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Concerning Death; a Separate State; the General Resurrection and Judgment; and the eternal State of Happiness or Misery.
I. WHEN man had sinned, and God had opened to him a new constitution, for the redemption of some of the human race, by a Saviour, by saying to the serpent, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel:”278278 Gen. iii. 15. He said to Adam, and in him to all mankind, that under this new constitution, and from this new state of probation, he should pass into another state, and go into the invisible world, by a separation between soul and body; and his body should turn to dust, from whence it was taken. “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” This sentence must refer to his body only; for this only was dust, and taken out of the ground. His spirit or soul was immaterial, and not dust, or taken out of the ground, but a distinct existence from the body, by which he bore the image of God. “And God said, Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness. And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.”279279 Gen. i. 26. ii. 7. Therefore, Solomon describes what is contained in this sentence, in the following words, “Then shall the dust return to the earth, as it was; and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.”280280 Eccl. xii. 7. The death of the body does not imply the death of the soul, but the latter exists, when the former is turned to dust. This is declared by our Saviour. “Fear not them who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.”281281 Matt. x. 28.
This separation between soul and body, by which the latter is dissolved, and turned to dust, was not included in the threatening, “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die;” for had there been no redemption, mankind must have been miserable, in soul and body 185forever; which death, all they who are not redeemed will suffer, when the work of redemption is finished, which is called the second death, with reference to the body’s turning to dust, which is called death, and is the first death. Man is indeed considered as a fallen creature, a sinner, when he is doomed to this first death; and also, as in a new state of probation; and it is wisely ordered as subserving the design of redemption. It is proper and important, that the future state should be invisible to sense, which it would not be, if all men passed into it with their bodies; or without dying. But when the body dies and turns to dust, all that is visible and discerned by our senses, is left behind, and the invisible part of man departs into another state insensibly; and thus the future state is kept invisible, as the object of faith, not of sight. And this tends more sensibly to keep in view the fallen, sinful state of man, while all are doomed to death, which could not take place, had man been innocent; and it tends to humble man in his own eyes, since his body is soon to turn to dust; and to make him feel his wretchedness, if he have no security of existence and happiness in a future state, and to excite an attention to Christ and the gospel, which brings life and immortality to light, and a future resurrection of the body, formed every way perfect, beautiful and glorious, never to die again.
The only time of probation allotted to man, is that of this life, to which the death of the body puts an end; so that every one will be happy or miserable in the future, endless state, according to his character, which is formed before the soul is separated from the body. This is plain and certain from the scripture, where there is not a word, or the least hint of another state of trial, after the death of the body: But much is there said to the contrary of this. This life is represented, as the sowing, or seed time; and that men shall reap in a future state, according to what they do in this life. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption: But he that soweth to the spirit, shall of the spirit reap life everlasting.”282282 Gal. vi. 7, 8. This life is represented, as the only time to lay 186up a treasure in heaven; to make to ourselves friends, so as to be received into everlasting habitations, when we fail here, when this life ends: To make our peace with God, which Christ represents and urges, by agreeing with our adversary, while we are in the way with him, otherwise we shall be cast into prison, from whence there is no deliverance. And he represents Lazarus and the rich man, as fixed, the former in a state of happiness, and the latter in a state of misery, immediately upon their going out of this world. And it is said, “It is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment.”283283 Heb. ix. 27. And if nothing were said, relating to this point but the following words, it is fixed in them, beyond a doubt. “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done m his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”284284 2 Cor. v. 10. If at the final judgment, when the endless state of men will be fixed, they shall be judged according to what they have done in the body; then this life is the only time of probation, and in the body they fix their character and state for eternity.
The time of man’s death, and the way and means by which the soul shall be separated from the body, are all hidden from man. He is exposed to death as soon as he begins to exist in the body, and knows not how soon it may come; and no circumstances, nor any thing he can do, or that others can do for him, can secure him from death a moment. This is wisely ordered so, and answers many good ends, which it is needless particularly to mention here.
Death is not a calamity, but a great benefit to the redeemed. It has no sting for them, but comes to them as a friend, by which they are delivered from all moral and natural evil, and become perfectly holy, and enter upon a life unspeakably better than to live here in the body. Therefore, the apostle Paul, had a desire to depart, to die, and be with Christ, which was far better. And he considered the death of his body, as his great gain.285285 Phil. i. 21, 28. “Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of his saints.”286286 Psal. cxvi. 15. Which denotes that it is an important, and desirable change, by which he is glorified, and their 187good is promoted. Christ has taken away the sting of death to them, and gives them the victory over it, which he will complete at the general resurrection. In the prospect of this, christians may now say, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”287287 1 Cor. xv. 55, 56, 57.
Death is justly terrible, and a dreadful evil, to those who are in their sins. It deprives them of all good: It puts an end to their probation state, and to all hope, and fixes them in a state of sin, despair and endless misery. This is necessarily implied in the words just cited. “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” Death could have no sting, by sin or the law, more than any other change or event in life, if it did not fix the curse of the law upon the sinner, when he dies, and put an end to his probation and hope. The sting of death is the evil which sin deserves, and which the law denounces, which is the second death. The death of the body fixes this sting in the sinner’s heart, which is endless destruction.
A SEPARATE STATE.
II. THAT the soul does not die with the body, but exists in a separate state, till the general resurrection of all the bodies of men which have died, has been supposed in what has been said on the death of the body; and is asserted or implied, in several passages of scripture, which have been mentioned under the foregoing head: But this requires a distinct, and more particular consideration. And that the soul or spirit of man docs not die, or go into a state of insensibility, when the body is turned to dust, is made evident and certain by many other passages of scripture, which have not been yet mentioned. The promise of Christ to the penitent, believing thief on the cross, proves that the death of his body did not put an end to his existence or sensibility. “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto 188thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”288288 Luke xxviii. 43. The word paradise was used by the Jews, at that day, for heaven, or a state of happiness. The soul of this man was not injured by the death of his body; but he existed in a state of greater sensibility and enjoyment, than when united with the body, and went directly to heaven; nor is there the least evidence, that this is not equally true of every believer, when his body dies. Stephen, the first martyr, expected and prayed for this, when his body was dying. “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”289289 Acts vii. 59. And none can doubt that the Redeemer was as ready to grant his petition, as that of the thief.
The apostle Paul expected the same, and speaks of it as certain, that when his body died, and he should be no longer in this world, he should be in heaven with Christ. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better.”290290 Phil. i. 21, 23 He did not consider himself as dying with the body; but when that died, and he left this world, he expected to depart, and be with Christ in heaven. And he could not mean his being with Christ, after the resurrection; for he puts his continuing in the body, and abiding longer in this world, in opposition to his being with Christ; which could not be true on that supposition: For he would be with Christ as soon, though he should live an hundred years longer in the body, as if he died immediately. And he would gain nothing, in this respect, by dying; and therefore, it could not be far better than to live longer in the body. And he expresses the same sentiment, with regard to others as well as himself, in the following words. “We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Therefore, we are always confident (or courageous) knowing that while we are at home (or sojourn) in the body, we are absent from the Lord. We are confident (courageous) I say, and willing, rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”291291 2 Cor. v. 1, 6, 8. Here he, 189considers, being present with the Lord, or being with Christ, as taking place, in consequence of death, or being absent from the body; so that when separated from the body, they shall be with Christ, in a sense and degree which cannot take place while in the body: And these two states are opposed to each other. And he says they knew that when they should die, or their body be dissolved, they should be in heaven.
This same apostle supposes he could exist, perceive, think and enjoy to a high degree, when out of his body, or absent from it, when he speaks of the visions and revelations which he had, when carried to heaven; and says he could not tell whether he was in the body, or out of it, and separate from it: For if the soul could not exist, perceive and enjoy, when separate from the body, he could have known that he was not out of the body, but in it, when he had those revelations, perceptions and exercises.292292 2 Cor. xii. 1, 2, 3. And he speaks of “The spirits of just men made perfect,” as being then in heaven, with the holy angels, and with Jesus Christ; by which he expressly asserts a separate state, and that the spirits of the just, when the body dies, are made perfect in holiness, and go to heaven, to be with Christ, and the happy inhabitants of the invisible world.293293 Heb. xii. 22, 23, 24. The souls of the martyrs are represented as existing in a state of sensibility, happiness and honour, in a separate state, after their bodies had been slain.294294 Rev. vi. 9, 10, 11. And the dead, who die in Christ, are declared to be blessed, and to be received to a state of happiness and rewards.295295 Chap. xiv. 13. The apostle Peter speaks of the spirits of those who perished by the flood, as existing when he wrote, and being in prison.296296 2 Peter iii. 19, 20. And Christ proves to the Sadducees, that the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, had an existence, and were not dead, long after they had left this world, and their bodies were turned to dust.297297 Matt. xxii. 31, 32.
These passages of scripture, it is presumed, are sufficient to convince every honest unprejudiced mind, that the soul exists separate from the body, in the invisible world, from the death of the body, till the general resurrection; 190notwithstanding the attempts which have been made, by those who deny a separate state, to put a meaning on them, so as to make them consistent with such denial.
And the account which the scripture gives of this matter is very agreeable to reason, and all the appearances relating to it. It is very unreasonable to suppose that the Redeemer, who by his power and grace has made them meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, or the holy inhabitants in heaven, should so order it, that death should put an end to their existence, till their bodies are raised to life, so as to have no perception, exercise, or enjoyment, during that interval of time; and deprive them of all that holiness and happiness which they might enjoy, during that time, with him, in his kingdom; especially since by becoming his friends, in this world, they are formed to the greatest aversion to falling into such a state; and have strong and unconquerable desires to live and be with Christ; and in the company of his friends and servants, in the invisible world. For all true christians have the same desires which Stephen expressed, when dying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And which the apostle Paul said he had: “For I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better.” And this would not be agreeable to the tender love which he expressed to his disciples and friends, when on earth. He said to them, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.”298298 John xiv. 2, 5. “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am there shall my servant also be.”299299 Chap. xii. 26. When he says, “Let him follow me,” he has reference to the death of the body, which appears from the context; q.d. Let him follow me through death, as I am to die; and then he shall be with me in heaven: Agreeable to his prayer for his friends, “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me, be with me, where I am, that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me.” How inconsistent is this, 191with his excluding them from heaven, thousands of years, from the death of their bodies, to the general resurrection, when he is able to introduce them there, to be with him, as soon as the body dies!
While the soul is in the body, by virtue of a union, which God has constituted, it is dependent on that, in a measure, for its perceptions and sensible exercises; and is affected with the disorders of it, in such a manner, as to be an argument with some, that the soul is not capable of perception and reason, except it be in union with a proper organized body; and therefore must die with the body, and cannot exist in a separate state. But this fact and appearance is not a sufficient ground for such a consequence. It is proper and wise, that the body should have such an influence and effect on the mind, while in this state, and one is so closely united with the other.—And God, who has ordered this, when the ends of this constitution are answered, can as easily cause the soul to exist, perceive, reason and act, separate from the body, as now lie does in union with the body: And make it to act in a more perfect manner, and have more clear and extensive views and higher enjoyments. There is nothing contrary to reason and experience in this.
When the souls of the redeemed leave the body, they are delivered from, all sinful imperfection, and made perfectly holy; and find themselves with Jesus Christ, and in the company of the holy inhabitants of heaven. This is a very great change indeed; but not too great to be effected by him who has all power in heaven and earth, and is therefore omnipotent, and is infinitely wise. We are ignorant of the particular manner in which the spirits of the just, perceive and act in a separate state; or how, and by what means they have intercourse with other spirits, by receiving and mutually communicating ideas and sentiments: But this does not afford the least argument, that there can be no such thing; and that it does not take place in much higher perfection, and to greater advantage, than any thing we know of the kind, in this state. The illiterate barbarian has no conception of the manner and convenience, or even the possibility of persons exchanging ideas, and conversing by 192letters. He may as reasonably infer from this, that there can be no such thing; as we can, that separate spirits do not perceive, converse, act and enjoy, in a much more perfect manner than we do, because we cannot tell how, and in what way this can be done.
When the spirits of the just are separated from the body, the world, which to us is invisible, opens to their view. They find themselves unconfined, surrounded with the most pleasing objects, and the best company, enjoying the serene, bright light of heavenly day, where there is no darkness, no sin, or sorrow. They are set at liberty, to range without restraint in the regions of bliss, while their views, exercises and enjoyments are high, and increased to a degree, far beyond our conception. They are, in this respect, like a bird, liberated from a cage, in which it has been long confined, and now flies, and sports unconfined in the open light and air. Or like one who has been long shut up in a dark, uncomfortable prison, and is now set at liberty; enjoys the pleasing light of day, is surrounded by his friends, and has all the enjoyments and comforts of life.
And by going to heaven, they do not get out of the sight and knowledge of this world, and the important affairs which Jesus Christ is carrying on here. We are told in divine revelation, that the angels of heaven are all attention to the things which concern the work of redemption; and that they are all actively engaged in promoting this design among men, and ministering to them who shall be heirs of salvation. And that there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth. There must therefore be in heaven, where the spirits of the just are, with the angels, a very particular knowledge of the events which take place in this world; and a much more clear and certain knowledge of the state of the church of Christ, and the conversion of sinners, than any have while in the body. The spirits of departed saints have the interest of Christ, and his church in this world, as much at heart, as they had when in the body, and much more; and therefore must be greatly attentive to it, and know all the events which are in favour of it. They do not go into some dark corner of the universe, out of sight of heaven, of Christ, his church, and this 193world; but when they leave the body, they rise into light, and take a station, in which they are under advantages to see all these things, and all worlds, being all attention to them, and having a perfect discerning, without the least cloud or darkness; seeing and enjoying the glory of the Redeemer, and the prosperity and success of the work of redemption among men. And their happiness must increase, as the cause of Christ advances on earth, and the power and kingdom of Satan sinks and is destroyed; and as the powers of their minds, and their knowledge are enlarged.
They are delivered from all sin and pain, upon passing into the invisible world, and are therefore perfectly happy; but at the day of judgment, when they shall be reunited to their bodies, fitted for a heavenly state, their happiness will be increased, which therefore they are expecting with desire and joy.
The spirits of those who die in their sins pass into a state of darkness, despair, and tormenting wickedness; and all hope, comfort and enjoyment, being taken from them, they must be totally lost and overwhelmed in misery; yet looking forward to a resurrection and judgment to come, with aversion and dread, as involving a great increase of their sufferings, which can have no end.—These are the spirits in prison, of which the apostle Peter speaks, who are reserved to the general judgment, when each one shall receive according to what he has done in the body.
THE GENERAL RESURRECTION.
III. THE general resurrection will put an end to the separate state. When the bodies of all who shall have died from the beginning of the world, to that time, will be raised, and come forth, in union with the souls which had been separated from them by death. This will take place when Jesus Christ shall come to judgment. This is frequently spoken of in the scriptures, and expressly asserted, in more places than it is needful to mention here, for those who read the Bible. Our Saviour says, “The hour is coming, in the which, all 194that are in the graves, shall hear his voice, and shall come forth, they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”300300 John v. 28, 29. When the apostle John had a vision of the general judgment, the general resurrection is connected with it. “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: And they were judged every man according to their works.”301301 Rev. xx. 12, 13. The apostle Paul treats particularly of the resurrection of the bodies of the redeemed, as an important and essential doctrine of christianity. 1 Cor. xv.
We depend entirely upon divine revelation, for the notice and knowledge of this doctrine of a future resurrection; as it could not be known by any other means. But when we find it revealed, it does not appear contrary to reason; but is agreeable to the dictates of it; and in no respect incredible, if the account the scripture gives of it be properly considered and understood. There were, indeed, some professing christians in the apostles’ days, as there have been since, who denied this doctrine. This was the occasion of St. Paul’s writing so particularly and lengthy upon it, in the chapter just now quoted. This doctrine was thought incredible, impossible and ridiculous, by the heathen philosophers, and others, in the days of Christ and his apostles. And this same incredulity has been transmitted down to this day, among those, who pay little or no regard to the Bible. They say, it is impossible, that all the same bodies which have died, should be ever recovered and raised again. It is not thought necessary to state their objections, and answer them here, as this has been done over and over again, by many able writers. It will be sufficient to observe, that the remark which Christ made upon the Sadducees, w4io denied this doctrine, as impossible, is applicable to them, viz. That they do greatly err, because they do not believe, or understand the scriptures; nor the power of God. When they can tell, in what identity consists, and what is necessary in order to constitute the resurrection body the 195same, with that to which the soul was united in this life; and what omnipotence, and infinite knowledge and wisdom can do, and cannot do, with respect to this; and can prove that the Bible is not a revelation from God; then let them undertake to prove, that the doctrine of a general resurrection of the same bodies which have died, or shall die, to the end of the world, is impossible or incredible.
The resurrection bodies of the redeemed will be beautiful and glorious, far beyond our present conception: They will be like the glorified body of the Redeemer; every way fitted for a state of immortality, constant activity, and perfect happiness, as the eternal monuments of the power, wisdom and goodness of Christ. They will have no defect, but be perfectly suited to accommodate and furnish the holy soul, to all that activity, work and enjoyment, which are implied in a state of perfect happiness. This is called in scripture, a spiritual body; which some have thought to be a contradiction. It is indeed beyond our comprehension. But where is the inconsistence or impropriety, in calling that a spiritual body, which is so much unlike any body which we know, or of which we can have any adequate idea, that it is perfectly suited to promote the perceptions, activity and enjoyment of a holy mind, and answer every desirable end, with respect to all external objects?
The bodies of those who died in their sins will be an awful contrast to those of the redeemed. “They will rise “To shame and everlasting contempt.”302302 Dan. xii. 2. They will be every way suited to the souls which are wholly sinful, and enemies to God, prepared for condemnation, despair and endless destruction.
THE GENERAL JUDGMENT.
IV. THAT there will be a General Judgment, when all moral agents, angels and men, good and bad, shall give an account of themselves, of their moral character and conduct, to God their Judge, and receive of him, 196and be treated by him, according to what they are, and as their moral conduct has been, while in a state of trial, is expressly and abundantly asserted in the scriptures. And this appears reasonable, desirable and important, to all who have any proper conceptions of moral government, and are friends to it.
The precise time, when the day of judgment shall commence, is fixed, and Jesus Christ the Redeemer is appointed to be the Judge of all. This he commanded the apostles to publish, in preaching his gospel to the world, as Peter declares. “And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and testify, that it is He which was ordained of God, to be die Judge of quick and dead.”303303 Acts x. 42. The apostle Paul, therefore, kept this in view, in his preaching and letters. In his discourse to the assembly at Athens he introduces this as an important article. “And the times of this ignorance God winked at: But now commandeth all men, every where, to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that Man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.”304304 Acts xvii. 31, 39. And when he spoke before Felix, concerning the faith in Christ, “he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come.”305305 Acts xxiv. 25. And he often brought this into view in his letters. He says, “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. So then, every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”306306 Rom. xiv. 10, 11, 12. “Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. For 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 bad.”307307 1 Cor. iv. 5. 2 Cor. v. 10. “I charge thee, therefore, before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead, at his appearing, and kingdom.”308308 2 Tim. iv. 1.197
Jesus Christ is the appointed Judge. This appears wise and desirable; that he who is God manifest in the flesh, and by this medium, and in this sense, the visible God should take this high, and infinitely important and honourable station, and decide the character and eternal state of all moral agents, especially of mm. This will be a bright and glorious manifestation of Deity in the human nature, when he shall come in the glory of the Father, with all the signals of divinity, attended with ail the holy angels; and shall raise the bodies of all the dead, and summon all before him as their final judge, taking upon him an office and business infinitely too high and great for a mere creature. This will strike conviction into the mind of every intelligent creature, that he is really God and man. And it is highly proper and important, that he who stooped so low, and took upon him the form of a servant, and submitted to reproach and contempt, and to die an ignominious and cruel death, by the hands of wicked men, for the salvation of sinners, should be thus rewarded and honoured; and every knee be made to bow to him, as God, and their final Judge.309309 Phil. ii. 8-14. Nothing could be more pleasing, and give greater joy and happiness to the redeemed, and the holy angels, than to have the Redeemer thus exalted and honoured as the Judge of all; and nothing more disagreeable and confounding to devils and wicked men.
The place in which the general judgment will be attended will be such as shall be in the best manner suited to such a transaction; to accommodate the Judge, and all concerned in the business of that important, solemn day. It will be so contrived and situated, that every one of the vast assembly, which shall then be collected, will be under advantage to see the Judge, and all that is done, and hear every word that shall be spoken by the Judge, or by any one else, through the whole process. The apostle Paul says, “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: And the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive, and remain, shall be caught up, together with them, in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall 198we ever be with the Lord.”310310 1 Thess. iv. 16, 17. It hence appears, that this scene will not be on this earth, but in some more convenient place, which shall be fixed and formed for that purpose, which Christ, by whom all worlds were made, can effect at once, with infinite ease. It is not certain, from the apostle’s mentioning clouds, and the air, that it will be in the atmosphere of this earth: for if this be meant by the air here, which is not certain, though the redeemed shall meet Christ in our atmosphere, this may be, that they may accompany him to some other more distant place, where the judgment shall be, and to which all intelligent creatures in the universe will be brought.
The design of the general judgment is not to inform the Judge, that he may know the character and actions of all, so as to be able to pronounce a proper and righteous sentence upon them; for he is omniscient. But it is to make known to creatures, upon what grounds he proceeds in giving rewards, and inflicting punishment; that all may be under the best advantage, to see and approve the righteousness and propriety of the final sentence. Therefore, in the scripture it is called, “The day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”311311 Rom. ii. 5. In order to this, the moral character of every one will be laid open, and set in a true and clear light, so that all the spectators shall be under the best advantage to see it. Every single person must be called forth, and take his turn to be scrutinized; and all he has done, whether secretly or more openly, will be made manifest to all creatures, while all attend to every particular; for there will not be one inattentive spectator there. All disguise and hypocrisy will be detected; and every exercise of heart, and outward action, with the motive and design, will be made to appear in a true light. In this the scripture is very express. “For God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”312312 Eccl. xii. 14. “There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore, whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness, shall be heard in the light: And that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets, shall be proclaimed 199upon the house tops. I say unto you that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”313313 Matt. xii. 36. Luke xii. 2, 3. “In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts.”314314 Rom. ii. 16. 1 Cor. iv. 5. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.”315315 Rom. xiv. 12. “And they were judged every man according to his works.”316316 Rev. xx. 13.
It hence appears, that the day of judgment, will not be finished in the space of a natural day of twenty-four hours; but the process may continue and go on during the term of many thousand years, much longer than from the creation to the commencement of that day: though days, and years, and time, as we now measure it, will then be at an end; yet there will be a succession of events, and of ideas and perceptions, among creatures; and this must continue without end. And it must take time, as we now term it, and conceive of it, for creatures to recollect and take a particular view, of every character that has existed; of all that has been done, secretly or openly, by every particular person, of angels, devils and men, from the beginning of the world to that time: Even though the exhibition shall be made in the best and most advantageous manner, and creatures shall be able to think and receive ideas, with much greater celerity, than men can in this state. Solomon seems to have reference to this long duration of the day of judgment, in the following words; “I said in my heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: For there is a time there, for every purpose, and for every work.”317317 Eccl. iii. 17. That is, however long a term it may take to bring every purpose, and every work of men into view, so as to judge them according to their works, yet time will not be wanting; and God will take time enough for it.
In this transaction, it may be supposed, the Redeemer will give, or cause to be exhibited, the best, most perfect, and entertaining history of mankind, and of all intelligences, without the least error, or misrepresentation, 200including all the thoughts, exercises and actions of moral agents, all their motives and designs in external conduct, with respect to God and creatures; all their enjoyments and sufferings, and every event which relates to them; including the designs, agency and conduct of God, with respect to them; and the ends answered thereby: By which one connected, important scene, will rise into view, and be seen from the beginning to the end, comprehending all the sins, and all the virtue and holiness, that have taken place among creatures, together with the superintending hand of God in every thing; his decrees and designs; his universal energy and governing providence, wisely conducting every thing, and all events, to bring them to their intended issue: By which his power, wisdom, righteousness, goodness, truth and faithfulness, shall be set in the clearest light. And as the scene proceeds, in this divine exhibition and history which the Redeemer will give, all his friends will be entertained and gratified, in a very high degree, and their enjoyment and happiness will rise, and be on the increase, from the beginning to the end, however long it shall continue.
On the other hand, it will be a most distressing and dreadful scene to the enemies of Christ, both devils and wicked men; and their pain and torment will increase from the beginning, till the infinitely dreadful sentence is passed upon them, “Depart from me, ye accursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” And while they hear the blessed sentence pronounced, inviting the righteous into the eternal kingdom of God, and see them received there; this will increase their misery and torment, to an unspeakable degree, which never can be abated. At the same time, the enjoyment and happiness of the blessed, will rise to an inconceivable height, which will continue and increase without end.
The redeemed will not be publicly justified, and received to eternal life, because of their obedience to the law of God; for if treated according to that, they would be found guilty, and must be cursed. But Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to them; and they will be judged according to the gospel, as friends to Christ, 201and believers in him; since God can be just, and yet publicly justify every one who is publicly known to be a believer in Christ. And when it is said, that every one shall be judged, and shall receive according to his works, which he has done in the body in this life, the gospel is supposed, and kept in view; and every one who shall, by setting the whole of his character and works in clear and public sight, appear to be a friend to Christ, and united to him, shall, on this account and according to the gospel, be publicly justified and rewarded with eternal life, which he could not be, if treated according to the law of works. And they who shall be found not to be friends to Christ, while in this world, shall be condemned, and fall under the curse of the law. This is agreeable to the representation which Christ gives of the general judgment.318318 Matt. xxv. 31, &c. And the apostle Paul sets it in the same light.319319 2 Thess. i. 7, 8, 9, 10.
It has been a question, whether the sins of the redeemed would be brought into view, and laid open before all intelligences, at the day of judgment; or would be covered and kept out of sight; and different opinions have been entertained of this. But it is thought, if the matter be properly considered, it will be evident that all their sins will be brought into view, and laid open before all; and that it will appear that there is not any evidence from the scripture, that their sins will be concealed; but the contrary. It is indeed said in scripture, that the sins of the people of God shall be blotted out, covered, cast into the depths of the sea, and remembered no more.320320 Isaiah xliii. 25. Psalm xxxii. 1. Jer. xxxi. 34. Mich. vii. 19. But these are metaphorical expressions, to denote the free and full pardon of all their sins, so that they should never be remembered against them, so as to condemn them to suffer the just consequence of them; but they shall be treated as well as if they never had been guilty of one sin. It cannot be true that God will remember their sins no more, in any other sense; for it is impossible he should forget them, or any thing else. This has been already observed in the section on justification.
1. That the sins of the redeemed should not be brought into view, at the day of judgment, appears contrary 202to the express declaration of scripture, which has been mentioned. It is said, God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Which cannot be consistent with passing over and concealing all the sins of the redeemed.
2. It appears impossible that their sins should be concealed consistent with the sins of the wicked, being fully laid open; for believers and unbelievers are so many ways connected, that the thoughts and conduct of the latter cannot be fully discovered, without making known the sins of the former, at least in many instances; of which every one must be sensible, who attends to the matter. For instance, is it not impossible that all the sins of an unbelieving husband should be clearly discovered in all their circumstances and aggravations, while all the sins of his believing wife are wholly concealed; which were the occasion of many of his sins, and to which they have a particular reference?
3. The holy exercises and good works of the saved cannot be set in a true and just light, without discovering their sinful infirmities and defects at least, with which they have all been attended; and their sins have been the occasion, and reason of their gracious exercises in many instances. How can their repentance of their sins be discovered, and clearly seen, while the sins of which they repent are wholly concealed? How can their humility, and their humbling themselves in the sight of the Lord, be discovered, unless the sins for which they humble themselves be known? How shall their love and faithfulness, in reproving a believing brother for his sins, and their labours and prayers for him, which have been the means of his recovery, reformation and salvation, be made known, without discovering the sins of that brother? And how can their trust in Christ for the pardon of their sins, and their penitent confessions of their sins, be discovered, without, at the same time, discovering their sins, to which these exercises have reference, and without which they would not be virtuous, or reasonable, or even intelligible? In short, all the holy exercises and works of a christian, take their particular complexion, and peculiar beauty from their sins, of 203which they were guilty, before conversion and afterwards, which cannot be seen any farther than their sins come into view.
4. Many sins of the redeemed have been already published to the world, in divine revelation; and will be known by all who read the Bible, to the end of the world, and at the day of judgment; and will forever be known and remembered by all the redeemed; by all the angels and devils, and by many, if not by all wicked men. The reader will recollect many more instances of this, than Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Peter, and the rest of the apostles; And the apostle Paul took pains to keep in view and publish his great wickedness, before his conversion. God has ordered all these to be published: And therefore we know it is wise and best that they should not be concealed, but made known; and that this will answer some important good end. And who can say, that God will not publish all the sins of every one of the redeemed, at the day of judgment; and that this will not be necessary to answer some important ends? This leads to another particular.
5. It seems necessary, that the sins of the saved should be known and published, in order to discover and set in the most clear light, the goodness and grace of God, in pardoning and saving them; and that their need of a Redeemer, and the efficacy of his atonement and righteousness should be seen to the greatest advantage: And the work of the Holy Spirit, in his effectually applying redemption to them, and subduing such rebels, cannot be otherwise fully revealed, in every particular instance. Of this, every one must be sensible, who will reflect on the subject. There is doubtless something peculiar in the character of each one of the redeemed, with respect to his guilt, the circumstances and aggravations of his sins, and the manner in which he is brought to repentance, &c. which serves to illustrate the sovereign grace of God, in his pardon and redemption; and it is so ordered, that he should sin in just such a manner and degree, and in such particular circumstances, to answer some end; and particularly this, that God might be more glorified, in the exercise 204of his sovereign, wise, wonderful goodness and grace, ill his pardon and salvation. But in order to this, the particular sins, the guilt, and circumstances in which he sinned, must be known; and must be known to all, in order to the greatest and most public display of sovereign grace, in his pardon and salvation, that all may glorify God, and give thanks, and praise him on his behalf. This leads to another observation.
6. Every one of the redeemed ardently desires, that God may have all the praise and glory of his pardoning mercy, and sovereign grace, exercised towards him, in his pardon and salvation; and the more this is known and celebrated, the more pleased he will be. But this cannot be known, it cannot be seen what God has done for him in particular, any farther than his sins, with their circumstances and particular aggravations, are published and known. Therefore, it will be so far from being undesirable to him, or giving him the least uneasiness, to have his sins, with all their aggravations, most particularly and clearly laid open before all; that they may see his guilt, and the odiousness of his character, as he does; that it will give him a peculiar satisfaction, and high degree of pleasure; as it will promote the happiness of all his friends, and be matter of their gratitude and praise to God, for his sovereign grace, exercised and manifested in his pardoning and saving such a sinner; and God will have all the praise and glory.
Where is there a real christian now, who, when he reflects on his amazing guilt and vileness, the multitude and aggravations of his sins, his desert, and danger of perishing forever, which has been prevented purely by the sovereign grace of God, exercised in all wisdom and prudence, towards him, in pardoning, rescuing, and saving him, who does not say, at least in his heart, “Let God have all the praise and glory of his rich and sovereign grace, exercised towards me, in pardoning such a sinner, so infinitely guilty and vile, attended with such particular aggravations. Let all heaven, the angels, and all the redeemed, know what God has done for me, and praise him forever.” In this view, he desires and wishes that his case might be particularly and fully known to all, that they all might join with him in giving praise and 205glory to God. And at the day of judgment, this disposition and desire will be stronger and perfect; and he will, by having all his sins set in order, and in the clearest light before him, and all creatures, have a more clear and enlarged view hi n self, of the multitude and greatness of his sins, than he ever had before, and of the wonderful mercy of God in pardoning him, and of the boundless sufficiency of the atonement of Christ, and of his merit, by which he has obtained forgiveness of all his sins, and complete salvation. This will prepare him to be highly gratified, and exceedingly rejoice, that the whole is now brought out and made known to all the friends of God, that they may all be under the best advantage to join with him in giving all the praise and glory to God and the Saviour, of his unbounded love, and sovereign grace, in which he hath abounded towards him, in all wisdom and prudence. In this view, he cannot desire to have one of his sins concealed, for which Christ has atoned, and which is pardoned; and would not have his sins in general secreted, on any consideration.
In a word, Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of sinners; he came into the world to save sinners, even the chief of sinners. This is his work, and in this is his glory: That the redeemed are sinners must therefore be known at the day of judgment, in order to his having the glory of their salvation. And the more clearly their true character is seen, and their sins, in their number and aggravations are discovered, the more will Christ be glorified in their salvation. Therefore, the brightest possible discovery will be made of this by him, at the day of judgment. And by this the redeemed will be gratified and pleased, to a high degree. It will appear, at that day, that the redeemed are not saved because they deserve such favour, or are less unworthy, or less sinners than others; but because Christ loved them, and gave himself for them, and they are united to him, and have put their trust in him for pardon, righteousness, and complete redemption. And though they may then appear to have been greater sinners, and more ill-deserving, than those who perish; as doubtless many, if not all of them will; and their greatest crimes will appear 206to be those, which they committed after their conversion: yet this will not hinder their justification and salvation, or render it in the least degree improper, more than if they were less sinners; but the Redeemer will be hereby more glorified in the salvation of such sinners, and they will be the more happy. For they, to whom most is forgiven, will love the most.
Though the Redeemer has not altered the nature of sin, or rendered it less odious and criminal, cither in the redeemed, or in those who perish, but much more so; yet he overrules it, and turns it to his own glory, and the glory of his kingdom; and makes the sins of those who are saved, the occasion of their greater holiness and happiness forever.
When every character of those who are to be judged shall be set in the clearest light, and fixed; and all the past conduct and transactions in the moral world, both of God and creatures, shall be set in a clear, connected view; and all creatures shall be under the best advantage to see the righteousness and propriety of the final sentence, it will be pronounced by the Judge, in the sight and audience of all. This will be, in some respects, the most solemn, weighty, joyful and dreadful scene and transaction, that had ever taken place: Which will fix the righteous in a state of endless, inexpressible happiness and glory: And send the wicked away, into inconceivable, eternal misery. We have a summary of this sentence, on each of these, left on record, for our instruction and warning, by the Judge himself, in his awful representation of the day of judgment, in the xxvth chapter of Matthew.
STATE OF HAPPINESS or MISERY.
V. THE General Judgment issues in an endless State of Happiness or Misery, as has been just observed. Much is said of this endless state, both of the happiness and misery of it, in the scriptures, in the promises and threatenings, and declarations there made: But those opposite states, both of happiness and misery, are more particularly described in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, 207made to the apostle John, for the support and encouragement of christians, and to excite them to faith, resolution, patience and perseverance in the service of Christ, and a faithful, constant adherence to the truths of the gospel, in the evil times which were to take place, and the opposition and sufferings to which they are exposed in this world, and the trials and temptations which await them here.
But with all the instruction we have on this subject, and the utmost attention to it, of which we are capable, our conceptions are dark and low, and fall unspeakably short of a full, comprehensive view of the truth. However, the following thoughts will be suggested, as agreeable to the scripture.
First. The righteous will go from the judgment into the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world, where they shall enjoy everlasting life, in a state of unspeakable happiness and glory.
Their bodies will be beautiful and glorious, like the body of the glorified Jesus, active and sprightly, without the least possible weariness or decay, by the greatest, uninterrupted activity; every way suited to the employment of such a place and state, which shall in no degree confine or impede the mind in its exercises and enjoyment; but shall greatly assist and promote these: So that the soul will be invigorated by its union to such a body, and be more happy forever, than it could be in. any other situation and circumstances whatever.
There is an external place and city, or kingdom, formed in the greatest beauty, convenience and glory, suited to be a dwelling for the incarnate Son of God, and the embodied spirits of the redeemed; where every one will be perfectly accommodated and pleased, every circumstance being answerable to his desires, and suited to his employment, and to render him most happy. Jesus Christ said to his disciples, “In my Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you.”321321 John xiv. 2. Though this house and kingdom were made, when the world was created, yet it may be capable of alterations and additions, to increase the convenience, beauty and glory of it. When Christ ascended 208to heaven, in his glorified body, it may be supposed, the place was, in a degree, fitted up, and better suited for the reception and residence of the Redeemer, in his glorified body. And after the day of judgment, there will probably be a still farther addition to the beauty and glory of this place, and new accommodations be formed, for the embodied church of the redeemed; so that the place which was always glorious, will then exceed in glory.
The redeemed, thus situated, furnished and surrounded, with every thing convenient and desirable, there being nothing, nor any circumstance which will not be suited to give them pleasure, and furnish them in the best manner for their employment, will be perfectly holy. Every thought, and all their exercises and conduct, m ill be perfectly right, and with the greatest propriety. They will, by their holy ardent love, be united to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, by a strong, most happy, and everlasting union. They will behold this God in a full blaze of light. In his light, they shall see light, and all moral darkness shall be excluded forever. God and the Lamb shall be the eternal, undiminishing light of that holy city. They shall see his glory, without a veil, and enjoy all his beauty and perfection, to the utmost of their capacity, with the greatest assurance, that this God is their God, and will be their friend forever. “The Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and lead them unto living fountains of waters.”322322 Rev. vii. 17. He will be the great and eternal medium of communications from the Deity, and discoveries of his love, perfection and glory: and of their access to God, and enjoyment of him. Their peculiar and close union, and conformity to him, will be the eternal source of a high degree of honour and happiness, which no other creatures can enjoy. They shall sit down with him on his throne, and share with him in all his honour and happiness, to the utmost of their capacity. And what happiness must they enjoy, who love God, and the Redeemer, with all their hearts, with the most strong and fervent love of benevolence and complacency, when they see 209how greatly he is glorified, and will be forever, by their redemption and salvation! And what joy will they have in praising and giving glory to him! And their infinite obligations to him, for redeeming them from sin and hell, and giving them eternal life, will be felt by them, and be the constant, eternal source of the sweetest, most happifying love of gratitude; and in expressing it, they will have the highest pleasure and enjoyment.
They will be most happy in the society which they shall form, of which every individual will be a member. They will be perfectly united by the strongest, most sweet, and everlasting bond of love, and the happiest friendship, mutually enjoying and rejoicing in the happiness of each other; each one knowing that every one in this great kingdom is perfectly beautiful and amiable, and a cordial friend to him. And there will doubtless be ways of expressing their love and friendship for each other, in a better and more agreeable way and manner, than we now know, and of which we can now have no conception; by which they will mingle souls with the greatest freedom and intimacy, having no reserve or secret, which they cannot with pleasure impart to each other.
And those who have been intimate friends in this world, and mutual blessings to each other, will know one another in heaven; and what has passed between them in this life, will be the occasion of peculiar pleasure and joy in each other. This appears reasonable, and may be with certainty inferred from what the apostle Paul says to those, of whose conversion he had been the instrument. He addresses them thus, “As you have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours,” in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.”323323 2 Cor. i. 14. 1 Thess. ii. 10, 20.
If there be such peculiar and high satisfaction and pleasure, in christian love and friendship, in this imperfect state, how unspeakable must be the enjoyment and happiness, when those friends meet in heaven; having 210put off all their imperfection and sin, and become perfectly beautiful and excellent; formed every way for the highest and everlasting friendship, without any thing to keep them at a distance, or occasion any reserve; but every thing suited to their enjoyment of each other, iii the most exalted, refined friendship, in the greatest intimacy and union of hearts, expressing their sentiments and feelings, with the utmost freedom and ease, without any danger, or possibility of being misunderstood! At the same time, their hearts glowing with love to Christ, in whose presence they are; and who is the author and centre of all the love and friendship in heaven: And the more they love him, the stronger and more sensible is their union of hearts to each other, and the greater happiness they have in their mutual friendship.
The church of the redeemed is the body of Christ, of which he is the head: The fulness of him who filleth all in all. He is the former of this society and kingdom. And when completed by his hand, it will be as perfect, excellent and glorious, as infinite power, wisdom and goodness, united together, and exerted, will make it. There will be not one member too many, nor one wanting, in order to make it most complete and perfect. Every one will be fixed in his proper place, and be formed, in all respects, so as to render the whole the most perfect, beautiful, harmonious, and happy society possible.
The three persons in the godhead, form an infinitely high, holy and happy society, the original and perfect pattern of all true love, friendship and happiness. And the society of the redeemed, the church and kingdom of Christ, u ill be an eternal imitation and image of the infinitely high and perfect society of the Three One, the One in Three, and a most beautiful, happy and glorious emanation from him, who necessarily exists infinitely the most beautiful and happy society, without beginning, change or end, being entirely incomprehensible by creatures. This idea seems to be expressed by Christ, in his prayer to the Father, which will be completely answered in heaven. He prays for the elect in the following words. “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be 211one in us. The glory which thou gavest me, I have given to them; that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one. I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it; that the love wherewith thou hast loved me, may be in them, and I in them.”324324 John xvii. 21, 22, 23, 26. And the words of the apostle John, if considered in their full meaning, seem to express the same thing. “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. God is love: And he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.”325325 1 John. iv. 12, 16. Jesus Christ the Mediator, is the medium by which the society of the redeemed in heaven, will be united to the infinitely more excellent and perfect society, the eternal Trinity of persons, who dwell in the infinitely high and holy place, far beyond the reach or comprehension of creatures; from whom the same benevolence and social love is shed down through the Mediator, on these redeemed ones, forming them into one most happy society, in union with the blessed Trinity, and so as to be a little image of the Deity, the Three in One, and One in Three.
The holy angels belong to this society and kingdom: But though their natural powers be great, and in this respect they may be superior to man, they w-ill not be in so honourable a station as the redeemed, nor can they enjoy that peculiar happiness which the latter will have, in consequence of being redeemed, and sharing in redeeming love, and their near, honourable and happy union to Jesus Christ, by which they are the bride, the Lamb’s wife. The angels are unspeakably more happy than they could have been, had there been no Redeemer, and no redemption of sinners. They are employed and happy in looking into these things, and knowing more of God by this mean, and seeing his manifold wisdom, and wonderful goodness.326326 Eph. iii. 10. 1 Peter i. 12. They are happy in serving Christ, in carrying on the work of redemption, and in ministering to the redeemed, and serving them; and will doubtless be so forever. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them, who shall be heirs of salvation?”327327 Heb. i. 12. Hence it appears, that 212man is more of an ultimate end than the angels. The angels were made for man, and not man for the angels. For we may know the end of God in making any creature or thing, by the use which he makes of it. However, they are a necessary part of this most beautiful, happy and glorious society and kingdom, and are in a very honourable station, in serving Christ and his church.
The happiness of the redeemed in heaven will not consist in rest and indolence, in opposition to activity, but the contrary; in activity, and incessant, unwearying labour and service, from which they will not cease or rest. They will join in worshipping and praising the undivided three, God, and the Lamb, and the Holy Ghost; and the Redeemer will find business and employment for them continually; though we cannot now tell particularly, what it will be. Perhaps there will be public teachers, who will assist others in their speculations, and in exciting their love and pious affections. Some will have greater abilities than others, and more existence and holiness, and will be able to assist and instruct them who have less. The apostle Paul says, there will be a difference between them, as one star differs from another.328328 1 Cor. xv. 41, 42. They will converse together with the greatest pleasure; sometimes in larger, and sometimes in smaller companies; and at other times only two together. And doubtless sometimes they will have high enjoyment in conversing with Deity, and with Christ, by themselves alone, in retirement, by meditation and devotion. But with respect to these particulars, we are in the dark, and unable to determine with certainty. It is enough for us to know, at present, that every thing will be ordered, and take place in the best manner, for the brightest display of the divine perfections, and the greatest happiness of the members of this kingdom; and that each one will be constantly active, in that business which shall be most proper for him; in which he shall take the greatest pleasure, and shall be most for the general good. “Therefore, are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night, in his temple.”329329 Rev. vii. 15.213
There will be a perfect, uninterrupted harmony and agreement, in this society and kingdom. They will be united, not only in affection, but in sentiment. They will be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment. Every one will be full of light, according to his capacity and advantages to know; and not one will make any mistake, or judge wrong, concerning any matter or thing, throughout endless ages; for this would be morally wrong or sinful. None of them will be omniscient, and some may know more than other. But they will pass no judgment about things, of which they have no evidence, and concerning which they have no knowledge, except it be, that they do not know, and, therefore, cannot determine. There will, therefore, be no dispute and jar in heaven; but every one will be all attention, and all ear, to learn what he does not yet know; and suspend his judgment in every matter, till he has light to decide it perfectly right.
And there will be nothing to offend them, or give them the least uneasiness, or one disagreeable painful idea, thought or sensation, to eternity; but every object will excite, or be the occasion of, the most pleasing sensations, and every thought will be attended with extatic delight. All, through which they have passed in this world, the scene of sorrow, pain and sin, will not be forgotten; but their reflection upon it, while it is all in the clearest view, will be the occasion of their greatest enjoyment and happiness. The wicked, in a state of suffering and punishment, will not be out of their sight; but will be seen by all the inhabitants of heaven. “They shall be tormented with fire and brimstone, in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever.”330330 Rev. xiv. 10, 11. But this will give them no pain, or one uneasy thought or sensation; but it will be the occasion of their joy and praise.
Not that the misery of any, in itself considered, and for its own sake, will give them pleasure; but they will have such a constant sense of the justice, propriety, and necessity of their punishment, to answer the best end, 214for the glory of God, and the general good: That they will, in the full view of this, sing and say, “Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shall be, because thou hast judged thus; for they are worthy. Even so. Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments.”331331 Rev. xvi. 5, 6, 7. And this will be the occasion of exciting and maintaining, in a higher degree, than otherwise could be, a sense of the happiness of the redeemed; and of the sovereign, distinguishing goodness of God in their salvation: and of their indebtedness to sovereign divine grace; which will raise their gratitude to the highest key: And will keep in constant view, the excellence, worthiness, power and grace of the Redeemer, This is the representation the scripture gives. The inhabitants of heaven, rejoice and praise God, in full view of the punishment of the wicked. “After these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying. Hallelujah, salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments; for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Hallelujah: And her smoke rose up forever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, and the four beasts, fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying. Amen; Hallelujah.”332332 Rev. xix. 1, 2, 3, 4.
And reason teaches not only why the punishment of the wicked will be the occasion of the greater joy and happiness of the redeemed, agreeable to this representation of scripture; but that it must be so, in order to the perfect happiness of the inhabitants of heaven. For if this were not on the whole, all things considered, agreeable to them, it must be matter of uneasiness, and the occasion of constant grief and pain; which would render heaven, in a great measure, an unhappy place. It is impossible that the wicked should be punished unless God were pleased with it: Therefore, so far as the inhabitants of heaven will be like God, and be pleased with that which is pleasing to him, this punishment will be the occasion of joy and happiness to them.215
And while they are in the full enjoyment of all this happiness m heaven, they will have the greatest assurance that it shall have no end, but continue forever. Without this, their happiness would not be complete at any time. For whatever happy circumstances they were in at present, and however happy they might be, the thought that they were liable to lose it, and having no assurance that it should never cease, would be a great alloy to their present enjoyment, and be inconsistent with their complete happiness. Therefore, the certainty that they shall exist without end in this state, is a necessary ingredient in their felicity, in order to their having fulness of joy at present, as well as pleasures forevermore.
From the nature of the human mind, and the circumstances in which the redeemed will be in heaven, it is reasonable to suppose, that they will increase, and make continual progress, in knowledge, holiness, and happiness, without end; and they will make advances in these with greater celerity, the longer they exist. The greatest and chief objects of knowledge are infinite: This, therefore, is a foundation for progress in knowledge, without end; and however swift the advances be, the subjects to which they attend can never be exhausted. However much they may know, at any supposed time, they will be so far from knowing all that may be known; that the advances in knowledge, which they have then made, will be little, compared with what may take place; and will put them under advantages, to make yet swifter advances in knowledge, for time to come. The mind is capable of enlarging its ideas and knowledge, by attention and exercise, when objects present, and invite to new discoveries; and so far as we can conceive, must enlarge and grow in strength and capacity, in these circumstances; and every degree of increase of knowledge will prepare the mind to make yet greater and more swift advances in knowledge, to which no bounds can be set, so as to put a stop to the progress. And in proportion to the increase of their knowledge, will their love and holiness increase, and consequently their enjoyment and happiness.
The Deity, who is the infinite fountain and source of existence, is almighty, infinitely wise and good, can 216open new scenes successively, by which the blessed shall know more and more of him, and grow in degrees of holiness and happiness; and however fast they increase, in progress and advances in knowledge, holiness, and happiness, they will forever be infinitely below the Deity, and fall infinitely short of infinity existence, holiness, and felicity. This view may serve, in some measure, to give us an idea of the greatness of the felicity of the redeemed and of the advancing grandeur and glory of the eternal kingdom of Christ, which far exceeds the utmost stretch of our thoughts and imagination.
And this is agreeable to the scripture, if it be not expressly or implicitly asserted there. The following words of the Redeemer may be considered as expressing, or at least implying this. “I am come, that they Blight have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”333333 John x. 10. These words have been understood to express the greater happiness which the redeemed shall have by Christ, than that which they could have had by the first Adam, had he not sinned. They may be understood to express more, even the abounding, and endless increase of eternal life. They shall have it multiplied and abounding with increase forever. It is said of the redeemed in heaven, “The Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters.”334334 Rev. vii. 17. Which may import not only the fulness of happiness, and the care of Christ to supply them constantly; but the progress that shall be made, in new discoveries of divine truth and grace, and in enjoyment and happiness. They shall be led from one fountain of living water to another, and new ones shall be constantly opening, for their greater refreshment and pleasure.
In heaven they will contemplate and search out the works of God, and marvellous things without number, which to us, in this world, are unsearchable.335335 Job iv. 9. These great and marvellous works of God, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working, will be then explored and sought out, with the greatest attention and pleasure.336336 Psal. cxi. 2. Isai. xxviii. 29. They will search into, and see the divine 217plan, comprehending all things, and all events that have come to pass, formed by infinite wisdom and goodness, and executed by the all pervading energy of omnipotence, they will behold it with pleasing admiration and wonder, as it has been opened in divine providence; and be more and more pleased with the depth of the wisdom and know ledge of God. They will learn his manifold wisdom, in planning and conducing all things to the most happy issue, and understand, with pleasing wonder and adoration, more of his judgments and ways, which in this state are unsearchable, and past finding out. They will see more and more of their own entire, absolute, and universal dependence on God for all things, and of all creatures and things; that they are the clay, and he is the sovereign Potter, and former of all things; and this will appear to them to be just as they would have it; and the greater sense they have of this, the more pleasure and happiness will they have; while they rejoice, that the Lord God omnipotent reigneth, and will reign forever.337337 Rev. xix. 6. For God will then be all in all; “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: To whom be glory forever. Amen.”338338 Rom. xi. 36. 1 Cor. xv. 28.
Secondly. The wicked will go from the judgment unto everlasting punishment. The scripture sets this punishment in an awful and terrifying light; not only as it will be endless, but amazingly great and dreadful in degree. It is represented by their being cast into a lake of fire and brimstone, where they have no rest, but shall be tormented night and day: That is, without any cessation, forever and ever: Where they shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture, into the cup of his indignation; and the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever.339339 Rev. xiv. 10, 11. xx. 10, 15. If these are to be taken as in some measure metaphorical expressions, yet we must not think that they are designed to represent to our view and imagination the sufferings of the wicked, as greater and more dreadful, than they really will be; for this is not consistent with the dignity and truth of God, to attempt to fright men, by threatening them with a greater evil than he ever will inflict 218on any; or by representing them as suffering more than the wicked will suffer. Besides, the wicked will be “vessels fitted to destruction;” which implies that their whole capacity shall be devoted to suffering; but they are capable of suffering as great evil as they can conceive or imagine. All the use which God will have for them is to suffer; this is all the end they can answer; therefore, all their faculties, and their whole capacity will be employed, or used for this end; otherwise they would be useless, and answer no end.
As the wicked are to suffer in the body, they will be capable of suffering by means of the body, or of suffering bodily pain, as well as that which is purely mental. The body can, by Omnipotence, be made capable of suffering the greatest imaginable pain, without producing a dissolution, or abating the least degree of life and sensibility. The bodies of the wicked will be raided, and united to their souls, that they may be punished, and suffer misery in body and mind, in union. And God can render a future separation impossible, and so form the body as that it shall continue in full 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 like 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?”340340 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.”341341 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 219and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto lire, 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: “When the heavens shall pass aw ay 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.”342342 2 Peter iii. 7, 10. If the heavens, the sun, 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.220
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 ad 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 221with 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 their 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 favours 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, &c. 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 Oh! 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, &c. The omniscient, almighty, and just Judge, will be able and disposed to weigh and adjust the crimes and guilt of every one in 222exact 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.”343343 2 Cor. v. 10. Agreeable 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.”344344 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!345345 2 Cor, iv. 18.
II. How infinitely dreadful is the end of the wicked! In 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, 223against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”346346 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 honoured. The inhabitants of heaven will be eternally sensible of this, and say, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, 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.”347347 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.
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