« Prev Lecture XXXII. Preached June 23, 1694. Next »

LECTURE XXXII.4747   Preached June 23, 1694.

You know our business upon these latter words hath been, more lately, to give an account of that death, which is said to have passed over all. And, therein, we proposed to consider it,

(1.) In its nature, in which respect it is common to all. And,

(2.) In its degrees, in respect whereof it admits of great difference, according to the several circumstances of men’s states. We have been hitherto speaking to it upon the former account, and labouring to shew you its ambitus and extent, of how vast a comprehension it is, what a mighty sum of misery it carries in it. That misery, we shewed, must involve,

[1.] Bodily death, with all the tendencies and appurtenances, (as I may say,) thereunto. And then, we have more largely insisted,

[2.] In shewing that here must be included in it, death spiritual, such as the souls of men are liable to, and susceptible of; death, not in the natural, but in the moral sense. In the former sense, souls cannot die, as is an agreed thing, among 447all: and, in the moral sense, because morality doth comprehend both men’s duty, and their felicity, we are not, (as was told you,) here, to consider it in opposition to the former of these: for so we spake to this death, as it falls under the head of sin, in that other clause of the verse: but, as it stands in opposition to felicity, and to the real blessedness of the souls of men. Or, (as was told you,) that aversion from God, which sums up all in point of evil; as a right propension towards him, or love to him, sums up all in point of good. That aversion from God, it may be either from him as the Sovereign Authority, and so it stands in opposition to our duty; or, as it is an aversion from him as the Sovereign Good, and, so it stands in opposition to our felicity. And so, we considered spiritual death. And, it is called death, (as hath been noted to you) in an equivalent sense, as that which serves not the end it was designed for, and so is all one as if it were not. When the souls of men will not serve the natural end to which such beings were originally designed, it is all one as if they were not. They are lost as to their proper end, both as they were to be serviceable to God, and as they were capable subjects of felicity for themselves; for, that double end was to be designed by them, though the one in subordination to the other.

Now, I go on in the next place,

[3.] To note further to you, that, under the name of “death,” we may also understand that condemnation, which the whole apostate world lies under. This is a thing that, fitly enough, is to be conceived under the notion of this death, that is said to be “passed upon all.” Whatsoever there is of present death upon this world, it lies under a doom to more, to that which I may say, is more deadly) and more dreadful.

And I need not insist, in opening to you so obvious and so plain a thing to any one’s understanding, how properly a condemned man may be said to be a dead man. A world under a doom unto a future misery, (besides all that is actually incumbent on it,) how properly, in that respect, death may be said to have passed over all. One that is under condemnation is dead in law; he hath no longer a legal title to his life. The law doth not further protect his life, is no longer a guardian to it; yea, and it doth not only withhold its protection, but doth direct its sword against such a one’s life, and cut it off.

This is the common state of this world; it lies under a doom: besides all the actual miseries that are upon it, it is doomed to worse; “death hath passed over all;” but that death is in a continual tendency, (as being yet but begun,) to 448a consummate state of death. Death finished, is approaching; and men are, by the righteous judgment of God, led on, hurried on, towards the consummate state of misery or death, that is most righteously determined upon them. And this, the context can by no means allow us to overlook. It is inculcated again and again, in the 16 and 18 verses of this chapter: “that judgment is come upon all men to condemnation.” This whole apostate world stands condemned by the righteous judgment of God. And so, as justification is, in a relative and respective sense, the life of the soul; so is condemnation the death of it. That passage, in the same context—“the justification of life,” it carries that manifest import: and condemnation doth as truly carry death in it, as justification doth life.

Antecedently to that change which God makes in the state of men, condemnation is a thing belonging to them, as when such a change is made, in the state of any that are brought into union with Christ: “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus;” Romans viii. 1. But that tells us what the common state and case of the rest is; there is no condemnation to them, they lie under a universal condemnation; they are, (as the apostle’s most apt and emphatical expression is,) υποδικος, we render it, become guilty; the meaning is impleadable before God, liable to be impleaded by law, in jus vocari, to be called to account. And, as the course that men have held, according to natural corrupt inclination, is unaccountable, so they are liable to be brought under judgment before the Lord.

This condemnation is to be understood to be as its opposite justification, either (as some fitly enough express the matter under those terms,) constitutive, or sentential: either they are, by the constitution of the law, condemned, and that is to be condemned virtually, by that sentence which is written in the law, by which they are to be judged; or sententially, which is that condemnation that is to be pronounced upon them at the last by the mouth of their Judge. Justification is taken the same, two ways. A person may be said to be justified, either when the law doth constitute him just, or else there is a final justification, when he is pronounced or declared so, from the judgment seat, by the mouth of the Supreme and Universal Judge.

It is in the former sense that the world lies under condemnation. As a person that hath violated and broken the law, by the commission of some capital crime, though he be not formally condemned, by the mouth of the judge, yet the law condemns him beforehand. And there must be the less difference 449in this, case, in foro divino, then would be in foro humano; because the judgment of God will always, at last, pass according lo the mind and intendment of the law, when many things may prevent its doing so in human judicatures: this is one sense wherein death is further said to have passed over all. All are under a general doom; their lives are actually forfeited; the forfeiture may be taken whenever God will. Men are at mercy, respited from the utmost of death, and by patience, (without promise,) as a condemned person may be executed whenever the prince pleaseth; there is no moment of time given to him; he can claim no addition to his life. Thus it is with all men. “So death hath passed over all.” And lastly,

[4.] We are to consider within the compass and extent of this death, that eternal death itself, unto which this doom, this judgment, makes men liable and subject: and that hath actually passed upon as many as have died impenitent, and not reduced, not brought hack to God, through the several thousands of years that are revolved and gone over this world already. And as to what remains of human generation, death may be said to have passed in that respect, even over all of them too, it being as sure that they will come into the depth of that death, as if they were plunged into it already,—supposing their continuing not reconciled, not reduced, not recovered, out of the common state of apostasy. Concerning that death, it doth more properly belong to another topic or place in theology; and therefore, I shall not discourse of it here; only hint thus much concerning it, that it cannot differ in kind, and in the main substance, from that spiritual death, which we have spoken of already. As spiritual life doth not differ substantially from eternal life; so, nor doth this spiritual death differ in substance from eternal death, any more than a child newly born, doth differ in nature, or specifically from a grown man. Spiritual life will grow up into eternal life. Spiritual death will grow up into death eternal. It will, hereafter, consist-and lie in separation from God, and in subjection to his wrath; even as now it doth; the difference herein is only as to the degrees, and as to du ration and continuance. There is now a loss of God, as our best and most satisfying Good: and so there will be to all eternity. There is now a subjection to his displeasure, and various manifold impressions therefrom; there will be higher and fuller degrees hereafter. Both that which is called poena damni, the punishment of loss, and that which is called poena sensus, the punishment of sense, will have unspeakable, unconceivable additions hereafter. But there is the same thing in reality 450now, with every ungodly man, every one that is not reconciled to God. Though, by the way, I could never satisfy my self concerning the fulness of these terms, poena damni, and poena sensus, the punishment of loss, and the punishment of sense; for, undoubtedly, the former, the punishment of loss, is as sensible as the other, every whit; we do not know but that it may be more so. Souls will be eternally stung with their loss, as much as with any positive suffering: as a man may be as sensibly pained by hunger, as he may be by a dagger, that strikes him to the heart. But that only by the by.

These are the great things, that this same death in the text, which is said to “have passed over all,” must be understood to comprehend and contain within the extent of it. And so far we have considered it, but in its kind, wherein it is common to all. But if,

(2.) We should also consider it in its degrees, so there will be found to be great differences. It will not be in degree the same to all, but differ and vary, according to the very various circumstances of men’s states, whether we consider the matter, with reference to the natural tendency of things, or whether we consider it, with reference to the righteous judgment of God: both in nature and divine judgment, there must needs be great differences between the miseries of some, and of others. There is, in this present state, and there will be, no doubt, in the future state too, where all the subjects of wrath are called “vessels of wrath;” but those vessels are not all of the same capacity; some vessels will hold more than others do: and their capacity and measure hereafter, will be much according to what is here in this present state.

And, I shall only here hint, at some of the more obvious things that must difference the state of men, in point of that misery which hath deluged, and will deluge for ever, the apostate world. It hath different degrees of depth, as the ocean hath; which, though in some places we may suppose it a hundred fathom deep, and in other places not above two or three, yet, it is deep enough to drown all. So is this deluge of misery upon fallen mankind; though as to some deeper, than it is as to others, yet, it is deep enough to drown all in misery and destruction. As the apostle’s expression is, 1 Tim. vi. 9. But to name to you some things that more obviously do appear to difference the case of men’s states, in point of misery, or that death which here is said to have passed over all. As,

[I.] There must needs be some difference, from the better or worse complexion of nature, that is to be found with some and with others; of which some heathens do fitly enough 451speak. There is such a thing as good nature in this world, obvious enough to the observation of every one, as there is ill nature, observable enough in others. These must make very great differences in the state of men’s case, if we consider the matter according to the ducture and tendency of mere nature. So that, whereas the natures of some do render them less propense to vice, it is also possible, that, as they are less vicious, this will be one of the measures, that they will be hereafter less miserable, but miserable still; and, notwithstanding not being reconciled to God, being turned, renewed, changed, never made partakers of the divine nature.

But, if you consider that case morally, then the better natured any are, supposing that they do violence to that nature, they spoil that nature, and make it much worse;—then, I say, the better natured, the more miserable; for they are undoubtedly the more guilty. Many well-tempered persons, of much ingenuity, of good disposition, that are not inclined to do ill things to other men; but they are continually propense to all acts of injustice towards God: him they will not know; from him they are habitually alienated; never look after reconciliation with him. It may be, when they were not naturally inclined, yet, they have taught themselves to be more grossly and sensibly vicious; and so have that way, and in that respect, spoiled a good nature, done, in that respect, continual violence to themselves; learned to be wicked, even beyond what they were inclined: here must be so much the deeper condemnation.

A thing, I am afraid, very little considered by parents, in reference to the children of their womb and loins; branches of themselves, whose tempers they make it their business to cultivate as they grow up. But, many parents have not only neglected this, but have made it their business to instil (as much as in them lay,) vicious inclinations into them: or they have so managed matters towards them, as to make them craspish, peevish, and froward, to embitter their tempers, and to lay foundations betimes, both of present and everlasting misery, in their very tempers, in their spoiled, or not improved tempers. Many parents might more mercifully, with more kindness, pluck out their children’s eyes, and cut off their limbs, than indulge the vicious humours which appear in them be times; and wherein is a foundation laid for their misery in this world, as well as for future and eternal misery, when their tempers are so spoiled, as to be cross, peevish, froward, discontented, quarrelsome. Alas! much of this might have been qualified, and prevented, betimes. But, in the mean time, 452that there is such a thing as better and worse nature, which, may, in different respects, make present and future misery, more or less, is out of all question. But,

[2.] That which is more considerable, is, that they must be plunged deeper into this death, who live in sin to the last, unconverted to God, and unreduced under the gospel, than they that never enjoyed a gospel: this must make a vast difference in the states of men. “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness more than light.” John iii. 19. When the gospel itself becomes deadly to men, that is a most terrible sort of death:—to die by a gospel-plague, is a most terrible way of dying! Death passed upon all, but it triumphs more, and with greater terror, over that part of the world where gospel light shines, but is wickedly resisted, opposed, sinned against, and the design of it counterwrought; that is, as in that mentioned place, it is expressed, “Men love darkness more than light:” the darkness better pleaseth them, is more grateful to them, as it gives them opportunity of being wicked still. The light offends men; they cannot endure (as it is in that context) to have their deeds brought to the light; resolved they are upon a course of wickedness. Where there is an honest, sincere mind, he affects light, runs into the light, that it may appear, that his works are wrought in God, that the divine tincture and impress that is upon his works, may show itself, and appear. There is that in them, which is very agreeable and congruous to the light. But, when men have a resolution of being wicked, then they are for a corner. “There is no darkness, or shadow of death, where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves:” that implies what they affect; they would have a shadow of death wherein to hide themselves: that which they covet is, “Where shall we be hid?” It is a night they seek, and a cloud; nocte peccatur. When there is a course of dispensation kept on foot towards men all their time, to keep them within the light, to hold them within the region and verge of gospel light; this is that which they could wish extinct: “O! that this light were out.” As they are brought speaking in that Isaiah xxx. 1. “Cause the holy One of Israel to cease from before us. His bright and glorious appearances, they are ungrateful and unwelcome to us. O! who will take away God, and that divine light, that shines so much to our disturbance and annoyance; we wish it gone.”

But more tolerable will it be to Sodom and Gomorrah, to Tyre and Sidon, in the day of judgment, than to Capernaum and Bethsaida, (as our Saviour inculcates in the xi. Matt. 22 and onwards, when he upbraids those cities, where his wonderful 453works were done,) where there were so bright and glorious appearances of divine power, attesting and bearing witness to that truth which he came to publish to the world. O! Woe, woe, to them, among whom there have been such glorious appearances of God, but counter-striven and resisted. Though there will be one common hell to all in time, yet, the hell of Sodom and Gomorrah will be a more tolerable hell, than theirs. And again,

The case must, in point of misery, be worse with them who, living under the gospel, had a better parentage, were born of godly parents, than with others with whom it was not so. And that upon a double account:—Because, that such would certainly devote them to God; and,—as they would be more intent upon educating them for God. Here, come in very great differences in the case of such, from the more common case.

First. I say, they that were born of religious parents, those parents would, by conscience of duty, be obliged and urged to devote them to God; to take care that those great and venerable names, the name of the Father, the name of the Son, and the name of the Holy Ghost, should, according to divine appointment, be early named upon them, to signify whose they were, and to whom they did belong. But they afterwards, when they are grown up, refuse to stand to that covenant, according to the tenour whereof so early a dedication was made of them. “We will not have our parents’ God to be our God.” Thy friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not. A horrid thing that were: but how horrid to forsake our God, and our father’s God. When man’s case shall, in this respect, be brought into judgment at the last day—Thou wast born of such and such parents, that recognised God’s right of thee be times; for it is only a recognition of God’s right. It is not the creation of any right to him, nothing can be given him, that was not his before, but only a recognizing his right, and this hath been done with solemnity. “But thou, when thou wast grown up, wouldst not stand to the covenant of thy father; thy father’s God should not be thy God.” How much more dreadful must be the case of such, than that of pagans, in the grossest darkness! And again,

Secondly. Such parents must be supposed to have educated them for God, pursuantly to their having devoted them to him. But, alas! many in our days, have counted it a glory to have broken loose out of the fetters of a pious education; to have thrown them off, torn their bonds, as Samson did his withes and cords; and therein they think they have shewed themselves mighty men; that this was a great piece of fortitude and 454courage, to outface God and heaven; and to bend themselves to a course of wickedness, in opposition to whatsoever of good principles were endeavoured to be implanted; that is, principles of truth, which were laboured to be infused and inlaid into their minds; and of practical truth, such as might have a tendency to form and govern their practice. Their godly parents did, no doubt, charge their own consciences with duty, in this kind, to teach their children the train of their ways be times, that “when they were old they might not depart from them.” But as for such as have formed their way, and broken loose, undoubtedly the child of a pagan, though it perish, yet perisheth under less guilt than such. And,

[4,] There cannot but be great differences, too, according as among those that live under the gospel; some have lived under a more powerful ministry than others: where the same gospel for substance is preached, it cannot but be acknowledged, that it is preached by some more convictively, with more pungency, and with greater aptitude to do good, than others: many are more closely urged, and dealt withal, from time to time, in the ministry of the word, than others are. And, according as men’s case may differ in this respect, so will this death, that passeth on them, have more or less of deadliness in it. And (as was said) when the gospel is “a savour of death,” so as that men die of a gospel plague, it is a fearful way of dying. But the savour of the gospel, or the odour, rather, (as that word should be read,) is stronger, as it is diffused by some than by others. But if it prove deadly, by how much the stronger, by how much the more of efficacy, so much the more, may it be said, doth the death that ensueth partake of the horror of death. And again,

[5.] There cannot but be great difference, too, according as some do sin against greater convictions of conscience than others. Having more of internal light let into their minds, and which, therefore, they are put to have a closer contest and grapple; the case cannot but be so much the worse, unto how much the more of conviction men do oppose themselves in a wicked course; convinced, but yet go on: convinced that they should turn to God, but never turn; that they should break off such wicked ways, but they persist in them; that they should engage in such and such ways of duty, but they decline them. That conscience which doth not govern, it doth judge, it doth doom, and doom so much the more heavily, by how much the more of resistance its tendency to govern meets with. And,

[6.] There must he deeper degrees of this misery and death; according as there have been stronger strivings of the 455Spirit of God; God still resisted and striven against. Where his gospel is, there his Spirit will more or less, and in one kind or other, beat work; but it works at liberty. God works in you “to will and to do of his own good pleasure.” And, I doubt the emphasis of that scripture, is not noted as it should be, and the correspondence of part to part in it. Phil ii. 12, 13. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh, (or is working) in you, to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Work because he worketh. There is the substance of the precept enforced by that which we are to consider as substantial in the motive. Do you work, be cause he worketh. But then, there is a circumstance in the precept, unto which a circumstance in the motive doth also correspond; work you with fear and trembling: Why? be cause God works at will and pleasure, under no obligation, but may desist; may give off, when he will. Now then, he being at perfect liberty, under no bonds or tie, he may strive longer with some, than he doth with others: and, according as he doth longer continue to strive, or as he doth more earnestly plead, (but yet in a way short of victorious, all-conquering grace, which bears all down before it,) so, the guilt cannot but be the greater, that is incurred by continual resistance; and, they must needs sink themselves so much the deeper into misery and death: they that have some taste of the good word of God, and been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and the powers of the world to come, and, yet sin themselves into such a state, as that their repentance becomes finally impossible. Perhaps, it may admit of a gentler meaning as to some; but that such an expression is used as admits of a latitude, there appears so much the more of divine wisdom in it. But it is plain, that many never do repent. By how much the more of vigorous efforts have been put forth upon them, without effect, so much the more, undoubtedly, must they finally incur of this misery, or sink the deeper into this death.

There is a sorer punishment, that is incurred by sinning against that gospel, wherein that Spirit breathes, than could be by sinning against the law of Moses; as in that Heb. x. 28 and onward. “If he that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who hath trod den under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unclean thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?” There lies the achme and height of the wickedness that appeal’s in this 456case: that is, that Spirit is a Spirit of grace, that they have been contending and striving against; that Spirit of all goodness, and love, and kindness, and benignity: to have striven against that Spirit, to the last breath, of how much sorer punishment shall such be thought worthy? The sinning against one’s own conscience, it is doing a violence to one’s self, and to what God hath made superior and governing in us, did appoint it to be so. But this is a more immediate and direct affront to heaven, when resistance is made to the Spirit of God himself, who insinuates, slides into the mind, repeats and inculcates from time; and still in vain. It is a fearful thing when men do engage in a continual war with their own consciences,—it is unnatural; and it is a great offence against God too. Heathens have thought so; as particularly Marcus Antoninus: “that warned men, if they would live well, they must live with God, and keep up a conversation with God, and that (saith he) w shall do, if we do not offer violence to, and tear that vicarious God that is in us, which God hath set over every man to be the guide of his life.” But when an affront is offered to God himself, the Supreme Good, (as I may say,) not to that vicarious God, but to the very Divine Throne: this is a fearful thing to do so. And so it is when men are continually fighting against that Spirit, that breathes in the gospel. And,

[7.] I might add that, undoubtedly, men’s guilt and misery must be greater and deeper, according as they do arrive to great pitches of sin. As such come more explicitly to hate every thing of goodness, to deride and scorn it, according to the gradations that are observable in the beginning of the first psalm, they at length seat themselves in the scorner’s chair; they that make it their business to ridicule religion or godliness; or they that sink themselves into deeper degrees of sensuality, why, according as the wickedness in which they wallow is fouler and grosser, so it cannot be but their misery must be the greater in which they involve themselves. And,

[8.] They must needs be in the worst case, in point of misery, that are more instrumental in spreading wickedness in the world; whose wickedness is more diffusive; who are mere partakers of other men’s sins. There can be no such thing as supererogation, in point of merit, by good works; but, no doubt, there may be in point of demerit, by wicked works, according as men do draw in more accomplices, and do more join in a conspiracy against God and heaven. So much the more guilt, so much the more miserable must they be. And again,

[9.] Such as are wicked in public stations, they must proportionably 457be more guilty and more miserable; wicked magistrates and wicked ministers, according to the greater hurt that they do, or the less good that they do, being intrusted with such talents, or having such power, such opportunities improvable for good, put into their hands.

And lastly, coeteris paribus—They that live longer in sin, must sink deeper into death, supposing all things concur equally, the longer the worse. The sinner of a hundred years old, he is the more deeply and dreadfully accursed. As in that Isaiah lxv. 20. So we see there cannot but be different gradations, or graduate differences in that death, which, in the kind and nature of it, is common to all.

This doth claim somewhat of general use, which, I cannot insist on now: no subject can claim it more than this doth, to which we can apply, or turn ourselves, as you may hear afterwards.

« Prev Lecture XXXII. Preached June 23, 1694. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection