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the Lord, who hath dealt bountifully with you, and to magnify his holy name! What cause to praise him in humility, to walk humbly before God; and to be conformed to that in Ezek. xvi. 63, " That thou mayest remember and be confounded, and never open thy mouth any more, because of thy shame, when I am pacified towards thee for all that thou hast done, saith the Lord God!" You should never open your mouth in boasting, or self-justification: you should lie the lower before God for his mercy to you. But you
reason, the more abundantly for your past sins, to open your mouth in God's praises, that they may be continually in your mouth, both here and to all eternity, for his rich, unspeakable, and sovereign mercy to you, whereby he, and he alone, hath made you to differ from others.
THE FUTURE PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED UNAVOIDABLE AND INTOLERABLE.
EZEKIEL xxii. 14.-Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong in the ways that I shall dea
with thee? I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it.
In the former part of this chapter, we have a dreadful catalogue of the sins of Jerusalem; as you may see from the first to the thirteenth verse. In the thirteenth, which is the verse preceding the text, God manifests his great displeasure and fearful wrath against them for those their iniquities : “Behold, I have smitten mine hand at thy dishonest gain which thou hast made, and at thy blood which hath been in the midst of thee.” The expression of God's smiting his hand, signifies the greatness of his anger, and his preparing himself, as it were, to execute wrath answerable to their heinous crimes. It is an allusion to what we sometimes see in men when they are surprised, by seeing or hearing of some horrid offence, or most intolerable injury, which very much stirs their spirits, and animates them with high resentment; on such an occasion they will rise up in wrath and smite their hands together, as an expression of the heat of their indignation, and full resolution to be avenged on those who have committed the injury, as in chap. xxi. 17: “I will also smite mine hands together, and I will cause my fury to rest ; I the Lord have said it.”
Then, in the text, the punishment of that people is represented.
1. The nature of their punishment is more generally represented in that therein God will undertake to deal with them : God here threatens to deal with the sinners in Jerusalem. The prophets could do nothing with them. God had sent them one after another ; but those sinners were too strong for them, and beat one, and killed another. Therefore now God himself undertakes to deal with them.
2. Their punishment is more particularly represented in three things, viz, the intolerableness, the remedilessness, and the unavoidableness of it. (1.) The intolerableness of it: Can thine heart endure ?
The remedilessness, or the impossibility of their doing any thing for their own relief: Can thine hands be strong ?
(3.) The unavoidableness of it: I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it.
DOCTRINE. Since God hath undertaken to deal with impenitent sinners, they shall neither shun the threatened misery, nor deliver themselves out of it, nor can they bear it.
In handling this doctrine, I shall, 1. Show what is implied in God's undertaking to deal with impenitent sinners. 2. That therefore they cannot avoid punishment. 3. That they cannot in any measure deliver themselves from it, or do any thing for their own relief under it. 4. That they cannot bear it. 5. I shall answer an inquiry; and then proceed to the use.
I. I shall show what is implied in God's undertaking to deal with impenitent sinners.—Others are not able to deal with them. They baffle all the means used with them by those that are appointed to teach and to rule over them. They will not yield to parents, or to the counsels, warnings, or reproofs of minis
ters: they prove obstinate and stiff-hearted. Therefore God undertakes to deal with them.—This implies the following things:
1. That God will reckon with them, and take of them satisfaction to his justice. In this world God puts forth his authority to command them; and to require subjection to him. In his commands he is very positive, strictly requiring of them the performance of such and such duties, and as positively forbidding such and such things which were contrary to their duty. But they have no regard to these commands. God continues commanding, and they continue rebelling. They make nothing of God's authority. God threatens, but they despise his threatening.- They make nothing of dishonoring God; they care not how much their behavior is to the dishonor of God. He offers them mercy, if they will repent and return; but they despise his mercy as well as his wrath. God calleth, but they refuse.—Thus they are continually plunging themselves deeper and deeper in debt, and at the same time imagine they shall escape the payment of the debt, and design entirely to rob God of his due.
But God hath undertaken to right himself. He will reckon with them; he bath undertaken to see that the debts due to him are paid. All their sins are written in his book; not one of them is forgotten, and every one must be paid. If God be wise enough, and strong enough, he will have full satisfaction : he will exact the very uttermost farthing. He undertakes it as his part, as what belongs to him, to see himself righted, wherein he hath been wronged. Deut. xxxii. 35," To me belongeth vengeance." Chap. vii. 10,“ He will not be slack to him that hateth him; he will repay him to his face."
2. He hath undertaken to vindicate the honor of his Majesty. His Majesty they despise. They hear that he is a great God; but they despise his greatness; they look upon him worthy of contempt, and treat himn accordingly. They hear of him by the name of a great King ; but his authority they regard not, and sometimes trample upon it for years together.
But God hath not left the honor of his Majesty wholly to their care. Though they now trample it in the dust, yet that is no sign that it will finally be lost. If God had left it wholly in their hands, it would indeed be lost. "But God doth not leave his honor and his glory to his enemies; it is too precious in his eyes to be so neglected. He hath reserved the care of it to himself: he will see to it that his own injured Majesty is vindicated. If the honor of God, upon which sinners trample, finally lie in the dust, then it will be because he is not strong enough to vindicate himself. He hath sworn that great oath in Numb. xiv. 21, “ As truly as 1 live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord."
Sinners despise his Son, and trample him under their feet. But he will see if he cannot make the glory of his son appear, with respect to them; that all the earth may know how evil a thing it is to despise the Son of God.—God intends that all men and angels, all heaven and all earth, shall see whether he be sufficient to magnify himself upon sinners who now despise him. He intends that the issue of things with respect to them shall be open, that all men may see it.
3. He hath undertaken to subdue impenitent sinners. Their hearts while in this world are very unsubdued. They lift up their heads and conduct themselves very proudly and contemptuously, and often sin with a high hand. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongues walk through the earth. They practically say as Pharaoh did,“ Who is the Lord ? I know not the Lord, neither will l'obey his voice.” Job xxi. 41, “They say to God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways.”
Some, who cover their sin with specious show, who put on a face of reli
gion, and a demure countenance and behavior, yet have this spirit secretly reigning in their breasts. Notwithstanding all their fair show, and good externa carriage, they despise God in their hearts, and have the weapons of war about them, though they are secret enemies, and carry their swords under their skirts. They have most proud, stubborn, and rebellious hearts, which are ready to rise in opposition, to contend with him, and to find fault with his dispensations. Their hearts are full of pride, enmity, stubbornness, and blasphemy, which work in them many ways, while they sit under the preaching of the word, and while the spirit of God is striving with them: and they always continue to oppose and resist God as long as they live in the world; they never lay down the weapons of their rebellion.
But God hath undertaken to deal with them and to subdue them; and those proud and stubborn hearts, which will not yield to the power of God's word, shall be broken by the power of his hand. If they will not be willing subjects to the golden sceptre, and will not yield to the attractives of his love, they shall be subject to the force of the iron rod, whether they will or no.
Them that proudly set up their own righteousness, and their own wills against God, God hath undertaken to bring down; and without doubt it will be done. He hath undertaken to make those who are now regardless of God, regard him. They shall know that he is Jehovah. Now they will not own that he is the Lord; but they shall know it. Isa. xxvi. 11, “Lord, when thine hand is lifted up, they will not see: but they shall see.”
Now wicked men not only hate God, but they slight him; they are not afraid of him. But he will subdue their contempt
. When he shall come to take them in hand, they will hate him still; but they will not slight him; they will not make light of his power as they now do; they will see and feel too much of the infinity of his power to slight it.—They are now wont to slight his wrath ; but then they will slight it no more, they will be infinitely far from it, they will find by sufficient experience that his wrath is not to be slighted: they will learn this to their cost, and they never will forget it. 4. God hath undertaken to rectify their judgments
. Now they will not be convinced of those things which God tells them in his word. Ministers take much pains to convince them, but all is in vain. Therefore God will undertake to convince them, and he will do it effectually.-Now they will not be convinced of the truth of divine things. They have indeed convincing arguments set before them; they hear and see enough to convince them; yet so prone are they to unbelief and atheism, that divine things never seem to them to be real
. But God will hereafter make them seem real.
Now they are always doubting of the truth of the Scriptures, questioning whether they be the word of God, and whether the threatenings of Scripture be true. But God hath undertaken to convince them that those threatenings are true, and he will make them to know that they are true, so that they will never doubt any more forever. They will be convinced by dear experience.- Now they are always questioning whether there be any such place as hell. They hear much about it, but it always seems to them like a dream. But God will make it seem otherwise than a dream.—Now they are often told of the vanity of the world; but we may as well preach to the beasts, to persuade them of the vanity of earthly things. But God will undertake to convince them of this ; he will hereafter give them a thorough conviction of it, so that they shall have a strong sense of the vanity of all these things.
Now ministers often teil sinners of the great importance of an interest in Christ, and that that is the one thing needful. They are also told the folly of de
laying the care of their souls, and how much it concerns them to improve their opportunity. But the instructions of ministers do not convince them, therefore God will undertake to convince them.
Impenitent sinners, while in this world, hear how dreadful hell is. But they will not believe that it is so dreadful as ministers represent. They cannot think that they shall to all eternity suffer such exquisite and horrible torments. But they shall be taught and convinced to purpose, that the representations ministers give of those torments, agreeable to the word of God, are no bugbears; and that the wrath of God is indeed as dreadful as they declare.--Since God hath undertaken to deal with sinners, and to rectify their judginents in these matters, he will do it thoroughly; for his work is perfect; when he undertakes to do things, be doth not do them by halves; therefore before he shall have done with sinners, he will convince them effectually, so that they shall never be in danger of relapsing into their former errors any more. He will convince them of their folly and stupidity in entertaining such notions as they now entertain.
Thus God hath undertaken to deal with obstinate unbelievers. They carry things on in great confusion ; but we need not be dismayed at it; let us wait, and we shall see that God will rectify things. Sinners will not always continue to rebel and despise with impunity. The honor of God will in due time be vindicated; and they shall be subdued and convicted, and shall give an account. There is no sin, not so much as an idle word that they shall speak, but they must give an account of it, Matt. xii. 36. And their sins must be fully balanced, and recompensed, and satisfaction obtained. Because judginent against their evil works is not speedily executed, their hearts are fully set in them to do evil. Yet God is a righteous judge; he will see that judgment is executed in due time.
I come now,
II. To show, that therefore impenitent sinners shall not avoid their due punishment.—God hath undertaken to inflict it; he bath engaged to do it; he takes it as his work, as what properly belongs to him, and we may expect it of him. If he hath sworn by his life, that he will do it ; and if he hath power sufficient; if he is the living God, doubtless we shall see it done. And that God hath declared that he will punish impenitent sinners, is manifest from many Scriptures; as Deut. xxxi. 41, “ I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.” Deut. vii. 10, “ He will not be slack to him that hateth him : he will repay him to his face.” Exod. xxxiv. 7, “That will by no means clear the guilty.” Nahum i. 3, “ The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked."
God saith in the text, “I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it;" which leaves no room to doubt of the actual fulfilment of the threatening in its utmost extent. Some wicked men have flattered themselves, that although God hath threatened very dreadful things to wicked men for their sins, yet in his heart he never intends to fulfil his threatenings, but only to terrify them, and make them afraid, while they live. But would the infinitely holy God, who is not a man that he should lie, and who speaketh no vain words, utter himself in this manner: I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it ; I have not only threatened, but I will also fulfil my threatenings ; when at the same time these words did not agree with his heart, but he secretly knew that though he had spoken, yet he intended not to do it? Who is he that dares to entertain such horrid blasphemy in his heart?
No; let no impenitent sinner flatter himseif so vainly and foolishly. If it were indeed only a man, a being of like impotency and mutability with themselves, who had undertaken to deal with them; they might perhaps with some Vol. IV