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who are styled “haters of God;" but in the damned this enmity is direct and explicit, the fever is heightened into a frenzy, the blessed God is the object of their curses and eternal aversation. Our Saviour tells us, that in hell there “is weeping and gnashing of teeth ;" extreme sorrow, and extreme fury. Despair and rage are the proper passions of lost souls. For when the guilty sufferers are so weak, that they cannot by patience endure
their torments, nor by strength resist the power that inflicts them, and are wicked and stubborn, they are irritated by their misery, and foam out blasphemies against the righteous judge. If their rage could extend to him, and their power were equal to their desires, they would dethrone the most high. Hatred takes pleasure in revenge, either real or imaginary: and although God is infinitely above the transports of their fury, and all their rancorous imprecations are reflexively pernicious to themselves, like arrows shot against the sun, that fall down upon their heads that shot them; yet they are always venting their malice against the just power that torments them. It is said of the worshippers of the beast, that they gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains, Rev. 16. 10, 11. The torment and blasphemies of those impenitent idolaters, are a true representation of the state of the damned. From hence it appears they are the proper objects of revenging justice. How can we reasonably conceive, that God, in favor to the reprobates, should cross the established order of creation ? For two ranks of beings were made, the material of perishing principles, the spir. itual of an immortal duration : and will God withdraw his conservative power of the guilty soul in its immortality, and to put an end to its deserved misery, and self-tormenting reflections, annihilate it? If a criminal were justly condemed to a severe punishment, and should contumeliously and fiercely reproach the prince, by whose authority he was condemned, could it be expected there should be a mitigation of the sentence? And is it a thought consistent with the reasonable mind, that the righteous judge of the world will reverse or mitigate the sentence against the damned, who blaspheme his majesty and justice? And if they were as omnipotent to effect as they are malicious to desire, would destroy his being. It is true, the divine threatening does not bind God to a rigorous execution of it upon sinners : he has declared, if sinners will turn from their evil ways, he will repent of the evil he purposed to do unto them, Jer. 26. 3. But when threatenings are part of the laws whereby men are governed, it is congruous to the wisdom and justice of the lawgiver to execute them in their full force upon the obstinate offenders; withal considering the inflicting of them is so far from working any ingenuous change in those rebels, that thereby they become more fierce and obdurate.
Lastly, The immense guilt that adheres to sin, requires a pro
portion in the punishment. It is a rule in all courts of judicature, that the degrees of an offence arise according to the degrees of dignity of the person offended. Now the majesty of God is truly infinite, against whom sin is committed; and consequently the guilt of sin exceeds our boundless thoughts. This is the reason of the sentence, “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” The curse threatened, includes the first and second death. What a dishonor is it to the God of glory, that proud dust should fly in his face, and control his authority? What a provocation, that the reasonable creature, that is naturally and nescessarily a subject, should despise the divine law and lawgiver ? Though carnal minds alleviate the guilt of sin, yet weighed “in the scales of the sanctuary,” it is found so heavy, that no punishment inflicted on sinners exceeds, either in the degrees or duration, the desert of sin.
God's justice is not satisfied in depriving them of heaven, but inflicts the most heavy punishment upon sense and conscience in the damned : for as the soul and body in their state of union in this life were both guilty, the one as the guide, the other as the instrument of sin; so it is equal, when reunited, they should feel the penal effects of it. Sinners shall then be tormented wherein they were most delighted; they shall be invested with those objects that will cause the most dolorous perception in their sensitive faculties. The “ Lake of fire and brimstone, the blackness of darkness forever," are words of a terrible signification. But no words can fully express the terrible ingredients of their misery : the punishment will be in proportion to the glory of God's majesty that is provoked, and the extent of his power. And as the soul was the principal, and the body but an ascessary in the works of sin; so its capacious faculties shall be far more tormented than the limited faculties of the outward senses. The fiery attributes of God shall be transmitted through the glass of conscience, and concentered upon damned spirits: the fire without is not so tormenting as the fire within them. How will the tormenting passions be inflamed? What rancor, reluctance, and rage against the just power that sentenced them to hell ? What impa. tience and indignation against themselves for their wilful sins, the just cause of it? How will they curse their creation, and wish their utter extinction, as the final remedy of their misery? But all their ardent wishes are in vain ; for the guilt of sin will never be expiated, nor God so far reconciled as to annihilate them. As long as there is justice in heaven, or fire in hell; as long as God and eternity shall continue, they must suffer those torments which the strength and patience of an angel cannot bear an hour.
Practical Inferences. The tender mercies of God to men, in revealing the
prepared plagues for sinners, to prevent their misery. Carnal men are more capable of conceiving the torments of hell, than the joys of heaven. They are more apt to be moved by them. The desperate folly of sinners, to choose the pleasures of sin, notwithstanding the dreadful and everlasting torments that follow sin. The steadfast belief and serious consideration or eternal death, the wages of sin, is a prevailing motive to abhor and forsake it. Our dear obligations to our Saviour, who delivers us from the wrath to
I shall now draw some practical inferences, and conclude this subject.
[1.] From the revelation in scripture of the dreadful, punishment prepared for unreformed sinners in the next state, we may understand the tender mercies of God to men; how willingly he is they should be saved, who are so wilful to be damned. Hell is represented to them by the most violent figures, to terrify their imaginations, and strongly affect their minds, "they may flee from the wrath to come.” God counsels, commands, intreats, urges sinners to be wise, to foresee and prevent the evil that every hour is approaching to them; and with compassion and indignation laments their misery, and reproaches their folly in bringing it upon themselves. The divine mercy is as eminently and apparently declared to men in the present corrupt state, in threatening hell to excite their fear, as in promising heaven to allure their hopes. For if carnal indulgent sinners are not roused by a quick apprehension of hell, they will securely enjoy their pernicious pleasures, and despise the blessed reward, and heaven would be as empty of human souls, as it is full of glory.
(1.) Because they are more capable to conceive of the torments of hell than the joys of heaven; storms and darkness are more easily drawn by a pencil, than a clear calm day. Fire mixed with brimstone, is very painful to sense; and the fancy strongly represents its vehemence in tormenting the body: and what misery the uncessant remorse of the guilty conscience will cause in the damned hereafter, is in part understood by the secret accusations and twinges of conscience in self-condemning sinners here. But they are absolutely strangers to the joys of the Holy Ghost, to the delights of the soul in communion with God, and the peace of conscience in his favor. They cannot without experience, “know how good the Lord is," no more than see a taste.
To discourse to them of spiritual pleasures that flow from the divine presence, of the happiness of the saints “ that are before the throne of God, and serve him in his temple,” is to speak with the tongue of an angel * unintelligible things. Their minds and language are confined to sensible things. The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him ; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Their may be in the carnal mind a conception of heaven, as a sanctuary wherein they may be secured from the wrath of God, and some smothering confused thoughts of its felicity, as the idea of light and colors in one blind from his birth ; but only the
pure in heart can see God," as in the perfect vision of glory hereafter, so in the imperfect reflection of it here.
(2.) Carnal men are more disposed to be wrought upon, by representing the torment of hell, than the joys of heaven. For
we cannot love but what is known, nor enjoy but what is I loved. And as the purification of the heart from vicious affec
tions, is an excellent means to clear the mind; so the illustration of the mind is very influential to warm the heart. The true conception of heaven in its amiable excellencies, would powerfully and sweetly ravish the affections; and of this, prepared souls are only capable. But those who are sensual, are without
relish and spiritual happiness, and are allured or terrified only 3.3 with what is pleasant or painful to flesh.
It is recorded as the unparalleled folly of † Nero, that when he was ready to cut his own throat, to avoid the fury of the multitude, he broke forth into great expressions of sorrow, what
an excellent artist he died! It was not the loss of the Roman of empire that so much troubled him, as that so much skill in mu
sic died with him. He valued himself more as a fiddler, than an emperor. Thus carnal men with a folly infinitely more prodigious, when death is near, are not so much afflicted with the loss of the crown of glory, and the kingdom of heaven, as with their present leaving this world and its vanities. This makes death intolerably bitter. Till the love of God purifies the heart, the fruition of his presence is not esteemed or desired. A seraph sent from the presence of God with a flaming coal from the altar,
touched the lips of the holy prophet, and his heart was presently en melted into a compliance with the divine will. But if a rebel
angel that burns with another fire than of divine love, were dispatched from hell with a coal from that altar, where so many victims are offered to divine justice as there are damned souls, and touched obdurate sinners, that they might have a lively
* Si frigido loquar, nescit quod loquor. Aug.
+ Identidem dictitans, qualis artifex pereo! Suet.
poverty, and to loathsome imprisonment all his life after; would he not be esteemed to have been beside himself? Yet this is a very tolerable case, in comparison of exposing the soul to eternal vengeance, for the pleasures of sin that are but for a season.
[3.] Let us steadfastly believe, and frequently consider, that eternal death is the wages of sin, that we may renounce it with the deepest abhorrence, and forsake it forever. We are assured, from the wisdom and compassion of our Saviour, that it is a powerful means to mortify the inclination to sin, and to induce us to prevent and resist all temptations. The subtile tempter cannot present any motive, that to a rectified mind will make sin eligible. Let the scales be even, and put in one all the delights of the senses, all the pleasures and honors of the world, that are the eleinents of carnal felicity ; how light are they against the heavenly glory? Will the gain of the world compensate the loss of the soul and salvation forever? If there were any possible comparison between deluded transient vanities, and the happiness that is substantial and satisfying forever, the choice would be more difficult, and the mistake less culpable ; but they vanish into nothing in the comparison. According to the judg. ment of sense, would any one choose the enjoyment of the most exquisite pleasures for a year, and afterwards be content to burn in a furnace for a day, much less to enjoy them for a day, and to burn for a year? What stupid brutes are they, who for momentary delights incur the fiery indignation of God forever? Tuy your finger with the flame of a candle, you will soon discover your weakness. Will the remembrance of sensual delights allay the torments of the damned? When carnal lusts are most inflamed, and objects are present, pain will extinguish all the pleasure of the senses : and if actual employment cannot afford delight when the body is under a disease, will the reflections upon past pleasures in the fancy and memory refresh the damned in their extreme torments ? No; the remembrance will infinitely increase their anguish, that for such seeming and short pleasures, they brought upon themselves misery intolerable, without ease or end. O that man would strip sin of its disguises, and wash off its flattering colors, and look into its odious nature, and to the consequential evils of it in the next world ! O that they would consider they hang by slender strings (a little breath that expires every minute) over the bottomless pit, and that within a little while nothing will remain of the pleasures of sin, but the undy. ing worn, and the ever-living flames! This would be a means to raise and preserve in them an invincible resolution and reluctancy, against all temptations to sin and provoke God. But how hardly are men induced to exercise their minds on this terrible object? They think least of hell, who have most reason to consider it.