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LECTURE XXXIII.4848   Preached Oct. 6, 1694.

Use. We therefore come, in the last place, to improve what hath been said of this death, by way of application.

1 And we may learn hence, inasmuch as death is said to have passed over all, for that all have sinned; that God is not unobservant of the ways of men in this world, nor indifferent how they demean themselves. Have all sinned? Death passed over all. They that think God hath forsaken the earth, concerns not himself in human affairs; Why do they think so? It is true, the judgment day, and the state of retribution are not yet come. But, in the mean time, are there no tokens and indications upon men, of divine displeasure? Is there nothing to signify that he is not well pleased with a wicked world? Indeed, because his judgments are not executed with greater terror, therefore, many times, men’s hearts are set in them to do evil. And if things run long on with them, after one manner, because they have no changes, they fear not God. But, if they would use their understandings, which can go a greater compass than sense; and, if they would look about, and not consider merely and abstractly what they themselves do now at present feel, but what appearances there may be perceived of divine displeasure towards this world in general, they may see by tokens express enough, that God is not well pleased with the state of things in this world, and with the course, 458and carriage of men in it. They may see that his wrath “is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; for how constantly is death every where following sin, death passing upon all men, for that all have sinned. When death is making, in a more sensible way, such spoils and havoc in this world, tumbling men into the dust every where, and none escapes—What! have men reason yet to think, that God is indifferent how they carry themselves; that he takes no notice whether men obey him, or disobey him? But again,

2. Since this is the very state of the case, death past upon all, or men are generally in a miserable state; we may collect, hence, that God’s deportment towards men, is very becoming of him, and most suitable to the state of their case. t( Death hath passed over all, for that all have sinned.” Nothing could be more worthy of God, than to let it be as it is with men, in this respect; that is, to let death pass over all; that it should spread its dark and horrid shadow over this world, as we find it every where doth. Nothing could, I say, be more worthy of God, or more suitable to the state and condition wherein sin hath constituted the sons of men. And this will appear yet more distinctly, whether we consider God’s dispensation towards men, in this respect, for the present; or, whether you consider, again, his determination concerning them for the future.

(1.) If we consider his dispensation towards them, for the present, nothing could be more becoming, more worthy of God, or more suitable to such a creature as man, now in his lapsed and apostate state. For, as to his present dispensation, you may find a concurrence of two things: first, such a severity, as wherein God doth most becomingly animadvert upon the sinfulness of the world, and shew himself displeased; and secondly, such, lenity, as by which he yet signifies himself placable and willing to be reconciled. Nothing could be more suitable, more becoming God, considering the present state of lapsed man, with respect to the tenour of his present dispensation towards him, than that there should be such a mixture as this of God’s conduct towards this world: that is, severity, to shew that he is not well pleased; lenity, to signify that he is yet placable. What could be more becoming God? Both these are interwoven in the whole course of God’s dealings with men; as hath been told you. There have been tokens of severity, that men might understand and know that God doth not like their ways and manners. Death is every where playing its part, and rolling men into the grave before one 459another’s eyes. And men may every where perceive the effects of a malediction upon themselves, and upon their concernments and affairs in this world. But yet, notwithstanding, there are significations, too, of God’s placableness, his willingness to be reconciled, even where there is no gospel, hut much more where there is: where there is no gospel, God leaves not himself without witness in that he doth good, giving men rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, and filling their hearts with food and gladness. And even his patience, and forbearance, and long-suffering, they have a leadingness, (as we have had occasion at large to shew you) unto repentance. And men will have a fearful account one day to make of it, that have not been led thereunto, nor understood that design.

But where the gospel comes, there (you know) God shews himself as he is in Christ, “reconciling the world to himself, that sin might not be imputed.” 2 Cor. v. 19. What can be more suitable than this, to a Being of most absolute perfection, in whom the perfections of wisdom, and justice, and holiness, are in conjunction with the perfections of kindness, goodness, love, and favourable propensions towards his creatures: nor could any be more suitable to men in this their present state, (it being a state of probation,) a state of trial, of leading, and precedaneous to another state.

And, according to all the measures of wisdom and equity, this is always reckoned most suitable where there is guilt that appears chargeable, and that it may be charged; and that, while as yet a public judgment is not given, and hath not had its effect. If we do but consider, (and, indeed, we can but judge as men, of things, and use the best understanding as such, that we have,) we see how men do commonly judge in such and the like cases. That is, suppose one be vehemently suspected of some flagitious crime among men, but the matter is not yet brought to judgment; such a person is neither to be treated as an innocent person, nor as a convicted one. You know that so the wisdom of human governments doth determine every where. And the case speaks itself, that these are apt, and fit, and suitable methods; they carry their own reason in them. Such persons, before the solemn public judgment, and the consequent execution upon that judgment, are neither, I say, treated as innocent, nor as convicted; but there is a mixture in the treatment, which they generally find and meet with: some kind of severity they do undergo even before their trial and judgment, which may be looked upon as someway penal: and in some degree it is so. Nor is there any thing of severity used towards such, but upon some proof, upon 460some evidence, as such persons are convened and accused before a magistrate, convicted in some way, though they have not a full conviction: they are brought before them, committed by them, held under restraint, that justice may not be eluded; but that they may be in safe custody. But yet, for all that, there is no formal judgment passed upon them, nor execution consequent unto such judgment, till there have been a very formal trial, and a full conviction,

Much at the same rate, is the state of the case here between God and men, though not for the same reasons, not in all respects for the same; not that the delinquents may be in safe custody, and so finally not escape his justice; for he knows well where to have them at any time, and any where. Nor is any thing of lenity used towards them, upon the account that they are not convicted, nor fully convicted. For every man’s case lies perfectly open to the divine view; but there is severity used towards them, partly for warning to others, and partly for monition and excitation to themselves; because God intends a treaty, and deals with them in order to pardon and forgiveness, which is not the usual design of human governments. And for the same reason is lenity used towards them; not because they are not convicted: for their matter hath, to the divine eye, a thorough perspection, and the whole state of their case at last is seen through and through. But, as was said, that by such gentleness they may be more treatable, and capable of being applied to, in order to their conversion, and final salvation. But, upon the whole, nothing could be more becoming of God, than that there should be such a mixture as we find of severity and lenity, in this present dispensation, antecedent to the future judgment that is to pass upon them. And then,

(2.) Nothing could be more becoming of God, than the determination that he settles concerning man for the future; that is, that this death, in all the fulness of it, shall finally be inflicted upon them that are finally impenitent; those that persevere in enmity and rebellion to the last, and never consort with, never hearken to the terms and overtures of reconciliation; for what else should be done in such a case as this? Do but consider the nature of man. He hath a mortal part about him. It is not reasonable to think, that God should make that mortal part immortal, only that men might continue sinning against him, on earth, uninterruptedly and everlastingly. Was that to be expected that it should be so? And he hath an immortal part, a mind and spirit that is immortal. What should be done in such a case, with such a creature as man? 461was he to annihilate that immortal part? That was as little to be expected, that God should have made such a creature with such a nature, and then seem to repent that he had made him such, and so that he should immortalize that which was mortal; or, as I may say, mortalize that which was immortal.

But, I say, that he should do either the one or the other, was for no reason in the world to have been expected from God, the great Lord and Maker of all. He deals with the creatures that he hath made, suitable to the natures that he hath given them. It could not be any blemish to the divine perfections, that he made man at the first with such a nature. If his mortal part always hanged about him, it should have made him capable of no higher felicity than this earth did afford: and sure that had been a diminution of the divine goodness. If he had not made him with an immortal mind and spirit, he had not been capable of felicity, as he had not, it is true, been liable to endless misery. But then, he had not been capable of future felicity. Therefore, consider the matter how you will; look upon all men as having sinned, and consider death here upon to have passed over all, nothing could, in this case, be more becoming of God, than his deportment towards men; whether you consider his present dispensations towards him, or whether you consider his determinations for the future. But then,

3. We have this further to collect, that men’s deportment, in this case, is most unsuitable, most unbecoming of them, and most unanswerable to the state of their own case. Death hath passed over all. Do men carry it suitable hereunto? We might, in many instances, shew you how far they are from doing so, from carrying it suitable to this state of their case; that is, their being under a universal death,

(1.) Very plain it is, that many never think any such thought,—“I am under a doom.” It is true, they cannot escape thinking themselves mortal, and that sometime or other they must die: but that this is a doom, a sentence upon them from an offended Creator; how many are there that pass away their days, and never think such a thought? “I am a sinful creature; and God hath been offended; and, therefore, I must die: and, therefore, I am, in many other respects, miserable in the mean time.” How many that never think one such thought, that never consider the state of their case as it relates to God. The miseries that befal men here under the sun, they seem to apprehend as if they sprung out of the dust, but apprehend nothing of a nemesis, of a vindicta, of divine displeasure therein.

462

Indeed, if there were a correspondency in the temper of men’s souls, unto the state of their case, in this respect, where in soever God testifies his resentment, they would have a resentment. By all these efforts of present divine justice, upon an apostate world, God is expressing this his resentment: “I am ill used by my own creatures;” that is the language of every such providence. “The creatures that I have made, carry it insolently, injuriously, undutifully to me.” Providences are vocal and articulate, do not only carry a voice with them many times, but a voice that is expressive of a meaning, which is interpretable; the Lord’s voice cries many times to the city, and, in general, it speaks this sense every where; where his providences are afflictive, and reach men’s bones, and their flesh, or touch them in any other sensible effect, God is angry, these are the breakings forth of his just displeasure towards a wicked world, against sinful revolted creatures. But with the most, there is nothing of this kind thought of: and therefore, they are full of lamentations for the evils that do befal them, accounting them infelicities; but never look upon them as penalties; which, if they did, that would carry a signification with it of their own guiltiness; that these things befal me as a sinner, and as an offending creature. And,

(2.) Where there are any such thoughts, how rarely do they stay in the minds of men, and how seldom do they dwell upon the contemplation of any such thing? Whereas, if matters were with men as they should be, in these respects, these should be their thoughts lying down and rising up, and from day to day, all the day long, as while men do yet remain in an impenitent and unreconciled state. God speaks his mind in reference to such, that he “is angry with the wicked every day;” so then it should be thought of every day. And it would make men’s spirits most restless and uneasy within them. O! what an insupportable thing is it to be under the displeasure of him that made me! and that he should be angry with me every day: that his displeasure should be upon me, even while i am eating, as was said concerning the people in the wilderness: “his wrath came upon them while they were eating, while the meat was yet in their mouths.” Sure it would make a man never eat with pleasure, when this should be understood to be the state of his case. And again,

(3.) Men do not meditate an escape. How little is there to be seen of any such thing, in this world, as flying from the wrath to come? as John the Baptist’s auditors are said to be doing in a kind of fright—“Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” How little is it, that looks like this, in 463this wretched world! There would be consultations, if men were aware of this state of their case, and their spirits were impressed any way suitable to it. There would he counsel held: “We are under divine displeasure; what course shall we take to avert it? to appease that anger which we cannot bear; which will consume and burn up all before it, if it continue unappeased?” And again,

(4.) For the most part, men are taken up about alien things, things most alien and remote from any thing of this kind, or what the exigency of their case requires and calls for; even though they are warned and told of it, and called upon from time to time. This is no new or strange doctrine among us, who live under the gospel; that the state of man is a state of sin and misery: to tell men, you are by nature children of wrath; you are under guilt; you are sinners; and ft the wages of sin is death;” this is not strange to the ears of men. You cannot have lived years together under this gospel, but you must have heard of these things often: and surely the generality of them who were wont to hear the gospel, do hear these things frequently inculcated. But what are the workings of their minds and thoughts? Do they bear any correspondency to such things as these, so often urged upon them? “You are a guilty creature,” saith the word of God unto them: “you are under death; What will you do in this case? what course will you take?” “Why, I will clothe myself as decently as I can; I will go in a modish dress, I will try the relishes of this, or that, or the other sort of wine.” “Why, you are an undone creature; you lie under death: what do you wish in this case?” “I wish I had as neat and as well-furnished a house as my neighbour: I wish that such a commodity would fall, that I might have the better time to buy; or that such a commodity would rise, that I might have the better time to sell.” With things so altogether alien from this business, are men taken up in a continual course. What is all this to the state of your case? You are under death, man! do you understand that? You are under guilt; and by being under guilt, lie wider death. And,

(5.) They seek relief against the miseries of their present state, by such things as not only do not afford it, but make their case worse, or they have that constant tendency to make them worse. Death that hath passed upon all, hath passed upon you:” they are repeatedly told so. “Well, what do you think of it?” They have the presumptuous appearances of death continually in view: but the inward sense of their heart is such as this: “O, that I were a rich man; that I had a 464great estate; that I had but opportunity enough to live a voluptuous life!” or, “Such a one hath wronged me; I wish I knew how to be revenged of him!” Men think to relieve themselves against what annoys them, and is a part of the misery of their present state, by things that would not only be no relief, but make their case far worse. For do you think it would mend your case, or would you be happier men, and safer from eternal death, and from divine justice, that threatens you, or presseth you, if you were rich? If you were never so rich, could you thereby redeem your souls, and expiate your guilt, and make satisfaction to the justice of an offended God? If you could live immersed and swallowed up in pleasure and voluptuousness, would that better your case? Would it not make it far worse? If you had the revenges you would seek; if you could gratify the enmity of your own heart, (which is part of your misery, and a great part too,) by making another man miserable also, would that mend your case? Nay, would it not increase the guilt? Would it not strengthen your bonds, and lay you yet more open to divine displeasure? Again, in the last place, though one might multiply instances of this kind much further,

(G.) They are, for the most part, (so far as their external circumstances will admit of it,) jocund and merry, and very well pleased with their state. How little suitable to this apprehension, “Death hath passed over all.” We dwell in a world deluged with misery, and through which, men are generally making way, and sinking deeper and deeper into eternal misery, and into that state wherein death is to be consummate, and in its fulness. To have the opportunity (as there are none but have very frequently) to hear discourses of men, in whom there yet never appeared the least sign or token of repentance or reconciliation with God, how jolly and frolicsome they can be, (if, I say, their external circumstances can admit it,) would you think these men considered themselves as under death, as under a doom from the God against whom they have sinned?

Is it not wondered at, if a condemned crew in chains, and only expecting the hour of execution, should be entertaining themselves with music and dancing, and pleasant stories? how amazing a thing is this! would you not say of such “laughter, it is madness?” and of such “mirth, what doeth it?” as the wise man saith, Eccl. ii. 2. Why such deportments as these, are they like men perishing, going down to perdition? To be pleasant and merry, and not to be reconciled, not yet to be at peace with God, to have no security from 465the wrath to come; to have death hanging over a man’s head, not as the way to glory, but as a doom and curse upon him; and to be jovial and frolicsome under all this, would amaze any man that were serious, to consider that it can be so! And,

4. We may further collect, hence, how little it is that principles do signify, generally, with men. Though those principles be never so common, and never so certain, and evident, yet how little do they signify? That the state of man is a sinful and miserable state, is a common principle; it is a principle that doth obtain, not only among Christians, but among pagans; their writings and books are full of it. Most pathetical complaints and lamentations, we frequently meet with, in their books, upon this account, speaking of the degenerate state of man, and that he is not the creature that at first he was; and speaking of his miserable state, and even in a way of nemesis, and as the effect of his displeasure, who made him, and hath been offended by him. But among Christians, it is so common a principle, that every child that hath learned any thing of his catechism, (as I hope you generally do catechise your children,) if you but ask them, What is the state of man by nature? they will answer, It is a state of sin and misery:—just the very meaning of the text: “Death hath passed over all, for that all have sinned.”

But how strange is it now, that so common a principle should signify so little? and again, that so evident and so certain a principle should have so little signification and efficacy with it as a principle? that, though the state of man is a miserable state, and that he lies under death, is matter of fact, it should have no more effect? Indeed, as to the most tremendous part of this death, that is out of sight with many; but, for the more sensible part, that lies open to every one’s view. It can be a doubt with no man, whether he shall die or no. Death passeth over all. But how wonderful a thing is it, that a principle, a common principle, a most evident principle, and that carries the greatest certainty with it imaginable, (as to what at least doth highly deserve our consideration,) should be so ineffectual!

And as to the other part, it is generally professed, and they who make it their business, as much as they can, to disbelieve that more dreadful part, that remaining and unseen part of this miserable state, yet have not conquered the fear of it; if they have conquered the belief of it, yet, it is plain, they have not conquered the apprehension of it; there is a formido opposito, and cannot but be; for at least they know nothing to the contrary; they can never prove the contrary, that there is 466no hell, no judgment to come. And, in a matter of this nature, men that would but act according to the common reason of men, would think that the matter did need demonstration, that there is no such thing, and not run a mad hazard and ad venture; when there is nothing lost in the course, to which the truth, in this case, (supposing it to be truth,) would lead: and when, by following the contrary course, the misery and mischief that must ensue, are both unsupportable; and will shortly be irretrievable.


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