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adversaries." Heb. 10:27. God's wrath against his ad. versaries is frequently compared to fire, on account of its irresistible, tormenting, and devouring nature. How terrifying, my dear Benjamin, must the apprehension of an Almighty God be to a condemned sinner that has now fallen into his avenging hand, when he considers he can no way resist his power, nor escape the utmost effects of his tremendous indignation. How, indeed, a just and sinavenging God will execute his wrath, is what we are now wholly ignorant of; but sure we are, those must be ex. tremely miserable that are remedilessly exposed to it. Well might the Psalmist say, “Who knoweth the power of thine anger ? According to thy fear so is thy wrath." Psa. 90: 11. Our fears, under the strong alarm of a guilly conscience, are next to boundless and infinite; but the wrath that is armed with infinite power must needs exceed our most unbounded fears themselves. With what deep wounds will the sword of justice pierce the sinner's heart, when wielded by an irresistible, omnipotent hand! How inconceivably dismal must be the case of those "vessels of wrath fitted for destruction," on whom so terrible a majesty resolves "to show his wrath, and to make his power known.” Rom. 9 : 22.
§ 8. Permit me, dear Benjamin, to mention one more ingredient of the future punishment of the wicked, viz. the continued rage of their own unsatisfied lusts. Those impure and brutish desires, which in the condemned sinner will bo as vehement as ever, and must needs create a continual torment to one that can find no objects to gratify them with; and their impure flames are fitly compared to a fire, a fire that will furiously prey upon the soul itself, when it has no external fuel to feed upon. What a torment must it be, to burn always in the flames of his own unquenchable desires, and to covet perpetually that vile fuel of his former luxury, pride, intemperance, lust, covetousness, and other inordinate
affections, tnat are now withdrawn for ever! in a word, to find all those things vanished on which his hopes and happiness were placed, and to which his heart yet inseparably cleaves, yet he despairs ever to enjoy them. This will be a most just but truly dreadful part of the sinner's pun. ishment. Thus, my dear Benjamin, I have endeavored to give you a general scriptural account of the punishment and misery of the wicked; but I must adopt the words of the apostle, and say, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive” the terrible things that a righteous God has prepared for them who finally hate, and impenitently provoke and disobey him.
Ø 9. From the consideration of the nature of the punishment of the wicked, I proceed to invite your most serious attention to its duration. This our Lord himself has told us is to be eternal: “These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." Matt. 25 : 46. The words everlasting and eternal in this passage are synonymous, and signify an endless duration. It is much to be regretted that the translators used two different words, when the original word is the same in both places. Dr. Doddridge says, “ As the original word Aionion is the same in both places, I thought it proper to use the same word in the translation of both.” As none disputes the happiness of the saints to be eternal, without interruption and without end, so none ought to doubt that the duration of the punishment and misery of the wicked will be without intermission and without end. Besides, we are told that “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever," Rev. 14:11; and our blessed Lord also declareth that “their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched.” Mark, 9 : 44, 48. In the greatest miseries of this life, God is graciously, pleased to allow some interyals of rest; but of those in hell it is said, “they
have no rest, day nor night." Rev. 14:11. The rich man in hell asked but a momentary alleviation of his torture, when he desired that Lazarus might be sent “to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his tongue;" but even this was denied him. It is the immutability of the future state that bespeaks it eternal. They can no more flee from the bitter reflections of an enraged conscience, than flee from themselves; and no more interrupt the misery that springs from them, than extinguish their life itself.
§ 10. As their misery is without intermission, so also it is without end. This ingredient will inconceivably increase their anguish. If, when a duration equal to many millions of ages were past, condemned sinners might have any assurance of redemption from their misery, even that slender hope would be some, though a small mitigation of the horror of their state. It were some relief to their torments to foresee any possible end of them, at however remote a distance.
But oh! what an amazing and insupportable thought, that all the vast space of time that arithmetic can compute or their thoughts measure, is but as a moment in comparison to eternity; and when that is passed, their misery will be as far from ending as ever! Oh! that solemn and awful sound, Eternity! eternity! It is related by several authors, of a lady who was fond of gayety, that after spending the afternoon and evening with a party at cards and other vain amusements, she returned home late at night, and found her waiting-maid diligently reading a religious book ; happening to look over her shoulder, she saw what it was, and said, “ Poor, melancholy soul, why do you sit so long poring upon your book ?" After this she retired to bed, but could not sleep; she lay sighing and weeping for several hours. Being repeatedly asked by her servant what was the matter, she burst into a flood of tears, and said, “Oh! Mary, it was one word that I saw in your book which
troubles me; there I saw the word Eternity." The Lord grant, my dear Benjamin, that we may so consider the word Eternity, that it may not be a trouble, but a pleasure unto us. May we flee for refuge to Jesus, as the man-slayer to, the city of refuge, and the great High Priest of our prosession will receive and defend us from the sword of the avenger; "for there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," Rom. 8:1; and on that day, when the good Shepherd shall “divide his sheep from the goats," he will say unto us, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Then, with all the “righteous, we shall enter into life eternal.” Matt. 25: 46. The nature of that felicity will be the subject of the next letter.
THE FUTURE HAPPINESS OF THE RIGHTEOUS.
Agreeably to promise, I now invite your attention to the happiness of the righteous, or the felicity of heaven. Heaven is considered as a place in which the Omnipotent Deity is said to afford a nearer and more immediate view of himself, and a more sensible manifestation of his glory than in the other parts of the universe.
$1. I freely acknowledge, my dear Benjamin, that the felicity of the righteous, as well as the misery of the wicked, far exceeds our comprehension. We are, at present, at a great distance from those superior regions of eternal light, and there is a thick veil of flesh that hides the glory of them from our eyes. We have, indeed, a clear and satisfying assurance of an endless felicity, and some notices in general of its nature; but as to the particulars of it, it is a glory yet to be revealed, and we cannot expect a clear and distinci view of it till we enter within the veil, and are admitted into the heavenly sanctuary. Should the external glory of the heavenly state be laid open to our naked view, it would be too dazzling a sight for weak mortality to bear. If the Israelites could not endure to behold the face of Moses when it shone, upon his descent from the mount; and if the disciples of our Lord could not bear the sight of his transfigured body without great confusion and fear; how much more should we be confounded at the view of that celestial brightness, of which this was but an emblem or glimpse.
Yet, though we cannot here expect any adequate conception of the heavenly state, we are not left wholly in the dark. The Holy Spirit has, in condescension to our weakness, described it to us in expressions which allude to present and sensible things. Thus the future blessedness of the righteous is often represented under the notion of a kingdom, a throne, a crown, a house and city; sometimes it is represented as a great treasure, a pearl of great price, and a glorious inheritance; sometimes it is represented under the emblem of white robes, palms, or under the similitude of a great supper or marriage-feast; it is called the heavenly paradise, full of light, life and glory. By these, and other affecting, sensible allusions, does the Spirit of God insinuate to our minds some sensible thought of the transcendent honor and dignity, the complete perfection and excellency, the ravishing and truly satisfying pleasure and joy of that happy state. For method's sake, I will, however give you a brief description of the character of the righ