The Crown and Glory of Christianity, or,
HOLINESS, the Only Way to Happiness
The Necessity, Excellency, Rarity, and Beauty of Holiness
Thomas Brooks, 1662
II. I come now to the second thing, and that is to prove the truth of the proposition—namely, that without holiness, men can never see God—and be eternally happy. Without holiness on earth, no one shall ever come to a blessed vision and fruition of God in heaven. Now this great and weighty truth I shall make good by an induction of particulars, thus:
1. First, God has by very plain and clear scriptures bolted and barred the door of heaven and happiness against all unholy ones.Witness 1 Cor. 6:9-11, "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." Heaven is an undefiled inheritance, and none who are defiled can enter into the possession of it, 1 Pet. 1:4. When the angels fell from their righteousness, heaven rejected them; it would no longer hold them; and will it now accept of the unrighteous? will it now entertain and welcome them? Surely not! Such sinners make the very earth to mourn and groan now; and shall they make heaven to mourn and groan hereafter? Surely not! What though the serpent did wind himself into an earthy paradise—yet none of the seed of the serpent, so remaining, shall ever be able to wind themselves into a heavenly paradise!
Witness Gal. 5:19-21, "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." Before the wicked go to hell, God tells them again and again that they shall not inherit the kingdom of God. By the kingdom of God we are to understand the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of glory. Now the kingdom of heaven, of glory, is called the kingdom of God—
1. Because he has prepared it.
2. Because it is a royal gift that he confers and bestows upon his little, little flock, Mat. 20:23; Luke 12:32. Augustus, in his solemn feasts, gave trifles to some, and gold to others. The trifles of this world God often gives to the worst and wickedest of men; but the kingdom of heaven he only gives to his bosom-friends, Rev. 4:10-11, and 20:6; Dan. 4:16-17.
3. Because with him they shall forever reign in the fruition of it.
And so that in John 3, Jesus answered and said unto him, "Truly, truly, I say unto you, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." To give a little light into the words: "Truly, truly:" the Greek is "amen, amen" [truth, truth, or truly, truly]. The word amen is Hebrew, and in the Old Testament is most commonly used by way of wishing or imprecation; but here, and in other places of the New Testament, the sense of it is altered from the way of wishing to the way of affirming. This phrase, "Amen, amen," or Truly, truly," imports,
[1.] First, The truth and certainty of the things delivered; for the word "amen" does properly signify truth.
[2.] Secondly, This double asseveration is never used but in matters of greatest weight and importance: the matters here spoken of are of a very celestial and sublime nature.
[3.] Thirdly, This affirmation, "Truly, truly," is a vehement confirmation of what Christ speaks.
[4.] Fourthly, This affirmation calls aloud for the greatest observation and most serious attention of the soul to what Christ is a-saying.
"I say unto you:" "I," who you have confessed to be a teacher sent from God; "I," who lie in the bosom of the Father, John 1:18; "I," who am of the cabinet-council of heaven; "I," who know his heart and all his secrets, Rev. 3:14; "I," who am the faithful and true witness, and cannot lie; "I," who am called the Amen," the truth itself; "I," who have the keys of heaven and hell at my own belt, Rev. 1:18; "I," who opens and no man shuts, and "I," who shuts and no man opens; "I," who shall be your Judge in the great day, "I say unto you," etc.
"Except a man be born again:" A man, be he old or young, learned or unlearned, high or low, rich or poor, knowing or ignorant, circumcised or uncircumcised, under this form or that, a member of this church or that, let his disposition be ever so sincere, and his abilities ever so high, and his outward life ever so blameless and harmless; yet, except this man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God, Romans 2:28-29.
"Be born again:" Except a man be first unmade, and new-made up again; except he be made a new creature, yes, a new creation of God, 2 Cor. 5:17, there is no seeing of the kingdom of God. The whole frame of the old man must be dissolved, and a new frame erected—else there is no heaven to be enjoyed. The kingdom of God is a divine kingdom, and there is no possession of it without a divine nature. A new head without a new heart, a new lip without a new life—will never bring a man to this kingdom of light. That man is for the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of God is for that man—who has got the kingdom of God within him. [2 Pet. 1:4; 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:6; Luke 17:21; Romans 14:17.] If the kingdom of grace does not enter into you here—you shall never enter into the kingdom of glory hereafter. A new heart is for a new heaven, and a new heaven is for a new heart. "Except a man be born again," except a man be born from above. Generation in some sense is from below—but regeneration is only from above, and without this there is no fruition of God above.
"He cannot see the kingdom of God." The Scripture speaks of several cannots.
[1.] First, There is a NATURAL cannot.Now, every son and daughter of Adam is by nature born under a cannot. They are all born under a cannot believe, a cannot repent, a cannot love God, a cannot walk with God, a cannot see God, a cannot enjoy God: 1 Cor. 2:14, "The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." A blind man cannot see colors—nor can a natural man discern spiritual things. They are too high, they are too sublime for him; they are mysteries that he cannot understand, that he cannot unriddle. The natural man can ascend no higher than nature, as the water can rise no higher than the spring from whence it comes. The Scripture sets such sad souls below the ox and the donkey, Isaiah 1:3. Take human nature—civilized and moralized, refined and raised, cultured, strengthened, and improved to the utmost—yet all this cannot enable a man to do a supernatural action above itself. But,
[2.] Secondly, There is a CONTRACTED and an habituated cannot; and of this cannot the prophet speaks in Jer. 6:10, "To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach: they have no delight in it." They had by their carnality, impiety, sensuality, security, and obstinacy; contracted upon their poor souls such deafness, wretchedness, unteachableness, and untractableness, that they could neither love the word nor like it; they could neither take pleasure nor delight in it; nay, they could neither hear it nor bear it, though it ever so nearly concerned the internal and eternal welfare of their souls. And of this cannot the apostle speaks in 2 Pet. 2:14, "Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: a heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children." [… this phrase of having eyes full of the adulteress answers to that of the rhetorician, who, describing an unchaste, lascivious person, rhetorically said of him that he had whores in his eyes.] By their riot and excess, by their lasciviousness and wantonness, by their looseness and uncleanness which they had habituated and accustomed themselves unto—they brought upon themselves a cursed necessity of sinning, so that they could not cease from sin.
They mourn over sin—and yet they cannot cease from sin; they resolve against sin—yet they cannot cease to sin; they pray against sin—yet they cannot cease to sin; they make many promises, vows, and covenants against sin—yet they cannot cease from sin, their souls being habituated and accustomed thereunto: Jer 2:20, "For of old time I have broken your yoke, and burst your bands; and you said I will not transgress"—I will never more play the harlot; but were they as good as their word? no!—"for upon every high hill and under every green tree they wandered, playing the harlot."
I have read of a man who, in the time of his sickness, was so terrified in his conscience for his sins, that he made the very bed to shake upon which he lay, and cried out all night long, "I am damned, I am damned!" and made many great promises and protestations of amendment of life, if God would be pleased to recover him. In a little while he did recover, and being recovered, he was as base and vile, as wretched and wicked, as ever he was before.
Custom in sin takes away all conscience of sin: Jer. 13:23, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil." The Ethiopian cannot make his black skin white; he cannot change the hue or the color of it by washing; to attempt this is but labor in vain. Nor can the leopard change his spots. No more can a poor sinner who has habituated and accustomed himself to sin, who is desperately enthralled to sin—turn from his sin. The spots of the leopard are not in him by accident—but by nature; and they are such which no art can cure, nor water wash off; because they are not only in the skin—but in the flesh and bones, in the sinews and most inward parts.
By custom, sin has bespotted not only the skin, the life, the outside of a poor sinner—but also the very heart and soul of a poor sinner, so as that he is never able to wash off these spots. Ambrose reports of one Theotimus, that, having a disease upon his body, his physician told him, that except he did abstain from intemperance, drunkenness, uncleanness, etc., he was likely to lose his eyes. His heart being habituated to sin, and set upon wickedness, he answered, "Farewell sweet light then." But,
[3.] Thirdly, As there is a contracted cannot, an habituated cannot—so there is a JUDICIAL cannot. The Lord inflicts a judicial cannot upon many people in judgment: they cannot return from their sins, they cannot withstand a temptation, they cannot lay hold on eternal life, they cannot make sure work for their souls, they cannot leave their bosom-lusts, they cannot prefer Christ above all the world, they cannot make provision for eternity, they cannot see the things that belong to their peace, etc.; and this cannot the Lord in wrath has brought upon them! Isaiah 6:9-10, "Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes (or besmear their eyes). Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed." They would not see—so they shall not see; they would not hear—so they shall not hear; they would not understand—so they shall not understand; they would not be converted—so they shall not be converted; they would not be healed—so they shall not be healed.
When men are stiffly and desperately resolved upon their sinful courses, when men grow stubborn, rebellious, licentious, and willfully wink and shut their eyes against the light, and stop their ears against the truth—God in his just judgment gives them up to dullness, stupidness, blindness, darkness! Isaiah 44:18, "They have not known nor understood: for he has shut their eyes that they cannot see" (or he has plastered up their eyes from seeing); their minds so closed so that they cannot understand!" God in his righteous judgment casts a judicial cannot upon them; he has plastered up their eyes so that they cannot see, and he has shut up their minds so that they cannot understand the great concerns of their souls.
Now while men lie under these sad cannots, they can never see the kingdom of God. These three cannots, like a threefold cord, bind poor sinners, so as that they can never come to a sight or fruition of God in grace or glory—until they are delivered from these cannots by a new birth, by being born again.
"They cannot see the kingdom of God;" that is, they cannot enter into it, they cannot enjoy it, they can have no child's part or portion in it—except they are new born, except they pass the pangs of the second birth. Let their education be ever so sweet, their illumination ever so great, their profession ever so amiable, and their lives ever so unblamably—yet except they are new born, it had been good for them that they had never been born. And thus you see by plain scriptures, that the Lord has bolted the gates of glory against all unholy people.
2.A second argument to prove that without holiness there is no happiness, etc., is this: Without holiness men are strangers to God; and therefore, without holiness they cannot be admitted to a cohabitation with God. God loves not to dwell with strangers, nor to associate himself with strangers. Now such are all unholy people: Eph. 2:12, "That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel" (or, being far removed from the citizenship of Israel), "and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." Here are five "withouts" in the words:
1. They were without God, the author of hope.
2. They were without Christ, the foundation of hope.
3. They were without the church, the place of hope.
4. They were without the covenants of promise—that is, they were without the precious promises, which God in his covenant had made and oftentimes renewed with the Israelites, and therefore called covenants in the plural number—the ground and reason of hope.
5. And, lastly, They were without the grace of hope: they had no hope of communion with Christ, no hope of fellowship with the saints, no hope of any interest in the promise, no hope of reconciliation to God here, nor any hope of a fruition of God hereafter.
And thus you see what strangers they were to the Lord, and to the great concerns of their own souls. God of old would not have strangers come into his sanctuary; and do you think, then—that he will ever admit such into heaven? Surely not! Ezek. 44:6, 7, 9, "Say to the rebellious house of Israel—This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Enough of your detestable practices, O house of Israel! In addition to all your other detestable practices, you brought foreigners uncircumcised in heart and flesh into my sanctuary, desecrating my temple while you offered me food, fat and blood, and you broke my covenant. This is what the Sovereign Lord says—No foreigner uncircumcised in heart and flesh is to enter my sanctuary, not even the foreigners who live among the Israelites."
Heaven would be no heaven were there any strangers there. Such as had no holiness within, nor any holiness without; such as had no holiness in their hearts, nor any holiness in their lives—God would not have them to enter into his sanctuary; and, therefore, certainly such he will never allow to enter into heaven. [Mat 7:21-23, 25:11-12, and 22:11-13.] If God shuts the doors of an earthly tabernacle against such as were strangers to him, to his covenant, to his church, and to themselves—will he not much more shut the door of his heavenly tabernacle against such who are strangers to him, and to his Christ, and to his word—yes, who are strangers to their own souls, and to all the concerns of another world? And such are all those who are uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh.
Princes' palaces are not for strangers—but for sons, friends, acquaintances, favorites; just so, is the palace of heaven. We will not admit strangers to cohabit with us; and will God admit such to cohabit with him, who never had any acquaintance or familiarity with him? Surely not! In history we read of such towns and cities as would not admit strangers to inhabit among them; and such a city is that above, Exod. 33:12, 17. It has been long since concluded, that—in heaven there shall be no strangers: none shall be admitted into that state but such as God knows by name. What a dishonor and derogation would that be to the place!
3. Unholy people have fellowship and familiarity with Satan, and therefore, doubtless, God will have no familiarity nor fellowship with them.2 Cor. 6:14-16. As righteousness can have no fellowship with unrighteousness, nor light with darkness, nor Christ with Belial, nor heaven with hell; no more can a holy God have any communion or fellowship with unholy souls, for they are Satan's household, Luke 11:21; Rev. 18:2. He keeps possession of them as a man does of his house, and has familiarity with them as a man has with those of his house: he is their father, and they are his children, John 8:44; and look, what familiarity a father has with his children, that has an unholy devil with unholy souls.
A workman cannot be more familiar with his tools than Satan is with unholy souls; and therefore he is said to work in the children of disobedience, as a smith works in his forge, or as an artificer works in his shop, Eph. 2:2. Unholy people have bosom-fellowship with Satan: 1 John 5:19, "And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in wickedness;" or in that wicked one the devil, as the Greek will bear; they lie, as it were, in the bosom of Satan, as the child lies in the bosom of the mother, or as the wife lies in the bosom of the husband, or as a friend lies in the bosom of his friend. Unholy people partake with him at his table; they eat with him, and drink with him, and converse with him: 1 Cor. 10:21, "You cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: you cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils."
Ambrose brings in the devil boasting against Christ, and challenging Judas as his own, thus: "He is not yours, Jesus, he is mine; his thoughts beat for me; he eats with you—but is fed by me; he takes bread from you—but money from me; he drinks with you, and sells your blood to me." By all which you may see what fellowship and familiarity there is between Satan and a sinner. Now what is this less than blasphemy, to assert that a holy God will have fellowship with those who have fellowship with the devil? God has not cast Satan out of heaven, only that he may make room for Satan's slaves in heaven. If heaven was too holy to hold unholy devils, it will be found at last to be too holy to hold unholy souls. Certainly they shall not lie in the bosom of God, who have the devil for their bedfellow.
4. Fourthly, Unholy people are full of contrariety to God;their natures, principles, practices, aims, minds, wills, affections, judgments, intentions, and resolutions, are contrary to God, his name, nature, being, truth, and glory. [Lev. 26:21-24, 27-28, 40, 41; Isaiah 58:4-6; Jer. 44:16-18; 2:25, and 18:11-2.] You may as soon bring east and west, north and south, light and darkness, heaven and hell together—as you shall bring a holy God and unholy souls together. Antipathies will never incorporate; as soon may midnight be married to the noonday, as a holy God embrace an unholy sinner. That unholy people are made up of contrarieties to God, is most evident, as you may see in Isaiah 22:12-13, "The Lord, the Lord Almighty, called you to weep and mourn. He told you to shave your heads in sorrow for your sins and to wear clothes of sackcloth to show your remorse. But instead, you dance and play; you slaughter sacrificial animals, feast on meat, and drink wine. 'Let's eat, drink, and be merry,' you say. 'What's the difference, for tomorrow we die.'" These sad souls practice quite contrary to what the Lord calls for at their hands. He calls them to weeping and mourning—and behold joy and gladness; he calls them to fasting—and behold, there is nothing but feasting, carousing, and making merry and jovial—and that in contempt of God and his dreadful judgments, Romans 8:7; James 4:4.
Unholy people are like the rainbow: now the rainbow is never on that side of the world that the sun is on; but whensoever it appears, it is still in opposition against the sun. If the sun be in the east, the rainbow is in the west, etc. Just so, unholy souls, in all their actings and walkings, will still be opposite to God; they will still be cross and contrary to him: John 8:38, "I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father (the Devil, verse 44)." Unholy hearts are full of the highest strains of contrariety and opposition against the Lord. I have read of a king, who, having received a blow from the hand of God, took a solemn oath to be revenged on him; and ordained that for ten years' space no man should pray to him, speak of him, nor, so long as he was in authority, to believe in God. Oh the vanity, the contrariety, and blasphemy of this prince!
Now, we will not admit such to be about us, who are made up of contrarieties to us: and will God, will God? Heaven and earth, fire and water, the wolf and the lamb, the winds and the sea will sooner accord, than a holy God and an unholy heart. There can be no amity where there is a spiritual antipathy.
5. Fifthly, Without holiness no man can have any spiritual communion with God in this world.He may hear—but he can have no communion with God in hearing without holiness. He may pray—but he can have no communion with God in prayer without holiness. He may come to the sacrament—but he can have no communion with God in the sacrament without holiness. He may come into the communion of saints—but he can have no communion with God in the communion of saints without holiness. He may read and meditate—but he can have no communion with God in reading and meditation without holiness. Deut. 23:14, "For the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you, and to give up your enemies before you; therefore shall your camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in you, and turn away from you." "Keep up holiness among you, and you shall keep me among you," says God; "but if you turn away from holiness, I will undoubtedly turn away from you!"
A holy God will keep company with none but those who are holy. Holiness is the bond which ties God and souls together. God will cleave close to those who in holiness cleave fast to him; but if he see uncleanness and wickedness among you, he will certainly turn away from you. The Holy Spirit gives the lie to those who say they have fellowship with God—and yet maintain familiarity and fellowship with sin: 1 John 1:6, "If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness—we lie." The apostle dares give the lie to any man, without fearing the stab, who pretends to communion with God—and yet walks in darkness.
Men may be much in ordinances—and yet, for lack of holiness, may have no communion at all with God in ordinances, Isaiah 1:11-18; and though communion with God in ordinances is the very life and soul of ordinances—yet multitudes who enjoy ordinances can content and satisfy themselves without that which is the very life, soul, and quintessence of ordinances. There are many who cry out, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord," who have no communion with the Lord of the temple at all, Jer. 7:4-12. Though unholy people may trade much in ordinances—yet they will never make any earnings, any advantage by all their trading and stir, because they cannot reach to communion with God in them, which is the only means of being enriched by them, Isaiah 29:13; Ezek. 24:21-22, and 33:30-32. As many men rise early and go to bed late, and make a great deal of stir and effort to be rich in the world—and yet, for lack of a stock, nothing comes on it; they are poor still, and beggarly still, and low and poor in the world still: so many rise early, and go late to ordinances, they exercise themselves much in religious duties—and yet nothing comes on it; their souls are poor and beggarly and threadbare still. And no wonder, for they lack a stock of holiness to trade with.
Remigius, a judge, says that the devil in those parts did use to give money to witches which at first did appear to be good and current coin—but after a while it turned to dry leaves. Ah, sirs, all duties and ordinances to a man who lacks holiness, will be found at last to be but as dry leaves, to be sapless and lifeless, and heartless and comfortless to him. Now if without holiness no man can have any spiritual communion or fellowship with God here, then certainly without holiness no man can have a glorious communion with God hereafter. If without holiness God will not take us into his arms on earth—then undoubtedly without holiness God will never put us into his bosom in heaven. But to proceed.
6. Unholy people are fools; and what should such do in the presence of God, who is wisdom itself?The fool and the ungodly man are synonymous words, signifying the same thing, in Scripture: Psalm 14:1, "The fool" (that is, the wicked, the unholy person) "has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good;" Jer. 4:22, "For my people are foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have no understanding: they are wise to do evil—but to do good they have no knowledge;" Proverbs 1:7, "Fools despise wisdom and instruction;" that is, wicked and ungodly men despise wisdom and instruction. And to show that the world is full of such fools, he uses the word in the plural no less than sixteen times in this book of the Proverbs. I shall open this truth a little more to you, by proving that they have all the characteristic notes and properties of fools; so that one face is not more like another than a fool is like a wicked man, or than a wicked man is like a fool;
(1.) First, A fool prefers toys and trifles—above things of greatest worth.Proverbs 1:29. He prefers a shiny brass penny—above a piece of gold; a pretty baby doll—above a rich inheritance; an apple which pleases his eye—above a pearl of great price. Just so, wicked and ungodly men, they prefer their lusts before the Lord. Isaiah 65:12, "I will destine you for the sword, and you will all bend down for the slaughter; for I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen. You did evil in my sight and chose what displeases me." Upon choice, they preferred the honors, the riches, the bravery, and glory of the world—above their own souls and the great concernments of another world. [Such a one was Cardinal Borbonius, who professed he would not leave his part in Paris for a portion in paradise.] Such fools were Laban and Nabal, in the Old Testament, (whose names by inversion of letters are the same, and the latter signifies a fool,) and such were the two rich fools in the New Testament, Luke 12:16-22, and 16:19-31.
I have read of the foolish people of Ceylon, who preferred a consecrated ape's tooth—above an incredible mass of treasure. Such fools are all unholy people, who prefer the toys, the trifles of this world—above the pleasures and treasures which are at God's right hand. The world is full of such fools.
Says one—"If you behold the lives of men, you will judge the whole world to be a house of fools!" Ah, friends! What folly can be compared to that of men's spending their time, their strength, their lives, their souls—in getting the great things of this world, and neglecting that one thing necessary, the salvation of their souls! Oh, what vanity is it to prefer a smoke of honor, a blast of fame, a dream of pleasure, a wedge of gold, a Babylonish garment, and such like transitory trifles and trash—before a blessed eternity!
(2.) Secondly, Fools make no improvement of advantages and opportunities which are put into their hands.Proverbs 17:16, "Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he has no heart to it?" [Like grasshoppers, they sing and sport away their precious time and opportunities of mercy, etc.] It is to no purpose to put a price into the hand--if folly be bound up in the heart. If a man had as much wealth as would buy all the grace, all the peace, all the comforts, and all the wisdom in the world; yet if he has neither wit nor will to make an improvement of his wealth--what good would his wealth do him? To what purpose is the market open, and a large sum put into the buyer's hands--if the buyer has neither wisdom nor heart to buy? Unholy people are such spiritual fools: though they have a sum, an opportunity put into their hands, which if improved might make them forever happy; yet they have no heart to make an improvement of the means and advantages that might do them good to all eternity. [Proverbs 1:20, seq.; Isaiah 53:1; 55:1-2; Mat. 25:3, 6, 10; 23:37; Luke 19:41-42, etc.]
Ah, what opportunities have unsanctified people to get changed hearts, renewed natures, purged consciences, reformed lives, to get an interest in Christ, to obtain the favor of God, to procure pardon of sin, to make provision for their immortal souls! But they have no hearts to improve these opportunities--and so by neglecting of them they cut the throat of their own souls. And this will be the worm that will lie gnawing of them to all eternity--that they have let slip the opportunities of grace--that they have trifled away the seasons of mercy. Ah, sirs, there is no fool compared to that fool that has an opportunity put into his hand to make himself forever happy—and yet has no heart to improve it. The hottest place in hell will be the portion of such fools, Mat. 11:21-22.
The little bee, so soon as flowers appear, goes abroad, views the mirthful various colors, and the diversity of the flowery fields--sucks the sweetest of them, carries the load, makes a wondrous honey-comb--and so early hoards up honey in summer against winter. And so the little busy ant in summer provides food for winter, Proverbs 6:6-8; the stork, the crane, and the swallow know their seasons and opportunities, Jer. 8:7. All these poor little creatures are not so much below man in nature, as they are above sinful man in worth, wisdom, and work. These improve their summer seasons, their harvest hours; and yet such spiritual fools are wicked men--who let slip such seasons of grace and mercy--who cannot be redeemed with ten thousand worlds. Ah, how is man fallen from his primitive nobility and glory--that these little busy creatures are propounded as a pattern of diligence and wisdom unto him!
The ancients painted Opportunity with a hairy forehead—but bald behind, to signify that while a man has it before him, he may lay hold on it—but if he lets it slip away, he cannot pull it back again. There is a great truth in what the Rabbi has long since said, "Every man has his hour, and he who slips his season ,may never meet with the like again." There are many thousand spiritual fools in hell, who find this true by experience, and therefore now they bewail their folly—but all too late, all too late!
(3.) Thirdly, Natural fools are very inconstant;they are never long in one mind. Now they are for this--and afterwards for that; now in this mind--and afterwards in that. Their minds are more changeable than the moon; they turn oftener than the weathercock, they are only constant in inconstancy. Such spiritual fools are all unholy people. For now they are for a righteous cause, and before long they are against it. Now they are for God, and later they are against him. Now they are for Christ, and by and by they are against him. Now they cry out "Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest," Mat. 21:9, 15; but did they hold in this mind long? No! their mind is presently changed, and they cry out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Luke 23:21. Now they are for the saints, and anon they are against them. Now they cry up the gospel, and presently they make opposition against the gospel. Now they kindly embrace the gospel—but as soon as they found it restrain their lusts and carnal liberties, they made fierce opposition against the gospel. This week they are for ordinances, and the next they are against ordinances. This hour they will forsake their sins, and the next hour they will return to their sins as the "dog to his vomit, and as the sow to her wallowing in the mire," 2 Peter 2:20-22. Now they are for this way, and afterwards for that. Now they are for this opinion, and shortly for that. Mow they are for this religion, and tomorrow they are for another religion, 2 Kings 17:33; like Baldwin a French lawyer, of whom it is said that every day he had a new religion—but was constant in none. This moment you shall hear them bless, and the next moment you shall hear them curse: James 3:9-10, "Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing."
Louis the Second would swear, and then kiss his crucifix, and then swear again more confidently, and kiss his crucifix again more devoutly. Now because this age is full of such swearing fools, and happily this Treatise may fall into some of their hands, give me permission to say, that it is observable that the word in the Hebrew which the Scripture uses for swearing, is always used in the passive voice, to note, say some, that a man should not swear but when an oath is laid upon him, and he driven to it. The word also has a signification of seven, as having reference, say some, to the seven spirits of God before the throne, before whom we swear, and therefore should never swear but in "truth, righteousness, and judgment," Jer. 4:2; Rev. 1:4, and 5:6. One day you shall have these spiritual fools, these profane fools, crying out, "Oh heaven, heaven, heaven! Oh that we may go to heaven! and the next day you shall see them live as if there were neither heaven nor hell! One day with Balaam you shall have them wish, "Oh that we might die the death of the righteous!" And the next day with Saul you shall have them a-persecuting of the righteous to death! One day you shall have them cry out, "What shall we do to be saved?" and the next day you shall see them live as if they were resolved to be damned. Thus these spiritual fools, like natural fools--are always fickle and inconstant.
(4.) Fourthly, Fools delight to sport and play with such things as are most hurtful, pernicious, and dangerous to them, as you all know that have observed anything of natural fools. "The wicked freely strut about, when what is vile is honored among men." Psalm 12:8. "A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct." Proverbs 10:23. Evil conduct is the fool's bauble, the fool's fiddle. Fools take great delight and pleasure in doing evil. Sin and wickedness are a sport or recreation to a fool. It is a great pleasure and merriment to a fool, to do wickedly. Proverbs 14:9, "Fools make a mock of sin." They make a jeer of sin--which they should fear more than hell itself! They make a sport of sin--which will prove a matter of damnation to them. They make a pastime, a game of sin--which will them miserable to all eternity. They make a mock of sin on earth--for which the devil will mock and flout them forever in hell.
Justice will at last turn over such fools to Satan, who will be sure to return mock for mock, jeer for jeer, and flout for flout. Those who love such kind of pastime shall have enough of it in hell. All unbelievers are such fools--for they delight and take pleasure in sin, which is the most corrupting and dangerous thing in the world.
Psalm 62:4, "They delight in lies," Proverbs 1:22. Though every lie deserves a stab from God—yet spiritual fools make but a sport of them. It is said of Epaminondas, a heathen, that he abhorred a jesting lie; this heathen in the great day will put such liars to the blush who delight in lies.
"They love to indulge in evil pleasures in broad daylight." 2 Peter 2:13. "They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations." Isaiah 66:3. "And so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness." 2 Thessalonians 2:12. Not that there is any real delight in intemperance; for if there were, then Heliogabalus, an exceeding intemperate person, would have been more happy than Adam in paradise. Apicius was the greatest glutton that ever was; at length he hanged himself: such shall hang in hell at last, who delight to abuse many at once; the creatures, their Creator, and their own souls and bodies. Well, sirs! Sin is the poison of the soul, the nakedness of the soul, the disease of the soul, the burden of the soul—and if God's mercy does not prevent it—sin will prove the eternal bane of the soul. Oh, then, how great is their folly, who delight in sin, and who make a sport of it!
[5.] Fifthly, Natural fools are taken more with the outward shine, luster, beauty, and glory of things—than they are taken with the intrinsic virtue, value, and worth of them;they are more taken with the shine and luster of gold, jewels, and precious stones, than they are with the worth and value of them. Just so, unholy hearts are taken more with the form of godliness than they are with the power, 2 Tim. 3:5; they are taken more with a name to live, with a name of being holy, than they are taken with holiness itself, Rev. 3:1-2. Many have the name of Christians to their condemnation, not to their salvation, Isaiah 58:2-6; Mat. 1:21; Zechariah 7:4-7; Mat. 23. They are taken more with the outward shine and pomp of duties, than they are taken with the spiritualness and holiness of duties; they are taken more with what of man is in duty, than they are taken with that of God which is in a duty; they are taken more with raised notions, than they are taken with raised affections; they are taken more with some witty, rhetorical expressions in duty, than they are taken with the holy movings and breathings of the spirit in duty, Ezek. 33:30-32. All which speaks them out to be spiritual fools; and indeed no fools compared to those who are taken more with the shadow of religion—than they are with the substance of religion; who are taken more with the outside of godliness than they are with the inside of godliness. For what is this but to be taken more with the outside of the cabinet, than with the treasure that is within? or to be taken more with the purse that holds the gold, than with the gold that is in the purse? and with Democritus the philosopher, to esteem a poor hut—above the royal palace?
(6.) Sixthly, Natural fools are all for the PRESENT. They only mind and care for the things of this life—as what they shall eat, and what they shall drink, and what they shall put on. They are all for their bodies, their bellies, their backs. They take no care, they make no provision for their immortal souls. Just so, fools look only to their bodies; and have no concern for their souls. Such fools are all unsanctified people; they look only after their bodies, and their outward concernments; they look not at the necessities, miseries, and needs of their souls. Such were those in John 6:26-27, who crossed the seas and followed after Christ for loaves—but never looked for the food which endures to everlasting life. And such fools were those in Hosea 7:14, "who howled upon their beds for grain and wine." Only let them have but food for their bodies—and they care not what becomes of their souls! And such were they in Phil. 3:19, "whose God was their gut." And such were the Laodiceans in Rev. 3:14-19, who had well-fed bodies—but starved souls; whose houses were full of goods—but their hearts empty and void of Christ and grace; who had threadbare souls under all their purple robes; who were rich in temporals—but very poor and beggarly in spirituals. And such a one was that rich fool in Luke 12, who only laid up for his body for this life—but never took care for another life, for eternal life; he makes many years' provision for his body—and not a day's provision for his soul; he talks of living many years—when he had not a day nor a night to live in this world. And being thus foolish in his reckoning, Christ brands him for a fool to all generations: ver. 20-21, "You fool, this night shall your soul be required of you! Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?" So is he who heaps up treasure for himself—and is not rich towards God.
Every man in the world is a fool—who heaps up treasure to himself, who adds land to land, and house to house, and heap to heap, and bags to bags, and hundreds to hundreds, and thousands to thousands—and is not rich towards God. [Plato seeing one over-indulgent to his body, asked him what he meant, to make his prison so strong.] This age is full of such golden fools, who pamper their bodies—but starve their souls: who primp and trim up their bodies with gold, silver, and silks—while their souls are naked, and ragged, and destitute of all grace and goodness.
The Jews have a story of a foolish woman who took two children to nurse, the one very mean, deformed, crooked, blind, and not likely to live long; the other a goodly, lively, lovely, beautiful child, and likely to live long: now this foolish woman spent all her pains, care, diligence, and attendance upon the worst child, never so much as minding or regarding the best child. This age is full of such foolish men and women, who, having two to nurse, their bodies and their souls, spend their time, their care, labor, and pains in making provision for the flesh, in laying up for their bodies, and in the meanwhile never regard their souls, never look after their souls, though they have the beauty of a deity upon them, and though they are immortal, and capable of union and communion with God in grace, and of a blessed fruition of God in glory. Surely no fools like these fools.
[7.] Seventhly, The sharpest and severest course you can take, cannot separate between a fool and his folly.Notwithstanding all your frowns, threats, checks, knocks, etc.—a fool will not leave his folly; nay, you shall sooner beat a fool to death—than you shall beat him off from his folly: Proverbs 27:22, "You cannot separate fools from their foolishness, even though you grind them like grain with mortar and pestle." [Solomon in this place alludes to one kind of grinding, which in old time the people were accustomed to, which was to put their parched corn into a mortar, and to beat it unto powder.] The husk does not stick so close to the grain of corn, as folly does to the heart of a fool. There is a possibility of severing the husk from the flour by beating—but there is no possibility of severing a fool from his folly.
You see it in Pharaoh, who, though he was often in God's mortar—yet he could not be severed from his folly; nay, he did choose rather to be beaten to death, and to see his friends, relations, favorites, followers, subjects, and soldiers, with their first-born, beaten to death before his eyes—rather than he would leave his folly. And such a fool was king Ahaz, who, when God had him in the mortar, and threatened to beat him and his people to death—yet then in his distress he sinned more against the Lord, 2 Chron. 28:22, and therefore for his obstinacy, obdurateness, and irreclaimableness, he is branded and marked with a black coal by the Lord to all posterity, "This is that king Ahaz." [They were like those bears in Pliny, that could not be stirred with the sharpest prickles.]
And such spiritual fools are all ungodly people; let God frown, chide, strike, reprove, correct—yet they will not turn from the evil of their doings: they will rather be consumed and destroyed, than they will be amended or reformed: Jer. 5:3, "O Lord, you have stricken them—but they have not grieved; you have consumed them—but they have refused to receive correction: they have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return." No pain nor grief, no calamities nor miseries, can turn obstinate fools from their impieties: Jer. 6:29, "The bellows blow fiercely. The refining fire grows hotter. But it will never purify and cleanse them because there is no purity in them to refine." [See Ezra 22:18; Jer. 2:30, 31, and 19:15; Amos 4:4, 13; Isaiah 26:10-11; 2 Pet 22.]
All the cost and charge that God has been at, all the pains and labor that he has taken to sever these wicked ones from their wickedness was lost; they would not be refined nor reformed. After God's greatest severity, a spiritual fool will return to his iniquity: Proverbs 26:11, "As a dog returns to his vomit—so a fool returns to his folly," or repeats his folly. It is true, the comparison is homely—but good enough for those fools to whom it is applied. Spiritual fools sometimes vomit up their sins when they are under terrors of conscience, or under the afflicting hand of God, or upon a dying bed; but still retain a disposition and purpose to return to them again: as some say, the serpent vomits up his poison when he goes to drink, and then takes it in again. Foolish souls say to their lusts, as Abraham to his servants, Gen. 22:5, "Abide here, and I will go yonder and come again to you." Whatever becomes of their souls, they are resolved to keep close to their sins, Isaiah 1:5. And as Aesop's foolish fish leaped out of the warm water into the burning fire for ease; so these poor fools will rather adventure a burning in hell, than they will attempt a turning from their folly.
[8.] Eighthly, Natural fools make the most stupid and injurious exchanges.Natural fools make the most stupid and injurious exchanges. They will exchange a pearl--for a pin; things of greatest worth and value--for a feather, a ribbon, a toy, a trifle. The foolish Indians prefer every toy and trifle above their mines of gold. All unholy people are spiritual fools. They will exchange spirituals--for carnals; and eternals--for temporals. They will exchange God, Christ, the gospel, heaven, and their souls--for a lust, for a little of the world's smiles, pleasures, or profits. They will exchange their eternal soul--for the toys and trifles of this world. "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" Matthew 16:26
Now do you think that God, who has within himself all the wisdom of angels, of men, and universal nature—that he who has all glory, all dignity, all riches, all treasures, all pleasures, all comforts, all delights, all joys, all beatitudes in himself—that that God who is a super-substantial substance, and understanding not to be understood, a word never to be spoken—that he will have everlasting fellowship and communion with fools? Do you think that a God whose wisdom is infinite and unsearchable, will ever debase himself so as to have his royal palace filled with fools, as to make those his companions in heaven, that he can take no pleasure in on earth? Eccles. 5:4, "He has no pleasure in fools." The wise God would not have his children keep company with fools: Proverbs 14:7, "Stay away from a foolish man; you will gain no knowledge from his speech;" and will God keep company with them himself? Surely not! God has given it under his own hand, that such shall not tarry in his sight: Psalm 5:5, "The foolish shall not stand in your sight" [or, as the Hebrew has it, before your eyes]: "you hate all workers of iniquity." God will never admit fools to be his favorites: he will at last shut the door of glory against them, Mat. 25:4-13.
7. A seventh argument to prove that without real holiness there is no happiness; that without holiness on earth no man shall ever come to a blessed vision or fruition of God in heaven, is this—Unholy people are to be excluded and shut out from sacred, from special communion and fellowship with the saints in this world; and therefore, without all question, they shall never be admitted to everlasting communion and fellowship with God, Christ, angels, and saints in that other world. That they are to be shut out from having any special communion with the saints here, is most plain and evident from several scriptures. Take these for a taste: Lev. 10:10, "And that you may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;" Ezek. 44:23, "And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean." And because the priests did not improve their power and interest to preserve the things of God from profaning and polluting, the Lord was very much offended and provoked: Ezek. 22:26, "Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them." And in chapter 44:7-8, God sadly complains that they "brought into his sanctuary strangers uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh;" and prohibits such from entering into his sanctuary, ver. 9, "Thus says the Lord God, No stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that is among the children of Israel."
God expects that faithful teachers should put a difference between person and person, between the holy and profane, between the clean and the unclean, in all holy administrations: Jer. 15:19, "Therefore thus says the Lord, If you take forth the precious from the vile, then you shall be as my mouth: let them return unto you; but return not you unto them." Now certainly if under the ceremonial law natural uncleanness did exclude and shut out the Israelites from a participation in holy things, then certainly moral uncleanness may justly exclude and shut out Christians from a participation in holy things under the gospel: Mat. 7:6, "Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast you your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and tear you."
Holy things are too precious to be spent and spilt upon swinish sinners. Gospel blessings are precious pearls—which must not be given to swine. 2 Cor. 6:17, "Therefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you." [Lev. 13:46; Num. 5:1-4; Exod. 12:48; Lev. 22:3-7. "As often," said one, "as I have been among wicked men, I return home less a man than I was before." Bad company will quench the most burning and most shining Christians, as you see in Joseph and Peter, Psalm 106:35; when they were mingled among the heathen, they quickly learned their works, Psalm 119:115.] Profane, scandalous, blind, and ignorant people are very unclean things—and from them we must come out. As we would be in with God, we must be out with them. We must reject them—if we would have God to receive us: 2 Tim. 3:5, "Having a form of godliness—but denying the power thereof—from such turn away." Our Savior Christ went to the wilderness among the beasts, and carried his disciples with him, holding their fellowship to be less hurtful and dangerous. It is better to live among beasts, than to live among men of beastly principles and beastly practices. Now there are ten sorts of people that Christians must turn from, that they must have no intimate, no special communion with in this world.
(1.) First, Unbelievers.2 Cor. 6:14-16. We should not close with those who have not closed with Christ; nor give ourselves up to those who have not given up themselves to Christ. Every unbeliever is a condemned person: the law has condemned him, the gospel has condemned him, and his own conscience has condemned him; and what sacred communion, what delightful fellowship can believers have with condemned people? John 3:18, 36. Every unbeliever is under the wrath of the great God; he is under that wrath which he can neither avoid nor withstand; and what communion can such have who are under God's love, with those who are under God's wrath? Every unbeliever makes God a liar, 1 John 5:10; and what children will have communion with such who every day give their heavenly father the lie to his very face? Every unbeliever does practically say, "Tush! there is no such loveliness or desirability, there is no such beauty or glory, there is no such fullness or sweetness, there is no such goodness or graciousness in Jesus as men would make us believe;" and what is this—but to give God the lie? "Tush! there is no such favor, there is no such peace, there is no such pardon, there is no such righteousness, there is no such grace, there is no such glory to be reaped by Christ as God and men would persuade us;" and what is this—but to tell God he lies to his very teeth? And what sincere child can take pleasure in such who are still a-spitting in his heavenly father's face?
Every unbeliever is a disobedient person, and therefore what communion can obedient children have with those who are disobedient and rebellious? [Num. 14:11; Heb. 11:31, 1 Tim. 5:8; 2 Cor. 6:14, 15; 1 Cor. 14:23, seq.; 2 Tim. 3:1, 6.] Every unbeliever is a pagan, a heathen, in the Scripture dialect; and what communion can those who are of the household of faith have with pagans and heathens? Every unbeliever is a traitor; he commits treason daily against the crown and dignity of heaven; and what loyal subjects will hold communion with traitors? Unbelievers are the greatest robbers; they rob God of his declarative glory, though they cannot rob him of his essential glory; they rob him of the glory of his truth and faithfulness; as if he would falsify the word which has gone out of his mouth; as if he were yes and nay; and as if his word was so base and contemptible, that he who shall trust to him, must needs be in hazard. They rob him of the glory of his goodness and mercy, as if there were any sins too great for him to pardon, or any mercy too great for him to give, or any wrath too great for him to divert, or any debt too great for him to satisfy. They rob him of the glory of his omnipotency and all-sufficiency, as if there were something too hard for a God. Now what communion can the people of God have with robbers, with the greatest robbers, with the worst of robbers? and yet such are all unbelievers. And therefore let no unbelievers mutter or murmur when the door of admission is shut against them. But,
(2.) Secondly, Such as have a mere form, a picture, a mask, a pretense of godliness—but deny the power.2 Tim. 3:5.
(3.) Thirdly, Such as walk disorderly—who live either without an employment, or idly and negligently in their employment; these make religion odious, by making religion a mask for their idleness and laziness: 2 Thes. 3:6, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly." Now, who they are that walk disorderly you may see in ver. 11, "For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly—not working at all—but are busybodies." Such vagrant professors who live idly, who will have an oar in every man's boat, a sickle in every man's harvest, a curious eye upon every man's way and work—are to be shut out of the communion of Christians, and to be shunned as a man would shun a serpent, a contagious disease, or as the seaman shuns rocks, and sands, and shelves. [Solon made a law, that the son should not be bound to relieve his father when he was old, unless he had set him in his youth to some employment.]
It was a great vanity in Dionysius, who would needs be the best poet; and in Caligula, who would needs be the best orator; and in Nero, who would needs be the best fiddler; and so became the three worst princes, minding more their own amusements than their own callings. Just so, it is a very great vanity in many professors to mind more their own amusements than their own callings; from the society of such, saints must withdraw. No man is too noble to have a calling. If iron had reason, it would choose rather to be used in labor than to grow rusty in a corner. By Mahomet's law the Grand Turk himself was to be of some trade. The hour of idleness is the hour of temptation; an idle person is the devil's tennis-ball, tossed by him at his pleasure. God ordained the neck of the consecrated donkey should be broken—Exod. 13:13—instead of sacrificing him; perhaps because that creature has ever been the hieroglyphic of sloth and laziness. Among the Egyptians idleness was a capital crime. Among the Lucans, he who lent money to an idle person was to lose it. Among the Corinthians idle people were delivered to the prison. By Solon's law idle people were to suffer death. The ancients call idleness the burial of a living man. Seneca had rather be sick than idle. Now shall nature do more than grace? Shall poor blind heathens be so severe against idle people, and shall Christians embrace them? Shall they not rather turn their backs upon them, and have no communion with those who think themselves too great or too good to hold the plough? "We urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle!" 1 Thessalonians 5:14
(4.) Fourthly, Such whose judgments are corrupt and unsound in foundation-truths.Titus 3:10, "A man who is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject." "A little leaven leavens the whole lump:" and what leaven is more infectious than that of heresy and error? "Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work." 2 John 1:9-11. You must have nothing to do with those who have nothing to do with God, 1 John 2:22-25; Col. 2:18, 19: your house must be too hot to hold him who holds not fast to foundation-truths, who holds not close to Christ the head.
Eusebius reports of John the Evangelist, that he would not allow Cerinthus the heretic in the same room with him, lest some judgment should abide them both. He who had the leprosy in his head was to be pronounced utterly unclean, Lev. 13:44. The breath of the erroneous is more dangerous and infectious than the breath of lepers: for one infects but the body—but the other infects the soul, and therefore ought more carefully to be avoided.
An erroneous mind is as odious to God as a wicked life; and why should it not be so to us also? Certainly we should shun the society of erroneous people as we should shun a serpent in the way, or poison in our food. 1 Tim. 6:5, "men whose minds are depraved and deprived of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw yourself;" or, as the Greek word signifies, stand off, keep at a distance, as you would from one who has an infectious disease, or as seamen stand off from rocks or from a leeshore. It is recorded by Theodoret, that when Lucius, an Arian bishop, came and preached his erroneous doctrines—the people went out of the church, and would not so much as lend an ear to him. In these days there are many old errors—newly dressed; and old Jezebels, old harlots—newly painted. The best way is not to lend an ear to them—but to serve them as they served Jezebel: they gave her no quarter—but cast her down and trod her under foot, 2 Kings 9:10, 30-37. Errors on foundational truths are like the Jerusalem artichokes, which overrun all the ground where they are planted, and choke the very heart of it; and therefore to be abhorred, avoided, and shunned, as a man would shun hell itself. Who but a fool or madman would exchange one old piece of gold for a hundred new pennies? and what then shall we think of those who willingly and readily exchange old tried truths for new-minted errors? The society of such must be shunned.
(5.) Fifthly, Such as cause divisions and discord among the people of God.Romans 16:17, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark those who cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned; and avoid them." "Mark them;" the Greek word signifies such a marking as a watchman uses, who stands on a watchtower to espy an approaching enemy. Ah! with what a wary, with what a watchful, with what a curious, with what a jealous, with what a serious, with what a diligent eye—does the watchman watch all the notions, turnings, and windings of the approaching enemy! With such an eye we should mark those who cause divisions. "And avoid them;" the Greek word signifies a studious, careful declining of them. A man must decline and shun them as he would decline and shun such people or things which are most pernicious, dangerous, or infectious to him. Divisions are a dishonor to Christ, a reproach to Christians, a blot upon profession, a block in the way of the weak, and a sword in the hand of the wicked; they are Satan's engines, and an inlet to all destruction and confusion. And therefore the authors of them are to be shunned and avoided. [The Turks pray daily that the divisions among Christians may be heightened, that so they may be the sooner ruined and undone.]
(6.) Sixthly, Such professing Christians as are scandalous and profane in their lives.1 Cor. 5:11, "But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat." [Proverbs 9:6; Psalm 15:4; Eph. 5:7; Psalm 119:115; Proverbs 4:14-15.] Do not to joined, mixed, or mingled with such a brother who belies his profession. With such a brother whose course and life contradicts his profession—we must not hold Christian communion. Certainly I may not have fellowship with him at the Lord's table, whom I may not have fellowship with at my own table: Eph. 5:11, "Have no fellowship with unfruitful works of darkness—but rather reprove them;" Acts 2:40, "Save yourselves from this wicked generation." Wicked company is very dangerous and infectious: 1 Cor. 15:33, "Do not be misled—Bad company corrupts good character." As he who walks in the sun will be tanned, and he who touches pitch will be defiled; so he who associates himself with the wicked will be tainted and polluted.
Guilt or grief is all you shall gain by bad company, 2 Pet. 2:7-8—witness Lot, David, Joseph, and Peter. [Psalm 120:7-8; Gen. 42:15, 16; Mark 14:66-72; 1 Kings 22:8; 2 Chron. 24:17-18.] By bad company Christians come to lose much of the sweetness, seriousness, goodness, and graciousness of their spirits. Gold, though the noblest metal, loses of its luster by being continually worn in the same purse with silver. Familiarity with vain people has much worn off the spiritual luster, beauty, and glory that has been upon many Christians. Bad company will prove a very great hindrance to you in your Christian course: Psalm 119:115, "Away from me, you wicked, for I will keep the commandments of my God." I cannot keep my God's commands while I keep your company; I shall never do my duty until I abandon your society. Divine commands will never lie close and warm upon my heart, so long as I give you my hand.
How hard is it to keep the commandment of labor among the slothful, or the commandment of diligence among the negligent, or that of liberality among the covetous, or that of humility among the ambitious, or that of love among the malicious, or that of union among the contentious, or that of chastity among the lascivious, or that of righteousness among the unrighteous, or that of faithfulness among the unfaithful, or that of fruitfulness among the unfruitful, or that of thankfulness among the unthankful, or that of faith among the doubtful, etc. But,
(7.) Seventhly, A seventh sort of people that Christians must have no intimate, no special communion with—is false prophets, false teachers.[Mat. 16:6, 11-12; Gal. 1:8; Mat. 7:15, 13; Deut. 13:1-3; Titus 1:10-11.] They are not to give such any house-room, 2 John 10-11, nor heart-room, Mat. 24:23-24, 26. They are to shun them and avoid them, Romans 16:17. It is not safe for a Christian to hear them, or to have any communion or fellowship with them. Aristotle writes of a certain bird called, a goat-sucker, which sucked their blood—upon which, the goats grow blind. Ah, how many a seeing man has been made blind, and how many hopeful thriving Christians have had all their springs of love, of life, of sweetness and goodness dried up in them—by the sleights, deceits, and insinuations of false teachers. False prophets have their good words, and fair speeches, and subtle devices, whereby they blind many souls, and dry up all the spiritual milk and moisture that is in them—and therefore they are to be shunned and avoided. But,
(8.) Eighthly, You must have no intimate, no special communion with such as are obstinate and refractory, and who will not submit to Christ's rules and laws.2 Thes. 3:14, "And if any man obeys not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed." [The Greek word, is very significant, for it denotes such a perturbation of the mind, that he who is affected therewith, seeks where he may hide himself for shame.] Such as are obstinate must be noted with a brand of infamy; such must be infamous in your eye, who look with an eye of contumacy upon any command or institution of Christ. The Greek word signifies to note him so as to make a sign, as it were, of him; or to mark him so as to put him to the blush, to put him to shame. The obstinate, the obstinate person should be a marked person, you must set a cross upon him, that all may know him and shun him. The assemblies of the saints are honorable—and obstinate professors are to be shut out of them.
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, [if he is obstinate,] take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector." Matthew 18:15-17. He who shall be obstinate under private and public admonition, is to be shut out from church communion; he who to small faults shall add obstinacy, is to be cut off from the saints' society. We must turn our backs upon him who turns his back upon the church. As we would keep ourselves untainted, as we would preserve the church from being infected, as we would not have the name of God blasphemed, and as we would have the obstinate professor ashamed and humbled—we must have no sacred society with him.
(9.) A ninth sort of people that Christians must have no intimate, no sacred, no special communion with—are fools.Proverbs 9:6, "Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding." Proverbs 14:7, "Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you perceive not in him the lips of knowledge." Proverbs 23:9, "Speak not in the ears of a fool; for he will despise the wisdom of your words." [Who would hang a jewel in a swine's ear, or sow precious seed among craggy rocks, or put sweet liquor into a musty vessel? etc.] There is no profit, no pleasure, no delight to be had in the society of fools. Fools are neither capable of doing good nor of receiving good; and therefore what should good souls do among such? A fool has neither an ear to hear, nor an eye to see, nor a heart to understand, nor a memory to retain, nor a will to choose, nor affections to embrace—anything that is good. And therefore their company is to be shunned and avoided. The society of fools is as dangerous as it is vexatious: Proverbs 13:20, "He who walks with wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." The Hebrew word that is here used, signifies to be broken; yes, to be broken as sometimes an army is broken by some fierce and sudden surprisal; a companion of fools shall be broken in his credit, in his estate, in his name, in his reputation; yes, in his very wits, for nothing contributes so much to make a man a fool as the company of fools.
(10.) The tenth and last sort of people that Christians must have no familiarity nor society with, are scorners.Such as scorn the saints, and scorn true religion, and scorn piety; such who scorn every way of Christ, and every institution of Christ: Proverbs 9:8, "Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate you." Wise and gracious reproofs are pearls—which are not to be cast before scorners. Now certainly, if I may not reprove scorners, then I may not keep company with scorners: Proverbs 22:10, "Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yes, strife and reproach shall cease." The scorner must be cast out of your company. Strife and contention, shame and reproach, are the scorner's attendants; and therefore he who would be rid of them must cast out him. The Hebrew word here translated "cast out," signifies not simply to eject or cast out; but to cast out or drive out, as God did drive Adam out of paradise, Gen. 3:24, for the word is the same; and this God did, with violence and displeasure. Just so, must the scorner be cast out, or driven out.
Look! as God did drive out the Amorite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Hivite, and the Jebusite before his people, Exod. 34:11; so must the scorner be driven out of the society of the saints; for the Hebrew word is the same in both places. Look! as Sarah would have Abraham to cast out the bond-woman and her son, Gen. 21:10; so must the scorner be cast out of the company of the saints; the word is still the same. Look! as the sea casts up mire and dirt, Isaiah 57:20; so should Christians cast out scorners from among them; the word being still the same.
The scorner construes everything to the worst; he envies those who excel him; he disdains those who are below him; he is never contented, never satisfied, he is still a-quarreling, still a-fretting, and still a-perplexing of himself and others; and therefore you must cast him out with scoffing Ishmael, or the house will be too hot to hold you. Cast out the firebrand, and the fire goes out; cast out Jonah, and the storm shall cease; cast out the bond-woman and her scornful son, and all will be quiet.
David's blessed man is described by this, Psalm 1:1, that he "sits not in the seat of the scornful." Scorners are no companions for blessed men. Of all men, the blessed man will never choose the scorner for his friend. God himself scorns the scorner: Proverbs 34, "Surely he scorns the scorner," etc. Of all men in the world, God casts the greatest contempt and scorn upon scorners, and therefore why should we make such our bosom-associates?
And thus you see the several sorts of people that God has shut out from the communion of his people. Well, Christians, remember this, dead stones must not be laid in a living temple. No stones but hewn stones were to be brought and laid in the building of Solomon's temple, which was a type of the church of Christ in gospel-days. [1 Kings 5:15-18; 2 Chron. 2, and 2:2, 18; 1 Pet. 2:5.] Certainly such stones, such souls, as are not hewn by the word and Spirit, are not fit to be laid in Christ's building. In Josiah's days, when the Passover was kept, there were porters at every gate of Jerusalem, that no unclean or uncircumcised ones might enter, 2 Chron. 35. That vain people are to be shut out from sacred communion with the people of God—is further evident by the judgment of many godly authors. As,
Chrysostom says that "the table of the Lord is that whereon the body is laid, and that we must not allow chattering blue-jays to come thereunto; for only high-flying eagles are to feed thereupon." Thereupon the same author protested "that he had rather give his life to a murderer, than Christ's body to an unworthy receiver, and rather allow his own blood to be poured out like water, than to offer Christ's blessed blood to a base liver." And again, "Church-officers," says he, "are to keep the sacrament pure, as a man would keep a pleasant spring clean whereat he always drinks, not letting the feet of filthy beasts and swine to puddle it." The same author further says that in the primitive times, whenever the sacrament was administered, a deacon stood up, and cried in the open assembly, "Holy things for holy men, holy things for holy men!" thereby debarring all others who were unholy, and raising the hearts of the holy.
Justin Martyr, who lived some thirty years after the apostle John, writes thus: "In our assemblies we admit none to the Lord's supper but such as being baptized continue in professing the true faith, and in leading such lives as Christ has taught." There were three things, says this author, that were required of those who were to be received to the sacrament: 1. A new birth; 2. Soundness in faith; 3. A promise to live well."
Augustine well observes, "That as many think the eating of an apple was but a small sin, so many think that the eating of the sacrament is but a small sin. But as many horrid sins were enrapt up in that, so are there many enrapt up in this:
1. Here is pride; else no man in his wickedness would presume to come to the Lord's table.
2. Here is rebellion and treason against the crown and dignity of Christ; their hands and lips adore him, as Judas his did—but their hearts and lives abhor him, Romans 2:22.
3. Here is theft and sacrilege; now if to take away the communion-cup be such a high offence, such horrid sacrilege, what is it then to take the bread and wine, set apart and sanctified for a holy use by the Lord himself? 1 Cor. 11:27, 29.
4. Here is murder, the worst murder, the greatest murder, the cruellest murder; you kill yourself, your soul, and as much as in you lies, God's dearest Son.
Now certainly, in some respects, this sin is a greater sin than Adam's was, For,
1. Adam's eating was against a Creator—but yours is sinning against a Redeemer: now it is more to redeem a soul than to create a world.
2. His was against the word of the Lord; your against the blood of the Lord.
3. His struck at the covenant of works; your at the covenant of grace.
4. He ate but once; but you eat often."
"Yes," Aquinas says, "the majesty of church discipline should never allow this, to let open and known offenders presume to come to the table of the Lord."
It was a worthy saying of Bilson, a godly author, "Suppose any man," says he, "be he a prince, if he will not submit himself to the precepts of Christ—but willfully maintain either heresy or open impurity—the ministers are to admonish him what danger from God is at the door; and if he impenitently persists, they must not allow him to partake either in divine prayer, or any holy mysteries among the people of God; but wholly to be excluded the congregation." "Not only the lack of the word and sacraments," says the same author, "but the abuse of either—greatly hazards the welfare of the whole church; yes, casting holy things to dogs, etc., procures a dreadful doom as well to consenters as presumers, it being the way to turn the house of God into a den of thieves—if profane ones are allowed to defile the ordinances and assemblies of the faithful."
"I," said Calvin, will sooner die than this hand of mine shall give the things of God to the despisers of God."
Mr. Rutherford, says "that they are copartners with the wicked—who dispense the bread to those who are knowingly dead in sins." I might multiply many others; but let these suffice. For a close, let me only say, How the father can be guiltless of the death of his child, who gives him poison to drink, with this caution—that he tells him it is poison—I cannot see. Josephus reports of some who profanely searched the sepulchers of the saints, supposing to find some treasures there—but God made fire to rise out of the earth, which suddenly devoured them. Now if God's wrath like fire breaks forth to consume such as wrong but the sepulchers of his saints, etc., oh then with what flames of fury will God burn up such as abuse not only the sacrament of his Son—but his Son himself!
It was a very great wickedness in Julian to throw his blood in the face of Christ; but for a wicked communicant to take Christ's own blood as it were, running from his heart, and to throw it into the face of Christ—is most abominable and damnable. By all that has been spoken, you clearly see that unholy people are to be shut out of the special communion of saints here on earth; and therefore certainly the Lord will never allow such to have communion with him in heaven. It will not stand with the holiness and purity of God to have fellowship with such in the kingdom of glory, whom he would not have his people have fellowship with in the kingdom of grace.
8. The eighth argument to prove that without real holiness there is no happiness; that without holiness on earth no man shall ever come to a blessed vision or fruition of God in heaven, is this—The Scripture, which speaks no falsehood, styles unholy people beasts, yes, the worst of beasts; and what would such do in heaven?[Unholy people are, throughout the Scriptures, branded, to their everlasting contempt—with the worst appellations.] Unholy people are the most dangerous, and the most harmful beings in the world, and therefore are emblemized by lions—for they are cruel, Psalm 22:21; by bears—for they are savage, Isaiah 11:7; by dragons—for they are hideous, Ezek. 29:3; by wolves—for they are ravenous, Ezek. 22:27; by dogs—for they are snarling, Rev. 22:15; by vipers and scorpions—for they are stinging, Mat. 12:34, Ezek. 2:6; by spiders and cockatrices—for they are poisoning, Isaiah 59:5; by swine—for their intemperance, Mat. 7:6. The glutton is depicted as a swine; the fraudulent person is depicted as a fox; the lustful person is depicted as a goat; the backbiter is depicted as a barking cur; the slanderer is depicted as an asp; the oppressor is depicted as a wolf; the persecutor is depicted as a tiger; the seducer is depicted as a serpent. Certainly God will not allow such beasts and toads and snakes and serpents to live with Him in heaven!
[It was accustomed to be a trial whether land belonged to England or Ireland, by putting in toads or snakes, etc., into it; if they lived there, it was concluded that the land belonged to England; if they died, to Ireland.] Surely God, and Christ, and the Spirit, and angels, and "the spirits of just men made perfect," are not so in love with dogs and swine, etc., as to put them into their bosoms, or make them their companions. Heaven is a too holy place to admit such vermin to inhabit there. "Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life." Revelation 21:27
When Cyneas, the ambassador of Pyrrhus, after his return from Rome, was asked by his master what he thought of the city and state, he answered and said, that it seemed to him to be a state of none but great statesmen, and a commonwealth of kings. Such is heaven; it is no other state than a parliament of emperors, a commonwealth of kings. There is not a soul in heaven under the degree of a king, Rev. 1:6, and every king there has a robe of honor upon his back, a golden scepter in his hand, and a glorious crown upon his head. And do you think that it will stand with the state of heaven—to admit such vermin as unholy people are, to be of that holy society? Surely not! God has long since resolved upon it, that no unclean beasts shall enter into heaven, that no dirty dogs shall ever trample upon that golden pavement. "Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood." Revelation 22:15.
All in heaven are holy: the angels holy, the saints holy--but the Lord Himself above all, is most glorious in holiness. Now certainly it would be a hell to these holy ones to have unholy wretches to be their eternal companions! When the holy angels fell from their holiness, heaven was so holy that it spewed them out, as once Canaan did its unholy inhabitants, Lev. 18:28; and therefore certainly there will be no room in heaven for such filthy beasts as unholy people are.
Well, remember this—that all those stinging expressions and appellations which disgrace and vilify unholy people, they were inspired by a holy Spirit, and penned by holy secretaries, and enrolled in his holy word, and published by his holy messengers, and all by his holy appointment, who, as he is greater than the greatest, and wiser than the wisest, and better than the best, so he is too pure and too holy to revoke the words which are gone out of his mouth, or to deny or unsay what he has spoken, or not to maintain the truth thereof against all gainsayers. It is prophesied that when the church shall be restored to her purity and glory, such beasts shall not be there, Isaiah 35:9; Ezek. 28:24. The majesty of church discipline shall be such as shall keep out all such beasts. "Jerusalem above" is too glorious a habitation for beasts, or for men of beastly spirits, or beastly principles, or beastly practices. The city of the great God was never built for beasts. A wilderness and not a paradise—is fittest for beasts.
9. The ninth argument to prove the truth of the proposition is this, God would not have his holy ones in this world to be yoked in marriage with unholy ones; and therefore certainly he will never allow such to be yoked to himself to all eternity.[Exod. 23:32; 34:12. If you would see the greatness and dangerousness of this sin, then read Ezra 10 and 1 Kings 11, with Exod. 34:14-16; Judges 3:6-8. When the tyrant Dionysius asked Aristide's permission to marry his daughter—said he, "I had rather see my daughter dead—than married to a tyrant!" The application is easy.] That God would not have his righteous people to be yoked in marriage with the unrighteous, is most evident by these scriptures: Deut. 7:3, 6, "Neither shall you make marriages with them; your daughter you shall not give to his son, nor his daughter shall you take unto your son: for you are a holy people unto the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a special people unto himself, above all people who are upon the face of the earth."
Ezra 9:12, "You told us not to let our daughters marry their sons, and not to let our sons marry their daughters, and not to help those nations in any way." But did they keep this commandment of the Lord? No—as you may see in the second verse of that chapter, "For the men of Israel have married women from these people and have taken them as wives for their sons. Just so, the holy race has become polluted by these mixed marriages. To make matters worse, the officials and leaders are some of the worst offender." But how did this operate upon good Ezra? That you may see in the third verse, "When I heard this, I tore my clothing, pulled hair from my head and beard, and sat down utterly shocked!" Oh the sorrow, the grief, the perplexity, the holy passion, the indignation, the amazement, the astonishment that this abomination begot in the heart of good Ezra!
The like effect this sin had upon the heart of good Nehemiah, as you may see in that remarkable text, Neh. 13:23-25, compared with chapter 10:29-30. Just so, in 2 Cor. 6:14-15, "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial ? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols?" It is an evil thing, a dangerous thing, to be yoked to any who have neither skill nor will to bear the yoke of Christ. Under the law an ox and an donkey might not be yoked or coupled together, Deut. 22:10; and to this the apostle alludes as some judge—God would not have righteous souls to be yoked in marriage with those who are unrighteous; a gracious soul were better be married to a dog, than to an ungracious wife. "A virtuous wife is a crown to her husband," Proverbs 12:4; she is the life of life. If you are a man of holiness, you must look more for a portion of grace in a wife—than for a portion of gold with a wife; you must look more after righteousness than riches; more after piety than money; more after what inheritance she has in heaven, than what possessions she has on earth; more at what interest she has in Christ, than at what interest she has in creatures; more at her being new-born, than at her being high-born; more at her being godly, than at all her worldly goods, 1 Cor. 7:39. If money makes the match, and she be good enough that has but goods enough—you shall be sure to have hell enough with such a wife! In your choice of a spouse—to err but once is to be undone for your whole life—at least as to the comforts and contentments of your life. Once blessed or cursed with a spouse—you must be always so!
By what has been said, it is most evident that God would not have the holy seed to mingle or marry with the unholy. And do you think that a holy God will mingle and marry with such in heaven, that he would not have his people to mingle or marry with on earth? Surely not! Or do you think that God—who would not in the law have an ox and an donkey plough together—that he will be yoked to such wretches, may I say to such donkeys, whose ungodliness has debased them below the very ox and donkey? Isaiah 1:3. Surely not!
10. The tenth and last argument to prove that without real holiness there is no happiness, etc., is this—Unholy people are adjudged, doomed and sentenced to another place, namely, to hell.Psalm 9:17, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." In the Hebrew there are two "intos;" "into," "into" hell, that is, the wicked shall be turned into the nethermost hell, into the lowest and darkest dungeon of hell! "They shall be turned into hell," that is, they shall be certainly turned into hell; they shall be vehemently, forcibly turned into hell. God will, as it were with both hands, thrust them into hell. [Matt. 11:23, and 23:15, 33. The Hebrew word Sheol has several significations; sometimes it signifies the grave, sometimes it signifies extraordinary great anguishes and distresses; and sometimes it signifies hell or the place of the damned, as here, and as in Job 11:8, and Proverbs 15:11.] The wicked shall go from hell to judgment, and from judgment they shall be turned with a witness into hell.
Many now-a-days say there is no hell but what a man finds in his own conscience. Multitudes think that all that is spoken of hell in Scripture, is false and mythical. They will not believe that there is a hell, until they come to feel themselves in hell, until they find everlasting flames about their ears. They are sentenced to the fire, to everlasting fire, they are doomed to fire and brimstone! "Then He will also say to those on the left—Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!" Matthew 25:41
This terrible sentence breathes out nothing but fire and brimstone, terror and horror, dread and woe! The last words that ever Christ will speak to the ungodly, will be the most tormenting, and horrifying, the most killing and damning, the most stinging and wounding! "Depart from Me!" Here is utter rejection—"Pack! Begone! Get out of my sight! Let me never see your face again!"
It was a heavy doom that was passed upon Nebuchadnezzar, that he would be driven from the society of men, and in an extremity of a sottish melancholy, spend his time among the beasts of the field, Dan. 4:25; but that was nothing to this soul-killing word, "Depart from me;" it was nothing to men's being cast out of the presence of Christ forever; the remembrance of which made one to pray thus, "O Lord, deliver me at the great day from that soul-killing word, depart." And what says another,
This word "depart," the goats with horror hears.
But this word "come," the sheep to joy appears."
"You who are cursed!" There is malediction. "But, Lord, if we must depart, oh let us depart blessed!" No, "depart who are you cursed!" You have cursed others, and now you shall be cursed yourselves; you have delighted yourselves in cursing, and now you shall be cursed forever. [Cursings now are their hymns—but in hell they shall be their woes, Rev. 16:9, 11-21.] You shall be cursed in your bodies and cursed in your souls; you shall be cursed of God, and cursed of angels, and cursed of saints, and cursed of devils, and cursed of your companions, yes, you shall curse your very selves, your very souls. You loved not blessing, and therefore you shall have cursing enough: "Depart from me, you who are cursed!" all your curses, all your maledictions shall at last recoil upon your own souls. Now you curse every man and thing which stands in the way of your lusts, and which crosses your designs: but at last all the curses of heaven and hell shall meet in their full power and force upon you!
But, Lord, if we must depart, and depart cursed, oh let us go into some good place! No! "Depart into the eternal fire!" There is the vengeance and everlasting continuance of it. [They do but dream, who think and say that the devil and damned shall be delivered at last, Psalm 11:6.] You shall go into fire, into everlasting fire, that will neither consume itself, nor consume you! Eternity of extreme punishment is the hell of hell. The fire in hell is like that stone in Arcadia, which being once kindled could never be quenched.
If all the fires that ever were in the world were contracted into one fire, how terrible would it be! Yet such a fire would be but as a 'painted' fire—compared to the fire of hell. The greatest and the hottest fires that ever were on earth—are but ice in comparison to the fire of hell. If it be so sad a spectacle to behold a malefactor's flesh consumed by piece-meal in a lingering fire; ah! how sad, how dreadful would it be to experience what it is to lie in unquenchable fire, not for a day, a month, or a year, or a hundred, or a thousand years—but forever and ever! "If it were," says one, "but for a thousand years, I could bear it—but seeing it is for eternity, this astonishes and affrights me!" "I am afraid of hell," says another, [Cyril,] "because the worm there never dies, and the fire never goes out!"
It is called "unquenchable fire," Mat. 18:8, and "eternal fire" in the Epistle of Jude, ver. 7. The torments of the damned are very grievous for the bitterness of them—but more grievous for the diversity of them—but most of all grievous for the eternity of them. To lie in everlasting torments, Mat. 25:46, goes beyond all the bounds of desperation. To roar forever for disquietness of heart, to rage forever for madness of soul, to weep, and grieve, and gnash the teeth forever for vexation of spirit—is a misery beyond all expression!
Suetonius reports of Tiberius Caesar, that, being petitioned by a certain offender to hasten his punishment, and to grant him a speedy despatch, he made him this answer, "Stay sir, you and I are not friends yet." Just so, if after a damned soul has been in hell a thousand years, he should petition the Lord for a speedy death, the Lord would answer after the same manner, "Stay soul, you and I are not yet friends!" If after thousands and millions of thousands of years, the request should be renewed, the answer would still be the same, "Stay, you and I are not yet friends!" Wronged justice can never be satisfied, and therefore the sinner must be forever tormented. The sinner in hell will sin forever—and therefore he must be punished forever. It will not stand with the unspotted justice and righteousness of God to cease punishing, where the sinner ceases not sinning.
One tells us of some devout people, who caused those words of the prophet, Isaiah 33:14, "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" to be written in letters of gold upon their chimney-pieces. The fear of Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace made men do anything to avoid it, Dan. 3:8; and shall not the fear of eternal flames, of everlasting burnings, work men to bewail their sins, to hate all their bitter-sweets, and to lay hold on everlasting strength—that it may go well with them forever?
I have read of a chaste virgin, who being strongly tempted and solicited by a lewd ruffian to uncleanness, after some discourse, she called for a pan of burning coals, requesting him for her sake to hold his finger in them but one hour; he answered, that it is an unkind and unreasonable request. "That is true," says she, "it is so; but you ask me a more unkind and unreasonable request, namely—to satisfy you in a thing for which I shall not only burn an hour—but burn both body and soul in hell-fire forever and ever!" And so she overcame the temptation.
"But, Lord, if I must go into fire, into everlasting fire, oh let me have some good company in my misery!" "No! the devil and his demons shall be your companions!" Ah! who can conceive or express the misery of living with devils and damned spirits! Many ungodly people would not live in a house haunted with evil spirits one night for all the world; and yet they live as if it were nothing to dwell with hellish fiends and furies forever. If the sight of a ghost for a moment be such a terror and torment to you; what will the horrible sight of devils, and the ghastly sight of the damned be? If it was so great an affliction to Job to be a companion to owls, Job 30:29; what will it be to you to be a companion to devils? If it was so great a grief and woe to David to sojourn in Mesech, and to dwell in the tents of Kedar for a time, Psalm 120:5; what a woe will it be to unholy souls to dwell with devils and reprobates forever? Ah! how will Satan's deformity, antipathy, and cruelty bewilder you and torment you! How will the damned's wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth abash you and confound you! How will your old companions' cursing of you, the sight of your near relations in misery with you, and devils scornfully insulting over you, and the never-dying worm feeding perpetually upon you—be many hells of horror to you! Had an unholy soul as many worlds in his hand to give as there be stars in heaven--he would give them all to escape those pains and torments which will admit of no intermission or mitigation.
In Revelation 21:8 you have a catalog of that damned crew, of that rabble of reprobates which shall be your companions forever: "But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars--their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." These companions are the devil's whips; they are his scorpions with which he will torment and whip poor souls forever. Such companions will make many hells to meet in one; they will be the top of the soul's torments.
Thus I have done with those arguments that prove the point; namely, that without holiness there is no happiness, etc.