Page images

sinners, whom he compares to chaff, shall be to be burned up with unquenchable fire. But perhaps you may object, that these texts only prove the everlastingness of the fire in which they shall suffer, and not their everlasting suffering in it; for this fire perhaps may immediately consume, and utterly destroy them, and render them insensible of misery for ever. To which I answer, that the contrary is most evident; for they are expressly said to live in this fire, and to perform the functions of living beings in misery; to weep and wail, and gnash their teeth, Matt. xiii. 42; and in the parable of Dives, he is said to lift up his eyes in hell, being in torments, and to see Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom ; and to cry out to Abraham, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his fin. ger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame, Luke xvi. 23, 24.-a plain evidence that this fire is to torment, and not to consume them. Well, but this, you will say, imports no more than their being tormented in hell for some period of time, after which, it may be, they may cease to be, and consequently to be miserable. To which I answer, that elsewhere it is expressly asserted, that this torture is to endure for ever; for these, saith our Saviour, speaking of the wicked, shall go away into everlasting punishment, Matt. xxv. 46. And how can their punishment be everlasting, unless we suppose them to subsist everlastingly in it? If you say, it is everlasting only as it is an everlasting destruction or privation of their being; I answer, that in other places of scripture it is expressly asserted, that this everlasting punishment is a positive thing; for it is said to be a worm that never dieth, Mark ix. 44. that is, that to all eternity lives and preys upon the wretched sufferers; and more expressly yet, Rev. xx. 10. those that are cast into the lake of fire and brimstone are said to be tormented there day and night for ever and ever : where the Greek word Bao aviono ovrai doth plainly denote positive torment, and referring peculiarly to a rack, denotes the kind of this positive torment to be such as is not designed to put an end to our lives, but to continue them with inexpressible pains. For this we know is the proper use and design of a rack; and accordingly, upon this tormenting rack of hellish punishment, they are said to have no rest day nor night, Rev. xiv. 11. So that the eternal misery of lost souls is as fully and expressly asserted in scripture, as it could well have been, had it been expressed with a design to leave no pretence of exception for gainsayers; and when a thing is as plainly asserted to be as it could well have been, if it really were, either we must suppose the thing to be, or else the assertion to be fallacious. So that if we think that God's own word doth truly signify his determination, we must from hence be forced to conclude, that he is really determined to shut up lost souls in eternal misery, and admit no ransom for them.

3dly and lastly, This also appears, because if, after he hath thus declared himself, there were any reason to think that he is not determined to act accordingly, that reason would warrant us to believe that this declaration was only intended for a scarecrow, and consequently to contemn and despise it. For against all that hath been said, it may be (and

( is by some men) objected, that God is not bound to do as he threatens ; that when by our disobedience we have incurred the penalty he threatens, he hath an undoubted right indeed to inflict it upon us, and consequently may, if he please, inflict it without any wrong or injustice; but then, if he please, he may dispense with it too, either in the whole or in part, as he sees convenient. For the punishment being

. only a debt which the sinner owes to him, he is no more obliged than other creditors are to exact the utmost farthing of it; but may exact or remit the whole, or abate what part soever he pleases; and therefore it is to be hoped, that he, being a merciful creditor, will not be so extreme and rigorous as to exact of us the utmost punishment we owe him; but that when he hath made us smart a while for our folly, he will either release us into a more happy condition, or put an end to our beings and miseries together. To which I might answer, that when by our sins we have forfeited ourselves to the just vengeance of God, it is infinite mercy and goodness to others, to punish us according to his threatening; and therefore when we by our sins have rendered ourselves incapable of his mercy, that mercy which now inclines him to do good to us, will then equally incline him to do good to others, by the dreadful example of our punishment; and so he may be a very merciful creditor, and notwithstanding exact of us the utmost farthing. But this I have already largely insisted on, and therefore, 2dly, I answer, That what God may do is not for us to determine, when he may or may not, and is obliged to neither; but when he hath expressly denounced what he will do, we can have no reason to hope that he will be better than his word. For if after that he hath denounced, that if we persist in our sin he will punish us for ever for it, he should have left us any just reason to hope that he will not, he would thereby have countermined himself, and baffled the design of his own denunciation, which is to terrify his rebellious creatures from their sins, and to awe them into obedience to his laws. But how much reason soever he hath given me to hope that he will not be so severe to me as he threatens, so much reason he must have given me not to be afraid of his threatenings. If I had any just reason to believe that he will be more merciful than to inflict what he denounces, it is an irrational thing for me to dread his denunciations; for I know God will do as just reason directs, and therefore I must conclude either my reason to be false, or God's denunciation to be a scarecrow ; for if there be any just reason why his mercy and goodness should interpose and avert the execution of his threats from me, I ought not to be afraid of them, because I am sure he can do nothing that his mercy and goodness forbids; but if there be no reason for such an interposure, I am unreasonably presumptuous to expect it. So that either my expectation must be groundless, or my fear of God's threatenings irrational : and can it be imagined that the wise God would ever go about to awe his creatures into obedience, by threatening their sin with such punishments as he knows they have just reason not to be afraid of ? Whatsoever therefore God may do, I am sure, if we go on in our sins, we can have no reason to hope that he will either not punish us at all, or less than he hath threatened; or consequently, that he will abate us one moment of that eternal misery which he hath so plainly and expressly denounced against

What then remains, but that since when our


soul is lost, it is lost for ever, we now take all possible care to secure it while we may ?

V. I proceed now to the fifth and last proposition; that this irrecoverable loss of the soul is of such VAST and UNSPEAKABLE moment, that the gain of all the world is not sufficient to compensate it: What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? that is, It will not profit him at all; nay, it will be so far from that, that it will turn to his unspeakable loss and disadvantage: though by renouncing his profession of my doctrine, or his obedience of my laws, a man were sure to make himself lord of all the world, and to possess and enjoy it as long as he lived; yet, if for so doing he should afterwards lose his soul, as most certainly he will, he will find in the issue that he hath made a woful bargain of it, and be forced to acknowledge himself a vast loser, when he comes to suffer those intolerable damages which the loss of a soul implies. For the proof of which I shall run a comparison between the gain and the loss, and therein endeavour to represent to you how much the evil of this loss exceeds the good of that gain ; and this I shall do in these following particulars :

1st, The good that is in the gain is imaginary and fantastical; but the evil that is in the loss is real and substantial.

2dly, The good that is in the gain is narrow and particular; but the evil that is in the loss is large and universal.

3dly, The good that is in the gain is convertible into evil; but the evil that is in the loss is never to be improved into good.

« PreviousContinue »