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imagine, that he will only make an example of some flagrant and notorious sinners, when it is said, that all the dead, both small and great, shall stand before God;* and that even, he who knew not his master's will, and consequently seems of all others to have had the fairest excuse for his omission to obey it, yet even he, for that very omission, shall be beaten, though with fewer stripes? Or can you think, that a sentence to be delivered with so much pomp and majesty, a sentence by which the righteous judgment of God is to be revealed, and to have its most conspicuous and final triumph, will be inconsiderable; or the punishment to which it shall consign the sinner, be slight or tolerable? There would have been little reason to apprehend that, even if we had been left barely to our own conjectures, what that sentence should be. But this is far from being the case: our Lord Jesus Christ, in his infinite condescension and compassion, has been pleased to give us a copy of the sentence, and no doubt, a most exact copy; and the words which contain it, are worthy of being inscribed on every heart. The king, amidst all the splendor and dignity in which he shall then appear, shall say unto those on his right hand, come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world! And where the word of ‡ a king is, there is power indeed. And these words have a power, which may justly animate the heart of the humble christian, under the most overwhelming sorrow, and may fill him with joy unspeakable and full of glory. To be pronounced the blessed of the Lord! to be called to a kingdom! to the immediate, the everlasting inheritance of it! and of such a kingdom! so well prepared, so glorious, so complete, so exquisitely ied for the delight and entertainment of such creatures, so med and so renewed, that it shall appear worthy the eternal
is of God to have contrived it, worthy his eternal love to repared it, and to have delighted itself with the views of
it upon his people: behold a blessed hope indeed! rious hope, to which we are begotten again by the
of Christ from the dead,** and formed by the ------Яuence of the spirit of God upon our minds. But which thou, O sinner, art at present excluded : s that might be grievous; to reflect," these graall Christ speak to some, to multitudes, but not to ere is no blessedness pronounced: for me there is
no kingdom prepared." But is that all? Alas, sinner, our Lord hath given thee a dreadful counterpart to this. He has told us what he will say to thee, if thou continuest what thou art; to thee and all the nations of the impenitent and unbelieving world, be they ever so numerous, be the rank of particular criminals ever so great. He shall say to the kings of the earth, who have been rebels against him, to the great and rich men, and the chief captains and the mighty men, as well as to every bondman and every freeman,* of inferior rank; depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angelst. Oh, pause upon these weighty words, that thou mayest enter into something of the importance of them!
§. 9. He will say, depart: you shall be driven from his presence with disgrace and infamy: from him, the source of life and blessedness, in a nearness to whom all the inhabitants of heaven continually rejoice: you shall depart accursed:' you have broken God's law, and its curse falls upon you; and you are, and shall be under that curse, that abiding curse: from that day forward you shall be regarded by God, and all his creatures, as an accursed and abominable thing; as the most detestable and the most miserable part of the creation. You shall go into fire: and oh, consider, into what fire! Is it merely into one fierce blaze, which shall consume you in a moment, though with exquisite pain? That were terrible. But oh such terrors are not to be named with these. Thine, sinner, is everlasting fire it is that, which our Lord hath in such awful terms described as prevailing there, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched; and then says it a second time, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched; and again, in wonderful compassion a third time, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched‡. Nor was it originally prepared, or principally intended for you: it was prepared for the devil and his angels; for those first grand rebels, who were immediately upon their fall doomed to it: and since you have taken part with them in their apostacy, you must sink with them into that flaming ruin; and sink so much the deeper, as you have despised a Saviour, who was never offered to them. These must be your companions, and your tormentors, with whom you must dwell for ever. And, is it I that say this? or says not the law, and the gospel, the same? Does not the Lord Jesus Christ expressly say it, who is the faithful and true witness,¶ even he, who himself is to pronounce the sentence?
* Rev. vi, 15. + Matt. xxv. 41.
Mark ix. 44, 46, 43.
Rev. iii, 14.
§. 10. And when it is thus pronounced, and pronounced by him, shall it not also be executed? Who could imagine the contrary? who could imagine there should be all this pompous declaration, to fill the mind only with vain terror, and that this sentence should vanish into smoak? You may easily apprehend, that this would be a greater reproach to the divine administration, than if sentence were never to be passed. And therefore, we might easily have inferred the execution of it, from the process of the preceding judgment. But lest the treacherous heart of a sinner should deceive him with so vain a hope, the assurance of that execution is immediately added in very memorable terms. It shall be done it shall immediately be done. Then, on that very day, while the sound of it is yet in their ears, the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment :* and thou, O reader, whoever thou art, being found in their number shalt go away with them; shalt be driven on among all these wretched multitudes, and plunged with them into eternal ruin. The wide gates of hell shall be open to receive thee; they shall be shut upon thee for ever to inclose thee; and be fast barred, by the almighty hand of divine justice, to prevent all hope, all possibility of escape for ever.
§. 11. And now prepare thyself to meet the Lord thy God:† summon up all the resolution of thy mind, to endure such a sentence, such an execution as this: for he will not meet thee as a man; whose heart may sometimes fail him when about to exert a needful act of severity, so that compassion may prevail against reason and justice. No, he will meet thee as a God, whose schemes and purposes are all immoveable as his throne. I therefore testify to thee in his name this day, that if God be true, he will thus speak; and that if he be able, he will thus act, And on supposition of thy continuance in thine impenitence and unbelief, thou art brought into this miserable case; that if God be not either false or weak, thou art undone, thou art eternally undone.
The Reflection of a Sinner, struck with the Terror of this Sentence.
"WRETCH that I am! What shall I do, or whither shall I flee? I am weighed in the balance and am found wanting ||.” This is indeed my doom; the doom I am to expect from the mouth of Christ himself, from the mouth of him, that died for
Matt. XXV, 46. † Amos iv. 12.
Isai. xlvii. 3.
Dan. v. 27.
the redemption and salvation of men. Dreadful sentence ! and so much the more dreadful, when considered in that view! To what shall I look to save me from it? To whom shall I call? Shall I say to the rocks, fall upon me, and to the hills, cover me? What shall I gain by that? Were I indeed overwhelmed with rocks and mountains, they could not conceal me from the notice of his eye; and his hand could reach me with as much ease there, as any where else.
"Wretch indeed that I am! Oh that I had never been born! O that I had never known the dignity and prerogative of the rational nature! Fatal prerogative indeed, that renders me obnoxious to condemnation and wrath! Oh that I had never been instructed in the will of God at all, rather than that being thus instructed, I should have disregarded and transgressed it! Would to God, I had been allied to the meanest of the human race, to them that come nearest to the state of the brutes, rather than that I should have had my lot in cultivated life, amidst so many of the improvements of reason, and (dreadful reflection !) amidst so many of the advantages of religion too! and thus to have perverted all to my own destruction !—Oh that God would take away this rational soul! But alas, it will live for ever; will live to feel the agonies of eternal death.-Why have I seen the beauties and glories of a world like this, to exchange it for that flaming prison! Why have I tasted so many of my Creator's bounties, to wring out at last the dregs of his wrath! Why have I known the delights of social life and friendly converse, to exchange them for the horrid company of devils and damned spirits in Tophet! Oh, who can dwell with them in devouring flames! who can lie down with them in everlasting, everlasting, everlasting burnings + !
"But whom have I to blame in all this, but myself? What have I to accuse, but my own stupid incorrigible folly? On what is all this terrible ruin to be charged, but on this one fatal cursed cause, that having broken God's law, I rejected his gospel too? "Yet stay, O my soul, in the midst of all these doleful, foreboding complaints. Can I say, that I have finally rejected the gospel? Am I not to this day under the sound of it? The sentence is not yet gone forth against me, in so determinate a manner as to be utterly irreversible. Through all this gloomy prospect one ray of hope breaks in, and it is possible I may be delivered.
Luke xxiii 30.
Isai. xxxiii, 14.
"Reviving thought! Rejoice in it, O my soul, though it be with trembling; and turn immediately to that God, who though provoked by ten thousand offences, has not yet sworn in his wrath, that thou shalt never be permitted to hold farther intercourse with him, or to enter into his rest*.
"I do then, O blessed Lord, prostrate myself in the dust before thee. I own, I am a condemned and miserable creature. But my language is that of the humble publican, God be merci ful to me a sinner+! Some general and confused apprehenfions I have of a way, by which I may possibly escape. O God, whatever that way is, shew it me, I beseech thee! Point it out so plainly, that I may not be able to mistake it! And Oh, reconcile my heart to it, be it ever so humbling, be it ever so painful!
"Surely, Lord, I have much to learn; but be thou my teacher! Stay for a little thine uplifted hand; and in thine infinite compassion delay the stroke, till I enquire a little farther, how I may finally avoid it!"
The helpless State of the Sinner under Condemnation.
The Sinner urged to consider, how he can be saved from this impending Ruin. §. 1, 2. (1.) Not by any Thing he can offer. §. 3. (2.) Nor by any Thing he can endure. § 4. (3.) Nor by any Thing he can do in the Course of future Duty. §. 5. (4.) Nor by any Alliance with FellowSinners, on Earth, or in Hell. §. 6.-8. (5.) Nor by any Interposition, or Intercession of Angels or Saints in his Favour. §. 9. Hint of the only Method, to be afterwards more largely explained, ibid. The Iamentation of a Sinner in this miserable Condition.
§. 1. SINNER, thou hast heard the sentence of God, as it
stands upon record in his sacred and immutable word. And wilt thou lie down under it in everlasting despair? Wilt thou make no attempt to be delivered from it, when it speaks nothing less than eternal death to thy soul? If a criminal, condemned by human laws, has but the least shadow of hope, that he may possibly escape, he is all attention to it. If there be a friend, who he thinks can help him, with what strong importunity does he intreat the interposition of that friend? And even while he is before the judge, how difficult is it often to force him away from the bar, while the cry of mercy, mercy, mercy may be heard,
Psal. xcv. 11.
+ Luke xviii. 13.