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i bio vel 178, Yet, 3.4663 B DISCOURSE XIII. -25? The eternal Duration of the Punishments in Helt. *** Mark ix. 40. Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not
quenched. » Stcr. 1. Arguments to prove the Perpetuity of Hell.
WHEN the great and blessed God had a mind to make known his wisdom, his power, and bis goodness amongst creatures, he built this world as a theatre, in which those perfections of his nature might be displayed amidst the various works of his hands : He spread it round with the blessings of life and pleasure, he over-bung it with a canopy of skies and stars, and placed the glorious bodies of the sun and moon there to appear in their alternate seasons; and even amidst the ruins which sin has brought into this world, yet still every eye may behold the traces of an almighty, an all-wise, and a bountiful God. When the same divine and sovereign Being designed to exalt and diffuse the wonders of his grace among the best of his creatures, he built a heaven for them, and furnished it with unknown varieties of beauty and blessing : And we would hope in our appointed season to be raised to this upper world, and there to behold the riches of divine magnificence and mercy, and to be sharers thereof among the rest of the happy inhabitants.
But since sin and wickedness has entered into his creation of men and angels, he saw it necessary also to display the terrors of bis justice, and to make his wrath and indignation known amongst rebellious creatures, that he might maintain a just awe and reverence for his own authority, and a constant hatred of sin through all bis dominions. For this purpose he has built a hell, a dreadful building indeed, in some dismal region of his vast empire, where he has amassed together all that is grievous and formidable to sensible beings, and wicked spirits carry their own inward hell thither with them, a hell of sin and misery; and though he bas sent his own Son to acquaint us with the distresses and agonies of that doleful world, and to warn us of the danger of falling into it ; yet if any of us should be so unhappy as to continue in an obstinate state of impenitence and disobedience to God, we shall be made to confess by dreadful experience, that not one half hath been told us.
Therefore hath God set before us these terrors in his word, that we might fly from this wrath to come, and avoid these sufferings : And therefore do his ministers by his commission, proceed to publish this vengeance and indigoation of the Lord, that sinners might be awakened to lay hold on the hope that is set before them, and miglit be affrighted from plunging themselves into this pit of anguish, whence there is no redemption. .
We have taken a short curvey of these miseries, in the kind and nature of them in some former discourses; and we are dow come to the last thing contained in our Saviour's description of hell, and that is the perpetuity of it: The misery is everlasting in both the parts of it, for the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. The arguments which shall be employed to prove it are such as these :
1. The express words of Christ and his apostles pronounce the punishinents eternal; and surely these words are given to us to be the foundation of our faith and practice, and the rules of our hope and fear. My text 3.210$ to carry plain and unan. swerable evidence in it. The worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And it is many times repeated in this chapter, and that with a special accent on the eternal duration of its to make that circumstance of it more observed, and to aggravate the terror. Such an awful repetition from the lips of the Son of God should make the sound of the vengeance dwell longer on the ear, and the threatening siok decper into the soul. Let us next observe the final sentence which Christ, as judge pronounces against impenitent sinners among the sons of men, as well as against fallen spirits, in Mat.' xxv. 41. It is this, Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: And as soon as the sentence is pronounced, it is immediately executed, as our Saviour foretels in verse 16 These shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal
. What he pronounces as judge, he foretels also as a prophet, that it shall be put in executions" 11:11
The express word of God, in describiug the punishment of sinners by the pen of his two apostles Paul and John, declarés the same thing; 2 Thess. i. 9. They'shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord." And the book of the Revelation gives us assurance, that these mises ries shall have no end ; Rev. xiv. 10, 11. The anti-christian idolators, who worship the beast, shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out, without mixture, into the cup of his indignation, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone—in the presence of the Lamb, and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for eter and eter. Fude the apostle, bears bis testimony in the same manner, verse 6. the damped spirits, who kept not their first station, are said to be cast down into hell, and bound in chains of everlasting darks ness. Now suppose a man plunged into a pit of thick darkness, by the command of God, and bound there with everlasting chaius ; wliat lope can "he ever have of deliveranceti b And if Christ and his apostles, who were taught by him and by his
blessed Spirit, assert this punishment shall be eternal, who shall dare to contradict them? Who is there so rash and con: fident as to say, " This forment shall not be everlasting, this worm one day shall die, and this fire shall be quenched ? Docs it not approach to the crime of contradicting the Almighty, and the true God ?
II. There is a sort of infinite evil in sin, arising from the consideration of the person against whom it is committed, that is, the great and blessed God ; for every crime, according to the law of nature, and the common sense of mankind, takes its aggravation from the dignity of the person offenderl, as well as from the heinousness of the act; so reproaches or assaults against a king, or a father, are much more criminal and hejnous than the same assaults or reproaches cast on an equal or an inferior ; but all sin being an offence against God, an infinite object, and a violation of bis law, is a dishonour of infinite majesty, an affront to the divine authority, and therefore its aggravations arise in that proportion to a sort of infinity, and require an equal punishment. But because the nature of a crea. " ture cannot suffer infinite punishment in the intenseness of the pain, therefore he must bear it to an infinite duration, that is, to all everlasting
When divine justice pronounces a sentence against the sinner equal to the demerit of sin, it must be infinite, that is, eternal; and the sipper sball never be released from the prison and the punishment till he has paid the utmost farthing · Mat. ix. bö. and till be has made satisfaction to God equal to his demands, and the demerit of the offence. I know this argument is treated with much contempt and derision among those of the moderns, who would diminish the evil of sin, and shorten the punishment of it. But it is much easier to ridicule it than to answerrit:. A jest is no refutation. And after my survey of it, I think without prejudice or partiality, the force of it seeins to me unanswerable as to the desert of sin; and I am not ashamed to employ, it in the support of this truth. It is but a very feeble ' opposition can be made to it by those who say, that “if sin be counted an infinite evil, and must have infinite punishment, then all sins are equal, and will require equal punishment,” for there are no different degrees of infinity, or in things which are infinite. But our Saviour has taught us, that there are certainly various degrees of punishment as well as of sin : He assures us, that it shall be more tolerable for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrha, in the day of judgment, than it shall be for Caperneum and Bethsaida, where he had preached and wrought his wonders ; Luke x. 12–15. and the reason is plain, viz, because the sins of Sodom were less than theirs. i. And it is very easy to answer this pretence or whjection about
the equality of all sins, for sins may have different degrees of guilt and aggravation as to the act, where the object is the same, whether this ubject be finite or infinite ; as the murder of a father or a king, is a much greater crime than a reproach or slander cast on the same persons. So the wilful hatred of God and blasphemy against him, with continued malice and public violent opposition to his name, or law, or gospel, are far greater sias than a single neglect of his daily worship for fear of persecution, or a distrusting his providenoe, though both have the same infinite being, that is, God, for their object; and in this sense, there is a sort of infinity in each of the crimes.
And accordingly punishments may be proportioned to every crime, for they may differ greatly in the degree of severity and torture, though they may be all equal or eternal in the duration. Sodom and Gomorrha, Capernaum and Bethsaida, may all suffer infinite or everlasting sorrow, and yet the degrees of their pain may be exceeding different all the while. They may have the same infinity of duration, though very different as to the intenseness or degree of the pain.
III. If the iniquities committed in this life were not punished with torment which is everlasting, yet the damned in hell are ever sinning against God, and therefore they provoke the sen geance of God to continue his punishing hand upon them for ever. The law of God in all its demands of daty, its prohibitions of sin, as well as in its sanctions of punishment, continues for ever in force in heaven, and earth, and hell, and we see not how it can be abrogated where it arises from the very nature of God and a creature: And cursed is he that continues not in all things which the law requires ; Gal. iii. 10. Every new sin de mands a new curse and a new punishment, and there is no reason which forbids a righteous governor to cease punishing, while the rebellious creature will not cease to offend, and especially while he maintains an everlasting enmity and rebellion against the law of God his creator..
If there were any humble meltings of repentance in the guilty soul, if there were any sincere mournings ju the sinful creature for having offended his Maker, if there were any softness of heart relenting under a sense of the evil of sin, and returning to obedience and duty, even this would not oblige a righteous and wise governor to forgive the criminal; repentance is no compensation for a wilful offence ; nor is it thought anriglitpons or unwise for a privee to povish even a penitent' offender with death.
" * * * But let us propose the case in utmost favour to a sinner against the blessed Goil, let us imagine that 'divine wisdom and divine mercy perhaps might be supposed to contrive and to offer pome proposals to justice in a way of compassion, and might en
quire whether the sentence of punishment could not beteversed, or the terror of it relieved;' or some new state of trial proposed Let it be added in favour of the criminal, that we do not find through all the book of God the actual practice of true repent ance beginning among men, but it has been always followed with proportionable degrees of compassion from God : But on the other side, when there is nothing found in the heart of a sinner but obstinacy, and malice, and revenge, cursing and blasphemy against the Almighty, without the least moviog or melting into a genuine penitence or boly sorrow, without any meek submission to the majesty and justice of God, or humbly imploring his mercy, what reasonable hope can such wretches have, that their cliains of darkness should be broken, and the prisoners released from the vengeance? When they shall curse his justice, because it punishes their crimes, when they shall curse his mercy, because it did not save their souls, and curse and blaspheme the blood of the blessed Jesus, because it has not washed away their sins, what possible excuse can be made for such creatures? Or what possible expectation can there be for such criminals, but an everlasting continuance of the fiery indignation ? 5. Here it will be replied, but why should we suppose, and much more, why should we affirm, the damned will never repent? Are they not free in the other world from this flesh and blood, wherein there are so many unruly passions and appetites ? Are they not far remote from all the temptations of flesh and sense, of intemperance, ambition, and covetousness? Have they not understanding to see divine truths more clearly than in this world? Havethey notreason to distinguish good and evil, and free, will to chuse that which is good ? Will tbey not hate all sin, since they have been so long taught the miscbief of sin by their sufferings? And is there any thing fitter than their agonies and torture by fire, to make men know and feel the dreadful evil of sinning against God, and awaken them to repentance?,,
To this I answer, let us judge a little concerning the sinners in hell, by the practice of sioners on earth. How many wretched ereatures are there wbo have been long imprisoned, and perhaps punished for crimes against the state, and yet persist in their kebellious temper, and are never convinced they were in the wrong, so far as to change their treason into sincere submission, repentance and obedience ! Was not Pharaoh, king of Egypt, an instance of the stubbornness and impenitense of human nature, when in opposition to ten dreadful plagues be would still pursue the fiying Israelites, and destroy a people beloved of of God? Is not hardness and enmity against the governor often increased by the severe punishments that criminals 'lie under ? Have these punishments auy sufficient power to soften their hearts mto frue repentance?