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wish that "the rocks might fall upon them, and the hills cover them" from his impending judgments-But, however reluctant they be to obey the divine mandate, they must "depart;" they will be turned" into hell with irresistible violence, and with fiery indignation-Their numbers will not at all secure them against the threatened vengeance: though there be whole "nations," they will not be able to withstand the arm of God; nor will they excite commiseration in his heart: neitheir will their misery be the less because of the multitudes who partake of it; for, instead of alleviating one another's sorrows with tender sympathy, they will accuse one another with the bitterest invectives-The power and veracity of God are pledged to execute this judgment; and sooner shall heaven and earth be annihilated, than one jot or tittle of his word shall fail-]
1. How awful is the insensibility in which the world are living!
[Men seem as careless and indifferent about their eternal interests, as if they had nothing to apprehend; or as if God had promised that the wicked should be received into heaven -But can they set aside the declaration that is now before us? Or do they suppose it is intended merely to alarm us; and that it shall never be executed upon us? Is God then a man that he should lie, or a son of man that he should repent?"-O that they would awake from their infatuation, and flee from the wrath to come!-]
2. How just will be the condemnation of sinners in the last day!
[Many think it an hard thing that so heavy a judgment should be denounced merely for forgetting God-But is this so small an offence as they imagine? Is it not rather exceeding heinous? Does it not imply the basest ingratitude, the most daring rebellion, yea, a great degree even of atheism itself? And shall not God visit for these things, and be avenged on such transgressors as these?-Shall they be at liberty to abase God's mercies, and God not be at liberty to suspend the communication of his blessings?-Shall they despise and trample on God's laws, and God not be at liberty to assert their authority?-Shall they say to God," Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways;" and shall God be accused of injustice if he say to them, "Depart; ye shall never have one glimpse of my presence any more?"—But if they will dare to open their mouths against him now, the time is shortly coming, when they will stand self-convicted, and self-condemned-]
3. How marvellous are the patience and the mercy of God!
[God has seen the whole race of man departing from him, and blotting out, as much as they could, the remembrance of him from the earth-His authority, his love, his mercy, are, as it were, by common consent banished from the conversation and from the very thoughts of men-Yet, instead of burning with indignation against us, and "turning us all quick into hell," he bears with us, he invites us to mercy, he says, "Deliver them from going down into the pit; for I have found a ransom"d-O that we might be duly sensible of his mercy! O that we might flee for refuge to the hope set before us! If once we be cast into hell, we shall never obtain one drop of water to cool our tongues:" but "this is the accepted time;" the Lord grant that we may find it also, "the day of salvation!”—]
d Job xxxiii. 24.
CCCLVIII. THE CHARACTER AND END OF THE
Prov. xiii. 5. The wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame.
THE world in general uphold and countenance one another in their evil ways: some will even "make a mock at sin," and glory in it. But God's testimony respecting the wicked man is, that, whatever be his rank, or talents, or estimation among men, he is indeed “loathsome, and cometh to shame."
In these words we behold
I. The character of the wicked
The wicked comprehend all who are not righteous
[There are but two classes of persons mentioned in the scriptures; and to one or other of them we all belong. There is no intermediate character. We indeed cannot always determine to which of these classes men belong, because we cannot discern the heart: but God, to whom all things are naked and open, will distinguish them from each other as easily as we do the sheep from the goats.
It is of infinite importance that we should have this truth impressed on our minds: for we are ready to rank among the wicked those only who are guilty of great enormities:
whereas all are wicked who are not truly righteous; all, who are not converted to God, and renewed in the spirit of their minds.]
God's testimony respecting them is applicable to them all, whether they be more or less wicked in respect of gross sins
[The openly profane are doubtless exceeding loathsome in the sight of God. Let any one but notice their conversation; how replete is it with lewdness and blasphemy! Let their tempers be marked; what evil dispositions do they manifest on all occassions! Let their conduct be scrutinized, their drunkenness, their whoredoms, and all their other abominations; and who must not confess the justice of that representation, which compares them to swine wallowing in the mire, and dogs devouring their own vomit?a
The more decent, it is true, are not so vile in the eyes of men, (yea, perhaps they are honoured and esteemed) but they also are loathsome in the sight of God. What monsters of ingratitude are the very best of unregenerate men! What mercies have they received from God; what inconceivable love has been shewn them by the Lord Jesus Christ; and yet they have never spent one hour in humble and grateful adorations. If they had laboured thus to win the affections of some worthless wretch, and after many years of unintermitted kindness were requited by him as they requite their God, would they not consider him as deserving of utter execration? How loathsome then must they be, whose obligations are infinitely greater, and whose conduct is inexpressibly more vile! Their actions, it is confessed, may have been fair and specious: but what have their hearts been? have they not been a very sink of iniquity? Yes; so depraved are the very best of men, that there are few, if any, who would not rather die, than have all the secrets of their hearts known to men as they are known to God. What then are such persons, but whited sepulchres? No wonder that, however they be esteemed among men, both their persons and services are an abomination to the Lord."]
Conformable to their character must surely be II. Their end
Sin is in itself inconceivably vile, and will bring its votaries to shame
a 2 Pet. ii. 22. See also Job xv. 16. Ps. liii. 1-3.
e Matt. xxiii. 27.
b Jer. xvii. 9. Gen. vi. 5.
d Luke xv. 16. Prov. xv. 8, 26. and xxviii. 9.
1. In this world
[How often are the fairest characters blasted by detection, and exposed to infamy! The deeds of darkness, when brought to light, often reflect such dishonour upon men, as to make them shun society; and put a period to their own existence. And how many are brought to die by the hands of a public executioner, and to entail disgrace on their latest posterity! Little do men think, when first they yield to temptation, whither sin will lead them. It is a principal device of Satan to conceal the consequences of sin, and to make men believe that they can recede from it whenever they please: but when he has once entangled their feet, they find to their cost, that they cannot escape from his net.]
2. In the world to come
[There are many who pass honourably through life, and, for their conduct in society, deserve every token of our respect. But God will try the hearts of men in the last day; and "will bring to light every secret thing, whether it be good or evil." Then what shame will overwhelm the most specious moralist, whose heart was unrenewed by grace! A want of love to Christ now is thought but a light matter: but then it will appear in its true colours, as deserving of God's heaviest indignation. Secret lusts too are overlooked as though they did not at all defile the soul: but they will then be found to have made us altogether loathsome and odious to God. Then will Christs with all his saintsh and angelsi unite in expressing their abhorrence of these whited sepulchres; so fully shall that declaration be verified, They shall awake to shame, and everlasting contemp:.k]
We cannot IMPROVE this subject better than by pointing out
1. What is that repentance which such persons need
[It is by no means sufficient to confess that we are sinners: we should feel that we are indeed loathsome; and should be filled with shame on account of the extreme vileness of our hearts. Nothing less than this will constitute that "repentance which is not to be repented of.""]
2. How their character and end may be completely changed
[Loathsome as we are we may be purified by the blood. of Jesus, and be made without spot or blemish in the sight of
6 Matt. vii. 22, 23.
f Ezek. xiv. 4, 7.
k Dan. xii. 2.
1 Cor. xvi. 22. b1 Cor. vi. 2. Isaiah Ixiv. 6. Ezek. xxxvi. 31. & xvi. and Rom. vi. 21. See Ezra ix. 6. Job xl. 4. and xlii. 6.
God. Our natures also may be changed by his Spirit, so that we shall possess a beauty that God himself shall admire.P Yea, instead of having shame for our portion, we shall be made to inherit "glory and honour and immortality." We shall be sons of the living God, and be seated with Christ on thrones of glory. Let us then seek this change, and rely on God's promises, that by means of then it may be accomplished in us.]
CCCLIX. THE FINAL STATES OF THE RIGHTEOUS
AND THE WICKED.
q 2 Cor. vii. 1.
Isaiah iii. 10, 11. Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked; it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.
THE ministers of the gospel are "stewards of the mysteries of God," whose office it is "rightly to divide the word of truth," and to "give every one his portion in due season." They are to "take forth the precious from the vile, and to be as God's mouth to all," declaring their true character, and their proper doom. Their commission is sealed in the words before us, and the very message they are to deliver as God's ambassadors, is recorded for their direction to the end of time. In complying with the duty here enjoined, we shall
I. Describe the characters that are to be addressed
There are but two classes of men in the world; "the righteous" and "the wicked."
[However diversified men's states may be in some particulars, they all must be ranked under the one or the other of these heads. In distinguishing them therefore, we must include in the first class, not merely the more eminent saints, but the least and meanest of God's people; seeing that there are in God's houshold "babes, and young men, as well as fathers." And in the second class we must comprehend all those persons,
a 1 John ii. 13.