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Christ, and against great light, whose guilt is far more dreadful than that of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah ? How dreadful is the punishment, to which they are exposed, in which all their sins shall be punished according to their desert, and the uttermost farthing shall be exacted of them! The punishment of one idle word, or sinful thought, would be more than they could bear. How then will they bear all the wrath that shall be heaped upon them for all their multiplied and aggravated transgressions? If one sin deserves eternal death and damnation, how many deaths and damnations will they have accumulated upon them at once! Such an aggravated, multiplied death must they die every moment, and always continue dying such a death, and yet never be dead. Such misery as this may well be called the blackness of darkness. Hell may well be called the bottomless pit, if the misery is so unfathomably great. Men sometimes have suffered extreme torment in this world. Dreadful have been the sufferings of some of the martyrs; but how little those are, in comparison of the sufferings of the damned, we may learn from 1 Peter iv. 16, 17, 18. “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come, that judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of those, that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?” The apostle is here speaking of the sufferings of Christians; and from thence he argues, that seeing their sufferings are so great, how unspeakably great will be the sufferings of the wicked? And if judgment begins with them, what shall be the end of those who obey not the gospel! As much as to say, the sufferings of the righteous are nothing to what those, who obey not the gospel, are. How dreadful, therefore, does this argue their misery to be? Well may the sinners in Zion be afraid, and fearsul, and surprised. Well may the kings of the earth, and the great men, and rich men, and chief captains, and every bond man, and every free man, hide themselves in the dens, and in the rocks of the mountains, at Christ's second coming; and cry and say to the mountains and rocks, fall on us, and hide us from the face of him, that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of his wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand? Well may there be weeping and gnashing of teeth in hell, where there is such misery. Thus the misery of those who are in a natural condition, is, in itself, exceedingly great.
2. It is of endless duration. The misery is not only amazingly great, and extreme, but of long continuance; yea, of infinitely long continuance. It never will have any end. There will be no deliverance, no rest, no hope; but they will last throughout all eternity Eternity is a thing, in the thought of which our minds are swallowed up. As it is infinite in itsell, so it is infinitely beyond the comprehension of our minds. The more we think of it, the more amazing will it seem to us. Eternity is a duration, to which a long period of time bears no greater proportion than a short period. A thousand years, or a thousand ages, bear no greater proportion to eternity than a minute; or which is the same thing, a thousand ages are as much less than eternity as a minute. A minute comes as near an equality to it; or you may take as many thousand ages out of eternity, as you can minutes. If a man by the utmost skill in arithmetic, should denote or enumerate a great number of ages, and should rise by multiplication to ever so prodigious numbers, should make as great figures as he could, and rise in multiplying as fast as he could, and should spend his lite in multiplying ; the product of all would be no nearer equal to the duration, which the wicked must spend in the misery of hell, than one minute. Eternity is that, which cannot be made less by subtraction. If we take fron eternity a thousand years or ages, the remainder is not the less for it. Eternity is that, which will for ever be but beginning, and that because all the time which is past, let it be ever so long, is but a point to what remains. The wicked, after they have suffered millions of ages, will be, as it were, but in the first point, only setting out in their sufferings. It will be no comfort to them that so much is gone, for they will have none the less to bear. There will never a time come, when, if what is past, is compared to what is to come, it will not be as a point, and as nothing. The continuance of their torment cannot be measured out by revolutions of the sun, or moon, or stars, by centuries or ages. They shall continue suffering after these heavens and this earth shall wax old as a garment, till the whole visible universe is dissolved. Yea, they shall remain in their misery through millions of such ages as are equal to the age of the sun, and moon, and stars, and still it will be all one, as to what remains, still no nearer the end of their misery. Matthew xxv. 41. “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Mark ix. 44. “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Revelation xx. 10. “ They shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” And xiv. 11. " The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.” The damned in bell in their misery, will be in absolute despair. They shall know that their misery will have no end, and therefore they will have no hopes of it. 0, who can conceive the dreadfulness of such despair as this in the midst of such torment !
Who can express, or think any thing how dreadful the thought of eternity is to them, who are under so great torment! To what unfathomable depths of wo will it sink them! With what a gloom, and blackness of darkness will it fill them! What a boundless gull of sorrow and wo is the thought of eternity to the damned, who shall be in absolute and utter despair of any deliverance !
How dreadful, then, is the condition of those, who are in a natural state, who are in danger of such misery.
2. The dreadfulness of their condition will appear by considering how great their danger is of this misery. This will be obvious from the following things :
1. Their danger is such, that continuing in their present state, they will unavoidably sink into this misery.
i. The state, in which natural persons now are, naturally tends to it. And this, because they are separate from God, and destitute of any spiritual good. The soul, that is in a state of separation from its Creator, must be miserable, because he is separate from the fountain of all good. He, that is separate from God, is in great danger of ruin, because he is without any defence. He that is separate from God, must perish, if he continue so, because it is from God only, that he can have those supplies which can make him happy. It is with the soul, as it is with the body. The body without supplies of sustenance will miserably famish, and die. So the souls of natural men are in a famishing condition. They are separate from God, and therefore are destitute of any spiritual good, which can nourish the soul, or keep it alive ; like one, that is remote in a wilderness, where he has nothing to eat or drink, and therefore, if he continue so, will unavoidably die. So the state of natural men naturally tends to that dreadful misery of the damned in hell, because they are separate from God.
2. They are under the power of a mortal disease, which, if it be not healed, will surely bring them to this death. They are under the power and dominion of sin, and sin is a mortal disease of the soul. If it is not cured, it will certainly bring them to death ; viz. to that second death of which we have heard. The infection of the disease has powerfully seized their vital parts. The whole head is sick, the whole heart faint. The disease is invete
The infection is spread throughout the whole frame; the very nature is corrupted and ruined; and the whole must come to ruin, if God by his mighty power does not heal the disease. The soul is under a mortal wound; a wound deep and dreadfully confirmed. Its roots reach the most vital parts; yea, they are principally seated there. There is a plague upon the heart, which corrupts and destroys the source of life, ruins the whole frame of nature, and bastens an inevitable death. There is a most deadly poison, which has been insused into, and spread over, the man. He has been bitten by a fiery serpent, whose bite issues in a most. tormenting death. Sin is that, which does as naturally tend to the misery and ruin of the soul, as the most mortal poison tends to the death of the body. We look upon persons far gone in a consumption, or with an incurable cancer, or some such malady, as in doleful circumstances. But that mortal disease, under whose VOL. VIII.
power natural men are, makes their case a thousand times more doleful. That mortal disease of natural men, does, as it were, ripen them for damnation. We read of the clusters of the vine of the earth being for the wine-press of the wrath of God. Revelation xiv. 18, where by the clusters of the vine are meant wicked men. The wickedness of natural men tends to sink them down to hell, as the weight of a stone causes it to tend towards the centre of the earth. Natural men have, as it were, the seeds of hell within their own hearts. Those principles of sin and corruption, which are in them, if they remain upmortified, will at length breed the torment of hell in them, and that necessarily, and of their own tendency. The soul that remains under the power of sin will at length take fire of itself. Hell will kindle in them.
2. If they continue in their present state, this misery appears to be unavoidable, if we consider the justice and truth of God.
1. If they continue in their present condition, so surely as God is just, they shall suffer the eternal misery of which we have heard. The honour of God's justice requires it, and God will not disparage his own justice. He will not deny his own honour and glory, but will glorify himself on the wicked, as well as the godly. He will not lose his honour of any one of his creatures, which he has made.
It is impossible that God should be frustrated or disappointed. And, so surely as God will not be frustrated, so surely shall they, who continue in a natural condition, suffer that eternal misery, of which we have heard. The avenging justice of God is one of the perfections of his nature, and he will glorify all his perfections. God is unalterable in this as well as his other perfections. His justice shall and must be satisfied. He has declared that he will by no means clear the guilty. Exodus xxxiv. 7; and that he will not justify the wicked. Exodus xxiii. 7. And that he will not at all acquit the wicked. Nahum i. 3. God is a strictly just Judge. When men come to stand before him, he will surely judge them according to their works. They that have guilt lying upon them, he will surely judge according to their guilt. The debt, they owe to justice, must be paid to the uttermost farthing. It is impossible, that any one, who dies in his sins, should escape everlasting condemnation and punishment before such a judge. He will render to every man according to his deeds; Romans ii. 8. “Unto them, that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man, that doeth evil.” It is impossible to influence God to be otherwise than just in judging ungodly men. There is no bribing him. He accepteth not the person of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor. Dent. x. 17. “ He regardeth not persons, nor taketh re
ward.” It is impossible to influence him to be otherwise than strictly just, by any supplications, or tears, or cries. God is inexorably just. The cries and the moans of the malefactor will have no influence upon this Judge to pass a more favourable judgment on them, so as in any way to acquit or release them. The eternal cries, and groans, and lamentations of the wicked, will have no influence upon him. Though they are ever so long continued, they will not prevail upon God.
2. So surely as God is true, if they die in the state they are now in, they shall suffer that eternal misery. God has threatened it in a positive and absolute manner. The threatenings of the law are absolute ; and they, who are in a natural state, are under the condemnation of the law. The threatening of the law takes hold upon them : and if they continue under guilt, God is obliged by his word to punish them according to that threatening. And he has often, in the most positive and absolute manner, declared that the wicked shall be cast into hell; that they who believe not shall be damned ; that they shall have their portion in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone; and that their misery shall never have an end. And therefore, if there be any truth in God, it shall surely be so. It is as impossible that he, who dies in a natural condition, should escape suffering that eternal misery, as that God should lie. The word of God is stronger and firmer than mountains of brass, and shall not fail. We shall sooner see heaven and earth pass away, than one jot or tittle of all, that God hath said in his word, not be fulfilled. So much for the first thing, that evinces the greatness of the danger, that natural men are in of hell; viz. that they will unavoidably sink into hell, if they continue in such a condition.
2. Their danger will appear very dreadful, if we consider how uncertain it is, whether they will ever get out of this condition. It is very uncertain whether they will ever be converted. If they should die in their present condition, their misery is certain and inevitable. But it is very doubtful whether they will not die in such a condition. There is great danger that they will; great danger of their never being converted. And this will appear, if we consider two things.
1. They have nothing on which to depend for conversion. They have nothing in the world, by which to persuade themselves, that they shall ever be converted. Lest to themselves, they never will repent and turn to God. If they are ever converted, therefore, it is God who must do it. But they have no promise of God, that they ever shall be converted. They do not know how soon they
. may die. God has not promised them long life ; and he has not promised them that they shall be ready for death before they die. It is but a peradventure, whether God will ever give them rerepentance to the acknowledging of the truth. 2 Timothy ii.