Page images
PDF
EPUB

from all its labours for thus we read it written of thee, “ There the wicked cease from troubling, and there the weary be at rest.”

Besides, it is, 0 grave, a body that hath been sweetly embalmed by a virtuous, pious, peaceable conversation, by several inward openings and out. pourings of the Spirit of life, by much patience and meekness in strong trials and afflictions : receive it, and let it enjoy in thee, what was once deeply impressed on her own heart, and in a due season written out with her own hand, a sabbath in the grave : for thus also we find it recorded of our Lord and her Lord, that he enjoyed the rest of his last sabbath in

[ocr errors]

the grave.

But we know thee, O grave, to be also a devourer, and yet we can freely deliver up the body into thee. There was in it a contracted corruptibility, dishonour, and weakness ; take them as thy proper prey, they belong to thee, and we would not withhold them from thee : freely swallow them up for ever, that they may appear no more.

Yet know, O grave, there is in the body, considered as once united to such a soul, a divine relation to the Lord of life ; and this thou must not, thou canst not dissolve or destroy. But know, and even before thee, and over thee be it spoken, that there is a season hastening wherein we shall expect it again from thee in incorruption, honour, and power.

We now sow it into thee in dishonour, but expect it again returned from thee in glory ; we now sow it into thee, in weakness, we expect it again in power ; we now sow it into thee a natural body, we look for it again from thee a spiritual body.

And when thou hast fulfilled that end for which the Prince of life, who took thee captive, made thee to serve, then shalt thou who hast devoured, be thyself also swallowed up ; for thus it is written of thee, “ O death, I will be thy plague, O grave, I will be thy destruction.” And then shall we sing over thee what also is written of thee, “ O death, where is now thy sting? O grave, where is now thy victory ?" Amen.

Note. A line or two is altered in this speech, to sait it more to the understanding and the sense of the present age.

DISCOURSE XII.

THE NATURE OF THE PUNISHMENTS IN HELL. iwowano

Mark ix. 46.

Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not

quenched.

INTRODUCTION.

TH

VESE words are a short description of hell,

by the lips of the Son of God, who came down from heaven : and he who lay in the bosom of his Father, and was intimate in all the counsels of his mercy and justice, must be supposed to know what the terrors and the wrath of God are, as well as his compassion and his goodness.

It is confessed, that a discourse on this dreadful subject is not a direct ministration of grace and the glad tidings of salvation, yet it has a great and happy tendency to the same end, even the salvation of sinful men ; for it awakens them to a more piercing sight, and to a more keen sensation of their own guilt and danger ; it possesses their spirits with a more lively sense of their misery, it fills them with a holy dread of divine punishment, and excites the powerful passion of fear to make them fly from the wrath to come, and betake themselves to the grace of God revealed in the gospel.

The blessed Saviour himself, who was the most perfect image of his Father's love, and the prime minister of his grace, publishes inore of these terrors to the world, and preaches hell and damnation to sinners more than all the prophets or teachers that ever went before him ; and several of the apostles imitate their Lord in this practice: they kindle the flames of hell in their epistles, they thunder through the very hearts and consciences of men with the voice of damnation and eternal misery, to make stupid sinners feel as much of these terrors in the present prospect as is possible, in order to escape the actual sensation of them in time to come.

Such awful discourses are many times also of excellent use to keep the children of God, and the disciples of Jesus, in a holy and watchful frame, and to affright them from returning to sin and folly, and from the indulgence of any temptation, by setting these terrors of the Lord before their eyes. O may these words of his terror, from the lips of one of the meanest of his ministers, be attended with divine power from the convincing and sanctifying Spirit, that they may answer these happy ends and purposes, that they may excite a solemn reverence of the dreadful majesty of God in all our souls, and awaken us to repentance for every sin, and a more watchful course of holiness!

Let us then consider the expression in my text : when our Saviour mentions the word hell, he adds, “where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched ;” in which description we may read the nature of this punishment, and the perpetuity of it.

First, We shall consider the nature of this punishment, as it is represented by the metaphors which our Saviour uses; and if I were to give the most natural and proper sense of this representation, I would say that our Saviour might borrow this figure of speech from these three considerations.

1. Worms and fire are the two most general ways whereby the bodies of the dead are destroyed ; for whether they are buried or not buried, worms devour those who by the custom of their country are not burnt with fire: and perhaps he might refer to the

words of Isa. Ixvi. 24. where the prophet seenis to • foretel the punishment of those who will not receive the gospel, when it shall be preached to all nations :

they," says he, (that is the true Israel, the saints of God, or Christians,)“ they shall go forth and look upon the carcases of the men who have transgressed against me, for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched,' and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” It is highly probable that this is only a metaphor referring to the punishment of the souls of obstinate unbelievers in hell, for it would be but a very small punishment indeed, if only their dead bodies were devoured by worms or fire, or rather no punishment at all besides a memorial of their sin.

2. Consider, the gnawing of worms and the burning of fire are some of the most smart and severe torments that a living man can feel in the flesh therefore the vengeance of God, upon the souls of obstinate sinners, is set forth by it in our Saviour's discourse ; and it was probably well known amongst the Jews, as appears by some of the Apocryphal writings, Judith xvi. 17. “ Woe to the nation that rises up against my kindred ; the Lord' Almighty will take vengeance of them in the day of judgment, putting fire and worms in their flesh, and they shall feel them and weep for ever.” And Ecclesiasticus vii. 16, 17. “Number, not thyself among the multitude of sinners but remember the wrath will not tarry long. Humble thy soul greatly, for the vengeance of the ungodly is fire and worms."

;

« PreviousContinue »