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FUTURE MISERY OF THE WICKED.
The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty
angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ ; who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. 2 Thess. i. 7, 8, 9.
1. It is remarkable, that in the account here given us by the apostle, of the revelation of Jesus Christ, and the eternally awful consequences of it, he represents our Lord's second coming to be rather in order to the salvation of his own people, than the punishment of the wicked. For although he mentions his taking vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel, he declares in the 10th verse, that the end, the principal end, of his coming is, that he is may be glorified in his saints, and admired of all that believe."
2. How plain is, it from hence, as well as from a thousand other considerations, that mercy is our Lord's darling attribute, and that judgment is his strange work. He delights to dispense pardons and confer rewards ; but it is with reluctance that he passes sentence of condemnation, or inflicts punishment on any. From the apostle's manner of representing the matter, one would conclude that he would much rather pass the ungodly by, did not the unchangeable perfections of his nature, the divine authority of his laws, and the unalterable rights of his government, oblige him to call them into judgment. But inasmuch as all his other attributes must be manifested and honoured, as well as his love, his law magnified, and the equity of his government maintained ; therefore he must and will “ render to every man according to his works : to them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality, eternal life; but to them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man who worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile, for there is no respect of persons with God. As certainly as he will account his saints worthy through his own worthiness,
“ of the kingdom for which they suffer," so certainly, “when he is revealed, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, will he take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel.”
In two former discourses on these words, the certainty and manner of our Lord's second coming, as also the character of those whom he will then condemn, have been particularly considered. I now proceed, as was proposed, to show,
III The nature and duration of their misery. But, that we may justify the ways of God to man, and prevent any abuse which might be made of this doctrine to the disparagement of the divine goodness, I think it proper to premise a few words concerning the reason of their condemnation and punishment.
1. This is signified in the words of our text, which speak of Christ's “ taking vengeance on them, and punishing them." The expressions (especially in the original,) intimate an unbecoming and injurious conduct in them towards God, which being examined into, they now receive the due reward of their deeds. Inquire we then, what their conduct has been, and we shall easily see the reason of their misery. And here I do not mention their violation of the law of innocence, or covenant of works, made with our first parents before their fall, because the Scriptures no where that I remember) represent this as the cause of the condemnation of any at the day of judgment. But with our Lord, I observe, “ This is the condemnation,” (the reason of the condemnation) of those who perish,
“ that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, their deeds being eril.” They “re. jected the counsel of God against themselves ;" they neglected the
gospel salvation ; " they would not come unto Christ that thej might 'have life; they refused " him to reign over them;" they buried, instead of improving their talent of light and power, slighted the divine mercy,
56 counted the blood of the covenant a common thing,” i. e. they trifled with and abused it, and did final despite to the Spirit of grace," and therefore they are condemned, Or, in the language of our text, Christ takes vengeance on them because they knew not God, when they might have known him, and obeyed not the gospel, whereas they might have been obedient unto it. Or, in plainer words still, he dooms them unto everlasting fire; not because he appointed them to wrath, and decreed their damnation before they were born, but because he would have saved them, and they would not, choosing death rather than life, and cursing rather than blessing.
2. And that you may be able to form some idea (though after all it will be faint and inadequate) of the divine justice manifested in their punishment, consider both the conduct of God towards them, and theirs in return towards him. Consider the love of the Father in giving his only-begotten Son, and exposing him to the most dreadful sufferings and ignominious death for those wretched sinners, who had abused his mercies, broken his laws, trampled under foot his authority, and rebelled against his government, Consider the Son of God emptying himself of his glory and happiness, assuming our frail nature in its meanest form, and at last submitting to pain and shame in their greatest'extremities; and all this for his bitterest enemies, who slighted his dying love, refused his mild government, and even imbrued their hands in his most precious blood, or daily crucified him afresh : Consider the holy Spirit of grace operating in various ways, and at different times enlightening, awakening, convincing; alarming with fear, alluring with hope, drawing with love; comforting in trouble, strengthening in weakness, succouring in temptation : and this with a view to beget repentance, faith, and holiness in the soul, as a Spirit of adoption to cry in'us “ Abba Father," to seal us to the day of redemption, and give us an earnest of our future inheritance in our hearts. Consider him as persisting in these kind offices, notwithstanding all the neglect, contempt, and contumely, wherewith we treat him: "notwithstanding we shut our eyes against his light, stop our ears to his calls, slight his love, reject his favours, and quench his motions; inviting the most impure lusts and diabolical tempers, to supply the place of his spiritual graces, and entertaining the foul fiend of hell in the inmost recesses of our souls,
which should be kept sacred to this heavenly inhabitant. In shorts consider the amazing plan of our redemption, from first to last, in all its wonderful variety, in all its mysterious grace: Consider the abyss of guilt and misery where it finds us, and from whence it delivers us; the height of bliss and glory to which it advances us, and in which it establishes us ; together with the astonishing process of divine love in the accomplishment of this great and good work. In a word, consider the greatness of this salvation provided for us, and offered to us in the gospel; and then say what punishment, what torment do they deserve, and from a holy and just God must they meet with, who neglect and reject it!
3. From a just God I say, for they have doubtless nothing further to expect from his mercy and goodness. The sun of divine love is now for ever set upon them. It shone indeed with effulgent brightness during the whole day of life, though it was never suffered to enlighten their minds, clouds of prejudice, exhaled from their gengual souls, obscuring its beams, and the thick vail of unbelief excluding its light; but it will now shine no more! It has resigned them to the scorching fire of divine wrath, which (however reluctant they may be) will effectually enlighten them, but ah! with how different a flame! with how dismal a light! The streams of divine grace, which long watered their still barren souls in vain, are now run out, or rather diverted into a more fruitful soil, and streams of indignation are directed, by infinite justice, to flow in upon and'eternally overwhelm them. :
4. Being awakened out of the long sleep of death by the tremendous sound of the trump of God, they are summoned to appear before the awful tribunal of the Universal Judge. A great white throne is erected, and he, who is the desire of nations and the joy of angels, sits upon it. ( His head and his hair are white as snow, and his eyes as a flame of fire; his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace, and his voice as the sound of many waters. In his right hand he carries seven stars, out of his mouth goeth a sharp two-edged sword, and his countenance is as the sun shining in his strength."
u Where'er serene he turns propitious eyes,
We find a newly open'd paradise :
Before this glorious person, to whom the Father hath committed all judgment, and who hath all power in heaven and on earth, trembling and reluctant, they make their appearance, and receive their final sentence at his bar.
5. The books being opened, and every secret thing brought to light, all their thoughts, words, and works, pass in review before him, and undergo a severe scrutiny.-And thus all their transgressions and defects being discovered in all their aggravations, they are recompensed in exact proportion to their demerits. For since they rejected the satisfaction made by Christ, and there remaineth no other sacrifice for sin, divine and infinite justice arrests their guilty souls, and confines them in the dark prison of hell, till they have satisfied all its demands by their personal sufferings, which, alas! they can never do. They must therefore sink for ever under the enormous weight of that dreadful curse.; which, with respect to them, Christ bore in vain, and must reimburse, (if I may so speak,) by an increased misery, all the expense which divine goodness has been at with them. The love and mercy which were shown these wretched creatures, the blood which was shed for them, the grace which was conferred
upon them, shall all be considered, and as they will demonstrate, in the blackest light, their ingratitude and obstinacy, so will they greatly enhance their condemnation, and aggravate their torment! Having thus manifested their desert of the punishment provided for them, that it is a debt owed them by impartial justice and despised mercy, I proceed, as was proposed, to show,
Secondly, The nature and duration of their misery. On this head I shall, 1st, make some general observations, by way of explaining the text and establishing the doctrine.'
2dly, I shall take a more particular view of their misery.
3dly, I shall conclude with an earnest address to saints and sin
And, 1st, I am to make some general observations, by way of explaining the text and establishing the doctrine.
1. The Apostle calls their misery destruction, by which, it is plain, he does not mean the extinction of their being,” or “the