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if we consider that the passion to which it is addressed is one of the strongest in the human mind.
It is, indeed, the glory of the gospel, that its motives are chiefly drawn from the most noble and generous principles—such as the love of God in the gift of his Son, and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ in giving his life a ransom for many. But God, who knows the frame, and is well acquainted with the particular tempers and constitution of his creatures, foresaw that, while some would be drawn with the cords of love and with the bands of a man, there are others whom we must save with fear, pulling them out of the fire ; whom we must, therefore, endeavour to persuade, by the terror of the Lord, to flee from the wrath to come, as Lot was compelled to flee out of Sodom. And as our hearers consist of various classes, it is our duty to endeavour rightly to divide the word of truth, and to become all things to all men, that we may gain some.
This was our apostle's manner of preaching. To babes who had need of milk he administered the sincere milk of the word, inculcating upon their minds, with the solicitude of parental affection, the first principles of the oracles of God, and giving them line upon line and precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, as they were able to bear it. To others whose minds had been previously exercised on the leading doctrines of the gospel, he exhibited more enlarged views of its harmony and glory. And as some minds are so constituted, as not to be easily moved with any thing that is not presented to them in a cool and deliberate form, he reasoned with them on subjects which afforded ample scope to the most vigorous exercise of the understanding, in order to win them more effectually to the love of the truth as it is in Christ. And even when he felt himself obliged to have recourse to the subject most appalling of all others, that of the terror of the Lord, he did not use irritating and upbraiding language, but either reasoned with the unconverted, as in the case of Felix, the Roman governor, or wept over those who made a profession of Christianity, but dishonoured it by their ungodly lives : as in the case of certain persons, of whom he says to the Philippians, (without mentioning to what particular church they belonged), Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ : whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.
2. The suitableness and propriety of this argument will still further appear, when we consider the evidence which it carries along with it.
We are moral and accountable beings, endowed with the faculty of thought and reflection, by which we are capable of judging certain principles and actions to be right, and others to be wrong; and we approve and condemn accordingly. When the Gentiles which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves ; which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while
accusing or else excusing one another. And if it was thus with the heathen and unenlightened nations, how is it possible for us to silence the inward monitor, unless our hearts be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin? Or what more powerful argument can be employed to awaken men from this state of moral insensibility, than that which the apostle here employs? Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men. This, as we have seen, is the grand motive by which he stirs up sinners to repentance. This is also the argument by which he stimulates the faithful to constancy in prayer, in watchfulness, in circumspection, and in active and unwearied endeavours to promote the glory of God, and the best interests and happiness of their fellow-creatures, as far as their prayers, their example, their influence, and their exertions can possibly extend. And now let me ask you in what light you have hitherto been accustomed to view the terrors of the Lord. Some of you, perhaps, may disbelieve, and may have even openly avowed your disbelief, of what the scriptures declare concerning the eternity of future punishment. Now you should consider, that the question concerning the eternity of future punishment, is a question of too serious a nature to be disposed of by simply saying that you do not believe it. It is a question which can only be solved to the satisfaction of those who believe the scriptures to be a divine revelation, by an appeal to the plain and obvious meaning of the terms in which it is therein denounced. And if the same expression be used to denote the eternal duration of the misery of the wicked, as is used to denote the eternal duration of the happiness of the righteous, (as it certainly is, both in the language in which the New Testament was originally written, and in every known translation that has been made from it), then one should think that none but an infidel would refuse his assent to a doctrine so clearly revealed in scripture. But then consider, you say, the frailty of human nature, and the shortness of human life. And do you mean to insinuate, that God does not consider that you are a frail and short lived creature? Or, do you mean to allege the frailty of your nature, and the shortness of your life, as an argument to disprove what God has revealed in his word concerning the eternity of future punishment? This were a strange argument indeed. Eternal punishment, you must know, is not denounced against the frail, but against the unbelieving and impenitent. And as to the shortness of human life, it is to no purpose to say that it bears no proportion to eternity, because this would still be the case, were it protracted to a thousand times its present length. The thing, therefore, to be attended to is, whether sufficient time be allowed you to know that you have souls to be saved or to be lost, according as you improve or misimprove the short and uncertain period of your present existence. If the ordinary period of human life be even no more than is precisely sufficient for fleeing from the wrath to come, and laying hold of eternal life ; if all the offers of grace cease with the present
period of our existence; if, when this the day of our merciful visitation is ended, we shall not again have any opportunity of redeeming our mispent time and neglected privileges our only safe course unquestionably is, not to quarrel with God's threatenings, but thankfully to rely on his precious promises; not to make to ourselves a refuge of lies, but to flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us in the gospel.
I would, therefore, have you seriously to think, whatever may have formerly been your sentiments as to the eternity of future punishment, whether or not you had duly considered this awfully interesting subject in all its bearings and relations, before you ventured to decide on a question which involves the most momentous consequences.
If you still think the punishment disproportioned to the crime, reflect whether you may not have considered sin in one view only, merely as an offence of one man against another, and not as you ought to consider it, as committed against God-as rebellion against his authority, and as an insult offered to him in his presence—as despising his favour and disregarding his threatenings—as grieving his Spirit, and trampling under foot the blood of the covenant. If viewed in this light, in which alone we can behold it in all its malignity, we shall at once perceive the reason why the wrath of God is denounced from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
Learn, then, to measure the demerit of sin, not by the narrowness of the limits within which its