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life, and with quick sense, in union with the soul, in the hottest fire that can be imagined, or exist through endless ages. And since the Scripture speaks of them as tormented in a lake of fire and brimstone, perhaps we have no reason to conclude there will be nothing of this kind, or that the suffering of this kind will not be so great as to equal this representation. The Scripture says, “What if God, willing (or determining) to show his wrath, and make his power known, endureth with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction ?” (Rom. ix. 22.) And that they “shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” (2 Thess. i. 9.) One way in which God will show his power in the punishment of the wicked, will be in strengthening and upholding their bodies and souls, in suffering torments, which otherwise would be intolerable, while, at the same time, his power is gloriously manifested in the manner in which the punishment is to be inflicted.
The apostle Peter, speaking of the day of judgment and the destruction of the wicked, says, “ The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved anto fire, against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." By the heavens are generally meant, in Scripture, the sun, moon, and stars. These, with the earth, are reserved against the day of judgment, and for the destruction of ungodly men, by being all set on fire with this earth. 6 When the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; and the earth, also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up." (2 Pet. iii. 7, 10.) If the heavens, the sun, the moon, and fixed stars, with all the planets that accompany them, together with this earth, should be thrown together with a tremendous crash and noise, so as to make one common mass of liquid fire, and the wicked be cast into it at the day of judgment, to remain there forever in this unquenchable fire, it would be agreeable to this description of it by Peter, and other passages of Scripture. And perhaps this is the most natural construction of the words now cited. This would be a great and amazing display of omnipotence, and represents the punishment of the wicked, by their bodies, as very dreadful; but not greater than they will deserve, or than God can inflict, and make them strong to bear.
But be this as it may, and in whatever way or degree the wicked will suffer pain by the body, it is not to be doubted that their mental pain and sufferings will be the chief part of their punishment. Indeed, such a situation and torture of their bodies as has been now mentioned, is suited to fill their minds with an amazing sense of the awful power, and dreadful anger of God, which must occasion inexpressible mental terror, anguish, and torture. A great part of the punishment of the wicked will consist in a sense of the greatness, power, and terrible majesty of Jehovah, and his wrath and displeasure with them, manifested in their proper effects. This will fill their minds with excruciating pain, and horror inexpressible, while the tokens of all these are exhibited in the most dreadful manner to them, in their punishment.
But there are other circumstances and things which will be dreadful ingredients in the cup of their punishment. Their own disposition and exercises of heart, their selfishness and pride, and enmity to God, which will rage to a dreadful degree, will be a source of constant misery. These will render the shame and contempt which they shall suffer most keenly painful, and, in a sense, intolerable. They will never be in any degree reconciled to the divine decrees and government, and their dependence on God, and being absolutely in his hands; but all this will be most painful to them; they will be disposed to justify themselves, and find fault with the law of God, and his treatment of them. Their opposition to all this will be so strong and constant, and their enmity will rage, so that a constant conviction in their judgment and conscience that God deals justly with them, may not take place; and they will sometimes, if not continually, in the utmost rage, blaspheme the God of heaven. It will be beyond our present conception, painful and tormenting to them, to know that they have not a friend in the universe, and never shall have one, who will show them the least kindness, or have any pity on them; - that God is against them and will cast evil upon them, and not spare; - and all the inhabitants of heaven highly approve of his treatment of them, and praise him for his righteous judgments in punishing them as they see he does. The conviction they will have of the happiness of the redeemed, some of whom they despised and hated, when in this world, will excite their envy and malice to a high degree; which are tormenting passions, in proportion to the strength of their exercise.
Their company will add to their misery. They will not find a friend among them; but all will be full of hatred, rage, and malice. The sight and presence of the devil and his angels, who have had a great hand in their ruin, and who will continue their ill will, and torment them in all the ways their cunning and malice can invent, will be very dreadful. And whatever intercourse they may have with those of mankind who are suffering with them, it will give them no relief, but add to their misery. And those who have had the greatest connection with each other in this life, will be most unhappy together — who have injured each other, or been the means of their eternal ruin. And those companions and supposed friends, who have tempted and seduced each other into the practice of vice, and way to ruin, will, by their mutual accusations and curses, be a vexation and torment to each other.
And all the attempts to get relief, which may be many and constant, will be in vain, and only add to their misery. Every thought and idea which passes in their mind will be a painful one. Reflections on what they have passed through in this world, and they must think and reflect,) on the favors and comforts they had, and the advantages they were under to obtain salvation, and the happy opportunities which they abused, and the counsels, warnings, and admonitions which they had, etc., will but increase their misery. And when they look forward, the assurance they will have that nothing better is to come, but if there be any change, it will be against them, and they must be miserable without end, and without hope, will fill their minds with the insupportable gloom, anguish, and horror of absolute despair, and sink eternally without any possible comfort or support.
This is a short sketch, and some of the outlines, of the punishment and sufferings of the wicked. But o, how little can be told! How short are all our conceptions and imaginations of the truth and real greatness of this infinite evil! It will take an eternity to tell, and none but the infinite mind does comprehend it.
It must be observed, however, that though the punishment of every one of these will be endless, and great in degree beyond all present conception, and perhaps will increase without end, yet some will suffer a much greater degree of misery than others, and there will be a great difference between them in this respect, according to their different advantages and capacities while in this world; to the light and conviction they had, according to the number of their sins, and the different degrees of criminality of them, etc. The omniscient, almighty, and just Judge will be able and disposed to weigh and adjust the crimes and guilt of every one in exact and just balances, and proportion the degree of punishment exactly to the criminality or ill desert of each one, by ordering every circumstance perfectly agreeable to it. From Christ the Judge, “every one shall receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Cor. v. 10.) Agreeably to this, Christ says, it shall be more tolerable at the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah, than for those who reject the gospel preached by him or his disciples. “ And that servant who knew his Lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” (Luke xii. 47, 48.)
I. From the brief and imperfect view which has now been given of death, a separate state, judgment, heaven, and hell, we may reasonably be led to reflect upon the infinitely grand, important, and interesting scenes that are before us, in which every one of the human race will have a part. A realizing view of these will make all the things and concerns of time and sense, which are temporal, and relate to this state only, appear in their true littleness and vanity; and to be of no worth and importance, any farther than they relate to these future scenes, and may put us under advantage to be prepared for them. How reasonable and important is it that we should, with the apostles and primitive Christians, constantly look, aim at, and pursue the things which are not seen, and are eternal! (2 Cor. iv. 18.)
II. How infinitely dreadful is the end of the wicked! what an unspeakably dangerous state is he in this world! His feet stand on slippery places, exposed to fall every moment into endless destruction, into which he will soon plunge, if he continue impenitent while in the body. “ After his hard and impenitent heart, he is treasuring up unto himself in this life, wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” (Rom. ii. 5.)
How great is the deliverance when any one sinner is plucked as a brand from this eternal, infinitely dreadful fire! This gives joy in heaven. How happy is he who is the instrument of turning any from sin to righteousness; of saving immortal souls from endless burnings! What can be more desirable and pleasing to a benevolent mind? He shall have an unspeakable reward, and shine as the stars forever and ever.
III. How great, how glorious and happy is the Redeemer in being able to save, and actually saving multitudes of sinners from such infinite misery, and raising them to such high and endless happiness and glory! How worthy is he to be trusted, loved, and honored. The inhabitants of heaven will be eternally sensible of this, and say, “ Worthy is the Lamh that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation ; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests.” (Rev. v. 9, 10, 12.)
What infinite wickedness and folly is that of which they are guilty, who reject him, or cast the least slight upon him, and do not fly to him without delay, as a refuge from the wrath to come, and for eternal happiness! Blessed are all they who trust in him. Surely he is infinitely precious to all them who believe.
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST.
General Observations concerning the Church of Christ.
The word in the original, xxxhnola, generally translated church, is found above a hundred times in the New Testament, and signifies an assembly of men, called and collected together for some special purpose.
It is used in the Scripture, except in a few instances, in an appropriated sense, for believers in Christ, or the redeemed, as a collective body, or society, united in or under him as their head.
By the church of Christ is sometimes meant the redeemed, - all who have been, or shall be saved by Christ, who shall at last be collected into one general assembly, society, and kingdom. This is called the invisible church, being at present hid, and out of our sight, as those in heaven are not seen by us while in this life, and true believers who are on earth cannot be certainly distinguished from others who are not such.
The church of Christ on earth consists of those who are united together as professed friends to Christ, and believers in him, and are under explicit engagements to serve him, and attend upon all his institutions and ordinances, and to watch over and assist each other, including both parents and their children. This is called the visible church of Christ, as it is a society erected in the view of man, and consists of members who are visibly, or in appearance, among the number of the