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more likely to hinder men from incurring the penalty that is threatened.
4. Let it be considered likewise, that when it is so ve. ry plain that God hath threatened eternal misery to impenitent finners, all the prudence in the world obliges men to believe that he is in good carnest, and will execute these threatenings upon them, if they will obstinately stand it out with him, and will not be brought to repentance. And therefore, in all reason, we ought so to demean ourselves, and so to persuade others, as knowing the terror of the Lord, and that they who wilfully break his laws are in danger of eternal death. To which I will add, in the
5. and last place, That if we suppose, that God did intend that his threatenings should have their effect to deter men from the breach of his laws, it cannot be imagined, that in the same revelation which declares these threatenings, any intimation should be given of the abatement or non-execution of them. For by this God would have weakened his own laws, and have taken off the edge and terror of his threatenings; because a threatening hath quite lost its force, if we once come to believe that it will not be executed: and consequently it would be a very impious design to go about to teach or perfuade any thing to the contrary, and a betraying men into that misery, which, had it been firmly believed, might have been avoided. We are all bound to preach, and you
and I are all bound to believe the terrors of the Lord. Not so as faucily to determine and pronounce what God must do in this case; for after all, he may do what he will, as I have clearly shewn : but what is fit for us to do, and what we have reason to expect, if, notwithstanding a plain and express threatening of the vengeance of eternal fire, we still go on to treasure up to ourselves wrath against the day of wrath, anl the revelation of the righteous judga ment of God; and will desperately put it to the hazard, whether, and how far, God will execute his threatenings upon sinners in another world.
And therefore there is no need why we should be very solicitously concerned for the honour of God's justice or goodness in this matter. Let us but take care to believe
and avoid the threatenings of God; and then how terrible soever they are, no harm can come to us. And as for God, let us not doubt but that he will take care of his own honour; and that he, who is holy in all his ways, and righteous in all his works, will do nothing that is repugnant to his eternal goodness and righteousness; and that he will certainly so manage things at the judg., ment of the great day, as to be justified in his sayings, and to be righteous when we are judged. For, notwithstanding his threatenings, he hath reserved power enough in his own hands to do right to all his perfections ; so that we may rest assured, that he will judge the world in righteousness: and if it be any ways inconsistent either with righteousness or goodnels, which he knows much better than we do, to make finners miserable for ever, that he will not do it ; nor is it credible, that he would threaten finners with a punishment which he could not justly execute upon them. .
Therefore finners ought always to be afraid of it, and reckon upon it; and always to remember, that there is great goodness and mercy in the severity of God's threatenings; and that nothing will more justify the infliction of eternal torments, than
the foolish presumption of sinners in venturing upon them, notwithstanding such plain and terrible threatenings.
This, I am sure, is a good argument to all of us, to work out our salvation with fear and irembling; and, with all possible care, to endeavour the prevention of that misery which is so terribly severe, that at present we can hardly tell how to reconcile it with the justice and goodness of God.
This God heartily desires we would do; and hath solemnly sworn, that he hath no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that he should turn from his wickedness, and live. So that, here is all imaginable care taken to prevent our miscarriage, and all the assurance that the God of truth can give us of his unwillingness to bring this misery upon us.
And both these, I am sure, are arguments of great goodness. For what can goodness do more than to warn us of this misery, and earnestly to persuade us to prevent it; and to threaten us so very terribly, on purpose to deter us from so great a danger ?
And if this will not prevail with us, but we will still go on to despise the riches of God's goodness, and longsuffering, and forbearance ; what in reason remains for us, but a fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation to consumie us? And what almost can justice, or even goodness itself, do less, than to inflict that punishment upon us, which with eyes open we would wilfully run upon; and which no warning, no persuasion, no importunity, could prevail with us to avoid? and when, as the Apostle says, knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, yet for all that we would venture to commit them?
And therefore, whatever we suffer, we do but inherit our own choice, and have no reason to complain of God, who hath set before us life and death, eternal happiness and misery, and hath left us to be the carvers of our own fortune: and if, after all this, we will obstinately refuse this happiness, and wilfully run upon this misery, wo unto us! för we have rewarded evil to ourselves.
You see then, by all that hath been said upon this argument, what we have all reason to expect, if we will still go on in our fins, and will not be brought to repent
You have heard, what a terrible punishment the just God hath threatened to the workers of iniquity; and that in as plain words as can be used to express any thing: These, that is, the wicked, shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal. Here are life and death, happiness and misery set be
Not this frail and mortal life, which is hardly worth the having, were it not in order to a better and happier life; nor a temporal death, to get above the dread whereof should not methinks be difficult to us, were it not for the bitter and terrible consequences of it: but an eternal life, and an eternal enjoyment of all things which can render life pleasant and happy; and a perpetual death, which will for ever torment us, but ncver make an end of us.
These God propounds to our choice: and if the confideration of them will not prevail with us to leave our sins, and to reform our lives, what will ? Weightier motives cannot be proposed to the understanding of man, than everlasting punishment, and life eternal ; than the
greatest greatest and most durable happiness, and the most into. lerable and lasting misery that human nature is capable of.
Now, considering in what terms the threatenings of the gospel are expressed, we have all the reason in the world to believe; that the punishment of finners in another world will be everlasting. However, we cannot be certain on the contrary, time enough to prevent it; not till we come there, and find it by experience how it is : and if it prove fo, it will then be too late either to prevent that terrible doom, or to get it reversed.
Some comfort themselves with the uncomfortable and uncertain hope of being discharged out of being, and reduced to their first nothing ; at least after the tedious and. terrible suffering of the most grievous and exquifite torments for innumerable ages. And if this should happen to be true, good God! how feeble, how cold a comfort is this? Where is the reason and understanding of men, to make this their last refuge and hope ; and to lean upon it as a matter of mighty confolation, that they shall be miserable beyond all imagination, and beyond all patience, for God knows how many ages ? Have all the workers of iniquity ng knowledge ? no right sense and judgment of things ? no consideration, and care of themselves ? no concernment for their own la ting interest and happiness?
Origen, I know not for what good reason, is said to have been of opinion, that the panishment of devils and wicked men, after the day of judgment, will continue but for a thousand years; and that after that time they shall all be finally saved. I can very hardly persuade myself, that so wife and learned a man as Origen was, should be positive in an opinion for which there can be no certain ground in reason, especially for the punctual and precise term of a thousand years; and for which there is no ground at all, that I know of, from divine revelation.
But upon the whole matter, however it be, be it for a thousand years, or be it for a longer and unknown term, or be it for ever, which is plainly threatened in the gospel; I say, however it be, this is certain, that it is infinitely wiser to take care to avoid it, than to dispute it, and to run the final hazard of it. Put it which way VOL, II. въ
we will, especially if we put it at the worst, as in all prudence we ought to do, it is by all possible means to be provided against : so terrible, so intolerable is the thought, yea the very lealt suspicion of being miserable for ever.
And now give me leave to ask you, as St. Paul did King Agrippa, Do you believe the scriptures? And I hope I may answer for you myself as he did for Agrippa, I know you do believe them. And in them these things are clearly revealed, and are part of that creed of which we make a folemn profession every day.
And yet, when we consider how most men live, is it credible that they do firmly believe this plain declaration of our Saviour and our judge, that the wicked shall go bway into everlasting punijbment, but the righteous into life eternal ?
Or if they do in some fort believe it, is it credible that they do at all consider it seriously, and lay it to heart? So that, if we have a mind to reconcile our belief with our actions, we must either alter our Bible and our creed, or we must change our lives.
Let us then confider, and shew ourselves men : and if we do so, can any man, to please himself for a little while, be contented to be punished for ever; and, for the shadow of a short and imperfect happiness in this life, be willing to run the hazard of being really and eternally miserable in the next world ?
Surely this consideration alone, of the extreme and endless misery of impenitent finners in another world, if it were buit well wrought into our minds, would be sufficient to kill all the temptations of this world, and to lay them dead at our feet; and to make us deaf to all the inchantments of sin and vice : because they bid us fo infinitely to our loss, when they offer us the enjoyment of a short pleasure, upon so very hard and unequal a condition as that of being miserable for ever.
The eternal rewards and punishments of another life, which are the great fanction and security of God's laws, one would think should be a fufficient weight to cast the scales against any pleasure, or any pain, that this world can tempt or can threaten us withal. And yet, after all this, will we still go on to do wic