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repentance for all our past sins. If
you examine your lives by the Scriptures, it will soon appear that you have provoked God by innumerable trespasses, and defiled your souls by many deeds repugnant to his law.
How can these things be forgiven, unless, by sincere contrition and amendment, you actually turn from evil to good? So necessary is this course to our peace with God, that Christ assures us, that except we repent, we must all likewise perish'.
12. Again: true faith in the atonement of Christ must be connected with genuine contrition. Faith discovers to us our departure from God, excites shame and remorsé on account of it, and puts us upon sincere resolutions and endeavours to reform our errors. Faith shews the soul its wants, and leads it to Christ, that he may supply them. Whilst it exhibits the sufficiency of Christ's grace to save the lost, it constrains them to pray for it, that they may find rest to their souls
13. Holiness of life, spirituality of thought and affection, and a growing conformity to the Divine will, are necessary to prepare us for the day of accounts, as well as for the enjoyment of Paradise" : these constitute a suitable preparation for death, judgment, and eternity.
If, in this way, we honour Christ, and obey his Gospel, not only will the sting and fear of death be removed, but we shall be inspired with holy confidence before him, at his coming. And whilst they who have rejected the mercy of Christ will be put to silence, and they who have leaned on their own merits be disappointed of their hope, the believer in the Son of God, who has walked agreeably to his Luke xiii. 3.
m Mat. xi. 28-30. * Rev, xxi. 27.
• 1 John ii, 28.
profession, will have his expectations crowned with unceasing joy
ON FUTURE PUNISHMENTS.
punishment The doctrine of rewards and punishments in a future state has been opposed and denied.
Some, without a shadow of proof or reason, contend that God, regardless of their virtues or vices, does not notice the actions of men; and, consequently, that he will neither inquire into their conduct, nor make it the subject of praise or blame hereafter. This infidel conceit is directly hostile to sound reason, which inclines us to believe that the Moral Governor of the World can never be indifferent whether we acknowledge or rebel against his rightful authority: nor is it less repugnant to the Divine Records, which affirm, “ that we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bada.”
Others object to punishments in the world to come, on the ground of their militating against the mercy of Jehovah, To this it may be answered, That coinpassion is not the only attribute of God: justice and righteousness are perfections as essential to his nature, as his mercy : He styles himself “ a just God and a Saviour b?
All these attributes, then, must harmonize in his dealings with man; for one of them cannot be exercised or exalted at the expense and sacrifice of another bb, without the most serious consequences ; for all the grand ends of the Divine government would be defeated, if no distinction were hereafter to be made betwixt the righteous and the wicked . Thus infidels
* 2 Cor. v. 10. b Isai. xlv. 21. bb Psalm lxxxv. 10.
“Maim Heaven's perfection, break its equal beams,
mercy triumph over God bimself.
A God all mercy is a God unjust“c. 1. The justice of God will compel him to pursue obdurate sinners with the most unrelenting vengeance. There are some who dare to assért that it will be unjust to visit sin with eternal torments; because it is a punishment, as they falsely imagine, vastly disproportioned to any offences which a finite being can commit. Such objectors have never dispassionately considered the quantity of evil there is in sin. There is a moral turpitude and enormity in it, of which they are totally ignorant. Can that be so light and venial an evil, which provoked God to destroy the whole world? which hurled Satan and his guilty associates from their abodes of bliss ? which nailed the Lord of Glory to the cross, and occasioned his bitter death and passion ? Is that, which is the procuring cause of all the sorrow and disorder in the universe, to be dismissed as a mere trifle, that calls for no inquiry or castigation? Surely, when the high demerit of sin, as “a transgression of the law of God,” is duly reflected on, it assumes the character of an infinite offence, which is worthy of everlasting indignation.
2. Besides, if the punishment of wickedness be eternal in its duration, it is fully counterbalanced by the great rewards conferred on a steady course of
• Gen. xviij. 23–26. Exod. xxxiv. 5-8.
ling grieve to learn, that the things which he has pursued with so much avidity, are worthless, in comparison with “ the eternal weight of glory" which he has forfeited, in order to obtain them! On a review of their folly, sinners will exclaim, with a mixture of disappointment and remorse, “We have been grasping at shadows, till the substance is irrecoverably gone! we have fought a great battle, but the victory is lost for ever and ever!??
6. The endurance of the most inconceivable tor: ments will aggravate the misery of the damned. It is true, the sacred penmen speak as if the actual sufferings of the wicked in hell will be occasioned by material fire. We are not, however, to interpret their language, on this subject, in a strictly literal sense. Fire is used in Scripture as an emblem to denote wrath and indignation. When the word is therefore applied to Divine judgments, it is intended to signify the displeasure of God against the unrighteous, which will burn like fire. The Jewish Legislator, speaking of the punishment which Heaven will inflict on the idolater and rebellious man, says, “The Lord will not spare him ; but then the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy, shallsmoke against that man." “ Thine hand shall find out all thine enemies; thy right-hand shall find out those that hate thee. Thou shalt make them as a fiery oven, in the time of thy anger : the Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them.”
These expressions shew the intensity of that wrath which God will pour out, without measure, on his adversaries. And, oh! who can imagine how dread, ful it is to endure his perpetual frown! “ If he hide his face, who then can behold him, whether it be Deut. xxix. 20..
i Psalm xxi, 8, 9.
done against a nation, or against a man only'' But, to be forced to bear his displeasure, without any intermission, througheverlasting ages, must certainly be the consummation of misery. And punishment which God will inflict on the wicked, is precisely of this, nature.
-7. The sufferings of lost souls will be greatly increased by a review of the Lord's past forbearance and kindness towards them. In the very midst of their wickedness on earth, God gave them many opportunities and a long space for reconciliation. “When he passed by and saw them polluted in their own blood, he said unto them, Live; yea, he said unto them, Livek." “ Turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die??". In order that his goodness might lead them to repentance,” he did not cut them suddenly off, as Scumberers of the ground.” His Spirit strove with them; but they resisted his influences. His Son Jesus Christ waited to be gracious, and to bring them back to his Father ; but they would not hearken to his solicitations. Thus they abused his patience and long-suffering, till the day of grace was succeeded by the hour of vengeance.
Further; God surrounded them daily with his mercies. He gave them the comforts, the necessaries, and the conveniences of life: yet they would not acknowledge the hand which supplied their wants; but converted his blessings into curses, by the improper use which they made of them.
In the abyss of woe, the compassion of God, and the abuse of his goodness, will be subjects of unavailing lamentation to the wicked. A recollection of the opportunities which they have lost, of receiving good instructions, and of communicating them to ii Job'xxxiv. 29.
* Ezek. xvi. 6. c'ib. xxxiii. 11.