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3. If you remain thus unprofitable, and be not actively useful, surely God will obtain his end of you, in your destruction.
, He will say concerning the barren tree, “Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground ?” Christ (John xv. 6.) tells us, “ If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” This is spoken of the barren branches in the vine. How would you yourselves do in such a case with a barren tree in an orchard, or with weeds and tares in your fields ? Doubtless if it were in your power, you would utterly destroy them.-God will have his end ; he will not be frustrated. Though all men and devils unite their endeavours, they cannot frustrate God in any thing ; and “ though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished ;" Prov. xi. 21. God hath sworn by his great name, that he will have bis glory of men, whether they will actively glorify him or no. Numb. xiv. 21, 22, 23. “ But as truly as i live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord. Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice ; surely they shall not see the land
; which 1 sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it.”—“ The axe lieth at the root of the trees ; and every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire ;'' Matt. iii. 10. The end of those men who bring forth nothing but briers and thorns, is to be burned, as in Heb. vi. 7, 8. “For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers, is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing ; whose end is to be burned.” So we read of the tares, Matt. xiii. 30. “Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them;"> and in verses 40, 41, 42. “ As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so shall it be at the end of the world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”—So it is said of the chaff, Matt. iii. 12. "Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner: but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
If you continue not to bring forth any fruit to the divine glory, hell will be the only fit place for you. It is a place prepared on purpose to be a receptacle of such persons. In hell pature ceases to labour any more for sinners. There they will bave no opportunity to consume the fruits of divine goodness
on their lusts; there they can prejudice or incumber nothing, upon which God sets any value. There no faithful servants and ministers of God will any longer spend their strength in vain upon them. When the barren tree is in the fire the servants of the husbandman are freed from any further Jabour about it.-In hell the fruitless will no more have opportunity to clog and discourage the flourishing of religion, and to destroy much good, as they often do in this world, they will no more have opportunity to corrupt others by their ill example ; they will no more have it in their power to offend the godly; they may hurt and torment one another; but the godly will be out of their reach. In hell there will be no ordinances, no sabbaths, no sacraments, no sacred things, for them to profane and defile by their careless and hypocritical attendance; but unceasing wo for their abuse.
SINNERS IN ZION TENDERLY WARNED; OR THE FEAR-
Isaiah xxxiii. 14.
The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the
hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who amongst us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?
Showing who are sinners in Zion.
There are two kinds of persons among God's professing people; the one, those who are truly godly, spoken of in the verse following the text; He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly, &c. The other kind consists of sinners in Zion, or hypocrites. It is to be observed, that the prophet in this chapter speaks interchangeably, first to the one, and then to the other of these characters of men ; awfully threatening and denouncing the wrath of God against the one, and comforting the other with gracious promises. Thus you may observe, in the 5th and 6th verses, there are comfortable promises to the godly; then in the eight following verses, awful judgments are threatened against the sinners in Zion. Again, in the two next verses are blessed promises to the sincerely godly, and in the former part of ver. 17. And then in the latter part of ver. 17. and in ver. 18, and 19. are terrible threatenings to sinners in Zion : then in the verses that follow are gracious promises to the godly.
Our text is part of what is said in this chapter to sinners in Zion. In ver. 10. it is said, Now will I rise, saith the Lord; now will I be exalted, now will Í lift up myself, 'i. e. Now will í
* The substance of two posthumous discourses, dated Dec. 1740.
arise to execute wrath upon the ungodly : I will not let them alone any longer. They shall see that I am not asleep, and that I am not regardless of mine own honour. Now will I be exalted. Though they have cast contempt upon me, yet I will vindicate the honour of my own majesty : I will exalt myself, and show my greatness, and my awful majesty in their destruction. Now will I lift up myself ; now I will no longer have mine honour trampled in the dust by them : But my glory shall be manifested in their misery.
In ver. 11. the prophet proceeds, Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble : i. e. Ye shall pursue happiness in ways of wickedness, but you shall not obtain it; you are as ground which brings forth no fruit, as if only chaff were sowed in it; it brings forth nothing but stubble, which is fit for nothing but to be burned.
It seems to have been the manner in that land where the corn grew very rank, when they had reaped the wheat, and gathered it off from the ground, to set fire to the stubble; which is alluded to here; and therefore it is added, Your breath as fire, shall devour you: i. e. Your own wicked speeches, your wickedness that you commit with your breath or with your tongues, shall set fire to the stubble and devour it.
Then it follows in ver. 12. And the people shall be as the burnings of lime. As they are wont to burn lime in a great and exceeding fierce fire, till stones, and bones, and other things are burnt to lime; so shall the wicked be burnt in the fire of God's wrath. As thorns cut up shall they be burnt in the fire : as briers and thorns are the incumbrance and curse of the ground where they grow, and are wont to be burnt; so shall it be with the wicked that are among God's people, and grow in God's field. Heb. vi. 7, 8. « For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers, is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.”
Then it follows in ver. 13. Hear ye that are far off, what I have done ; and ye that are near, acknowledge my might. This implies that God will, by the destruction of ungodly men, manifest his glory very publicly, even in the sight of the whole world, both in the sight of those that are near, and of those that are far off. Acknowledge my might. Which implies that God will execute wrath upon ungodly men, in such a manner as extraordinarily to show forth his great and mighty power. The destruction and misery of the wicked will be so dreadful, that it will be a manifestation of the omnipotent power of God, that be can execute such misery; agreeably to Rom. ix. 22. “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known. Vol. VI.
endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.
Next follow these words : The sinners in Zion are afraid ! fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites : who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who amongst us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? The sense is, that the time will come,
, when fearfulness will surprise the sinners in Zion; because they will know, that they are about to be cast into a devouring fire, which they must suffer for ever and ever, and which none can endure.
It may be inquired, who are the sinners in Zion ?answer, That they are those who are in a natural condition among the visible people of God. Zion, or the city of David of old, was a type of the church; and the church of God in scripture is perhaps more frequently called by the name of Zion than by any other name. And commonly by Zion is meant the true church of Christ, or the invisible church of true saints. But sometimes by this name is meant the visible church, consisting of those who are outwardly, by profession and external privileges, the people of God. This is intended by Zion in this text.
The greater part of the world are sinners. Christ's flock is, and ever hath been but a little flock. And the sinners of the world are of two sorts : those who are visibly of Satan's kingdom, who are without the pale of the visible church ; and those who do not profess the true religion, nor attend the external ordinances of it. Besides these there are the sinners in Zion. Both are the objects of the displeasure and wrath of God; but his wrath is more especially manifested in scripture against the latter. Sinners in Zion will have by far the lowest place in hell. They are exalted nearest to heaven in this world, and they will be lowest in hell in another. The same is meant by hypocrites. Sinners in Zion are all bypocrites; for they make a profession of the true religion ; they attend God's ordinances, and make a show of being the worshippers of God; but all is hypocrisy.
How fearfulness will hereafter surprise sinners in Zion.
1. They will hereafter be afraid. Now many of them seem to have little or no fear. They are quiet and secure. Nothing will awaken them : the most awful threatenings and the loudest warnings do not much move them. They are not so much moved with them, but that they can eat, and drink, and sleep, and go about their worldly concerns without much dis