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are taught to entertain any hopes of a future recovery out of them; or what is still worse, that their souls are hereafter to be annihilated, and become like the beasts that perish. But wo unto such blind leaders of the blind. No wonder if they both fall into the ditch. And let such corrupters of God's word know, that I testify unto every man that heareth me this day, “ That if any one shall add unto, or take away from the words that are written in the book of God, God shall take his part out of the book of life, and shall add unto him all the plagues that are in that book.”
Thirdly and lastly, if the torments reserved for the wicked hereafter are eternal, then this may serve as a reproof for those who quarrel with God, and say it is inconsistent with his justice, to punish a person to all eternity, only for enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season. But such persons must be told, that not their thinking or calling God unjust, will make him so, no more than a condemned prisoner's saying the law or judge is unjust, will render either duly chargeable with such an imputation. But knowest thou, O worm, what blasphemy thou art guilty of, in charging God with injustice ? the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus ?” Wilt thou presume to arraign the Almighty at the bar of thy shallow reasoning? And call him unjust, for punishing thee eternally, only because thou wishest it may not be so? But hath God said it, and shall he not do it? He hath said it: and let God be true, though every man be liar. "Shall not the judge of all earth do right?” Assuredly he will. And if sinners will not own his justice in his threatenings here, they will be compelled ere long to own and feel them, when tormented by him hereafter.
But to come to a more practical application of what has been delivered.
You have heard, brethren, the eternity of hell torments plainly proved, from the express declarations of Holy Scriptures, and the consequences naturally drawn from them. And now there seems to need no great art of rhetoric to persuade any understanding person to avoid and abhor those sins, which, without repentance, will certainly plunge him into this eternal gulf. The disproportion between the pleasure and the pain, (if there be any pleasure in sin) is so infinitely great, that sup posing it was only possible, though not certain, that the wicked would be everlastingly punished, no one that has the reason of a man, for the enjoying a little momentary pleasure, would, one might imagine, run the hazard of enduring eternal pain. But since the torments of the damned are not only possible, but certain, (since God himself, who cannot lie, has told us so) for
men, notwithstanding, to persist in their disobedience, and then flatter themselves, that God will not make good his threatenings, is a most egregious instance of folly and presumption. Dives himself
supposed, that if one rose from the dead, his brethren would amend their lives; but christians, it seems, will not repent, though the Son of God died and rose again, and told them what they must expect, if they continue obstinate in evil doing.
Would we now and then draw off our thoughts from sensible objects, and by faith meditate a while on the miseries of the damned, I doubt not but we should, as it were hear many an unhappy soul venting his fruitless sorrows in some such piteous moans as these.
“O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death!" O foolish mortal that I was, thus to bring myself into these never ceasing tortures, for the transitory enjoyments of a few short lived pleasures, which scarcely afforded me any satisfaction, even when I most indulged myself in them. Alas! are these the wages, these the effects of sin ? Are all the grand deceiver's inviting promises come to this? O damned apostate ! first to delude me with pretended promises of happiness, and after several years drudgery in his service, thus to involve me in eternal wo. O that I had never hearkened to his beguiling insinuations! O that I had rejected his very first suggestions with the utmost detestation and abhorrence! O that I had taken up my cross and followed Christ ! O that I had never ridiculed serious godliness; and out of a false politeness, condemned the truly pious as too severe, enthusiastic, or superstitious ! For I then had been happy indeed, happy beyond expression, happy to all eternity, yonder in those blessed regions where they sit, clothed with unspeakable glory, and chanting forth their seraphic hallelujahs to the Lamb that sitteth upon the throne for ever. But alas ! these reflections come to late: these wishes now are vain and fruitless. I have not suffered, and therefore must not reign with them. I have in effect denied the Lord that bought me, and therefore justly am I now denied by him. But must I live for ever tormented in these flames ? Must this body of mine, which not long since lay in state, was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day, must it be here eternally confined, and made the mockery of insulting devils ? O eternity! that thought fills me with despair : I must be miserable for ever.
Come then, all ye self-deluding, self-deluded sinners, and imagine yourselves for once in the place of that truly wretched man, I have been here describing. Think, I beseech you by
the mercies of God in Christ Jesus, think with yourselves, how racking, how insupportable the never dying worm of a selfcondemning conscience will hereafter be to you. Think how impossible it will be for you " to dwell with everlasting burnings."
Come, all ye christians of a lukewarm Laodicean spirit, ye Gallios in religion, who care a little, but not enough for the things of God; think, think with yourselves, how deplorable it will be to lose the enjoyments of heaven, and run into endless torments, merely because you will be content to be almost, and will not strive to be altogether christians. Consider, I beseech you, consider, how you will rave and curse that fatal stupidity which made you believe any thing less than true faith in Jesus, productive of a life of strict piety, self-denial, and mortification, can keep you from those torments, the eternity of which I have been endeavoring to prove.
But I can no more. These thoughts are too melancholy for me to dwell on, as well as for you to hear; and God knows, as punishing is his strange work, so denouncing his threatenings is mine; but if the bare mentioning the torments of the damned is so shocking, how terrible must the enduring of them be!
And now are not some of you ready to cry out, “ These are hard sayings, who can bear them ?"
But let not sincere christians be in the least terrified at what has been delivered : no, for you is reserved a crown, a kingdom, an eternal and exceeding weight of glory. Christ never said that the righteous, the believing, the upright, the sincere, but the wicked, merciless, negatively good professors before described, shall go into everlasting punishment. For you who love him in sincerity, a new and living way is laid open into the holy of holies by the blood of Jesus Christ: and an abundant entrance will be administered unto you, at the great day of account into eternal life. Take heed, therefore, and beware that there be not in any of you a root of bitterness springing up of unbelief : but on the contrary, steadfastly and heartily rely on the many precious promises reached out to you in the gospel
, knowing that he who hath promised is faithful, and therefore will perform.
But let no obstinately wicked professors dare to apply any of the divine promises to themselves : " for it is not meet to take the children's bread, and give it unto dogs ?" No, to such the terrors of the Lord only belong. And as certainly as Christ will say to his true followers “Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world;" so he will unalterably pronounce this dread
ful sentence against all that die in their sins, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
From which unhappy state, may God of his infinite mercy deliver us all through Jesus Christ; to whom, with thee ó Father, and thee O Holy Ghost, three persons and one eternal God, be ascribed, as is most due, all honor, power, might, majesty, and dominion, now and for evermore.
THE GREAT DUTY OF FAMILY RELIGION.
JOSHUA XXIV. 15.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
THESE words contain the holy resolution of pious Joshua, who having, in a most moving affectionate discourse recounted to the Israelites what great things God had done for them, in the verse immediately preceding the text, comes to draw a proper inference from what he had been delivering; and acquaints them, in the most pressing terms, that since God had been so exceeding gracious unto them, they could do no less, than out of gratitude for such uncommon favors and mercies, dedicate both themselves and families to his service. “Now, therefore, fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood.” And by the same engaging motive does the prophet Samuel afterwards enforce their obedience to the commandments of God, 1 Sam. xii. 24.“ Only fear the Lord and serve him in truth with all your heart ; for consider how great things he hath done for you.” But then, that they might not excuse themselves (as too many might be apt to do) by his giving them a bad example, or think he was laying heavy burdens upon them, whilst he himself touched them not with one of his fingers, he tells them in the text, that whatever regard they might pay to the doctrine he had been preaching, yet he (as all ministers ought to do) was resolved to live up to and practice it himself: "Choose you therefore whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”
A resolution this, worthy of Joshua, and no less becoming, no less necessary for every true son of Joshua, that is intrusted with the care and government of a family in our day; and, if it was ever seasonable for ministers to preach up, or people to put in practice family religion, it was never more so than in the present age; since it is greatly to be feared, that out of those many households that call themselves christians, there are but few that serve God in their respective families as they ought.
It is true indeed, visit our churches and you may perhaps see something of the form of godliness still subsisting among us; but even that is scarcely to be met with in private houses.
So that were the blessed angels to come, as in the patriarchal age, and observe our spiritual economy at home, would they not be tempted to say, as Abraham to Abimelech, “Surely the fear of God is not in this place?" Gen. xx. 11.
How such a general neglect of family religion first began to overspread the christian world, is difficult to determine. As for the primitive christians, I am positive it was not so with them. No, they had not so learned Christ, as falsely to imagine religion was to be confined solely to their assemblies for public worship; but, on the contrary, behaved with such piety and exemplary holiness in their private families, that St. Paul often styles their house a church. Salute such a one, says he, and the church which is in his house. And I believe we must for ever despair of seeing a primitive spirit of piety revived in the world, till we are so happy as to see a revival of primitive family religion ; and persons unanimously resolving with good old Joshua, in the words of the text, As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
From which words, I shall beg leave to insist on these three things.
First, That it is the duty of every governor of a family to take care, that not only he himself, but also that those committed to his charge, serve the Lord.
Secondly, I shall endeavor to show after what manner a governor and his household ought to serve the Lord. And,
Thirdly, I shall offer some motives, in order to excite all governors, with their respective households, to serve the Lord in the manner that shall be recommended.
And first, I am to show that it is the duty of every governor of a family to take care, that not only he himself, but also that those committed to his charge, should serve the Lord.
And this will appear, if we consider that every governor of a family ought to look upon himself as obliged to act in three capacities; as a prophet, to instruct; as a priest, to pray for and with ; as a king, to govern, direct, and provide for them.