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vain. The underpinning is in vain, though it be ever so strong and support the building ever so well
. The windows also are wholly in vain, though they be ever so large and clear, and though they obtain the subordinate end of letting in the light : they are as much in vain as if they let in no light.
So the subordinate end of the husbandman in ploughing and sowing, and well manuring his field is, that it may bring forth a crop. But his more ultimate end is, that food may be provided for him and his family. Therefore though his inferior end be obtained, and his field bring forth ever so good a crop, yet if after all it be consumed by fire, or otherwise destroyed, he ploughed and sowed his field as much in vain, as if the seed had never sprung up.
So if a man obtain bis subordinate ends ever so fully; yet if he altogether fail of his ultimate end, he is wholly a useless creature. Thus if men be very useful in temporal things to their families, or greatly promote the temporal interest of the neighborhood, or of the public; yet if no glory be brought to God by it, they are altogether useless. If men actively bring no glory to God, they are, as to their own activity, altogether useless, how much soever they may promote the benefit of one another. How much soever one part of mankind may subserve another; yet if the end of the whole be not answered, every part is useless.
Thus if the parts of a clock subserve ever so well one to another, mutually to assist each other in their motions; one wheel moving another ever so regularly; yet if the motion never reach the hand or the hammer, it is altogether * in vain, as much as if it stood still. As in a clock one wheel moves another, and
that another, till at last the motion comes to the hand and hammer, which imé mediately respect the eye and the ear, otherwise all the motions are in vain, so
it is in the world; one man was made to be useful to another, and one part of mankind to another ; but the use of the whole is to bring glory to God the
maker, or else all is in vain; and however a man may serve among his fellow I creatures, in a private or public capacity, upon the whole he is in vain.
It may perhaps be objected, that a wicked man may, by being serviceable to the public, be useful to many who do bring forth fruit to God, and thus glorify him.
Answer 1. If he be so, he is no further useful than he brings glory to God. It all hath an ultimate respect to that glory that is brought to God, and is useful no further; as the motion of no one wheel of a clock is any further useful, than as it finally respects the right pointing of the hand, and striking of the hammer
. ANSWER 2. When it is thus, wicked men are useful only accidentally, and not designedly. Although a wicked man may, by being serviceable to good men, do what will be an advantage to them to their bringing forth fruit to God; yet that serviceableness is not what he aims at; this is not his end; he doth not look so far for an ultimate end. And however this end be obtained, no thanks are due to him; it is as to him accidental. He is only the occasion, and not the designing cause of it. That fruit which is brought forth to the glory of God, is not brought forth by him, but by others.
The usefulness of such a man, being not designed, is not to be attributed to him as though it were his fruit. He is not useful as a man, or as a rational
creature, because he is not so designedly. He is useful as things without life may ! be. Things without life may be useful to put the godly under advantages to bring
forth fruit, as the timber and stones with which his house is built, the wool and fax with which he is clothed; but the fruit which is brought forth to God's glory, cannot be said for all that to be the fruit of these lifeless things, but of the godly man who makes use of them. So it is when wicked men put the
godly under advantages to glorify God, as Cyrus, and Artaxerxes, and others bave done.
III. If men bring not forth fruit to God, there is no other way in which they can be useful passively, but in being destroyed. They are fit for nothing else.
1. They are not fit to be suffered to continue always in this world. God suffers them to live for the present, but it is only for a certain season. They are here in a transitory state. "It is not fit that this world should be the constant abode of those who bring forth no fruit to God. It is not fit that the barren tree should be allowed always to stand in the vineyard. The husbandman lets it stand for a while, till he digs about it, dungs it, and proves it to be incurable, or till a convenient time to cut it down come; but it is not fit that such a tree should stand here always. It is not fit that they who bring forth no fruit to God, should be suffered to live always in a world which is so full of the goodness of God, or that his goodness should be spent upon them forever.
This world, though it is fallen, and is under a curse, and is a miserable place to what it once was, yet is full of the streams of divine goodness. But it is not fit that those who bring forth no fruit to God, should always be continued in partaking of these streams. There are these three different states; a state wherein is nothing but good, which is the state of the blessed in heaven; a state wherein is a mixture of good and evil, which is the earthly state; and a state wherein is nothing but evil, which is the state of eternal destruction and damnation. Now they that bring forth no fruit to God, are not fit for either of the former; it is not fit that they should be continued in the enjoyment of any of the goodness of God.
It is not fit that an unprofitable, unfruitful creature, who will not glorify his Creator, should always live here to devour the fruits of the earth, and consume the fruits of divine bounty; to have the good things of this life, as God's wool and his flax, his corn, and wine, and oil, spent with him in vain. While a man lives in this world, the other creatures of the world are subjected to him. The brute creatures serve him with their labor and with their lives. The sun, moon, and stars, the clouds, fields and trees, all serve him. But it is not fit that these creatures should always be made to serve him, who brings forth no fruit to the Creator. Why should God always keep his creatures in subjection to that man, who will not be subject to him? Why should the creation be always kept in such bondage, as to be subject to wicked men ? The creatures are made subject to vanity for a little time; God hath subjected them to wicked men, and given them for their use. This however he would not have done, but as it is only for a little while; and the creatures can bear it through the hope of approaching deliverance; and otherwise it would have been intolerable. Rom. viii. 20, “ For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope.”
The creature doth, as it were, groan by reason of this subjection to wicked men, although it be but for a while. Rom. viii. 22, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth, and travaileth in pain together until now.” Therefore surely it would be no way fit that wicked men, who do no good, and bring forth no fruit to God, should live here always, to have the various creatures subservient to them, as they are now. The earth can scarcely bear wicked men during that short time for which they stay here, but is ready to spew them out. It is no way fit, therefore, that it should be forced to bear them always.
Men who bring forth no fruit to God are cumberers of the ground. Luke xiü. 7,“ And it is not meet that they should be suffered to cumber the ground always.” God cannot be glorified in this way of disposing of unfruitful per
sons. If such men should be suffered to live always in such a state as this, it would be so far from being to the glory of God, that it would be to the disparagement of the wisdom of God, to continue them in a state so unsuitable for them, forever spending the fruits of his bounty in vain upon them. It would also be a disparagement to his justice ; for this is a world where “all things come alike to all, and there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked.” If there were no other state but this for wicked men to be in, justice could not possibly take place. It would also reflect upon the holiness of God. Forever to uphold this world for a habitation of such persons, and forever to continue the communications of his bounty and goodness to them, would appear as though he were disposed to countenance and encourage sin and wickedness.
2. If men do not bring forth fruit to God, they are not fit to be disposed of in heaven. Heaven, above all others, is the most improper place for them. Every thing appertaining to that state is unsuitable for them. The company is most unsuitable. The original inhabitants of that world are the angels. But what a disagreeable union would that be, to unite wicked men and angels in the same society! The employments of that world are unsuitable. The employments are serving and glorifying God. How unsuitable then would it be to plant barren trees in that heavenly paradise, trees that would bring forth no fruit to the divine glory! The enjoyments of heaven are unsuitable. The enjoyments are holy and spiritual enjoyinents
, the happiness of beholding the glory of God, and praising his name, and the like. But these enjoyments are as unsuitable as can be to the carnal earthly minds of wicked men. They would be no enjoyments to them; but on the contrary would be most disagreeable, and what they cannot relish, but entirely nauseate.
The design of heaven is unsuitable to them. The design of God in making heaven was, that it might be a place of holy habitation, for the reward of the righteous, and not a habitation for wicked men. It would greatly reflect on the wisdom of God to dispose of wicked men there; for it would be the greatest confusion. But God is not the author of confusion, 1 Cor. xiv. 33. It would be contrary to the holiness of God, to take wicked men so near to himself, into his glorious presence, to dwell forever in that part of the creation which is, as it were, his own palace, and to sit at his table. * We read in Psalm v. 4, “ Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with thee.” Therefore it would doubtless be impossible that the end of the existence of wicked men should be in any wise answered by the placing of them in heaven.
IV. Men who bring forth no fruit to God, yet in suffering destruction may be useful. Although they be not useful actively, or by any thing which they do; yet they may be useful in what they may suffer; just as a barren tree, which is no way useful standing in the vineyard, yet may be good fuel, and be very useful in the fire. God can find use for the most wicked men; he hath his ? use for vessels of wrath as well as for vessels of mercy; as in a house there is used for vessels unto dishonor, as well as for vessels unto honor. 2 Tim. ii
. 20, “In a great house there are not only vessels of gold, and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor.” Prov. xvi. 4, “ The Lord hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” I shall briefly take notice of what ends God accomplishes by it.
1. Unfruitful persons are of use in their destruction for the glory of God's justice. It was the will of God to glorify his justice, as well as his mercy, on his creatures. The vindictive justice of God is a glorious attribute, as well as his mercy; and the glory of this attribute appears in the everlasting destruction and ruin of the barren and unfruitful. Vol. IV.
The glory of divine justice in the perdition of ungodly men appears wonderful and glorious in the eyes of the saints and angels in heaven. Hence we have an account, that they sing praises to God, and extol his justice at the sight of the awful judgments which he inflicts on wicked men. Rev. xvi. 5,6, “Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and art to come, because thou hast judged thus; for they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and thou hast given them blood to drink ; for they are worthy :” and Rev. xix. 1, 2, “And after these things I heard a great voice, saying, Alleluia: salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God; for true and righteous are his judgments; for he hath judged the great Whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand."
2. Unfruitful persons in their destruction are of use for God to glorify his majesty upon them. The awful majesty of God remarkably appears in those dreadful and amazing punishments which he inflicts on those who rise up against him, and contemn him. A sense of the majesty of an earthly prince is supported very much by a sense of its being a dreadful thing to affront him. God glorifies his own majesty in the destruction of wicked men; and herein he appears infinitely great, in that it appears to be an infinitely dreadful thing to offend him. How awful doth the majesty of God appear in the dreadfulness of his anger! This we may learn to be one end of the damnation of the wicked, from 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 God, that he is a terrible God. It is a part of the majesty and glory of God, that he is a terrible God. God tells Pharaoh, that for this cause he raised him up, that he might show his power in him, and that his name might be declared through all the earth, in his destruction, Exod. ix. 15, 16; and again chap. xiv. 17, “ I will get me honor upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen."
3. The destruction of the unfruitful is of use, to give the saints a greater sense of their happiness, and of God's grace to them. The wicked will be de stroyed and tormented in the view of the saints, and other inhabitants of heaven. This we are taught in Rev. xiv. 10:“ The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture, into the cup of his indig. nation ; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.” And in Isaiah lxvi. 24 : “ And ihey shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”
When the saints in heaven shall look upon the damned in hell it will serve to give them a greater sense of their own happiness, seeing how vastly different their case is from their own. The view of the doleful condition of the damned will make them the more prize their own blessedness. When they shall see how dreadful the anger of God is, it will make them the more prize his love. They will rejoice so much the more that they are not the objects of God's anger, but of his favor; that they are not the subjects of his dreadful wrath, but are treated as his children, are taken near to him, to dwell in the everlasting embraces of his love.
When they shall see the misery of the damned, it will give them a greater sense of the distinguishing grace and love of God to them, that God should from all eternity set his love on them, and make so great a difference between them and others who are of the same species with them, are no worse by nature than
they, and have deserved no worse of God than they. When they snall look upon the misery of the damned, and consider how different their own state is from theirs, and that it is only free and sovereign geace that makes the difference, what a great sense will this give them of the wonderful grace of God to them! And how will it heighten their praises ! With how much greater admiration and exultation of soul will they sing of the free and sovereign grace of God to them!
When they shall look upon the damned, and see their misery, how will heaven ring with the praises of God's justice towards the wicked, and his grace towards the saints! And with how much greater enlargement of heart will they praise Jesus Christ their Redeemer, that ever he was pleased to set his love upon them, bis dying love! And that he should so distinguish them as to spill "his blood, and inake his soul an offering, to redeem them from that so great misery, and to bring them to such exceeding happiness!
With what love and ecstasy will they sing that song in Rev. v. 9, 10,“ Thou art worthy : for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every tongue, and kindred, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests." One end which the apostle mentions why God appointed vessels of wrath, is the more to make known the wonderfulness of his mercy towards the saints. In Rom. ix. 22, 23, there are two ends mentioned : - 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 ?” That is one end, then another is mentioned immediately after : “And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.”
1. Hence we may learn, how just and righteous God is in the destruction of those who bring forth no fruit to God. Seeing there is no other way in which they can be useful, or in which the end of their being can be obtained, certainly it is most just that God should thus dispose of them. Why should God be frustrated of ħis end through their perverseness? If men will not do the work for which he hath made and fitted them; if they, through a spirit of opposition and rebellion against God, refuse; yet why should God suffer himself to be disappointed of his end in making them? It doth not become the infinite greatness and majesty of God, to suffer himself to be disappointed and frustrated by the wickedness and perverseness of sinful worms of the dust. If God should suffer this, it would seem to argue, either a want of wisdom in God to fix upon a good end, or a want of power to accomplish it.
God made all inen that they might be useful; and if they will not be useful in their conduct and actions, how just is it that God should make them useful in their suffetings! God made all men for his own glory; and if they, contrary to the revealed will of God, refuse to glorify him actively and willingly, how just is it that God should glorify himself upon them in what he doth with them!
It hath been shown, that there is no other way wherein this can be done, but by their destruction. Surely, therefore, it must be just and righteous that God should destroy them.
Men are under no natural necessity of being put to this use of glorifying God in their sufferings. God gives them opportunity of glorifying him in doing, in bringing forth fruit, puts them under advantages for it, and uses many means to bring them to it. But if they will not be useful this way, it is very just that