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FUTURE MISERY OF THE WICKED.
"Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power. 2 Thess. i. 9.
1. How infallibly certain, and how astonishingly grand and striking, are the events presented to our view by the apostle in this alarming passage of holy writ! How well worthy the serious attention, and devout contemplation of all who love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, yea, and of all mankind! And yet, (amazing it is!) they are in general overlooked and disregarded, even by those who profess to be assured of them!
2. The revolutions which are continually happening in the petty states and fluctuating affairs of this world; the accession of temporal princes to their transitory dignities and corruptible crowns; the poor and insignificant conquests obtained by worms of the earth over their fellow-reptiles; the approach of earthly judges and the trial, condemnation, and punishment of the violators of human laws, these are events which short-sighted mortals deem of consequence enough to occupy their thoughts in private, to employ their tongues in conversation, and to dignify the annals of history.
"They think, they talk, they write of these."
3. In the meantime, the grand revolution of universal nature; the glorious exaltation of the Prince of the kings of the earth; his
complete and everlasting triumph over principalities and powers, and all the potent enemies of his government; the coming of the final Judge of angels and of men; the decisive trial of the whole world at his bar; and the rewards and punishments then to be dispensed to immortal souls, united to incorruptible bodies;-these subjects, though interesting beyond thought, and grand beyond comparison, are, alas! too generally treated with indifference and neglect! These are judged unfit for meditation in secret, lest they should make us melancholy; unworthy of a place in polite and genteel company, for fear they should damp their mirth and spoil their pleasure; and sure it is, he who means to gain either honour or profit by his pen, must take care not to employ it on these dreary and puritanical (not to say methodistical) subjects, for which this light and airy age has no relish.
4. Blessed be God, that these heart-improving subjects have any place left whither to retire! Blessed be God, that they are not yet quite banished out of the world! They are still (thanks to Divine providence !) allowed to remain in our Bibles, and now and then, (although not often) to ascend the pulpit, and give serious instructions to a few of the poor and illiterate, who are not yet arrived at such a pitch of refinement as to think it beneath them to attend their lectures. But who knows how soon they will be forced from this, their last retreat? Who knows how soon this jovial and licentious age, will forbid us to mention death and judgment, heaven and hell, even in the pulpit, and confine us to discourse on subjects which have less tendency to alarm their fears, and make their minds uneasy? However, as this is not yet the case, let us not neglect to improve the liberty wherewith we are indulged, and in pursuance of our subject, let us, as was proposed, in our last discourse,
Secondly, Take a more particular view of the nature and duration of the misery of the wicked, as proved and explained in the preceding sermon.
1. But here, I confess, my mind recoils. I feel a sensible reluctance to enter upon the consideration of so dark and dismal a subject, a subject which yet I believe very necessary to be considered, and not less profitable. For doubtless our Lord and his apostles would not have recommended such painful meditations to us, if they were not needful, and calculated to yield us much fruit. To say nothing of their tendency to restrain us from sin, prompt us to duty, excite us to diligence, and awaken our sleepy souls to watchful care and fearful circumspection; reflections upon that future
and eternal misery, which is reserved for the impenitent and unbelieving sinner, and is the just desert of us all, may be of great use to increase our patience under all the afflictions and troubles of this life, so light and momentary in comparison of it. And at the same time, to consider this misery in contrast with that exceeding great and eternal weight of glory, which is the free gift of God through Jesus Christ, will tend to enlarge our conceptions of that great salvation which Christ hath wrought out for us, and of consequence, to endear the Saviour to us, to whom we owe our redemption from the curse of the law, and our deliverance from the wrath to come,
2. Away then with this reluctance! with this "foolish, this treacherous compassion," (as the benevolent Dr. Doddridge calls it) "which chooses rather to leave men to be consumed, than disturb their slumbers." Let us seriously address ourselves to the consideration of a subject, which, though dreary and unpromising in appearance, is notwithstanding productive of much wholesome fruit. Oh, that it may prove such to us all!-Sorry should I be, by discoursing on this point, only to torment some of you before the time and yet, if you seriously attend to what shall be delivered, and after all still resolve to remain in your sins, it cannot be expected to produce any other effect. If, therefore, that be your resolution, if you be not disposed to bid adieu to all iniquity, and give yourselves up to the service of God without reserve, I would advise you to withdraw, and forbear hearing a discourse, which, while that is your disposition, can only distress you. Withdraw, however, with this persuasion, that you are knowingly and wilfully plunging into an abyss of misery, which you have not courage to open your eyes to behold; and this thought, if I mistake not, will be as a thorn to disturb your beds of indolence and pleasure, and as wormwood and gall intermixed with your cups of riot and excess! Oh, that it may, after all, rouse you from the one, and make you nauseate the other, before you make your bed in hell, and drink the flames of endless torment!
3. In the former discourse upon this subject, in which the text was explained, and the doctrine established, it was observed, that the destruction here spoken of, signified, 1st. "The utter ruin of their once holy and happy nature, and the final death of all their comforts and their hopes ;" and, 2dly," the entire perversion of all their powers and faculties, which shall then be only employed in dishonouring God, and rendering themselves most completely wretched."
Let us enlarge on these two particulars, and then, as was proposed, 3dly, Earnestly address both saints and sinners on this important subject. And, 1st. Their once holy and happy nature shall then be utterly ruined, and all their comforts and hopes finally destroyed.
1. Indeed their holiness and happiness was in reality lost in this world, although not irrecoverably. Even here, where "the true light enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world," they were depraved by sin, and immersed in misery, but they knew it not. Being laid fast asleep by the opiates of Satan, and amused by many pleasing dreams of worldly vanity, invented in great variety to employ and entertain them, they wist not what had befallen them. But intoxicated with the enchanting cup of pleasure, and in the midst of their midnight slumbers, though plunged in the filth of iniquity, and fast bound by gigantic lusts, they talked much of the purity of their nature, the freedom of their will, and the light and liberty in which they walked. Though the devil's captives, confined by him in the prison of sin, bolted and barred by unbelief, and in the territories of hell; yet were they as easy and unconcerned, as if they had been possessed of all possible honour and felicity.
2. At times, indeed, the stormy blast of adversity, the painful smart of affliction, or the terror of God's threatenings, disturbed their repose, and almost awakened their sleepy souls: but another draught of Satan's cup stupifying their senses, and the agreeable song of "Peace, peace," sounding in their ears, lulled them to sleep again, while sin silently doubled their fetters and chains, and unbelief, stopping up every avenue of divine light, added fresh locks and bolts to their prison-doors. And now they sleep more securely, and dream more madly than ever.-No sooner do they end one dream than they begin another. Scenes of business and amusement continually open one behind the back of another, that they may not awake out of their fatal slumber, till the officers of divine justice break open their hellish prison, and bring them forth by death for execution, when the time of their probation being ended, the things which make for their peace are for ever hid from their eyes.
3. Then their sleeping and dreaming end together. They suddenly awake to a most keen and dreadful sense of the ruin of their nature, and the final death of all their comforts and their hopes. They feel, in a manner words cannot describe, from what a height of holiness and happiness, into what a depth of guilt and misery they are fallen.Destitute of their Maker's image, and con