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why should the prophets, and Christ, and apostles, have been so bitterly and mortally opposed for preaching this doctrine; as the Universalists assert that they did preach it? I never heard them answer this question, either in their conversation, or preaching, or publications; and I have read the writings of their most celebrated laymen and clergymen. The question must be perplexing and unanswerable, and, among other things, prove their doctrines to be false and dangerous.
6. If Universalists are highly criminal for teaching the false and dangerous doctrine of universal salvation, then it is unwise and criminal for any to go and hear them spread their fatal errors and corruptions. The wisest of men gives this wise and important caution against hearing false and corrupting teachers : “ Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge." It is very wrong for any to gratify an itching ear and vain curiosity, at the risk of fatal deception. And though some may imagine that they are out of the reach of danger by hearing the sophistry of seducers, yet their example may lead others to hear and believe a lie to their eternal ruin. There is in every human heart a prepossession and bias towards error, and the most fatal error. It is unwise for any to trust in their own hearts, which are deceitful above all things; and presume upon their knowledge and integrity to discover and reject errors plausibly represented, and in their own nature agreeable to the depravity of the heart.
7. This subject shows the importance of understanding, and being firmly established in the first principles of the oracles, of God. Detached passages of scripture can be of but little service in contending with Universalists, or any other heretics, without the knowledge of first principles, according to which all passages are to be explained. The knowledge of the first principles of all religion, will enable any persons to discover, to reject, and to refute all heretics. Nothing but sound principles are sufficient to refute unsound and false principles. It was the knowledge of the first principles of the gospel, that armed the apostles against all the errors, delusion and sophistry of Jews and Greeks, and enabled them to pull down the strong holds of the arch deceiver, and all his deluded followers. And all who enjoy the gospel, need the same impregnable armor of the first and fundamental principles of religious truth. We ought to think, while we read the Bible; and compare all its declarations, promises, and threatenings, with some true and infallible principle. Those who neglect to take this course, will always be liable to be carried away with every wind of doctrine, to make shipwreck of their faith, and to be drowned in perdition.
SERMON L X X XIV.
REFLECTIONS OF SINNERS IN HELL.
But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy life time receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted,
and thou art tormented. - LUKE, xvi. 25.
Since all men must soon exchange their present probationary state for another that is future, fixed and eternal, it deeply concerns them frequently to carry their thoughts into that invisible world, where they know they must take up their everlasting residence. Christ, therefore, who came into the world to prepare men for their future and final destination, said more about what is to be enjoyed and what is to be suffered, in a future state, than any of the inspired teachers sent before him. Though he often preached and discoursed about future happiness and misery, yet he never gave such a clear, visible and affecting representation of the deplorable condition of the damned, as he gives in the parable that contains the text. By this parable, he leads us to look into the world of spirits, to see a poor, miserable, hopeless creature, and hear him describe his views, his feelings and forlorn condition, in his own language. Hear the parable, though you have often heard and read it before. “ There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crums which fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in hell he lifted
his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom ; and he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember, that thou in thy life time receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and thou art tormented.” Though this parable suggests a great many things of solemn importance, yet that which I would take particular notice of in the present discourse, is this:
That those who abuse their present probationary state and are finally damned, will have most bitter and tormenting reflections.
This is a serious subject indeed. It fills the mind with terror. But it becomes every one who is a probationer for a happy, or miserable eternity, to contemplate it before it is too late. Unbar your mind and give it leave to take a clear and affecting view of that gulf over which it hangs, into which it may fall
, and from which it is of infinite importance to escape. The damned will have most bitter and tormenting reflections. This may be illustrated, by showing, in the first place, that they will have reflections; and, in the second place, by taking a particular view of their reflections.
I. We have reason to believe that the damned will have reflections. It is true, the miseries which men feel in this life are sometimes so great, as almost to prevent any regular and consistent thoughts. The mind is overwhelmed with such keen sensations of pain in body and mind, as leave but little room for the exercise of any of the rational powers and faculties. But though the damned may suffer severer pains and torments than can be endured in the present state, yet God can give them strength to endure all that he sees fit to inflict upon them, and make them capable of reflecting upon what is past and of anticipating what is future. For,
1. Their natural powers and faculties will not only be continued, but vastly strengthened and enlarged. The fallen angels, we know, retain all their intellectual powers, which they have undoubtedly vastly improved, by all they have seen and heard and thought, while passing through various and important scenes, in the course of nearly six thousand years. And it is reasonable to suppose, that the spirits of wicked men made miserable, will retain all their mental faculties and find them greatly invigorated by passing out of time into eternity. And of course, they will be able to think, to reflect and to anticipate incessantly and intensely.
2. They will not meet with the same obstructions to mental
exercises, that they meet with here in their present state of probation. Here their cares, their troubles, their employments and various amusements, dissipate their thoughts and obstruct reflection. But there such objects will be entirely removed from their reach and pursuit. The prison of hell is a place of confinement, but not of employment. Those who are confined there, will have nothing to do but to think, through interminable ages. Had men no employments, nor diversions to pursue,
. and had their bodies no occasion for sleep and repose, they would find much time in this short life for thinking about, reflecting upon, and anticipating ten thousand different objects and subjects. The damned rest not day nor night. Their eyes are never closed. Their minds are always awake. Contemplation on things past, present and future is their sole and perpetual employment. Besides,
3. God will continually exhibit before their view such things as will excite the most painful reflections and anticipations. He will set their sins in order before them, in their nature, magnitude, and peculiar aggravations, so that they cannot obliterate them from their minds. He will exhibit all his great, amiable and terrible attributes of power, holiness, justice and sovereignty before them, and give them a constant and realizing sense of his awful presence and displeasure. He will give them clear and extensive views of the works of creation, providence and redemption; and of the happiness and misery that exist in every part of the universe, which will keep their minds in the most painful reflections and anticipations, in spite of their utmost exertions to banish them from their thoughts. He will give them no rest and no hope. Let us now,
II. Take a serious view of their bitter reflections in the regions of despair.
1. They will realize what they are. Here they are told that they are rational and immortal creatures. But the truth of their immortal existence makes very little impression on their minds. It gives them neither much pleasure, nor much pain. Their powers of reason, conscience and memory they lightly esteem, and are ready to bury them in a napkin, and neglect to use them for the purposes for which they were given. It gives them no pleasure to think they are to survive the grave, to be spectators of the whole intelligent universe at the great day, to know all the transactions of God, of Christ and of holy and unholy beings; and in consequence of this knowledge, to be perfectly holy and happy, or perfectly sinful and miserable for
But as soon as they exchange time for eternity, they will no longer view their rational powers and faculties and immortal existence in such a low and despicable light, as they do here; but find that they are creatures of vast importance to themselves, and that their rational and immortal powers were of immense value to them, if they had rightly improved them; but by abusing them, they are become sources of unspeakable misery. It seems that Dives was grossly ignorant of himself, while he thought that he had nothing to do, but to feed and clothe his body; but as soon as he lifted up his eyes in torment, he found that he had a rational and immortal soul, which was infinitely more valuable than his body, which he had left behind to corrupt and perish in the grave. And all gospel sinners, who shall meet his awful doom, will know, to their sorrow, that they are what they were told they were, rational and immortal beings, who can never cease to exist, nor to suffer.
2. They will realize where they are. Though they had often read and heard of hell, yet they would not believe it to be such a dismal place as the Bible and ministers represented. But as soon as they lift up their eyes in torment, they will find it to be a place of confinement, from which there is no deliverance. The keys of death and hell being in the hands of Christ, who shutteth and no man openeth, were it in the hearts of the whole creation to release them, the omnipotent hand of Christ would prevent it. Being delivered to the judge, and by the judge to the officer, and by the officer cast into prison, they can never come out thence. What a painful reflection must this be! But this is not the worst. They will reflect with whom they are confined; with the devil and his angels; with the dregs of mankind; with those who are devoid of every amiable quality, being hateful and hating one another. How must it make the heart stoop, to thing of for ever seeing and feeling the baneful influence of all the malignant passions, rising higher and higher and putting on still newer and more dreadful forms! O, says the damned spirit, Where am I? I am certainly in hell.
3. The damned will reflect whence they came to that place of torment. They will reflect upon the land of light and the precious advantages they there enjoyed, before they were confined to the regions of darkness. They will call to mind how many days and years of peace and comfort they had spent on earth. They will remember how they lived under the smiles of Providence and in the enjoyment of the bounties of Heaven. No place they were in, no scenes they passed through, no favors they enjoyed, will be forgotten, but called to remembrance with bitterness and sorrow. This Abraham suggested to Dives. “ Son, remember that thou in thy life time receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and thou art tormented." The damned spirit will say to himself, “O my soul, never canst thou forget the innumerable