« PreviousContinue »
These were some of the sharpest weapons of their holy warfare, which entered into the inmost vitals of mankind, and pierced their consciences with the highest solicitude. These have been the happy means to awaken thousands of sinners to flee from the wrath to come, and to allure and hasten them to enter into that glorious refuge that is set before them in the gospel.
It is for the same reason that I have selected a few discourses on these arguments out of my public ministry, to set them before the eyes of the world in a more public manner, that if possible, some thoughtless creatures might be rouzed out of their sinful slumbers, and might awake into a spiritual and eter. nal life, through the concurring influences of the blessed Spirit.
I am not willing to disappoint my readers, and therefore I would let them know before-hand, that they will find very little in this book to gratify their curiosity about the many questions relating to the invisible world, and the things which God has not plainly revealed: Something of this kind, perhaps, may be found in two discourses of death and beaven, which I published long ago : But in the present discourses I have very much neglected such curious enquiries. Nor will the ear that has an itch for con. troversy be much entertained here, for I have avoided matters of doubtful debate. Nor need the most zealous man of orthodoxy, fear to be led astray into new and dangerous sentiments, if he will but take
the plainest and most evident dictates of Scripture, for his direction into all truth.
My only design has been to set the great and most momentous things of a future world in the most convincing and affecting light, and to enforce them upon the conscience with all the fervour that such subjects demand and require. And may our blessed Redeemer, who reigns Lord of the invisible world, pronounce these words with a divine power to the heart of every man, who shall either read or hear them.
The treatise which is set as an introduction to this book, was printed many years ago without the author's name, and there, in a short preface, represented to the reader these few reasons of its writing and publication, viz.
The principles of atheism and infidelity have pre. vailed so far upon our age, as to break in upon the sacred fences of virtue and piety, and to destroy the noblest and most effectual springs of true and vital religion; I mean those which are contained in the blessed gospel. The doctrine of the resurrection of the body, and the consequent states of heaven and bell, is a guard and motive of divine force; but it is renounced by the enemies of our holy Christianity : And should we give up the recompences of separate souls, while the deist denies the resurrection of the body, I fear between both we should sadly enfeeble and expose the cause of virtue, and leave it too naked and defenceless. The Christian would have but one persuasive of this kind remaining, and the deist would have none at all.
It is necessary therefore to be upon our guard, and to establish every motive that we can derive either from reason or Scripture, to secure religion in the world. The doctrine of the state of separate spirits, and the commencement of rewards and punishments, immediately ufter cleath, is one of those sacred fences of virtue which we borrow from Scripture, and it is highly favoured by reason, and therefore it may not be unseasonable to publish such arguments as may tend to the support of it..
In this second edition of this small treatise, I have added several paragraphs and pages to defend the same doctrine, and the last section contains an answer to various new objections which I had not met with, when I first began to write on this subject. I hope it is set upon such a firm foundation of many Scriptures, as cannot possibly be overturned, nor do. I think it a very easy matter any way to evade the force of them. May the grace of God lead us on further into every truth that tends to maintain and propagate faith and holiness.
In the first of these discourses, I have endeavour. ed to prove, that at the departure of the soul from the body by death, the rewards or pupislıments,' i. e. the joys or sorrows' of the other world, are appointed to commence:' And I hope I have given, from the evidence of Scripture, such arguments to support this doctrine, as that the faith of Christians
may not be staggered and confounded by different opinions, or made to wait for these events, through all the ma
ny years that may arise between death and the resur. . rection.
I know nothing besides this, that is made a matter of controversy; and I hope that the whole of these sermons, by the blessing of God, will be made happily useful to Christians, to awaken and warn them against the danger of being seized by death in a state unprepared for the presence of God, and the happi. ness of heaven, and to raise the comforts and joys of many pious souls in the lively expectation of future blessedness.
The last discourses of this book, especially the 'eternity of the punishments of hell,' have been in latter and former years made a matter of dispute ; and were I to pursue my enquiries into this doctrine, only by the aids of the light of nature and reason, I fear my natural tenderness might warp me aside from the rules and the demands of strict justice, and the wise and holy government of the great God.
But as I confine myself almost entirely to the reve. lation of Scripture in all my searches into the things of revealed religion and Christianity, I am constrained to forget or to lay aside that softness and tenderness of animal nature which might lead me astray, and to follow the unerring dictates of the word of God.
The Scripture frequently, and in the plainest and strongest manner, asserts the everlasting punishment of sinners in hell; and that by all the methods of expression which are used in Scripture to signify an everlasting continuance,
God's utter hatred and aversion to sin, in this per. petual punishment of it, are manifested many ways; (1.) By the just and severe threatenings of the wise and righteous Governor of the world, which are scattered
and down in his word. (2.) By the veracity of God in his intimations or narratives of past events, as Jude v. 7. “ Sodom and Gomorrha suffer. ing the vengeance of eternal fire.” (3.) By his express predictions, Matth. xxv. 46. “ These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” 2 Thess. i. 9. “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction ;!' and I might add, (4.) by the véracity and truth of all his holy Prophets and Apostles, and his Son Jesus Christ at the head of them, whom he has sent to acquaint mankind with the rules of their duty, and the certain judgment of God in a holy correspondence therewith, and that in such words as seem to admit of no way of escape, or of hope for the condemned criminals.
I must confess here, if it were possible for the great and blessed God any other way to vindicate his own eternal and unchangeable hatred of sin, the inflexible justice of his government, the wisdom of his severe threatenings, and the veracity of his predictions, if it were also possible for him, without this terrible execution, to vindicate the veracity, sincerity, and wisdom of the Prophets and Apostles, and Jesus Christ his Son, the greatest and chiefest of his divine messengers; and then, if the blessed God should at any time, in a consistence with his glorious and in. comprehensible perfections, release those wretched