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And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be brought down to hell. I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.”
It is here declared, what the state of those obstinate unbelievers should be at the day of judgment, for their wickedness here in the body, with an asseveration, I say unto you. And sentence indeed is passed beforehand upon them by their Judge, concerning the punishment that shall be executed upon them at the day of judgment. The declaration is made in the form of a solemn denunciation or sentence: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida, &c. And is it reasonable to suppose, that the very Judge that is to judge them at the end of the world, would peremptorily declare, that they should not escape punishment at the day of judgment; yea, solemnly denounce sentence upon them, dooming them to the distinguished punishment they should then suffer for their obstinacy in their lifetime; and yet appoint another time of trial, of a great many hundred years between their death and the day of judgment, wherein they should have opportunity to escape that punishment ?
$7. It is here also to be observed, that the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah should be condemned to misery at the day of judgment, though they had already been in their purifying flames, and in a state of probation. The apostle (Rom. ii. 16.) repeatedly tells us, when these things shall be, that men shall thus receive their retribution ; " In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men according to my gospel :" which shews that this life is the only state of trial, and that all men shall be judged at the end of the world according to their behaviour in this life, and not according to their bebaviour in another state of trial, between this life and that day. So it is apparent, by 2 Thess. i. 5—9. " Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God-seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you. When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of Jesus Christ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction,” &c. Here it is manifest, that all who are obstinate unbelievers, rejectors of the gospel, shall at the day of judgment, be punished with everlasting destruction. So that no room is left for a state of trial, and a space 10 repent before that time for ages in hell. So it is apparent, Matt. xxv. that none will be found at the right hand, but they that have done such good works, as can be done only in this world; which would not be declared beforeband, if there was
an opportunity given for millions of otbers to obtain that privilege.
& 8. It may be proved, that the day of man's trial, and the time of God's striving in the use of means to bring him to repentance, and waiting for his repentance under the use of means, will not be continued after this life, from those words, Gen. vi. 6. “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh; yet bis days shall be one hundred and twenty years." It is as much as to say, that it is not fit that this day of trial and opportunity should last always to obstinate, perverse sinners. It is fit some bounds should be set to my striving and waiting on such as abuse the day of my patience ; and that merciful means and gracious calls should not be continued, without limits, to them that trample all means and mercies under foot, and turn a deaf ear to all calls and invitations, and treat them with constant contempt. Therefore I will fix a certain limit; I will set their bounds to one bundred and twenty years ; when, if they repent not, I will put an end to all their lives, and with their lives shall be an end of my striving and waiting. This, which in Genesis is called God's spirit striving, is by the apostle Peter expressed by the waiting of the long-suffering of God; 1 Pet. iii. 20. Bul, according to the doctrine we are opposing, instead of God's striving and using means to bring those wicked men 10 repentance, and waiting in the use of striving and endeavours one hundred and twenty years, or to the end of their lives, and no longer ; he has gone on still since that, for above four thousand years, striving with them in the use of more powerful means to bring them to repentance, and waiting on them, and will continue to do so for so long a time afterwards, that the time is often called everlasting, and represented as enduring for ever and ever.
$ 9. Those words of Christ, “I must work the works of him that sent me wbile it is day, the night cometh wherein no man can work,” (John ix. 4.) prove that there is no other day of trial after this life. Christ having undertaken for us, and taken on him our nature, and appearing in the form of a servant, and standing as our surety and representative, had a great work appointed him of God to do in this life for eternity. He could not obtain eternal life and bappiness for himself any other way, than by doing that work in this life, which was the time of his probation for eternity, as well as ours. And therefore his words imply as much as if he bad said, I must do that work which God has appointed me to do for eternity, that great service which must be done, as I would be eternally happy, now while the day of life lasts, which is The only day appointed for the trial, of man's faithfulness
in the service of God, in order to his being accepted to eternal rewards. Death is coming, which will be the setting of the sun, and the end of this day; after which no work will remain, nothing to be done that will be of any significance in order to the obtaining of the recompence of eternal felicity.
§ 10. And doubtless to the same purpose is that in Eccles. ix. 10. 6 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might: For there is no work, (or no man can work,) nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. As much as to say, after this life, nothing can be done, nothing invented or devised in order to your happiness; no wisdom of art will serve you to any such purpose, if you neglect the time of the present life. It is unreasonable to suppose the wise man means only that we should in this life do all that we can in temporal concerns, and to promote our temporal interest, and that nothing can be done towards this after this life: not only as this would be an observation of very little importance, it being as flat and impertinent as if he had said, Whatever your hand finds to do this year, do it with your might; for nothing that you do or devise the next year, will signify any thing to promote your interest and happiness this year; but also because the wise man himself, in the conclusion of this book, informs us, that his drift through the whole book is, to induce us to do a spiritual work; to fear God and keep his commandments, in order, not to happiness in this life, (which he tells us throughout the book is never to be expected,) but in order to a future happiness and retribution in consequence of a judgment to come; chap. xii. 13, 14. “ Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God, and keep his commandments. For this is the whole duty (i.e. the whole business, the whole concern) of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”
11. Įf the wicked in hell are in a state of trial, under severe chastisement, as means in order to their repentance and obtaining the benefit of God's favour in eternal rewards, then they are in a state of such freedom as makes them moral agents, and the proper subjects of judgment and retribution. I'hen those terrible chastisements are made use of as the most powerful means of all, more efficacious than all the means used in this life which prove ineffectual, and which proving insufficient to overcome sinners' obstinacy, and prevail with their hard hearts, God is compelled to relinquish them all, and have recourse to those torments as the last means, the most effectual and powerful. If the torments of hell are to last ages of ages, then it must be because sinners in .bell all
this while are obstinate ; and though they are free agents as to this matter, yet they wiltully and perversely refuse, even under such great means, to repint, forsake their sins, and tumn to God. It must be farther supposed, that all this while they have the off rs of immediate mercy and deliverance made to them, if they will comply. Now, if this be the case, and they shall go on in such wickedness, and continue in such extreme obstimacy and pertinaciousness, for so many ages, (as is sup: posed, by its being thought their torments shall be so long continued,) how desperately will their guilt be increased ? How many thousand times more guilty at the end of the term, than at the beginning? And therefore they will be much the more proper objects of divine severity, deserving God's wrath, and sull a thousand times more severe or longer continued chastisements than the past; and therefore it is not reasonable to suppose, that all the damned should be delivered from misery, and received to God's favour, and made the subjects of elernal salvation and glory at that time, when they are many thousand times more unworthy of it, more deserving of continuance in misery, than when they were first cast into hell. It is not likely that the infinitely wise God should so order the matter. And if their misery should be augmented, and still lengthened out much longer, to atone for their new contracted guilt; they must be supposed to continue impenitent, till that second additional time of torment is ended; at the end of which their guilt will still be risen higher, and vastly increased beyond what it was before. And, at this rate, where can there be any place for an end of their misery?
$ 12. It farther appears from what was observed above, that the sinner continuing obstinate in wickedness under such powerful means to reclaim him, for so long a time, will be so far from being more and more purg d, or brought nearer to repentance, that he will be farther from it. Wickedness in his heart will be vastly established and increased. 'For, it may be laid down as an axiom, that the longer men continue wilfully in wickedness, the more is the habit of sin established, and the more and more will the heart be hardened in it. Again it mụy be laid down as another axiom, that the greater and more powerful the means are, that are used to bring men to reform and repent, which they resist, and are obstinate under, the more desperately are men hardened in sin, and the more the principle of it in ihe heart is confirmed. It may be laid down as a third axiom, that long continuance in perverse and obstinate rebellion against any particular kind of means, tends to render those particular means vain, įneffectual, and hopeless.
After the damned in hell have stood it out with such prodigious perverseness and stoutness, for ages of ages, in their rebellion and enmity against God, refusing to bow to his will under such constant, severe, mighty chastisements, attended all the while with offers of mercy, what a desperate degree of hardness of heart and fixed strength of babitual wickedness will they have contracted at last, and inconceivably farther will they be from a penitent, humble, and pure beart, than when first cast into hell! And if the torments should be lengthened out still longer, and also their impenitence, (as by the supposition one will not end before the other does;) still the farther will the beart be from being purified. And so, at this rate, the torrents will never at all answer their end, and must be lengthened out to all eternity.
§ 13. Mat. v. 25, 26. Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with bim; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily, I say unto thee, thou shalt not come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing." These words imply, that sinners are in the way with their adversary, having opportunity to be reconciled to him but for a short season, inasmuch as it is intimated, that they must agree with him quickly, or they shall cease to be in the way with him, or to have opportunity to obtain his favour any more. But, if they shall be con tinued in a state of probation after death to the end of the world, and after that for ages, how far, bow very far, are these words of Christ from representing the matter as it is ?
§ 14. That some even in this world are utterly forsaken of God, and given up to their own hearts' lusts, proves that these men never will be purified from their sins." That God should, in the future world, use great means to purify them, and fit them for eternal happiness and glory, in the enjoyment of himself, is not consistent with the supposition, that, after the use of great means and endeavours with them in this world, he gives them up to sin, because of their incorrigibleness and perverse obstinate continuance in rebellion, under the use of those great means, and so leaves them to be desperately hardened in sin, and to go on and increase their guilt, and multiply transgressions to their utier ruin; which is agreeable to manifold representations of scripture. This is not agreeable to the scheme of such as suppose, that God is all the while, before and after death, prosecuting the design of purifying and preparing them for eternal glory. Consider Psal. xcii. 7. “When the wicked spring as grass, and