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4. They are needful to them to engenerate that fear which may give check to the remainder of their lusts and corruptions, and to that security and negligence in attending to the gospel, which by means of these is apt to grow upon them. To this purpose is the punishment of despisers and backsliders here made use of, and urged by our apostle. The hearts of believers are like gardens, wherein there are not only flowers, but weeds also ; and as the former must be watered and cherished, so the latter must be curbed and nipped. If nothing but dews and showers of promises should fall upon the heart, though they seem to tend to the cherishing of their graces, yet the weeds of corruption will be apt to grow up with them, and in the end to choke them, unless they are nipped and blasted by the severity of threatenings. And although their persons, in the use of means, shall be secured from falling under the final execution of comminations, yet they know there is an infallible connexion signified in them between sin and destruction, 1 Cor. vi. 9. and that they must avoid the one, if they will escape the other.
5. Hence they have in a readiness wherewith to balance ' temptations, especially such as accompany sufferings for Christ and the gospel. Great reasonings are apt to rise in the hearts of believers themselves in such a season; and they are biassed by their infirmities to attend unto them. Liberty would be spared-life would be spared—it is hard to suffer, and to die. How many have been betrayed by their fears at such a season to forsake the Lord Christ and the gospel ? But now in these gospel threatenings, we have that in a readiness which we may oppose unto all these reasonings and the efficacy of them. Are we afraid of a man that shall die ? Have we not much more reason to be afraid of the living God ? Shall we, to avoid the anger of a worm, cast ourselves into the wrath of him who is a consuming fire? Shall we, to avoid a little momentary trou. ble, to preserve a perishing life, which a sickness may take away the next day, run ourselves into eternal ruin ? Man threatens me if I forsake not the gospel, but God threatens if I do. Man threatens death temporal, which yet it may be be shall not have power to inflict: God threatens death eternal, which no backslider in heart shall avoid. On these and the like accounts, are comminations useful unto believers themselves.
3dly, These declarations of eternal punishment unto gospelneglecters, do become the gospel with respect unto them that are the preachers and dispensers of it, that their message be not slighted, nor their persons despised. God would have even them to have in a readiness wherewith to revenge the disobe. dience of men, 2 Cor. x. 6, not with carnal weapons, killing and destroying the bodies of men, but by such a denunciation of the vengeance that will ensue on their disobedience, as shall undoubtediy take hold upon thein, and end in their everlasting ruin. Thus are they armed for the warfare, wherein by the Lord Christ they are engaged; that no man may be encouraged to despise them, or contend with them. They are authorized to denounce the eternal wrath of God against disobedient sinners; and whomsoever they bind under the sentence of it on earth, they are bound in heaven unto the judgment of the great day.
On these grounds it is that we say, that the threatenings and denunciations of future punishments unto all sorts of persons are becoming of the gospel; and therefore the using of them as motives unto the end for which they are designed, is evangelical. And this will fariber appear, it we shall yet consider,
1. That threatenings of future penalties on the disobedient, are far more clear and express in the gospel than in the law. The curse indeed was threatened and denounced under the law; and a pledge and instance of its execution were given in the temporal punishments that were inílicted on the transgressors of it. But in the gospel the nature of this curse is explained, and what it consisteth in is made manifest. For as eternal life, though promised, was only obscurely promised in the Old Testament; so death eternal under the curse and wrath of God, was only obscurely threatened therein, though threatened. And therefore, as life and immortality were brought to light by the gospel, so death and hell, the punishment of sin under the wrath of God, are more fully declared therein. The nature of the judgment to come, the duration of the penalties to be inflicted on unbelievers, with such intimations of the nature and kind of them as our understandings are able to receive, are fully and frequently insisted on in the New Testament, whereas they are only very obscurely gathered out of the writings of the Old.
2. The punishment threatened in the gospel, is, as unto degrees, greater and more sore than that which was annexed to the mere transgression of the first covenant. Hence the apostle calls it, “ death unto death,” 2 Cor. ii. 16. by reason of the sore aggravations which the first sentence of death will receive from the wrath due unto the contempt of the gospel. Separation from God under eternal punishment, was unquestionably due to the sin of Adam, and so consequently unto every transgression against the first covenant, Gen. ii. 17. Rom. v. 12-14. But yet this linders not, but that the same penalty for the nature and kind of it, may receive many and great aggravations, upon mens sinning against that great reniedy provided against
the first guilt and prevarication ; which it also doth, as shall afterwards be farther declared.
And this ought they to be well acquainted withal, who are called unto the dispensation of the gospel. A fond conceit hath befallen some, that all denunciations of future wrath, even unto unbelievers, is legal, which therefore it doth not become the preachers of the gospel to insist upon ; so would men make themselves wiser than Jesus Christ and all his apostles, yea, they would disarm the Lord Christ, and expose him to the contempt of his vilest enemies. There is also, we see, a great use in the 2 evangelical threatenings unto believers themselves. And they have been observed to have had an effectual ministry, both unio conversion and edification, who have been made wise and dextrous in managing gospel comminations towards the consciences of their hearers. And those also that hear the word, may hence learn their duty, when such threatenings are handled and opened unto them.
II.' All punishments annexed unto the transgression either of the law or gospel, are effects of God's vindictive justice, and consequently just and equal. Transgression received a meet recompence of reward.-- What it is, the apostle doth not declare ; but he declares that it is just and equal, which depends on the justice of God appointing and designing of it. Foolish men have always had tumultuating thoughts about the judgments of God. Some have disputed with him about the equity and equality of his ways in temporal judgments, Ezek. xvii. and some about those that shall be eternal. Hence was the vain imagination of them of old, who dreamed that an end should be put, after some season, unto the punishment of devils and wicked men; so turning hell into a kind of purgatory. Others have disputed in our days, that there shall be no hell at all, but a mere annihilation of ungodly men at the last day. These things being so expressly contrary to the Scripture, can have no other rise, but the corrupt ninds and affections of men not conceiving the reasons of God's judgments, nor acquiescing in his sovereignty. That which they seein principally to have stumbled at, is the assignation of a punisiment infinite as to its duration, as well as in its nature extended unto the utmost capacity of the subject, unto a fault, temporary, finite and transient. Now, that we may justify God herein, and the more clearly discern that the punishment inflicted finally on sin, is but a meet recompence of reward, we must consider,
First, That God's justice constituting, and in the end inflict. ing, the reward of sin, is essential unto him. Is God unjust ? saith the apostle, ó Supepay thy ocyny, “ who taketh vengeance," Rom. iii. 5. Ogryn, anger or wrath,' is not that from whence punishment proceedeth, but punishment itself: God inflicteth
wrath, anger or vengeance. And therefore when we read of the anger or wrath of God against sin or sinners, as Rom. i. 18. the expression is metonymical, the cause being designed by the effect. The true fountain and cause of the punishment of sin is the justice of God, which is an essential property of his nature, natural unto him, and inseparable from any of his works. And this absolutely is the same with his holiness, or the infinite purity of his nature. So that God doth not assign the punishment of sin arbitrarily, as if he might do so or otherwise, without any impeachment of his glory ; but his justice and his holiness indispensably require, that it should be punished, even as it is indispensably necessary that God in all things should be just and holy. The holy God will do no iniquity : the Judge of all the earth will do right, and will by no means acquit the guilty. This is disabled 78 Ols, the judgment of God,' that which his justice requireth, “ that they which commit sin are worthy of death," Rom. i. 32. And God cannot but do that, which it is just that he should do ; see 2 Thess. i. 6. We have no more reason then to quarrel with the punishment of sin, than we have to repine that God is holy and just ; that is, that he is God : for the one naturally and necessarily followeth upon the other. Now there is no principle of a more uncontrollable and sovereign truth written in the hearts of all men than this : that what the nature of God, or any of his essential properties requires to be, is holy, meet, equal, just and good.
Secondly, That this righteousness or justice of God, is in the exercise of it, inseparably accompanied with infinite wisdom. These things are not diverse in God, but are distinguished with respect unto the various manners of his actings, and the variety of the objects which he acteth towards ; and so denote a different habitude of the divine nature, not diverse things in God. They are therefore inseparable in all the works of God. Now from this infinite wisdom of God, which his righteousness in the constitution of the punishment of sin is eternally accompanied withal; two things ensue.
1. That he alone knoweth what is the true desert and demerit of sin ; and that no creature can know it, except from his declaration of it. And how shall we judge of what we know nothing but from him, but only by what he doth ? We see amongst men, that the guilt of crimes is aggravated according to the dignity of the persons against whom they are committed. Now, no creature knowing him perfectly, against whom all sin is committed, none can truly and perfectly know what is the desert and demerit of sin, but by the revelation of him who is perfectly known unto himself. And what a madness is it to judge otherwise of that we do no otherwise understand ? Shall we make ourselves judges of what sin against God doth deserve? Let us first by searching find out the Almighty unto - perfection, and then we may know of ourselves what it is to sin against him. Besides, we know not what is the opposition that is made by sin unto the holiness, the nature, and very being of God. As we cannot know him perfectly against whom we sin, so we know not perfectly what we do when we sin. It is the least part of the malignity and poison that is in sin, which we are able to discern. We see not the depth of that malicious respect which it hath unto God; and are we capable to judge aright of what is its demerit? But all these things are open and naked before that infinite wisdom of God, which accompanieth his righteousness in all his works. He knows himself against whom sin is; he knows the condition of the sinner; he knows what contrariety and opposition there is in sin unto himself: in a word, he knows what it is for a finite, limited, dependent creature, to subduct itself from under the government, and oppose itself unto the authority and being of the holy Creator, Ruler, and Governor of all things; all these things he knows absolutely and perfectly, and so alone knows what sin deserves.
2. From this infinite wisdom is the proportioning of the se. veral degrees in the punishment that shall be inflicted on sin. For although his righteousness require, that the final punishment of all sin, should be an eternal separation of the sinner from the enjoyment of him, and that in a state of wrath and misery; yet by his wisdom, he bath constituted degrees of that wrath, according to the variety of provocations that are found among sinners. And by nothing else could this be done. What else is able to look through the unconceivable variety of aggravating circumstances which is required hereunto ? For the most part, we know not what is so ; and when we know any thing of its being, we know nothing almost of the true nature of its demerit. And this is another thing from whence we may learn, that divine punishment of sin is always a meet recompence of reward.
Thirdly, In the final punishment of sin, there is no mixture of mercy; nothing to alleviate, or to take off from the uttermost of its desert. This world is the time and place for mercy. Here God causeth his sun to shine and his rain to fall on the worst of men, filling their hearts with food and gladness. Here he endures them with much patience and forbearance, doing them good in unspeakable variety, and to many of them making a daily tender of that mercy, which might make them blessed to eternity. But the season of these things is past in the day of recompense. Sinners shall then hear nothing, but “ go ye cursed.” They shall not have the least effect of mercy shewed to them unto all eternity. They shall then “ have