« PreviousContinue »
ficial appearances, and trust the light suggestions of your own prejudiced mind against the express declaration of the word of God? Had you reflected on his character as the supreme Governor of the world, you would have seen the necessity of such a day of retribution as we are now referring to. Had you regarded the Scripture, the divine authority of which you professed to believe, every page might have taught you to expect it. "You did not think of religion!" and of what were you thinking, when you forgot or neglected it? Had you so much employment of another kind? Of what kind, I beseech you? What end could you propose, by any thing else, of equal moment? Nay, with all your engagements, conscience will tell you, that there have been seasons, when, for want of thought, time and life have been a burden to you; yet you guarded against thought as against an enemy, and cast up, as it were, an entrenchment of inconsideration around you on every side, as if it had been to defend you from the most dangerous invasion. God knew you were thoughtless; and therefore he sent you "line upon line, and precept upon precept," (Isai. xxviii. 10.) in such plain language, that it needed no genius or study to understand it. He tried you too with afflictions, as well as with mercies, to awaken you out of your fatal lethargy; and yet, when awakened, you would lie down again upon the bed of sloth. And now, pleasing as your dreams might be, "you must lie down in sorrow. Isai. 1. 11. Reflection has at last overtaken you, and must be heard as a tormentor, since it might not be heard as a friend.
10. But some may perhaps imagine, that one important apology is yet unheard, and that there may be room to say, you were, by the necessity of your nature, impelled to those things which are now charged upon you as crimes; and that it was not in your power to have avoided them, in the circumstances in which you were placed." If this will do any thing, it indeed promises to do much so much that it will amount to nothing. If I were disposed to answer you, upon the folly and madness of your own principles, I might say, that the same consideration, which proves it was necessary for you to offend, proves also that it is necessary for
God to punish you; and that, indeed, he cannot but do it ; and I might farther say, with an excellent writer, "that the same principles which destroy the injustice of sins, destroy the injustice of punishment too." But if you cannot admit this; if you should still reply, in spite of principle, that it must be unjust to punish you for an action utterly and absolutely unavoidable; I really think you would answer right. But in that answer you will contradict your own scheme, as I observed above; and I leave your conscience to judge, what sort of a scheme that must be which would make all kind of punishment unjust: for the argument will on the whole be the same, whether with regard to human punishment, or divine. It is a scheme full of confusion and horror. You would not, I am sure, take it from a servant who had robbed you, and then fired your house: you would never inwardly believe, that he could not have helped it; or think that he had fairly excused himself by such a plea: and I am persuaded, you would be so far from presuming to offer it to Gcd at the great day, that you would not venture to turn it into a prayer even now. Imagine that you saw a malefactor dying with such words as these in his mouth: "O God! it is true, I did indeed rob and murder my fellow-creatures; but thou knowest, that, as my circumstances were ordered, I could not do otherwise: my will was irresistibly determined by the motives which thou didst set before me; and I could as well have shaken the foundations of the earth, or darkened the sun in the firmament, as have resisted the impulse which bore me on." I put it to your conscience, whether you would not look on such a speech as this with detestation, as one enormity added to another. Yet, if the excuse would have any weight in your mouth, it would have equal weight in his; or would be equally applicable to any, the most shocking occasions. But indeed it is so contrary to the plainest principles of common reason, that I can hardly persuade myself, that any one could seriously and thoroughly believe it; and should imagine my time very ill employed here, if I were to set myself to combat those pretences to argument, by which the wantonness of human wit has attempted to varnish it over.
11. You see then, on the whole, the vanity of all your pleas, and how easily the most plausible of them might be silenced by a mortal man like yourself: how much more then by Him, who searches all hearts, and can, in a moment, flash in upon the conscience a most powerful and irresistible conviction? What then can you do, while you stand convicted in the presence of God? What should you do, but hold your peace under an inward sense of your inexcusable guilt, and prepare yourself to hear the sentence which his law pronounces against you? You must feel the execution of it, if the Gospel does not at length deliver you; and you must feel something of the terror of it, before you can be excited to seek to that Gospel for deliverance.
The Meditation of a convinced Sinner, giving up his vain pleas before God.
"Deplorable condition to which I am indeed reduced! I have sinned, and what shall I say unto thee, O thou Preserver of men?' Job, vii. 20. What shall I dare to say? Fool that I was, to amuse myself with such trifling excuses as these, and to imagine they could have any weight in thy tremendous presence, or that I should be able so much as to mention them there. I cannot presume to do it. I am silent and confounded: my hopes, alas! are slain, and my soul itself is ready to die too, so far as an immortal soul can die; and I am almost ready to say, O that it could die entirely! I am indeed a criminal in the hands of justice, quite disarmed, and stripped of the weapons in which I trusted. Dissimulation can only add provocation to provocation. I will therefore plainly and freely own it. I have acted as if I thought God was altogether such a one as myself:' but he hath said, 'I will reprove thee; I will set thy sins in order before thine eyes :' (Psal. 1. 21.) will marshal them in battle array. And, oh! what a terrible kind of host do they appear? and how do they surround me beyond any possibility of an escape! O my soul! they have, as it were, taken thee prisoner, and they are bearing thee away to the divine tribunal.
"Thou must appear before it! thou must see the awful,
the eternal Judge, who 'tries the very reins,' (Jer. xvii. 10.) and who needs no other evidence, for he has himself been witness to all thy rebellion." Jer. xxix. 23. Thou must see him, O my soul! sitting in judgement upon thee; and, when he is strict to mark iniquity,' (Psal. cxxx. 3.) how wilt thou answer him for one of a thousand!' Job, ix. 3. And if thou canst not answer him, in what language will he speak to thee! Lord, as things at present stand, I can expect no other language than that of condemnation. And what a condemnation is it! Let me reflect upon it! Let me read my sentence before I hear it finally and irreversibly passed. I know he has recorded it in his word, and I know, in the general, that the representation is made with a gracious design. I know that he would have us alarmed, that we may not be destroyed. Speak to me, therefore, O God! while thou speakest not for the last time, and in circumstances when thou wilt hear me no more. Speak in the language of effectual terror, so that it be not to speak me into final despair. And let thy word, however painful in its operation, be quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword.' Heb. iv. 12. Let me not vainly flatter myself, let me not be left a wretched prey to those who would prophecy smooth things to me,' (Isai. xxx. 10.) till I am sealed up under wrath, and feel thy justice piercing my soul, and the poison of thine arrows drinking up all my spirits.' Job, vi. 4.
"Before I enter upon the particular view, I know, in the general, that 'it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.' Heb. x. 31. O thou living God! in one sense I am already fallen into thine hands. I am become obnoxious to thy displeasure, justly obnoxious to it; and whatever thy sentence may be, when it comes forth from thy presence, (Psal. xvii. 2.) I must condemn myself, and justify thee. Thou canst not treat me with more severity than mine iniquities have deserved; and how bitter soever that cup of trembling may be, (Isai. li. 17.) which thou shalt appoint for me, I give judgement against myself, that I deserve 'to wring out the very dregs of it."" Psal. lxxv, 8.
THE SINNER SENTENCED.
1. 2. The sinner called upon to hear his sentence.-3. God's law does now in general pronounce a curse.-4. It pronounces death.5. And being turned into hell.-6. The judgement-day shall come. -7. 8. The solemnity of that grand process described according to scriptural representations of it.-9. With a particular illustration of the sentence, "Depart accursed," &c.-10. The execution will certainly and immediately follow.-11. The sinner warned to prepare for enduring it. The reflection of a sinner struck with the terror of his sentence.
1. HEAR, O sinner! and I will speak, (Job, xlii. 4.) yet once more, as in the name of God, of God thine Almighty Judge, who, if thou dost not attend to his servants, will, ere long, speak unto thee in a more immediate manner, with an energy and terror which thou shalt not be able to resist.
2. Thou hast been convicted, as in his presence. Thy pleas have been overruled, or rather, they have been silenced. It appears before God, it appears to thine own conscience, that thou hast nothing more to offer in arrest of judgement; therefore hear thy sentence, and summon up, if thou canst, all the powers of thy soul to bear the execution of it. "It is," indeed, "a very small thing to be judged of man's judgement;" but "he who now judgeth thee is the Lord." 1 Cor. iv. 3, 4. Hear, therefore, and tremble, while I tell thee how He will speak to thee; or rather, while I show thee, from express Scripture, how he doth even now speak, and what is the authentic and recorded sentence of his word, even of His word, who hath said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away; but not one tittle of my word shall ever pass away." Matt. v. 18.
3. The law of God speaks not to thee alone, O sinner! nor to thee by any particular address; but in a most universal language, it speaks to all transgressors, and levels its terrors against all offences, great or small, without any exception. And this is its language: "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." Gal. iii. 10. This is its voice