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sented to us in Scripture by climbing a steep and narrow path;' by a state of war, in which we are to watch, to contend, and fight; by a race, which, that we may run with the greater strength and swiftness, we must lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.' In order to these mighty labours, and this eager and active pursuit, we must, as much as possible, rid ourselves of worldly amusements and hinderances.
What a shame would it be, how bitterly should we for ever curse our desperate folly, should death surprise us pursuing and contending for baubles, and collecting toys, with a crown of infinite glory in view! Let us rather rouse, and betake ourselves to better thoughts, and a sounder mind. Let us shake off all encumbrances. Let us strip ourselves for our course, and with all the activity that our own resolutions, and all the vigour that the grace of God, can give us, let us, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,' press with all our might towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus;' to whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, let us, in imitation of all good men, render the grateful incense of a good life and conversation here, that we may hereafter join with the happy choir of saints and angels, to sing his glorious praises, for ever.
THE PUNISHMENT ANNEXED TO THE CHRISTIAN COVENANT.
2 COR. v. 10, 11.
We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.
MEN cannot subsist out of society, nor can society subsist without laws and government; nor can the laws and government of men be of any force or use, if they are not founded on, and supported by, the law of God; nor would even the
law of God itself be of any service to this temporal, or to other higher ends, were it not enforced by rewards and punishments.
As, therefore, all goodness, all happiness, here and hereafter, depend absolutely on the hope of a reward, or the fear of a punishment from God, we must conclude, that such rewards and punishments will actually be distributed to all men with infinite justice; and that, as the great Ruler of the world is infinitely wise, these rewards will be so glorious, and these punishments so severe, as to give sufficient weight to a law of such high importance.
Thus speaks reason; and, when the word of God is consulted, it is found to speak in the same strain. The reward of the righteous is described there in terms that express an infinite degree of joy, and everlasting glory; and the punishment of the wicked in such, as may terrify them with the horrible prospect of intolerable misery, and endless disgrace.
Experience forbids us, however, to hope or fear any such happiness or misery in this life; and therefore reason and Scripture bid us expect them in another. As to Scripture, it assures us, that God hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness;' and that we shall appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing theretore the terror of the Lord, we,' who are appointed to preach his word, must, by representing that terror in all the dreadful colours divine truth hath given it, endeavour to 'persuade men;' to persuade them, if we can, to place the terror of God's judgments before their eyes, that they may 'fear and tremble before God continually,' and labour to escape those judgments, by attending to that terror; than which nothing, as the world goes, is more likely to reform their lives.
If you will bear me with attention, and bear the subject with patience, I shall endeavour, with the assistance of God's word, to set forth the certainty, the severity, and the eternity, of those punishments God hath threatened unrepented sin with, in such a manner as may prevent your thinking the time ill-spent, or your fears unnecessarily awakened.
As to the certainty, that God will hereafter punish all wickedness and ungodliness of men,' I need not dwell long
on it to a congregation of believers, who are persuaded, that God cannot be wise, just, or powerful, if wickedness, triumphant in this world, and persevered in to the last, shall not be humbled in the next; who know, that we cannot give up this fundamental article of religion, without dethroning the Creator and Governor of the world, and seating either blind fortune, or diabolical malice, in his place.
Hath God employed infinite wisdom and goodness in making the world? and does he employ neither in the government of it? Hath God condescended to form, with such amazing wisdom, not only the plant and the animal, but even the insect, too small to be seen by the naked eye? and hath he no care of what he hath made? Or, is his providence so taken up in directing the course of the seasons, and watching over the minute or inanimate parts of his creation, that there is none left for man, whom he hath made only a little lower than the angels,' and to whom he hath put the world in subjection? Does God 'number our hairs?' and will he not register our actions? Ifa sparrow, in value but half á farthing, cannot fall to the ground without the attention' of this universal Father, shall we wink and forget, when the just man perishes in the paws of oppression and persecution? Can so wise, so gracious a Creator, be so unjust and cruel a Governor? No, no; we might, with more reason, argue against the reality of our own being, than against the certainty of those punishments, which, religion tells us, God will, in a future life, inflict on the wicked. Reason is by no means so much concerned to prove, that we exist, as that God is; and that 'he will render to every man according to his deeds; to them, who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life; but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man that doth evil.' While we believe in this, we do but believe, what reason and common sense requires, that the moral world is governed by wisdom and goodness equal to those that schemed the natural. But we no sooner look on this as an error, than we regard the whole creation as a vast body of contradictions; than we level ourselves with the beast that perisheth, and God with the author of evil. Let the wicked therefore be assured, that neither
God nor reason hath lied to him, when they told him, he should hereafter suffer the just punishment of his wickedness; and let him now hear, with tingling ears, and a trembling heart, the severity of those torments that await his evil deeds, if he do not speedily and deeply repent of them.
In the first place, he will be cut off from God,' and 'shut out from the kingdom of heaven. Then shall he weep, and gnash his teeth,' as our Saviour saith, 'when he sees Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and himself thrust out.' Plotinus, the heathen, says, This alone is sufficient to make a man most miserable. And St. Chrysostom boldly maintains, that to be thus for ever cut off from God, is worse than all the torments of hell. To be finally and irrecoverably separated from God, who is the fountain of all happiness, whose smiles are the light of heaven, and the eternal life of the just, and to be everlastingly banished from the glories of his kingdom, and the blessed society of all that is good, must be considered by those, who have any knowledge or love of God, as inconceivably afflicting. If the old Romans could so highly value the happiness of living in their earthly community, as to make banishment from thence their severest punishment, what must we think of his condition, who, by the decree of infinite wisdom and justice, is forced to turn his back, to all eternity, on God and heaven!
In the second place, the wicked, being thus banished from the presence of God, is not allowed the wretched liberty of ranging through the meanest part of the creation, nor through the blanker regions of boundless space; but is imprisoned with the devil and his angels, in everlasting chains.' He, who made no other use of liberty, but to become licentiously wicked, is to be no longer trusted with it. How will his wild ungovernable pride, and other lawless passions, brook a total restraint, and an endless slavery to the most tyrannical of all beings?
But, in the third place, to increase the misery of his con finement, it will be attended with circumstances of shame and disgrace, beyond the power of imagination to conceive. 'He will be raised up,' as Daniel tells us, ' from his sleep in the dust of the earth, to shame, and everlasting contempt;'
to a shameful exposure of all his abominable crimes, though ever so secretly committed; and to a dreadful condemnation in the sight of angels and men. His whole nature, defaced and foul as it was with sin before, will now become tenfold more deformed, and change its already odious appearance into the horrible aspect and figure of a devil.
And then, in the fourth place, lest so hideous a monster should any longer pollute the light, or disgrace- the other works of God, 'he shall be cast into outer darkness, into the blackness of darkness,' where he must bid farewell for ever, not only to the glorious light of God's countenance, but to every glimpse of material light from the sun, moon, and stars. When he was alive, he loved darkness, he loved the works of darkness;' and now he is to make one endless night of all eternity, which no dawn, no day-spring, shall ever cheer.
In the fifth place, as, during his life, he delighted in no other companions but the wickedest of men, so now he is to have no other in the place of his imprisonment but devils, and men as wicked as devils; for he is cast into the lake with the devil, and the beast, and the false prophet; that is, 'with all the filth and the off-scourings of the moral world.' Here reign the treachery and venom of the old serpent. Here the invidious dispositions, and virulent habits, of each fiend, or fiend-like spirit, shall make him a perfect fagot and fire-brand to all the rest. Here pride, rage, envy, malice, mutual reproach, and mutual revenge, armed with infernal fire, and dragons' stings, will render them the shocking executioners of Almighty vengeance on one another.
In the sixth place, all these frightful circumstances of his misery are to be heightened by guilt and self-reproach, by the bitter after-taste of sin, by the gnawings of that conscious worm that dieth not.' When hell arms all its 'torments against him, this will continually remind him of those enormous crimes for which he suffers; will tell him, that God is just, and force him every moment to repeat the divine sentence against himself. What will it profit him, though the devils should, for a moment, cease to torment him, since he is now a perpetual accuser, tormentor, and devil, to himself?