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and not substantially destroyed, Rev. xx. 10. And indeed nothing is annihilated by fire, but only dissolved. Of what nature soever hell-fire is, no question, the same God, who kept the bodies of the three children from burning in Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace, can also keep the bodies of the damned from any such dissolution by hell-fire, as may infer privation of life.
Lastly, Their knowledge and sense of their misery shall be eternal, and they shall assuredly know that it will. be eternal. How desirable it would be to them, to have their senses for ever blocked up, and to lose the consciousness of their own misery; as one may rationally suppose it to fare at length with some, in the punishment of death inflicted on them on earth, and as it is with some mad people in their miserable case! But that agrees not with the notion of torment for ever and ever, nor the worm that dieth not. Nay, they will ever have a lively feeling of their misery, and strongest impressions of the wrath of God against them. And that dreadful intimation of the eternity of their punishment, made to them, by the Judge of their sentence, will fix such impressions of the eternity of their miserable state upon their minds, as they will never be able to lay aside, but will continue with them evermore, to complete their misery. This will fill them with everlasting despair, a most tormenting passion, which will continually rend their hearts, as it were, in a thousand pieces. To see floods of wrath ever coming, and never cease; to be ever in torment, and withal to know there shall never, never, be a release, will be the cape-stone put on the misery of the damned. If "hope deferred maketh the heart sick," Prov. xiii. 12. how killing will be, hope rooted up, slain out-right, and buried for ever out of the creature's sight! This will fill them with hatred and rage against God, their known irreconcileable enemy: and under it they will roar for ever like wild bulls in a net, and fill the pit with blasphemies evermore.
Lastly, I might here shew the reasonableness of the eternity of the punishment of the damned; but having already spoke of it, in vindicating the justice of God
in his subjecting men, in their natural state, to eternal wrath, I only remind you of three things. (1.) The infinite dignity of the party offended by sin requires an infinite punishment to be inflicted, for the vindication of his honour; since the demerit of sin riseth according to the dignity and excellency of the person against whom it is committed. The party offended is the great God, the chief good: the offender, a vile worm; in respect of perfection, infinitely distant from God, to whom he is indebted for all that ever he had, implying any good or perfection whatsoever. This then requires an infinite punishment to be inflicted on the sinner, the which, since it cannot in him be infinite in value, must needs be infinite in duration, that is to say, eternal. Sin is a kind of infinite evil, as it wrongs an infinite God: and the guilt and defilement thereof is never taken away, but endures for ever, unless the Lord himself in mercy do remove it. God, who is offended, is eternal, his being never comes to an end : the sinful soul is immortal, and the man shall live for ever: the sinner being without strength, (Rom. v. 6.) to expiate his guilt, can never put away the offence, therefore it ever remains, unless the Lord do put it away himself, as in the elect, by his Son's blood. Wherefore the party offended, the offender, and the offence, ever remaining, the punishment cannot but be eternal. (2.) The sinner would have continued the course of his provocations against God, for ever without end, if God had not put a check to it by death. As long as they were capable to act against him, in this world, they did it and therefore justly will he act against them, while he is; that is, for ever. God who judgeth of the will, intents, and inclinations of the heart, may justly do against sinners, in punishing, as they would have done against him, in sinning. Lastly, (though I put not the stress of the matter here, yet) it is just and reasonable, the damned suffer eternally, since. they will sin eternally in hell, "gnashing their teeth” Matt. viii. 12.) under their pain, in rage, envy, and grudge, (compare Acts vii. 54. Psal. cxii. 10. Luke xiii. 28.) and blaspheming God there (Rev. xvi. 21.) while
they are" driven away in their wickedness," Prov. xiv. 32. That the wicked be punished for their wickedness, is just and it is no ways inconsistent with justice, that the being of the creature be continued for ever: wherefore it is just, that the damned who continue wicked eternally, do suffer eternally for their wickedness. The misery under which they sin, can neither free them from the debt of obedience, nor excuse their sinning, and make it blameless. The creature, as a creature, is bound unto obedience to his Creator, and no punishment inflicted on him, can free him from it, more than the malefactor's prison, irons, whipping, and the like, do set him at liberty, to commit anew the crimes for which he is imprisoned or whipt. Neither can the torments of the damned excuse, or make blameless, their horrible sinning under them, more than exquisite pains inflicted upon men on earth, can excuse their murmuring, fretting, and blasphem ing against God under them: for it is not the wrath of God, but their own wicked nature, that is the true cause of their sinning under it; and so the holy Jesus bore the wrath of God, without so much as one unbecoming thought of God, and far less any one unbecoming word.
Here is a measuring reed: O that men would apply it! First, Apply it to your own time in this world, and you will find your time to be very short. A prospect of much time to come proves the ruin of many souls. Men will be reckoning their time by years, (like that rich man, Luke xii. 19, 20.) when it may be, there are not many hours of it to run. But reckon as you will, laying your time to the measuring reed of eternity, you will see your age is as nothing. What a small and inconsiderable point is sixty, eighty, or a hundred years, in respect of eternity? Compared with eternity, there is a greater disproportion, than between a hair's breadth, and the circumference of the whole earth. Why do we sleep then in such a short day, while we are in hazard of losing rest, through the long night of eternity? Secondly, Apply it to your endeavours for salvation, and they will be found very scanty. When
men are pressed to diligence in their salvation-work, they are ready to say, "To what purpose is this waste?" Alas! if it were to be judged by our diligence, what it is that we have in view; as to the most part of us, no man could thereby conjecture, that we have eternity in view. If we duly considered eternity, we could not but conclude, we ought to leave no means appointed of God unessayed, till we get our salvation secured; to refuse rest or comfort in any thing, till we are sheltered under the wings of the Mediator; to pursue our great interest with the utmost vigour, to cut off lusts dear as right hands and right eyes, to set our faces resolutely against all difficulties, and fight our way through all op position made by the devil, the world, and the flesh; are, all of them together, little enough for eternity.
Use II. Here is a balance of the sanctuary," by which one may understand the lightness of what is falsely thought weighty; and the weight of some things, by many, reckoned to be very light.
First, Some things seem very weighty, which, weighed in this balance, will be found very light. (1.) Weigh the world; and all that it is in it," the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life," and the whole will be found light in the balance of eternity. Weigh herein all worldly profits, gains, and advantages; and you will quickly see, that a thousand worlds will not quit the cost of the eternity of woe. "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Matt. xvi. 26. Weigh the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season, with the fire that is everlasting; and you must account yourselves fools and mad men, to run the hazard of the one, for the other. (2.) Weigh your afflictions in this balance, and you will find the heaviest of them very light, in respect of the weight of eternal anguish. Impatience under affliction, espe cially when wordly troubles do so imbitter men's spirits, that they cannot relish the glad tidings of the gospel, speaks great regardlessness of eternity. As a small and inconsiderable loss will be very little at heart with him, who sees himself in hazard of losing his whole estate: so troubles in the world will appear but
light, to him who has a lively view of eternity. Such an one will stoop, and take up his cross, whatever it be, thinking it enough to escape eternal wrath. (3.) Weigh the most difficult and uneasy duties of religion here, and you will no more reckon the yoke of Christ insupportable. Repentance and bitter mourning for sin, on earth, are very light in comparison of eternal" weeping, wail-ing, and gnashing of teeth in hell." To wrestle with God in prayer, weeping and making supplication for the blessing, in time, is far easier than to lie under the curse through all eternity. Mortification of the most beloved lust is a light thing, in comparison with the second death in hell. Lastly, Weigh your convictions in this balance. O how heavy do these lie upon many, till they get them shaken off! They are not disposed to fall in with them, but strive to get clear of them, as of a mighty burden. But the worm of an ill conscience will neither die nor sleep in hell, though one may now lull it asleep, for a time. And certainly it is easier to entertain the sharpest convictions in this life, so as they may lead one to Christ, than to have them fixed for ever in the conscience, while, in hell, one is totally and finally separated from him.
Secondly, But, on the other hand, (1.) Weigh sin in his balance; and, though now it seems but a light thing to you, we will find it a weight sufficient to turn up an eternal weight of wrath upon you. Even idle words, vain thoughts, and unprofitable actions, weighed in this balance, and considered as following the sinner into eternity, will each of them be heavier than the sand of the sea: time idly spent will make a weary eternity. Now is your seed time; thoughts, words, and actions, are the seed sown; eternity is the harvest: though the seed now lies under the clod, unregarded by most men, every the least grain shall spring up at length, and the fruit shall be according to the seed. Gal. vi. 8. “For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption (i. e. destruction :) but he that soweth to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting." (2.) Weigh in this balance, your time of opportunities of grace and salvation, and you will find them very weighty. Pre