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world, and be as clear as the light; so that both angels and men shall see them, and be forced to acknowledge and approve them, and to adore GOD for them; saying, as the church doth upon occasion of the judgments inflicted on Babylon, Rev. xix. 1, 2, "Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power unto the LORD our GOD; for true and righteous are his judgments."
What useful Lessons the Consideration of these Things does naturally suggest to us.
Now all these things being well considered, do naturally suggest many useful lessons to us; some of which I shall crave leave to add, in the last place, by way of application to the whole, and with them to conclude.
As first, We are hereby informed of the heinous nature of sin, and God's high displeasure against it. Whoever observes the careless behaviour of the generality of mankind, with regard to sin; how easily they are tempted to the commission of it, and how little concern they are apt to express for it, after they have been guilty of it; must needs conclude that they look upon it as a slight trifling thing, and not worth a man's giving himself any uneasiness about it; but he may indulge himself freely in the commission of it, whenever he perceives it to be any way conducing to his profit or his pleasure to do so. But whatever men's thoughts may be of it, it is certain that the most wise and righteous GOD, who can best judge of the true nature of things, has quite another opinion of it, and does not think it so light and indifferent a matter, as men are apt to do.
For if he did, it would be utterly inconceivable, why he should every where in his holy word, declare such a settled abhorrence and detestation of it, as
we know he has done; and not only threaten, and even execute such heavy judgments on the workers of iniquity, as he has often done in this world; but should also denounce the severest punishments, such as fire and brimstone, fire unquenchable, lakes of fire, everlasting fire, and the like, to be the certain portion of all wicked, and ungodly, and profane, and impenitent sinners, in the next world: torments so great and so intolerable, as are beyond the power of mortals to conceive the ten thousandth part of them; and yet to add to the dreadfulness of them, he has moreover declared, that they shall be eternal; that is, never to have an end.
O that men, therefore, who know themselves to be prone to any kind of sin, would sometimes seriously weigh with themselves the abominable nature of it; and when they are tempted by their idle companions, or their own vile and base lusts, to the commission of it, would presently reflect with themselves, and say, as pious Joseph did, Gen. xxxix. 9, "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against GOD?" How can I be such a fool, to provoke the anger and hatred of the most just and righteous Judge of the world against me; who, if he should not punish me for it in this world, as I shall deserve, will yet most certainly condemn me to everlasting misery for it in that which is to come; when I shall find that most sadly true, which is declared in his most holy word, that "it is a most fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living GOD?" Heb. x. 31.
Secondly, The consideration of the abominable nature of sin, and of God's utter hatred and abhorrence of it, and of the most terrible punishments which he has threatened to it; do all help to give us the most astonishing instance of God's wonderful love and mercy to sinners, in the pardon of their sins, upon their true and sincere repentance for them.
When GOD pardons the sinner, he condescends
to be perfectly reconciled to him, and to take him again into his favour, and to treat him as kindly as if he had never offended him at all. The great Creator of mankind is so much concerned for the good of his creatures, that when they forget their duty to him, and do heedlessly run into such foolish courses, as he certainly knows would be destructive to them; yet he takes pity on them, and is uneasy at it, as it were, till they return to him again; and calls upon them most earnestly, by the inward workings of his grace, and the outward dispensations of his providence, to bethink themselves what they are doing, and consider whither their evil courses will lead them, if they do not timely resolve to change them for others that are more innocent and virtuous; bespeaking them, as he did his rebellious people the Jews, saying, "O that they were wise, that they would understand this, that they would consider their latter end!" Deut. xxxii. 29.
He addresses himself often to their thoughts in the most tender manner, saying, "Seek ye the LORD, while he may be found; call upon him while he is near. Let the wicked man forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him, and to his GOD, for he will abundantly pardon,' Isaiah lv. 6, 7. And by these GOD gives the strongest demonstrations to sinners, how far he is from being desirous that they should perish everlastingly; but that he had abundantly rather that they should repent and turn from their evil ways; that he might bless them in this world, and that they might be happy with him for ever in the next.' And for that very reason it is, that he has made known to the sons of men those terrible judgments, which he has ordained should be inflicted upon obstinate and impenitent sinners in the world to come; on purpose, if possible, that being affrighted with them, they might be persuaded, and even forced, as it were,
to repent of all their abominations, to change their lives, to fear GOD, and to keep his commandments, that they may be delivered from the wrath to
To this purpose he expresses himself, Ezek. xxxiii. 11, "As I live, saith the LORD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways, for why will ye die?" Thus also he declares of himself, Isaiah xliii. 25, "I am he that blotteth out thy transgressions, for my own sake, and will not remember thy sins:" and chap. xliv. 32, "I have blotted out as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins. Return unto me."
Earthly princes do sometimes vouchsafe to pardon rebels and traitors, and to excuse the punishment which they have deserved; but seldom do they, after that, admit them again to especial marks of their favour. But the all-merciful God vouchsafes not only to shew his compassion to them whom he pardons, on account of their true repentance; but he again, from thenceforth, accounts them his children, and dignifies them with all the privileges of his children. He bestows grace and glory on them, and no good thing does he withhold from them, but advanceth them even to the honour of being heirs of that kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him. O admirable loving-kindness! who would not be heartily sorry for what he has done amiss, in offending so gracious a GOD? Who would not repent himself heartily of all his former provocations, when he considers, that he who has power to destroy him, both soul and body, for ever in Hell for them, does not presently cut him off in his sins, which have deserved his utmost indignation against him for them, but is long-suffering to him, and waits a long time, day after day, to be gracious to him; to see whether he will bethink himself and leave off acting so foolishly, that he may admit him, upon his true repent
ance, to an entire pardon for them all, and receive him into his everlasting favour, as if he had never offended him at all; that so he may dwell with him and all his holy angels and saints, in endless bliss and happiness for evermore, instead of being ruined and undone to all eternity?' But if, after all, they will not be persuaded to repent, nor amend their evil ways, they must thank themselves, and themselves only, for the dreadful miseries which they bring upon themselves by their obstinate impenitency.
Thirdly, The consideration of the abominable nature of sin, and of the dreadful miseries to which we are exposed by it hereafter, should raise in us the highest esteem and love for our Saviour CHRIST, who came into the world" to save us from our sins,' Matt. i. 21; "to deliver us from the wrath to come,' 1 Thess. i. 10; "to be a propitiation for our sins,' 1 John, iv. 10; by his death to satisfy the justice of GOD, and make "reconciliation for iniquity," Dan. ix. 24; "who hath redeemed us by his blood, out of every kingdom, and tongue, and people, and nation," Rev. v. 9. For he it was, who being the eternal Son of GOD, did vouchsafe to come down from Heaven, and to humble himself so low, as to take our mean nature upon him, that by shedding forth his most precious blood upon the cross for us, he might make atonement thereby for the sins of the whole world; and procure peace, and pardon, and salvation from his Father, for all those who should truly repent of their sins, and should afterwards endeavour to lead holy lives, suitable to those holy doctrines which he taught us while he was here on earth. He it was who rescued us from Hell, and from those everlasting burnings, which without him must have been the portion of all wicked men for ever. For "there is no salvation in any other but CHRIST, neither is there any other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved," Acts iv. 12.