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judgment:" and, though few are willing to believe the solemn truth, yet it would have been found equally impossible for any sinner to escape condemnation, at that decisive season, had not mercy brought in another hope by Jesus Christ.
If we judge of dispositions and actions by the holy law of God, we shall not long be able even to doubt, whether all men are born in sin,' and are by nature propense to evil and averse from good. “ That which is born of the flesh is flesh ;” and " the carnal mind,” which is natural to us, “ is “ enmity against God.” It is the universal law of the creation, that every plant, or animal, possesses the properties of that from which it was derived. When Adam became a sinner he begat sons “in “ his own likeness :" and that which the Creator had pronounced “ very good” soon became very bad. “ God saw that the wiekedness of man was “ great in the earth ; and that every imagination of “the thoughts of his heart was only evil con
tinually.” “ The earth also was corrupt before “ God; and the earth was filled with violence.” “ And God looked upon the earth, and behold it “ was corrupt ; for all flesh had corrupted his way
upon the earth :"2 and so it evidently continues to this day.--If men argue, that all the wickedness of the world results from education, habit and example; we inquire, how it came to pass that bad education, bad habits, and bad examples, became so general, if the nature of man were not bad also? But the impossibility, in the ordinary course of things, of “bringing a clean thing out of an un
2 Gen. vi. 6–12.
“clean," points out the real cause of the universal prevalence of vice and impiety.
It must be allowed by all observing and impartial persons, that men in general, in all parts of the earth, are very different in their dispositions and conduct from what the law of God requires them to be. It is also most certain, that they are liable to a vast variety of miseries and pains ; that anxiety, vexation, disappointment, and dissatisfaction are inseparable from every earthly condition, pursuit, possession, and connexion ; that life itself is short and uncertain ; that the approach and stroke of death are almost always accompanied with grievous sufferings, if not with terror and dismay; that every earthly pursuit and enjoyment must shortly be terminated ; and that the body, however active, vigorous, comely, pampered, or decorated it may now be, must be consigned to the dark and noisome tomb, there to moulder to its original dust. All this would be very gloomy and dreary, even if it could be certainly known that nothing further was to be apprehended: but a future state of righteous retribution must exeeedingly enhance the horror of the prospect, to such persons as are condemned at the bar of their own consciences. The expectation of a future state seems congenial to the human mind; and the arguments of various kinds, which have been urged in proof of the immortality of the soul, and other doctrines connected with it, are so cogent as to evince such expectations to be the result of serious reflection, and not the offspring of credulity, superstition, or imposture: nay, facts
Job xiv. 4, xv, 14.
manifestly shew that no ingenuity or efforts can wholly erase the idea, even from the minds of such persons as are most deeply interested, and most earnestly desirous, to find it a mere groundless imagination.
But this expectation of a future state is far too vague and confused for practical purposes. The ignorance of men in general concerning the perfections, commands, and government of God, united to the self-flattery of the human heart, preserves them, in great measure, from that terror which the thoughts of a future judgment, if considered apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ, must inspire: so that, the more men know of God and of themselves, the greater horror will be associated with the prospect of death and judgment, except it be dispelled by “ joy and peace in believing.”I
The immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, a future judgment, and a state of righteous retribution, are doctrines most expressly revealed to us by “the sure testimony of God;” and, so clear and explicit are the scriptures on these topics, that scarcely any thing, but the consciousness of such conduct as weakens the hope of eternal felicity, connected with reluctance to admit the dread of eternal misery, could be sụfficient to induce men to deny or argue against the real eternity of that state, which commences at death, and shall be confirmed and completed at the day of judgment: whilst the absurdity of reasoning against the justice or goodness of what God has done, or declared he will do, seems the summit of
man's pride, presumption, and folly. The Greeks were a speculating people, and could not but have the idea of duration without end, which is all the idea of eternity that we can obtain. Now the strongest words in their very copious language are employed by the sacred writers on this subject; and I apprehend, that the expression, translated “ for ever and ever,” always means eternal in the strictest sense of the word. If, however, any one should make the trial, he would scarcely find more energetic phrases in the whole compass of the Greek language, as authorized by the example of ancient writers, to express the idea of eternal misery, than are to be found in the New Testament. The very words are used on this awful subject, by which the eternity of heavenly felicity, and the eternal existence of God, are expressed, and in the same manner: the repeated declarations concerning the wicked, that “their worm never “ dieth ;” (which must denote eternal consciousness and self-reflection ;) that “ their fire shall “ never be quenched;" with the words “ eternal
punishment,” “ the blackness of darkness for
ever,” &c. most obviously imply this alarming doctrine. It
may hereafter be shewn, that sinful creatures must continue guilty and polluted, yea must increase in evil propensities, and multiply crimes to all eternity, whatever they suffer ; unless they are changed by an exertion of almighty power, and pardoned by an act of free mercy. Not the most remote hint is given through the whole scriptures, that mercy or grace will be vouchsafed to any who die in their sins, or that God will ever annihilate
his rebellious creatures : but every thing warrants the opposite conclusion. It evidently answers the purpose of the enemies of our souls, and forwards their work of temptation and destruction, to persuade men that they will not be finally miserable, though they continue impenitent, and indulge their lusts till death : and the folly and madness of those who profess to believe the Bible to be the word of God, and yet sin on, in hopes of finding all the denunciations which it contains to this effect, false or unmeaning; and who buoy up their own and other men's presumption with vain reasonings and sophistical arguments; are great beyond expression.
Our sentiments will not alter the purposes of God: it is therefore as irrational as it is uncandid, to charge those with want of sensibility, compassion, or philanthropy, who explain such scriptures in their most obvious meaning; and who warn and persuade men, “ by the terror of the Lord,” to repent and seek salvation. If several persons were fast asleep in a house on fire, we should best express our kindness and compassion, by alarming them speedily, and even violently, and so forwarding their escape; and not by leaving them to sleep on, lest they should be too much terrified. They, who really believe, that all impenitent and unbelieving sinners will be for ever miserable, suppose such men to be in a condition infinitely more tremendous than the persons alluded to: and they cannot but endeavour to convince them of their danger, before it be for ever too late. The more they love them, the greater will be their earnestness in “ warning them to flee from the