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THE MISERY OF THOSE WHO LOSE THE HEAVENLY REST.
If there remains a rest for the people of God only, what doleful tidings is this to the ungodly world! That there is so much glory, but none for them; so great joys for the saints of God, while they must consume in perpetual sorrows; such rest for them that have obeyed the gospel, while they must be forever restless in the flames of hell! If thou who readest these words art a stranger to Christ, and shalt live and die in thy present condition, let me tell thee, I am a messenger of the saddest tidings to thee, that ever thy ears did hear, Thou shalt never partake of the joys of heaven, nor taste of the saints' eternal rest. If thou live and die in thy unregenerate state, as sure as the heavens are over thy head, and the earth under thy feet; as sure as thou livest and breathest in this air, so surely shalt thou be shut out of this rest of the saints, and receive thy portion in everlasting fire.
Perhaps, indeed, thou wilt turn upon me, and in the pride of thy heart, say, Who made you the doorkeeper of heaven? And when did God show you the book of life, or tell you who they are that shall be saved, and who shut out?
Now, in reply to this, I would say, First, I do not name thee, or any other: I do not conclude of persons individually, and say, This man shall be shut out of heaven, and that man shall be taken in. I only conclude it of the unregenerate in general, and of thee con
ditionally, If thou be such an one. Secondly, I do not go about to determine who shall repent, and who shall not, much less that thou shalt never repent and come to Christ. These things are unknown to me. I would far rather persuade thee to hearken in time, before the door is shut, that so thy soul may return and live, than tell thee that there is no hope of thy re penting and returning. But if thou lie hoping that thou shalt return, and never do it; if thou talk of repenting and believing, but still indulge in delay; if thou live and die with the world, is it a hard question, whether or not thou shalt be saved? Cannot I certainly tell, that thou shalt perish for ever, except I had seen the book of life? Why, the Bible also is the book of life, and it describes plainly those that shall be saved, and those that shall be condemned. Though it does not name them, yet it tells you all those signs and conditions by which they may be known. Do I need to ascend up to heaven to know, "that without holiness no man shall see the Lord?" or, "that it is the pure in heart who shall see God?" or, "that except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God?" or, "that he that believeth not is condemned already; and that he shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him?" and that "except you repent, you shall all perish," with a hundred more such plain Scripture expressions? Cannot these be known without searching into God's counsels? Why, has thy Bible lain by thee in thy house so long, and didst thou never read such words as these? Or hast thou read it, and yet dost thou not remember such passages as these? Nay, didst thou not find, that the great drift of the Scripture is, to show men who they are that shall be saved, and who not, and let them see the condition of both estates? And yet dost thou ask me how I know who shall be saved? Is it not decreed, that if thou love father, mother, wife, children, houses, lands, or thine own life better than Christ, thou canst not be his disciple? Is this the word of man, or of God? Is it not then an undoubted truth, that in the state in which thou now art, thou
hast not the least title to heaven? Shall I tell thee from the word of God, It is as impossible for thee to be saved, except thou be born again, and be made a new creature, as it is for the devils themselves to be saved? Nay, God has more plainly and frequently declared in the Scripture, that such sinners as thou shalt never be saved, than he has done that the devils shall never be saved. What trembling should seize on thee, who hast the hand of God against thee,-and that not in a sentence or two only, but in the whole tenor and scope of the Scriptures,-not threatening thee with the loss of a temporal kingdom only, as he did Belshazzar, but with the loss of an everlasting kingdom? But because I would fain have thee to lay this close to thy heart, I will stop a little longer, and show thee,
First, The nature of thy loss.
Secondly, The aggravations of thy loss.
Thirdly, The extent of thy loss, as including all that is comfortable on earth, as well as heaven.
Lastly, The greatness of the positive torments of the damned in hell.
The Nature of the Sinner's Loss.
I. The ungodly will lose all that glorious personal perfection which the people of God shall enjoy in heaven. They will lose that shining lustre of the body, surpassing the brightness of the sun at noonday, with which the saints shall be invested. But if they will lose that corporeal glory with which the saints shall be invested, much more will they lose that moral perfection which is characteristic of the heavenly state, those holy dispositions and qualifications of mind, that blessed conformity to the image of God, that cheerful readiness to do his will, that perfect rectitude in all their actions, which adorn all the inhabitants of heaven, whether men or angels. Instead of this, they shall have that perverseness of will, that disorder of their
affections, that loathing of good, that love of evil, that violence of passion, which they had on earth. It is true, their understandings will be much enlightened, by the sad experience which they will have in hell, of the falsehoods of their former conceits and delusions. It is true, they will cease from many of those sins which they commit here on earth. They will be drunk no more, satisfy raging lusts no more, be gluttonous no more; nor oppress the innocent, nor grind the poor, nor devour the houses and estates of their brethren, nor persecute and destroy the members of Christ. These, and many other sins, they will lay aside. But this will not arise from any renovation of their natures: they will have the same dispositions still; their hearts will be as bad, nay worse, than ever, though their course of action will be changed, because the opportunities for indulgence are gone for ever.
II. They shall lose the favour and presence of God. As they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, but said, "Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways;" so he will abhor to retain them in his household, or to give them entertainment in his fellowship and glory. He will never admit them to the inheritance of his saints, nor permit them to stand among them in his presence, but will say, “Depart from me, I know you not, ye workers of iniquity." Then, though they had preached, or wrought miracles in his name, he will not know them; and even those that did eat and drink in his presence on earth, shall be cast out of his heavenly presence for ever. Oh, little does the world now know what a loss that soul suffers which loses God! As the enjoyment of God is the heaven of the saints; so the loss of God is the hell of the ungodly. As the enjoying of God is the enjoying of all; so the loss of God is the loss of all.
III. They shall lose all those spiritual and delightful affections and employments, by which the saints feed on God. That transporting knowledge, those ravishing views of his glorious face, the inconceivable pleasure of loving him, the apprehensions of his infinitė love to us, and the rivers of consolation where
with he will satisfy his people, will be all unknown to them. And is it nothing to lose all this?
Sinners had no delight in praising God on earth. Their recreations and pleasures were of another kind, and now when the saints are employed in magnifying him, and singing his praises, the ungodly will be denied this happiness, and have employment suitable to their natures and deserts. Their hearts were full of hell upon earth. Instead of God, and his love, and fear, and grace, they were full of pride and self-love, and lust, and unbelief; and therefore hell must now entertain those hearts, which formerly entertained so much of it. Their houses on earth were the resemblance of hell. Instead of worshipping God, and calling upon his name, there was scorning at his worship, and swearing by his name; and therefore now hell must be their habitation for ever, where they shall never be troubled with that worship which they abhorred, but join with the rest of the damned in blaspheming that God, who is avenging their former impieties and blasphemies. Can it be expected, that they who made themselves merry while on earth, in deriding the persons and families of the godly, for their frequent worshipping and praising God, should at last be admitted into the family of heaven, and join with those very saints in their most perfect praises? Surely without a change upon their hearts before they go hence, this is utterly impossible. It will be too late then to say, "Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out;" let us "enter with you to the marriagefeast;" let us now join with you in the joyful heavenly melody.' You should have joined in it on earth, if you would have joined in it in heaven. As your eyes must be taken up with other kind of sights, so must your hearts be taken up with other kind of thoughts, and your voices turned to other kind of tunes. There will be no singing of the songs of Sion in the land of your thraldom; "they that go down to the pit do not praise him." Who can rejoice in the place of sorrows? Who can be glad in the land of confusion?
IV. They shall lose the blessed society of angels