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SERM.IV. fhall be: Or, in other Words, Non-Exiftence, though not a Bleffing in itself, is so, comparatively with the Torments which he fhall endure.
This is the plain exprefs authentic Declaration of no less a Person, than our bleffed Saviour; and it seems to overthrow the Opinion of Origen, who imagined, that the Damned should be admitted to everlasting Happiness after a determined Period of Woe. For then it could not have been faid with any Truth, that the Sum of their Miferies fhould exceed their Pleasures; fince an eternal Happiness would outweigh any finite Torments. Non-existence would not have been, in the true Estimate of Things, a Bleffing to thofe, who were certain of an exceeding and everlafting Weight of Glory. It would be good for that Man to be born, who fhould fome Time or other be happy for ever.
In the Profecution of this Subject I propose,
It, To confider the Duration of future.
Ildly, To fet forth the Nature of them :
As to the It, viz. The Duration of fu- SERM.IV. ture Punishments.
When God hall fet forth, before the united Affembly of Men and Angels, the Harmony and Confiftency of his Providence, from the first Birth of Time to it's laft Period; it is to be humbly hoped, that merciful Abatements will be made for unavoidable Temptations, to which Men have been expofed by their Situation in Life; for the Want of a regular and virtuous Education, &c. And perhaps fome Part of what is called moral Evil, may be, in the Eye of him, who knoweth whereof we are made, nothing but natural Evil; as owing to the native Impetuofity of fome Men's original Complexions, and to the unactive Coldness of ather Men's natural Tempers, which, whether they could wholly get the better of God only knows. It may be likewife prefumed, that the Number of the Damned will bear no more Proportion to that of the Bleffed throughout the whole Creation; than a Workhoufe or a Prifon does to the whole Extent of a large Kingdom.
But whatever gracious Allowances may be made; it is an exprefs Scripture Doctrine, that the Wicked fhall go away into everlastVOL. II. H
SERM.IV ing Punishment; but the Righteous into Life
Let us fuppofe, that Mankind were to live here for ever: Let us fuppofe, that fome of them were become abandoned and incorrigibly bad: Would it be any unjusti fiable Severity to confine Them for ever in Prison, that they might not feduce or an noy the rest of the Creation; or even to inflict pofitive Punishments upon them, in their Confinement, adequate to their Of fences, in order to deter others? It is only therefore to suppose, that the Soul is in it's own Nature defigned for an immortal Du ration; that thofe, who are configned to everlasting Misery, are fuch as by a continued Course of Sinning have so disabled all the Powers of the Soul, that it is morally impoffible for them, without the extraordinary Grace of God, to cease from Sinning: -And then if it be no Injustice, as undoubtedly it is not, that every Sinner should be a Sufferer; there can be no Injustice, that every habitual, eternal Sinner thould be an eternal Sufferer.
This Confideration, I think, takes off the Force of the Objection, viz. That there -is no Proportion between temporary Crimes,
But, fince fome SERM.IV.
and eternal Punishments.
ift, Let it be confidered, that though the outward Acts of Sin be temporary; yet the Defilement and Habit contracted by a Repetition of thefe Acts is, if we die in a State of Impenitence, eternal. And as
eternal ill Habits are the Source of eternal Torments; it will follow that the Impenitent have entailed upon themselves everlafting Mifery. If, when Death has closed the Scene, there be no After-game to play; if all Overtures of Grace then cease; if Vice be stamped upon the Soul in indelible Characters; if he that is filthy, must be filthy ftill; then it is an undeniable Confequence, that be, who can never cease to be wicked, can never cease to be miserable. The veteran Sinner is fteeled against all Impreffions, and the Mifer does not ceafe to love this World with all his Soul, and with all his Strength, even when he stands just upon the Verge of another. How often have we feen Men, that, however inconfiftent in every thing elfe, have been very confiftent in obeying one ruling, habitual Paffion from first to laft? Nay, we have H 2 furprifing
upon it, I fhall con
SERM.IV. furprising Inftances upon Record, befides that of a dying Mifer; that even at the Clofe of Life, the grand and important Crifis, that is to determine a Man's Happiness or Mifery; even then this ruling Paffion would bear no Rival, no Competitor near the Throne. Even then, like a domineering Favourite, who has long maintained the Afcendant; it would not, for fear of being fupplanted, admit any thing to his Death-bed, but what countenanced it's Interefts, and was fubfervient to it's Orders. What our Saviour said to St. Peter, may be applied to an old habitual Sinner. When thou waft young, thou girdedft thyfelf, and went whither thou wouldst; but when thou art old, another hall bind thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldst not. His Sins shall bind him, and carry him into Captivity. He will be apt to think, if he thinks at all to the Purpose; Why had I not the fame Sentiments when young, as I have now? Or why have I not now the fame vigorous Strength, which I had then, to break my Bonds afunder? Some have fo much enfeebled the Powers of the Soul, that their Reafon, like the Light of the Sun, when the Face of Nature is over