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of God's pardoning the iniquities of his people, and healing all their diseases, Psal. ciii. 3. at the same time; in this respect, they are styled, in a more large sense, a punishment of sin : but, when they have a mixture of the wrath of God in them, and are not rendered subservient to our good, nor included among those dispensations, which are called fatherly chastisements, as they are not in those that are in an unjustified state, they are, in a more proper sense, punishments of sin. Thus the diseases that God brought on the Egyptians, are reckoned among the plagues of Egypt, and so were a visible instance of the vindictive justice of God. The same thing may be said of death, which is the dissolution of the frame of nature, which is a consequence of sin, in all, and in the most proper sense, a punishment of sin, in those, who are liable not only to the stroke, but the sting of death, and thereby are brought under the power of the second death.
(2.) There are many evils that befal us in our names, when we meet with reproaches and injurious treatment, as to what concerns our character in the world, from those who act as though their tongues were their own, and they were not accountable to God, for those slanders and revilings, which they load us with. We are, in this case, very ready to complain of the injustice done us, by their endeavouring to deprive us of that, which is equally valuable with our lives : but we ought to consider, that sin is the cause of all this, and God's suffering them thus to treat us, and thereby to hinder our usefulness in the world, must be reckoned a punishment of sin.
(3.) There are other evils that befal us in our secular concerns, namely, our estates and employments in the world, which are entirely at the disposal of providence, which renders us rich, or poor, succeeds, or blasts, our lawful undertakings. This God may do, out of his mere sovereignty, without giving an account of his matters to any one, But yet, when we meet with nothing but disappointments, or want of success in business, and whatever diligence, or industry, we use, appears to be to no purpose, and adverse providences, like a torrent, sweep away all that we have in the world, and poverty comes upon us, like an armed man, this is to be reckoned no other than a punishment of sin.
(4.) There are other evils, which we are exposed to, in our relations, by which we understand, the wickedness of those who are nearly related to us, or the steps they take to ruin themselves, and cast a blemish on the whole family to which they belong. The bonds of nature, and that affection, which is the result thereof, render this very afflictive: and especially when they, who are related to us, attempt any thing against us to our prejudice, this is a circumstance that sharpeneth the edge of the affliction. And, as it is a sin in them, which is contrary
to the dictates of nature; so sometimes we may reckon it a punishment which we are liable to, as the consequence of our sin in general. But, if we have occasion to reflect on our former conversation, as not having filled up every relation with those respective duties, that it engages to; if we have been undutiful to our parents, or unfaithful servants to our masters, or broke the bonds of civil society, by betraying or deserting our friends, and setting aside all those obligations which they have Jaid us’under; this oftentimes exposes us to afflictive evils of the like nature, whereby the affliction we meet with in others, appears to be a punishment of our own sin. Thus concerning the punishment of sin in this life; from whence we may make the following remarks.
1. Whatever evils we are exposed to in this world, we ought to be very earnest with God, that he would not give us up to spiritual judgments. The punishments of sin, which are outward, may be alleviated and sweetened with a sense of God's love, and made subservient to our spiritual and eternal advantage. But blindness of mind, hardness of heart, and those other evils, which tend to vitiate and defile the soul, which have in them the formal nature of punishment, these are to be dreaded like hell; and, as we are to be importunate with God to prevent them, so we ought to watch against those sins that lead to them; and therefore let us take heed of being insensible, or stupid, under any afflictive evils, as neglecting to hear the voice of God, who speaks by them, or refusing to receive instruction by correction.
2. Let us not be too much dejected, or sink under those outward afflictive providences, which we are liable to; for, though they be the consequence of sin, yet, if we have ground to conclude, by faith, that our sins are forgiven, they are not to be reckoned the stroke of justice, demanding satisfaction, and resolving never to remove its hand from us, till we are consumed thereby; since believers often experience, what the prophet prays for, that God in wrath remembers mercy, Hab. iii. 2.
3. Let us take heed that we do not ascribe afflictive providences to chance, or content ourselves with a bare reflection on them, as the common lot of man in this world, who is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards : For, this we may do, and not be humbled for that sin, which they are designed to bring to remembrance, as they are to be reckoned a punishment thereof.
4. Let us not murmur, or quarrel with God, as though he dealt hardly with us, in sending afflictive evils; but rather let us bless him, how heavy soever they appear to be, that they are not extreme, but mitigated, and have in them a great mixture of mercy. Thus God says, concerning the evils that he had brought upon Israel, that in measure he would debete with Vol. II.
them, who stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind: and by this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, Isa. xxvii. 8, 9. and, by this means, God not only afflicts us less than our iniquities deserve, but brings good to us thereby in the end. If the guilt of sin is taken away, we have ground to conclude, that all these things shall work together for good, as he has promised they shall, to those that love him. This leads us to consider,
II. The punishment of sin in the world to come. Though the wrath of God be revealed, in many instances, in a very terrible manner, as a punishment of sin in this life, yet there is a punishment unspeakably greater, which sinners are liable to, in the world to come. That this may appear, let us consider the following propositions.
1. That the soul exists after its separation from the body by death ; which is evident, from the immateriality thereof, and its being of a different nature from the body. This was known and proved by the light of nature; so that the very heathen, who had no other light than that to guide them, discover some knowledge of it. But this is more plain from scripture; as when it is said, Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him, which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell, Matt. X. 28.
2. The soul thus existing, though separate from its body, must be supposed to retain those powers and capacities it had, while united to it, which are proper to it, as a spirit, and particularly as the subject of moral government; and those powers and capacities may also be supposed to be in it in a greater degree, when dislodged from the body, which is a great hindrance to it in its actings, as every one sensibly experiences; therefore it follows,
3. That it cannot but be happy, or miserable, in another world; for there is no middle state between these two. This is farther evident from what was observed in the last proposition, concerning the continuance and increase of its powers and faculties, whereby it is rendered more capable thereof, than it is now.
4. If it goes out of this world, under the weight and guilt of sin upon it, it must retain that guilt, because there is no sacrifice for sin, extending itself to that world; no mediator, no gospel, or means of grace; no promises of, or way to obtain for. giveness; therefore,
5. Wicked men, whose sins are not forgiven in this world, are the subjects of punishment in the other.
6. This punishment cannot be castigatory, or paternal, or consistent with the special love of God, or, for their advantage, as the punishments of the sins of believers are in this world, since it is always expressed as the stroke of vindictive justice, demanding satisfaction for sins committed.
7. Some are happy in a future state, namely, those who are justified; for, whom he justified, them he also glorified, Rom. viii. 30. But this is not the privilege of all; therefore they who are not justified, or whose sins are not pardoned, are the subjects of the punishment of sin in the world to come. This is a very awful subject, and should be duly improved, to awaken our fears, and put us upon using those means, which God has ordained to escape it. But I shall not, in this place, enlarge upon it, since it is particularly insisted on under another answer,* and therefore I shall only observe, that, as sin is objectively infinite, as being against an infinite God, it deserves eternal punishment. And therefore all the punishments inflicted on sinners, in this world are not proportioned to it; and consequently there are vials of wrath, reserved in store, to be poured on those, who wilfully and obstinately persist in their rebellion against God, and the punishment will be agreeable to the nature of the crime; so that as sin is a separation of the heart and afsections from God, and contains in it a disinclination to converse with him, as well as unmeetness for it, the punishment thereof will consist in a separation from his comfortable presence, and that is to be separated from the fountain of blessedness, which must render the soul beyond expression, miserable. This is generally called a punishment of loss; and there is besides it, a punishment of sense, expressed by those grievous torments, which are to be endured in soul and body; the soul, in a moral sense, may be said to be capable of pain, as it has an afflictive sensation of those miseries which it endures; and the body is so in a natural sense, which, as it has been a partner with the soul in sinning, must likewise be so in suffering. And this farther appears inasmuch as the body endures several pains and evils, as punishments of sin in this life, which shall be continued, and increased in another. This is usually expressed by that punishment, which is most terrible, namely, of fire; and the place in which it is inflicted, is hell, and the duration thereof is to eternity. But of these things elsewhere. (a)
* See Quest. lxxxix.
(a) The faculties of the soul speak it made for eternity; particularly con. science points to a time of retribution. The same truth may be deduced from the holiness, justice, and even the goodness of God; from the moral agency of man; from the course of the conduct of men; and from the unequal administra. tion of justice: but the solid and clear proofs are found in the word of God. How pitiable the condition of that man, who having spent his life without a view to a final account, has no other hope in the hour of death, except that which is found. ed upon the groundless supposition, that God will cease to be holy, just, and true; that he will change from his original purpose, subvert the order of his gavernment, and surrender the demands of religion, conscience, and reason, to save the guilty in their sins.
Humanity would lead us to entertain a secret wish, that the impenitent should be permitted to drop into non-existence, and that the demands of justice should be waved; but this sentiment is unadvised, and springs from an ignorance of the demerit of sin; defective views of the importance of rectitude in the administration of the divine government; from imperfect conceptions of God's perfections ; from our own interest, or from a faulty sympathy for the undeserving. Existence is a blessing; but when prostituted to the dishonour of the Creator, the party will not be at liberty to throw it up when he chooses, and thus elude the de mands of justice.
Quest. XXX. Doth God leave all mankind to perish in the state
of sin and misery? Answ. God will not leave all mankind to perish in the state
of sin and misery, into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called, the covenant of works; but of his mere love and mercy, delivereth his elect out of it, and bringeth them to an estate of salvation by the second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace. ITHERTO we have considered man as made upright,
and having many blessings in possession, and more in expectation, according to the tenor of the covenant he was un
The minds of the unrenewed are directed prevailingly to temporal things; a total separation from them, is, perhaps, the first sense of punishment which is felt. They have not in life sought eternal happiness, yet they generally have supposed it possible to be attained, or that mercy would bestow it. The discovery of their eternal separation from heaven, the society of the blessed, the beatific vision of God, from fulness of joys, and rivers of pleasures, will produce abject despair. This will be aggravated by the reflection that they might have been happy. The blessings of providence, the mercy of God in making provision for their recovery, the love and compassion of Christ, the means of grace, the in. vitations and warnings of the Gospel, all abused and lost, will augment their re. morse to an inconceivable degree. The malice and horrors of their cursed society of fiends and damned spirits, will be another source of torment.
Great as these distresses may be, the separate spirits are dreading greater evils. “ Hast thou come to torment us before the time ? When the judgment has passed, “ death,” the bodies which had been dead," and hell,” the spirits which had been in Hades, " shall be cast into the lake of fire.” If their bodies shall be raised spiritual, incorruptible, and immortal, which is affirmed of the righteous; and seems probable, because the earth will be destroyed, and they will be asso. ciated with spirits, yet the sense of the pain, which arises from burning, may be given and continued in them by the application of fire, or even without it.
But that which imbitters all their distresses in the highest degree, is, that they shall be eternal. The original words of the scripture expressive of their perpetuity, being unrestrained by any implied or expressed limitation, should be understood as when applied to Deity, or the liappiness of the saints. The same perpetual duration is also shown by negation, which is the strongest language. * The worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched;" it is “unquenchable fire," and “ their end,” (or final state,)“ is to be burned.” We read of a sin which shall “not be forgiven.” “ Not every one---shall enter into the king dom ;” and where Christ is, they “ cannot come.” They will " have judgment without mercy.” None of these things are true, if all men shall be saved.
Perhaps justice required that these evils should be disclosed; but if they be unjust, it was improper to threaten them. Our aversion to them springs from our ignorance of the evil of sin. Nevertheless, the sacrifice of Christ, and the warnings of scripture, speak their extent; and the continuance of the damned in sing establishes their certainty.