« ElőzőTovább »
turbance. But the time will come, when the hardest and most stupid wretches will be awakened. Though now preaching will not awaken them, and the death of others will not make them afraid ; though seeing others awakened and converted will not much affect them; though they can stand all that is to be heard and seen in a time of general out-pouring of the Spirit of God, without being much moved ; yet the time will come, when they will be awakened, and fear will take hold of them. They will be afraid of the wrath of God : however senseless they be now, they will hereafter be sensible of the awful greatness of God, and that it is a fearful thing to fall into his hands.
2. They will be surprised with fear. This seems to imply two things; viz. the greatness of their fear, and the suddenness of it.
(1.) The greatness of their fear. Surprise argues a high degree of fear. Their fears will be to the degree of astonishment. Some of the sinners in Zion are somewhat afraid now: they now and then have some degree of fear. They are not indeed convinced that there is such a place as hell; but they are afraid there is. They are not thoroughly awakened; neither are they quite easy. They have at certain times inward molestations from their consciences; but they have no such degrees of fear, as to put them upon any thorough endeavours to escape future wrath.
However, hereafter they will have fear enough, as much, and a great deal more, than they will be able to stand under: Their fear will be to the degree of horror; they will be horribly afraid ; and terrors will take hold on them as waters. Thus we read of their fear coming as a desolation, and of distress and anguish coming upon them; Prov. i. 27. It is also very emphatically said of the wicked, that trouble and anguish shall prevail against him, as a King ready to the battle. Job xv. 24.
The stoutest heart of them all will then melt with fear. The hearts of those who are of a sturdy spirit, and, perhaps, scorn 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 rending 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 unex
pected calamily 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
. life-time, 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 bardness 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 be 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 bis friends signify one to another, that they look upon it that he 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 death-sweat; 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 recover. The physician did not speak; or, if he despaired, he spoke of such and such medicines as being very proper: and he hoped that they would be effectual; and when these failed, he changed his medicines, and applied something new: then the sinner hoped that would be effectual. Thus, although he constantly grew worse and worse, still he hoped 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 how 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 in! 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 him !
It may be, he still struggles for a little hope; he 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 clinches his 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. 0! 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. O the dreadful gulf 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 pity 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, he 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 a dying, and
a his friends ask him, how death appears to bim ? whether any light appear? whether God have not given him some token of his favour? and he answers, no, with a poor, faltering, 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 him 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 amazement, of his soul? Some who, in such circumstances, have been able to speak, have been known to cry out, O! eternity ! eternity! and some, O a thousand worlds for an inch of time! 0! 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 inoments, 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:
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 devils, who fly upon it, and seize it more violently than ever hungry lions flew upon their prey. And with what horror will it fall into those cruel hands!
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 paws of the bears that tare them in pieces : I say, if we could have 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 overwhelmed 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 afraid of the day of judgment. If there be an earthquake, or if there be more than common thunder and lightning, or if there be some unusual sight in the heavens, their hearts are ready to tremble for fear that the day of judgment is at hand. O how then do the poor souls in hell fear it, who know so much more about it, wbo
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 pow.
3. Fearfulness will surprise them at the last judgment. When Christ shall appear in the clouds of heaven, and the last trumpet shall 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 damped 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, ever 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 Joins; 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 tremble 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