Every action we take has consequences, especially whether or not we obey Good. There are repercussions for sin, but ultimately God is on our side when we repent and accept His forgiveness. Take heed of God’s commands because obeying them is always in your best interest.
Adam’s sin cost him everything he and Eve had. Nothing was ever the same from that day until he and Eve died. Below is a link to a sermon presented by Dr. Charles Stanley of Atlanta. After watching this you will never be confused about the sin he and Eve committed. The consequences of their sin brought about an immediate curse on the ground and nature. That sin cost them the freedom their home in the garden had afforded. That sin cost them their daily fellowship with Christ. Adam lived some 930 years–just shy of one thousand years. Remember, a day with the Lord is as a 1000 years. Let me encourage you to watch and take in this blessed message by Dr. Stanley. (Click on the Link below:)
I have a message today that is the gospel in essence, if ever I was able to understand it and to preach it. So may God bless it to you who listen on radio and are watching on television, and to the great throng in God’s sanctuary this holy hour. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas and this is the pastor bringing the sermon, one of the doctrinal messages on salvation, on soteriology. It is entitled The Declaration Of Justification, the doctrine of justification, how God makes us righteous. How is it that a lost sinner, such as we are, could stand in the presence of God “before whom the heavens themselves are not pure and who charges the angels with folly”? How can we stand in the presence of God and live? That is the doctrine of justification.
The reading of the Scripture is in the second chapter of Galatians beginning at verse 16. Galatians, chapter 2, verse 16:
Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus, even we who have believed in Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law, for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves are also found sinners — still sinners though justified — is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
If I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
For I through the Law am dead to the Law, that I might live unto God.
Then one of the most beautiful of all the verses in the Bible,
I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.
I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness come by the Law, then Christ is dead in vain.
The doctrine of justification.
It is an unusual thing that both in Hebrew and in Greek the root from which come the words “righteousness” and “justification” are the same. The words are the same. In Hebrew it’s tsedeq. Tsedeq, which means “to be righteous,” which means “to be declared righteous,” which means “justification.” In Genesis 15:6, quoted in Galatians 3:6, “Abraham believed God, and his faith was accounted for tsedaqah” — the substantive of tsedeq, “righteousness” – his faith was accounted for righteousness, for justification.
In Greek the word is dikaios, “just or righteous.” In Matthew 1:19, “Joseph, being a dikaios man — a just man.”
In 5:45, “He sendeth rain on the dikaios and the adikos — the just and the unjust.”
Acts 10:22, “Cornelius, a dikaios man — a righteous man, a just man.”
In the substantive — in the verbal form of dikaios— “just” — dikaioo means “to pronounce us righteous, to declare us righteous.” This publican who prayed in the synagogue went down to his house dikaioo — “justified, declared righteous.”
Romans 8:30, “When he whom God called, He dikaioo – He justified. And whom He dikaioed – He justified – He glorified.”
Another substantive part of the verb in Greek is dikaiosis, which means “acquittal, justification.” Romans 4:25, Jesus “was delivered for our offences, and He was raised again for our dikaiosis – our justification” – to declare us righteous.
And in 5:18 now, you look. The same word will be translated both ways, “As by the offence of one judgment came upon all men; so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justificationof life.” It’s the same word, “So by the righteousness – the dikaiosis – of one the free gift came upon all men unto dikaiosis” – translated “justification.” So the word “justification” means “to be declared righteous, to be just, to be righteous.”
Now, the doctrine of justification is this: in justification God declares us, on the basis of the atoning death of Christ, to whom we are joined by faith, God declares us to have paid the penalty of the law for our sin: death. Jesus, to whom we are joined by faith, died for us. And that penalty has been paid in Christ and we are forgiven, justified, declared righteous.
A second part of that: we who are declared righteous in the atoning death of Christ no longer are subject to the penalty of the law of death. The courts today would call that double jeopardy. We have been tried, we have been condemned, we have died in the atoning grace of our Lord.
And a third and last part of that faceted doctrine of justification: we who once were repelled by God are now received by Him in loving and gracious favor. We were once condemned. Now we are acquitted. We once were offensive to God in our sin. We are now acceptable in His sight and in His presence.
Now the apostle writes, “Not that we are no longer sinners, not that we are innocent, holy, pure, but God, for Christ’s sake, looks upon us as ideally pure, as ideally innocent, as ideally righteous.” Let me illustrate that. Here is an agronomist, an agriculturalist, a botanist, and we walk along by his side and we see a little thing sprouting out of the ground about an inch long, a little green shoot about that long. And the agriculturalist says, “Look, there is an oak.” Well, to me an oak is a great tree with spreading branches and majestic presence, a great oak. And that little shoot is not one inch long; he says, “Look, there is an oak.” He imputes, He reckons to that little shoot an ideal. It’s not a truth in fact; that’s no oak. But it’s an ideal truth. It is what can be. It is what is in it, the great majestic oak. He sees that. Of course it’s just about one inch long.
Now, the Bible presents that so beautifully all the way through. In Numbers 23, Balaam was hired by Balak to curse Israel. But when he stood up to curse Israel, God wouldn’t let him. And instead he placed in Balaam’s mouth the words, “God hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel, the Lord his God is with him and the shout of a king is among them.”
Can you imagine that being said about Jacob, “God hasn’t beheld iniquity in Jacob”? Could you imagine this being said about Israel, “Neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel”? Why, the whole Bible is full of the iniquity and final destruction and dispersion of those people. But here it says God hasn’t seen it. That is the ideal God looks upon when He looks upon us.
Take again in the third chapter of the prophet Zechariah. The prophet sees Joshua the high priest standing before the Lord and he’s clothed with filthy garments, dirty garments. And at his right hand is Satan standing, looking at him, pointing at him, accusing him, “Look at his dirty, filthy garments, this high priest who stands before the most high God. Look at him.” And the Lord God cleanses, and washes, and places upon Joshua garments of beauty and glory, and puts a mitre on his head. God stands between His people and every accusing tongue. In God’s sight, he is holy and pure, ideally. That’s the doctrine of justification. Paul said it like this in Romans 8:33, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.”
Anselm was a great, tremendous Christian. If you ever study theology, you’ll come across Anselm. He was the Archbishop of Canterbury in about 1100 A. D., and he wrote a tract for the consolation of the dying who were alarmed on account of their sin. Now, I have copied out of that tract a part. He starts off with a question and answer. The minister stands by the side of the one who is dying. And he says to the one who is dying, “Dost thou believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for thee?”
And the answer, “Yes. I believe it.”
Question, “Dost thou thank Him for His suffering and death?”
“I do thank Him.”
Question, “Dost thou believe that thou canst not be saved except by His death?”
Answer, “I believe it.”
Then Anselm addresses the dying man – the minister addresses the dying man, “Come then, while life remaineth in thee, in Christ alone place thy whole trust. In naught else place thy trust. To His death commit thyself wholly. With this alone covereth thyself wholly. And if the Lord God will judge thee and say – and the if the Lord thy God will to judge thee, then you say, `Lord, between Thy judgment and me I present the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. No otherwise can I contend with Thee.’ And if God shall say that thou art a sinner, say thou, `Lord, I interpose the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my sins and Thee.’ If God say that thou hast deserved condemnation, say, `Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between my evil deserts and Thee, and His merits I offer for those which I ought to have and have not.’ If He say that He is wroth with thee, say, `Lord, I oppose the death of my Lord Jesus Christ between by wrath and me.’ And when thou hast completed all this, say again, `Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between me and Thee.’”
That is justification. Not that I am ever righteous or holy or pure or innocent, but God looks upon me ideally through Jesus Christ with whom I am identified by faith.
Now, the doctrine of justification is an unusual doctrine. It pertains to the acceptance on the part of God of the person, of the man himself, and not his works. This is the opposite of the world. The world says, in its supposedly marvelous wisdom, the world says that we are accepted because of our works, and that God has respect to our works, and then He has respect to us.
But the Bible is just the opposite. The Bible teaches us that God has respect to the man himself first, and then He has respect unto his works. I read in the beginning — In the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis, when Abel came before the Lord in the fourth verse, “And God had respect unto Abel and to his offering, but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect.” God had respect first unto Abel, to the man himself, and then He accepted Abel’s offering. Not the other way around. God had respect to his good works, to his sacrifice, to his good offering. Then He accepted Abel. Just the opposite. God accepted Abel. God accepted the man himself, had respect unto Abel himself, and then He had respect and acceptance to the offering that Abel brought.
The whole Bible is like that. In the beautiful Psalms, Psalms 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul, He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” First the man is accepted. He is restored, “He restoreth my soul.” That’s first, then the works that God we pray will bless. It is so in the tabernacle and in the temple. First is the altar, the sacrifice, the atonement for sins and then the door into the house of God, into the sanctuary of the Lord. First the man is atoned for. First he is accepted. Then he approaches God.
Now, I can illustrate that in our lives. When I was a youth, the most famous of all the underworld characters in America was named Al Capone. He was the head of dark, underground, organized crime in America. He was that for a generation and the government was never able to touch him. Finally they sent him to prison for income tax. That man, Al Capone, famous because of his vile iniquity. How? Why?
I was in Cicero, a suburb of Chicago, when Al Capone was in his heyday, in his glory. And I asked those people there in Cicero where he reigned as king, I asked those Chicagoans, “How is it that Al Capone reigns in part of the world and from this kingdom here has his tentacles out to the ends of organized crime in America?” And the answer was this, “If there is a poor widow in Cicero that needs coal in the wintertime, Al Capone brings a load of coal for that poor widow. If there is a poor family whose electricity is about to be cut off, he pays the bill. If there is an orphan that needs help, Al Capone helps that orphan. All of the charities in Cicero are sponsored by Al Capone. And the whole populace are debtors to him and his good works. And when they go to the polls to vote, they vote the ticket of Al Capone and nobody can touch him.”
What does God think about that? What does God see in that? Remember the doctrine, God has respect unto the man first – unto the man himself – and then He has respect unto his works. Not by the works of a man is he ever acceptable to God. The man himself must be acceptable to God. Then God accepts his good deeds.
I think of the story of Samuel who was sent by God to Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse, to anoint a new king over Israel in the stead of Saul. And Samuel, calling the family of Jesse to a sacrifice and to a sanctification, he asked Jesse to have his sons pass before them because one of them God said was to be anointed king over Israel. So Jesse had his first boy to pass before Samuel, God’s prophet. His name was Eliab – tall, strong, handsome, and when Samuel looked upon him, he said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before me.” And God said, “I have refused him. I reject him.” So Samuel said to Jesse, “Have your second boy to pass before me.” And Abinadab stood before Samuel, equally as fine and strong and handsome. And Samuel said, “Surely God’s anointed stands before me.” And God said to Samuel, “I have rejected him.” And the third son of Jesse passed by, Shammah. And when Samuel looked upon Shammah, fine and strong and good-looking, he said, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before me.” But God said to Samuel, “I have rejected him.”
And all seven of Jesse’s sons pass before Samuel and all seven of them God said to Samuel, “I have rejected him.” And in despair, Samuel turned to Jesse, and said, “Are these all of your boys? I don’t understand. Are these all of your sons?” And Jesse replied, “No. I have another little boy. He’s with the sheep. But he’s just a boy. His face is unshaven. He’s too young to grow a beard. He’s just a lad.” Samuel said, “We’ll not sit down until he comes.” And they fetched David, and when the boy stood before Samuel, God said, “This is he, anoint him.” And he was anointed in the presence of his brethren, and God said to Samuel, “Man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart.” God looks on the heart. First the man himself is received by God, and then his works, always in the Bible.
Now there is no arguing but that the doctrine of self-justification, of self-merit and self-righteousness has an exceedingly acceptable place in our thinking and in our hearts. It is very attractive and persistent. It’s hydra headed. No matter how often you refute it, it rises again. It appeals to the man. It’s a self glory. “I do it. I did it. I am saving myself. My righteousness commends itself to God.”
I cut out of a daily newspaper this little item and I glued it here to this white piece of paper. “`A mother of seven children burned herself at the stake in the hope of becoming a saint,’ police said Wednesday. Officers said that Angelita Borsen, forty-eight, piled up straw and soaked it and herself with gasoline. Then she tied and gagged herself and set fire to the straw. `I shall die,’ she said in a note, `like Joan of Arc and my soul will be received in the kingdom of heaven.’”
“I’m going to do it. It has a glory of its own. My self-righteousness, and my sacrifice, and my labor, and toil, and effort will commend me to God. I’ll be a saint.” Not only that, but the doctrine of self-justification, self-righteousness, self-merit, self-glorification is plausible. It’s like one of those self-evident facts. Preach righteousness, good works, and you will encourage your people in virtue. Isn’t It a strange thing? In experience, it’s just the opposite. A worldly unregenerate man will boast of his righteousness, “I’m just as good as anybody else.” I don’t care who he is. He’ll tell you that. “And my good works and my righteous life I’ll set up against anybody and I’ll stand before God on my worth and merit and goodness.”
This is the cry and the boast of an unregenerate, worldly man. If you ever find a saintly man, he will say, “I am the least of the saints. I am the chief of sinners. My only hope lies in the grace and goodness of Jesus my Lord.” He’ll be that way. He will never boast of his goodness or of his righteousness, never.
Not only that, but this doctrine of self-justification, of good works, our salvation in ourselves, that is the one common doctrine held by all false religions, all of them. They may differ in a thousand other ways, but there is one common doctrine that characterizes all false religions and it is this doctrine of self-justification. “We are going to save ourselves by our good works.” It seems to be a reflection and a facet of fallen humanity. All false religions are like that. They have endless works of fasting, torturing the body, making long pilgrimages such as to Mecca, doing and enduring a thousand things to commend themselves to God, hoping to be saved in their merit and worth and self-righteousness.
Now, in this passage from the Apostle Paul, why is it that the doctrine of self-justification, of self-righteousness, of our own merit and good works, why is it that it is not acceptable to God? Paul uses, in the passage I just read, a strong verb describing it. He uses the word translated here, “Frustrate the grace of God and the death of Christ.” Atheto is a Greek contraction of atheteo. An a in Greek is a negative. It’s called an alpha privitive. Tithemi is the Greek word for “to set it, place.” So atithemi,atheteo is “a denial, a rejection.” It is “an abrogation.” It is “to nullify” a very strong word. And Paul teaches us that when we follow the doctrine, that “I am going to save myself, self-justification, my good works will commend me to God and open the door of heaven,” when we do that, there are three things that happen.
One: this atheto — this rejection, this abrogation, this nullifying. One: we abrogate and nullify the atoning death of Christ. We don’t need His death. We can save ourselves. Sin becomes venial. It’s a petty mistake. It’s a peccadillo. It does not demand the sacrifice, the atoning death of God’s Son. It is something I can handle, I can overcome, I can atone for. And the death of Christ becomes superfluous.
Number two: it makes superfluous the grace and mercy of God. If a man can save himself, he need not cast himself upon the mercy of the Lord. He can save himself. Look at this: if a man stands before a court, and he’s there before the bar of justice and the judge is standing there, if the man is innocent, if he’s righteous, he does not say, “I plead for mercy on the part of the court.” What the man does, he says, “I stand on my innocence and my righteousness and I demand justice from this court.” Not in the history of creation was there ever a man who was innocent who plead mercy from the court. What he demands, what he ought to have is justice. He’s innocent.
So it is when we stand before God. If we are innocent and we are righteous, we don’t demand mercy from God. “Lord, I stand here pure and holy and sinless and I demand my rights. I demand justice.” Now, when we stand before God in His holiness, every one of us is condemned. Our hearts condemn us. Our deeds condemn us. Our thoughts condemn us. Our visions and dreams and hopes, our lives condemn us. We are sinners by nature, by practice. And what the man does when he stands at the judgment bar of Almighty God, he throws himself upon the mercy of the Lord. That’s what we do. “Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner.” That’s God’s grace reaching down to us.
Another thing: in all of the Revelation, the last apocalyptic book in the Bible, in all of it, there is not one self-laudatory note, not one. Every song in the Revelation is to Him. Starts off that way in the first chapter of the Apocalypse, “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, unto Him be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Then turn the page and beginning at chapter 5, you have one glorious paean of praise after another to Jesus our Lord, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive dominion, and power, and riches, and glory; for He hath redeemed us by His blood out of every nation and tribe under the sun.” And all the elders and the four cherubim reverent to the whole world fell down and worshiped Him. There’s not one song, there’s not one note, there’s not one syllable of one lyric, “Glory unto me. I washed my robes and made them white. Glory unto me. I wrought this great salvation.” It’s not in the Bible. “All glory unto Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.”
I am either saved by my own merit or my own righteousness, or else it is a free gift bestowed upon me in the grace of God. I am not saved because I am a worthy sinner, or a sensible sinner, or a good sinner, I am saved because Jesus loved me and gave Himself for me. Jesus shut the doors of hell that faced me. He opened the doors of heaven for me and He welcomes His redeemed child in. That’s why I pointed out this incomparable, glorious verse that all of us have memorized. In Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the grace of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” Our praise and our glory and our thanksgiving is not, “Look what I have done,” but, “Look what He has done.” His grace, His mercy has reached down to a poor sinner and I am saved by Him.
Paul, in the fourth chapter of the Book of Galatians, just turning the page, Paul likens the difference between justification by faith and justification by works as the difference between slaves and sons. A slave, a servant, works in another man’s house for hire, for pay. And if he works forever, he is still a hired servant working for pay. That’s works. But a son inherits all that his father has. He’s a son in the household. Jesus illustrates it in one of the most poignant stories in the human literature. There was a prodigal son, went away into a far country, wasted his substance in sinful living, came to want and to hunger feeding the hogs, and so ravaged he would eat the food that the swine were devouring. And sitting there in the hog pen he said to himself, “How many servants, hired servants, in my father’s house have more and to spare, and I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go back to my father and home, and I’ll say to him, `Make me one of your hired servants.’”
So the prodigal boy turns his face fatherward and homeward and starts to make his speech, “Make me, father, as one of your hired servants.” And the father never lets him finish the sentence. He says, “This my boy, my son, was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. Bring forth the finest robes, and put on him; put a ring on his finger, kill the fatted calf; let us rejoice and be merry. This is my son. This is my boy. No hired servant; this is my son.”
That’s God’s grace toward us. Not a slave, not a servant hired in another man’s house, but a fellow heir with Jesus Christ in the kingdom of God. And all the wonder, the glory, the marvel of what God’s grace is able to do for us, how it changes us, how it glorifies us, how it blesses us, God’s mercy and grace.
Yesterday morning, Saturday morning, I went to a breakfast at the Lakewood Country Club, a convocation of men and women who are appealing for scholarship funds for our Academy children, our First Baptist Academy. There are so many boys and girls who want to go to the school and they’re poor and they can’t pay the tuition, so the appeal that we give to make possible the attendance at the school for a boy or a girl who can’t pay. Well, it was a beautiful thing that the men were doing and it blessed my heart just being there. And it closed with a testimony from Charles Rhodes who is the principal of the secondary school. He heads the high school. He said, “There was a prodigal boy, an unworthy boy, an obstreperous, incorrigible boy in the school, fourteen years old. And,” he said, “he’d run away. And,” Charles Rhodes said, “I’d spend days and hours up and down the streets of Dallas trying to find him. Finally, upon a day,” Mr. Rhodes said, “a high school teacher came in and took that boy and sat him down in the principal’s office and then made the announcement to the principal, `I am through with this boy. I refuse to have anything to do with him. I don’t want him in my class. I don’t ever want to see him again. It is impossible. I can do nothing with him and I am bringing him to you to let you know that I no longer welcome him in any class that I teach.’”
And she stormed out of the principal’s office and left the boy seated there in front of Mr. Rhodes. He said, “I had had a most difficult day.” So looking at the boy, Mr. Rhodes said, “Stand up and leave. I don’t want to talk to you today. I just don’t feel like it. Now, you get up and go.” Mr. Rhodes said he put his head in his arms and bowed his head on his desk. And then he lifted his face and that boy was still seated there. He hadn’t stood up, much less leaving. He was just still there seated there. And Mr. Rhodes said, “I said to the boy, `Didn’t you hear what I said? I said for you to stand up and get out of my office. I don’t want to talk to you today.’” And the lad said to the principal, “Sir, I’ve stayed here because I want to change. I want to be saved. I want to be a Christian and I thought you’d show me how, you’d teach me how.” The principal said, “I showed the boy how to be saved, how to become a Christian, and he accepted the Lord as his Savior. He went home and he won his father and his mother to the Lord. And all three of them are now in the church worshiping God together.”
That’s the grace of God. It changes our hearts. It changes our lives. And all the blessings that subsequently follow are due to that wonderful grace, God’s grace that makes us new men, new women, new young people, new born-again children of the father. Oh, what a gospel to preach, that we had the tongue of an angel to proclaim it!
Now, may we pray together? Dear Lord, how indebted forever we are to Thee. You have broken our chains. You have opened the iron doors of our prisons. You have invited us to liberty, to freedom, to life abounding, abundant, overflowing, blessings uncounted, innumerable, without number, without end. And, our Lord, we pray that this day, this holy moment, there will be many who coming down that stairwell from the balcony, walking down this aisle on the lower floor, “Pastor, today we have decided for God. Here’s my whole family. We’re all coming today,” or, “Just the two of us are coming,” or, “Just I. I am coming. God has spoken to me and I’m on the way.”
In a moment, when we stand to sing our hymn of appeal, that family you, that couple you, that one somebody you, make the decision now in your heart. And in this moment when we stand and sing, that first step toward that stairway or toward this aisle will be the greatest step you ever made in your life. Do it, and God bless you in the way and a thousand times welcome as you come. In Jesus’ saving name, amen. While we stand and while we sing.
These two great leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention talk about how the SBC arrived at its present state and where it is likely to go in the future. Excellent discussion and views. At the end, they accepted questions from the audience of students and faculty of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
There were two lawyers who were partners, one named Will and the other Tom. One night, during a tabernacle revival meeting, down the aisle went the lawyer Will, confessing Christ as his Savior publicly. Early the next morning Will got up to go to his office and gather together his personal belongings. He wanted to dissolve the partnership, thinking in his heart, “My partner Tom is a bitter critic of the church and of Christ and of God. I do not think I can stand his ridicule, sarcasm, and all of those bitter things he says about God.”
On the way down the street he met the last man in the world he wanted to see, his partner Tom. Tom looked at him and said, “Will, why are you up so early, and where are you going?” Will replied, “Tom, last night I gave my heart to Christ. I know how you feel about God and Christ and the church. I just do not think I can live under your bitter and sarcastic criticism. So I got up early this morning, before you would be down, to gather my things and dissolve the partnership.”
Tom replied, “Will, you did not know it, nor did anyone know it, but last night I went to that meeting and stood outside the tabernacle. I saw you go down the aisle, give your hand to the preacher, stand before the people, and confess your faith in God. You and I have been partners all these years. We have always stood side by side. We have been through numerous cases, trials, and difficulties. Will, when I saw you standing up there by yourself last night, it just seemed to me that I ought to be standing by your side. The reason I have come early this morning is that I thought maybe you would teach me how to become a Christian.”
Note: Below is a link that will take you to a video recording of a man reading this great sermon pretty much like Jonathan Edwards may have read it originally. Now you can hear the message being read. Remember that Jonathan Edwards read his sermon to that congregation when the Great Awaking started.
-Their foot shall slide in due time- Deut. xxxii. 35
In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who were God’s visible people, and who lived under the means of grace; but who, notwithstanding all God’s wonderful works towards them, remained (as ver. 28.) void of counsel, having no understanding in them. Under all the cultivations of heaven, they brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text. The expression I have chosen for my text, Their foot shall slide in due time, seems to imply the following doings, relating to the punishment and destruction to which these wicked Israelites were exposed.
That they were always exposed to destruction; as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall. This is implied in the manner of their destruction coming upon them, being represented by their foot sliding. The same is expressed, Psalm lxxiii. 18. “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction.”
2. It implies, that they were always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction. As he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he cannot foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once without warning: Which is also expressed in Psalm lxxiii. 18, 19. “Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction: How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!”
3. Another thing implied is, that they are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the hand of another; as he that stands or walks on slippery ground needs nothing but his own weight to throw him down.
4. That the reason why they are not fallen already and do not fall now, is only that God’s appointed time has not come. For it is said, that when that due time or appointed time comes, their foot shall slide. Then they shall be left to fall, as they are inclined by their own weight. God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.
The observation from the words that I would now insist upon is this. “There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.” By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God’s mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment.
The truth of this observation may appear by the following considerations.
1. There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men’s hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands.-He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defense from the power of God. Though hand joins in hand, and vast multitudes of God’s enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?
2. They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God’s using his power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom, “Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?” Luke xiii. 7. The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, and it is nothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God’s mere will, that holds it back.
3. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell. John iii. 18. “He that believeth not is condemned already.” So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is, John viii. 23. “Ye are from beneath.” And thither be is bound; it is the place that justice, and God’s word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to him.
4. They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment is not because of God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is with many miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath. Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.
So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that he does not let loose his hand and cut them off. God is not altogether such an one as themselves, though they may imagine him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them.
5. The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. The scripture represents them as his goods, Luke xi. 12. The devils watch them; they are ever by them at their right hand; they stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back. If God should withdraw his hand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment fly upon their poor souls. The old serpent is gaping for them; hell opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit
it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost.
6. There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if it were not for God’s restraints. There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell. There are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments as they do in them. The souls of the wicked are in scripture compared to the troubled sea, Isa. lvii. 20. For the present, God restrains their wickedness by his mighty power, as he does the raging waves of the troubled sea, saying, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further;” but if God should withdraw that restraining power, it would soon carry all before it. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like fire pent up by God’s restraints, whereas if it were let loose, it would set on fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into a fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.
7. It is no security to wicked men for one moment, that there are no visible means of death at hand. It is no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he does not see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows this is no evidence, that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step will not be into another world. The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noon-day; the sharpest sight cannot discern them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending them to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear, that God had need to be at the expense of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked nian, at any moment. All the means that there are of sinners going out of the world, are so in God’s hands, and so universally and absolutely subject to his power and determination, that it does not depend at all the less on the mere will of God, whether sinners shall at any moment go to hell, than if means were never made use of, or at all concerned in the case.
8. Natural men’s prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, do not secure them a moment. To this, divine providence and universal experience do also bear testimony. There is this clear evidence that men’s own wisdom is no security to them from death; that if it were otherwise we should see some difference between the wise and politic men of the world, and others, with regard to their liableness to early and unexpected death: but how is it in fact? Eccles. ii. 16. “How dieth the wise man? even as the fool.”
9. All wicked men’s pains and contrivance which they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure them from hell one moment. Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every one lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes will not fail. They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the greater part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for his own escape than others have done. He does not intend to come to that place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take effectual care, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail.
But the foolish children of men miserably delude themselves in their own schemes, and in confidence in their own strength and wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow. The greater part of those who heretofore have lived under the same means of grace, and are now dead, are undoubtedly gone to hell; and it was not because they were not as wise as those who are now alive: it was not because they did not lay out matters as well for themselves to secure their own escape. If we could speak with them, and inquire of them, one by one, whether they expected, when alive, and when they used to hear about hell ever to be the subects of that misery: we doubtless, should hear one and another reply, “No, I never intended to come here: I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive well for myself: I thought my scheme good. I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time, and in that manner; it came as a thief: Death outwitted me: God’s wrath was too quick for me. Oh, my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter; and when I was saying, Peace and safety, then suddenly destruction came upon me.
10. God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment. God certainly has made no promises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance or preservation from eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace, the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. But surely they have no interest in the promises of the covenant of grace who are not the children of the covenant, who do not believe in any of the promises, and have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant.
So that, whatever some have imagined and pretended about promises made to natural men’s earnest seeking and knocking, it is plain and manifest, that whatever pains a natural man takes in religion, whatever prayers he makes, till he believes in Christ, God is under no manner of obligation to keep him a moment from eternal destruction.
So that, thus it is that natural men are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold them up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; the fire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out: and they have no interest in any Mediator, there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of, all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forbearance of an incensed God.
The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ.-That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell’s wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of, there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.
You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his band, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.
Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider’s web would have to stop a falling rock. Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God’s enemies. God’s creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and do not willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him who hath subjected it in hope. There are black clouds of God’s wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God, it would immediately burst forth upon you. The sovereign pleasure of God, for the present, stays his rough wind; otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff of the summer threshing floor.
The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God’s vengeance have been withheld, but your guilt in the meantime is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.
The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood. Thus all you that never passed under a great change of heart,
by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all you that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced light and life, are in the hands of an angry God. However you may have reformed your life in many things, and may have had religious affections, and may keep up a form of religion in your families and closets, and in the house of God, it is nothing but his mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction. However unconvinced you may now be of the truth of what you hear, by and by you will be fully convinced of it. Those that are gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that it was so with them; for destruction came suddenly upon most of them; when they expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, Peace and safety: now they see, that those things on which they depended for peace and safety, were nothing but thin air and empty shadows.
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.
O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment. And consider here more particularly
1. Whose wrath it is: it is the wrath of the infinite God. If it were only the wrath of man, though it were of the most potent prince, it would be comparatively little to be regarded. The wrath of kings is very much dreaded, especially of absolute monarchs, who have the possessions and lives of their subjects wholly in their power, to be disposed of at their mere will. Prov. xx. 2. “The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: Whoso provoketh him to anger, sinneth against his own soul.” The subject that very much enrages an arbitrary prince, is liable to suffer the most extreme torments that human art can invent, or human power can inflict. But the greatest earthly potentates in their greatest majesty and strength, and when clothed in their greatest terrors, are but feeble, despicable worms of the dust, in comparison of the great and almighty Creator and King of heaven and earth. It is but little that they can do, when most enraged, and when they have exerted the utmost of their fury. All the kings of the earth, before God, are as grasshoppers; they are nothing, and less than nothing: both their love and their hatred is to be despised. The wrath of the great King of kings, is as much more terrible than theirs, as his majesty is greater. Luke xii. 4, 5. “And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”
2. It is the fierceness of his wrath that you are exposed to. We often read of the fury of God; as in Isaiah lix. 18. “According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay fury to his adversaries.” So Isaiah lxvi. 15. “For behold, the Lord will come with fire, and wifh his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.” And in many other places. So, Rev. xix. 15, we read of “the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” The words are exceeding terrible. If it had only been said, “the wrath of God,” the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful: but it is “the fierceness and wrath of God.” The fury of God! the fierceness of Jehovah! Oh, how dreadful must that be! Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them! But it is also “the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” As though there would be a very great manifestation of his almighty power in what the fierceness of his wrath should inflict, as though omnipotence should be as it were enraged, and exerted, as men are wont to exert their strength in the fierceness of their wrath. Oh! then, what will be the consequence! What will become of the poor worms that shall suffer it! Whose hands can be strong? And whose heart can endure? To what a dreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable depth of misery must the poor creature be sunk who shall be the subject of this!
Consider this, you that are here present, that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies, that he will inflict wrath without any pity. When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. Ezek. viii. 18. “Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them.” Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare. God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel, but to be filled full of wrath. God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to him, that it is said he will only “laugh and mock,” Prov. i. 25, 26, &c.
How awful are those words, Isa. lxiii. 3, which are the words of the great God. “I will tread them in mine anger, and will trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.” It is perhaps impossible to conceive of words that carry in them greater manifestations of these three things, vis. contempt, and hatred, and fierceness of indignation. If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your doleful case, or showing you the least regard or favour, that instead of that, he will only tread you under foot. And though he will know that you cannot bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you, yet he will not regard that, but he will crush you under his feet without mercy; he will crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on his garments, so as to stain all his raiment. He will not only hate you, but he will have you, in the utmost contempt: no place shall be thought fit for you, but under his feet to be trodden down as the mire of the streets.
The misery you are exposed to is that which God will inflict to that end, that he might show what that wrath of Jehovah is. God hath had it on his heart to show to angels and men, both how excellent his love is, and also how terrible his wrath is. Sometimes earthly kings have a mind to show how terrible their wrath is, by the extreme punishments they would execute on those that would provoke them. Nebuchadnezzar, that mighty and haughty monarch of the Chaldean empire, was willing to show his wrath when enraged with Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego; and accordingly gave orders that the burning fiery furnace should be heated seven times hotter than it was before; doubtless, it was raised to the utmost degree of fierceness that human art could raise it. But the great God is also willing to show his wrath, and magnify his awful majesty and mighty power in the extreme sufferings of his enemies. Rom. ix. 22. “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endure with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?” And seeing this is his design, and what he has determined, even to show how terrible the unrestrained wrath, the fury and fierceness of Jehovah is, he will do it to effect. There will be something accomplished and brought to pass that will be dreadful with a witness. When the great and angry God hath risen up and executed his awful vengeance on the poor sinner, and the wretch is actually suffering the infinite weight and power of his indignation, then will God call upon the whole universe to behold that awful majesty and mighty power that is to be seen in it. Isa. xxxiii. 12-14. “And the people shall be as the burnings of lime, as thorns cut up shall they be burnt in the fire. Hear ye that are far off, what I have done; and ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites,” &c.
Thus it will be with you that are in an unconverted state, if you continue in it; the infinite might, and majesty, and terribleness of the omnipotent God shall be magnified upon you, in the ineffable strength of your torments. You shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is; and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty. Isa. lxvi. 23, 24. “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”
4. It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment, but you must suffer it for all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: For “who knows the power of God’s anger?”
How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in the danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old! There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what thoughts they now have. It may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without much disturbance, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons, promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole congregation, that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing would it be to think of! If we knew who it was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a person! How might all the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over him! But, alas! instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell? And it would be a wonder, if some that are now present should not be in hell in a very short time, even before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some persons, that now sit here, in some seats of this meeting-house, in health, quiet and secure, should be there before to-morrow morning. Those of you that finally continue in a natural condition, that shall keep out of hell longest will be there in a little time! your damnation does not slumber; it will come swiftly, and, in all probability, very suddenly upon many of you. You have reason to wonder that you are not already in hell. It is doubtless the case of some whom you have seen and known, that never deserved hell more than you, and that heretofore appeared as likely to have been now alive as you. Their case is past all hope; they are crying in extreme misery and perfect despair; but here you are in the land of the living and in the house of God, and have an opportuniry to obtain salvation. What would not those poor damned hopeless souls give for one day’s opportunity such as you now enjoy!
And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. How awful is it to be left behind at such a day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit! How can you rest one moment in such a condition? Are not your souls as precious as the souls of the people at Suffield*, where they are flocking from day to day to Christ?
Are there not many here who have lived long in the world, and are not to this day born again? and so are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and have done nothing ever since they have lived, but treasure up wrath against the day of wrath? Oh, sirs, your case, in an especial manner, is extremely dangerous. Your guilt and hardness of heart is extremely great. Do you not see how generally persons of your years are passed over and left, in the present remarkable and wonderful dispensation of God’s mercy? You had need to consider yourselves, and awake thoroughly out of sleep. You cannot bear the fierceness and wrath of the infinite God.-And you, young men, and young women, will you neglect this precious season which you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing all youthful vanities, and flocking to Christ? You especially have now an extraordinary opportunity; but if you neglect it, it will soon be with you as with those persons who spent all the precious days of youth in sin, and are now come to such a dreadful pass in blindness and hardness. And you, children, who are unconverted, do not you know that you are going down to hell, to bear the dreadful wrath of that God, who is now angry with you every day and every night? Will you be content to be the children of the devil, when so many other children in the land are converted and are become the holy and happy children of the King of kings?
And let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle-aged, or young people, or little children, now harken to the loud calls of God’s word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, a day of such great favors to some, will doubtless be a day of as remarkable vengeance to others. Men’s hearts harden, and their guilt increases apace at such a day as this, if they neglect their souls; and never was there so great danger of such persons being given up to the hardness of heart and blindness of mind. God seems now to be hastily gathering in his elect in all parts of the land; and probably the greater part of adult persons that ever shall be saved, will be brought in now in a little time, and that it will be as it was on the great out-pouring of the Spirit upon the Jews in the apostles’ days; the election will obtain, and the rest will be blinded. If this should be the case with you, you will eternally curse this day, and will curse the day that ever you was born, to see such a season of the pouring out of God’s Spirit, and will wish that you had died and gone to hell before you had seen it. Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the days of John the Baptist, the axe is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees, that every tree which brings not forth good fruit, may be hewn down and cast into the fire.
Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation: Let every one fly out of Sodom: “Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed.”