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Fearfulness will surprise them when the sentence shall come to be pronounced. At the close of the judgment, that dreadful doom will be uttered by the Judge; and it will be the most terrible voice that ever was heard. The sound of the last trumpet, that shall call men to judgment, will be a more terrible sound to wicked men than ever they shall have beard till that time; but the sound of the last sentence will be much niore terrible than that. There will not be one of all those millions at the left hand, whether high or low, king or subject, who will be able to support bimself at all under the sound of that sentence; but they will all sink under it.
Lastly, Fearfulness will surprise them, when they shall come to see the fire kindle upon the world, in which they are to be tormented for ever. When the sentence shall have been pronounced, Christ, with his blessed saints and glorious angels, will leave this lower world, and ascend into heaven. Then will the flames begin to kindle, and fire will probably be seen coming down from heaven; and soon will the fire lay hold of that accursed multitude. Then will their hearts be surprised with fearfulness; that fire will appear a dreadful fire indeed. () what chatterings of teeth, what shaking of loins, what distortions of body, will there be at that time, when they shall see, and begin to feel, the fierceness of the flames! What shall they do, whither shall they go, to avoid those fames ? Where shall they hide themselves if they creep into holes, or creep into caves of the earth, yea if they could creep down to the centre of the earth, it will be in vain; for it will set on fire the bottoms of the mountains, and burn to the lowest hell. They will see no place to fly to, no place to hide themselves.
Then their hearts will be filled with fearfulness, and will utterly sink in despair. Thus it shall bereafter be with every one that shall then be found to be 4 sinner, and especially with sinners in Zion.
il'ky sinners in general will hereafter be surprised with fear,
1. Fearfulness will surprise them, because they will know that they are to be cast into devouring fire. There is nothing which seems to give one a more terrible idea of torment and misery, than to think of being cast alive into a great fire; especially if we conceive of the senses remaining quick, and pot
benumbed by the fire. The wicked will hereafter have that to make them afraid, that they are not only to be cast into a fire, but into devouring fire; which implies, that it will be a fire of extraordinary fierceness of heat, and before which nothing can stand.
The fire into which men are to be cast is called a furnace of fire. Furnaces are contrived for an extreme degree of heat, this being necessary for the purposes for which they are designed, as the running and refining of metals, and the melting of materials into glass. The fire of such earthly furnaces may be called devouring fire, as the heat of some of them is such, that in them even stones will presently be dissolved. Now, if a person should be brought to the mouth of such a furnace, and there should see how the fire glows, so as presently to make every thing cast into it, all over white and bright with fire, and at the same time should know that he was immediateJy to be cast into this furnace, would not fearfulness surprise him?
In some heathen countries, the manner of disposing of dead bodies is to dig a great pit, to put in it a great quantity of fuel, to put the dead bodies on the pile, and to set it on fire. This is some image of the burning of dead souls in the pit of hell. Now, if a person were brought to the edge of such a pit, all filled with glowing flames, to be immediately cast into it, would it not surprise the heart with fearfulness?
The flames of a very great fire, as when a house is all on fire, give one some idea of the fierceness of the wrath of God: such is the rage of the flames. And we see that the greater a fire is, the fiercer is its heat in every part; and the reason is, because one part heats another. The heat in a particular place, besides the heat which proceeds out of the fuel in that place, is increased by the additional heat of the fire all around
Hence we may conceive something of what fierceness that fire will be, when this visible world shall be turned into one great furnace. That will be devouring fire indeed. Such will be the beat of it, that, as the apostle says, the elements shall melt with servent heat, 2 Pet. iii. 10.
Men can artificially raise such a degree of beat with burning glasses, as will quickly melt the very stones and sand. And it is probable that the heat of that great fire which will burn the world, will be such as to melt the rocks, and the very ground, and turn them into a kind of liquid fire; so that the whole world will probably be converted into a great lake, or liquid globe of fire, a vast ocean of fire, in which the wicked
shall be overwhelmed. It will be an ocean of fire, which will alwavs be in a tempest, in wbich the wicked shall be tossed to and fro, having no rest day nor night, vast waves or billows of fire continually rolling over their heads.
But all this will be only an image of that dreadful fire of the wrath of God, which the wicked shall at the same time suffer in their souls. We read in Rev. xix.15. of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. This is an extraordinary expression, carrying a terrible idea of the future misery of the wicked. If it had been only said the wrath of God, that would have expressed what is dreadful. If the wrath of a king be as the roaring of a lion, what is the wrath of God? But it is not only said the wrath of God, but the fierceness and wrath of God, or the rage of his wrath; and not only so, but the fierceness and wratb of Almighty God. () what is that! the fierceness and rage or fury of Omnipotence! of a being of infinite strength! What an idea doth that give of the state of those worins that suffer the fierceness and wrath of such an Almighty Being! And is it any wonder that fearfulness surprises their hearts, when they see this about to be executed upon them?
2. Another reason given in the text, why fearfulness will hereafter surprise sinners, is, that they will be sensible this devouring fire will be everlasting. If a man were brought to the mouth of a great furnace to be cast into the midst of it, if at the same time he knew he should suffer torment but for one minute, yet that minute would be so terrible to him, that fearfulness would surprise and astonish him. How much more, if he were to be cast into a fire much fiercer; the fire in which wicked men are hereafter to be tormented! And if the thought of suffering this devouring fire for one minute would be enough to fill one with such surprising fearfulness, what will seize them, when they shall know that they are to bear it, not for one minute, nor for one day, nor for one year, nor for one age, por for a hundred ages, nor for a million of ages, one after another, but for ever and ever; without any end, and never, never be delivered!
They shall know, that the fire itself will be everlasting fire; fire that never shall be quenched : Mark is. 43, 44. Togo into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And they shall know that their torment in that fire never will have an endo Rev. xiv. 10, 11. They shall know that they shall for ever be full of quick sense within and without; their heads, their eyes, their tongues, their hands, their feet, their loins, and their vitals, shall for ever be full of glowing melting fire, fierce enough to melt the very rocks and elements; and also that they shall eternally be full of the most quick and lively sense to feel the torment.
They shall know that they shall never cease restlessly to plunge and roll in that mighty ocean of fire. They shall know that those billows of fire, which are greater than the greatest mountains, will never cease to roll over them, following one another for ever and ever.
At the same time they will have a more lively sense of eternity than we ever can have here. We can have but a little sense of what an eternal duration is; and indeed none can comprehend it; it swallows up all thought and imagination: if we set ourselves to think upon it, we are presently lost. But they will have another and far clearer sense of it than we have. O how vast will eternity appear to them, when they think of spending it in such burnings! This is another reason that fearfulness will surprise them. The thoughts of eternity will always amaze them, and will sink and depress them to a bottomless depth of despair.
3. The third reason given in the text, why fearfulness will surprise them at the apprehension of this punishment, is, that that they will know, they shall not be able to bear it. When they shall see themselves going into that devouring fire, they will know that they are not able to bear it. They will know that they are not able to grapple with the fierceness and rage of those flames; for they will see the fierceness of the wrath of God in them; they will see an awful manifestation of Omnipotence in the fury of that glowing furnace. And in those views their hearts will utterly fail them; their hands will not be strong, nor can their hearts endure. They will see that their strength is weakness; and that they can do nothing in such a conflict.
When they shall have come to the edge of the pit, and of the burning lake, and shall look into the furnace, then they will cry out with exclamations like these: 0! what shall I do? how shall I bear the torments of this fire? how can I endure them? Who can endure? where is the man so stout-hearted, where is the giant of such strength and such courage, that he can bear this? O! what shall I do? Must I be cast in this ther? I cannot bear it; I can never endure it. O that I could return to my first nothing! How can I endure it one moment? how much less can I endure it for ever and ever? And must I bear it for ever? what! for ever and ever, without any end, and never find any refuge, never be suffered to return to my first nothing, and be no nearer to the end of these sufferings after millions of ages? () what dismal contentions and shrieks, and shaking of loins, and gnashing of teeth, will there be then! No wonder that fearfulness will then surprise the wicked.
TVhy it will be especially thus with sinners in Zion, who dwell
among God's visible people.
There will hereafter be a very great difference between sinners in Zion and other sinners; a great difference between the most pointed hypocrite of them all, and the drunkards, the adulterers, the Sodomites, the thieves, and murderers among the Heathen, who sin against only the light of nature. The fearfulness which will surprise them, although it will be very dreadful, yet will be in no measure so amazing and borrible, as that which will seize the sinners in Zion. That fierceness and wrath of Almighty God, which they will suffer, will be mild and moderate in comparison with that which the sinners in Zion will suffer.
The wrath of God is in his word manifested against the wicked Heathens; but it is ten times as much manifested against those sinners who make the profession and enjoy the privileges of the people of God; and yet remain enemies to God. Both the Old Testament and the New are full of terrible denunciations against such. Read the books of Moses, read the prophets, and you will find thein full of dreadful threatenings against such. Read over the bistory of Christ's life, and the speeches which he made when upon earth; there you will see what woes and curses he frequently denounced against such. How often did he say, that it should be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for the cities in which most of his mighty works were done! Read over the history of the Acts of the Apostles, and their epistles; there you will find the same. It is the sinners in Zion, or hypocrites, that are always in scripture spoken of as the people of God's wrath : Isa. x. 6. I will send him against un hypocritical nation, against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil.–The reasons are chiefly these :
1. That they sin against so much greater light. This is often spoken of in scripture, as an aggravation to the sin and wickedness of sinners in Zion. He that knows not bis Lord's