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mixed with brimstone, is very painful to sense; and the fancy strongly represents its vehemence in tormenting the body: and what misery the incessant 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 to peace of conscience in his favour. 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 as that are before the throne of God, and serve him in his tem-, ple,” 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.” There 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 colours 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 torments of hell, than the joys of heaven. For we cannot love but what is known, nor enjoy but what is loved. And as the purification of the heart from vicious affections, 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 of spiritual happiness, and are allured or terrified only 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
* Si frigido loquar, Descit quod loquor. Aug. + Identidem dictitans, qualis artifex pereo! Suet,
excellent artist he died! It was not the loss of the Roman empire that so much troubled him, as that so niuch skill in music died with him. He valued himself more as a fidler, than an emperor. Thus carnal men with a folly infinitely more prodigious, when death is near, are not so much affected 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 nor desired. A seraphim 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 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 sense what it is to burn for ever, it were the most congruous and effectual means to reclaim them : like stubborn metals, they are only made pliant by the fire. From what has been said, we may observe the heavenly harmony between mercy and justice in God; he is the Father of mercy, it is his natural offspring, his primary inclination to the creature; and the threatening of vengeance against sinners, is a gracious design to constrain them with humility and repenting affections to seek his favour. Briefly, his severity and flaming displeasure never destroys sinners, but to revenge the abuse of his neglected benignity and clemency.
2. This shows the woful depravation of the minds and wills of men, that choose sin, when thinly painted over with pleasure, notwithstanding the most dreadful and durable torments, the certain consequences of it. Desperate folly! either they believe, or do not, the eternal torment of hell. If they do not, how prodigious is their impiety? If they do, it is more prodigious they dare indulge their vicious affections. A wicked believer is more monstrous and guilty than a wicked infidel.
In some there is atheism full of folly, or folly full of atheism, that they will not believe the prepared plagues for the wicked in the next state, because they have no sensible proof of them. Reason, assisted by divine revelation, affords so clear an evidence of the future state, and the rewards and punishments in it, that if any sincerely apply themselves to consider things, he will receive the most affective conviction of them. It is true, there is not sensible evidence; for God will try our faith before he satisfies our sight : partly, that we may honour his veracity, by yielding a firm assent to his word, before the actual accomplishment of what is promised or threatened ; and partly, that our obedience may be voluntary and unconstrained, that his goodness may take its rise to reward us. But these presumptuous infidels live as if they had no spirit, nothing of understanding in them : they are wholly under the dominion of sense, as if they were free and lawless, independent and unaccountable ; as if the most high Governor of the world were an inferior being, without power and justice to vindicate the honour of his despised Deity. They do not fear hell, but are afraid they should be fearful of it. This is such a piece of folly (but infinitely more woful) as that of the West-Indians, who at their first invasion by the Spaniards, were so terrified by their glittering swords, that they presently fled, and very considerately resolved to hide themselves in the day, and assault their enemies in the night. They were fearful to see their danger, and rash to encounter it, and fighting in the dark were killed in the dark. The threatenings of eternal death are the brandishing “of God's glittering sword” before he strikes ; and sensual infidels are afraid lest the belief of those terrible truths should pierce into their breasts; therefore are utterly averse from due considering their danger, and will not foresee what they shall certainly suffer. It is in vain to offer arguments to convince them; for they are as deaf as adders to the wisest instructions, till sense extort an acknowledgment from them. They have hardened their hearts and faces against all reproofs, and by an open contempt of scripture-threatenings, are past reclaiming. They are now fearless of that judgment, the thoughts whereof make the devils tremble: but the time will shortly come, when the word of the righteous God, which now they despise, shall irresistibly and immediately, like lightning shot from heaven, destroy them. There are many degrees of sin, many steps in the descent to hell; but the lowest and nearest the gate of that infernal prison, is the scornful derision of God's dreadful preparations for the wicked.
Others in the christian church who profess and presume they are true believers, yet by living indulgently in their pleasant or profitable sins, discover their faith is counterfeit, or such a superficial assent to the truth of God's word that is without efficacy, and will not avail them at the last. Unfeigned faith of the divine threatenings, produces such a fear as would make men circumspect over their hearts and ways. The fear of a present destructive evil controls the most eager appetites. It is recorded, that when the army of Israel was in pursuit of the Philistines, Saul, to complete his victory, forbad, upon pain of death, that any should taste food till the sun was down. In the chase of their enemies they pass through a wood dropping with honey; yet notwithstanding their hunger and faintness, and the easy provisions before them, no man so much as tasted it : “ for the people feared the king's oath.” And did men truly believe and fear the law of God, threatening hell for sin, would they dare to commit it, though invited by the pleasant temptations? Nay, not only a strong fear, but the mere suspicion of great danger, will restrain the most vehement desires of nature. What person, though inflamed with thirst, would drink a glass of cool liquor, if he suspected that deadly poison were mixed with it? And if men were persuaded that sin is attended with eternal death, would “they drink in iniquity like water ?” The devils themselves are not able to conquer the fear of judgment to come, they believe and tremble: therefore when it is not active upon the conscience, it is either because men do not believe it, or they fancy that retaining their beloved lusts, they may obtain an easy absolution, and escape the damnation of hell, which the eternal Judge has declared shall be the punishment of all that will not cut off the right hand, and pluck out the right eye, separate their dearest corruptions from them. Astonishing perverseness! How many will not discern nor censure that folly in themselves, which they will condemn in others for extreme madness? If one riotously lavishes away his estate, and for the short pleasure of a few years, be reduced with the prodigal to extreme poverty, and to loathsome imprisonment all his life after, would he not be esteemed to have been besides 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 for ever. 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 motives, that to a rectified mind will make sin eligible. Let the scales be even, and put into one all the delights of the senses, all the pleasures and honours of the world, that are the elements 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 for ever? If there were any possible comparison between deluding transient vanities, and the happiness that is substantial and satisfying for ever, the choice would be more difficult, and the mistake less culpable; but they vanish into nothing in the comparison. According to the judgment 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 for ever? Try but the finger with the flames 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 pleasures of the senses : and if actual enjoyment 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 men would strip sin of its disguises, and wash off its flattering colours, 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 undying worm, 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 ex