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The stoutest heart of them all will then melt with fear. The hearts of those who are of a sturdy spirit, and perhaps scora to own themselves afraid of any man, and are even ashamed to own themselves afraid of the wrath of God, will then become as weak as water, as weak as the heart of a little child. And the most reserved of them will not be able to hide his fears. Their faces will turn pale ; they will appear with amazement in their countenances ; every joint in them will tremble; all their bones will shake; and their knees will smite one against another: nor will they be able to refrain from crying out with fear and from rendering the air with the most dismal shrieks.
(2.) They will be suddenly seized with fear. The sinners in Zion often remain secure, till they are surprised, as with a cry at midnight. They will be, as it were, awakened out of their secure sleep in a dismal fright. They will see an unexpected calamity coming upon them; far more dreadful than they were aware of, and coming at an unexpected season.
With respect to the TIME when the wicked shall be thus surprised with fear;
1. It is often so on a death bed. Many things pass in their lifetime, which one would think might well strike terror into their souls; as when they see others die, who are as young as they, and of like condition and circumstances with themselves, whereby they may see how uncertain their lives are, and how unsafe their souls. It may well surprise many sinners, to consider how old they are grown, and are yet in a Christless state; how much of their opportunity to get an interest in Christ is irrecoverably gone, and how little remains ; also how much greater their disadvantages now are, than they have been. But these things do not terrify them: as age increases, so do the hardness and stupidity of their hearts grow upon them.
But when death comes, then the sinner is often filled with astonishment. It may be, when he is first taken sick, he has great hope that he shall recover ; as men are ready to flatter themselves with hopes, that things will be as they fain would have them. But when the distemper comes to prevail much upon him, and he sees that he is going into eternity ; when he sees that all the medicines of physicians are in vain, that all the care and endeavours of friends are to no purpose, that nothing seems to help him, that his strength is gone, that his friends weep over him, and look upon his case as desperate ; when he sees, by the countenance and behaviour of the physician, that he looks upon his case as past hope, and perhaps overhears a whispering in the room, wherein his friends signify one to another, that they look upon it that be is struck with death, or wherein they tell one another, that his extreme parts grow cold, that his countenance and manner of breathing, and his pulse, show death, and that he begins to be in a cold deathsweat; and when perhaps, by and by, some one thinks himself bound in duty and faithfulness to let him know the worst, and therefore comes and asks him whether or no he be sensible that he is a dying :-then how doth fearfulness surprise the sinner in Zion. How doth his heart melt with fear! This is the thing which he feared ever since he was taken sick; but till now he had hope that he should recoper. The physician did not speak; or if be despaired, be spoke of such and such medicines as being very proper : and he hoped that they would be effectual; and when these fạiled, be changed his medicines, and applied something new : then the sinner hoped that would be effectual. Thus, although he constantly grew worse and worse, still be boped to recover.
At the same time he cried to God to spare him, and made promises how he would live, if God would spare him; and he hoped that God would hear him. He observed also, that his friends, and perhaps the minister, seemed to pray earnestly for him; and he could not but hope that those prayers would be answered, and he should be restored. But now bow doth his. heart sink and die within him! how doth he look about with a frighted countenance ! how quick is the motion of his eye, through inward fear! and how quick and sudden are all his motions ! what a frightful hurry doth he seem to be ia ! How doth every thing look to him when he sees pale grim death staring him in the face, and a vast eternity within a few hours or minutes of bim !
It may be, he still struggles for a little hope; be is loth to. believe what is told him; he tells his informers, that he hopes they are more affrighted than they need be; he hopes that those symptoms arise from some other cause; and, like a poor drowning man, he catches at slender and brittle twigs, and clinchęs bis bands about whatever he sees within his reach.
But as death creeps more and more on him, he sees his twigs break, all his hopes of life fail, and he sees he must die. O! there is nothing but death before him! He hath been hoping; but his hopes are all dashed; he sees this world, and all that belongs to it, are gone. Now come the thoughts of hell into his mind with amazement. O! how shall he go out of the world! He knows he hath no interest in Christ ; his sins stare him in the face, the dreadful gulph of eternity! He had
been crying to God, perhaps since he was sick, to save him
; and he had some hope, if it were his last sickness, that yet God would pïty him, and give him pardoning grace before he should die. He begged and pleaded, and he hoped that God would have pity on his poor soul. At the same time be asked others to pray for him, and he had been looking day after day for some light to shine into his soul. But, alas! now he is adying, and his friends ask him, how death appears to him ? whether any light appear whether God have not given him some token of his favour? and he answers, No, with a poor, faultering, trembling voice, if able to speak at all: Or if his friends ask a signal of hope, he can give none.
Now death comes on bim more and more, and he just on the brink of eternity. Who can express the fear, the misgivings, the hangings back, and the horrible fright and amazeInent, of his soul? Some who, in such circumstances, have been able to speak, have been known to cry out, o eternity! eternity! and some, 0! a thousand worlds for an inch of time ! O if they might but live a little while longer! But it must not be; go they must. They feel the frame of nature dissolving, and perceive the soul is just a-going ; for sometimes the exercise of reason seems to hold to the last.
What, in such a case, is felt in the soul, in those last moments, when it is just breaking its bands with the body, about to fetch its leap, on the edge of eternity, and the very brink of hell, without any Saviour, or the least testimony of divine mercy : I say, what is sometimes felt by Christless souls in these moments, none can tell; nor is it within the compass of our conception.
2. The misery of the departed soul of a sinner, besides what it now feels, consists in a great part in amazing fears of what is yet to come. When the union of the soul and body is actually broken, and the body has fetched its last gasp, the soul forsakes its old habitation, and then falls into the hands of of devils, who fly upon it, and seize it more violently than ever hungry lions flew upon their prey. And with wbåt horror will it fall into those cruel bands !
If we imagine to ourselves the dreadful fear with which a lamb or kid falls into the paws of a wolf, which lays hold of it with open mouth ; or if we imagine to ourselves the feeling of a little child, that hath been pursued by a lion, when it is taken hold of, and sees the terrible creature open his devouring jaws to tear it in pieces; or the feeling of those two and forty children, who had mocked Elisha, when they fell into the pau's of the bears that tare them in pieces : I say if we could bare a perfect idea of that terror and astonishment which a little child has in such a case, yet we should have but a faint idea of what is felt in the departing soul of a sinner, when it falls into the hands of those cruel devils, those roaring lions, which then seize of it?
And when the soul is carried to hell, and there is tormented, suffers the wrath of the Almighty, and is overwbelmed and crushed with it, it will also be amazed with the apprehensions of what shall yet remain. To think of an eternity of this torment remaining, O how will it fill, and overbear, and sink down the wretched soul! How will the thought of the duration of this torment without end cause the heart to melt like wax! How will the thought of it sink the soul into the bottomless pit of darkness and gloominess ! Even those proud and sturdy spirits, the devils, tremble at the thoughts of that greater torment which they are to suffer at the day of judgment. So will the poor damned souls of men. They have already more than they will be able to bear: how then will they tremble at the thought of having their misery so vastly augmented!
Persons sometimes in this world are atraid of the day of judgment. If there be an earthquake, or if there be more than common thunder and lightning, or if there be soine unusual sight in the heavens, their hearts are ready to tremble for fear that the day of judgment is at hand. () how then do the poor souls in bell fear it, who know so much more about it, who know by what they feel already, and know certainly, that whenever it comes they shall stand on the left hand of the judge, to receive the dreadful sentence; and that then, in soul and body, they must enter into those everlasting burnings which are prepared for the devil and his angels, and who probably know that their misery is to be an hundred fold greater than it is now.
3. Fearfulness will surprise them at the last judgment. When Christ shall appear in the clouds of heaven, and the last trumpet sball sound, then will the hearts of wicked men be surprised with fearfulness. The poor damned soul, in expectation of it, trembles every day and every hour from the time of its departure from the body. It knows not, indeed, when it is to be, but it knows it is to be. But when the alarm is given in hell that the day is come, it will be a dreadful alarm indeed. It will, as it were, fill the caverns of hell with shrieks; and when the souls of the damned shall enter into their bodies, it will be with amazing horror of what is coming. And when they shall lift up their heads out of their graves, and shall see the
judge, it will be a most terrible sight. Gladly would they return into their graves again, and hide themselves there, if that might be ; and gladly would they return into hell, their former state of misery, to hide themselves from this awful sight, if that would excuse them.
So those sinners in Zion, who shall then be found alive on the earth, when they shall see this sight, will be surprised with fearfulness. The fear and horror which many poor sinners feel when they are dying, is great, and beyond all that of which we can have any idea; but that is nothing to the horror that will seize them when they shall come to see this sight.
There will not be a wicked man upon earth who will be able to bear it, let him be who he will; let him be rich or poor, old or young, male or female, servant or master, king or subject, learned or unlearned ; let him be ever so proud, erer so courageous, and ever so sturdy. There is not one who will be able at all to support himself; when he shall see this sight, it will immediately sink his spirit; it will loose the joints of his loins ; it will make his countenance more ghastly than death. The rich captains, and valiant generals and princes, who now scorn to show'any fear at the face of an enemy, who scorn to tremble at the roaring of cannon, will trenible and shriek when they shall hear the last trumpet, and see the Majesty of their judge : it will make their teeth to chatter, and make them fly to hide themselves in the caves and rocks of mountains, crying to the rocks and mountains to fall on them, and cover them from the wrath of the judge.
Fearfulness will surprise them when they shall be dragged before the judgment-seat. The wicked hang back when they are about to meet death; but in no measure as they will hang back when they come to meet their great Judge. And when they come to stand before the Judge, and are put on his left hand, fearfulness and amazement will surprise them. The majesty of the Judge will be intolerable to them. His pure and holy eye, which will belold and search them, and pierce them through, will be more terrible to their souls a thousand times than flashes of lightning piercing their hearts. There will they stand in a trembling expectation, that by and by they shall hear the words of that dreadful sentence proceed out of the mouth of Christ : they will have an horrible expectation of that sentence; and what shall they do, whither shall they fly, so as to be out of its hearing? They cannot sbut their ears, so as not to hear it.