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sion. God was dishonoured; angels were grieved; the earth was cursed; pain and death took hold on all animals; they themselves lost the image and favour of God, and entailed pollution, pain, and death on all their posterity. How. great must be the malignity of sin, for one act of transgression to produce so much evil ! Yet, perhaps, their transgression was not in itself so malignant as many committed by us. And because we are not now in circumstances to determine precisely the magnitude of sin, shall we represent it as a small evil?-0 proud, presumptuous man! Go, learn from the first transgression, from thy relation to God and his creatures, and above all from the threatenings of the divine law, that sin is a great evil, and that it shall be punished, not only with an everlasting punishment, but with a punishment as great in degree as the collected guilt of all thy crimes! To return,
6. We learn with the utmost certainty the everlasting duration of future punishment from the constitution of the present and future state. The present is a probationary state for the kingdom of heaven. The future is a state of retribution. If this difference in these two states can be proved by the scriptures, it will follow that none can be saved in the future state who are not prepared for the kingdom of heaven in this. That the present is man's probationary state is abundantly evident. In this world he is on trial for the kingdom of heaven. Here he is to qualify himself for that higher, better state; and if he is found faithful, he shall, in due time, enter into the joys of his Lord; but if unfaithful, he will be rejected, and devoted to everlasting punishment. This is plain from the scriptures.
Besides. It is evident that mankind in general are not now in, a confirmed, but changeable state. They may, and often do change from bad to good, and from good to bad. If it were not so there would be no propriety in the mighty efforts used for the conversion of the wicked, nor in the motives and admonitions addressed to Christians to preserve them from apostasy.
Every thing which we can conceive necessary to constitute a state of probation, belongs to man's state in this world. Here life and death are set before him. He is the subject of all the means of grace. The gospel is preached to him, and the Holy Spirit helpeth his infirmities. He is told that this state will soon end, and that his future state will be determined by the deeds done in this. These things indicate a state of probation as clearly as any thing can.
That the future state is different from this is not less clear. Innumerable intimations are given in the scriptures that this state of things will not always last. The night will come when no man can work. God's Spirit will not always strive with man. The time is coming, when, if he goes on in his evil way, God will not hear his prayer.
He is admonished not to harden his heart beyond the accepted time and day of salvation.
But what renders this clear beyond a doubt is, that the future state is a state of retribution, where every one shall receive according to the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or bad. There the righteous shall be rewarded, and the wicked punished for the transactions of this life, and no alteration can ever take place in the condition of either. This is as clear concerning the wicked, as concerning the righteous.
There are no intimations given in the scriptures, that the offers of salvation will ever be made to the impenitent in the future state. The gospel will not be preached to them, nor will prayers be offered for them. The strivings of the Spirit, the intercession of the Son, and the long sufferance of the Father have all ceased with respect to them. Then he that is unjust, shall be unjust still, and he that is filthy shall be filthy still. The future condition of the wicked is described as a state of wrath without mixture, and judgment without mercy. Hope and mercy are strangers in those doleful regions; but despair, with weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth attend them, and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever. Hence it is evident that their reformation, and of course their salvation, is impossible, unless it can be supposed that a state of wrath without mixture, and judgment without mercy, can do more for them than all the means of grace employed in this life, were able to effect.
The scripture doctrine of future punishment is very different from that which some believers in Universal Salvation contend for. They represent future punishment as designed for the reformation of the punished. That this is the case with those punishments which are disciplinary, is readily admitted; but not with those which are capital. The punishments which God inflicts upon sinners in this life, are generally disciplinary, because they are mixed with mercies, are less than the full desert of sin, and are intended for the reformation of those who are the subjects of them. But it is different with those of the future state, which are capital, unmixed with mercy, and intended to satisfy justice and give warning to others. To suppose, therefore, that the future punishment is designed for the good of the damned themselves, is not less absurd than to suppose a man is hanged for his good, to prepare him for those duties and privileges of society, from which he will be for ever cut off by bis punishment.
It appears, therefore, that the constitution of the present and future states, is inconsistent with the salvation of those who continue impenitent through this life. To such there remains nothing but a fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries. Let no man deceive himself : God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Sin deserves everlasting punishment, and the word of God assures us that the sinner, in the future state, shall receive his full wages.
We have now briefly examined the principal proofs of the everlasting duration of future punishment, and find them immoveably founded upon the rock of divine truth. The more carefully they are examined, the more solid and important they will appear. And here, were I to indulge the feelings of my own heart, I should address this auditory, and pour upon them all the admonitions, invitations, and entreaties of the gospel, to give all diligence to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, while the Holy Spirit is working in them to will and to do of his own good pleasure. But I have trespassed already too far upon your patience, and the time which remains I would reserve for my brethren in the ministry, for whose sake I shall exhibit some of the inferences arising from the subject discussed in the foregoing pages.
DEAR BRETHREN -Your office places you where you may be addressed in the words originally spoken to the prophet Ezekiel : “So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity ; but thou hast delivered thy soul.”
1. How vast are the interests of immortal beings! Compared with these the greatest interests of time dwindle into nothing. Our blessed Lord, who best knew how to estimate all the interests of men, has taught us that if a man should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul, he would be an infinite loser. How valuable soever any of the objects of this life may appear to man, let him but recollect that they perish with the using, and they will not appear to deserve the least anxiety. The interests of time appear great only when those of eternity are out of sigkt, or are viewed through a false medium. Eternal things alone deserve our high regard.
Let a man consider that he has but a short time to spend in this world, and then is to enter upon an unchangeable, everlasting state ; that the character he forms here is to decide whether his future condition shall be happy or miserable; that every action he performs, every desire and temper he indulges, goes to form his character and decide his everlasting state; let him I say, consider these things, and he will be ready to inscribe vanity of vanities, upon all the objects of time and sense, while those which are eternal will engross his whole attention and desire. It will be of sinall importance with such an one whether he be rich or
poor, honourable or despised in this world; his grand concern will be to please his God, and prepare to live with him for ever. He will be ready to say with one of our poets,
“No matter which my thoughts employ,
But 0, when both shall end
With fiends, or angels spend ?" 2. Ministers of the gospel! The eternal interests of mankind are in some sense committed into your hands. You are the priests of the Most High God. You are the ambassadors of Jesus Christ. Your business is to save the souls of
fellow creatures. Your coinmission runs in these words : Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.Take heed, therefore, unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
"O! what a situation have we ventured to accept! to be placed over a multitude of souls, with this charge respecting each of them, “if thou lettest this man perish through thy neglect, thy life shall go for his life;' to be obliged, by official duty, to speak every word under oath, with the penalty of perjury before our eyes; to be under bounden duty to know that every doctrine we utter is true; to waste our days, our nights, and to consume our animal nature, and weary out our intellectual nature, to learn and know the truth of God; to be instant in season and out of season; and to see that no soul perish through our negligence ! It is an awful station?"*
The wicked are to be warned of their evil ways and repressed; the ignorant are to be instructed; the inquirer is to be directed; the mourner is to be comforted; the Christian is to be built up on his most holy faith ; the tempted are to be held up; the hypocrite must be detected; the true and the false marks of grace are to be exhibited; error is to be confuted, and truth defined : and from our skilfulness or unskilfulness, our faithfulness or unfaithfulness, eternal consequences spring both to ourselves and to the people to whom we are sent. Well may we exclaim with the apostle, and who is sufficient for these things !
3. In particular, my brethren, let us consider what is implied in warning the wicked of his way. And does it not imply, that we set before him the greatness of his sin and folly, and alarm his fears with those penal torments which are threatened in the word of God? I know that this kind of preaching is unpopular. Many ask if “we would frighten people to heaven?” They have persuaded themselves either that there is no future punishment,
* Dr. Gray.
or that it is not so painful a thing to be damned as some would represent it. They think if there is no literal fire and brimstone in the composition of future punishment, the pains of hell will be quite tolerable. They have found out the art of explaining away the threatenings of God's law, to keep their consciences asleep, and hide danger from their eyes. Of course they will think him their enemy who would undeceive, and apprize them of their danger. But the annbassadors of Christ must not be influenced by their views, nor terrified by their opposition. And if they feel the responsibility of their office they will not, but will remember that if the wicked are not warned, their blood shall be required at their hands. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, they will persuade men. The heaviest curses in all the word of God await those who see the sword coming, but give not warning -who, in this respect, do the work of the Lord deceitfully. To save themselves and those who hear them, the ministers of Christ must join with a tender compassion for sinners, a boldness and a firmness in admonishing them of their danger. They must be instant in season and out of season, reproving, rebuking, and exhorting with all long-suffering and doctrine, and enforce obedience to the precepts of their Master by the threatenings of his gospel.
We must shortly go and give an account of our stewardship! We must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ! We shall meet there the congregations and the individuals to whom we have preached, and whom we have had opportunity to warn. Let us take heed to our ministry that none be found to accuse us in that day. Better would it have been for us if we had not been born, than to be found with the blood of our fellow creatures upon us. O that we might take heed to the ministry which we have received, and that at last we might be enabled to render up our accounts with joy, and not with grief!
Unconverted sinners! I cannot think of your going away from this place, and having it to say, that a word was not addressed to you, adapted to your case.
I would entreat you to consider yourselves as the persons to whom the ministers of the gospel are sent, and whom they are to
It is your character we have drawn in this discourse. You are immortal beings, destined to an infinite existence! But you have sinned against God, and against your own souls, and are now in danger of eternal damnation. Your sin is great, and your punishment will be as great. Consider! you are immortal! and every sin you have committed is commensurate with the magnitude and duration of your powers! Your sins are exceedingly aggravated. You have sinned against light and against mercy. You have practically rejected the council of God, refused obedience to Christ, and put eternal life far from you. You have made light of your most weighty concerns.