least degree of it, amounts to such a degree of misery as is the perfect destruction of the creature, the loss of all good, and perfect misery; and so does being accursed of God imply it. To be cursed of God, is to be devoted to perfect and ultimate destruction. The scripture teaches that wicked men shall be punished to their full desert, that they shall pay all the debt.
Secondly. There is no reason to think that ministers describe the misery of the wicked beyond what it is, because the scripture teaches us that this is one end of ungodly men, to show the dreadfulness and power of God's wrath. Rom. ix. 22. "What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction." It is often spoken of as part of the glory of God, that he is a terrible and dreadful God. Ps. Ixviii. 35. "O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places:" that he is a consuming fire. Ps. lxvi. 3. "How terrible art thou in thy works! through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee:" and that herein one part of the glory of God is represented as consisting, that it is so dreadful a thing to injure and offend God. The wrath of a king is as the roaring of a lion, the wrath of a man is sometimes dreadful, but the future punishment of ungodly men is to show what the wrath of God is; it is to show to the whole universe the glory of God's power. 2 Thess. i. 9. "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." And therefore the punishment which we have described is not at all incredible, and there is no reason to think that it has been in the least described beyond what it really is.
Thirdly. The scripture teaches that the wrath of God on wicked men is dreadful beyond all that we can conceive. Ps. xc. 11. "Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath." As it is but little that we know of God, as we know and can conceive of but little of his power and his greatness, so it is but a little that we know or can conceive of the dreadfulness of his wrath; and therefore there is no reason to suppose that we set it forth beyond what it is. We have rather reason to suppose that after we have said our utmost and thought our utmost, all that we have said or thought is but a faint shadow of the reality.
We are taught that the reward of the saints is beyond all that can be spoken or conceived of. Eph. iii. 20. "Now unto
him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think." 1 Cor. ii. 9. “ Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." And so we may rationally suppose that the punishment of the wicked will also be inconceivably dreadful.
Fourthly. There is no reason to think that we set forth the misery of hell beyond the reality, because the scripture teaches us that the wrath of God is according to his fear. Ps. xc. 11. This passage asserts that the wrath of God is according to his awful attributes; his greatness and his might, his holiness and power. The majesty of God is exceedingly great and awful, but according to his awfulness, so is his wrath; this is the meaning of the words; and therefore we must conclude that the wrath of God is indeed beyond all expression, and signification terrible. How great and awful indeed is his majesty, who has made heaven and earth, and in what majesty will he come to judge the world at the last day! He will come to take vengeance on ungodly men. The sight of this majesty will strike wicked men with apprehensions and fears of destruction.
Fifthly, The description which I have given of the tribulation and wrath of ungodly men, is not beyond the truth, for it is the very description which the scriptures give of it. The scriptures represent that the wicked shall be cast into a furnace of fire; not only a fire, but a furnace. Matth. xiii. 42. “And shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Rev. xx. 15. "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the lake of fire." Ps. xxi. 8, 9. "Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies; thy right hand shall find out those that hate thee. Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven in the time of thine anger; the Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them."
If, therefore, I have described this misery beyond the truth, then the scriptures have done the same. It is evident then, that there is no reason to flatter yourselves with such imaginations. If God be true, you shall find the wrath of God, and your future misery full as great; and not only so, but much greater; you will find that we know but little, and have said but little about it, and that all our expressions are faint in comparison of the reality.
III. Hence may be derived an argument to convince wicked men of the justice of God in allotting such a portion to them. Wicked men, when they hear it declared how awful the misery is of which they are in danger, often have their hearts lifted up against God for it; it seems to them very hard for God to deal
so with any of his creatures. They cannot see why God should be so very severe with wicked men, for their sin and folly for a little while in this world; and when they consider that he has threatened such punishments, they are ready to entertain blasphemous thoughts against him. I would therefore endeavour to show you how justly you lie exposed to that indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish of which you have heard. Particularly I would show,
1st. How just it would be in God for ever to leave you to yourself: it would be most just in God to refuse to be with you, or help you.
You have embraced and refused to let go those things which God hates; you have refused to forsake your lusts, and to abandon those ways of sin that are abominable to him. When God has commanded you to forsake them, how have you refused, and still have retained them, and been obstinate in it! Neither is your heart yet to this very day diverted from sin; but it is dear to you, you allow it the best place in your heart, you place it on the throne there. Would it be any wonder therefore if God should utterly leave you, seeing you will not leave sin? God has often declared his hatred of iniquity; and is it any wonder,. that he is not willing to dwell with that which is so odious to him? Is it not reasonable that God should insist that you should part with your lusts in order to your enjoying his presence; and seeing you have so long refused, how just would it be if God should utterly forsake you? You have retained and harboured God's mortal enemies, sin and Satan; how justly therofore might God stand at a distance! Is God obliged to be present with any who harbour his enemies, and refuse to forsake them? Would God be unjust, if he should leave you utterly to yourself, so long as you will not forsake your idols?
Consider how just it would be in God to let you alone, since you have let God alone. You have not sought God for his presence and help as you ought to have done; you have neglected him; and would it not therefore be just if he should neglect you? How long have many of you lived in neglecting to seek him? how long have you restrained prayer before him? Since therefore you refused so much as to seek the presence and help of God, and did not think them worth praying to him for, how justly might he for ever withhold them, and so leave you wholly to yourself?
You have done what in you lies to drive God away from you, and to cause him wholly to leave you. When God in times past has not let you alone, but has been unwearied in awakening you, have you not resisted the motions and influences of his spirit; have you not refused to be conducted by him, or to yield to him. ?
Zech. vii. 11. "But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear." How justly therefore might God refuse to move or strive any more! When God has been knocking at your door, you have refused to open to him; how just is it therefore that he should go away, and knock at your door no more! When the spirit of God has been striving with you, have you not been guilty of grieving the Holy Spirit by giving way to a quarrelling temper, and by yielding yourself a prey to lust? And have not some of you quenched the spirit, and been guilty of backsliding? and is God obliged, notwithstanding all this, to continue the striving of his spirit with you, to be resisted and grieved still, as long as you please? On the contrary, would it not be just if his spirit should everlastingly leave you, and let you alone?
2. How just it would be if you should be cursed in all your concerns in this world. It would be just if God should curse you in every thing, and cause every thing you enjoy, or are concerned in, to turn to your destruction.
You live here in all the concerns of life as an enemy to God; you have used all your enjoyments and possessions against God, and to his dishonour; would it not therefore be just if God should curse you in them, and turn them all against you, and to your destruction? What temporal blessing has God given you, which you have not used in the service of your lusts, in the service of sin and Satan? If you have been in prosperity, you have made use of it to God's dishonour; when you have waxed fat, you have forgotten the God that made you. How just therefore would it be if God's curse should attend all your enjoyments! Whatsoever employments you have followed, you have not served God in them, but God's enemies; how just therefore would it be if you should be cursed in all your employments! The means of grace that you have enjoyed, you have not made use of as you ought to have done; you have made light of them, and have treated them in a careless disregardful manner; you have been the worse and not the better for them. You have so attended and used sabbaths, and spiritual opportunities, that you have only made them occasions of manifesting your contempt of God and Christ, and divine things, by your careless and profane manner of attending them; would it not therefore be most just that God's curse should attend your means of grace and the opportunities which you enjoy for the salvation of your soul?
You have improved your time only to heap up provocations and add to your transgressions, in opposition to all the calls and warnings that could be given you; how just therefore would it be if God should turn life itself into a curse to you, and suffer you to live only to fill up the measure of your sins!