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I had not followed the dictates of malice and revenge! O! that I had never defiled my lips with profane swearing, cursing, and blasphemy! O! that I had never been unmerciful and uncharitable, that I had never injured or oppressed the poor, but had relieved their necessities, and made them partakers of my abundance! had I done this, and instead of pursuing criminal pleasures, made the salvation of my soul my care and study, I might now (instead of frying in these flames) have been in yonder bright and glorious mansions, singing praises and hallelujahs among the blessed saints, and with them communicating in those unspeakable pleasures, which are for ever to be felt in the presence and enjoyment of GOD and his CHRIST; but from thence I am eternally banished. The gulf, the mighty gulf, the decree, the irreversible decree of an angry GOD, has made a separation, which can never be surmounted, and here must be thy abode : the fiends must be thy companions and tormentors; this fire, the element wherein thou must live, and this worm must gnaw greedily upon thee for ever. O dreadful word, for ever! when ten thousand times ten thousand ages are past and gone, thy misery will be the same, and not a moment nearer its expiration! all the sufferings thou canst endure in an infinite succession of ages, will not appease the enraged Deity, or incline him to relent. To recover his favour is a thing now impossible; and therefore "farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear, farewell remorse, all good to me is lost; evil be thou my good." · And thus the wretched creature goes on, loading himself with curses and execrations, envying and raging at the blessed above, reproaching and snarling at his fellowsufferers in Hell; and as he reflects on his lost condition and the unrelenting wrath of GOD, raging and blaspheming even against GOD himself. O sad estate, which turns every thing into poison, and will make the wretched curse the very fountain of happiness, thereby
precluding all hopes of reconciliation, and perpetuating their punishment for ever.'
These are some of the sad ingredients which will constitute the helpless and forlorn condition of the reprobates hereafter: a condition so very terrible, and full of horror, that it is almost impossible for any one to think of it without trembling. O! that every one who reads this, may be so wise and good, as to prevent it from being his own case, by leading a holy life, and truly repenting of all his sins, and so endeavouring to make his peace with GOD, before it be too late; "O consider this, all ye that forget GOD, lest he pluck you away, and there be none to deliver you." Psalm 1. 22.
There shall be different Degrees of Punishment and Misery in Hell.
THIRDLY, The third thing which I proposed to shew on this subject is, that there shall be different degrees of punishment and misery in Hell, in proportion to the aggravation of men's iniquities in this world. Though the punishment of all wicked and ungodly men in the next world, will undoubtedly be very severe, yet we have the greatest reason to believe, that the punishment of some wicked men there shall be far more severe than that of others. This is plainly intimated to us in many places of the Holy Scriptures.
Thus our Saviour threatens those who continue impenitent under the light of the Gospel, with more heavy and dreadful punishments, than those who never enjoyed the light of it: where he tells the wicked inhabitants of Capernaum, "That it should be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, and for the
men of Sodom and Gomorrah, at the day of judgment, than for that city," Matt. xi. 22. 24. So likewise in another place he tells us, according to the degree of light and knowledge, which had been afforded to men in this world, shall be the degree of their torment in the next. "The servant that knew his LORD's will, and prepared not himself to do according to it, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew it not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes," St. Luke xii. 47. And in general we are told, that the punishment of sinners shall receive its aggravation from the advantages and opportunities which men have neglected or abused in their lives. For "to whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more," ver. 48. So likewise the Apostle tells us, Heb. ii. 2, 3, that God will punish the contempt of the Gospel more severely than that of the law of Moses. "If the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" And chap. x. 28, 29, if," he that despised Moses' law, died without mercy under two or three witnesses, of how much sorer punishment, think ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of GOD?"
Moreover, we cannot but conclude that thus it will be, both from the consideration of the divine justice, and also from the nature of the thing.
From the former, we may be well assured, that GOD, who is privy to all the thoughts and actions of every man, though committed with never so much secrecy, and who perfectly knows how to distinguish between different degrees of wickedness; and is likewise abundantly able to punish every sinner according to his desert, will in the future state proportion the torment according to every man's guilt, Bp. Greene's Discourses.
and inflict such punishment on every sinner, as his particular offences shall deserve.
And in the nature of the thing, it cannot well be otherwise, even though the divine justice should not interpose. For where the greatest guilt is, there will of necessity be the greatest remorse, and so the greatest vexation and punishment from the sense of it.
Whilst wicked men indeed continue in this world, they find out a great many ways to divert the reproaches of their guilty consciences. They are sometimes so eagerly intent upon other things, that they will not attend to them: or perhaps, when they feel their clamours begin to grow very uneasy to them, they are willing to lull them asleep, by crying, Peace, peace; and are apt to deceive themselves with fruitless resolutions of a future repentance and reformation, some time hence; and then hope that all will be well at last. But when they are once passed into another world, and their thoughts are all awake, without any thing possible to divert them; when all their vain imaginations shall be confuted, and their hopes of reformation at an end; then the intenseness of their torments will make them feel the terrors of them, whether they will or no; and will with fury urge upon them the mortifying considerations of their own folly and madness: 'how they wilfully stopped their ears to all God's gracious calls and invitations to repentance, and presumptuously neglected all the means of grace that were offered to them; and obstinately resisted all the good motions of the Spirit of GOD upon their souls; and scandalously pursued all their irregular passions and inclinations, to the dishonour of GOD, their great Creator and Benefactor, and their blessed Saviour, who came into the world to die for them, and to redeem them with his most precious blood.' All which they regarded not at all, but preferred the gratification of their vile lusts, before all the great
obligations which their GoD and Saviour had laid upon them, to serve and obey him in righteousness, and holiness of life; how, I say, in such cases as these, can it be otherwise, but that the reflection. upon their own past egregious folly and ingratitude, must needs sit the more heavily upon their souls, and wound them the more deeply, and torment them the more grievously, in proportion to the aggravations of their ingratitude towards GOD, and of the folly which they have been guilty of towards themselves? By these means, as the Apostle says, Rom. ii. 5, 66 They must needs treasure up unto themselves wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of GOD;" and pile up more fuel for everlasting burnings. For since the torments of Hell are in Scripture compared to fire; the more fuel, and the greater store of combustible matter is cast into it, the more fierce and raging must it needs be.
It might perhaps have been expected, that I should here have added something more particularly, for the more evident proof of the certainty of the eternity of Hell torments; but this being one of the deep counsels and unsearchable judgments of God, which we blind, ignorant, and shallow creatures, are not sufficiently qualified fully to fathom and comprehend; after so many plain declarations and descriptions made of it in Scripture expressions, which are severe enough, one would think, to deter any considerate person from wilfully exposing himself to the danger of such dreadful misery, as is threatened by them to wicked men! I shall choose rather to omit saying any thing farther of it in this place; and shall only observe, that however inconceivable soever the eternity of Hell torments may now be to us; there is a time coming, when the incomprehensible wisdom, impartial justice, and inexhaustible goodness of GOD, in all his dispensations and judiciary proceedings with the sons of men, shall shine forth to all the