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In this verse you have the second instance, from the apostate angels, who, notwithstanding the dignity and height of their nature, upon their rebellion were left to a dreadful punishment. In this instance there is an argument not a pari (as in the former verse), but a majore ad minus, not from a like case, but from the greater to the lesser; for if God spared not such creatures as by the grace of creation were advanced to such an excellency of being, certainly he will not spare us, whatever gospel privileges we have, if we walk unsuitably.
In these words observe:—(1.) The sin of the angels, they kept not their first estate. (2.) Their punishment, which is twofold:—
1. Present and felt.
2. Future and decreed.
1. Present, which is also double:—(1.) Poena damni, their loss, they left their own habitation. (2.) Poena sensûs, their punishment of pain or sense, he hath reserved in everlasting chains, under darkness.
2. Future and decreed, unto the judgment of the great day.
Because I will not perplex the discourse by grasping at too much at one time, I shall discuss each circumstance apart, and in distinct explication. I begin with the phrases implying their sin and fall. And the angels: the expression is plural, to note the great number of those which fell. Their first estate, τήν ἀρχὴν: the word may be translated 190either their principality or their beginning, and, which is all one, first estate. If you translate it principality, it will well enough suit with the scope of the apostle; and the angels are often called ‘principalities’ in scripture, because of their great power and excellent nature: so Col. i. 16, ‘Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers;’ all which terms imply the dignity of the angelical nature; nay, the devils themselves, because of that power and cunning which they still retain, are called ‘principalities:’ Eph. vi. 12, ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world.’ If you translate it beginning or first estate, it will more fully express the misery and fall of the apostate angels, they being not only departed from the excellency and power, but from the integrity and righteousness wherein they were first created. So that the point is, that the angels are fallen from the condition of their original excellency and integrity.
So Peter, 2 Peter ii. 4, ἀγγέλων ἁμαρτησάντων, ‘God spared not the angels that sinned,’ &c.; and John viii. 44, ‘The devil abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.’ That purity and integrity wherein they were created is there called ‘truth,’ because truth is the perfection of any rational creature, and that holiness which they had was only to be kept up by the truth or right notions of God. In opening this point I shall inquire:—
1. What was this ἀρχή, or first estate.
2. What was their sin, or how they departed from it
3. How they came to sin.
4. The number of them that fell.
5. The time.
1. I do confess the scriptures do speak somewhat sparingly of the nature or fall of angels, it being calculated chiefly for the use of man; but some hints there are which we shall take notice of and improve, not to satisfy curiosity, but to serve profit. What then is this first estate from which they are departed? I answer—Their original condition of holiness and happiness. Every creature which the Lord made, he saw it to be good; much more the angels, whom God created for his own train and company; they are called ‘the sons of God,’ Job xxxviii. 7, because they bore his image, and that in a more eminent degree than man, as being wholly spiritual substances, just, holy, pure, in all qualities representing God their father. It is said of man, ‘thou hast made him a little lower than the angels,’ Ps. viii. 5. When man was at his best there was an inferiority, the image of God was given to us in a less degree; although we were placed above all visible creatures, yet than the angels we were a little lower. That they were excellent appeareth in that the angelical obedience is made the pattern of ours, Mat. vi. 10; and our happiness in heaven is expressed by the condition of their nature: Mat. xxii. 30, ‘They are as the angels of God in heaven;’ yea, it is notable that when the scriptures would express any excellency, they use to say it is fit for angels Thus manna is called ‘angels’ food,’ Ps. lxxviii. 25, not as if they needed food, spirits are not capable of corporal refreshments; but if so high a creature should need food, he could have no better. So ‘the tongue of angels,’ 1 Cor. xiii. 1; that is, with a tongue becoming creatures of so perfect an understanding. But you 191will say, These expressions are meant of the good angels. I answer—That at their first creation they had the same common nature and excellency, as appeareth by the name of ‘thrones, dominions, and powers,’ which they yet retain in common with the good angels; yea, and by that power, wisdom, and knowledge which is yet left. In their innocency they were alike good and alike happy, and could contemplate and behold God, and embrace him with delight as others did; all that is supernatural in the good angel is the grace of confirmation, by which they abide in the knowledge and love of God, whereas others left τήν ἀρχὴν, ‘their first estate,’ and it is probable this grace was given to the good angels in the very moment of their creation, before any merit of theirs or use of their natural abilities, as appeareth by the others’ sudden fall, and because they are chosen in Christ, who is the head of men and angels, Col. i. 16.
2. What was their sin? There is a great deal of difference among divines about it; for herein they proceed by guess and conjecture rather than any certain proof. Howbeit, there is enough to vindicate God’s justice against them. Quaevis peccata, saith Aquinas, sunt in malis angelis. According to his opinion, they have the guilt of all sin upon them, as tempting man to every sin; but what was the special formal sin is not so easily determined. Some say, affectation of the divinity; others say, flat rebellion against the law of their creation, or rash attempts against the empire and sovereignty of God; others envy, be cause of the human nature exalted above the angelical in Christ, he ‘took not the nature of angels,’ Heb. ii. 16. But whether that mystery were made known to them is uncertain; rather there are probabilities to the contrary; for the good angels know it now by God’s dispensations to the church, Eph. iii. 10. Others think rebellion against a particular law given to them, as that concerning eating the forbidden fruit was to man. Whether it were affecting a higher degree above their creation, or refusing their office and ministration about man, or confidence in their own gifts and received excellency, in a matter of so great uncertainty it is hard to determine. To state their sin, take these propositions:—(1.) The law which made their act to be sin was the moral law, as being the copy of God’s holiness, his revealed will to all rational creatures; and they are said to sin, 2 Peter ii. 4, and ἁμαρτία, sin, is ἀνομία, a ‘transgression of a law,’ 1 John iii. 4; and of no other law do we read but of the moral law, which (as is probable) was given to the angels, excepting only such things as are not suitable to a spiritual nature, the commandment concerning adultery or unlawful propagation, for ‘they neither marry nor give in marriage,’ Mat. xxii. 30, a thing proper to the bodily life. (2.) The most likely thing in their sin was pride; there is pride in every sin, namely, a despising and contempt of the commandment; and this is a sin agreeable enough to a spiritual nature, as adultery, drunkenness, and such sins are proper to a corporeal and sensitive nature: ὑπερηφανία (saith Chrysostom) δύναμεις ἀσωματους κατέστασε καὶ κατέβαλεν ἄνωθεν. To prove it, the fathers113113 Gregory, Austin, Damascene, &c. usually quote that place, Isa. xiv. 12, 13, ‘How art thou fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of the morning I for thou hast said in thy heart, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will exalt 192my throne above the stars of God, I will be like the Most High.’ But these are but metaphorical passages concerning the king of Babylon, and the ground of the mistake was because the angels are often in scripture set forth by stars, as Job xxxviii. 7. That testimony which is most cogent is in 1 Tim. iii. 6, ‘Ordain not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil;’ this is, lest he make himself guilty of that sin for which the devil was condemned and rejected of God, namely of pride; and James iii. 15,114114 See my notes there. pride is called devilish wisdom; the sin is often to be read in the judgment that followeth it. God’s throwing them down from the dignity of their estates was a sign that they aspired above it, and it may be collected from the first temptation, ‘Ye shall be as gods,’ as himself said, in the sense of the fathers, Ero sicut altissimus, so to our first parents he said, Eritis tanquam dii. (3.) They do best that make it a compound sin, accommodating all opinions; for, look, as there are many sins in that one act by which Adam fell, unbelief, pride, ingratitude, disobedience, &c., so in this act of the angels there might be many sins, for though pride be a chief sin in it, yet what kind of pride it was, or how discovered, it cannot be determined. Every opinion is asserted with equal probability. It might be envy at man, as we see the good angels rejoiced at their happiness, Job xxxviii. 7; Luke ii. 14, 15, and Luke xv. 7; or affectation of worship, as we see now they delight in it, or any other rebellion against God’s empire and majesty.
3. How they came to sin. The angels being created pure, they had no lust within to incline them; being in heaven, they had no object without to draw and allure them; there was no evil tracture, no tempter; how could they sin? I answer—(1.) It is probable that many of the angels sinned by temptation and seducement, and that one great angel, now called Beelzebub, first fell, and drew the rest after him: Mat. xxv. 41, ‘The devil and his angels,’ and Mat. x. 25, ‘Beelzebub the prince of devils;’ it was the name of the idol of the Ekronites, 2 Kings i. 2, and signified the god or lord of flies. Now, because the Jews knew that they were devils that were worshipped in the idols of the Gentiles, they gave the names of the idols to the devils or evil angels, and the chief of the devils they called by the name of Beelzebub, so Mat. xii. 24, implying one that was the prince of the unclean spirits, called devil, Satan, the great dragon, and the god of this world; from all which we may probably collect that there was a prince or chief of the apostate angels, who was the ringleader in this faction and rebellion against God. (2.) Because the question returneth, How came the first angel then to fall? I answer—It is hard to conceive how sin came into the angels first; all that we can say is this, that the angels were created good, yet mutable and free, and they voluntarily chose not to abide in their own estates. All the answer Austin would give to this question was, Deus non sunt—they are not God; it is God’s prerogative alone to be immutable; they might sin because they were creatures. And Aquinas giveth this reason: God cannot sin, because his act is his rule; but all creatures, though never so pure, if not assisted by grace, may sin: Job iv. 18, ‘He chargeth his angels with folly;’ there is mutability in the angelical nature, there called folly. Certainly God was not the 193cause of their fall, by infusing evil to them; it was the error of the Manichees to say they were created evil; nor by his prescience, for that enforceth not; nor his voluntary permission, for they were left to their own sway; nor his decree, for that is within himself, and doth not compel the creature; neither is God to be looked upon as consenting to the action, in that he did not hinder them from it, or in that he did not sustain them by his own grace, for he oweth this grace to none, and giveth it when and to whom he pleaseth; and in the angelical nature, as well as the human, he would discover his justice and mercy, and the freedom of his dispensations.
4. The number, how many fell? The schoolmen are too rash. Some say, just as many fell as stood; others, that a third part fell, abusing that place, Rev. xii. 4, ‘That the dragon drew a third part of the stars of heaven after him.’ Whereas that is meant of defection in the church. Certain we are many fell, and therefore it is said angels in the text. That the number is great appeareth in that the world is full of these evil spirits, and a whole legion, which containeth some thousands, is said to possess one man, Luke viii. 30.
5. For the time. In the general, very soon. Therefore it is said, John viii. 44, that ‘Satan was a murderer from the beginning;’ and 1 John iii. 8, ‘The devil sinneth from the beginning;’ that is, presently after his creation; created these angels were. It was the error of Valentius and Basilides, in the age next the apostles, that they were not created, but begotten of God. These primitive monsters broached it to the disgrace of Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God. But that they were created, see Col. i. 16, and Ps. cxlviii. 2, and created they were in time. Some of the Greek writers supposed the angels to be made before the world; but there is no ground for that, there being but one beginning of all created beings. And it is said, ‘Before the beginning nothing was made,’ John i. 3; therefore created they were the second day, with the heavens, as being of the same matter; as man was made when his seat and dwelling-place was perfected; so the angels, when their seat and place of residence was prepared. Moses mentioneth them not, because he treateth of the visible world and corporeal beings. Now, it is certain that, being created, they sinned ere man fell, for the devil, in and by the serpent, ‘seduced Eve,’ 2 Cor. xi. 3; therefore probably they fell a little after their creation; not in the very instant, that it might appear they were not naturally evil. It is probable that some time interceded between their creation and defection, but a very little time, to show the mutability of the creature.
Use. Let me now apply what hath been spoken, and press you to consider it in your thoughts, and to consider it with observation and application to yourselves.
1. Consider it with observation, and there is scarce a matter that can be more profitably amplified in your thoughts; we have the most impartial view of things in another person. Oh! think of this dreadful instance, the fall of the angels. (1.) Observe that such excellent creatures fell. Angels themselves were created excellent but mutable. Certainly we that ‘dwell in houses of clay, and whose foundation is in the dust,’ Job iv. 19, had need to be 194more cautious; if they be mutable, we are weaker and more mutable. To see such glorious stars leave their station, and fall from heaven like lightning, it should make us poor creatures tremble and look to our own standing, ‘lest we also fall,’ 1 Cor. x. 12. Self-confidence is the next way to ruin. God only cannot sin, because his act is his rule. There may be great height, strong abilities, rare accomplishments of nature and grace, and yet you see these cannot exempt us from shameful falls without the divine concurrence. The angels were the courtiers of heaven, the glory of the creation, in the first rank of the created beings, and yet they fell. Who can presume to stand when angels fall? (2.) They fell soon, a little after their creation. There is no created excellency but, if left to itself, will quickly undo itself; how soon do creature perfections fade! Surely there is no stability but in Christ. As the angels, so Adam fell a little after his creation: Ps. xlix. 12, ‘Adam, being in honour, abideth not;’ in the original, ‘abideth not for a night;’ and if it be applied to the first Adam, it implieth that he left the honour of his innocency the first day; in the morning innocent, and at night a sinner. Our new state in this regard is better than innocency, and the grace of regeneration exceedeth that of creation. The Lord would still keep the creature depending; our estate in Christ only is sure, because there our strength lieth in another.115115 2 Tim. ii. 1, ‘My son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.’ Let us then ‘work out our salvation with fear and trembling.’ If angels fell, and Adam fell, when they had no such mixed nature and divided principles as we have, what will become of us? Neither man nor angel can be kept without a surety; and unless Christ be continually present with his own gifts, there is no standing. (3.) They fell dreadfully, and from angels became devils, exercising theft, lying, envy, murder towards men. The best things corrupted become worst; as no vinegar so tart as that which is made of the sweetest wine. When men sin against light and grace they become cruel: ‘The revolters are profound to make slaughter,’ saith the prophet, Hosea v. 2. After profession the fall is most desperate: ‘Their latter end is worse than their beginning,’ 2 Peter ii. 20. What a malice have these evil angels now against God and man! they go about seeking whom they may devour. None so bad as apostates. (4.) Their fall made way for ours. By this means there came to be a tempter in the world. The fall of angels occasioned the fall of man, and the fall of man the coming of Christ. Do but go home with reverence, and observe how, by the bare permission of God, the divine decrees were accomplished, and wonder at the purity of that unspotted providence that is conversant about sin and evil, but not conscious to it. The angels led the way, and man followed, and so occasion was given for the discovery of ‘the manifold wisdom of God’ to men and angels, Eph. iii. 10. (5.) So many fell as were not elected by God. There was election and reprobation among the angels. Among the most glorious creatures God would show the liberty of his counsels; not only amongst men, the lower sort of rational creatures, but among angels. Therefore the apostle speaketh of ‘elect angels,’ 1 Tim. v. 21. Why should clay murmur when gold is refused? If some of the angels were appointed to be ‘vessels of 195dishonour,’ ‘who art thou that repliest upon God,’ ἀνταποκρινόμενος? Rom. ix. 20, that will be disputing the sovereignty of God, and ask the reason why he giveth grace to some and not to others? Wonder at it till thou canst understand it. Disputare vis mecum? mirare mecum, et clama, O altitudo!116116 Augustine. God’s decrees are hard meat, not easily digested by carnal reason. A proud creature cannot endure to hear of God’s sovereignty; it awakeneth our security to hear of a distinction in the counsels of God, and that grace runneth in a narrower channel than whole mankind. Do but consider; amongst the angels some are passed by and others confirmed. And who art thou, O man, that repliest? (6.) In the election of angels, pardoning mercy is not so much glorified as in the election and calling of men;117117 Vide Irenaeum, lib. iv. cap. 78; Damas. lib. ii. Orth. Fid., cap. 3; et Neiremb., Theoph., &c. then was grace shown but not mercy; none of the fallen angels were saved, but fallen man is called to grace in Christ. We were all ‘in our blood’ when God said ‘live;’ the whole lump and mass of mankind was fallen. Probably, next to the free counsels of God, that was the reason the whole human nature fell; but not the whole angelical nature, but only a part of it, so that the kind itself needed not to be repaired. Their sins argued more malice because of the height of their understanding; they sinned without a tempter. But the reason of reasons is, the will and gracious good pleasure of God, who was willing to show pardoning mercy to us, and not to them; the good angels had confirmation, but we redemption; we are reconciled, they continued: love after a breach made is more remarkable. (7.) From the sin in general by which they fell. It was by pride. See the danger of this sin; it always goeth before falling. The angels lost their holiness out of a desire of greatness; they would be over all and under none; it is dangerous when men mind rather to be great than good. In scripture we have two notable instances of the fall by pride, and our restoration by humility. The angels fell by pride and aspiring, and Christ restored mankind by being humble, lowly, and submitting himself even to the death of the cross. Adam would be as God, and so ruined us; and Christ, that was God, became as man, and so saved us. To counter work Satan, he layeth aside the glory of his Godhead; he layeth aside the glory of his Godhead and puts on a humble garb, saving us not by power, but by suffering. Well, then, look upon pride as the sure fore runner of a fall. (8.) Observe, the particular fact is uncertain, though the general sin may be known; as how this pride was discovered, whether in a thought, or by some bold attempt, is not known; it doth not so much pertain to edification and salvation to know their sin, as to know our own. The scriptures direct us to look inward; it is more for our profit to keep out Satan’s power than to know the circumstances of his fall; let us not fall with him. Peter would know John’s end, but Christ rebuketh him, ‘What is that to thee? follow thou me,’ John xxi. 20-22. We betray our duties by our curiosity; surely we should be more at home, and look to our beam, that we may not ascite others before the chair of censure, but ourselves before the tribunal of conscience. (9.) Observe, that the first sin that ever was, was a punishment 196to itself: ‘They kept not their first estate.’ The sin is expressed in such a phrase as doth imply their loss. Duty hath its reward in its mouth, as the sacks of the patriarchs their moneys; so sin its punishment. Never think that you shall get anything by offending God; you do but defile, and debase, and degrade yourselves from your own excellency when you sin. It is hell enough to turn away from God, and misery enough to pollute and stain his image in our souls. The fall of the angels is described to be a departure from their own happiness.
2. Consider it with application to yourselves. First, apply it for humiliation. We left τὴν ἀρχὴν, ‘our first estate,’ as well as the angels: ‘God made man upright, but they sought out many inventions,’ Eccles. vii. 29. Read your own guilt and apostasy in the sin of the angels; usually the page is whipped to show the prince’s fault, but here the princes and noblest part of the world are set out to us for examples, that in their ruin and dreadful fall we might understand our own. Do but observe the parable; they had ἀρχὴν, an original estate of happiness and holiness, and so we; they fell soon, so we; they fell by pride, so we: the angelical fall is our glass; we are a kind of devils, and apostates from God. They were driven out of heaven, so we out of paradise; they are punished with darkness, and so we. Secondly, Apply it for caution; there is a new beginning in Christ. The apostle saith, Heb. iii. 14, ‘We are made partakers of Christ, if we hold τὴν ἀρχὴν, the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.’ If we should break with God again upon this new stock, there will be no more sacrifice for sin. Faith, which is the gift of God’s grace, is the beginning and root of a new life in Christ. If we should forfeit this, we cannot expect God will deal with us any more.
We are now come to the phrases that imply their punishment, and that we made to be twofold—present and future. The first part of the present punishment is poena damni, their loss, implied in that clause, leaving their own habitation, in which their guilt is further intimated; for the apostle here maketh it to be their act, but Peter in the parallel place maketh it God’s act: 2 Peter ii. 4, ‘God spared not his angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell.’ Without further diversion we may take up the point thus:—
Obs. That the apostate angels, upon their sin and fall, departed from that place of happiness and glory which before they enjoyed. So Rev. xii. 8, ‘Their place was found no more in heaven, and the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.’ That scripture, I confess, is mystical, and speaketh of the overcoming of Satan in this present world, and casting him out of the church, which is there expressed by heaven, as the world by earth. For I observe in that book the church is some times expressed by terms suitable to the Judaical state. So in Rev. xi. 2, the church is called the temple, and the world the court; and sometimes by the celestial state, and so the church is called heaven, and the world earth. But, however, there is a plain allusion to Satan’s first fall from heaven as the ground of these expressions, and therefore I may use that place as a proof in this matter. That you may understand the loss of the angels, give me leave to lay down these propositions:197—(1.) The place of their innocency was heaven, round about the throne of God, where the good angels do ‘continually behold his face,’ and ‘stand before him,’ Dan. vii. 10. In such a blessed place and in such blessed company was their οἰκητήριον, their abode or habitation. When God disposed the several creatures into proper mansions and places of abode, he took the angels into his own train and glorious attendants, that they might still be with him; other creatures were his servants, these his courtiers, that is, his household and ordinary servants, that were to attend as in his chamber of presence. (2.) In this place they were to enjoy God and glorify God; their happiness was to enjoy God, their duty to glorify him; there they behold his face, Mat. xviii. 10, for vision and sight of God is the happiness of rational creatures, and therefore our happy estate is expressed by ‘beholding him face to face,’ 1 Cor. xiii. 14, and David saith, Ps. xvi. 11, ‘In thy presence,’ or ‘in thy face is fulness of joy.’ In heaven, then, did God manifest himself to them; there they were to applaud his counsels, receive his commands, to love God with the most perfect embraces of their will, and to ‘fulfil his commandments, hearkening to the voice of his word,’ (3.) From this place they are now driven into ‘the lower parts of the world,’ as being a place more fit for sin and misery. That the place into which they are driven is the bottom and centre of the earth cannot be shown out of scripture; rather the contrary, for sometimes they are said to fly up and down in the air, and therefore is Satan called ‘the prince of the power of the air,’ Eph. ii. 3, and the other devils, ‘principalities and spiritual wickednesses in high places,’ Eph. vi. 12. They aspire to get as high as they can, but they can get no further than the regions of the air; and sometimes they are said to ‘compass the earth to and fro,’ Job i. 7. The earth is Satan’s walk and circuit, where he seeks to do mischief, and sometimes they are in the sea, Mat. viii. 32, for as yet they are not in that prison and place of torments where they shall abide for ever under the wrath of the Lord. Therefore when Christ checketh their power in the world, they expostulate with him, ‘Jesus, thou Son of God, art thou come to torment us before our time?’ Mat. viii. 29, ‘and besought him that he would not cast them into the great deep;’ by which some understand the final place of their residence and torments, even the lowest place of the world, most remote from the highest heavens, which place as yet they have not entered. But how is it said that they are already ‘cast down into hell,’ 2 Peter ii. 4, ταρταρῶσας? I answer—That expression doth only note the dreadfulness of their fall, from so glorious a mansion to such a place of misery; and because wherever they are, they carry their own hell with them, though by God’s permission they are as yet suffered to remain in the air or earth. (4 ) Departing from heaven, they departed from all the happiness and glory which they enjoyed there, namely, that light which they had in their understandings to behold God, that power in their wills to love and serve him; instead of which they are filled with darkness and malice, and become the irreconcileable enemies of God and man. As to their light, their gracious knowledge is quite extinct, their natural knowledge much eclipsed, and their experimental knowledge not enough to engage their hearts to God. As to their integrity and holiness, instead of a will to 198love and serve God, there are nothing but obstinate purposes to do evil, and endeavours to hinder the glory of God and the good of man, 1 Peter v. 8, lest we should enjoy that happiness which he hath left. Hence those titles given them in scripture, as devil, Rev. xii. 9, which signifieth a slanderer; Satan, which signifieth an enemy; the tempter, Mat. iv. 1, because he daily soliciteth us to evil; ὁ πόνηρος, the evil one, Mat. v., being full of wickedness himself, he maketh it his study and care to propagate it in others; Belial, 2 Cor. vi. 15, unprofitable, as good for nothing; ἀπολλύων the destroyer, because he worketh mischief; the old serpent, Rev. xii. 6, because under the shape of the serpent he poisoned Eve. As to their power, it is much broken and limited; they are held in the chains of providence; they could not do hurt to the herd of swine without permission, Luke viii. 26. (5.) Though they have lost much of the glory and power annexed to their habitation, yet many tokens of the divine image do as yet remain in them. Holiness is, as we said, utterly lost—‘he sinneth from the beginning,’ 1 John iii. 8, that is, doth nothing else but sin; and Aquinas saith well, Hoc est angelis casus, quod hominibus mors—their fall into sin to them is as death to us; but now in other things they have much left; as man after his fall is like a drifted picture, and had only enough left to show what he once was, so the angels, though they are much fallen from the excellency of their nature, yet there is enough left to show that once they were glorious creatures. That which remaineth may be referred to two heads—their great cunning and active power. (1.) Their knowledge and cunning is great; they have much natural and experimental knowledge, so as they can discern hidden causes and virtues which escape the flight of man’s reason and understanding; they know how to apply active to passive things, can guess notably at future events; but as for a certain knowledge of them, unless of such things as depend upon necessary causes, that is proper to God, and accordingly he challengeth it: Isa. xii. 23, ‘Show the things that are to come, that we may know that ye are gods,’ &c. Therefore the devil’s oracles were either false or doubtful, as 1 Kings xxii. 16. Great skill in arts and tongues they have, as appeareth by their teaching those things with wonderful facility to those that have familiarity with them. In divine things they know enough of God and his justice to feel a horror impressed upon themselves,118118 See my notes on James ii. 19. James ii. 19; Luke iv. 34; Acts xix. 15. Besides they are of wonderful sagacity to judge of men’s hearts by the gestures, the motion of the blood and spirits, and other such external signs, for directly they do not know the thoughts; that is the privilege of God. (2.) Their power is great still, though limited, so that it cannot be exercised but when and where and as God will. They are able to raise tempests, to bring fire from heaven, as they did to ruin Job’s house and children, Job i.; they can deceive with lying miracles, but true miracles can only be wrought by a divine power. Being of much sagacity and skill in the secrets of nature, they may poison the air, destroy the bodies of men, infest and trouble beasts and cattle; in short, do all that lieth within the compass of a natural cause where God permitteth. Again, they may possess the bodies of men, hinder the godly in the execution of 199their duty; overrule the spirits of wicked men, and act and stir them up to wrath, lust, filthiness, Eph. ii. 3, besot them with error, &c.: it would require a distinct discourse to open this power to you. They cannot create new beings, nor raise dead bodies, nor compel the will of man; they can do mira, but not miracula, &c. Let me now come to observe somewhat of practical concernment from what hath been spoken.
1. That God hath proper places where the creatures shall perform their duty and enjoy their happiness. As the angels had heaven, which was ἴδιον οἰκητήριον, their proper place, so Adam had paradise, and the saints the church. It is misery enough to be thrown out of that place where God manifesteth himself; he that was cast out of the church was ‘given up to Satan,’ 1 Cor. v. 5. In the church Christ ruleth; in the world, Satan: it is good to keep to the shepherd’s tents, Cant. i. 8. The angels left their ‘first estate’ at the same time that they lost ‘their own habitation.’ It is dangerous to leave our own place, to be cast out of the congregations of the faithful, where God dwelleth and is glorified: ‘He inhabiteth the praises of Israel,’ Ps. xxii. 3; that is, in the church, where he hath praise and we have benefit: the church is ‘the gate of heaven,’ Gen. xxviii. 17; where God is, there heaven is. Cain himself could bewail his misery in being turned out from the church; he had the whole earth before him, but, saith he, ‘I shall be hid from thy face,’ Gen. iv. 14; that is, I am turned out from the place of thy worship, and where thy name is called upon. It is sad to be banished from the Lord’s gracious presence.
2. Sin depriveth us of God’s presence; this is the wall of separation between us and God: Isa. lix. 2, ‘Your sins have separated,’ &c. It not only provoketh God to stand at a distance from us, but worketh a strangeness in us, and maketh us shy of his presence; it cast the angels out of heaven, Adam out of Paradise, Cain out of the church. Well, then, when you are tempted to folly, bethink with yourselves: God could not endure the sight of angels when once they were defiled with sin; if I should yield to this temptation, I should never endure God, nor he me; this will either cause the Spirit to leave me, or me to leave the throne of grace; guilty souls cannot sustain the presence of God, and God doth not own the presence of guilty sinners. Peter said, Luke v. 8, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man;’ and God saith, ‘Depart from me into everlasting torments,’ Mat. xxv.
3. Observe again, Jude maketh it their act, and Peter God’s act. Jude saith, ‘they left their own habitation,’ and Peter, ‘God cast them down:’ and punishments are voluntarily contracted, founded upon some act of ours. God may pass by a creature out of his mere will, but he damneth not till we provoke him. First there is a voluntary aversion from God, and then God turneth away from us: Hosea xiii. 9, ‘O Israel! thou hast destroyed thyself.’ Our ruin is caused by the free motion of our own wills. God punisheth not willingly, and as delighting in our destruction: we sin, and so freely depart from our own happiness; we leave and then he casteth down.
4. God casteth Satan out of heaven. Do you imitate your heavenly Father; cast Satan out of your hearts. Who would entertain him whom heaven hath spewed out? It is said, Rev. xii. 8, ‘That Satan and his angels found no more place in heaven.’ Oh! then, give him not place 200to dwell in your hearts, Eph. iv. 17; do not entertain wrathful or lustful motions. God decreed that the evil angels should be cast out of heaven, and Christ died that they might be cast out of our hearts: John xii. 31, ‘Now shall the prince of this world be cast out.’ Oh! let him not erect a new heaven and empire in your souls! His great aim is, now he cannot get into heaven, to dwell in the hearts of men.
5. Angels, creatures of the highest excellency, are not spared when they sin: 2 Peter ii. 4, ‘God spared not the angels,’ &c. Wonder at the patience of the great God to us sinners. If a king be angry with his offending nobles, should not the scullions tremble? How come we to be of this side of hell? Go home and adore that grace that hath kept you out of the chains of darkness: Lam. iii. 22, ‘It is of the Lord’s mercy that we are not consumed,’ not swallowed up quick, not cast down to hell. If the angels in the very infancy of their creation were so soon punished for the first offence, Lord, what didst thou see in us, that, after so many offences, we should be yet alive? It is mercy, pardoning mercy, that giveth us our beings; we fail not because compassions fail not.
6. Angels were forced to leave their habitation; when they changed their nature, they changed their estate. Let all sinners tremble. Consider the instance, and you will see that no dignity and worth of the creature is of any avail, nothing can keep off the strokes of vengeance but the blood of Jesus Christ. They were angels, glorious creatures, their sin but one, and probably that in thought; yet how dreadful is their punishment! Cast out of heaven, kept in chains of darkness for a severer vengeance! Oh! then, how should we tremble that have ‘drunk in iniquity like water!’ Surely God is the same, he doth no less hate pride, obstinacy, and contempt of his grace now, than he did in times past: ‘God is but one,’ Gal. iii. 20; he acteth according to the same tenor of justice now as heretofore, &c.
7. From the word οἰκητήριον, ‘their own place,’ observe the true dwelling-place and rest is heaven; it was the habitation of the angels, and the rest of the saints. Oh! long for your home, let your hearts and your hopes be there; enter upon your eternal inheritance by degrees. The angels left their habitations, do you be always travel ling thither; let your hearts be in heaven, Col. iii. 1, your conversations be in heaven ere your persons, Phil. iii. 20. There are good angels still, blessed companions: Heb. xii. 22, 23, ‘An innumerable company of angels and spirits of just men perfected.’ A heathen could see out of a glimpse of the soul’s immortality, O praeclarum illum diem, cum ad illud animarum concilium coetumque proficiscar. There you shall see the vacant rooms of the apostate angels occupied by the saints. Say, Woe is me, that my pilgrimage is prolonged, Ps. cxx. 5.
8. They were cast from heaven into this world. Do but look upon the world in a right notion. Satan, that was not fit for heaven, is cast out into the earth, as a meet place for misery and torment: he is called ‘The ruler of the darkness of this world,’ Eph. vi. 12, and ‘The god of this world,’ 2 Cor. iv. 4. It is punishment enough to the apostate angels to be cast out into the world: the world is the devil’s workhouse and prison; one calleth it Satan’s diocese. Who would be in love with a place of bondage and punishment?201
9. The devil and his angels are in the world; let us be the more cautious; he ‘compasseth the earth to and fro,’ no place can secure you from his temptation; he is everywhere ravening for the prey with an indefatigable and unwearied diligence, 1 Peter v. 8. Let us look about us: ‘Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea, for the devil is come down to you,’ Rev. xii. 12. Wherever you are, Satan is near you; the world is full of devils. When you are in the shop, the devil is there to fill your hearts with lying and deceit, as he did the heart of Ananias, Acts v.; when you are in your closets, and when you have shut the door upon you, you do not shut out Satan, he can taint a secret duty; when you are in the house of God, ministering before the Lord, Satan is ‘at your right hand ready to resist you,’ Zech. iii. 1. He is ready either to pervert your aims, or to divert your thoughts. We had need keep the heart in a humble, watchful, praying frame. God hath cast out the angels out of heaven, and now they are here upon earth, tempting the sons of men to folly and inconvenience. Be watchful, the world is the devil’s chessboard; you can hardly move back or forth, but he is ready to attack you by some temptation.
10. When grace is abused, our dejection is usually according to the degree of our exaltation; the angels from heaven are cast down to hell, the highest in the rank of creatures are now made lowest; corruptions of the best things are most noisome: ‘Thou Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, art now brought down to hell,’ Mat. xi. 23. It was one of the chief cities of Galilee, and where our Saviour usually conversed. It is a kind of heaven to enjoy Christ in the ordinances, but now to slight this mercy will bring such confusions and miseries as are a kind of hell to you; slighting of grace, of all sins weigheth heaviest in God’s balance.
11. Spiritual judgments are most severe, and to be given up to obstinacy in sin is the sorest of judgment: it is diabolical to continue in sin; the angels left their habitation, and what followed? they lost their holiness.
12. Loss of happiness is a great judgment, it is hell enough to want God. The first part of the sentence, ‘depart from me,’ Mat. xxv. 41, is most dreadful; loss of heaven is the first part of the angels’ punishment. We in effect say now, ‘Depart from us,’ Job. xxi. 14, but God will then say, ‘Depart from me;’ ye shall see my face no more, &c.
Thus we have dispatched the first part of the angels’ punishment, their loss; we now come to the other part, their poena sensûs, their punishment of sense or pain, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness; where there is an allusion to the state of malefactors or condemned men, who are kept in prison till execution. Now the evils of a prison are two:—(1.) The darkness of the place; (2.) The hard usage of the evil-doer; suitably to which the apostle used a double notion:—(1.) They are reserved in everlasting chains; (2.) Under darkness.
I begin with the first part, in everlasting chains; whence two notes:—(1.) That the angels are kept in chains; (2.) That those chains are everlasting.
1. They are kept in chains. But what chains can hold angels? can spirits be bound with irons? I answer—They are spiritual chains, suitable to the spiritual nature of angels; such as these:—202
[1.] Guilt of conscience, which bindeth them over to judgment; the consciences of wicked angels know that they are adjudged to dam nation for their sin. This is a sure chain, for it fasteneth the judgment so as you cannot shake it off; it is bound and tied upon us by the hand of God’s justice. The condition of a guilty sinner is frequently compared to a prisoner, Isa. xlii. 7; Isa. xlix. 9; Isa lxi. 1; and sin to a prison wherein we are shut up, Rom. xi. 32; Gal. iii. 22; and guilt to chains or bonds laid upon us by God the judge, Prov. v. 22; Lam. i. 14.
[2.] Their obstinacy in sinning. They are fallen so as they cannot rise again, they are called ‘wickednesses,’ Eph. vi. 12, as sinning with much malice and obstinacy; as if you should say wickedness itself. The devil’s sin is as ‘the sin against the Holy Ghost;’ a malicious, obstinate, spiteful opposition against the kingdom of Christ, such a hatred against God and Christ that they will not repent and be saved; their despair begetteth despite, and being hopeless of relief, are without purpose of repentance. They do, foolish creatures, add sin to sin, and harden themselves in an evil way, which is as a chain to hold them in God’s prison, till their final damnation; see 2 Thes. ii. 11, 12, where error and wilful persisting in disobedience is made to be God’s prison, wherein reprobate creatures are held till their punishment be consummate.
[3.] Utter despair of deliverance; they are held under their torment by their own thoughts, as a distressed conscience is said to be bound up, Isa. lxi. 1; to them there remaineth nothing but ‘a certain fearful looking for judgment and fiery indignation,’ Heb. x. 27; release they cannot look for, more judgment they do expect: Mat. viii. 29, ‘Art thou come to torment us before our time?’ Their prison door is locked with God’s own key, and as long as God sitteth upon the throne they cannot wrest the key out of his hands.
[4.] God’s power and providence, by which the angelical strength is bridled and overmastered, so as they cannot do what they would. Thus Rev. xx. 2, Satan is said to be ‘bound up for a thousand years,’ that is, in the chains of God’s power, which are sometimes straiter and sometimes looser. The devil was fain to ask leave to enter into the herd of swine, Mat. viii.
[5.] The chains of God’s eternal decree. As there is a golden chain, the chain of salvation, which is carried on from link to link, till the purposes of eternal grace do end in the possession of eternal glory, so there is an iron chain of reprobation, which begins in God’s own voluntary preterition, and is carried on in the creature’s voluntary apostasy, and endeth in their just damnation; and when once we are shut up under these bars, ‘there is no opening,’ Job xii. 14.
2. These chains are eternal chains, because the wicked angels stand guilty for ever, without hope of recovery or redemption. Every natural man is in chains, but there is hope to many of the prisoners. Christ saith, ‘Go forth;’ but those chains upon the evil angels are for ever and ever: now ad custodiam, to keep them and hold them in their lost estate; hereafter ad poenam, they are continued upon them as a part of their final punishment, when much of the liberty which now they have shall be abridged.
From hence observe these practical inferences:—203
1. That sins are as it were bonds and chains. A wicked man is in bondage here and hereafter;119119 See my notes on James i. 25. now in snares and then in chains, here ‘taken captive ‘by Satan in his snares, 2 Tim. ii. 26, and hereafter bound up with him in chains. Sin itself is a bondage, and hell a prison. Were there nothing in sin but the present slavery, it is enough to dissuade us; but alas! this is not all, there are not only snares but chains. In the fall of the angels, how many notions are there offered to us to discover the evil of sin! They ‘left their beginning,’ and ‘lost their habitation,’ and then ‘chains of darkness.’ He that hath a mind to be a beast or a devil let him be a sinner. If you mean to quench your reason, to eclipse the glory of your creation, to disturb the quiet of your spirits, and instead of calmness and serenity of conscience, to bring in horror and confusion; if you mean to enthral and captivate your souls to every base affection, and to be at the command of every corrupt desire, then go on freely, as you do, in sinning against God. But alas! the present thraldom is nothing to what is future; all the sins that you commit will be as so many chains, binding you over to an eternal and just damnation. The good angels are at liberty to serve God, when the evil angels are shut up in the prison of their own obstinacy and wickedness. Remember this when you are convinced of a sin which you cannot leave, and fear lest it prove a chain of everlasting darkness.
2. Those chains and bonds can never be broken by us. The angels cannot break them themselves, and Christ will not, for their day of grace is past. Every one’s chains would be eternal if Christ did not loose them, and ‘open the prison-door to poor captives,’ Isa. lxi. 1. This is our advantage above the angels, that a year of liberty is proclaimed to us, and ‘an opening of the prison to them that are bound.’ Christ himself was bound with our chains. The prophet saith, Isa. liii. 8, ‘He was taken from prison and from judgment.’ He was in prison that we might go free.’ If ‘the judge had given us up to the officer, and the officer had cast us into prison,’ how long would it have been ere we had ‘payed the utmost farthing’? Luke xii. 58. Others that reject the mercy offered in Christ can never wrest themselves out of the hands of justice, but do for ever remain under the power and wrath of the living God, Heb. x. 31.
3. The devil is in chains, a cruel spirit, but under bonds. His power is less than his will and malice; he is wrathful that we may not be secure; he is chained that we may not despair; he hath no power but what is given him from above; and when God putteth any of his servants into Satan’s hands he keepeth Satan in his own hands. If you be in Satan’s hands for your exercise, remember Satan is in God’s hands for your comfort and safety. He had not power over the herd of swine without leave: Mat. viii. 31, ‘Suffer me,’ &c.; so Luke xxii. 31, he could not sift Peter till he had a commission: ‘Satan hath desired,’ &c., Job i. 2; ii. 7. Satan could not so much as touch Job’s estate or skin till leave obtained. Nay, he could not deceive Ahab, a wicked man, till God said Go, I Kings xxii. 21, 22; he is but God’s executioner: ‘He sent his evil angels among them,’ Ps. lxxviii. 49. God gave commission for the plagues of Egypt, and then the evil angels had 204power to execute them. The godly need not fear Satan as a disobedient angel; he is cast into the chains of God’s justice and power; and as head of the kingdom of darkness, his power is more restrained by the death of Christ, John xii. 31.
4. Observe how weak the creatures are when God marcheth in judgment against them. Guilt of conscience is one of the fallen angels’ chains. If God will but arm our own thoughts against us, he needeth not bring forces from without, there is enough in that to sink us into hell. The law needeth not bring brimstone from heaven to burn sinners, nor open the mouth of the great deep to drown them, nor shatter the frame of nature about our heads. Alas! we cannot bear up under the burden of our own consciences, or the weight of our own grief; when he layeth his finger upon the conscience, who can bear it? The angels excel in strength, and yet the impressions of honour120120 Query, ‘horror’?—ED. laid upon them are too hard for them to grapple withal: Prov. xviii. 14, ‘A wounded spirit who can bear?’ as if he had said, I challenge all the world to bring me a man that is able to deal with his own conscience, when God armeth it against him.
5. That spiritual judgments of all others are most secure. To have sin punished with obstinacy and hardness in sinning this, is nothing but to have the devil’s chains laid upon us, a sad intimation that we are given up to chains of darkness. Frogs and lice and hailstones were but soft judgments to Pharaoh’s hard heart; unless God should send us quick into hell, there cannot heavier judgment befall us; nay, certainly it were better to be given up to hell torments, if there could be any expectation of deliverance, than to be given up to a spirit of sinning, for there is no end of that. Say then, Lord, whatever judgment thou bringest upon me, bring not thy heavy judgment of a hard heart; it is better by far that you should live miserably than sin freely without remorse. Bat what sins bring on this spiritual judgment? I answer—(1.) An unthankful abuse of God’s gifts; the devils had a glorious and excellent nature, but they were not thankful. Observe it when you will, you will find it true that no man was ever punished with hardness of heart, but some former merciful dispensation was abused. The heathens were not thankful for the light of nature, and therefore God ‘gave them up to vile affections.’ Rom. i. 22, 24; others ‘received not the love of the truth,’ and therefore ‘God gave them up to believe a lie, that they might be damned,’ 2 Thes. ii. 11, 12. The very ‘sin against the Holy Ghost’ is so called because it is a despiting grace received, or a devilish opposing of the grace and supernatural work of the Spirit, by which the mind is convinced of the truth. (2.) Sinning against the light; that was Satan’s sin, who was full of light, and sinned in the very face of God; and it is his sin still, malice having only put out the light of prudence, but not of his understanding, so that he knowingly sinneth; so wicked men ‘imprison the truth in unrighteousness.’ Rom. i. 18, and then God giveth them up to the sway of their own lusts and passions. There is more of malice in sins against light; you laugh at Christ before his face, outdare heaven and conscience: Esther vii. 8, ‘Will he force the queen before my face?’ &c. (3.) Sinning with the light; when malice sets wit a-work (as it doth 205in the devils) against God and the church; it is satanical to be wise to do evil, to make no other use of our parts than to plot wickedness, pervert the truth, and undermine religion: Jer. iv. 22, ‘They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.’ When you make religion yield to policy, or bend policy to ruin religion, then ‘your wisdom hath undone you,’ Isa. xlvii. 10. (4.) Malice against God and goodness; this is Satan’s direct sin. When men will not only be wicked themselves, but adversaries and malicious opposers of all that is good, this is not only to be sinners but Satans: Acts xiii. 10, ‘O thou child of the devil, and enemy of all goodness.’ Cain, that hated his brother because his works were righteous, was the devil’s patriarch. (5.) A sottish obstinacy and wilfulness, when will and humour is lifted up against conviction, Jer. ii. 25, xliv. 18; they will not, because they will not. Foolish wilfulness meeteth with penal hardness; he that will wink shall not see the sun, shine it never so brightly; such men do but lay Satan’s chains on their own will and understanding, (6.) A senseless security, notwithstanding the growth and increase of sin, when men lose all feeling and restraint, and grow more wicked but less tender, Eph. iv. 19; and so men sin freely, foully, wax worse and worse, and add new links to the chains of darkness.
6. There is little reason that we should adore him whom God holdeth in chains of darkness, that we should exalt him whom the Lord hath cast down, and make a god of him who hath made himself a devil. All sins do, as it were, set the crown upon Satan’s head; these especially—(1.) False worship: Satan is the head of idolaters; if the sacrifice was offered in an unbecoming manner, God saith it was a sacrifice offered unto devils, Lev. xvii. 7. In all false worships the devil is served either directly or obliquely, either by consequence or in the intention of the worshippers; thence those expressions, ‘table of devils,’ 1 Cor. x. 21; ‘They sacrificed to devils and not to God,’ Deut. xxxii. 17. You gratify Satan if you be not right in worship; those among Christians that worshipped towards an idol of gold and silver are said to ‘worship devils,’ Rev. ix. 20. Satan is, saith Synesius, εἰδωλοχαρὴς, a lover of images, and a patron of false worship. (2.) Worldly conversation: he is called ‘the god of this world,’ 2 Cor. iv. 4. Sensual, covetous, proud men are Satan’s votaries, at his beck and pleasure; and will you be one of the number? When Christ came to ‘dissolve Satan’s works,’ 1 John iii. 8, will you uphold them? (3.) Base fear of wicked men: you do but fear the devil in them: Rev. ii. 10, ‘Fear not; behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison.’ He that will deny the truth for fear of men, preferreth the devil before God. (4.) Being of the faction of the wicked: there is a corrupt party in the world, over whom Satan usurpeth empire and domination: ‘Rulers of the darkness of this world,’ Eph. vi. 12; Col. i. 13. Cry not up a confederacy with these; take heed how your soul entereth into that secret. I confess it is ingeniousness, a matter of Christian skill and art, to find out the snare that we may escape it. Generally they are the antichristian dark part of the world, such as are led with a blind zeal and rage to oppose the interest of righteousness, such as oppose the gospel with rage and lies: John viii. 44, ‘Ye are of your father the devil, and his lusts will ye do.’ Many that deny Satan yet may be of his faction and party.206
We are now come to the second part of the punishment of pain, taken from the other inconvenience of a prison, ὑπὸ ζόφον, under darkness, in allusion to malefactors who are cast into dungeons, where, be sides the load of irons, the very darkness of the place concurreth to their misery. Light is pleasant, as giving us the sight of what is grateful in the world, of which when we are deprived, the mind, like a mill, falleth and worketh upon itself. Peter saith ‘in chains of darkness,’ as implying that God did bind them fast with their darkness and horror as with a chain; but our apostle here seemeth to make them two distinct parts of their torment, as certainly it is a more full description of it. Well, then, the proposition will be, that the apostate angels are kept under darkness.
Obs. Darkness in scripture represented three things:—First, ignorance; secondly, sin; thirdly, misery; as light, the contrary quality, implieth knowledge, holiness, and happiness. Because light discovereth all things, it is put for knowledge; because of all bodily qualities it is most pure and unmixed, therefore it is put for holiness; because it is wonderfully pleasing and delightful to sense, therefore it is put for glory. So contrariwise darkness, which is nothing else but the absence and privation of light, signifieth ignorance, John iii. 19; sin, 1 Peter ii. 9; misery, Ps. cvii. 10. Now all these three make way for one another; ignorance for sin, and sin for misery; the understanding being the great wheel of the soul, if it be not right nothing can be right, Mat. vi. 22. Ignorance maketh us stumble upon sin, and by sin we fall into the pit of everlasting darkness.
If you ask what kind of darkness is intended here? I answer—Though all may be implied, yet chiefly the darkness of misery is here intended, they being cast down from the light and glory of the highest heavens into dark and obscure habitations, where they want the sight of God and the light of his countenance. As when the sun is gone there is nothing but darkness in the world, so being banished out of the presence of God, they are fitly said to be held under darkness; for as the sun is to the corporeal world, so is God to the world of spirits, Ps. iv, 6. Now their sun is eclipsed, and by the interposition of the dark cloud of their sin and obstinacy, they cannot have the least comfortable glimpse and fruition of God; to which also may be added the horrible apprehension of their loss, and that terror and discomfort that lieth upon them, for they have only so much light left as serveth to increase their torment. I confess it is disputed by divines whether the devils can grieve for the loss of the light of God’s countenance, or the want of the beatifical vision; and the ground of doubting is, be cause there is in the devils an extreme averseness, enmity, and hatred of God and his glory; but certainly, as they are rational creatures, they cannot but be sensible of their loss, as also the damned spirits are, and so great a loss of happiness (for that is the consideration under which they are sensible of it) must needs breed horror and torment. They do not mourn for the absence of God as the saints do, out of a principle of holiness, and because God is lovely in himself, but as profitable to them; and this sense, as it is accompanied with despair, so with blasphemy and hatred of God. Surely every part of the sentence that is pronounced upon wicked men is fitted to beget terror in them; 207and therefore ‘depart from me’ is apprehended as a misery, as well as ‘go into everlasting torments.’ Add further to their darkness that despair that is upon them, and fearful looking for of the fiery indignation of the Lord, which desperate sorrow is expressed by ‘utter darkness and gnashing of teeth,’ Mat. xxii. 13.
Let me now come to some observations.
Obs. 1. Darkness is the devils’ punishment, the highest misery of the highest rank of reasonable creatures. Oh! why should we love that which is the misery of the fallen angels? as our Saviour speaketh of some that ‘love darkness rather than light,’ John iii. 19; that is, error rather than truth, lusts rather than Christ, ignorance rather than knowledge. It is one of the saddest arguments of man’s dreadful fall, that he is in love with his own misery. We should hate sin, and we hate the light that reproveth it: ignorant people love a foolish ministry, God’s faithful witnesses are their torment, Rev. xi. 10. The carnal world would fain lie down upon the bed of ease and sleep; light is troublesome: those that let them alone are their idols and darlings; ‘the blind lead the blind, and both fall into the ditch.’ It is evil not to know the will of God; it is doubly evil when we desire not to know; the one sort err in their minds, the other in their hearts. Spiritual darkness is far worse than bodily. When Elymas was stricken blind he ‘desired somebody to lead him by the hand,’ Acts xiii. 11. In such a case we count our happiness to light upon fit guides. In spiritual darkness it is quite otherwise; we cannot endure a faithful guide: ‘The prophets prophesy lies, and the people love to have it so;’ a blind people are all for blind guides.
Obs. 2. Light that yieldeth us no comfort is but darkness. Satan hath knowledge left, but no comfort: James ii. 19, ‘They believe and tremble.’ The more sense they have of God’s being and glory, the greater horror have they upon their spirits. It is very miserable when we have only light enough to awaken conscience, and knowledge enough to be self-condemned. To know God but not to enjoy him, that is the devils’ punishment. Oh! then, never leave till your thoughts of God are sweet and comfortable, Ps. civ. 34. Satan cannot but abominate his own thoughts of God, for he cannot think of him without torment; but it is otherwise with gracious hearts; that meditation which is the devil’s terror is their solace and support. God’s name to them is as ‘an ointment poured out,’ Cant. i. 3, full of fragrancy and reviving. Best not, then, till you can see God with such a light as giveth you fruition and comfortable enjoyment of him: ‘In thy light shall we see light,’ Ps. xxxvi. 9; there is light in thy light, but all other light is but darkness.
Obs. 3. Do but observe the difference between God and Satan. God is light, 1 John i. 5, and Satan darkness; God dwelleth in light, and Satan is reserved in chains under darkness. The first creature that God made in the world was light, and the first gift of the Spirit is illumination; but now all Satan’s aim and work is to bring in darkness, to blind the mind, 2 Cor. iv. 4; ignorance is the very foundation of his kingdom, Eph. vi. 12. Well, then, the more dark, the more like Satan. A child of God is a child of light, and what have we to do with ‘works of darkness’? Eph. v. 11. There should be such a contrariety 208between you and sin as there is between God and Satan; say then, These actions would only become my night of ignorance and folly; night-work is unseemly for the day: Rom. xiii. 12, ‘The day is at hand, let us cast off the works of darkness;’ leave these things to the bats and the owls. If there be a difference and contrariety between Christ and Belial, who are the chiefs of either state, so between the persons that herd under them: ‘What communion is there between Christ and Belial, between light and darkness?’ 2 Cor. vi. 14.
Obs. 4. So much darkness as remaineth in you, so much advantage hath Satan against you. The dark part of the world is the seat of his empire: ‘Rulers of the darkness of this world,’ Eph. vi. 12. His subjects are ‘the children of darkness,’ and all the advantage that he hath over the children of light is because of the darkness that is in them: whosoever, therefore, lieth under a state of darkness is under the power of Satan. The great work of the ministry is to recover them, ‘to turn them from darkness to light,’ Acts xxvi. 18, and so ‘from Satan to God.’ Oh! the sad condition of such persons that are bound together with Satan in chains of darkness! Poor creatures, how are they hurried to and fro! from wrath to pride, from pride to lust, from lust to filthiness, from filthiness to worldliness! Oh, then, ‘awake you that sleep, and the Lord shall give you light,’ Eph. v. 14. What a blessing is it when it can be said of us, what the apostle said of the Ephesians, ‘Ye were darkness, but now are light in the Lord,’ Eph. v. 8. As soon as you have received light and grace, you are translated out of Satan’s power and kingdom, and put into the Lord’s.
Obs. 5. The darkness of sin is punished with the darkness of misery The light whereby w r e are directed and perfected is the same; the state of grace is a ‘marvellous light,’ 1 Peter ii. 9, and the state of glory ‘the inheritance of the saints in light,’ Col. i. 12. So sin is but darkness begun. Hell is called ‘utter darkness,’ Mat. viii. 12, τὸ σκότος τὸ ἐξώτερον, a darkness beyond a darkness; as Augustine glosseth in his homilies, In tenebras ex tenebris infeliciter exclusi—the damned are but thrust out of one darkness into another, from ignorance to sin, from sin to torment. It is very observable when Solomon compareth the way of the just and the way of the wicked, he compareth the one to light, the other to darkness: Prov. iv. 18, 19, ‘The way of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day; and the way of the wicked is as darkness.’ By the rule of contraries, as one is a growing light, so the other is an increasing darkness; from twilight to starlight, from starlight to thick darkness; they quench the light of nature, choose worldly happiness, grow regardless of eternity, are hardened in their way, and at length given up to everlasting horror and confusion of faces, to whom ‘the mist of darkness is reserved for ever,’ 2 Peter ii. 17. Mists of error are justly punished with mists of darkness. The men there spoken of were clouds and mists in the church; and therefore the mists of eternal darkness are kept for them, as a fit and proper portion.
Obs. 6. The danger of refusing and abusing light. Those that were angels of light are now held in the chains of darkness: see it every where made good; the blackest evening hath been sent usually after a 209glorious day; those that once enjoyed Noah’s preaching were afterwards ‘the spirits in prison,’ 1 Peter iii. 18, 19; he that had not a wedding garment on for the feast was cast into ‘utter darkness,’ Mat. xxii. 13. Abuse of light and means and privileges will surely make our condition gloomy and uncomfortable.
Obs. 7. When we are cast out from God, nothing but darkness ensueth, utter darkness and weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is our utmost happiness to enjoy God, and it is our utmost misery to want him; the devils know it, and we shall one day know it. Pray for the light of God’s countenance more than for corn, and wine, and oil, Ps. iv. 6. One glimpse of the favour of God would turn hell into heaven, and give us such a strong and sweet joy as would swallow up all kind of sorrows. It is the absence of the sun maketh night; certainly they have hard hearts that do not mourn when they have lost the sight of God: ‘When the bridegroom is gone, then shall they mourn,’ Mat. ix. 15. Alas! how the drooping hearts and withered face of nature seem to mourn for the absence of the sun; and how are all things cleared and revived at spring again! And shall not we mourn for God, the sun of the intellectual world? Pharaoh was most affrighted with the plague of darkness, Exod. x. 4. Yea, the devils themselves are sensible of the loss of the light of God’s countenance: when God shutteth himself up in a cloud, let our bowels be troubled for him. Lam. iii. 44.
Obs. 8. The world in comparison of heaven is but a dark place. It is the place where the devils are cast, and they are held under darkness. It is an obscure corner of the creation, a place fit for our trial, but not for our reward. In a spiritual consideration it is but a great and vast dungeon, where we cannot have so dear121121 Qu. ‘clear’?—ED. sight of God as else where. It is Satan’s walk, a place of danger and defilement. It is much if we can keep ourselves unspotted in such a nasty hole, James i. 27; 2 Peter ii. 20. The inheritance which is given to the saints is given to them ‘in light,’ Col. i. 12. Let us look for that, and long for that; and ‘God dwelleth in light,’ 1 Tim. vi. 16; he dwelleth there where he discovereth most of his glory, and that is in heaven.
We have done with the present punishment of the angels; we come now to that which is future, implied in these words, unto the judgment of the great day. By judgment is meant the sentence of condemnation which shall pass upon them before the eyes of the whole world, and then the consequences, which are eternal misery and torment.
Obs. 1. That at the day of judgment the punishment of the devils will be greater than it is now.
The devils’ punishment is for the present great, as you have heard, but they are in expectation of greater: Mat. viii. 29, ‘Art thou come to torment us before our time?’ There is a time coming when the wrath of God shall be increased upon them, and this time is the day of judgment, the great day of the Lord, when they shall be brought forth before the tribunal of Christ and his saints. The good angels shall come as Christ’s companions, and the evil angels as his prisoners. See Mat. xxv. 31; 2 Thes. i. 7, and 1 Cor. vi. 3. This is a day that will work upon their envy, thwart their pride, to see the glory 210of Christ, and of the good angels and the saints. After this they shall be adjudged to horrible torments. Hell is their freehold and portion, ‘prepared for the devil and his angels,’ Mat. xxv. 41. The quality and nature of their torment we cannot so easily determine, nor what that fire is that shall burn spirits; only the scripture showeth they are ‘cast into the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone,’ Rev. xxi. 8, where they shall suffer torments without end and without ease. When heaven’s joys are full, then are hell’s torments full also; and therefore, though for the present they are under God’s wrath, yet they do not taste the dregs of it; he exerciseth some patience towards them. They have an empire and a ministry in the world, but when all former things are done away, and Christ’s glory is fully shown to the world, then will he take full vengeance of his enemies. Well, then, from hence learn:—
1. That the wicked’s judgment is not as yet full. At the great day then shall it be more increased upon the union of soul and body; they shall drink ‘the dregs of the cup of wrath unmixed,’ In this life we are adding sin to sin, and in the next God will be adding torment to torment. Oh! what a sad train of judgments followeth a sinner! For the present he hath hell in his own conscience; they sip of the cup of wrath in the bondage and horrors now upon them, and at death these are more revived, and made more lively and active. But consider, after all this there is worse behind, torments insufferable, presently upon the separation, for then they are in prison, 1 Peter iii. 9, detained in a fearful expectation of further judgment: Luke xvi. 24. ‘I am horribly tormented in this flame.’ But after this, at Christ’s coming to judgment, these torments are increased, and therefore the apostle speaketh as if he did not take vengeance before: 2 Thes. i. 7, ‘He shall come in flaming fire to render vengeance,’ &c; because then it is fully executed. Do not add drunkenness to thirst, lest God add to your plagues.
2. The most miserable creatures are suffered to enjoy some degree of God’s patience. For the present God is patient. As to the fallen angels, sure I am to sinning man, ‘in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt die.’ The full execution of that sentence is put off to the day of judgment; reprobates are endured ‘with much long-suffering.’ Rom. ix. 22. Intermissions God gives in this life, respite to bodies till the last day. Adore his goodness, do not abuse it.
3. Origen’s charity was too large, who dreamed of καθάρσιον πῦρ, a flaming river, through which all creatures were to pass, and so to be purged, and then at length to be saved, even the devils themselves; whereas they are kept for a severer judgment.
4. When you see wicked men endured, and not presently cast into hell, be not astonished; God hath a ministry for them as for the evil angels. Some are ‘reserved to the day of judgment,’ 2 Peter ii. 9; that is, their punishment is respited for the greater triumph of that day.
5. One judgment may make way for another, the chains of darkness for the judgment of the great day. Let no man please himself in that he suffereth afflictions in this world; these may be but the beginnings of sorrow. God is terrible to poor sinners as well as rich. You may be miserable here, and yet not escape in the world to come. Do not 211think the worst is past. Some have a double hell, such miseries here as are pledges of everlasting torments hereafter.
6. Devils fear the great day. An atheistical loose Christian is worse than Satan. He scoffeth at that at which the devil trembleth. There are atheists in the church, but there are none in hell.
7. Angels are brought to judgment. None are exempted. At the great day you shall see those glorious creatures bound with chains of darkness. The kings and captains are brought in trembling before the Lamb’s throne, Rev. vi. 15, and great as well as small appear be fore that great tribunal, Rev. xx. 12.
8. The angels are plunged into the depths of hell, when saints enter into their master’s joy. God loveth a returning sinner before an apostate angel.
Obs. 2. There is one point yet behind, with which I shall conclude this verse, and that is, that the day of judgment is a great day. It is so in many regards.
First, Because it is the consummate act of Christ’s regal office. Of all offices, Christ’s kingly office is the most eminent. Now the kingly office was never discovered with so much lustre and glory to the world as then. The eminent act of other offices do more belong to his abasement. As his oblation, an eminent act of his priestly office, was to be performed upon earth, so his prophetical office was much discharged in delivering the doctrine of the gospel whilst he was here; but of his kingly office we had but a very little glimpse during his abode upon earth, in his whipping the buyers and sellers out of the temple, and his entrance into Jerusalem, when they cried Hosanna in the streets, Mat. xxi. And now in heaven Christ is supreme; but his sovereignty lieth under a cloud and veil: ‘All things are put under him.’ But carnal sense objects, ‘We see not as yet all things put under him,’ Heb. ii. 8. But at the last day Christ will show himself to be king indeed, both in rewarding his friends, and in an absolute conquest over his enemies, which are the two great parts of his regal office. Therefore the day of judgment is called ἡμέρα κυρίου, ‘the day of the Lord,’ 2 Peter iii. 10, as being the day wherein Christ shall manifest himself to be a Lord indeed: (1.) In rewarding his friends. When David was crowned at Hebron, then all that followed him in the wilderness were rewarded according to the merit of their place and service. Before they had hard service and little wages, but then were made captains of thousands, and captains of hundreds, and captains of fifties. So they that are true to the interest of Christ may meet with many a frown and hard entertainment in the world, but you will not repent of it in the day of Christ’s royalty: Mat. xxv. 34, ‘Then shall the king say,’ &c. He is called ‘the Son of man’ before; but then you will find a ‘king’ rewarding all his subjects. Peter was troubled about his petty losses; ‘Master,’ saith he, ‘we have forsaken all and followed thee.’ What had Peter to forsake? A net, a cottage, a fishing-boat. A great all! We are apt to think much of what we part with upon Christ’s score. If we suffer but a disgraceful word, a small inconvenience, a frown, we presently say, ‘What shall we have therefor?’ But we need not seek another paymaster than Christ. He will not be behindhand with us when the day of payment cometh. 212See Mat. xix. 27, 28, ἐν παλιγγενεσίᾳ, ‘In the regeneration ye shall sit with me on thrones of glory,’ &c.; that is, at the day of judgment, which is the great regeneration. When heavens are new, earth new, bodies new, souls new, all is new, then we shall be no losers by Christ. (2.) In an absolute conquest over his enemies. The stoutest faces shall then gather blackness, and the stiffest knees bow to him. There is an expression, Isa. xlv. 23, ‘I have sworn by myself, and the words shall not return, that to me every knee shall bow, and every mouth shall swear.’ Now this expression cloth concern Christ’s sovereignty and full victory over his enemies; for this scripture is twice alluded unto in the New Testament, and in both places applied to Christ. The first place that I shall take notice of is Phil. ii. 10, where the apostle saith, that to Christ ‘every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall call him Lord,’ which is the same with that which is spoken in the prophet, and is there made to be the first122122 Qu ‘fruit’?—ED. of Christ’s ascension, when he was solemnly inaugurated into the kingly office; but the prophecy receiveth not its full and final accomplishment till the day of judgment. To which purpose the same scripture is cited by the apostle, Rom. xiv. 11, ‘We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ, for it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, to me every knee shall bow, and mouth shall confess.’ So that the bowing of knees or stooping of enemies is not fully accomplished till then. Christ doth now often overrule the counsels and projects of his enemies, and smite them with a sore destruction; but there is no such crouching and trembling so sensibly now to be discerned as there will be at that day.
Secondly, The day of judgment is a great day, because great things are then done, which will appear if you consider—(1.) The preparations for that day; (2.) The day itself; (3.) The consequence of it.
1. The preparations for Christ’s approach: the scripture mentioneth two—(1.) The archangel’s trumpet; (2.) The sign of the Son of man.
[1.] There is that great noise and terror of the voice of the Lord, which is to be managed by some special angels, by which all the world shall be, as it were, summoned to appear before Christ’s tribunal. See 1 Thes. iv. 16, and Mat. xxiv. 31. Some expound this trumpet analogically, some literally. They that expound it analogically think it signifieth the power and virtue of Christ forcing all the world to appear before his judgment-seat, which is therefore called a trumpet, because the solemn assemblies among the Jews were summoned by sound of trumpet. But why may we not take it literally, and in propriety of speech, for the audible sound of a trumpet? Sure I am at the giving of the law ‘the voice of the trumpet was exceeding loud;’ and the like may be when he cometh to take an account of our keeping the law, a sound of a trumpet, as a terrible summons to all the world, and a near sign of Christ’s approach; as John Baptist was the forerunner of his first coming, who was ‘the voice of one crying in the wilderness;’ so is the arch angel at his second coming; a terrible blast there shall be, such as shall be heard all the world over, startling the dead out of their graves. Men do not hear the voice of God now, for now he speaketh 213by his angels or messengers, in a still voice; but then all the dead shall hear and live.
[2.] The ‘sign of the Son of man,’ spoken of Mat. xxiv. 30. What it is we certainly cannot tell, till experience manifest it. Some think a strange star, as, at his first coming, the wise men were conducted to him by a star; others the sign of the cross, as being Christ’s badge by which he is known in the world; for the great subject of the gospel is Christ crucified, called therefore ‘the word of the cross,’ and this they think shall appear in the heavens, as it did to Constantine when he went to fight against Maxentius, with this word, ἐν τουτῶ νικήσεις—by this shalt thou overcome; though, by the way, Eusebius describeth that vision as in the figure of X, the first critical letters of Christ’s name. This way go many of the ancients, making the cross to be Christ’s ensign and royal banner, which he will, display in the heavens; as kings, when they make their triumphant approach, have their banners carried before them. But I dare not thus dogmatise. Others, more probably, interpret it of some forerunning beams of majesty and glory, like those streaks of light before the sun be risen, which shall darken the great luminaries of the world, and strike a terror into the hearts of men, as Paul was stricken with such a terror at the sight of Christ: Acts xxvi. 13, he saw ‘light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about him.’ Notable it is, that these forerunning beams of Christ’s majesty and glory are sometimes expressed by light and sometimes by fire; by light to express the comfortableness of it to the godly, as the light of the sun doth not scorch but revive and refresh; by fire, 2 Thes. i. 8, ἐν πύρι φλόγος, to show the dreadfulness of it to the wicked; to them it is as flames and devouring burnings.
2. Let us consider the day itself, and the great things done therein. It is a day of congregation of all mankind; there Adam may see all his posterity at once; but especially is it a day of congregation in respect of the saints, who are now scattered in divers countries, towns, houses, where God hath any work and service for them, but then shall meet together in one assembly and rendezvous, called, Ps. i. 6, the great ‘congregation of the just,’ as the wicked shall be herded together like straws and sticks bound in a bundle to set one another on fire, drunkards together, and adulterers together: ‘They shall be bound in bundles,’ &c., Mat. xiii. 41, and so increase one another’s torment. So shall the godly meet in a congregation, and never separate more. Here the godly are dispersed as the stars are scattered throughout the firmament; here they live intermingled with wicked men—Jacob’s cattle and Laban’s cattle together; but then the sheep shall be separated from the goats, and be all drawn into a body by themselves. Again, it is a day of manifestation; the Lord’s decrees and counsels are manifested. Creation and providence are but subservient means in order to the triumphs of this day, that the glory of his grace may be advanced in the salvation of the elect, and the glory of his justice in the punishment of the wicked, who, upon this account, are said to be ‘made for the day of evil,’ Prov. xvi. 4, where the Holy Ghost pitcheth upon that part of the decree which is hardest to be digested, the making of the wicked for the glory of the Lord’s justice in that day. The wisdom of 214God in the courses of his providence is then manifested, for the story of the world is brought before the saints. We see providence now by pieces, but then the whole contexture of it; the secrets of men are then manifested, and upon what principles and ends they have acted, 1 Cor. iv. 5. The truth of the promises and threatenings is then manifested; in the day of God’s patience there is a darkness and veil upon the scriptures, we cannot see how they are made good; but in the day of God’s recompense we shall, what promises, threatenings, prophecies mean; but chiefly is it a day of ‘manifestation’ in regard of ‘the sons of God.’ Rom. viii. 19. All is now hidden, Christ is hidden, and the saints are hidden; their life is hidden, Gal. iii. 3; their glory is hidden, 1 John iii. 2; but then ‘Christ shall appear, and we shall appear with him in glory.’ As Moses told the rebels, Num. xvi., ‘To-morrow the Lord will show who are his.’ The first-born and only-begotten Son of God then is manifested, Christ will appear in all his royalty and glory, as the great God and Saviour and judge of the world, as the great God; therefore it is said he will appear ‘in the glory of the Father,’ Mat. xxiv. 13; xvi. 27. The mystery of his person will now be discovered to the uttermost, and therefore he will appear in such a glory as never creature was capable of, nor can he guess at it. We may by the glory discovered at the giving of the law, when Moses shook for fear, Heb. xii. 19; by the light that shone at his incarnation, Luke ii.; at his transfiguration, Mat. xvii.; by those beams of majesty which broke out from him when the soldiers came to take him, John xviii. 6; by his appearance to Paul—it struck him blind for three days, Acts ix; by Isaiah’s terror when he saw God in a vision, Isa. vi. And as he will manifest himself to be the great God, so the true Saviour of the world. The manner of his appearance shall make a full recompense for his abasement. At his first coming, John was his forerunner, as we have said, now an arch angel; then he came with a few fishermen, now with a multitude of angels; then riding on the colt of an ass, now upon the clouds; then as the Son of man, now as the Son of God; then in the form of a servant, now in the glory of the Father; then crowned with thorns, now glory and honour; then to teach righteousness, now to reward righteousness; then ‘in the similitude of sinful flesh.’ Rom. viii. 3, now, the second time, ‘without sin,’ Heb. ix. 28. At his first coming he was not a sinner, but he came in the garb of a sinner, afflicted, miserable—‘we judged him as one forsaken of God;’ but now he cometh as one discharged of that debt and burden, and as one highly honoured by God the Father. Once more, he cometh in all things befitting the world’s judge, accompanied with angels as his attendants, sitting upon a visible throne that he may be seen of all, heard of all. In earthly judicatories, when great malefactors are to be tried, the whole majesty and glory of a nation is brought forth; the judge in gorgeous apparel, accompanied with the flower of the country, nobles and gentry, and a great conflux of people. So here, Christ cometh forth as the judge, accompanied with angels and saints, powerfully executing the work of that day. And the only-begotten Son of God is manifested; but this is a day of manifestation, not only of ‘the Son,’ but of ‘the sons of God,’ namely, the saints, who are then set forth in their best robes. In winter 215the tree appeareth not what it is, the sap and life is hidden in the root, but when summer cometh all is discovered: so now it doth not appear who are God’s, nor what they shall be, but at this day all is manifest. ‘When Christ shall appear, we shall appear with him in glory;’ they shall attain to that fulness of glory as their hearts could never conceive. It is said, 2 Thes. i. 10, ‘Christ will be admired in them.’ The angels shall stand wondering what Christ is about to do with creatures but newly crept out of dust and rottenness. Every one of them shall shine as the sun; and what a great and glorious day must that be, when there is a constellation of so many suns! They shall share with Christ in the glory of his kingdom, as being associated with him in judging the world. ‘The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning,’ Ps. xlix. 14; those that are now scorned, persecuted, opposed everywhere, in the morning of the resurrection, when they awake to meet Christ, then shall they have dominion over the carnal world; therefore, sentence beginneth with the godly, as execution doth with the wicked. The elect are first acquitted before the ungodly are condemned, that they may join afterwards with Christ in judging the world, 1 Cor. vi. 2.
Again, it is great in regard of the manner of process, but of that see ver. 15.
3. The consequences of this day; they are three:—(1.) The sending of the persons judged in to their everlasting state; (2.) The resigning up of the kingdom to the Father; (3.) The burning of the world.
[1.] The sending of the persons judged into their everlasting estate, the elect into glory, and the wicked into torments: Mat. xxv. 34, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father,’ &c. You have been too long absent from me; come receive the fruit of your faith and hope; but ver. 41, ‘Go, ye cursed,’ &c: they are banished out of Christ’s presence with such a terrible ban and proscription as shall never be reversed. As Hainan’s face was covered, and so led away to execution, so are they chased out of Christ’s presence with horror, yelling and howling with the voice of dragons, and begging for mercy, but find none. Now from this sentence there is no appeal; it is pronounced by Christ as God-man. On earth many times God’s sentence is repealed if the nation will repent, &c., Jer. xviii. 8; and so though God doth never change his decree, he doth often change his sentence; but the day of patience is now past, and therefore this sentence can never be recalled. Again, the execution is speedy. Here many times the sentence is passed, but ‘sentence is not speedily executed’ upon an evil-doer, Eccles. viii. 11. Once more, this execution beginning with the wicked in the sight of the just, πρῶτον ζιζάνια: ‘Gather ye first the tares,’ &c., Mat. xiii. 30; which worketh the more upon the envy and grief of the wicked, that they are thrust out whilst the godly remain with Christ seeing execution done; and the godly have the deeper sense of their condition, ἀντικείμενα παρηλλαγμένα, &c. Contraries put together do more heighten one another; in the execution of the wicked they may see from what they are delivered by grace. Again the sentence is executed upon the whole man, and that for ever; body and soul are partakers, as in the work, so in the punishment and reward; and it is eternal, for the reward is built on an infinite merit; and the punishment 216is eternal, because an infinite majesty is offended; and in the next world men are in their final estate, without possibility of change; therefore God is never weary blessing the good and cursing the wicked.
[2.] The next consequent is the resigning and giving up the kingdom to the Father, spoken of 1 Cor. xv. from 24 to 28. Kingdom may be put for royal authority, or subjects governed, as the people we call sometimes the kingdom of England or kingdom of France. Christ is ever head of the earth, and in heaven we subsist not only by virtue of his everlasting merit, but everlasting influence, for he is ‘the life,’ John xiv. 6. And therefore I take kingdom here in the latter sense for the subjects or the church, who are resigned or presented to God, Eph. v. 27, as the fruits of Christ’s purchase, as a prey snatched out of the teeth of lions. The form of presentation you have, Heb. ii. 13, ‘Behold I and all the little ones which thou hast given me.’ Oh! what a great and glorious day will this be, when we shall see Christ and all his little ones following him, and the great Shepherd of the sheep going into his everlasting folds, and all the elect in his company, with their crowns on their heads, singing, ‘O grave! where is thy victory? O death! where is thy sting?’ When all enemies shall be broken, and the church lodged in those blessed mansions, what applause and acclamations will there be between them and Christ, between them and the angels, them and their fellow saints! How should we strive to be some of this number!
[3.] The next consequence is the burning of the world, which is set forth at large in 2 Peter iii., per totum. The passages there are literally to be taken, for the fire there spoken of is compared with ‘the waters of Noah,’ which was a judgment really executed; and by this fire, it is probable, the world will not be consumed, but renewed and purged, for it is compared to a melting fire, 2 Peter iii. 10. And the apostle saith elsewhere, ‘The creature shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption.’ Rom. viii. 21. And in the everlasting estate God will have all things now, even the world itself. The use of this renewed world is either for a habitation to the just, or that it may remain as a standing monument of God’s wisdom and power. (1.) This burning doth not go before the day of judgment, but follow after it; for it seemeth to be an instrument of vengeance on the wicked, 2 Peter iii. 7. I will riot be so bold, with the schoolmen, as to say that the feculent and drossy parts of this fire are reserved for the torment of the wicked in hell for ever; but in the general way we may safely say that it is an instrument of God’s vengeance on them. Well, now, that day which hath such an end and close, must needs be a great day. Sodom’s fire was dreadful, but nothing to this burning; that was of one particular place, but this of the whole world; that was a preparative warning, but this the last expression of his wrath against the ungodly world. Many give divers witty reasons for this burning; a taste may not be unwelcome. Under the law the vessel that held the sin-offering was to be purged with fire; so the world, where sin hath been committed. The object of our adulteries is burnt and defaced, that we may know the anger of the Lord’s jealousy. The old world was destroyed by water,123123 Ludolphus in Vita Christi. propter ardorem libidinis, because of 217the heat of lust; and the present world burnt with fire, propter teporem caritatis, because of the coldness of love in the latter days. But of such kind of allusions more than enough.
You see then by all this, that the day of judgment is a great day. Let us now apply it.
If it be a great day, let us regard it more seriously, for all things should be regarded according to their weight. This is the greatest day that ever we shall see, and therefore we shall be more affected with this day than with anything else. We have slight thoughts of things to come, and therefore they do not work with us. Can we expect such a day, and not spend a thought upon it? O Christians! look for it more, long for it more, provide for it more.
1. Look for it, Phil. iii. 21; Titus ii. 13. Every time you look up to the clouds, remember you have a Saviour that in time will come from thence, and call the world to an account. Faith should always stand ready to meet him, as if he were upon his way; as Rebecca spied Isaac afar off, so doth faith, which is ‘the evidence of things not seen,’ Look within the curtain of the heavens, and spy out Christ as preparing for his coming. If he tarrieth longer than we expect, he is ‘not slack,’ 2 Peter iii. 9; but we are hasty. He wants no affection to us; his ‘delights were with the sons of men’ before they were created, Prov. viii. 31; and certainly, now he is so deeply interested in us, as having bought us with his blood, he desireth to enjoy what he hath purchased. It is not want of love keepeth him away, nor want of truth; God is punctual in his promises, even to a day: Exod. xii. 41, ‘Even the self same day,’ &c. If all things were ready he would come presently; therefore wait and look still: they were not deceived that expected his first coming in the flesh. It was said, ‘a virgin shall conceive.’ Was it not done? That God would ‘bring his son out of Egypt.’ Was it not done? That he should ride to Jerusalem ‘upon the foal of an ass;’ and was it not done? Surely the God that hath been faithful all along hitherto will not fail at last.
2. Long for it. The faithful ‘love his appearing,’ 2 Tim. iv. 8. This is the great day which they long to see, that they may meet with their beloved, and see him in all his glory and royalty. They have heard much of Christ, and tasted much of Christ, and they love him much, but yet they have not seen him; they know him by hearsay, and by spiritual experience, but never saw his person: ‘Whom having not seen you love,’ &c. They have seen his picture; ‘crucified before their eyes,’ Gal. iii. 1;’ Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,’ 2 Cor. iii. 18; therefore they cannot be satisfied till this day cometh about. Oh! when shall it once be? ‘The Spirit in the bride saith, Come,’ Rev. xxii. 17. Nature saith not Come, but Tarry still. If it might go by voices whether Christ should come, yea or no, carnal men would never give their voice this way. The language of corrupt nature is, ‘Depart,’ Job xxi. 14. Carnal men are of the devil’s mind: ‘Art thou come to torment us before our time?’ Mat. viii.; they cannot endure to hear of it; but ‘Come, O come!’ saith grace. This day we have cause to long for, not only upon Christ’s account, but our own: it is the day of our perfection as well as Christ’s royalty. Now everything tendeth to its perfect state, so doth a Christian; then there is 218perfect holiness and perfect freedom. We never find Christ a Saviour to the uttermost till then; to the glorified spirits he is but a Saviour in part, some fruit of sin is continued upon the body; but then body and soul are united and perfectly glorified to enjoy God in heaven. Christ then cometh to make an end of what he had begun. He first came to redeem our souls, and then our bodies from corruption; the body is a captive in the grave when the soul is set at liberty; it is held under the power of death till that day. The butler was not afraid to go before Pharaoh, because Joseph told him he should be set at liberty. ‘Lift up your heads,’ it is a day of redemption, Luke xxi. 28. Christ cometh to loosen the bands and shackles of death; to think and speak of that day with horror doth ill become him that looketh for such great privileges.
3. Provide for that day. It is called ‘the great and notable day of the Lord,’ Acts ii. 20. It should be the whole employment of our lives to prepare for it; but how shall we provide for that day? I answer—By making peace with God in and by Jesus Christ. When Jacob heard that Esau was coming with a great power and force, he sendeth to make peace with him. We hear of a great day coming, when ‘the Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout, and all his holy angels with him,’ (1.) Let us compromise all differences between us and him. We are advised so to do: Luke xiv. 32, ‘While he is yet a great way off, he sendeth an embassage, and desireth conditions of peace.’ We need not send to the Lord; God maketh the offer to us: let us lay down the weapons of our defiance, and accept of the terms proposed. (2.) If you would provide for this day, clear up your union with Jesus Christ; he is the judge, and ‘there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ.’ Rom. viii. 1. Will the head condemn his own members? If we ‘abide in him,’ we shall be able to look him in the face; ‘we shall have boldness in that day,’ 1 John ii. 28. Then, though it be a great day, it will not be a terrible day to us. (3.) Frequent communion with him at the throne of grace. When familiar friends meet together after a long absence, what a sweet interview is there! what mutual embraces and endearments pass between them! So acquaint yourselves with Christ aforehand, Job xxii. Common acquaintance with him in external worship will not serve the turn: Luke xiii. 26, ‘We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and heard thee in our streets;’ and yet Christ saith, ‘I know you not.’ There must be a holy intimacy and sweet experience of him; you must know him in the Spirit. (4.) By holy conversation, both as to the matter and end of it; for the great end of this day is that grace may be glorious. Other things are honoured in the world, as power, and strength, and cunning, and civil endowments, but then eminence in grace cometh to be crowned: 2 Peter iii. 11, ‘We that look for such things, what manner of persons ought we to be in all holiness and godliness of conversation?’ There are two words there used, holiness and godliness: the one relateth to the matter of our actions, that we should do things good, and just, and pure; the other, to our end and aim. We must do all this as in and to the Lord, making him the supreme end of all that we do. (5.) We may press you to heavenliness in your choice. Where lieth your treasure? If the enjoyment of the world be your chief est good, that 219will be of no use to you in that day; in a disdain to our choice, all worldly things are burnt before our eyes; but if your happiness lieth in heaven, thither you are going to take full possession of it. At the last day wicked men cannot murmur; God’s judgments are but their own choice. If the goats be placed on the left hand and the sheep on the right, it is but according to their preposterous affections here in the world: Prov. iii. 16, ‘Length of days are in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour.’ Eternity is the right-hand blessing. Now, if you despise a blessed eternity in comparison of those left-hand blessings, riches and honour, no wonder that your own measure is recompensed into your bosoms. (6.) Love the brethren. This is the great day when all the saints meet together, and how can we expect to meet them with comfort if we should not love them? 1 John iv. 16, 17, ‘That we shall have boldness,’ &c. It will be a joyful meeting when those whom we have loved, prayed for, fasted with, and (if necessity did require) relieved, shall then be found in such esteem and honour. (7.) Mercifulness to the poor; see Mat. xxv. 35, 36, with 42 and 43. Christ hath told us aforehand what questions he will ask when he cometh—Have you fed? Have you visited? Have you clothed? &c. It is good that we should be prepared with an answer. (8.) Faithfulness in God’s ordinances, and the matters of his house. Our Lord is gone, but he will come again to take an account how matters have been managed during his absence. The usual period which is fixed to ordinances is the Lord’s coming to judgment: 1 Cor. xi. 26, ‘Ye do show forth the Lord’s death till he come;’ and 1 Tim. vi. 14, ‘Kept his commandment without spot until the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ.’ He hath left his ordinances in his church as a pledge of his coming, and to keep the great promise still afoot; therefore above all things they should be kept pure and uncorrupt.
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