« PreviousContinue »
yet I turned back, and lost my hold, and broke my promises, and slacked my purposes. O how fair was I once for heaven! I had almost won the prize, and yet I have lost it. If I had but "followed on to know the Lord," and brought those beginnings to maturity, and blown up the spark of desires and purposes which was kindled in me, I had now been blessed among the saints."
4. It will torment them to remember the fair opportunities which they once had of obtaining this glory, but which they now have lost. To look back upon an age spent in vanity, when their salvation was at stake; to think how many weeks, and months, and years they lost, which, if they had improved, they might now have been happy, this will sting them to the quick. "Wretch that I was," may the sinner exclaim, "could I find no time to study the work for which I had all my time? Had I no time, amidst all my labours, to labour for eternity? Had I time to eat, and drink, and sleep, and work, and none to seek the salvation of my soul? Had I time for mirth, and sports, and vain discourse, and none for prayer, or meditation on the life to come? Could I take time to look after my estate in the world, and none to try my title to heaven, and to make sure of my spiritual and everlasting welfare? O precious time! whither art thou fled? I had once time enough, and now I shall have no more! I had so much, that I knew not what to do with it. I was fain to devise pastimes, and to talk it away, and trifle it away; and now it is gone, never to return! O the golden hours which I enjoyed! Had I spent but one year of all those years, or but one month of all those months, in earnest examination of Scripture truth, and seeking God with my whole heart, it had now been happy for me. But now my time is past, my days are cut off, my glass is run, my sun is set, and will rise no more. O that I had but one of these years to live over again! O that it were possible to recall one day, one hour of that time! But it is now too late,-alas! too late for ever!"
Thus will the remembrance of the time which they
lost on earth be a continual torment to these condemned souls.
5. It will torment them to remember how often they were persuaded to return, both by ministers in public, and by their godly faithful friends in private. How will every request and exhortation of ministers now be as a fiery dart in the spirit of the poor sinner! How fresh will every sermon come into his mind,— even those which he had forgotten as soon as heard! He even seems still to hear the voice of the minister, and to see his tears. "Oh, how fain would he have had me to escape these torments! How earnestly did he entreat me! With what love and tender compassion did he beseech me! How did his bowels yearn with pity over me, and yet I hardened my heart against all this! How often did he convince me that all was not well with me, and yet I stifled all these convictions!""
Thus will the remembrance of all the means of grace which they ever enjoyed be fuel to feed the flames in their consciences. Oh, that sinners would but think of this, while they sit under the plain instructions and pressing exhortations of a faithful ministry! How dear must they pay for all this, if it do not prevail with them; and how will they wish a thousand times, in the anguish of their souls, that they had either obeyed his doctrine, or had never heard him!
6. It will torment them to remember that God himself condescended to entreat them; that, in fact, all the entreaties of ministers were the entreaties of God. How long did he wait, how freely did he offer, how affectionately did he invite, and how importunately did he solicit them! How did the Spirit continue striving with their hearts, as if he were loath to take a denial! How did Christ importune them, sermon after sermon, and one Sabbath after another, saying, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man will open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with me!" Oh that thou wouldst hearken to my commandments! "Then should thy peace be as a river, and thy righteousness
as the waves of the sea: though thy sins be as scarlet, I will make them as white as snow." What, sinner! Shall the God of all the earth beseech thee to be happy, beseech thee to have pity upon thine own soul, and wilt thou not regard him?
Oh, how all these passionate pleadings of Christ will transport the damned with self-indignation! How fresh will the remembrance of them be ever in their minds, piercing their souls with renewed torments! Then will they cry out against themselves, Oh, how justly is all this befallen me! I tired out the patience of Christ. I made the God of heaven follow me from my house to the church, from the church to my chamber, till I wearied him with crying unto me, Repent, return! Had the Lord of all the worlds thus to wait on me, and all in vain? Oh, how justly is that patience now turned into fury, which falls upon my soul with irresistible violence!
7. It will torment them to remember on what easy terms they might have escaped from hell, and won heaven. If their work had been to remove mountains, to conquer kingdoms, to fulfil the law to the smallest tittle, then the impossibility would somewhat assuage the rage of their self-accusing conscience. If the conditions of obtaining heaven had been the satisfying of justice for all their transgressions, the suffering of all that the law laid upon them, why, this were nothing but to suffer hell to escape hell. But the conditions were of another nature. The yoke was easy, and the burden light, which Jesus Christ would have laid upon them; his commandments were not grievous. It was but to believe in him as the Saviour of sinners; to repent of our transgressions; to study his will; to renounce all other happiness but that which he procures us, and to take him alone for the chief good; to renounce the world and the flesh, and to submit to his meek and gracious government; to forsake the ways of our own devising, and to walk in his holy ways; to engage ourselves to this by covenant with him, and to continue faithful in that covenant. These were the terms on which they might have enjoyed the kingdom.
And was there any thing unreasonable in all this? Or had they any thing to object against it? Was it a hard bargain to have heaven upon these conditions, when all the price that is required is only our accepting it in that way in which the wisdom of our Lord thinks meet to bestow it?
Oh! when the poor tormented wretch shall look back upon these easy terms which he refused, how it will rend his very heart. "Ah!" exclaims he, "what had all the trouble of duty been, in comparison of the trouble, which I now sustain! Or all the sufferings for Christ and well-doing, in comparison of these sufferings which I must undergo for ever! What if I had spent my days in the strictest life that ever did saint! What if I had lived ever upon my knees! What if I had lost my credit with men, and borne the reproach and scorn of the foolish, and been hated of all men for the sake of Christ! What if I had been imprisoned, or banished, or put to death! Oh! what had all this been, in comparison of the miseries which I now must suffer!"
8. It will torment them to remember for what it was they sold their eternal welfare in heaven. When they compare the value of the pleasures of sin with the recompense of reward, which they sacrificed for these pleasures,-how will the vast disproportion astonish them! To think of a few gay hours, a few sweet morsels, a little ease, or low delight to the flesh, the applauding breath of mortal men, or the possession of so much gold on earth; and then to think of everlasting glory,-how immense will appear the difference between them; to think that this is all he had for his soul, his God, his hopes of everlasting blessedness, how will these thoughts tear his very heart! Then will he exclaim against his folly, "0 for how small a matter have I parted with my happiness! I had but a dream of delight for my hopes of heaven; and now that I am awakened, it is all vanished. Where are now my honours and attendance? Who applauds me, or trumpets forth my praises? My pleasures are now turned to gall and
wormwood; and is this all that I had for the inestimable treasure which I have lost! Oh! what a mad exchangé did I make! What if I had gained all the world, and lost my soul? Would it have been a profitable exchange? But, alas! how small a part of the world was it, for which I gave up my part in glory!" O that sinners would think of this, when they are swimming in the delights of flesh, and studying to be rich and honourable in the world; when they are desperately venturing upon known transgressions, and sinning against the checks of conscience!
9. It will torment them to think that all this was their own doing, and that they wilfully procured their own destruction. Had they been forced to sin, whether they would or not, or if they were punished for another man's transgressions, or if any other had been the chief author of their ruin, it would much abate the rage of their consciences. But to think, that it was the choice of their own wills, and that none in the world could have forced them to sin against their wills, this will be a cutting thought to their hearts. "What!" will the sinner exclaim, " had I not enemies enough in the world, that I was an enemy to myself! God would neither give the devil nor the world so much power over me, as to force me to commit the least transgression. If I had not consented, their temptations would have been in vain: they could not entice me; it was I myself that yielded and did the evil." Thus will it agonize the hearts of poor sinners to remember that they were the cause of their own undoing; and that they wilfully and obstinately persisted in their rebellion, and were volunteers in the service of the devil.
Lastly, It will wound their consciences still deeper when they remember, that their damnation was not only their own doing, but that they were at so much cost and pains for the accomplishment of it. What great undertakings did they engage in to effect their own ruin! To resist God, to quench the Spirit, to overcome the power of mercies, judgments, and the word itself, to silence conscience, to drown reason, all this