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felicity that is promised to it. Men prefer carnal sweets before communion with God; and though not ignorant of the issue, continue in their sins. Deut. 32. 6. And it is the exactness of justice, to deprive sinners of that blessedness which they obstinately refused, and to bring on them the misery they perversely choose. And when at the last day the Son of God shall charge upon sinners their neglect of his compassionate and repeated calls, that he often knocked at the door to get an entrance into their hearts, but all in vain, the world was there, and barred it against him. The guilty graceless souls will be struck with a defenceless silence, not able to make a request for pardon, but with despairing tears must submit to their righteous condemnation. The equity of God's ways, and the iniquity of men's will, at the last be clear to every eye. Then all the blessings they received will rise up in judgment against them, as proofs of their wickedness, that makes them more guilty, and deservedly miserable. Then conscience, that is now stupified by sensuality, will make furious reflections upon the folly of their choice, and be more tormenting than the infernal fiends. When Croesus, the rich king of Lydia, was bound to the stake, and the fire kindled for his burning, he lamentably cried out, “Solon, Solon, Solon;" and being asked the reason of it, declared, that in the height of his prosperity, that wise Grecian had advised him to prepare for a revolution from his glory and greatness into a miserable state, and his neglect of that counsel was more tormenting than the loss of his kingdom. How piercing will the remembrance be to lost souls of their despising the instructions, warnings, and gracious methods of the divine wisdom, to have prevented their ruin ? that mercy was so often and so rebelliously resisted? This will be the hell of hell.
2. The certainty of their destruction is next to be considered. It is unchangeably established by the divine ordination, that the pleasures of sin shall end in the misery of obstinate sinners. This is declared in the word of God," If ye live according to the flesh, ye shall die:” Rom. 11. and as it is founded in distributive justice, so it shall be exécuted from his truth, Our Saviour tells us, “ Heaven and earth shall pass away, but one jot or tittle of the law shall not be unfulfilled.” Mat. 5, All the threatenings of it, in their fearful extent, shall be accomplished upon impenitent sinners, the proper objects of vengeance. God “can
not deny himself” in ceasing to be holy and true, and his power seconds his word, to inflict the full effects of it upon the guilty and impenitent; for a time they are spared, that they might repent: for mercy is not only over all the works of God, but paramount to all his attributes, it suspends his power from acts of vengeance, it delays and mitigates his justice: we may appeal from justice to mercy in the court of heaven : but when God's mercy has been affronted and exasperated, by the continual abuse of his benefits, when it is renounced and forfeited by sinners, their destruction is irreversible : for it is mercy alone atones his righteous anger ; and this being so fearfully provoked, there is no advocate in his bosom to plead for them. Did he not expel from heaven the rebellious angels, spirits of a higher order, and more excellent endowments than men, and in their number perhaps exceeding the whole progeny of man? Now as the apostle, considering that the Israelites, the chosen people of God, and dear to him above all others; yet when they became unfruitful, were broken off from the true “Olive tree," and the wild Gentiles were grafted into it, leaves this caution in eternal memory, “ Be not high-minded, but fear. For if he spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he spare not thee.” Rom. 11. 20, 21, We may strongly infer, if God “spared not the angels that sinned, in their first act of disobedience, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment,” certainly he will not spare sinful men that hate to be reformed, and continue in the voluptuous course of sin to the last. The secure and foolish sinners, that now make a mock of sin, and have so far lost their innocence and ingenuity, that shame and request for their foul actions is counted a vicious infirmity, a degenerous humour, they shall understand in what degree sin is hateful to the holy God. They who now sleep out all the denunciations of the law, will find at last, “they have to do" with a terrible inexorable God: “Because I have called, and ye refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would have none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear comes: when your fear comes as desolation, and your destruction comes as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish come upon you.' Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but shall not find
For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” Prov. 1. 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29. This dreadful threatening is pointed against foolish sinners who abuse prosperity: when those who shut their eyes against danger, shall be constrained to open them, and see the fearful face of death attended with judgment, and judgment with an eternal hell : when diseases in the body, and anguish in the soul, shall assail them at once, like two clouds that by collision break forth in thunder, and they mournfully cry for mercy, their prayers will be rejected with scorn, and their ruin be remediless.
The carnal conceit, that God will graciously receive sinners when the world has left them; that when by calamitous constraint they are at last brought to confess their wickedness, and are only sorrowful for the evil consequences of it, the conceit that they shall find mercy, is atheism of as blasphemous a nature as the denial of a God : for to ascribe such a mercy to God, as is inconsistent with his wisdom, holiness, justice, and truth, is to deprive him of his purest perfections, and in effect to ungod him.
In the rebellions of their lives, they expressed open enmity against God; and their devotion at their death, is secret flattery in his account. For thus it is said by the psalmist of such sin
“When he slew them, then they sought him : and they returned and inquired early after God. Nevertheless, they did flatter him with their mouth, and lied to him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with him, and they were not steadfast in his covenant." Psal. 78. 34, 36, 37.
It is true, God is rich in mercy, and most willing to pardon returning sinners, when their contrition is sincere ; when they are truly sorrowful, that sin has made them unholy as well as unhappy, that they have abused the mercies of God, our gracious Creator and preserver, compassionate Redeemer, and blessed comforter, as well as provoked his anger : and when the resolutions of amendment are so deeply rooted, as would prove effectual if they should be tried by lengthening of their time in this world. But those who defer their repenting whilst God defers punishing, and like the unjust steward, never think of making provision for their souls, till they are cited to give an account of their unrighteous and ungrateful abuse of his blessings : those who renounca their sins when unable to commit them, and resolve to live well when they can live no longer, have great reason
to suspect their own hearts, and to be fearful of their future state. If a minister be called to assist such in their dying hours, there is infinite reason he should be cautious of assuring them of pardon and salvation, lest natural sorrow be mistaken for godly sorrow, and the repentance declared by them, would be retracted upon new temptations : it is safe to imitate a * discreet physician, that is unwilling to declare what he fears will be the issue of the disease, but modestly insinuates the danger to those that are about the sick person : the good God can do all things, he can revive the almost spent and expiring, O pray for him. It is advice given by a skilful herbalist, that particular care is necessary in planting the seed of the Carduus, for if they are not set upright, they degenerate and produce a wild herb. 'The gospel is compared to seed, and if the conditional promises of pardon and salvation are not received in the heart aright, if the comfort of them be not applied according to the qualifications that are requisite to give us an interest in them, they produce a vain presumption, a false hope, a delusive peace, instead of an unfeigned faith, a purifying hope, a solid peace. God declares it with the most sacred solemnity, “As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked;" Ezek. 33. 11. if the carnal heart (like the devil who abused scripture, by leaving out part of it) shall not consider what follows, “but that the wicked turn from his way and live,” but shall harden and fortify itself in sin, with hopes of impunity, God will rejoice in their just destruction. He tells us that a converted sinner shall be forgiven; but that conversion must be uniform and lasting; “ If the wicked turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live and not die." Ezek. 18. 21. He has promised to “be found of those that seek him :" but we are commanded " to seek the Lord whilst he may be found ;” implying, it is not in our power when we please to find him with his pardoning mercy and assisting grace. To apply the word of God against the mind of God, is injurious to his honour, and pernicious to deluded souls.
* Stat anceps medicus, non videt bonum quod promittat; timet malum pronunciare ne terreat: modestam tamen istam concipit sententiam, deus bobus omnia potest, orate pro illo, Aug.
3. The heaviness of destruction will be according to the aggravation of their sin, who abuse prosperity.
(1.) It is a sin most contrary to the acknowledged duty of man, and unbecoming the reasonable nature. It is an universal concession that springs from the purest light of reason, that we “should return good for good :” Mat. 5. 46. the heathens agreed in it. To be defective in observance, and thankful respects to a benefactor is unnatural, but to requite evil for good, is so direct a violation of the ingenuous principles of humanity, that one is prodigiously wicked in doing it: he ceases to be a man, and becomes a devil. Now this black guilt cleaves to those who abuse prosperity. The blessings of God are strong and sweet obligations to love him, yet , their perverse hearts are thereby alienated from him : his mercies engage and enable them to serve and glorify him, but are used to gratify their lusts, and to make them more capable and presumptuous to offend him. Prosperity makes them luxurious and secure; riches make them sin at a higher rate; the patient providence of God, that waits for their repentance (such is their desperate corruption) fortifies them in their rebellion against him. This was the reason of that stinging reproach of Moses to Israel, “ Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise?" Deut. 32.
(2.) The abuse of prosperity is most injurious and provoking to God. To sin against his law, is an high affront to his majesty; but to sin against his love and benefits is more contumelious to him. The apostle calls it, a “despising of God's goodness :” Rom. 2. what is more contumelious, than to employ his benefits for the pleasing our “ dishonourable vile affections ?” As the gift of a friend is slighted that is put to a base use ; or as one that will not be reconciled by the presents of a friend, despises his gifts : thus when the favours of God do not melt the heart into kindly resentments, and endear him to us, they are despised.
If a favourite, that were raised by a prince to the highest honour and trust, should betray his magazines, both arms and treasures to his enemy, could there be a fouler wickedness ? and of this heinous nature is their wickedness, who abuse the mercies of God in the service of sin, and implicitly betray them into the devil's hands, who maliciously wars against God. What a contumelious indignity heightened with the basest ingratitude was