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religion ; there is, I believe, a hell for the impenitent, there are chains of darkness, a worm, that dieth not, a fire that is never quenched, 2 Pet. ii. 4. Mark ix. 44.
In hell, I believe, there are pains far more excruciating than the most violent agonies here, worse than the gout and the stone, less tolerable than the sufferings of a galley-slave, the breaking of a criminal on the wheel, or the tearing asunder of a martyr with red hot pincers of iron. I believe these things; and I am, I know, in the case of them, against whom these punishments are denounced: freedom from all these is set before me, and I may, if I will, avoid the bottomless abyss, Rev. ix. 1. but no matter, I will precipitate myself beadlong into the horrible gulf." A small pittance of reputation, a very little glory, an inconsiderable sum of money, a few empty and deceitful pleasures will serve to conceal those perils, the bare ideas of which would terrify my imagination, and subvert my designs. Devouring worm ! chains of darkness ! everlasting burnings ! infernal spirits ! fire ! sulphur! smoke! remorse! rage! madness! despair ! idea, frighftul idea of a thousand years, of ten thousand years, of ten millions of years, of endless revolutions of absorbing eternity! You shall make no impressions on my mind. It shall be my fortitude to dare you, my glory to affront you. .
Thus reasons the sinner who believes; but who lives in impenitence. This is the heart that wants a new miracle to affect it. But I demand, can you conceive any prodigy that can soften a soul so hard ? I ask, if so many motives be useless, can you conceive any others more effectual ? Would you have God attempt to gain an ascendency over you by means more influential ? Would you have him give you more than immortality, more than his Son, more than heaven? Would you have him present objects to you more frightful than hell and eternity? We know what you will reply. You will say,
, we talk fanciful, and fight with shadows of our own creation. If the sinner, say you, would but think of these things, they would certainly convert him: but he forgets them, and therefore he is more to be pitied for his distraction, than to be blamed for his insensibility. Were a person to rise from the dead to recal, and to fix his attention, he would awake from his stupor. Idle sophism ! As if distraction, amidst numberless objects that demand his attention, were not the highest degree of insensibility itself. But why do I speak of distraction? I have now before me clear, full, anddecisive evidence, that even while sinners have all these objects in full view, they derive no sanctifying influence from them.. Yes, I have made the experiment, and consequently my evidence is undenia. ble, I see that all the motives of love, fear, and horror united, are too weak to convert one obsti, nate sinner. My evidences, my brethren, will you believe it, are yourselves. Contradict me ; re
Am I not now presenting all these motives to you? Do not speak, of distraction, for I look at you, and you hear me.
hear me. I present all these motives to you? this God, the witness and judge of your hearts; these treasures of mercy which he opens in your favor; this Jesus, who amidst the most excruciating agonies, expired for you. To you we open the kingdom of heaven, and draw back all the veils that hide futurity from you. To you, to you we present the devils with their rage, hell with its torments, eternity with its horrors. We conjure you this moment, by the solemnity of all these motives, to return to God. I repeat
it again, you cannot pretend distraction now, yos cannot plead forgetfulness now, nor can you avoid to day, either the glory of conversion, or the shame of an impenitence that resisteth the most solemn and pathetic objects. But is it not true that none of these motives touch you? I mean they do not reform you. For it doth not argue any piety, if after we have meditated on a subject, chosen our sentiments, and our expressions, and with an assemblage of scripture-imagery, covered the pleasures of paradise, and the horrors of hell, with coloring the best adapted to exhibit their nature, and to affect yours ; I say, it requireth no pity to feel
, a moving of the animal spirits, a slight emotion of the heart. You are just as much affected with a representation, which you know is fiction, and exhibited by actors in borrowed guise; and you do us very little honor by giving us what you bestow on theatrical declaimers. But is any one of you so affected with these motives, as to go without delay to make restitution of ill-gotten gain, to embrace an enemy, to break off an impure connection? I ask again, Can you contradict me ? Can you' refute me ? Alas! we know what a sermon can do, and we have reason for affirming, that no known motives will change some of our hearts, although we do attend to them ; and for inferring this just consequence; a thousand new motives would be as useless as the rest.
In this manner we establish the truth, thus we prove the sufficiency of the christian religion, thus we justify providence against the unjust reproaches of infidel and' impenitent sinners, and thus, in spite of ourselves, we trace out our own condemnation. For since we continue; some of us in unbeHef, and others of us in impenitence, we are driven either to tax God with employing means inadequate to the ends of instruction and conversion, or to charge the guilt of not improving them on ourselves. We have seen that our disorders do not flow from the first : but that they actually do proceed from the last of these causes. Unto thee, then, O Lord! belongeth righteousness: but unto us confusion of face ihis day, Dan. ix. 7.
Here we would finish this discourse, had we not engaged at first to answer a difficult question, which naturally ariseth from our text, and from the manner in which we have discussed it. Could the Jews, to whom the state of the soul after death was very little known, be numbered among those, who would not be persuaded, though one rose from the dead? We have two answers to this seeming difficulty.
1. We could deny that notion, which creates this difficulty, and affirm, that the state of the soul after death was much better understood by the Jews, than you suppose.
We could quote many passages from the old testament, where the doctrines of heaven and of hell, of judgment, and of the resurrection, are revealed ; and we could shew that the Jews were so persuaded of the truth of these doctrines, that they considered the Sadducees, who doubted of them, as sectaries distinguished from the rest of the nation.
But as our strait limits will not allow us to do justice to these articles by fully discussing them, we will take another method of answering the objection.
2. The Jews had as good evidence of the divine inspiration of the old testament as christians have of that of the new. So that it might as truly be said to a Jew, as to a christian, If thou resist the ordinary evidence of the truth of revelation, neither
wouldest thou be persuaded though one rose from the dead to attest it.
It is questionable, whether the Jewish revelation explained the state of souls after death so clearly that Jesus Christ had sufficient ground for his proposition. But were we to grant what this question implies; were we to suppose, that the state of souls after death was as much unknown as our querist pretends ; it would be still true, that it was incongruous with the justice and wisdom of God to employ new means of conversion in favor of a Jew, who resisted Moses and the prophets. Our proof follows.
Moses and the prophets taught sublime notions of God. They represented him as a being supremely wise, and supremely powerful. Moreover, Moses and the prophets expressly declared, that God, of whom they gave such sublime ideas, would display his power, and his wisdom, to ren
, der those completely happy, who obeyed his laws, and them completely miserable who durst affront his authority. A Jew who was persuaded, on the one hand, that Moses and the prophets spoke on the part of God; and on the other, that Moses and the prophets, whose mission was unsuspected, declared that God would render those completely happy, who obeyed his laws, and them completely miserable, who durst affront his authority; a Jew, who in spite of this persuasion, persisted in impenitence, was so obdurate, that his conversion by means of any new motives was inconceivable : at least, he was so culpable, that he could not equitably require God to employ new means for his conversion.
What doth the gospel say more on the punishments, which God will inflict on the wicked, than Moses and the prophets said ? (I speak on the sup