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hell to the souls of others ? * No, that furnace always burns with its proper flames, there is not a spark of that divine fire there : but remembering how guilty he had been of their sins, feared that his torments would be increased by their coming thither. Society in endless sorrows does not divide, but reflect them.
Now if damnation for sin be such a misery as is expressed in the scripture by the most violent figures, and words of the heaviest signification; if all the possible tortures suffered here are but a lenitive to the preparations of wrath in hell; how miserable shall those be, who, as if a single damnation were a light matter, do not only commit sin in their own persons, but are in combination with satan to corrupt and destroy others, and multiply damnation against themselves ? These “treasure up wrath against the day of wrath.”
Briefly; The whole process of that day, the arraignment and sentence will be so ordered, the righteousness and reasonableness of the proceedings will be so manifest, as to clear the Judge, and confound the guilty. “God will be justified in his sentence, and overcome when he judgeth.”
* Non orat pro fratrum salute qua non tangitur reprobus, sed pro se ipsius tormenta ex consortio fratrum augeantur, Brugen.
An excitation to confirm our faith of the eternal jodgment. Reason sees the
necessity of a future judgment. Divine revelation expressly declares it. Considerations requisite to make faith effectual. The belief of a future judgment clears the honour of God's governing the world, from the imputation of unrighteousness, with respect to the prosperity of the wicked, and the sufferings of the saints. It is a powerful support to the saints in tbeir persecutions. The belief of this is effectual to restrain from secret sins. It is a powerful remedy against the pernicious pleasures of sio. The consideration that the Son of God clothed with our nature shall judge the world, affords great consolation to his people, and is a motive of great terror to the wicked.
11. I Now come to the application of this great doctrine.
1. Let us from what has been discoursed of judgment to come, be excited to confirm our faith in this great and useful doctrine; and by serious and frequent thoughts to apply it to ourselves. Some within the church have only a superficial belief of this, as a point of the religion wherein they were educated; but carnal affections, fear, hope, love, and desire, control their assent as to its operation upon them. They believe in the general that God is the Judge and rewarder of our actions, and in the absence of temptation resolve to obey him: but when a strong trial comes from some temporal good or evil that is present, their faith is negligent and inactive to keep them from sin. Now to make our faith powerful, we must,
(1.) Confirm it by convincing arguments, that it may be an undoubted assurance, a certain light, directive and persuasive in the course of our lives. Some doctrines of religion that are of an incomprehensible nature, and should be received with silent adoration for the authority of the revealer, are obstinately contradicted by some, upon a vain pretence that nothing is to be believed that will not endure the rigorous inquisition of reason, and be comprehended by our narrow minds: but reason, though darkened, sees the necessity of a future judgment. Nature and scripture testify there is a God, and that he has a right, and power, and will to distribute the rewards of virtue, and the penalties of vice to his subjects. To deny this, is directly against the implanted notion of the Deity in the heart of man. There is a real difference between moral good and evil, not depending upon opinion, but arising from the immutable nature of things, and the eternal law of God. Otherwise considered in itself, it were no more faulty to murder a parent, than to kill a Ay; nor to rob a traveller, than to chase a deer. But the conscience of the most profligate wretch would startle at such an assertion. The disposition and admirable order of the world in its various parts, and the vicissitude of seasons, declare to the observing mind, that a most wise, good and powerful God governs and preserves all things by his vigorous influence. And can it be that the divine providence, so visibly wise and good in regulating the course of nature, should be defective towards man, the most noble part of the world? And can it be extended to human affairs, if there be no other than the present state, wherein the righteous are afflicted, and the wicked prosper? where sins of the deepest stain and the loudest cry are unpunished; and the sublime and truly heroic virtues are unrewarded ? nay, where vice receives the natural reward of virtue, honour and felicity; and virtue the just wages of vice, disgrace and sufferings? It is necessary therefore that there be a future state, and a righteous distribution of rewards, according to the good and evil of men's actions here.
The heathens disguised this terrible truth under the fictions of the infernal judges, Minos, and Rhadamanthus, and Eacus. And the furies and vultures, and fiery lake, which they thought tormented the wicked in the next world, * discover what apprehensions they had of the desert of sin, and the punishment that certainly attended it. The guilty would fain be freed from the terrors of it, and strangle conscience, that is bound over to give testimony in the day of judgment, that they may sin without scruples. But though fear be a troublesome and involuntary passion, they cannot totally extinguish the internal sense and presages of future judgment : but as the motions of courage came upon Samson at times; .so conscience awakened by sharp afflictions, by sudden dangers, and the approaches of death, makes a sad deduction of past sins, and forecasts cruel things : it cites the offender before the enlightened tribunal of heaven, scourges with remorse, and makes him feel even here the strokes of hell. Though the sin be secret, and the guilty person powerful, not within the cognizance or reach of human justice, yet conscience has a rack within, and causes pain and anxiety, by fearful expectations of judgment to come.
* Testimonium animæ naturaliter Christianæ. Tert.
And divine revelation is most express in declaring this great truth. The light of faith is more clear and certain from the infallible word of God, than the light of reason. Before the flood, Enoch in the early age of the world foretold it; “Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all.” Jude 14, 15. Solomon under the law repeats this doctrine, that “every secret thing shall be brought into judgment, whether good or evil.” Eccl. 12. And God himself speaks in the sublimest style of majesty, and swears by himself, for our firmer belief, “As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue confess to God,” Isa. 45. 2, 3. the glory of his justice. From whence the apostle infers, “So then every one of us shall give an account to God for himself.” Rom. 14. 10, 11. In the gospel we have distinctly described the person of the Judge, the glorious attendants of his coming, and the manner of his proceedings in that day, Mat. 13. 42, 43. & 24. 30, 31. Now the many predictions in scripture, so visibly accomplished in the person of Jesus Christ, and by him, give infallible assurance, that all his promises and threatenings are equally certain, and shall be fulfilled. * As sure as our Saviour is come in his humble state, and has accomplished the prophecies of his sufferings, he will come in his glory to judge the world.
(2.) That the belief of eternal judgment may be powerful in our hearts and lives, it must be actuated by frequent and serious thoughts. Faith gives life and efficacy to our notions of eternal things, and consideration makes our faith effectual. As the natural life is preserved by the activity of the vital principles, the circulation of the blood, the drawing of the breath, the motion of the pulse ; so the spiritual life is maintained by the exercise of grace.
The carnal affections dare not appear before reason and conscience, when awakened by the serious believing consideration of eternal judgment. The evangelists relate, that when our Saviour was asleep in the ship, a sudden tempest arose that was likely to over-set it in the sea : but awakened by the cry of his disciples, “Lord, save us, we perish; he presently rebuked the wind, and a calm ensued.” Thus whilst the habit of faith is asleep in the soul, there will be great danger from the concurrent violence of temptations and corruptions; but when it is awakened by lively and powerful thoughts, it does miracles in subduing the strongest lusts. It is monstrous and beyond all belief, did not sensible experience make it evident, that notwithstanding the minds of men are convinced of the certainty of the divine judgment, and the recompences that immediately follow, yet their wills remain unconverted, and their affections cold and inactive in their preparations for it: that such numbers who have so much christianity as to believe that an irrevocable doom will pass upon the wicked, and so little christianity, that they cannot justly hope to escape from it, yet are so carelesss of their duty, nay joyful in their sinful courses, as if judgment were a dreadless thing. What is the cause of this prodigious security? It is the neglect of considering that “we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, to receive according to the things done in the body, whether good or evil.”
* An vere extribuit nobis omnia quæ promisit, & de solo die judicii nos fefellit? Aug.
The next cause of this stupidity is, that they put “the evil day" at a remote distance: as the scorners said, “ The vision is for many days:" they study to be secure, and delay their preparations, presuming to have time enough before them. Their senses and faculties are so employed abroad in the world,
that they have neither leisure nor desire to think seriously of it. Their hearts are so ravished with dreams of sensuality, and engaged in terrene affairs, that they are very averse from exercising their minds upon such displeasing objects.
Vain men! how willingly do they deceive themselves ? The Judge himself declares, “Behold, I come quickly : his throne is like a fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire ;” an emblem of his swift coming to judgment. Can they be assured of life one hour? The day of death is equivalent to the day of judgment: for immediately after there is a final decision of men's states for ever.
I have read of an excellent preacher, that in a sermon described the last judgment in all its terrors, with such ardent expres