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What will terribly add to the greatness of these sufferings is, that they are without any intermission, or mitigation. In the greatest miseries of this life, God has graciously pleased to allow some intervals of rest; but of those in hell it is said, Rev. xiv. 11, "" They have no rest day nor night." Think of this, you who never cease from sin, but do evil day and night; the damned have no rest from their torment. Dives asked but a momentary alleviation of his torture, when he desired that Lazarus might be sent "to dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool his tongue;" but even this was denied him.
This, my friends, is a very short and slight account, from the Scriptures of truth, of the dreadful sufferings of miserable sinners in hell. And who, in his senses, would venture upon such a course of life as must lead to one hour's suffering of this kind? But oh, it is not an hour, it is not a day, it is not a week, it is not a month, it is not a year, it is not seven years, or fourteen years, or an hundred years, it is not a thousand years, it is not merely as long as from the foundation of the world to this day! Oh, how would the damned rejoice, if ten thousand years might finish their miseries! but it is for ETERNITY. Do you start at the word? It is Christ's word. Christ says in the text, "these shall go away into everlasting punishment." In vain do letter-learned men try to reason away the solemn truth, and lessen the duration of future punishment: Christ says it is eternal; and uses the very same word to signify an eternal heaven, as he does to express an eternal hell; (for the words are the same in the original) besides it is said, Rev. xiv. 11, "the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever;" and our Lord also declares that "their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched."
Tremble, sinner, at the "wrath to come." That
wrath which is now coming, and will soon be here, will even then be "wrath to come." When a million, million, million years are past, it will still be "wrath to come," because it shall never have an end !
O that we could impress upon you a lasting idea of Eternity! Suppose all the vast ocean to be distilled by single drops, and a thousand years to pass between every drop; how many millions of years would it take to empty it? Suppose the whole world to be made up of grains of sand, and one grain only to be taken away in a thousand years: how many millions of years would it take to remove the whole? We cannot count how long; yet we suppose it may be done in a most immense length of time. Suppose it done. Suppose the ocean emptied, drop by drop. Suppose the globe reduced, grain by grain, to the last sand. But would eternity be spent? Would eternity be lessened? No, not at all. It is a whole eternity still: and the torments of the damned would be as far from an end as when the reckoning began. A minute bears some proportion to a million of years; but millions of millions of years bears no proportion to eternity.
Sinner, have you reason? Have you common sense? Have you self-love? Summon up your powers, then, and determine this moment whether you had best go on in the way of sin, for the sake of your short-lived pleasures, thus to be paid with everlasting woe; or whether it will not be your wisdom this moment to forsake them, and, by the grace of God, choose the way to eternal life.
Before we proceed, stop, and take a view of sin. Will any man, but a fool, "make a mock of sin," when he sees what its wages are? Is that " a madman who casteth about arrows, firebrands, and death, and saith, Am I not in sport?" He is ten thousand times more mad, who sports with sin, and laughs at
that which fills hell with groans and tears. Be persuaded not to trifle, as many do, with the name of hell and damnation. Many who cannot bear to hear these in a sermon, use them in a jesting manner, in their common discourse. This is one of Satan's ways to ruin souls. People sport with these things, till they forget their importance, and find, too late, that they are serious matters.
"Who laughs at sin, laughs at his Maker's frowns;
"Awake, then, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Fly, sinner, from the "wrath to come.' Escape for thy life, look not behind thee, tarry not in all the plain, lest thou be consumed!" Think, what a miserable soul in hell would give to be in thy present situation. Think how hell would resound with joy, could the good news of salvation be preached to lost souls.Well, sirs, they are preached to you. This day is salvation come to this house. As yet, there is hope. Christ came to deliver from the wrath to come. It may be, you were brought here at this time for the very purpose of being warned to fly to the refuge.Christ is a mighty Saviour. Nothing is too hard for him. "Come then, for all things are ready." If God has made you willing, depend upon it he will make you welcome. Who can tell but, instead of being fuel for everlasting burnings, it may be said of you" Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?"
We now gladly turn to the more pleasing part of our text-" but the righteous shall go into life
Who are the righteous? "There is none righteous" upon the earth, saith the Scripture; "no, not one"
that is, in himself. A righteous man, and a sinner, are two contraries; to be righteous is to keep the law perfectly, which no mere man ever did, and no fallen man can; for "all have sinned;" sin "being the transgression of the law." How then can any man, being a sinner, become righteous? There is but one way. It is by the righteousness of Christ, put to the account of an unrighteous man. This righteousness Christ wrought out by his perfect obedience to the law. This righteousness is held out in the Gospel; and when a sinner is convinced that he wants it, and must perish without it, he comes to God for it; God gives it him; he receives it by faith, puts it on, wears it, lives and dies in it, and, being "found in Christ," he is admitted, in this wedding garment, to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
The persons called "righteous" in the text, had thus put on Christ; and the faith whereby they did so, wrought by love. The context shows how their faith wrought by love: they loved the members of Christ for Christ's sake, and showed their love to him by helping them in their afflictions. These are the persons who go into life eternal.
What is heaven? A carnal man can have no idea of it, or none but what is carnal and ridiculous. It is not a Mahometan paradise, where the lusts of the flesh may be indulged. No: "life and immortality are brought to light by the Gospel;" and there we find it consists in a complete deliverance from all the evils of the present state; and in the enjoyment of all that can render the soul perfectly and for ever happy.
Need we be told that "man is born to trouble?" This is our sad and only certain inheritance; mingled, indeed, with a thousand undeserved mercies. But all the sorrows of a believer shall cease at his death. No more excessive labour and fatigue. No pinching want and poverty. No painful, irksome, loathsome
diseases. The inhabitant of heaven shall not say, "I am sick." Nor shall any of the numberless sorrows of the mind, we now feel, follow us to glory. We shall not suffer in our own persons, nor shall we suffer in or by our relations or friends. We shall drop the body of sin in the dust; and we shall no more be the grieved spectators of sin in the world. "God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away." Rev. xxi. 4.
But this is not all. Our knowledge, which is now so very small, shall be wonderfully increased. It is eternal life to know God; but, oh, how little do we now know of him! but "the pure in heart shall see God," and know in a moment more than all the learned could attain in many years. "We shall know, even as we are known,". '—we shall have as certain, immediate, and familiar a knowledge of divine things, as any of our most intimate friends now have of us: yea, we shall know God, and Christ, and angels, in the same kind of way that they now know us; not through a glass, darkly," but "face to face," as clearly and distinctly as one man beholds another when they converse together. But the heaven of heaven will consist in the presence of Christ Jesusbeing with Christ, and beholding his glory. This is what Jesus, as Mediator, prayed for in behalf of his disciples. "Father, I will, that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory," John xvii. 24.-This is what Paul longed for, and wished to depart to enjoy: "I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ," Phil. i. 23. And what will render the vision of Christ so very excellent is, that "we shall be like him, when we see him as he is"- -we shall bear his amiable and illustrious image of light and love, holiness and happiness, in our souls. Even our bodies, now vile by