or, the truth of the resurrection of the bodies, both of good and bad at the last day: asserted, and proved by God’s word
also, the manner and order of their coming forth of their graves; as also, with what bodies they do arise together with a discourse of the last judgment, and the final conclusion of the whole world
by JOHN BUNYAN, A Servant of the Lord’s Christ
‘Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.’—(1 Cor 15:51, 52)
‘Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.’—(John 5:28, 29)
ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR
This very important treatise, judging from the style in which it is written, was, probably, one of the first books composed by Bunyan. The form in which it is prepared, with minute divisions to assist the memory, and its colloquial language, indicate that it was first intended for the pulpit and then enlarged to form a more complete treatise; while the frequent recurrence of the words ‘I say,’ shew the unpolished style in which he was in the habit of committing his thoughts to paper, when he became an author.
A good copy of what appears to be the first edition, is in the British Museum, a small 8vo, without date—and from this, collated with the reprint by C. Doe in Bunyan’s works, 1691, the present edition is published. Doe, in his catalogue of all Mr. Bunyan’s books, appended to the Heavenly Footman, 1690, states that ‘The resurrection of the Dead, and eternal Judgment by John Bunyan, a servant of the Lord’s Christ, was first published in 1665.’ I have not been able to discover any subsequent edition in a separate volume.
The resurrection of the body is a subject of universal and deep importance. It defies our reasoning powers, while it exalts our ideas of the divine omnipotence. With God, all things revealed in his word are not only possible, but certain of accomplishment. The bodies of the saints, which are a part of the Redeemer’s purchase will be raised in heavenly and wondrous perfection; like to the Saviour’s glorious body. That body, which being transfigured ‘did shine as the sun, and his raiment became as the light.’ That body which, after his resurrection, might be touched, but which could appear and disappear to mortal eyes; in the room at Emmaus, or in a closed room filled with his disciples; could be touched, yet vanish away; could eat with them on the sea shore, and could ascend to heaven from the mount. Thus it was foretold by the prophet and reiterated by the apostle—‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.’ (Isa 64:4, 1 Cor 2:9) Not one atom of our dust can be lost; a bright, a glorious anticipation to the saints; but how solemn and awful a thought to those who die without hope. Among Christians it is common to think and talk of the happiness of the spirits of the just made perfect; but alas, how seldom do we think or speak of the perfect bliss of our whole nature, body, soul, and spirit—incorruptible, undefiled, glorified—every part equally the object of the Saviour’s purchase and of his care.
This treatise, which will be ever new, and ever important, was peculiarly required in Bunyan’s early days. Under the protectorate, the minds of men, which had been kept in slavery, became suddenly emancipated from human creeds and formularies of public worship. The personal attention of every one was then directed to the Bible—the Lord’s day was observed, men were chosen as ministers not from high connections, but from deep and humble piety. Tens of thousands became happy in a personal knowledge of divine truth. At such a period, it must have happened that some evil spirits would exalt themselves, and that even some serious inquirers would draw strange conclusions from a misconception of divine truth; and dimly see ‘men as trees walking.’ Among these there appeared teachers, who, unable to comprehend how that body, which had gone to dust, or in some cases had been reduced by fire to its primary elements, and dispersed to the winds or waves, could be again produced. They revived an ancient error, That the new birth was the only resurrection from death; and consequently, that to those who were born again, the resurrection was passed. The individuals who promulgated these opinions, do not appear to have been associated together as a sect, or a church. The greater number were called in derision ‘ranters,’ and some ‘quakers.’ It is very probable, that this treatise was intended as an antidote to these delusions. We must not infer from the opinions of a few unworthy individuals, who justly deserved censure, that Bunyan meant to reflect upon the Society of Friends. This treatise was printed in 1665: but it was not until 1675 that the Quakers’ rules of discipline were first published, and they from that time as a sect have been, in a high degree, conformable to the morality and heavenly influences of the gospel. But even before this, Fox, Crisp, Penn, Barclay, and others, who afterwards formed the Society of Friends, had declared their full belief in this doctrine. ‘The resurrection of the just and unjust—the last judgment—heaven and hell as future rewards—we believe and confess.’ ‘We believe the holy manhood of Christ to be in heavenly glory.’ ‘We acknowledge a resurrection in order to eternal recompence, and rest contented with that body which it shall please God to give us.’ ‘We do firmly believe that besides the resurrection of the soul from the death of sin, to a life of righteousness while here, there will be a resurrection of the dead hereafter, and that we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ.’ Barclay, in his catechism, 1673, clearly asserts Bunyan’s own ideas of the resurrection. But in the face of these, and a thousand similar declarations, the grossest calumnies were asserted by a fanatic clergyman, Alexr. Ross, in his View of all Religions:—‘The Ranters are a sect of beasts that neither divide the hoof, nor chew the cud; that is to say, very unclean ones. They, like the Quakers, oppose forms and order [the form and order of Common Prayer]. To anatomize this monster: 1st, They hold that God, Devils, Angels, Heaven, and Hell, are fictions. 2d, That Moses, the Baptist, and Christ were impostors. 3d, That preaching and praying is lying.’ 8vo., 1696, p. 273. And such wild slanders were uttered occasionally against all dissenters, until a much later period. Happily they are now better known, and the truths of Christianity are more appreciated. I have been careful to guard the reader upon this subject, lest it should be thought that Bunyan had in any degree manifested the spirit of those, who even to the present day misrepresent the opinions of the Quakers. This may be occasioned by their distinguishing tenet—That the work of the ministry is purely a labour of love, and ought not to be performed for hire—derived from the command of Christ to his disciples, ‘Freely ye have received, freely give.’ This, however, is no reason that they should be, as to their general views of divine truth, misrepresented and traduced.
Bunyan, at all times solemn and impressive, is peculiarly earnest and searching in this treatise. The dead will arise involuntarily and irresistibly—conscience uncontrolled, must testify the truth, yea, all the truth to the condemnation of the soul and body, unless cleansed from sin by faith in the Redeemer and the sacred influences of the Holy Spirit. The books will be opened, and every thought and word and action be seen inscribed in characters legible to all. Every soul will be able to read and clearly to understand those mysterious books—God’s omniscient, his penetrating, his universal sight of all things from the creation of the world to the final consummation; and his perfect remembrance of all that he saw—are one and the same. There is then no refuge, no escape—the word depart impels obedience, and the sinner plunges into eternal woe!! O that the living may lay these awful realities to heart, and fly for refuge to the bosom of the Redeemer—he only is able—he is willing to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him. And they who find in him a refuge from the storms of life, shall hear his voice irresistibly impelling them to heaven, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’
O glorious hour! O blest abode!
I shall be like and near my God!
And flesh and sin no more control
The sacred pleasures of the soul.
May the divine blessing abundantly attend the reading of these awful or joyful realities.
Though this be a small treatise, yet it doth present thee with things of the greatest and most weighty concernment, even with a discourse of life and death to eternity: opening, and clearing, by the scriptures of God, that the time is at hand, when, there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust; even of the bodies of both, from the graves where they are, or shall be, at the approach of that day.
Thou hast also in these few lines, the order and manner of the rising of these two sorts of people, wherein is shewed thee with what body they shall then rise, as also their states and condition at this day, with great clearness.
For here thou shalt see the truth, and manner of the terrible judgment, the opening of the books, the examining of witnesses, with a final conclusion upon good and bad. Which, I hope will be profitable to thy soul that shall read it. For if thou art godly, then here is that which will, through God’s blessing, encourage thee to go on in the faith of the truth of the gospel; but if thou art ungodly, then here thou mayst meet with conviction: yea, and that of what will be, without fail, thy end, at the end of the world: whether thou continue in thy sins, or repent. If thou continue in them, blackness, and darkness, and everlasting destruction; but if thou repent, and believe the gospel, then light, and life, and joy, and comfort, and glory, and happiness, and that to eternity.
Wherefore let me here beg these things at thy hand,
First, That thou take heed of that spirit of mockery that saith, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’ (2 Peter 3:4, 5)
Secondly, Take heed that thy heart be not overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and so that day come upon thee unawares. (Luke 21:34, 35)
Thirdly, But be diligent in making thy calling and election sure; that thou in the day, of which thou shalt read more in this book, be not found without that glorious righteousness that will then stand thee in stead, and present thee before his glorious presence, with exceeding joy. To him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus, world without end. Amen.
THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD, AND ETERNAL JUDGMENT
‘BUT THIS I CONFESS UNTO THEE, THAT AFTER THE WAY WHICH THEY CALL HERESY, SO WORSHIP I THE GOD OF MY FATHERS, BELIEVING ALL THINGS WHICH ARE WRITTEN IN THE LAW AND IN THE PROPHETS: AND HAVE HOPE TOWARD GOD, WHICH THEY THEMSELVES ALSO ALLOW, THAT THERE SHALL BE A RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD, BOTH OF THE JUST AND UNJUST.’—(Acts 24:14, 15)
My discourse upon this text, will chiefly concern the resurrection of the dead: wherefore to that I shall immediately apply myself, not meddling with what else is couched in the words.
You see here, that Paul, being upon his arraignment, accused of many things, by some that were violent for his blood; and being licensed to speak for himself by the then heathen magistrate; he doth in few words tell them, that as touching the crimes wherewith they charged him, he was utterly faultless, only this he confessed, that after that way which they call heresy, so he worshipped the God of his fathers; believing all things that are written in the law and the prophets, and that he had the same hope towards God, which they themselves did allow, that there should be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
Whence note by the way, that a hypocritical people, will persecute the power of those truths in others, which themselves in words profess. I have hopes towards God, and that, such a hope which themselves do allow, and yet I am this day, and that for this very thing, persecuted by them.
But to come to my purpose, ‘There shall be a resurrection of the dead,’ &c. By these words, the apostle sheweth us what was the substance of his doctrine, to wit, that there should be ‘a resurrection of the dead’; and by these words also, what was the great argument with his soul, to carry him through these temptations, afflictions, reproaches, and necessities he met with in this world, even the doctrine of a resurrection. I have hope towards God, saith he, and there is my mind fixed; for there shall be ‘a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.’ The reason why I cannot do what these Jews, would have me; also why I cannot live as do the Gentiles, it is, because I have in my soul, the faith of the resurrection. This is the doctrine I say, which makes me fear to offend, and that is as an undergirder to my soul, whereby I am kept from destruction and confusion, under all the storms and tempests I here go through. In a word, this is it that hath more awe upon my conscience than all the laws of men, with all the penalties they inflict. ‘And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men.’ (verse 16)
Now here, seeing this doctrine of the resurrection of the dead hath that power, both to bear up and to awe; both to encourage and to keep within compass, the spirit and body of the people of God; it will be requisite, and profitable for us, to inquire into the true meaning and nature of this word, ‘the resurrection of the dead.’
And for the better compassing of this matter, I shall briefly enquire,
First, What in this place is meant by the dead.
Secondly, What is meant by the resurrection.
Thirdly, Why the apostle doth here speak of the resurrection of the dead as of a thing yet to come—‘There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.’
First. The dead in scripture go under a five-fold consideration; as,
1. Such as die a natural death, or as when a man ceaseth to be any more in this world, as David, whom Peter tells us ‘is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us to this day.’ (Acts 2:29)
2. There is a people that are reckoned dead in trespasses and sins, as those are, who never yet were translated from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. Such, I say, who yet never felt the power of the Word and Spirit of God, to raise them from that state, to walk with him in the regeneration; making a life out of Christ, and his present benefits. (Eph 2:1, 2, John 5:25)
3. There is a death seizeth men often after some measure of light received from God, and some profession of the gospel of Christ. These, for the certainty of their damnation, are said to be dead—dead, twice dead, and plucked up by the roots. (Jude 12)
4. There is in scripture mention made of a death to sin, and the lusts of the flesh; this death is the beginning of true life and happiness, and is a certain forerunner of a share in Christ, and with him in another world. (Rom 6:6–8, 2 Tim 2:11)
5. Lastly, There is also in the word, a relation of eternal death. This is the death that those are in, and swallowed up of, that go out of this world Godless, Christless, and graceless; dying in sin, and so under the curse of the dreadful God; who, I say, because they have missed of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour in this day of grace: are fallen into the gulf and jaws of eternal death and misery, in the fire that never shall be quenched. (Mark 9:43, 44, Luke 16:23–26)
Now then, seeing there is death, or to be dead, taken under so many considerations in the scripture; it is evident, that to be dead in Christ, the text is not meant of them all: I then must distinguish, and inquire which of these deaths it is, that here the apostle did look for a resurrection from. (1.) then, It cannot be meant a resurrection from eternal death, for from that there is no redemption. (Psa 49:8) (2.) Neither is it a resurrection from that double death; for they that are in that, are past recovery also. (3.) And as for those that are dead to sin, it is nonsense to say there shall, or can be a resurrection from that: for that itself is a resurrection; which resurrection also, the apostle had then passed through: and also all the brethren, as he saith, You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins. (Col 2:12, 13, 20) And again, ‘If ye then be risen with Christ’ (Col 3:1), and again, ‘Wherein also ye are risen with him, through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.’ (Col 2:12) (4.) The dead therefore in this scripture, must be understood of those that have departed this life, that have body and soul separated each from the other; and so the resurrection, a resurrection of the body out of the grace; as Daniel saith, ‘Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.’ (Dan 12:2) And again, ‘The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth,’ &c. (John 5:28, 29)
Second. [What is meant by the resurrection.] The resurrection of the just, then, is the rising of the bodies of the just, and the resurrection of the unjust, the rising of their bodies, at the last judgment. This also is the meaning of that saying of Paul to Agrippa, ‘I stand,’ saith he, ‘and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers’ (Acts 26:6), which promise at first began to be fulfilled in the resurrection of the body of Christ (Acts 13:32, 33), and hath its accomplishment, when the dead, small and great, are raised out of their graves. Wherefore, though Paul saith in the 13th of the Acts, it is already fulfilled; yet here he saith, he hopes it shall come. ‘Which promise,’ saith he, ‘our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come.’ (Acts 26:7) As God told Daniel, saying, ‘go thy way, till the end be: for thou shalt rest and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.’ (Dan 12:13)
Christ is already risen, and therefore so far the promise is fulfilled; but his saints are yet in their graves, and therefore that part of the fulfilling of it is yet to come, as he saith, ‘Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?’ (Acts 26:8)
Again, That it is the resurrection of the dead bodies of both saints and sinners that is here inserted, it is further evident; because the apostle saith, it is the resurrection, that the very Pharisees themselves allowed. I have hope towards God, saith he, which themselves also allow; then what that hope is, he in the next words sheweth, namely, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, &c. Now we know, that the Pharisees did not allow of a resurrection from a state of nature, to a state of grace, which is the same with the new birth; but did confidently allow and teach, that they were the children of Abraham, according to the flesh. Yea, when any of them began to adhere, or incline to Christ’s doctrine in some things, yet the doctrine of the new birth, or of being raised from a state of nature, to a state of grace, they would very much stick at; though in the meantime, they utterly were against the doctrine of the Sadducees, which denied the resurrection of the body. (John 3:1–9, 8:51–56, Acts 23:6–8)
Further, the resurrection here spoken of, must needs be the resurrection of the body, because it is called, ‘a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust’—that is, of both saints and sinners, according to the saying of Christ, ‘The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.’ (John 5:28, 29)
Third. [The resurrection spoken of is a thing yet to come;] the resurrection here mentioned, is a resurrection to come, not already enjoyed, either by saints or sinners—‘There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.’ Now, I say, the resurrection here being yet deferred by the just, and counted also the resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust: it must needs be the same resurrection that is spoken of by Job, who saith, ‘So man lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep.’ (Job 14:12)
Having thus, in few words, opened this scripture unto you, I shall in the next place, for the further satisfaction of those that are yet wavering, and for the refreshment of those that are strong and steadfast, lay down before you, several undeniable scripture demonstrations of the resurrection of the dead, both of the just, and unjust.
FIRST, I shall first begin with,
THE RESURRECTION OF THE JUST
First, The just must arise, because Christ is risen from the dead. Christ is the head of the just, and they are the members of his body; and because of this union, therefore the just must arise. This is the apostle’s own argument—‘If Christ,’ saith he, ‘be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen.’ (1 Cor 15:12, 13). Now, I say, the reason why the apostle thus argueth the resurrection from the dead, by the resurrection of Christ, it is, because the saints, of whose resurrection he here chiefly discourseth, are in their bodies, as well as in their souls, the members of Christ; ‘Know ye not,’ saith he, ‘that your bodies are the members of Christ.’ (1 Cor 6:15) A very weighty argument; for if a good man be a member of Christ, then he must either be raised out of his grave, or else sin and death must have power over a member of Christ. I say again, if this body be not raised, then also Christ is not a complete conqueror over his enemies; forasmuch as death and the grave have still power over his members. ‘The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.’ (1 Cor 15:26) Now, though Christ in his own person hath a complete conquest over death, &c., yet death hath still power over the bodies of all that are in their graves: now, I say, Christ being considered with relation to his members, then he hath not yet a complete conquest over death, neither will he, until they every one be brought forth of their graves; for then, and not till then, shall that saying be every way fulfilled, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ (1 Cor 15:53, 54)
Second, As there must be a resurrection of the just, because Christ is their head, and they his members: so also, because the body of the saints, as well as their soul, is the purchase of Christ’s blood. ‘Ye are bought with a price’: saith Paul; ‘therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.’ (1 Cor 6:20) Christ will not lose the purchase of his blood. O death, saith Christ, I will have them; O grave, I will make thee let them go; I will ransom them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death. I have bought them, and they shall be mine. ‘O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction’ (Hosea 13:14): I say, though the power of the grave be invincible, and death be ‘the king of terrors’ (Job 18:14), yet he who hath the keys of hell and of death at his girdle (Rev 1:18), to him belongeth the issues from death. ‘He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto God the Lord belong the issues from death’ (Psa 68:20), and we, the price of his blood, shall be delivered.
Third, As the body is the member of Christ, and the price of his blood: so it is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in us. ‘What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you,—and ye are not your own?’ (1 Cor 6:19) The body is no such ridiculous thing in the account of Christ as it was in the account of the Sadducees. ‘The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body’ (verse 13), and that not only in this world, but that which is to come; wherefore he saith, ‘God hath both raised up the Lord [Jesus,] and will also raise us up by his own power’—that is, as he hath raised up the body of Christ, so will he raise up ours also by Christ.
Fourth, The bodies of the just must arise again, because of that similitude, that must be betwixt the body of the Lord Jesus Christ and the bodies of the saints. ‘When he shall appear, we shall be like him.’ (1 John 3:2) Now we have it abundantly manifest in scripture, that the body of the Lord Jesus, was raised out of the grave, caught up into heaven, and that it ever remaineth in the holiest of all, a glorified body. (Luke 24:3–7, 36–43, John 20:24–28, Acts 1:2–11, 2:31, 17:30–32, Mark 16:6, 7, 19, Heb 7:24–26, 7:1–3, 10:12)
Now, I say, it would be very strange to me if Christ should be raised, ascended, and glorified in that body; and yet that his people should be with him, no otherwise than in their spirits; especially, seeing that he in his resurrection, is said to be but ‘the first-born from the dead, and the first-fruits of them that sleep.’ (Col 1:18, 1 Cor 15:23) For we know, that a first-begotten doth imply more sons, and that first-fruits do foreshew an after-crop; wherefore we conclude, that ‘as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the first-fruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.’ (1 Cor 15:22, 23)
And hence it is that the scripture saith, He ‘shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.’ (Phil 3:21) And hence it is again, that the day of Christ is said to be the day of the manifestation of the sons of God, and of the redemption of our body (Rome 8:21–24), for then shall the saints of God not only be, but appear as their Saviour, being delivered from their graves, as he is from his, and glorified in their bodies, as he is in his.
Fifth, There must be a resurrection of the body of the saints, because the body, as well as the mind, hath been a deep sharer in the afflictions that we meet with for the gospel’s sake. Yea, the body is ofttimes the greater sufferer, in all the calamities, that for Christ’s sake we here undergo; it is the body that feels the stocks, the whip, hunger and cold, the fire and rack, and a thousand calamities; it is the body in which we have the dying marks of the Lord Jesus, ‘that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.’ (Gal 6:17, 2 Cor 4:11) God is so just a God, and so merciful to his people, that though the bodies of his saints should, through the malice of the enemy, be never so dishonourably tortured, killed, and sown in the grave: yet he will, as further will be shewn anon, raise it again in incorruption, glory, and honour: as he saith also in another place, that we who have continued with Christ in his temptations, that have for his sake underwent the reproach and malice of the world, to you, saith Christ. ‘I appoint a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me.’ (Luke 22:28, 29) If we suffer, we shall also reign with him (2 Tim 2:12): ‘and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.’ (John 12:25) All this is to be enjoyed, especially at the resurrection of the just. But,
Sixth, There must be a resurrection of the just, otherwise, there will be the greatest disappointment on all sides that ever was, since man had a being on the earth. A disappointment, I say,
1. Of the will of God—‘And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me,’ saith Christ, ‘that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, [not a dust,] but should raise it up again at the last day.’ (John 6:39)
2. A disappointment of the power of God; for he that hath raised up the Lord Jesus, doth also intend to raise us up by his power, even our bodies; as Paul saith, ‘The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. and God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his power.’ (1 Cor 6:13, 14)
3. If there should be no resurrection of the just, Christ also would be wonderfully disappointed of the fruits of all his sufferings. As I told you before, his people are the price of his blood, and the members of his body, and he is now at the right hand of God, ‘far above all principalities and powers, and every name that is named,’ expecting till his enemies be made his footstool (Heb 1:13), and brought under the foot of the weakest saint; which will not be, until the last enemy death is destroyed. We know that he said, when he went away, that he would come again, and fetch all his people to himself, even up into heaven, that where he is, there we may be also. (John 12:26; 14:1–3, 17:24) But, I say, how will he be disappointed, if when he comes, the grave and death should prevent and hinder him, and with its bars, keep down those, whom he hath ransomed with his blood, from the power thereof.
4. If the bodies of the just arise [not] from the dead, then they also will be disappointed. ‘Tis true, the saints departed, have far more fellowship and communion with God and the Lord Jesus, than we have, or are not yet capable of having, they being in paradise, and we in this world (Luke 23:43); but yet, I say for all that, they are, though there, very much longing for the day of the Lord’s vengeance, which will be the day in which they will, and must arise from the dead. This, I say, is the time that they long for, when they cry under the altar, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Rev 6:10, 11) When they died, they died in hope to ‘obtain a better resurrection’ (Heb 11:35), and now they are gone, they long till that day be come; till the day come, I say, when the dead, even all the enemies of Christ, shall be judged; for then will he give rewards to his servants the prophets, and to his saints, and to all that fear his name, small and great. (Rev 11:18)
5. If the just arise not, great disappointment also will be to the saints yet alive in this world; for, notwithstanding they have already received the first-fruits of the Spirit, yet they wait, not only for more of that, but also for the resurrection, redemption, and changing of this vile body. ‘For our conversation is in heaven,’ saith Paul, ‘from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like to his glorious body.’ (Rom 8:20–23, Phil 3:20, 21) But now, I say, if the body riseth not, then how can it be made like to the glorious body of Christ Jesus: yea, what a sad disappointment, infatuation, and delusion, are those poor creatures under, that look, and that by scripture warrant, for such a thing? They look for good, but behold evil; they expect to be delivered in their whole man from every enemy; but lo, both death and the grave, their great enemies, do swallow them up for ever. But, beloved, be not deceived. ‘The needy shall not always be forgotten, the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.’ (Psa 9:18) Saith Christ, He that seeth the Son, and believeth on him that sent him, hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:40)
6. If the just arise not out of their graves, then also is every grace of God in our souls defeated; for though the spirit of devotion can put forth a feigned show of holiness with the denial of the resurrection, yet every grace of God in the elect doth prompt them forward to live as becomes the gospel, by pointing at this day; as, (1.) ‘Tis this that faith looks at, according as it is written, ‘I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.’ (2 Cor 4:13, 14) (2.) Hope looks at this. ‘We,’ saith Paul, ‘which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body’—that is, we expect this by hope; ‘but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth,’ or hath in present possession, ‘why doth he yet hope for?’ (Rom 8:23, 24) (3.) The grace of self-denial also worketh by this doctrine—‘If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not?’ (1 Cor 15:32) As who should say, Wherefore do I deny myself of those mercies and privileges that the men of this world enjoy? Why do not I also, as well as they, shun persecution for the cross of Christ? If the dead rise not, what shall I be the better for all my trouble that here I meet with for the gospel of Christ? (4.) Both zeal and patience, with all other the graces of the Spirit of God in our hearts, are much, yea, chiefly encouraged, animated, and supported by this doctrine; as James saith, ‘Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord,’ for then shall the dead be raised. (1 Thess 4:16, 17) ‘Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts; for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.’ (James 5:7, 8)
Seventh, The doctrine of the resurrection of the just, must needs be a certain truth of God, if we consider the devilish, and satanical errors and absurdities that must unavoidably follow the denial thereof; as, he that holdeth no resurrection of our body, he denieth the resurrection of the body of Christ. This is the Spirit’s own doctrine—‘For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised.’ (1 Cor 15:16) He that denieth the resurrection of the members, denieth the resurrection of the head; for seeing the resurrection of the saints is proved by the resurrection of Christ, he that doth deny the resurrection of the saints, must needs deny the resurrection of Christ, that proves it. Now this error, as it is in itself destructive to all Christian religion: so it, like an adder, carrieth within its bowels, many other alike devilish and filthy; as,
1. He that denieth the resurrection of the saints, he concludeth, that to preach deliverance from sin and death, it is vain preaching; for how can he be freed of sin, that is swallowed up for ever of death and the grave? as he most certainly is, that is always contained therein, as Paul saith, ‘If Christ be not risen,’ whose resurrection is the ground of ours, ‘then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain’ (1 Cor 15:14), then we preach fables, and you receive them for truth.
2. This error, casteth the lie in the face of God, of Christ, and the Scriptures—‘Yea, and we,’ saith Paul, ‘are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: … if so be that the dead rise not.’ (1 Cor 15:15) Mark, before he said, Christ in is resurrection, doth prove our resurrection; but now he saith, that our resurrection will prove the truth of his; and indeed both are true; for as by Christ’s rising, ours is affirmed; so by ours, his is demonstrated.
3. The denial of the resurrection, it also damneth all those that have departed this world in the faith of this doctrine. ‘If Christ be not raised,’ (as if he is not, we rise not, then is not only) your faith vain, yea are yet in your sins (that are alive,) but ‘then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.’ (1 Cor 15:17, 18)
4. He that denieth the resurrection of the just, he concludeth, that the Christian is of all men the most miserable. Mark the words: ‘If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.’ (1 Cor 15:19) First of all, men the most miserable, because we let go present enjoyments for those that will never come, ‘if the dead rise not.’ Of all men most miserable, because our faith, our hope, our joy, and peace, are all but a lie, ‘if the dead rise not.’ But you will say, he that giveth up himself to God shall have comfort in this life. Ah! but ‘if the dead rise not,’ all our comfort that now we think we have from God, will then be found presumption and madness, because we believe, that God hath so loved us, as to have us in his day, in body and soul, to heaven: which will be nothing so, if the dead rise not. If in this life only, we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. Poor Christian! thou that lookest for the blessed hope of the resurrection of the body, at the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ, how wilt thou be deceived, if the dead rise not! ‘But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first-fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.’ (1 Cor 15:20, 21)
5. But again; he that denieth the resurrection of the dead, he setteth open a flood-gate to all manner of impiety; he cutteth the throat of a truly holy life, and layeth the reins upon the neck of the most outrageous lusts; for if the dead rise not, let us eat and drink; that is, do anything, though never so diabolical and hellish; ‘let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die’ (1 Cor 15:32), and there is an end of us; we shall not arise again, to receive either evil or good.
6. To deny this resurrection, nay, if a man do but say, it is past either with him or any Christian: his so saying tendeth directly to the destruction and overthrow of the faith of them that hear him; and is so far from being according to the doctrine of God, that it eateth out good and wholesome doctrine even as cankers eat the face and flesh of a man. How ill-favouredly do they look, that have their nose and lips eaten off with the canker? Even so badly doth the doctrine of no resurrection of the dead, look in the eyes of God, Christ, saints, and scripture. (2 Tim 2:18)
7. I conclude then, that to deny the resurrection of the bodies of the just, it argueth,
(1.) Great ignorance of God, ignorant of his power to raise, ignorant of his promise to raise, ignorant of his faithfulness to raise; and that both to himself, Son, and saints, as I shewed before. Therefore saith Paul to those that were thus deluded, ‘Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.’ (1 Cor 15:34) As if he had said, Do you profess Christianity? and do you question the resurrection of the body? Do you now know, that the resurrection of the body, and glory to follow, is the very quintessence of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Are you ignorant of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and do you question the power and faithfulness of God, both to his Son and his saints; because you say, there shall be no resurrection of the dead? You are ignorant of God; of what he can do, of what he will do, and of what he will by doing glorify himself.
(2.) As it argueth very great ignorance of God’s power, faithfulness, &c., so it argueth gross ignorance of the tenor and current of the scriptures; for ‘as touching the dead, that they rise: have ye not read in the book of Moses [saith Christ] how in the bush, God spake unto him, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living: ye therefore do greatly err.’ (Mark 12:26, 27)
To be the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, it is to be understood of his being their God under a new covenant consideration; as he saith, ‘I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’ Now, thus he is not the God of the dead—that is, of those that perish, whether they be angels or men. (Heb 8:10, 11, John 8:42, 1 John 3:8–10, Hosea 6:2, Col 3:4, Eph 1:4)
Now, I say, they that are the children of God, as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, they are counted the living under a threefold consideration—(a.) In their Lord and head, and thus all the elect may be said to live; for they are from eternity chosen in him, who also is their life, though possibly many of them yet unconverted. I say, yet Christ is their life, by the eternal purpose of God. (b.) The children of the new covenant, do live both in their spirits in glory, by open vision, and here by faith and the continual communication of grace from Christ into their souls. (Gal 2:20) (c.) They live also with respect to their rising again; for God ‘calleth those things which be not as though they were.’ (Rom 4:17) To be born, dead, buried, risen and ascended, are all present with God, he liveth not by time, as we do—a thousand years to him are but as the day that is past. And again, ‘One day is as a thousand years.’ (2 Peter 3:8) Eternity, which is God himself, admitteth of no first, second, and third; all things are naked and bare before him, and present with him (Heb 4:13, Isa 46:9, 10); all his live unto him. There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. (Rom 8:29–34)
A resurrection—of what? Of that which is sown, or of that which was never sown? If of that which is sown, then it must be either of that nature that was sown, or else of the corruption that cleaveth to it; but it is the nature and not the corruption that cleaveth unto it, that riseth again. And verily, the very term ‘resurrection’ is a forcible argument to prove the dead shall come forth of their graves; for the Holy Ghost hath always spoken more properly than to say, ‘There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust’; when yet neither the good nor the bad shall come forth of their graves, but rather something else to delude the world withal.
Having thus in few words, shewed you the truth of the resurrection of the dead, I now come,
SECOND—To the manner of their rising.
THE MANNER OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE JUST
And FIRST of the just
The apostle, when he had in the 15th of the First of the Corinthians proved the truth and certainty of the resurrection, he descends to the discovery of the manner of it; and to the end, he might remove those foolish scruples that attend the hearts of the ignorant, he begins with one of their questions—‘But some man will say,’ saith he, ‘How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?’ (verse 35) To which he answereth,
First, By a similitude of seed, that is sown in the earth. In which similitude, he inserteth three things—
1. That our reviving or rising, must be after death—‘That which thou sowest is not quickened except it die.’ (verse 36)
2. That at our rising, we shall not only revive and live, but be changed into a far more glorious state than when we were sown. ‘That which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be,’ &c. ‘But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him’ (verse 38)—that is, he giveth the body more splendour, lustre, and beauty at its resurrection. But,
3. Neither its quickening, not yet its transcendent splendour, shall hinder it from being the same body—as to the nature of it—that was sown in the earth; for as God giveth it a body, for honour and splendour as it pleaseth him, so ‘to every seed his own body.’ (verse 38)
And, indeed, this similitude by which he here reasoneth the manner of the resurrection of the just, is very natural, and fitly suiteth each particular; for, as to its burial—(1.) The corn of wheat is first dead, and after sown and buried in the earth; and so is the body of man. (2.) After the corn is thus dead and buried, then it quickeneth and reviveth to life: so also shall it be with our body; for after it is laid in the grave and buried, it shall then quicken, rise, and revive.
Again, as to the manner of its change in its rising, this similitude also doth fitly suit; as,
It is sown a dead corn; it is raised a living one. It is sown dry, and without comeliness; it riseth green and beautiful. It is sown a single corn; it riseth a full ear. It is sown in its husk; but in its rising it leaveth that husk behind it.
Further, though the kernel thus die, be buried, and meet with all this change and alteration in these things, yet none of them can cause the nature of the kernel to cease—it is wheat still. Wheat was sown and wheat ariseth; only it was sown dead, dry, and barren wheat; and riseth living, beautiful, and fruitful wheat. It hath this alteration, then, that it doth greatly change its resemblance, though yet it hath this power, as still to retain its own nature. God giveth it a body as it pleaseth him, ‘but to every seed his own body.’
The apostle having thus presented the manner of the resurrection of the saints by the nature of seed sown and rising again; he proceedeth,
Second, for further illustration, to three more similitudes—The first is, to shew us the variety and glory of flesh. The second is, to shew us the difference of glory that is between heavenly bodies, and those that are earthy. The third is, to shew us the difference that is between the glory of the light of the sun, from that of the moon; and also how one star differeth from another in glory: and then concludeth, ‘so is the resurrection of the dead.’ (1 Cor 15:39–43) As who should say, at the resurrection of the bodies, they will be abundantly more altered and changed, than if the flesh of beasts and fowls were made as noble as the flesh of men; or the bodies of earth, were made as excellent as the heavenly bodies, or as if the glory of the moon should be made as bright, and as clear as the glory of the sun; or as if the glory of the least star was as glorious, and as shining, as the biggest in the firmament of heaven.
It is a resurrection indeed, a resurrection every way. The body ariseth, as to the nature of it, the self-same nature; but as to the manner of it; how far transcendent is it! There is a poor, dry, wrinkled kernel cast into the ground, and there it lieth, and swelleth, breaketh, and, one would think, perisheth; but behold, it receiveth life, it chitteth, it putteth forth a blade, and groweth into a stalk, there also appeareth an ear; it also sweetly blossoms, with a full kernel in the ear: it is the same wheat, yet behold how the form and fashion of that which now ariseth, doth differ from that which then was sown; its glory also when ‘twas sown, is no glory, when compared with that in which it riseth. And yet it is the same that riseth that was sown, and no other; though the same after a far more glorious manner; not the same with its husk, but without it. Our bran shall be left behind us when we rise again. The comparison also between the bodies heavenly and bodies earthly holds forth the same—‘The glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.’ Now mark it; he doth not speak here of the natures of each of these bodies; but of the transcendent glory of one above another. ‘The glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another.’ Wherefore I say, at our rising, we shall not change our nature, but our glory; we shall be equal to the angels (Luke 20:36), not with respect to their nature, but glory. The nature also of the moon is one thing, and the glory of the moon is another; and so one star also differeth from another in glory.
A beggar hath the same nature as a king, and gold in the ore, the same nature with that which is best refined; but the beggar hath not the same glory with the king, nor yet the gold in ore, the same glory with that which is refined. But our state will be far more altered than any of these in the days when we, like so many suns in the firmament of heaven, arise out of the heart and bowels of the earth.
These things thus considered do shew you how vainly they argue, that say, our human nature consisting of body and soul, shall not inherit the kingdom of God, and also how far from their purpose, that saying of the apostle is, which saith, that ‘flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God.’ And now also, because I am fallen upon the objection itself, I shall not pass it, but with a short dash at it. Wherefore reader, whoever thou art, consider that frequently in scripture the words ‘flesh’ and ‘blood,’ as also in the place alleged, are not to be understood of that matter which God made; which flesh cleaveth to our bones, and blood runs in our veins: but is taken for the corruption, weakness, mortality, and evil that cleaveth to it; which weakness and corruption, because it possesseth all men, and also wholly ruleth where the soul is unconverted; therefore it beareth the name of that which is ruled and acted by it—to wit, our whole man, consisting of body and soul; yet, I say, is a thing distinct from that flesh and blood which is essential to our being, and without which we are no men. As, for instance, he that is Christ’s, saith Paul, ‘hath crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts’ (Gal 5:24), Who is so vain as to think that the apostle by these words, should mean our material flesh that hangeth on our bones, and that is mixed with our natural blood, sinews, and veins; and not rather of that inward fountain of sin, corruption, and wickedness, which in another place he calleth ‘the old man,’ with his ‘deceitful lusts.’ (Eph 4:22) Again, ‘The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.’ Is it our flesh that hangeth on our bones, which lusteth against the spirit? and that also against which the spirit lusteth? Certainly, if the spirit lusteth against our material flesh, then it is our duty not to nourish it at all, because, by nourishing of it we nourish that against which the Spirit of God fighteth, and warreth. Nay, if the spirit lust against the flesh on our bones simply considered as flesh; and if it be our duty to follow the Spirit, as it is, then we must needs kill ourselves, or cut our flesh from our bones. For whatever the Spirit of God lusteth against, it must be destroyed; yea, it is our duty with all speed to destroy it. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that by flesh here is to be understood, not the nature that God hath made, but the corrupt apprehension, and wisdom, with those inclinations to evil, that lodge within us, which in another place are called the ‘wisdom of the flesh,’ yea, in plain terms, ‘flesh and blood,’ where Christ saith, ‘Flesh and blood hath not revealed [this] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.’ (Matt 16:17)
Nay, observe it, all these places, with many others, do rather point at a corrupt soul, than a corrupt body; for, indeed, sin and all spiritual wickedness, they have their set in the heart and soul of a man, and by their using this or that member of the body, so defile the man; the weaknesses of the body, or that attend our material flesh and blood, they are weaknesses of another kind, as sickness, aches, pains, sores, wounds, defection of members, &c. Wherefore, where you read of flesh and blood, as rejected of God; especially, when it speaks of the flesh and blood of saints, you are not to understand it as meant of the flesh, which is their proper human nature, but of that weakness which cleaveth to it.
Paul in another place, reckoneth up the works of the flesh, in many things, as in witchcraft, hatred, variance, strife, emulation, fornication, and many others. But can any imagine, that he there should strike at that flesh which hangeth on our bones, or rather at that malignity and rebellion that is in the mind of man against the Lord, by reason of which the members of the body are used this way, and also sometimes that, to accomplish its most filthy and abusive deeds. (Gal 5:17–21) ‘They were—enemies in [their] mind by wicked works.’ (Col 1:21)
Thus you see that ‘flesh and blood’ is not to be taken always for the flesh that is upon our hands, and feet, and other parts of our body; but for that sin, weakness, and infirmity, that cleaveth to our whole man.
Further then, touching our real substantial flesh, it may be either considered as God’s creature purely, or as corrupted with sin and infirmity. Now if you consider it as corrupted, so it shall not inherit the kingdom of God: but yet consider it as God’s creature, and so all that God hath converted to himself, through Jesus Christ, shall, even with that body when changed, inherit the kingdom of God. The woman whose clothes are foul, can yet distinguish between the dirt and the cloth on which it hangeth; and so deals God with us. ‘Tis true, there is not one saint, but while he liveth here, his body is arrayed and infected with many corrupt and filthy things, as touching bodily weaknesses; yea, and also with many sinful infirmities, by reason of that body of sin and death that yet remains in us: but yet God, I say, distinguisheth between our weaknesses, and his workmanship, and can tell how to save the whole man of his people, while he is destroying the corruption and weakness that cleaveth to them.
And now to return to the place objected—‘Flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of God.’ It cannot be truly understood, that that flesh which is man’s nature shall not enter the kingdom; for then, as I said before, Christ must lose his members, the purchase of his blood, the vessels and temples of his Spirit; for all this is our body. Again, then Christ also, in that his body, which is also our flesh and blood, is not in glory, contrary to the whole current of the New Testament. (Heb 2:14, 15, 7:24, 24, 8; 3, 4, 10:10–12, Rev 1:18, 2:8)
Yea, it would be nonsense to say, there should be a resurrection, and that our vile body shall be changed, ‘and made like to the glorious body of the Son of God’; if this body do not at all rise again, but some other thing, which is not in us, and our nature. But to be short; the apostle here, when he saith, ‘Flesh and blood cannot inherit,’ &c., speaks properly of that mortality and weakness, that now attends our whole man, and not of our real substantial body itself. For after he had said, ‘Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,’ he adds, ‘neither doth corruption inherit incorruption,’ which two sayings are answerable to what he presently adds, saying, ‘Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead’—mark, ‘the dead shall be raised incorruptible’—that is, the dead shall be so raised as that in their rising, incorruption shall possess them instead of corruption, and immortality instead of that mortality that descended to the grave with them,—‘for this corruptible’—mark, this corruptible—‘must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.’ Mark, I say, it is this corruptible, and this mortal, that must be raised, though not corruptible and mortal, as it was buried; but immortal and incorruptible; it shall leave its grave- clothes of corruption and mortality behind it. (1 Cor 15:50–53)
THIRD. The manner of which their rising, the apostle doth more distinctly branch out a little above in four particulars, which particulars are these that follow—1. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption. 2. It is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory. 3. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 4. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. (1 Cor 15)
1. It is raised in incorruption. We are brought into this world by sin and corruption; corruption is our father, and in sin did our mother conceive us. (Job 17:14, Psa 51:5) And hence it is that we have our life, not only like a span, shadow, or post, for shortness, but also, that it is attended with so much vanity and vexation of spirit. But now being raised from the dead incorruptible, which is also called a begetting and birth, these things that now in our life annoy us, and at last take away our life, are effectually destroyed; and therefore we live for ever, as saith the Spirit—‘And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things,’ that is, all our corruptibleness, ‘are passed away.’ (Rev 21:4)
There shall be in our resurrection no corruption, either of body or of soul; no weakness, nor sickness, nor anything tending that way; as he saith, He will present us ‘to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.’ (Eph 5:27) Therefore, when he saith it is raised in incorruption, it is as if he had said, It is impossible that they should ever sin more, be sick more, sorrow more, or die more. ‘They which shall be counted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage’; though ‘twas thus with them in this world; ‘neither can they die any more, for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.’ (Luke 20:35, 36)
2. It is raised in glory. The dishonour that doth attend the saint at his departing this world, it is very great—‘he is sown in dishonour’; he is so loathsome at his death, that his dearest friends are weary of him, stop their noses at him, see no beauty in him, nor set any price upon him, (I speak nothing here how some of them are hanged, starved, banished, and so die, torn to pieces, and not suffered to be put into graves,) but it is raised in glory. Glory is the sweetness, comeliness, purity, and perfection of a thing. The light is the glory of the sun, strength is the glory of youth, and grey hairs are the glory of old age—that is, it is the excellency of these things, and that which makes them shine. (1 Cor 15:40, 41, Prov 20:29)
Therefore, to arise in glory, it is first to arise in all the beauty, and utmost completeness that is possible to possess a human creature; I say, in all its features and members, inconceivably beautiful. Sin and corruption have made mad work in our bodies as well as in our souls. ‘Tis sin commonly that is the cause of all the deformity and ill-favouredness that now cleaveth to us, and that also rendereth us so dishonourable at our death; but now at our rising, we being raised incorruptible, we shall appear in such perfections, and that of all sorts, belonging to the body, that all the beauty and comeliness, sweetness and amiableness, that hath at any time been in this world, it shall be swallowed up a thousand times told with this glory. The Psalmist saith of Christ that ‘he was fairer than the children of men’ (Psa 45:2), and that, as I believe, in his outward man, as well as in his inward part. He was the exactest, purest, completest, and beautifulest creature that even God made, till his visage was so marred by his persecutions; for in all things he had and shall have the pre-eminence. (Isa 52:14, Col 1:18) Why, our bodies at our resurrection will not only be as free from sin, as his was before he died, but also as free from all other infirmities as he was after he was raised again. In a word, if incorruptibleness can put a beauty upon our bodies when they arise, we shall have it. There shall be no lame legs, nor crump shoulders, no bleared eyes, nor yet wrinkled faces—He ‘shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body.’ (Phil 3:21)
Again, all the glory that a glorified soul can help this body to, it at this day shall enjoy. That soul that hath been these hundreds or thousands of years in the heavens, soaking in the bosom of Christ, it shall in a moment come spangling into the body again, and inhabit every member and vein of the body, as it did before its departure. That Spirit of God also that took its leave of the body when it went to the grave, shall now in all perfection dwell in this body again; I tell you, the body at this day will shine brighter than the face of Moses or Stephen, even as bright as the sun, the stars, and angels. ‘When Christ who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.’ (Exo 34:29, 34, Acts 6:15, Dan 12:3, Matt 13:43, Luke 20:36, Col 3:3, 4)
3. It is raised in power. While we are here, we are attended with so many weaknesses and infirmities, that in time the least sin or sickness is too hard for us, and taketh away both our strength, our beauty, our days, our breath, and life, and all. (Job 38:17) But behold, we are raised in power, in that power that all these things are as far below us as a grasshopper is below a giant; at the first appearance of us the world will tremble.
Behold, the gates of death and the bars of the grave are now carried away on our shoulders, as Samson carried away the gates of the city. (Judg 16:3) Death quaketh, and destruction falleth down dead at our feet: What, then, can stand before us? We shall then carry that grace, majesty, terror, and commanding power in our souls that our countenances shall be like lightning.
(Compare Luke 20:16 with Matthew 28:2, 3) ‘For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. so when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.’ (1 Cor 15:53, 54)
4. It is raised a spiritual body. This is the last particular, and is indeed the reason of the other three; it is an incorruptible body, because it is a spiritual one; it is a glorious body, because it is a spiritual one; it doth rise in power, because it is a spiritual body. When the body is buried, or sown in the earth, it is a body corruptible, dishonourable, weak, and natural; but when it ariseth, it doth rise incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual; so that so far as incorruption is above corruption, glory above dishonour, power above weakness, and spiritual above natural; so great an alteration will there be in our body, when raised again. And yet it is this body and not another; this in nature, though changed into a far more glorious state, a thousand times further than if a hoggard was changed to be an emperor. Mark, ‘it is sown a natural body’; a very fit word; for though there dwell never so much of the Spirit and grace of God in it while it liveth, yet so soon as the soul is separate from it, so soon also doth the Spirit of God separate from it, and so will continue while the day of its rising be come. Therefore, it is laid into the earth a mere lump of man’s nature—‘It is sown a natural body’; but now at the day when ‘the heavens be no more,’ as Job saith (14:12), then the trump shall sound, even the trump of God, and, in a moment, the dead shall be raised incorruptible, glorious, and spiritual. (1 Cor 15:52, 1 Thess 4:16, 17) So that I say, the body when it ariseth, will be so swallowed up of life and immortality, that it will be, as if it had lost its own human nature; though, in truth, the same substantial real nature is every whit there still. ‘Tis the same it that riseth, that was sown; ‘It is sown,’ ‘it is raised’; ‘it is sown,’ ‘it is raised,’ saith the apostle. You know, that things which are candied, by the art of the apothecary, they are so swallowed up with the sweetness and virtue of that in which they are candied, that they are now, as though they had no other nature, than that in which they are boiled: when yet, in truth, the thing candied doth still retain its own proper nature and essence; though by virtue of its being candied, it loseth its former sourness, bitterness, stinking, smell, or the like. Just thus, at the last day, it will be with our bodies: we shall be so candied, by being swallowed up of life, as before is shewed, that we shall be, as if we were all spirit, when in truth, it is but this body that is swallowed up of life. And it must needs be, that our nature still remain, otherwise it cannot be us that shall be in heaven, but something besides us. Let us lose our proper human nature, and we lose absolutely our being, and so are annihilated into nothing. Wherefore It, the same it, that is sown a natural body, it shall rise a spiritual body.
But again, as I said, concerning things that are candied; our body, when thus risen, it shall lose all that sourness and stink, that now, by reason of sin and infirmity, cleaveth to it: neither shall its lumpishness, or unwieldiness, be any impediment to its acting after the manner of angels. Christ hath shewed us, what our body at our resurrection shall be, by shewing of us, in his word, what his body was, at and after, his resurrection. We read, that his body, after he was risen from the dead, though it yet retained the very same flesh and bones that did hang upon the cross, yet how angelical was it at all times, upon all occasions! He could come in to his disciples with that very body, when the doors were shut upon them: He could, at pleasure, to their amazement, appear in the twinkling of an eye, in the midst of them: he could be visible and invisible as he pleased, when he sat at meat with them: in a word, he could pass and repass, ascend and descend in that body, with far more pleasure and ease, than the bird by the art of her wing. (Luke 24:31, 32, 36–42, 50, 51, John 20:19, 24–26, Acts 1:1–12, Mark 16:19, Eph 4:7–10)
Now, I say, as we have in this world borne the image of our first father; so, at that day, we shall have the image of Jesus Christ, and be as he is—‘As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also, [at our resurrection,] bear the image of the heavenly.’ (1 Cor 15:48, 49) It is so in part now, but shall so be in perfection then.
To mount up to heaven, and to descend again at pleasure, shall, with us, in that day, be ordinary. If there were ten thousand bars of iron, or walls of brass, to separate between us, and our pleasure and desire, at that day, they should as easily be pierced by us, as is the cobweb, or air by the beams of the sun: And the reason is, because to the Spirit, wherewith we shall be inconceivably filled at that day, nothing is impossible (Matt 17:20); and the working of it at that day, shall be in that nature and measure as to swallow up all impossibilities. He ‘shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body,’—now mark, ‘according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.’ (Phil 3:21) As who should say, I know that there are many things, that in this world hinder us from having our bodies like the body of Christ; but when God shall raise us from the dead, because he will then have our body like the body of his Son; He will stretch forth such a power to work upon, and in our body, that he will remove all impossibilities and hindrances.
Nay, further, we do not only see what operation the Spirit will have in our body, by the carriage of Christ, after his resurrection; but even by many a saint before their death. The Spirit used to catch Elijah away, no man could tell whither. It carried Ezekiel hither and thither: It carried Christ from the top of the pinnacle of the temple into Galilee; through it he walked on the sea; the Spirit caught away Philip from the eunuch, and carried him as far as Azotus. (1 Kings 18:11, 12, 2 Kings 2:11, Eze 3:14, Luke 4:14, Matt 14:25, Acts 8:39, 40)
Thus the great God hath given us a taste of the power and glory that is in himself, and how easily it will help us, by its possessing of us at the resurrection, to act and do like angels; as Christ saith, They that shall be counted worthy of that world, and of the resurrection from the dead, they shall not die, but be equal to the angels. (Luke 21:36)
Further, as the body by being thus spiritualized, shall be as I have said; so again it must needs be, that hereby all the service of the body, and faculties of the soul, must be infinitely enlarged also. Now ‘we shall see him as he is,’ and now we shall know even as we are known. (1 John 3:2, 1 Cor 13:12)
First, Now we shall see him; to wit, Christ in his glory; not by revelation only, as we do now, but then face to face; and he will have us with him to this very end. (John 17:24) Though John was in the Spirit when he had the vision of Christ, yet it made him fall at his feet as dead (Rev 1:17); and also turned Daniels’ beauty into corruption. (Dan 10:8) It was so glorious, and so overweighing a glory, that he appeared in; but we shall, at the day of our resurrection, be so furnished, that we shall with the eagle, be able to look upon the sun in his strength: we shall then, I say, ‘see Him as he is,’ who now is in the light, that no eye hath seen, nor any man can see till that day. (1 Tim 6:16)
Now we shall see into all things; there shall not be anything hid from us; there shall not be a saint, a prophet, or saved soul, small or great, but we shall then perfectly know them. Also, all the works of creation, election, and redemption, and shall see and know as thoroughly, all the things of heaven, and earth, and hell, even as perfectly, as now we know our A, B, C. For the Spirit, with which we shall in every cranny of soul and body be filled, I say, ‘searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.’ (1 Cor 2:10) We see what strange things have been known by the prophets and saints of God, and that when they knew but ‘in part.’
Abraham could, by it, tell to a day, how long his seed should be under persecution in Egypt (Gen 15:13); Elisha, by it, could tell what was done in the king of Assyrias’ bed-chamber (2 Kings 6:12); Ahijah could know by this, Jeroboam’s wife, so soon, yea before her feet entered within his door, though he saw her not. (1 Kings 14:1–6)
The prophet of Judah could tell by this, what God would do to Bethel, for the idolatry there committed; and could also point out the man by name that should do the execution, long before he was born. (1 Kings 13:2) What shall I say, Enoch by it could tell what should be done at the end of the world. (Jude 14, 15) How did the prophets, to a circumstance, prophesy of Christ’s birth, his death, his burial, of their giving him gall and vinegar, of their parting his raiment, and piercing his hands and feet! (Isa 53) Of his riding on an ass also; all this they saw, when they spake of him. (John 12:41) Peter also, though half asleep, could at the very first word, call Moses and Elias by their names, when they appeared to Christ in the holy mount. (Luke 9:33) He is very ignorant of the operation of the Spirit of God, that scrupleth these things. But now I say, if these things have been done, seen, and known, by spiritual men, while their knowledge hath been but in part, how shall we know, see, and discern, when that which is perfect is come? Which will be at the resurrection; ‘It is raised a spiritual body.’
Thus, in few words, have I shewed you the truth of the resurrection of the just, and also the manner of their rising. Had I judged it convenient, I might have much enlarged on each particular, and have added many more; for the doctrine of the resurrection, however questioned by heretics, and erroneous persons; yet is such a truth, that almost all the holy scriptures of God point at, and centre in it.
God hath, from the beginning of the world, shewed to us, that our body must be with him, as well as our soul, in the kingdom of heaven. I say, he hath shewed us, how he will deal with those that are alive at Christ’s coming, by his translating of Enoch (Gen 5:24), and by taking him body and soul to himself (Heb 11:5); As also, by his catching of Elias up body and soul into heaven, in a fiery chariot (2 Kings 2:11), and,
Secondly He hath often put us in remembrance of the rising of those that are dead, at that day, as, (1.) By the faith he gave Abraham, concerning the offering of his son: for when he offered him, he accounted ‘that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.’ (Heb 11:19) In a figure of the resurrection of Christ, for Abraham’s justification; and of Abraham’s resurrection by Christ at the last day, for his glorification. (2.) By the faith he gave Joseph concerning his bones; which charge, the godly in Egypt, did diligently observe, and to that end, did keep them four hundred years; and at length, carried them, I say, from Egypt to Canaan, which was a type of our being carried in our body, from this world to heaven. (Heb 11:22)
Besides, how oft did God give power to his prophets, servants, and Christ Jesus, to raise some that were now dead, and some that had been long so; and all, no doubt, to put the present generations, as also the generations yet unborn, in mind of the resurrection of the dead. To this end, I say, how was the Shunammite’s son raised from the dead? (2 Kings 4) The man also at the touching of the bones of Elisha? (2 Kings 13:20, 21) Together with the body of Lazarus, with Jairus’ daughter, and Tabitha, and many others, who after their souls were departed from them, Lazarus lying in his grave four days, were all raised to life again, and lived with that very body out of which the soul, at their death, had departed. (Luke 8:53–56, John 11:43, 44, Acts 9:40, 41)
But above all, that notable place in Matthew, at the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, gives us a notable fore-word of the resurrection of the just. Saith the text, ‘And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.’ (Matt 27:52, 53)
When the author to the Hebrews had given us a catalogue of the worthies of the Old Testament, he saith at last, ‘These all died in faith.’ In the faith of what? That they should lie and rot in their grave eternally? No, verily; this is the faith of Ranters, not of Christians. They all died in faith, that they should rise again; and therefore counted this world not worth the living in, upon unworthy terms, that after death ‘they might obtain a better resurrection.’ (Heb 11:13, 35)
It is also worth the considering, that of Paul to the Philippians, where he saith that he was confident that that God that had begun a good work in them would ‘perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.’ (Phil 1:6) Which day of Christ, was not the day of their conversion, for that was passed with them already, they were now the children of God; but this day of Christ, it is the same which in other places is called the day when he shall come with the sound of the last trump to raise the dead. For you must know, that the work of salvation is not at an end with them that are now in heaven; no, nor ever will, until (as I shewed you before) their bodies be raised again. God, as I have told you, hath made our bodies the members of Christ, and God doth not count us thoroughly saved, until our bodies be as well redeemed and ransomed out of the grave and death, as our souls from the curse of the law, and dominion of sin.
Though God’s saints have felt the power of much of his grace, and have had many a sweet word fulfilled on them; yet one word will be unfulfilled on their particular person, so long as the grave can shut her mouth upon them: but, as I said before, when the gates of death do open before them, and the bars of the grave do fall asunder; then shall be brought to pass that saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up of victory’; and then will they hear that most pleasant voice, ‘Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.’ (Isa 26:19) Thus much touching the truth of the resurrection of the just, with the manner of their rising.
Now you must know, that the time of the rising of these just, will be at the coming of the Lord: for when they arise, nay, must before they are raised, the Lord Jesus Christ will appear in the clouds in flaming fire, with all his mighty angels; the effect of which appearing will be the rising of the dead, &c. ‘For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout,’ saith Paul, ‘and with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, and the dead shall rise.’ (2 Thess 1:8, 1 Thess 4:16, 1 Cor 15:52)
Now at the time of the Lord’s coming, there will be found in the world alive both saints and sinners. As for the saints that then shall be found alive, they shall, so soon as all the saints are raised out of their graves, not die, but be changed, and swallowed up of incorruption, immortality, and glory; and have the soul-spiritual translation, as the raised saints shall have; as he saith, ‘We shall not all [die, or] sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,—for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.’ (1 Cor 15:51, 52) And again, ‘For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.’ (1 Thess 4:16, 17) As he saith also in another place, he ‘shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.’ (2 Tim 4:1)
Now when the saints that sleep shall be raised thus incorruptible, powerful, glorious, and spiritual; and also those that then shall be found alive, made like them: then forthwith, before the unjust are raised, the saints shall appear before the judgment-seat of the Lord Jesus Christ, there to give an account to their Lord the Judge, of all things they have done; and to receive a reward for their good according to their labour.
They shall rise, I say, before the wicked, they being themselves the proper children of the resurrection; that is, Those that must have all the glory of it, both as to pre-eminency and sweetness; and therefore they are said, when they rise, to rise from the dead; that is, in their rising, they leave the reprobate world behind them. (Luke 20:35, 36, Acts 3:15, 4:10, 13:30, John 12:1, 9, 17) And it must be so, because also the saints will have done their account, and be set upon the throne with Christ, as kings and princes with him, to judge the world, when the wicked world are raised. The saints shall judge the world; they shall judge angels; yea, they shall sit upon the thrones of judgment to do it. (1 Cor 6:2, 3, Psa 122:5) But to pass that, [we come
THIRD, to the examination the just must undergo, and the account they must give to the Lord the Judge; or,]
THE JUDGMENT OF THE JUST
Now when the saints are raised, as ye have heard, they must give an account of all things, in general, that they have done while they were in the world; of all things, I say, whether they be good or bad.
FIRST, Of all their bad; but mark, not under the consideration of vagabonds, slaves and sinners, but as sons, stewards, and servants of the Lord Jesus. That this shall be, it is evident from divers places of the holy Scriptures:
First, Paul saith, ‘We shall all stand before the judgment—seat of Christ,’—we saints—‘For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.’ (Rom 14:10–12) Again, ‘Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ; that every one [of us] may receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.’ (2 Cor 5:9, 10)
It is true, God loveth his people, but yet he loveth not their sins, nor anything they do, though with the greatest zeal for him, if he be contrary to his word; wherefore as truly as God will given a reward to his saints and children for all that they have indeed well done; so truly will he at this day distinguish their good and bad: and when both are manifest by the righteous judgment of Christ; he will burn up their bad, with all their labour, travel, and pains in it for ever. He can tell how to save his people, and yet take vengeance on their inventions. (Psa 99:8)
That is an observable place, in the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, and the third chapter, ‘If any man build,’ saith he, ‘upon this foundation [Christ] gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.’ (1 Cor 3:12–15) Now observe,
1. As I said before, the foundation is Christ. (verse 11)
2. The gold, silver, and precious stones that here are said to be built upon him, are all the actings in faith and love, according to the word, that the saints are found doing for his sake in the world. (1 Peter 1:7, Rev 3:18)
3. To build on him wood, hay, and stubble, it is to build, together with what is right in itself, human inventions and carnal ordinances, fathering them still on God and his allowance.
4. The fire that here you read of, it is the pure word and law of God. (Jer 23:29, John 12:48)
5. The day that here you read of, it is the day of Christ’s coming to judgment, to reveal the hidden things of darkness, and to make manifest the counsels of the heart. (1 Cor 4:5)
6. At this day, the gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and stubble, and that of every man, shall be tried by this fire, that it may be manifest of what sort it is; the wind, the rain, and floods, beat now as vehemently against the house upon the rock, as against that on the sand. (Luke 6:48, 49)
(1.) That the apostle speaks here of the saved, not of the reprobate—‘He himself shall be saved.’
(2.) That this saved man may have wood, hay, and stubble; that is, things that will not abide the trial.
(3.) That neither this man’s goodness, nor yet God;s love to him, shall hinder all his wood, hay, or stubble from coming on the stage, ‘Every man’s work shall be manifest: the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is.’
(4.) Thus, a good man shall see all his wood, hay, and stubble burnt up in the trial before his face.
(5.) That good man then shall suffer loss, or, the loss of all things that are not then according to the word of God—‘If any man’s works shall be burnt,’ or any of them, ‘he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire’—that is, yet so as that all that ever he hath done, shall be tried, and squared by the word of God.
From all which, it must be unavoidably concluded, that the whole body of the elect must count with their Lord for all things they have done, whether good or bad, and that he will destroy all their bad, with the purity of his word, yea, and all their pains, travel, and labour that they have spent about it. I am persuaded that there are now many things done by the best of saints, that then they will gladly disown and be ashamed of; yea, which they have and do still do with great devotion. Alas, what gross things do some of the saints in their devotion father upon God, and do reckon him the author thereof, and doth give them his presence in the performance of them! Yea, and as they father many superstitions and scriptureless things upon him; so they die in the same opinion, and never come in this world, to the sight of their evil and ignorance herein.
But now the judgment-day is the principal time wherein everything shall be set in its proper place; that which is of God in its place, and that which is not, shall now be discovered, and made manifest. In many things now we offend all; and then we shall see the many offences we have committed, and shall ourselves judge them as they are. The Christian, is in this world, so candid a creature, that take him when he is not under some great temptation, and he will ingeniously confess to his God, before all men, how he hath sinned and transgressed against his Father; and will fall down at the feet of God, and cry, Thou art righteous, for I have sinned; and thou art gracious, that, notwithstanding my sin, thou shouldest save me. Now, I say, if the Christian is so simple and plain-hearted with God, in the days of his imperfection, when he is accompanied with many infirmities and temptations; how freely will he confess and acknowledge his miscarriages, when he comes before his Lord and Saviour; absolutely stript of all temptation and imperfection. ‘As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ (Rom 14:11, Phil 2:10, 11) Every knee shall bow, and reverence God the Creator, and Christ the Redeemer of the world; and every tongue shall confess, that his will alone ought by them to have been obeyed in all things; and shall confess also, and that most naturally and freely—I mean, the saints shall—in how many things they were deceived, mistaken, deluded, and drawn aside in their intended devotion and honour to God.
[Second.] But yet take notice, that in this day, when the saints are thus counting for their evil before their Saviour and Judge; they shall not then, as now, at the remembrance and confession of sin, be filled with the guilt, confusion, and shame that now through the weakness of faith attendeth their souls; neither shall they in the least be grieved or offended, that God hath before the angels and the rest of their holy brethren, laid open to a tittle their infirmities, from the least and first, to the biggest and last. For,
1. The God to whom they confess all, they will now more perfectly than ever see he doth love them, and free them from all, even when and before they confess and acknowledge them to him; and they shall, I say, have their soul so full of the ravishing raptures of the life and glory that now they are in, that they shall be of it swallowed up in that measure and manner, that neither fear, nor guilt, nor confusion can come near them, or touch them. Their Judge is their Saviour, their Husband, and Head; who, though he will bring every one of them for all things to judgment, yet he will keep them for ever out of condemnation, and anything that tendeth that way. ‘Perfect love casteth out fear,’ even while we are here; much more then, when we are with our Saviour, our Jesus, being passed from death to life. (John 5:24, 1 John 4:18)
2. The saints at this day, shall have their hearts and souls so wrapped up in the pleasure of God their Saviour, that it shall be their delight, to see all things, though once never so near and dear unto them; yet now to perish, if not according to his word and will. ‘Thy will be done,’ is to be always our language here (Matt 6:10); but to delight to see it done in all things, though it tend never so much to the destruction of what we love; to delight, I say, to see it done in the height and perfection of delight; it will be when we come to heaven, or when the Lord shall come to judge the world. But,
3. The sole end of the counting of the saints at the day of God, it will be, not only for the vindication of the righteousness, holiness, and purity of the word, neither will it centre only in the manifestation of the knowledge and heart-discerning nature of Christ [though both these will be in it, (Rev 2:22, 23)]. But their very remembrances and sight of the sin and vanity that they have done while here; it shall both set off, and heighten the tender affections of their God unto them; and also increase their joy and sweetness of soul, and clinging of heart to their God. Saints while here, are sweetly sensible that the sense of sin, and the assurance of pardon, will make famous work in their poor hearts. Ah, what meltings without guilt! what humility without casting down! and what a sight of the creature’s nothingness, yet without fear, will this sense of sin work in the soul! The sweetest frame, the most heart-endearing frame, that possibly a Christian can get into while in this world, is to have a warm sight of sin, and of a Saviour upon the heart at one time. Now it weeps not for fear and through torment, but by virtue of constraining grace and mercy, and is at this very time, so far off of disquietness of heart, by reason of the sight of its wickedness, that it is driven into an ecstasy, by reason of the love and mercy that is mingled with the sense of sin in the soul.
The heart never sees so much of the power of mercy as now, nor of the virtue, value, and excellency of Christ in all his offices as now, and the tongue so sweetly enlarged to proclaim and cry up grace as now; now will Christ ‘come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe.’ (2 Thess 1:10)
Wherefore, though the saints receive by faith the forgiveness of sins in this life, and so are passed from death to life; yet again, Christ Jesus, and God his Father, will have every one of these sins reckoned up again, and brought fresh upon the stage in the day of judgment, that they may see and be sensible for ever, what grace and mercy hath laid hold upon them. And this I take to be the reason of that remarkable saying of the apostle Peter, ‘Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.’ (Acts 3:19–21)
If a sense of some sin, [for who sees all? (Psa 19:12)], and a sight of the love of God, will here so work upon the spirit of the godly: what will a sight of all sin do, when together with it they are personally present with their Lord and Saviour?
Yea, if a sight of some sins, with a possibility of pardon, will make the heart love, reverence, and fear with guiltless and heart-affecting fears; what will a general sight of all sin, and together with them an eternal acquittance from the, work on the heart of the saint for ever?
Yea, I say again, if a sight of sin, and the love of God, will make such work in that soul where yet there is unbelief, blindness, mistrust, and forgetfulness: what will a sight of sin do in that soul, who is swallowed up of love, who is sinless, and temptationless; who hath all the faculties of soul and body strained by love and grace, to the highest pin of perfection, that is possible to be in glory enjoyed and possessed? Oh the wisdom and goodness of God, that he at this day, should so cast about the worst of our things, even those that naturally tend to sink us, and damn us, for our great advantage! ‘All things shall work together for good,’ indeed, ‘to them that love God.’ (Rom 8:28) Those sins that brought a curse upon the whole world, that spilt the heart-blood of our dearest Saviour, and that laid his tender soul under the flaming wrath of God, shall by his wisdom and love, tend to the exaltation of his grace, and the inflaming of our affections to him for ever and ever. (Rev 5:9–14)
It will not be thus with devils; it will not be thus with reprobates; the saved only have this privilege peculiar to themselves. Wherefore, to vary a little from the matter in hand: will God make that use of sin, even in our counting for it, that shall in this manner work for our advantage? Why then, let saints also make that advantage of their sin, as to glorify God thereby, which is to be done, not by saying, ‘Let us do evil, that good may come’; or, ‘Let us sin, that grace may abound’; but by taking occasion by the sin that is past to set the crown upon the head of Christ for our justification; continually looking upon it, so as to press us, to cleave close to the Lord Jesus, to grace and mercy through him, and to the keeping of us humble for ever, under all his dispensations and carriages to us.
Now, having counted for all their evil, and confessed to God’s glory, how they fell short, and did not the truth in this, or that, or other particulars, and having received their eternal acquittance from the Lord and Judge, in the sight of both angels and saints; forthwith the Lord Jesus will make inquiry,
SECOND, into all the good and holy actions and deeds they did do in the world. Now here shall all things be reckoned up, from the very first good thing that was done by Adam or Abel, to the last that will fall out to be done in the world. The good of all the holy prophets, of all apostles, pastors, teachers, and helps in the church; here also will be brought forth and to light, all the good carriages of masters of families, of parents, of children, of servants, of neighbours, or whatever good thing any man doth. But to be general and short,
First, here will be a recompense for all that have sincerely laboured in the word and doctrine—I say, a recompense for all the souls they have saved by their word, and watered by the same. Now shall Paul the planter, and Apollos the waterer, with every one of the their companions, receive the reward that is according to their works. (1 Cor 3:6–8)
Now, all the preaching, praying, watching, and labour thou hast been at, in thy endeavouring to catch men from Satan to God, shall be rewarded with spangling glory. Not a soul thou hast converted to the Lord Jesus, nor a soul thou hast comforted, strengthened, or helped by thy wholesome counsel, admonition, and comfortable speech, but it shall stick as a pearl in that crown ‘which the Lord the righteous Judge, shall give thee at that day.’ (2 Tim 4:7, 8) That is, if thou dost it willingly, delighting to lift up the name of God among men; if thou doest it with love, and longing after the salvation of sinners, otherwise thou wilt have only thy labour for thy pains, and no more. ‘If I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed to my charge.’ (1 Cor 9:17, Phil 1:15) But, I say, if thou do it graciously, then a reward followeth; ‘For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye,’ saith Paul, ‘in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy.’ (1 Thess 2:19, 20) Let him therefore that Christ hath put into his harvest, take comfort in the midst of all his sorrow, and know that God acknowledgeth, that he that converteth a sinner from the error of his way, doth even save that soul from death, ‘and covereth a multitude of sins.’ (James 5:20) Wherefore labour to convert, labour to water, labour to build up, and to ‘Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;—and when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.’ (1 Peter 5:2, 4)
Secondly, And as the ministers of Christ’s gospel shall at this day be recompensed; so shall also those more private saints be with tender affections, and love looked on, and rewarded for all their work and labour of love, which they have shewed to the name of Christ, in ministering to his saints, and suffering for his sake. (Heb 6:10) ‘whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.’ (Eph 6:8) Ah! little do the people of God think, how largely and thoroughly, God will at that day, own and recompense all the good and holy acts of his people. Every bit, every drop, every rag, and every night’s harbour, though but in a wisp of straw, shall be rewarded in that day before men and angels—‘Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you,’ saith Christ, ‘he shall in no wise lose his [a disciple’s] reward.’ (Matt 10:42) Therefore ‘When thou makest a feast,’ saith he, ‘call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.’ (Luke 14:13, 14) If there be any repentance among the godly at this day, it will be, because the Lord Jesus, in his person, members, and word, was no more owned, honoured, entertained, and provided for by them, when they were in this world: For it will be ravishing to all, to see what notice the Lord Jesus will then take of every widow’s mite. He, I say, will call to mind, even all those acts of mercy and kindness, which thou hast shewed to him, when thou wast among men. I say, he will remember, cry up, and proclaim before angels and saints, those very acts of thine, which thou hast either forgotten, or, through bashfulness wilt not at that day count worth the owing. He will reckon them up so fast, and so fully, that thou wilt cry, Lord, when did I do this? and when did I do the other? ‘When saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’ (Matt 25:37–40) ‘The good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid.’ (1 Tim 5:25) Whatever thou hast done to one of the least of these my brethren, thou hast done it unto me. I felt the nourishment of thy food, and the warmth of thy fleece. I remember thy loving and holy visits when my poor members were sick, and in prison, and the like. When they were strangers, and wanderers in the world, thou tookest them in. ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant; … enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.’ (Matt 25:21–23, 34–47)
Thirdly, Here also will be a reward for all that hardness, and Christian enduring of affliction that thou hast met with for thy Lord, while thou wast in the world. Here now will Christ begin from the greatest suffering, even to the least, and bestow a reward on them all: from the blood of the suffering saint, to the loss of a hair: nothing shall go unrewarded. (Heb 11:36–40, 2 Cor 8:8–14) ‘For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ (2 Cor 4:17) Behold by the scriptures how God hath recorded the sufferings of his people, and also how he hath promised to reward them—‘Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you,’ and speak ‘all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice,’ leap for joy, ‘and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.’ (Matt 5:11, 12, Luke 6:22, 23) ‘and every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life.’ (Matt 19:29)
Fourthly, There is also a reward at this day, for all the more secret, and more retired works of Christianity. 1. There is not now one act of faith in thy soul, either upon Christ, or against the Devil, and Antichrist; but it shall in this day be found out, and praised, honoured and glorified, in the face of heaven. (1 Peter 1:7) 2. There is not one groan to God in secret, against thy own lusts, and for more grace, light, spirit, sanctification, and strength to go through this world like a Christian: but it shall even at the coming of Christ be rewarded openly. (Matt 6:6) 3. There hath not one tear dropped from thy tender eye against thy lusts, the love of this world, or for more communion with Jesus Christ, but as it is now in the bottle of God; so then it shall bring forth such plenty of reward, that it shall return upon thee with abundance of increase. ‘Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.’ (Luke 6:21) ‘Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle; are they not in thy book?’ (Psa 56:8) ‘They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.’ (Psa 126:5, 6)
Having thus in brief shewed you something concerning the resurrection of the saints, and that they shall count with their Lord at his coming, both for the burning up what was not according to the truth, and rewarding them for all their good. It remains, that I now in few words,
FOURTH, Shew you something also of that with which they shall be rewarded.
THE REWARD OF THE JUST
First then, those that shall be found in the day of their resurrection, when they shall have all their good things brought upon the stage; they I say, that then shall be found the people most laborious for God while here; they shall at that day enjoy the greatest portion of God, or shall be possessed with most of the glory of the Godhead then. For that is the portion of saints in general. (Rom 8:17, Lam 3:24) And why shall he that doth most for God in this world, enjoy most of him in that which is to come? But because by doing and acting, the heart, and every faculty of the soul is enlarged, and more capacitated, whereby more room is made for glory. Every vessel of glory shall at that day be full of it; but every one will not be capable to contain a like measure; and so if they should have it communicated to them, would not be able to stand under it; for there is ‘an eternal weight in the glory that saints shall then enjoy’ (2 Cor 4:17), and every vessel must be at that day filled—that is, have its heavenly load of it.
All Christians have not the same enjoyment of God in this life, neither indeed were they able to bear it if they had it. (1 Cor 3:2) But those Christians that are most laborious for God in this world, they have already most of him in their souls, and that not only because diligence in God’s ways, is the means whereby God communicates himself; but also because thereby the senses are made more strong, and able, by reason of use, to understand God, and to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:13, 14) To him that hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance. (Matt 13:11, 12) He that laid out his pound for his master, and gained ten therewith, he was made ruler over ten cities; but he that by his pound gained but five, he was made ruler over but five. (Luke 19:16–19) Often, he that is best bred in his youth, he is best able to manage most, when he is a man, touching things of this life (Dan 1:3, 4); but always he that is best bred, and that is most in the bosom of God, and that so acts for him here; he is the man that will be best able to enjoy most of God in the kingdom of heaven. It is observable that Paul saith, ‘Our- affliction—worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ (2 Cor 4:17) Our afflictions do it, not only because there is laid up a reward for the afflicted, according to the measure of affliction; but because afflictions, and so every service of God, doth make the heart more deep, more experimental, more knowing and profound; and so more able to hold, contain, and bear more. (Psa 119:71) ‘Every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labour.’ (1 Cor 3:8) And this is the reason of such sayings as these—Lay up for yourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that you may lay hold on eternal life (1 Tim 6:19), which eternal life, is not the matter of our justification from sin in the sight of God; for that is done freely by grace, through faith in Christ’s blood; (but here the apostle speaks of giving of alms) but it is the same that in the other place he calls ‘the far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’ And hence it is that he in his stirring them up to be diligent in good works, doth tell them, that he doth not exhort them to it because he wanted, but because he would have ‘fruit that might abound to their account’ (Phil 4:17); as he saith also in another place, ‘Beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.’ (1 Cor 15:58) Therefore I say, the reward that the saints shall have at this day for all the good they have done, it is the enjoyment of God, according to their works: though they shall be freely justified and glorified without works.
Second, As the enjoyment of God at that day, will be to the saints, according to their works and doings—I speak not now of justification from sin—so will their praise and commendations at that day, be according to the same, and both of them their degrees of glory; for I say, as God by communicating of himself unto us at that day, will thereby glorify us, so also he will for the adding all things that may furnish with glory every way, cause to be proclaimed in the face of heaven, and in the presence of all the holy angels; everything that hath for God, his ways, and people, been done by us while here we have been. ‘Whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.’ (Luke 12:2, 3) Again, He that ‘shall confess me,’ saith Christ, ‘before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.’ (Matt 10:32)
Now as he of whom Christ is ashamed when he comes in his glory, and in the glory of the holy angels, will then lie under inconceivable disgrace, shame, dishonour, and contempt: so he whom Christ shall confess, own, commend, and praise at that day, must needs have very great dignity, honour, and renown, ‘for then shall every man have praise of God’—to wit, according to his works. (1 Cor 4:5) Now will Christ proclaim before thee and all others what thou hast done, and what thou hast suffered, what thou hast owned, and what thou hast withstood for his name. (Mark 8:38) This is he that forsook his goods, his relations, his country, and life for me: this is the man that overcame the flatteries and threats, allurements and enticings, of a whole world for me; behold him, he is an Israelite indeed (John 1:47), the top man in his generation, ‘none like him in all the earth.’ (Job 1:8) It is said, that when king Ahasuerus had understanding of how good service Mordecai the Jew had done to and for him, he commanded that the royal apparel and the crown, with the horse that the king did ride on, should be given to him, and that he should with that crown, apparel, and horse, be had through the city, in the presence of all his nobles, and that proclamation should be made before him, ‘Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour.’ (Esth 6:9–11)
Ahasuerus in this was a type to hold forth to the children of God, how kindly he will take all their labour and service of love, and how he will honour and dignify the same; as Christ saith, ‘Let your loins be girded above, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for the lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. (Luke 12:35–57) The meaning is, that those souls that shall make it their business to honour the Lord Jesus Christ, in the day of their temptation; he will make it his business to honour and glorify them in the day of his glorification. (John 12:26) ‘Verily, I say unto you, that he will make them sit down to meat, and shall come forth and serve them. If any man will serve me,’ saith he, ‘him will my Father honour.’ It hath been God’s way in this world to proclaim the acts and doings of his saints in his word before all in this world, and he will do it in that which is to come. (Mark 14:9, Rev 3:4, 14:1–6)
Third, Another thing that shall be yet added to the glory of the saints, in the kingdom of their Saviour, at his coming is, they shall every one of them then have his throne and place of degree on Christ’s right hand, and on his left, in his glorious kingdom, according to the relation they stand in to Christ, as the members of his body; for as Christ will have a special eye on us, and a tender and affectionate heart, to recompense to the full every good thing that any man doth for his name in this world: so also he will have as great regard, that there be to every member of his body, the place, and state that is comely for every such member. When the mother of Zebedee’s children petitioned our Saviour that he would grant to her, that her two sons might sit, the one on his right hand, and the other on his left, in his kingdom: though he did not grant to her the request for her children, yet he affirmed that there would be placed of degrees and honour in heaven, saying, ‘To sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.’ (Matt 20–20–23) In the temple, there were chambers bigger and lesser, higher and lower, more inward and more outward: which chambers were types of the mansions that our Lord when he went away, told us he went to prepare for us. ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.’ (John 14:2, 3) The foot here, shall not have the place prepared for the eye, nor yet the hand, that which is prepared for the ear, but every one shall have his own place in the body of Christ, and the glory also prepared for such a relation. Order, as it is comely in earth, so much more in the kingdom of the God of order in heaven; where all things shall be done in their utmost perfections. Here shall Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, with the prophets, have every one his place, according to the degree of Old Testament saints. As God said to Daniel, ‘Go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.’ (Dan 12:13) And here also shall Peter, Paul, Timothy, and all other the church officers have their place, and heavenly state, according as God hath set them in the church in the New Testament. As Paul saith of the deacons, ‘They that have used the office of a deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.’ (1 Tim 3:13) And so of all other saints, be they here of what rank, quality, or place in the church soever, they shall have every one his state, his heavenly state, according as he standeth in the body. As he saith, seeing those members that are most feeble are necessary, to them shall be given ‘more abundant honour.’ (1 Cor 12:22, 23) Of this heavenly order in the kingdom of Christ, when his saints are risen from the dead, was Solomon a notable type in his family, and among his servants and officers, who kept such exactness in the famous order in which he had placed all about him that it did amaze and confound beholders. For ‘when the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, and the house that he had built, and the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel; his cup-bearers also, and their apparel; and his ascent by which he went up into the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her.’ (2 Chron 9:3, 4) ‘Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God.’ (Psa 87:3) Having gone thus far, I shall now come to
THE SECOND PART OF THE TEXT
To wit, that there shall be a resurrection of the wicked. ‘There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust’; for as the just go before the unjust, in name and dignity, and honour, so they shall in the last day, go before them in the resurrection.
Now, then, when the saints have thus risen out of their graves, given up their accounts, received their glory, and are set upon the thrones, ‘for there are set thrones of judgment, the thrones of the house of David.’ (Psa 122:5) When, I say, they are all of them in their royal apparel, with crowns of glory, every one presenting the person of a king, then come the unjust out of their graves, to receive their judgment for what they have done in the body. As Paul saith, ‘We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one,’ both saints and sinners, ‘may receive the things done in the body, whether it be good, or whether it be bad.’
But now, because I would prove by the word, whatever I would have others receive for a truth, therefore I shall in few particulars,
FIRST, prove the resurrection of the wicked.
THE RESURRECTION OF THE WICKED
First, then, it is evident, that the wicked shall rise, from the very terms and names that the raised shall then go under, which are the very same names that they did go under when they lived in this world. They are called the heathen, the nations, the world, the wicked, and those that do iniquity; they are called men, women, [of] Sodom, Sidon, Bethsaida, Capernaum, and Tyre. The men of Nineveh shall rise up in judgment (Luke 10:12–14); the queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment (Matt 12:41, 42); and it shall be more tolerable for Sodom in the day of judgment than for other sinners that have resisted more light. (Matt 11:21–24) ‘The heavens and the earth, which are now,—are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.’ (2 Peter 3:7, Joel 3:12–14) Now these terms, or names, are not given to the spirits of the wicked only, but to them as consisting of body and soul. Further, Christ tells his adversaries, when they had apprehended him, and shamefully entreated him, that yet they should see him sit on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven (Matt 25:31, 32, 26:64, Jude 14, 15), as John also doth testify, saying, ‘Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him.’ (Rev 1:7) Now none of these sayings are yet fulfilled, neither shall they, until his second coming; for though the Jews did many of them see him, when he did hang upon the cross, yet then he was not coming in the clouds of heaven, neither did then all kindreds of the earth wail because of him. No, this is reserved till he comes to judge the world; for then shall the ungodly be so put to it, that gladly they would creep into the most invincible rock or mountain under heaven, to hide themselves from his face, and the majesty of his heavenly presence. (Rev 6:14–17) There shall therefore, that this may be brought to pass, be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. For though an opinion of no resurrection may now lull men asleep, in security and impiety, yet the Lord when he comes will rouse them, and cause them to awake; not only out of their security, but out of their graves, to their doom, that they may receive for their error, the recompense that is meet.
Second, The body of the ungodly must, at the last, arise out of the grave, because that body and their soul, while they lived in the world, were co-partners in their lusts and wickedness. ‘The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.’ (1 Sam 2:3) He will therefore bring every work into judgment, ‘with every secret thing.’ (Eccl 12:14) And as he will bring into judgment every work, so will he also the worker thereof, ‘even the dead, small and great.’ (Rev 20:12–14) It is not in God to lay the punishment where the fault is not, neither to punish a part of the damned for the whole. ‘With righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.’ (Psa 98:9) ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’ (Gen 18:25) As therefore the body was co-partner with the soul in sinning, so shall every man receive the things done in his body, according to what he hath done. Wherefore he saith in another place, ‘Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.’ (Rev 22:12) There shall therefore be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
Third, The body of the wicked must rise again, because as the whole man of the just also that is the vessel of mercy and glory; so the whole man of the unjust is the vessel of wrath and destruction. There are, saith Paul, in a great house not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth, and some to honour and some to dishonour. Now, as he sheweth us, these vessels to honour, they are good men, and the vessels to dishonour are the bad. (2 Tim 2:20, 21) Now as these vessels to dishonour, are called the vessels of wrath: so it is said, that God with much long-suffering, doth suffer them to be fitted to destruction. (Rom 9:22) How they are thus fitted he also further sheweth, where he saith, They do ‘after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasure up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God’ (Rom 2:5), which treasures of wickedness, James saith, it is treasure up against the last days (which is the time of judgment), and observe it, he saith, that then it shall eat their flesh as it were fire. (James 5:2, 3) Now then, their bodies being the vessels of the wrath of God, and again, seeing with this wrath they must be possessed at the last day, that their flesh must with it be eaten, it is evident, that their body must rise again out of their graves, and before the judgment-seat appear; for it is from thence, that each of them must go with his full load to their long and eternal home, ‘where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:47, 48)
Fourth, The severity of the hand of God towards his children, with his forbearance of his enemies, doth clearly bespeak a resurrection of the ungodly, that they may receive the reward for their wickedness which they have committed in this world. We know, that while the eyes of the wicked start out with fatness, the godly are plagued all the day long,and chastened every morning (Psa 73:3–15), wherefore it is evident, that the place and time of the punishment of the ungodly, it is another world. If ‘judgment must begin at the house of God,—what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?’ (1 Peter 4:17, 18) Alas, poor creatures! they now plot against the righteous, and gnash upon them with their teeth; but ‘the Lord shall laugh at him, for he seeth that his day is coming’ (Psa 37:13); for as he saith, the wicked is reserved, or let alone in his wickedness, to the day of destruction, and shall then be brought forth to the day of wrath, though in the meantime, he may go to his grave in his banner, and rest within is tomb.
(Job 21:29–32) As Peter saith again, ‘The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished’ (2 Peter 2:9): And Jude saith, For them ‘is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.’ (Jude 13) The punishment of the ungodly, it is reserved till the day of judgment, which will be the time of their resurrection. Observe,
1. The wicked must be punished.
2. The time of their punishment is not now, but at the day of judgment.
3. This day of judgment, must be the same with the resurrection of the dead, at the end of this world. ‘As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matt 13:40, 41) There shall then be resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
4. The sovereignty of the Lord Jesus over all creatures, doth plainly foreshew a resurrection of the bad, as well as of the good. Indeed, the unjust shall not arise, by virtue of any relation they stand in to the Lord Jesus, as the saints shall; but yet, because all are delivered into his hand, and he made sovereign Lord over them; therefore by an act of his sovereign power, they that are ungodly, shall arise; this is Christ’s own argument, ‘The Father judgeth no man,’ saith he, ‘but hath committed all judgment unto the Son’—that is, count him, and fall before him as their sovereign Lord, even as they honour the Father, and he hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. And then he adds, ‘Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.’ (John 5:22–29) From hence also Paul argueth, saying, ‘For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living,’ and then adds, ‘We shall all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ.’ (Rom 14:9, 10)
Pray mind these words, Jesus Christ by his death and resurrection, did not only purchase grace, and remission of sins, for his elect, with their eternal glory; but did thereby also obtain of the Father to be Lord, and head over all things, whether they be things in heaven, or things on earth, or things under the earth. ‘All power,’ saith he, ‘is given unto me, in heaven and in earth, and I have the keys of hell and of death’ (Matt 28:18, Rev 1:18), So that all things, I say, whether they be visible, or invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities or powers; all things were created by him, and for him. (Col 1:16) This being thus, ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, … and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ (Phil 2:10, 11) Now, that this may be done, He hath his resolutions upon a judgment-day, in which he, to shew himself his people, his way, and word in their glory, will have all his enemies raised out of their graves, and brought before him, where he will sit upon them in the throne of his glory, and will shew them then, ‘who is the blessed and only potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.’ (Matt 25:31, 32, 1 Tim 6:14, 15)
Behold, He comes, ‘with ten thousand of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’ (Jude 14, 15)
Fifth, The great preparation that God hath made for the judgment of the wicked, doth clearly demonstrate their rising forth out of their graves. 1. He hath appointed the day of their rising. 2. He hath appointed their judge, to judge them. 3. He hath recorded all their acts and doings against that day. 4. He hath also already appointed the witnesses to come in against them. 5. The instruments of death and misery, are already prepared for them.
1. He hath appointed the day of their rising, which day John calleth the time of the dead, that they should be judged (Rev 11:18), which time, Paul saith, is a time fixed; ‘He hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world,’ &c. (Acts 17:31) This time and day Christ brings down to an hour, saying, ‘The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth’; &c. (John 5:28, 29)
2. As he hath appointed the day, so he hath appointed the judge, ‘He hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance to all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.’ (Acts 17:31) This man is Jesus Christ; for it is he that is ‘ordained of God to be the judge of quick an dead.’ (Acts 10:42)
3. All their deeds and works, to a word and thought, are every one already recorded and enrolled in the books of the laws of heaven against that day. ‘The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: … upon the table of their heart.’ (Jer 17:1) And again saith God, ‘Write it—in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come, even for ever and ever, that this is a rebellious people,’ &c. (Isa 30:8, 9)
4. God hath prepared his witnesses against this day. (James 5:1–3, Job 20:27, Matt 24:14, Rom 2:14, 15, Mal 3:5)
5. The instruments of death, and eternal misery, are already prepared. ‘He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.’ (Psa 7:13, 21:12) Hell is of old prepared, he hath made it deep and large, the fire, the everlasting fire, is also now of a long time prepared (Isa 30:33, Matt 25:41); the heavy weights of God’s curse are also ready (Deut 29:20) and their ‘damnation now of a long time slumbereth not.’ (2 Peter 2:3) But now I say, how ridiculous a business would all this be, if these things should be all prepared of the only wise God, and there should be none to be judge; or if he that is ordained judge, should not, either through want of power or will, command these rebels, and force them before his judgment-seat. Glad indeed, would the sinners be, if these things might be true; glad I say, at very heart, if they might be in their secret places of darkness, and the grave for ever; but it must not be; the day of their rising is set; the judge is appointed; their deeds are written; the deep dungeon is with open mouth ever waiting for them; wherefore at the day appointed, neither earth, nor death, nor hell can hinder: There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.
Sixth and Lastly, Besides what hath been said, I cannot but believe, there shall be a resurrection of the wicked at the last day, because of the ungodly consequences, and errors that do most naturally follow the denial thereof. For,
1. He that taketh away the doctrine of the resurrection of the wicked; he taketh away one of the main arguments that God hath provided for to convince a sinner of the evil of his ways; for how shall a sinner be convinced of the evil of sin, if he be not convinced of the certainty of eternal judgment? and how shall he be convinced of eternal judgment, if you persuade him, that when he is dead, he shall not at all rise? especially seeing the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment must unavoidably be one the forerunner of the other. (Heb 6:2) It was Paul’s reasoning of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come that made Felix tremble. (Acts 24:25) It is this also he calleth the argument of terror, wherewith he persuaded men. (2 Cor 5:10, 11) This was Solomon’s argument (Eccl 11:9); and Christ’s also, where he saith, ‘that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.’ (Matt 12:36)
2. They that deny the resurrection of the wicked, they do both allow and maintain the chief doctrine of the Ranters, with most of the debauched persons in the world. For the Ranters deny it both in principle and practice, and the other in practice at least. Now to me it is very strange, that these men above all other, should both know and live in the doctrines of the kingdom of God: especially seeing the denial hereof is an evident token of one appointed to wrath and destruction. (2 Tim 2:18) But to be plain; there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust: wherefore, whatever others may say or profess, being beguiled by Satan, and their own hearts, yet do thou fear him that can ‘destroy both soul and body in hell.’ (Matt 10:28)
There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. ‘And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them.’ (Rev 20:13)
Having in the first place shewed you, that the wicked must arise; I shall in the next place,
SECOND, Shew you the manner of their rising. And observe it, as the very title of the just and unjust, are opposites, so they are in all other matters, and in their resurrections.
MANNER OF THE RESURRECTION OF THE WICKED
First then, as the just in their resurrection do come forth in incorruption: the unjust in their resurrection, shall come forth in their corruptions; for though the ungodly at their resurrection, shall for ever after, be incapable of having body and soul separate; or of their being annihilated into nothing, yet it shall be far from them to rise in incorruption; for if they arise in incorruption, they must arise to life, and also must have the conquest over sin and death (1 Cor 15:45), but that they shall not; for it is the righteous only, that put on incorruption, that are swallowed up of life. The wicked’s resurrection, it is called the resurrection of damnation. (John 5:28) These in their very resurrection, shall be hurt of the second death. They shall arise in death, and shall be under it, under the gnawings, and terrors of it, all the time of their arraignment. As it were, a living death shall feed upon them; they shall never be spiritually alive, nor yet absolutely dead; but much after that manner, that natural death, and hell, by reason of guilt, doth feed on him, that is going before the judge, to receive his condemnation to the gallows. You know, though a felon go forth of the jail, when he is going to the bar for his arraignment, yet he is not out of prison, or out of his irons for that; his fetters are still making a noise on his heels, and the thoughts of what he is to hear by and by from the judge, is still frighting and afflicting his heart; death, like some evil spirit or ghost, doth continually haunt him, and playeth the butcher continually in his soul and conscience, with frights and fears about the thoughts of the sudden, and insupportable after-clap, by and by he is to meet withal.
Thus I say, will the wicked come out of their graves, having yet the chains of eternal death hanging on them, and the talons of that dreadful ghost fastened in their souls; so that life will be far from them, even as far as heaven is from hell. This morning to them, is even as the shadow of death. They will then be in the very terrors of the shadow of death. (Job 24:17) As Christ saith, ‘Their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.’ (Mark 9:44) From death to eternity, it never shall be quenched, their bed is now among the flames; and when they rise, they will rise in lames; while they stand before the judge, it will be in flames, even in the flames of a guilty conscience; they will in their coming before the judge, be within the very jaws of death and destruction. Thus I say, the ungodly shall be far off from rising as the saints; for they will be even in the region and shadow of death. The first moment of their rising, death will be ever over them, ever feeding on their souls; and ever presenting to their hearts, the heights and depths, of the misery that now must seize them, and, like a bottomless gulf, must swallow them up. ‘They shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth: They shall be afraid of the Lord our God.’ (Micah 7:17)
Second, As the resurrection of the godly shall be a resurrection in glory: so the resurrection of the wicked, it will be a resurrection in dishonour. Yea, as the glory of saints, at the day of their rising, will be glory unspeakable; so the dishonour of the ungodly at that day, it will be dishonour beyond expression. As Daniel saith, the good shall rise to everlasting life, but the wicked to shame and everlasting contempt. (Dan 12:2) And again, ‘O Lord, when thou awakest,’ that is, to judge them, ‘thou shalt despise their image.’ (Psa 73:20) Never was toad or serpent more loathsome to any, than these will be in the eyes of God, in their rising forth of their graves. When they go to their graves, saith Job, ‘His bones are full of the sin of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust.’ (Job 20:11) And arise they shall, in the same noisome and stinking condition; for as death leaves, so judgment finds them. At the resurrection then of these ungodly, they will be in a very loathsome condition.
The ungodly at their death are like the thistle seed, but at their rising, they will be like the thistle grown; more noisome, offensive, and provoking to rejection abundance.
Then such dishonour, shame, and contempt will appear in them, that neither God nor Christ, saints nor angels, will so much as once regard them, or vouchsafe once to come near them. ‘He beholdeth the wicked afar off’; because in the day of grace, they would not come to hand, and be saved, therefore now they shall, all as thorns, be thrust away, as with fences of iron (2 Sam 23:6, 7), Their rising, is called the resurrection of the unjust, and so they at that day will appear, and will more stink in the nostrils of God, and all the heavenly hosts, than if they had the most irksome plague-sores in the world running on them. If a man at his birth, be counted as one cast forth to the loathing of his person; how loathsome, and irksome, dishonourable, and contemptible, will those be that shall arise Godless, Christless, Spiritless, and graceless, when the trumpet sounds to their judgment, they coming out of their graves, far more loathsome, and filthy, than if they should ascend out of the most filthy hole on earth.
Third, As the just shall arise in power, so the wicked and unjust, in weakness and astonishment. Sin and guilt bringeth weakness, and faintness in this life; how much more, when both with all their power and force, like a giant, fasten on them; as God saith, ‘Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee?’ (Eze 22:14) Now will the ghastly jaws of despair gape upon thee, and now will condemnings of conscience, like thunder-claps, continually batter against thy weary spirit. It is the godly that have boldness in the day of judgment (1 John 4:17); but the wicked will be like the chaff which the wind driveth away. (Psa 1:4) Oh the fear, and the heart-aching that will seize them in their rising! the frightful thoughts that then will fill their throbbing hearts! Now must that soul that hath been in hell-fire among the devils possess the body again. Possess it, I say, with the hot scalding stink of hell upon it. They shall not be able to lift up the head for ever; pangs shall take hold on them, all their hands shall faint, and every man’s heart shall melt; ‘They shall be amazed one at another, their faces shall be as flames.’ (Isa 13:6–8) Everything they see, hear, or think of, shall tend to their discomfort. They must needs be weak, whom God hath left, whom guilt hath seized, and whom death is swallowing up for ever.
Fourth, As the just shall arise spiritual bodies, so the unjust shall arise only as mere and naked lumps of sinful nature; not having the least help from God, to bear them up under this condition. Wherefore, so soon as ever they are risen out of their graves; they will feel a continual sinking under every remembrance of every sin, and thoughts of judgment; in their rising they fall—fall, I say, from thenceforth, and for ever. And for this reason the dungeon into which they fall is called ‘bottomless.’ (Rev 20:1) Because, as there will be no end of their misery, so there will be no stay or prop to bear them up in it. Only, as I said before, they shall not now, as afore, be separate body from soul; but both together, be bound in the cords of sin and iniquity, in which they shall now tremble as thieves and murderers, &c., as they go before the Judge, to hear what he will say unto them.
[THIRD—The examination and judgment of the wicked.]—Now, when the wicked are thus raised out of their graves, they shall, together with all the angels of darkness, their fellow-prisoners, be brought up, being shackled in their sins, to the place of judgment; where there shall sit upon them Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lord Chief Judge of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth. On whose right hand, and left, shall sit all the princes, and heavenly nobles; the saints and prophets, the apostles and witnesses of Jesus; every one in his kingly attire, upon the throne of his glory. (Joel 3:11–14) Then shall be fulfilled that which is written, ‘But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them.’ (Luke 19:27)
[THE JUDGMENT OF THE WICKED]
When every one is thus set in his proper place, the Judge on his throne, with his attendants, and the prisoners coming up to judgment, forthwith there shall issue forth a mighty fire and tempest from before the throne, which shall compass it round about; which fire, shall be as bars and bounds to the wicked, to keep them at a certain distance from the heavenly Majesty. As David saith, ‘Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him.’ (Psa 50:3) And again, ‘His throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him’; &c. (Dan 7:9, 10)
This preparation being made, to wit, the Judge with is attendants, on the throne; the bar for the prisoners, and the rebels all standing with ghastly jaws, to look of what comes after: presently the books are brought forth, to wit, the books both of death and life; and every one of them opened before the sinners, now to be judged and condemned. For after that he had said before, ‘A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him’: he adds, ‘Thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the book was opened.’ (Dan 7:10) And again, ‘I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.’ (Rev 20:11, 12)
He doth not say, the book was opened, as of one, but the books, as of many. And indeed, they are more than one, two, or three, out of which the dead shall in the judgment be proceeded against.
First then, there is the book of the creatures to be opened. Second, The book of God’s remembrance. Third, The book of the law. And fourth, the book of life. For by every one of these, that is, out of what is written in them, shall the world of the ungodly be judged.
‘And the books were opened.’
First, The book of the creatures shall be opened, and that first, it concerns man’s nature; and next, as it relates to all other creatures.
I. He will shew in what the principles of nature were, as they were God’s creation; and how contrary to these principles, the world have walked, acted, and done. The principles of nature are concluded under three general heads.
1. That man by his own natural reason and judgment may gather, that there is a God, a Deity, a chief, or first, or principal Being, who is over all, and supreme above all. This instinct, I say, man merely as he is a rational creature findeth in himself; and hence it is, that all heathens that mind their own natural reason, do conclude, that we are his offspring; that is, His creation and workmanship. That He made heaven and earth, and hath made of one blood, all nations of men; that ‘in him we live, and move, and have our being’; &c. (Acts 17:24–29)
It appears further, that man by his own nature, doth know that there is such a God.
(1.) By his being able to judge by nature, that there is such a thing as sin; as Christ saith, ‘Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?’ (Luke 12:57) As if he had said, You are degenerated even from the principles of nature, and right reason; as Paul saith in another place, ‘Doth not even nature itself teach you?’ (1 Cor 11:14) Now he that can judge, that there is such a thing as sin, it must of necessity be, that he understandeth that there is a God, to whom sin is opposite; for if there be no God, there is no sin against him; and he that knows not the one, knows not the other.
(2.) It is evident further, that man by nature knows that there is a God, by those fits of fear, and dread that are often begotten in themselves, even in every man that breatheth in this world; for they are by their own consciences, and thoughts, convicted and reproved, judged and condemned, though they know neither Moses nor Christ—For the Gentiles which have not the law, these are a law to themselves, and shew the work of the law written in their hearts (Rom 2:14, 15)—that is, by this very thing, they hold forth to all men, that God created them in that state and quality, that they might in and by their own nature, judge and know that there is a God. And it further sheweth itself, saith he, by those workings of heart, convictions of conscience, and accusations, that every thought maketh within them, together with the fear that is begotten in them, when they transgress, or do those things that are irrational, or contrary to what they see they shall do. I might add further, that the natural proneness that is in all men to devotion and religion, that is, of one kind or another, doth clearly tell us, that they by the book of nature, which book is themselves, do read that there is one great and eternal God.
2. The second principle of nature is, that this God should by man be sought after, that they might enjoy communion with him for ever. As I said before, the light of nature sheweth man, that there is a great God, even God that made the world; and the end of its shewing him this is, that ‘they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.’ (Acts 17:27)
3. This light of nature teacheth, that men between themselves, should do that which is just and equal. As Moses said, and that long before the law was given, ‘Sirs, ye are brethren, why do ye wrong one another?’ (Acts 7:26, Exo 2:13) as who should say, You are of equal creation, you are the same flesh; you both judge, that it is not equally done of any, to do you wrong, and therefore ought to judge by the same reason, that ye ought not to wrong one another.
Now against every one of these three principles, hath every man in the whole world transgressed; as Paul saith, ‘For both Jews and Gentiles—are all under sin.’ (Rom 3:9) For as touching the first, (1.) who is he that hath honoured, reverenced, worshipped, and adored the living God, to the height, both of what they saw in him, and also according to the goodness and mercy they have as men received from him? All have served and worshipped the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever (Rom 1:25), and so have walked contrary to, and have sinned against, this bond of nature, in this first principle of it.
(2.) Men, instead of minding their own future happiness, as nature teacheth, they have, through their giving way to sin and Satan, minded nothing less; for though reason teacheth all men to love that which is good and profitable, yet they, contrary to this, have loved that which is hurtful and destructive. Yea, though sense teacheth to avoid the danger that is manifest; yet man, contrary to reason and sense both, even all men, have both against light and feeling, rejected their own happiness; as Paul saith, ‘Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have leisure in them that do them.’ (Rom 1:31)
(3.) Man, instead of doing equity, and as he would be done by, which nature itself teacheth: he hath given up himself to vile affections, being filled, by refusing the dictates of nature, ‘with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful.’ (Rom 1:29–31)
And observe it, he doth not say, that all these things are by every man put into practice; but every man hath all these in his heart, which there defile the soul, and make it abominable in the sight of God. They are filled with all unrighteousness, which also appears, as occasion serveth, sometimes one of them, sometimes more. Now, man having sinned against that natural light, judgment, reason, and conscience, that God hath given him; therefore, though as I said before, he neither knew Moses nor Christ, yet he shall perish. ‘As many,’ saith Paul, ‘as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law.’ (Rom 2:12)
Yea, here will man be found not only a sinner against God, but an opposer of himself, a contradictor of his own nature, and one that will not do that which he judgeth even of himself to be right. (2 Tim 2:25) Their sin is written upon the tables of their own heart (Jer 17:1), and their own wickedness and backsliding shall both correct and reprove them. (Jer 2:19)
It is marvellous, if we consider, how curious a creature man was made of God; to behold how much below, besides, and against that state and place, man acts and does in this state of sin and degeneracy. Man in his creation was made in the image of God (Gen 1:26), but man, by reason of his yielding to the tempter, hath made himself the very figure and image of the devil. Man by creation was made upright and sinless; but man by sin, hath made himself crooked and sinful. (Eccl 7:29) Man by creation had all the faculties of his soul at liberty to study God his creator, and his glorious attributes and being; but man by sin, hath so bound up his own senses and reason; and hath given way for blindness and ignorance of God, so to reign in his soul; that now he is captivated and held bound in alienation and estrangedness both from God, and all things truly spiritually good; ‘Because,’ saith he, ‘that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God,—but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.’ (Rom 1:21) And again, ‘Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts.’ (Eph 4:18)
Now, for this abuse of the workmanship of God, shall man be brought forth to the judgment, shall be convicted, cast, and condemned as a rebel, against both God and his own soul, as Paul affirmeth, and that when he reasoned but as a man. (Rom 3:5, 6)
When this part of the book touching man’s nature is opened, and man convicted and cast by it, by reason of his sinning against the three general principles thereof:
II. Then forthwith is the second part of the book opened, which is the mystery of the creatures; for the whole creation, that is before thee, are not only made to shew the power of God in themselves; but also to teach thee, and to preach unto thee, both much of God and thyself; as also the righteousness, and justice of God against sin; ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.’ (Rom 1:18–20)
1. The creation then of the world, namely, of the heavens, earth, sun, moon, stars, with all other the creatures of God: they preach aloud to all men, the eternal power and Godhead of their Creator. (Psa 8:3) In wisdom he hath made them all (Psa 104:24): to be teachable, and carrying instruction in them; and he that is wise, and will understand these things, even he shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord; for ‘the works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.’ (Psa 107, 111:2)
2. As the creation in general preacheth to every man something of God; so they do hold forth, how man should behave himself both to God, and one to another; and will assuredly come in, in the judgment, against all those that shall be found crossers, and thwarters of what God by the creatures doth hold forth to us.
(1.) As First, The obedience of the creatures, both to God and thee. (a.) To God, they are all in subjection (set devils and men aside) even the very dragons, and all deeps, fire, hail, snow, and vapours (Psa 148:7, 8), fulfilling is word. Yea, the winds and seas obey him. (Mark 4:41) Thus, I say, by their obedience to God they teach thee obedience, and by their obedience shall thy disobedience be condemned in the judgment. (Psa 147:15–18) (b.) Their obedience to thee, also teacheth thee obedience to all superiors; for every kind of beasts, and of birds, and serpents, and things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed, and brought into obedience by mankind. Man only remains untamed and unruly, and therefore by these is condemned. (James 3:7, 8)
(2.) The fruitfulness of all the creatures in their kind, doth teach and admonish thee to a fruitful life to Godward, and in the things of his holy word. God did but say in the beginning, Let the earth bring forth fruit, grass, herbs, trees, beasts, creeping things, and cattle after their kind; and it was so. (Gen 1:24) But to man, he hath sent his prophets, rising early, and sending them, saying, ‘O do not this abominable thing that I hate’ (Jer 44:4) but they will not obey. For if the Gentiles, which have not the law, do, by some acts of obedience, condemn the wickedness of those who do by the letter and circumcision, break the law: how much more shall the fruitfulness of all the creatures come in, in the judgment, against the whole world! As Job saith, By the obedience and fruitfulness of the creatures he judgeth, and so will judge, the people. (Job 36:27–32)
(3.) The knowledge and wisdom of the creatures, do with a check, command thee to be wise, and do teach thee wisdom. The stork in the heaven, the swallow and the crane, by observing the time and season of their coming, do admonish thee to learn the time of grace, and of the mercy of God. (Jer 8:7) The ox and the ass, by the knowledge they have of their master’s crib, do admonish thee to know the bread and table of God, and both do and shall condemn thy ignorance of the food of heaven. (Isa 1:3)
(4.) The labour and toil of the creatures doth convict thee of sloth and idleness. ‘Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise’; for she provideth her food in the summer, and layeth up against the day of trial. (Prov 6:6, 7) But thou spendest the whole summer of thy life in wasting both time and soul. All things are full of labour, saith Solomon (Eccl 1:8), only man so endeth all the day idle (Matt 20:6), and his years like a tale that is told. (Psa 90:9, Rom 10:21) The coney is but a feeble folk, yet laboureth for a house in the rock, to be safe from the rage of the hunter. (Prov 30:26)
The spider also, taketh hold with her hands, and is in king’s palaces. (Prov 30:28) It is man only that turneth himself upon the bed of sloth, as the door doth itself upon the hinges. ‘Tis man, I say, that will neither lay hold on the rock Christ, as the coney doth teach, nor lay hold on the kingdom of heaven, as the spider doth bid him. (John 5:40)
(5.) The fear that is in all creatures, when they perceive that danger is near, it teacheth men to fly from the wrath to come, ‘In vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird’ (Prov 1:17), but man, man only is the fool-hardy creature, that lieth wait for his own blood, and that lurketh privily for his own life. How I say, will every creature fly, run, strive, and struggle to escape the danger it is sensible of! ‘Tis man only that delighteth to dance about the mouth of hell, and to be knowingly smitten with Satan’s snare. (Rom 1:32)
(6.) The dependence that all the creatures have upon God; they teach thee to depend on him that made thee; yea, and will in the judgment condemn thee for thy unlawful practices, and dealings for thy preservation. The young ravens seek their food from God (Psa 147:9, Job 38:41), and will condemn thy lying, cheating, overreaching, defrauding, and the like. They provide neither storehouse, nor barn (Luke 12:24); but thou art so greedy of these things, that thou for them shuttest thyself out of the kingdom of heaven. (Prov 17:16)
(7.) The love and pity that is in their hearts to their young, and one another: will judge and condemn the hard-heartedness that is in thee to thy own soul. What shall I say? ‘The heaven shall reveal his iniquity; and the earth shall rise up against him.’ (Job 20:27) That is, all the creatures of God, they will, by their fruitfulness and subjection to the will of their Creator, judge and condemn thee for thy disobedience, and rebellion against him.
3. Now, as these creatures do every day call unto thee, and lay before thee these things: so he hath for thy awakening, in case thou be asleep, and senseless, creatures of another nature; as,
(1.) Thy bed, when thou liest down in it, preacheth to thee thy grave; thy sleep, thy death; and thy rising in the morning, thy resurrection to judgment. (Job 14:12, 17:13, Isa 26:19)
(2.) The jail that thou seest with thine eyes, and the felons that look out at the grate, they put thee in mind of the prison of hell, and of the dreadful state of those that are there. (Luke 12:58, 59)
(3.) The fire that burns in thy chimney, it holds forth the fire of hell unto thee. (Isa 10:16, Rev 20:14)
(4.) The ugly smell, stench, and steam, of the burning brimstone, it shews thee the loathsome, odious, and dreadful torments of hell. (Rev 19:20)
(5.) The darkness of the night in solitary places, and the fears that do commonly haunt those that walk therein: it preacheth to thee the fears and frights, the scares and amazements, that will for ever attend all damned souls. (Matt 8:12, Deut 28:65–67)
(6.) By thy delighting, when thou art cold, to lay sticks on the fire to warm thyself, not caring how fiercely they flame therein, so thou canst be warm and be refreshed thereby, by this, I say, God preacheth to thee, with what delight he will burn sinners in the flames of hell, for the easing of his mind, and the satisfaction of his justice. ‘Ah,’ saith he, ‘I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies.’ (Isa 1:24)
(4.) Yea, by thy blowing the fire, that it may fasten upon the wood the better; thou preachest to thyself how God will blow the fire of hell by the rigour of his law, to the end, it may by its flames, to purpose, kindle upon damned sinners. (Isa 30:33)
All these things, as inconsiderable and unlikely as they may appear to you now, yet in the judgment will be found the items, and warning words of God to your souls. And know, that he who could overthrow the land of Egypt with frogs, lice, flies, locusts, &c., will overthrow the world, at the last day, by the book of the creatures; and that by the least and most inconsiderable of them, as well as by the rest. This book of the creatures, it is so excellent, and so full, so easy, and so suiting the capacity of all, that there is not one man in the world but is catched, convicted, and cast by it. This is the book, that he who knows no letters may read in; yea, and that he who neither saw New Testament, nor Old, may know both much of God, and himself by. ‘Tis this book, out of which generally, both Job and his friends did so profoundly discourse of the judgments of God; and that out of which God himself did so convincingly answer Job. Job was as perfect in this book, as we are, many of us in the scriptures; yea, and could see further by it, than many now adays do see by the New Testament and Old. This is the book out of which, both Christ, the prophets, and apostles, do so frequently discourse by their similitudes, proverbs, and parables, as being the most easy way to convince the world, though by reason of their ignorance, nothing will work with them, but what is set on their heart by the Holy Ghost.
One word further, and I have done with this, and that is, God hath sealed the judgment of the world by the book of the creatures; even by man’s own carriage unto such of them, which, through any impediment, have disappointed his expectations. As thus: if thou hast but a tree in thy orchard, that neither beareth fruit, nor aught else that is good; why, thou art for hewing it down, and for appointing it, as fuel for the fire. Now thou little thinkest that by thy thus judging thou shouldst pass sentence upon thy own fruitless soul; but it is so; ‘and now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees, therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.’ For as truly as thou sayest of thy fruitless tree, Cut it down, why doth it cumber the ground? so truly doth thy voice cause heaven to echo again upon thy head, Cut him down; why doth he cumber the ground? (Matt 3:10, Luke 13:6–8, Eze 15:1–6)
Further, the inclination of thy heart towards fruitless and unprofitable creatures, doth fore-preach to thee, the inclination of the heart of God towards thee in the judgment. If thou hast either cow, or any other beast, that is now unprofitable to thee, though thou mayst suffer them for some time to be with thee, as God suffereth sinners in the world, yet all this while thy heart is not with them, but thou wilt take thy time to clear thy hands of them. Why, just so shall thy judgment be, as God saith, ‘Though Moses and Samuel stood before me,’ that is, to pray me to spare this people, ‘yet my mind could not be towards this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.’ (Jer 15:1, Eze 14:13, 14)
Thus I say, will God judge the world at the last day; he will open before them, how they have degenerated and gone back from the principles of nature in which he created them. Also how they have slighted all the instructions that he hath given them, even by the obedience, fruitfulness, wisdom, labour, fear, and love of the creatures; and he will tell them, that as to their judgment, they themselves have decided it, both by their cutting down that which was fruitless, and by the withdrawing of their hearts from those things, which to them were unprofitable, ‘As therefore the tares are gathered, and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of the world.’ As men deal with weeds, and rotten wood: so will God deal with sinners in the day of judgment: and will bring in, I say, all the counsels and warnings he hath given men by these things, both to clear up and to aggravate their judgment to them.
Second. The second book that will be opened at this day, it will be the book of God’s remembrance. (Mal 3:16) For as God hath in his remembrance, recorded all and every particular good thing that his own people hath done to, and for his name while they were in this world: so he hath in his remembrance, recorded all the evil and sin of his adversaries, even everything. (Eccl 12:14) Now God’s remembrance is so perfect every way, that it is impossible that anything should be lost, that is committed to it to be kept, and brought forth to the judgment at the time appointed; for as a thousand years are but as yesterday, with his eternity: so the sins that have been committed thousands of years since, they are all so firmly fixed in the remembrance of the eternal God, that they are always as fresh and clear in his sight, as if they were but just now in committing. He calleth again the things that are past (Eccl 3:15), and hath set ‘our [most] secret sins in the light of his countenance.’ (Psa 90:8) As he also saith in another place, ‘Hell [itself] is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering’ (Job 26:6), that is, the most secret, cunning, and hidden contrivances of the most subtle of the infernal spirits, which yet are far more slethy, than men, to hid their wickedness; yet, I say, all their ways, hearts, and most secret doings, are clear, to the very bottom of them, in the eyes of the great God. All things are open and bare before the eyes of him with whom we have to do; who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart. (Heb 4:13, 1 Cor 4:5)
‘Ye that say, The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, [O] ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see? he that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?’ (Psa 94:8–10, Hosea 7:2, 8:13) ‘Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him?’—that is, when he is committing wickedness—’saith the Lord: Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.’ (Jer 23:24)
Now to know and see things, it is the cause among men of their remembrance. Wherefore, God to shew us, that he will remember all our sins if we die out of Christ, he tells us, that he knoweth, and seeth them all, and therefore must needs remember them; for as is his sight and knowledge, so is his remembrance of all things.
When this book of his remembrance therefore is opened, as it shall be, in the judgment, then shall be brought forth of their hidden holes, all things, whatsoever hath been done since the world began, whether by kingdoms in general, or persons in particular. Now also shall be brought forth to open view, all the transactions of God and his Son, among the sons of men, and everything shall be applied to every particular person, in equity and justice, to whom they belong: the sins that thou hast committed shall be thy own, and thou thyself shalt bear them. ‘The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.’ (1 Sam 2:3)
It will be marvellous to behold how by thousands, and ten thousands, God will call from their secret places, those sins, that one would have thought, had been dead, and buried, and forgotten; yea, how he will shew before the sun, such things, so base and so horrid, that one would think, it was not in the hearts of any to commit; for all is recorded in the book of God’s remembrance. While men are here, they have a thousand tricks to present themselves one to another, far more fair, and honest than they are, or ever were. As Christ said to the Pharisees, ‘Ye are they which justify yourselves before men: but God knoweth your hearts’ (Luke 16:15): Ay, God knoweth, indeed, what a nest, what a heap, what swarms; yea, what legions of hellish wickednesses, there are with power lurking, like cockatrices, in those men, that one would swear a thousand times, are good and honest men. The way of men in their sins, it is like ‘an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent upon a rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid,’ saith Solomon (Prov 30:19), that is, hiddenly, closely, covertly, burying all under fair pretences, wipeth their mouths in the close of their evil, saying, ‘I have done [no] wickedness.’ (Prov 30:20)
But this, though it may serve for the time present, and no longer, God will not be deluded, nor blinded, nor mocked, nor put off. (Gal 6:7) ‘They consider not—that I remember all their wickedness’ (Hosea 7:2); saith he, ‘but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.’ (Psa 50:21) Here will be laid open the very heart of Cain the murderer, of Judas the traitor, of Saul the adversary of David, and of those that under pretences of holiness have persecuted Christ, his word, and people. Now shall every drunkard, whoremaster, thief, and other wicked person, be turned their inside outward; their hearts right open, and every sin, with every circumstance of place, time, person with whom, with the causes also that drew them to the commission of every evil, be discovered to all. Here will be no hiding yourselves behind curtains, nor no covering yourselves with the black and dark night. ‘If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me: Yea,’ O God, ‘darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.’ (Psa 139:11, 12)
The piercing eye of God, beholds all places, persons, and things; the holy hand of his justice writteth them down in the book of his remembrance; and by his power and wisdom, will he open and read to all men exactly, distinctly, and convincingly, whatever hath passed from them, or been done by them, in their whole life; for, ‘For all these things God will bring thee into judgment.’ (Eccl 11:9) Again, as God will bring out of the book of his remembrance, whatever hath passed from thee against him; so also will he then bring forth by the same book, all things and carriages of his towards thee.
Here will he bring to thy mind, every sermon thou hast heard, every chapter thou hast read; every conviction thou hast had on thy conscience; and every admonition that hath been given thee in all thy life, when thou wast in the land of the living.
Now will God lay open before thee, what patience he extended to thee, how he let thee live one year, two years, ten, yea, twenty and twenty years, and all to try thee. Yea, now also will he bring to thy view, how many times he warned, rebuked, threatened, and chastised thee for thy wickedness; how many awakening providences and judgments he continually laid before thy face; yea, how many a time thou didst, like Balaam, run upon the point of the sword of justice, and how he gave back, as being loath to kill thee. (Num 22:23–34)
Now also again, shall be brought before thee and all men, how many strugglings God had with thy heart, on thy sick-bed, to do thee good; yea, and at such times, how many vows, promises, engagements, and resolutions thou madest before God, to turn, if he would release thee from thy affliction, and take off his rod from thy back; and yet, how thou didst, like the man possessed (Mark 5:1–5), break and snap in twain all these chains of iron, with which thou hadst bound thy soul, and that for a very lust and sin. Here also, will be opened before thee, how often thou hath sinned against thy light and knowledge; how often thou hast laid violent hands on thy own conscience; how often thou hast laboured to put out that light that hath stood in thy way to hinder thee from sinning against thy soul. Ah, Lord, what a condition will the Christless soul be in at this day! how will every one of these things afflict the damned soul! They will pierce like arrows, and bite like serpents, and sting like an adder. With what shame, will that man stand before the judgment-seat of Christ who must have all things he hath done against God, to provoke the eyes of his glory to jealousy, laid open before the whole host of the heavenly train! It would make a man blush to have his pockets searched, for things that are stolen in the midst of a market, especially, if he stand upon his reputation and honour. But thou must have thy heart searched, the bottom of thy heart searched; and that, I say, before thy neighbour whom thou hast wronged, and before the devils whom thou hast served; yea, before God, whom thou hast despised, and before the angels, those holy and delicate creatures, whose holy and chaste faces will scarce forbear blushing, while God is making thee vomit up, all thou hast swallowed; for God shall bring it out of thy belly. (Job 20:12–15)
For as for God to forget iniquity, is one of the chief heads of the covenant of grace, and is an argument of the highest nature, to beget and to continue consolation in the godly: so the remembrance of iniquity, by the Lord, it is one of the heaviest loads and judgments, that can befall any poor creature. ‘Lord,’ saith the prophet, ‘remember not against us former iniquities.’ And again, ‘If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?’ (Psa 130:3) And the reason is, because, that which the Lord forgetteth, is forgiven for ever (Heb 8:12, Rom 4:6–8); but that which he remembereth, it is charged for ever, and nothing can take it away—‘Though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord God.’ (Jer 2:22)
Third. The third book that will at this day be opened, and out of which God will judge the world: it is the book of the law, or ten words given forth on the Mount Sinai. But this book will more specially concern those that have received it, or that have had knowledge thereof. Every one shall not be judged by this book, as there delivered, though they shall be judged by the works of it, which are written in their hearts. ‘As many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law.’ (Rom 2:12) That is, the heathens that never knew the law, as delivered on Sinai, they shall be judged by the law, as it was written in man’s heart in his creation, which is comprised within the book of the creatures, but those that have knowledge of the law, as delivered on Sinai: they shall be judged by the law as there given.
Now then, this book when it is opened at the day of judgment, it will to those to whom it especially relates, be a most terrible law, far surpassing the two afore-mentioned. This law, as I may so say, it is the chief and most pure resemblance of the justice and holiness of the heavenly majesty, and doth hold forth to all men the sharpness and keenness of his wrath above the other two that I have before mentioned. I say, both because it hath been delivered more plain and open, both as to the duty enjoined, and the sin prohibited; and therefore must of necessity, fall witht he more violence upon the head of all that shall be found within the compass of it. This law, it hath in it to be opened at this day, these two general heads:
1. A discovery of the evil of sin, that is so, against plain light and truth; and, secondly, a discovery of the vanity of all things, that will at this day be brought by sinners for their help and plea at the judgment. Alas, who can but imagine, that the poor world, at the day of their arraignment, should muster up all that ever they can think of, as arguments to shelter them from the execution of that fierce wrath, that then, with sinking souls, they will see prepared for them.
As to the first of these, the apostle tells us that ‘the law entered, that the offence might abound’ (Rom 5:20), or be discovered what it is. As he saith again, ‘I had not known sin, but by the law.’ (Rom 7:7, 13) Thus it is in this life, and thus it will be in the day of judgment, that is, those that see sin, and that in its abounding nature, and in its exceeding sinfulness, they must see it by the law, for that is indeed the glass by which God discovereth sin, and the filthy spots of leprosy, that are in the soul. (James 1:22–25) Now those that have not the happiness to see their sin by the law in this life, while there is a fountain of grace to wash in, and be clean; they must have the misery to see it at the judgment, when nothing is left but misery and pain, as the punishment for the same. At which day, those little tittles of this holy law, that now men so easily look over, and sin against with ease, they will every one of them appear with such dread, and with such flaming justice against every offence committed; that if heaven and earth itself, should step in to shelter the sinner from the justice and wrath due to sin, it would turn them up by the roots. ‘It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.’ (Luke 16:17) If there appeared such flames, such thunderings, and tempests, as there were at the giving of the law; what flames and blackness will there appear at the execution thereof! And if at the giving of the law there appeared so much holiness and justice, that it made all Israel fly; yea, holy Moses ‘exceedingly fear and quake,’ what will become of these that God shall judge by the rigour of this law in the day of judgment? (Exo 19:16, Heb 12:21)
O what thunderings and lightnings, what earthquakes and tempests, will there be in every damned soul, at the opening of this book? Then, indeed, will God visit them ‘with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire.’ (Isa 29:6) ‘For behold,’ saith the prophet, ‘the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire.’ (66:15)
The Lord will come with fire, that is, in the flaming heat of his justice and holiness against sin, and sinners, to execute the rigour of his threatenings upon their perishing souls.
2. The second general head, that is contained in this law, to be opened at this day is, its exactness, and purity, and strictness as to all acts of good that any poor creature hath done in this life, whereby he in the judgment will think to shelter, or secure himself from the wrath of God. This is the rule, and line, and plummet, whereby every act of every man shall be measured (Rom 3:21, 22); and he whose righteousness is not found every way answerable to this law, which all will fall short of, but they that have the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ: he must perish, as he saith, ‘Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.’ (Isa 28:17) That is, though men may not shelter themselves under legal repentance, cold profession, good meaning, thinkings, and doings: yet all these things must be measured, and weighed in the balance of God’s most righteous law: and, as I said, whatever in that day is not found the righteousness of God, it will be found a refuge of lies, and will be drowned by the overflowing of the wrath of God, as the waters of Noah overflowed the world. And hence it is that all the ungodly will at this day, be found as stubble, and the law as fire. (Mal 4:1) As it saith, ‘From his right hand went a fiery law.’ (Deut 33:2) And again, ‘His lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire.’ (Isa 30:27) For as fire, where it seizeth, doth burn, eat, destroy, devour and consume: so will the law, all those that at this day, shall be found under the transgression of the least tittle of it. It will be with these souls at the day of judgment, as it is with those countries that are overrun with most merciless conquerors, who leave not anything behind them, but swallow up all with fire and sword. ‘For by fire, and by his sword, will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many.’ (Isa 66:16) There are two things at the day of judgment, will meet in their height and utmost strength, and they are sin and the law; for the judgment will not be, till the iniquity of the world be full ripe. (Joel 3:13, Rev 14:15–20)
Now then, when sin is come to its full, having played all its pranks, and done all the mischief it can against the Lord of glory: then God brings forth the law, his holy and righteous law, one of which will now reign for ever, that is, either the law or sin: wherefore sin and sinners, they must tremble, with all that help, and hold them up; for God ‘will magnify the law, and make it honourable.’ (Isa 42:21) That is, will give it the victory over the world for ever; for that is holy, just, and good; they are unholy, unjust, and bad. Therefore by this law ‘the Lord shall rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup.’ (Psa 11:6) Let no man say then, that because God is so famous in his mercy and patience, in this day of his grace, that therefore he will not be fierce, and dreadful in his justice, in the day of judgment; for judgment and justice, are the last things that God intends to bring upon the stage, which will then be to the full, as terrible, as now his goodness and patience, and long-sufferance are admirable. Lord, ‘who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.’ (Psa 90:11)
You may see, if you will, a few of the sparks of the justice of God against sin and sinners. By his casting off angels for sin, from heaven to hell; by his drowning the old world; by his burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, to ashes; condemning them with an overthrow, making them an example to those that after should live ungodly. (2 Peter 2:4–6, Jude 6, 7)
For ‘what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.’ (Rom 3:19)
Moses seems to wonder, that the children of Israel could continue to live, when they did but hear the law delivered on the mountain—‘Did ever people,’ saith he, ‘hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?’ (Deut 4:33) O that ye did but know the law, and the wondrous things that are written therein, before the Lord cause that fearful voice to be heard—‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them’ (Gal 3:10); which curse must fall on all that walk not in all the commandments of God without iniquity (Eze 33:15); which none do, I say, but they that walk in Christ, who hath alone fulfilled them all. (Col 2:10)
The law is that which standeth at the entrance of the paradise of God, as a flaming sword, turning every way to keep out those that are not righteous with the righteousness of God (Gen 3:24); that have not skill to come to the throne of grace by that new and living way which he hath consecrated for us through the veil; that is to say, his flesh (Heb 10:20), for though this law, I say, be taken away by Christ Jesus, for all that truly and savingly believe (Col 2:14); yet it remains in full force and power, in every title of it, against every soul of man, that now shall be found in his tabernacle, that is, in himself, and out of the Lord Jesus (Rom 3:19); it lieth, I say, like a lion rampant at the gates of heaven, and will roar upon every unconverted soul, fiercely accusing every one that now would gladly enter in through the gates into this city. (Job 18:14, John 5:45) So, then, he that can answer all its most perfect and legal commands, and that can live in the midst of devouring fire, and there enjoy God and solace himself, he shall dwell on high, and shall not be hurt by this law—‘His place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.’ (Isa 33:16, 17) Blessed then is he whose righteousness doth answer every point of the law of God, according to 1 Corinthians 1:30 he shall be able to escape all those things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man; for in himself, our God is a consuming fire, and man out of Christ, is but as stubble, chaff, thorns, briars, and fuel for the wrath of this holy and sinner-consuming God to seize upon for ever. (Heb 12:29, Mal 4:1, Matt 3:12, Heb 6:8, Isa 27:4, 2 Sam 23:6, 7) ‘Who can stand before his indignation? And who can abide the fierceness of his anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.’ (Nahum 1:6)
Now when these three books are thus opened, there will without doubt, be sad throbbing and pricking, in every heart that now stands for his life, before the judgment-seat of Christ, the righteous Judge; and without all question, they will be studying a thousand ways to evade and shift the stroke, that by the sin that these three books do charge them with, will immediately fall upon them.
But now to cut off all these at a blow, forthwith appear the witnesses, who are ready to evince, and make full and soul-killing proof of every particular charged against them.
[First Witness.]—and the first is God himself. ‘I,’ saith he, ‘will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.’ (Mal 3:5)
This must needs be of great sway with every soul, that God should now come in. I will witness, saith God, that these things of which you are accused before the Judge are true. I have seen all, know all, and write down all. There hath not been a thought in your heart, nor a word in your tongue, but I have know it altogether; all things have always been open and naked to mine eye. (Heb 4:13) Yea, my eyelids try the children of men. (Psa 11:4) I have known your down- sitting, and your up-rising; and have understood your thoughts afar off. I have compassed your path, and am well acquainted with all your ways. (Psa 139:1–3)
1. You have not continued in that state of nature in which I did at first create you (Eccl 7:29); you have not liked to retain that knowledge and understanding of God, that you had, and might have had, by the very book of the creatures. (Rom 1) You gave way to the suggestions of fallen angels, and so your foolish hearts were darkened and alienated, and estranged from God.
2. All the creatures that were in the world, have even condemned you; they have been fruitful, but you fruitless; they have been fearful of danger, but you foolhardy; they have taken the fittest opportunity for their own preservation, but thou hast both blindly, and confidently gone on to thy punishment. (Prov 22:3)
3. Touching the book of my remembrance, who can contradict it? Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord. Was not I in all places to behold, to see, and to observe thee in all thy ways? My eye saw the thief, and the adulterer, and I heard every lie and oath of the wicked. I saw the hypocrisy of the dissembler. ‘They have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours’ wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the Lord.’ (Jer 29:23)
4. God will also come in against them for their transgressing his law, even the law which he delivered on Mount Sinai; he will, I say, open every tittle thereof in such order and truth: and apply the breach of each particular person with such convincing argument, that they will fall down silenced for ever—‘Every mouth shall be stopped, and all the world shall become guilty before God.’ (Rom 3:19)
[Second Witness.]—There is yet another witness, for the condemning the transgressors of these laws, and that is, conscience—‘Their conscience also bearing witness,’ saith the apostle. (Rom 2:15) Conscience is a thousand witnesses. Conscience, it will cry amen to every word that the great God doth speak against thee. Conscience is a terrible accuser, it will hold pace with the witness of God as to the truth of evidence, to a hair’s breadth. The witnesses of conscience, it is of great authority, it commands guilt, and fasteneth it on every soul which it accuseth; and hence it is said, ‘If our heart [or conscience] condemn us.’ (1 John 3:20) Conscience will thunder and lighten at this day; even the consciences of the most pagan sinners in the world, will have sufficiently wherewith to accuse, to condemn, and to make paleness appear in their faces, and breaking in their loins, by reason of the force of its conviction. Oh, the mire and dirt, that a guilty conscience, when it is forced to speak, will cast up, and throw out before the judgment—seat! It must out, none can speak peace, nor health, to that man upon whom God hath let loose his own conscience. Cain will now cry, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear’; Judas will hang himself; and both Belshazzar and Felix will feel the joints of their loins to be loosened, and their knees to smite one against another, when conscience stirreth. (Gen 4:13, Matt 27:3, Dan 5:6, Acts 24:23) When conscience is once thoroughly awakened, as it shall be before the judgment-seat: God need say no more to the sinner than Solomon said to filthy Shimei, ‘thou knowest all the wickedness which thine heart is privy to.’ (1 Kings 2:44) As who should say, Thy conscience knoweth, and can well inform thee of all the evil, and sin that thou art guilty of. To all which it answereth, even as face answereth to face in a glass; or as an echo answereth the man that speaketh; as fast, I say, as God chargeth conscience will cry out, Guilty, guilty; Lord, guilty of all, of every whit; I remember clearly all the crimes thou layest before me. Thus, I say, will conscience be a witness against the soul, in the day of God.
[Third Witness.]—As God and conscience will at this day be most dreadful witnesses against the sinful man; so also will those several thoughts that have passed through man’s heart, be a witness also against him. As he said before, ‘Their conscience also baring witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing one another; In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.’ (Rom 2:15, 16)
The thoughts come in as a witness for God against the sinner upon the account of that unsteadiness and variety that were in them, both touching God, and their own selves. Sometimes the man thinks there is no God, but that everything hath its rise of itself, or by chance, or fortune—‘The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.’ (Psa 14:1)
Sometimes, again, they think there is a God, but yet they think and imagine of him falsely. ‘Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself,’ saith God; ‘but I will reprove thee.’ (Psa 50:21)
Men think, that because they can sin with delight: that therefore God can let them escape without punishment. Nay, oftentimes they think, that God doth either quite forget their wickedness, or else that he will be pleased with such satisfaction as they are pleased to give him, even a few howling prayers (Hosea 7:14), feigned and hypocritical tears, and weepings, which pass from them more for fear of the punishment of hell-fire, than because they have offended so holy, so just, and so glorious a God, and so loving and so condescending a Jesus. (Mal 2:13)
Sometimes again, they have had right thoughts of something of God, but not of him together; either thinking so of his justice, as to drive them from him, and also cause them to put him out of their mind. (Job 21:14) Or else so thinking of his mercy as that they quite forget his holiness and justice. Now both these are but base thoughts of God, and so erroneous, and sinful thoughts.
Sometimes also, they have pretty right thoughts of God, both as to justice and mercy, but then, through the wretchedness of their unsatisfied nature, they, against this light and knowledge, do, with shut eyes, and hardened hearts, rush fiercely, knowingly, and willingly again into their sins and wickedness. (Heb 6:4–6, 10:26, 2 Peter 2:20)
As men have these various thoughts of God, so also their thoughts are not steady about themselves.
Sometimes they think they are sinners, and therefore they have need of mercy.
Sometimes again, they think they are righteous, and so have not so much need; mark, and yet both alike rotten and base; because, as the last is altogether senseless, so the first is not at all savingly sensible. (Mark 10:17–22, Luke 18:11, 12)
Sometimes again, they think they are gods (Eze 28:1–6); that they shall never die; or that if they do die, yet they shall never rise again (1 Cor 15:12); or if they do rise again, yet they shall be saved, though they have lived vilely and in their sins all the days of their life. (Deut 29:18–20) Now, I say, every one of these thoughts, with ten thousand more of the like nature, will God bring in against the rebels in the judgment-day. Which thoughts shall every one of them be brought forth in their distinct order. He sheweth to man what is his thought. (Amos 4:13) And, again, ‘I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be with-holden from thee.’ (Job 42:2) We read, that when the strangers at Jerusalem did but hear the apostles speak to every one of them in their own language, how it amazed and confounded them. (Acts 2:6–8) But, I say, how will they look and be amazed when God shall evidently, clearly, and fully speak out all their hearts, and every thought they have had before them!
Now the reason and strength of this witness will lie here, that God will by the variety and crossness that their thoughts had one to another, and by the contradiction that was in them, prove them sinners and ungodly; because that, I say, sometimes they thought there was a God, sometimes again, they thought there was none. Sometimes they thought, that he was such a God, and sometimes again, they thought of him quite contrary; sometimes they thought he was worth regarding, and sometimes they thought he was not; as also, sometimes they thought he would be faithful, both to mercy, and justice, and sinners; and sometimes again, they thought he would not.
What greater argument now can there be, to prove men, vanity, froth, a lie, sinners, deluded by the devil, and such as had false apprehensions of God, his ways, his word, his justice, his holiness, of themselves, their sins, and every action?
Now they will indeed appear a very lump of confusion, a mass of sin, a bundle of ignorance, of atheism, of unbelief, and of all things that should lay them obnoxious to the judgments of God. This will God, I say, by mustering up the thoughts of man, and by shewing of them, that every imagination and thought of their heart was only evil, and that continually, (by shewing of them what staggering, drunken, wild, and uncomely thoughts they have had, both of him, and of themselves,) convince them, cast them, and condemn them for sinners, and transgressors against the book of creatures, the book of his remembrance, and the book of the law. By the variety of their thoughts, they shall be proved unstable, ignorant, wandering stars, clouds carried with a tempest, without order or guidance, and taken captive of the devil at his will.
Now, while the wicked are thus standing upon their trial and lives before the judgment-seat, and that in the view of heaven and hell, they, I say, hearing and seeing such dreadful things, both written and witnessed against every one of them, and that by such books and such witnesses as do not only talk, but testify, and that with the whole strength of truth against them: they will then begin, though poorly, and without any advantage, to plead for themselves, which plea will be to this effect.
Lord, we did find in the scriptures, that thou didst send a Saviour into the world, to deliver us from these sins and miseries. We heard this Saviour also published, and openly proffered to such poor sinners as we are. Lord, Lord, we also made profession of this Saviour, and were many of us frequenters of his holy ordinances. We have eaten and drank in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. Lord, we have also some of us, been preaches ourselves, we have prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have we cast out devils, and done many wondrous works. Nay, Lord, we did herd among thy people; we forsook the profane and wicked world, and carried our shining lamps before us in the face of all men; Lord, Lord, open to us. (Matt 7:21–23, 25:1, 2, 10, 11, Luke 13:24–28)
And all the while they are thus pleading, and speaking for themselves: behold, how earnestly they groan, how ghastly they look, and how now the brinish tears flow down like rivers from their eyes, ever redoubling their petition, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord: first thinking of this thing, and then of that, ever contending, seeking, and striving to enter in at this strait gate. As Christ saith, ‘When once the master of the house is risen up,’ that is, when Christ hath laid aside his mediation for sinners, and hath taken upon him only to judge and condemn; then will the wicked begin to stand without, and to knock and contend for a portion among them that are the blessed. Ah, how will their hearts twitter while they look upon the kingdom of glory! and how will they ache and throb at every view of hell, their proper place! still crying, O that we might inherit life, and O that we might escape eternal death!
Fourth, But now, to take away all cavils and objections, that of this nature will arise in the hearts of these men: forthwith the book of life is brought out for a conclusion, and a final end of eternal judgment. As John saith, ‘The books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.’ (Rev 20:12)
But this book of life, it is not at this time opened, because there are not any godly to be tried; for as I have shewed before, their judgment is past and over, before the wicked rise. The book of life, then, is now opened for further conviction of damned reprobates, that their mouths may be stopped for ever, as touching all their cavils, contendings, and arguments against God’s proceeding in judgment with them. For believe it, while God is judging them, they will fall to judging him again; but he will be justified in his sayings, and will overcome when he is judged at this day. (Rom 3:4–6) Yet not by a hasty and angry casting them away, but by a legal and convincing proceeding against them, and overthrowing all their cavils by his manifest and invincible truth. Wherefore, to cut off all that they can say, he will not open the book of life before them, and will shew them what is written therein, both as to election, conversion, and a truly gospel conversation. And will convince them that they neither are of the number of his elect, neither were they ever regenerate, neither had they ever a truly gospel conversation in the world.
By these three things, then, out of this book, thou, who art not saved, must at last be judged and overcome.
1. Here will be tried, whether thou art within that part of this book wherein all the elect are recorded; for all the elect are written here, as Christ saith, ‘Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven’ (Luke 10:20); and again, ‘In thy book,’ saith he to his Father, ‘all my members were written.’ (Psa 139:16, Heb 12:22, 23)
Now, then, if thy name be not found, either among the prophets, apostles, or the rest of saints, thou must be put by, as one that is cast away, as one polluted, and as an abominable branch (Isa 14:19); thy name is wanting in the genealogies and rolls of heaven (Ezra 2:62), thou art not pricked for everlasting life, therefore thou must not be delivered from that soul-amazing misery; for there are no souls can, though they would give a thousand worlds, be delivered at the day of God but such that are found written in this book. Every one of those that are written, though never an one of those that are not written, shall in that day be delivered from the wrath to come. (Dan 12:1)
But, O methinks, with what careful hearts will the damned now begin to look for their names in this book. Those that, when once the long- suffering of God waited on them, made light of all admonition, and slighted the counsel of making their calling and election sure: would now give thousands of treasures, that they could but spy their names, though last and least among the sons of God. But, I say, how will they fail? how will they faint? how will they die and languish in their souls? when they shall still as they look, see their names wanting. What a pinch will it be to Cain to see his brother there recorded, and he himself left out. Absalom will now swoon, and be as one that giveth up the ghost, when he shall see David his father, and Solomon his brother written here, while he withal is written in the earth, among the damned. Thus, I say, will sadness be added to sadness, in the soul of the perishing world when they fail of finding their names in this part of ‘the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.’ (Rev 13:8)
2. The second part of this book, is that in which is recorded, the nature of conversion, of faith, love, &c. and those that have not had the effectual word of God upon them, and the true and saving operation of grace in their hearts, which is indeed the true life which is begun in every Christian, they will be found still not written in this book; for the living, the holy living souls, are they only that are written therein; as the prophet saith, ‘and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem’ (Isa 4:3): Eternal life is already in this life, begun in every soul that shall be saved; as Christ saith, ‘He that believeth in me hath everlasting life.’ And again, ‘Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.’ (John 6:54) And hence they are called the living, that are written in this book. Here then, the Lord will open before thee, what conversion is, in the true and simple nature of it, which when thou beholdest, thou wilt then be convinced, that this thou hast missed of; for it must needs be, that when thou beholdest by the records of heaven, what a change what a turn; what an alteration the work of regeneration maketh on every soul, and in every heart, where the effectual call, or the all according to his purpose, is; that thou who hast lived a stranger to this, or that hast contented thyself with the notion only, or a formal, and feigned profession thereof: I say, it cannot be but that thou must forthwith fall down, and with grief conclude, that thou hast no share in this part of the book of life neither, the living only are written herein. There is not one dead, carnal, wicked man recorded here. No: but when the Lord shall at this day make mention of Rahab, of Babylon, of Philistia, and Ethiopia: that is, of all the cursed rabble and crew of the damned: then he will say, that this man was born there—that is, amongst them, and so hath his name where they have theirs; namely, under the black rod, in the king’s black book, where he hath recorded all his enemies and traitors. It shall be said of this man, of this ungodly man, that he was born there (Psa 87:4), that he lived and died in the state of nature, and so under the curse of God, even as others: for as he said of wicked Coniah, ‘Write ye this man childless’ (Jer 22:30), so he saith of every ungodly man that so departeth out of this world, Write this man graceless.
Wherefore, I say, among the Babylonians and Philistines; among the unbelieving Moors and pagans, his name will be found in the day when it will be inquired where every man was born; for God at this day, will divide the whole world into these two ranks—the children of the world, and the children of Zion. Wherefore here is the honour, the privilege, and advantage that the godly above the wicked will have at the day of their counting, when the Lord maketh mention of Zion, it shall be then acknowledged that this and that (good) man was born in her. ‘The Lord shall count,’ saith the prophet, ‘when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there.’ (Psa 87:6) This man had the work of conversion, of faith, and grace in his soul. This man is a child of Zion, of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is also written in heaven. (Gal 4:26, Heb 12:23) Blessed is the people that is in such a case. (Psa 144:15)
But, poor soul, counters will not go for gold now; for though so long as thou didst judge thyself by the crooked rule of thy own reason, fancy, and affection, thou wast pure in thine own eyes: yet now thou must be judged alone by the words and rule of the Lord Jesus: which word shall not now, as in times past, be wrested and wrung, both this way and that, to smooth thee up in thy hypocrite’s hope and carnal confidence; but be thou king or keser, be thou who thou wilt, the word of Christ, and that with this interpretation only, it shall judge thee in the last day. (John 12:48)
Now will sinners begin to cry with loud and bitter cries, Oh! ten thousand worlds for a saving work of grace. Crowns and kingdoms for the least measure of saving faith, and for the love, that Christ will say, is the love of his own Spirit.
Now they will begin also to see the work of a broken and a contrite spirit, and of walking with God, as living stones, in this world. But alas! these things appear in their hearts to the damned too late; as also do all things else. This will be but like the repentance of the thief, about whose neck is the halter, and he turning off the ladder; for the unfortunate hap of the damned will be, that the glory of heavenly things will not appear to them till out of season. Christ must now indeed be shewed to them, as also the true nature of faith and all grace; but it will be, when the door is shut, and mercy gone. They will pray, and repent most earnestly; but it will be in the time of great waters of the floods of eternal wrath, when they cannot come nigh him. (1 Tim 6:15, Matt 25:10, 11, Psa 32:6)
Well, then, tell me, sinner, if Christ should now come to judge the world, canst thou abide the trial of the book of life? art thou confident that thy profession, that thy conversion, thy faith, and all other graces thou thinkest thou hast, will prove gold, silver, and precious stones in this day? Behold, he comes as a refiner’s fire, and as fuller’s soap. Shalt thou indeed abide the melting and washing of this day? Examine, I say, beforehand, and try thyself unfeignedly; for every one ‘that doth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.’ (John 3:21)
Thou sayest thou art a Christian, that also thou hast repented, dost believe, and love the Lord Jesus; but the question is, whether these things will be found of equal length, height, and breadth with the book of life, or whether, when thou art weighed in the balance, thou wilt yet be found wanting. (Dan 5:27) How if, when thou comest to speak for thyself before God, thou shouldst say Sibboleth instead of Shibboleth: that is, though almost, yet not rightly and naturally the language of the Christians. (Judg 12:6)
If thou miss but one letter in thy evidence, thou art gone; for though thou mayest deceive thy own heart with brass, instead of gold, and with tin instead of silver, yet God will not be so put off. (Gal 6:7) You know how confident the foolish virgins were, and yet how they were deceived. They herded with the saints, they went forth from the gross pollutions of the world, they every one had shining lamps, and all went forth to meet the bridegroom, and yet they missed the kingdom; they were not written among the living at Jerusalem; they had not the true, powerful, saving work of conversion, of faith, and grace in their souls: they that are foolish take their lamps, but take no oil, no saving grace, with them. (Matt 25:1–4) thus you see how sinners will be put to it before the judgment-seat from these two parts of this book of life. But,
3. There is yet another part of this book to be opened, and that is, that part of it in which are recorded those noble and Christian acts, that they have done since the time of their conversion and turning to Christ. Here, I say, are recorded the testimony of the saints against sin and antichrist; their suffering for the sake of God, their love to the members of Christ, their patience under the cross, and their faithful frequenting the assemblies of the saints, and their encouraging one another to bear up in his ways in the worst of times; even when the proud were called happy, and when they that wrought wickedness were even set up. As he there saith, ‘Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.’ (Mal 3:16)
For indeed, as truly as any person hath his name found in the first part of this book of life, and his conversion in the second; so there is a third part, in which there are his noble, spiritual, and holy actions recorded and set down. As it is said by the Spirit to John, concerning those that suffered martyrdom for the truth of Jesus, ‘Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord:—Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.’ (Rev 14:13)
And hence it is that the labours of the saints and the book of life, are mentioned together, signifying that the travels, and labours, and acts of the godly, are recorded therein. (Phil 4:3)
And hence it is again, that the Lord doth tell Sardis, that those among them that stood it out to the last gasp, in the faith and love of the gospel, should not be blotted out of the book of life; but they, with the work of God on their soul, and their labour for God in this world; should be confessed before his Father, and before his angels. (Rev 3:5)
This part of this book, is in another place called, ‘The book of the wars of the Lord,’ (Num 21:14), because in it, I say, are recorded these famous acts of the saints against the world, flesh, and the devil.
You find also, how exact the Holy Ghost is, in recording the travels, pains, labour, and goodness of any of the children of Israel, in their journey from Egypt to Canaan, which was a representation of the travels of the saints, from nature to grace, and from grace to glory. King Ahasuerus, kept in his library a book of records, wherein was written, the good service that his subjects did for him at any time, which was a type also of the manner and order of heaven. And as sure as ever Mordecai, when search was made in the rolls, was found there to have done such and such service for the king and his kingdom (Esth 6:1, 2): so surely will it be found, what every saint hath done for God, at the day of inquiry. You find in the Old Testament also, still as any of the kings of Judah died, there was surely a record in the book of Chronicles, of their memorable acts and doings for their God, the church, and the commonwealth of Israel, which still doth further hold forth unto the children of men, this very thing, that all the kings of the New Testament, which are the saints of God, have all their acts, and what they have done for their God, &c., recorded in the book of Chronicles in the heavenly Jerusalem.
Now, I say, when this part of the book of life shall be opened, what can be found in it, of the good deeds and heaven-born actions of wicked men? Just nothing; for as it is not to be expected that thorns should bring forth grapes, or that thistles should bear figs: so it cannot be imagined, that ungodly men should have anything to their commendations, recorded in this part of the book of life. What hast thou done, man, for God in this world? Art thou one of them that hast set thyself against those strong strugglings of pride, lust, covetousness, and secret wickedness, that remain in thy heart, like Job and Paul? (Job 1:8, 2 Cor 10:4, 5) And do these strugglings against these things, arise from pure love to the Lord Jesus, or from some legal terrors and conviction for sin. (Gal 5:6) Dost thou, I say, struggle against thy lusts, because thou dost in truth, love the sweet, holy, and blessed leadings of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus; its leadings of thee, I say, into his blood and death, for thy justification and deliverance from wrath to come. (Phil 3:6–8, 2 Cor 5:14)
What acts of self-denial, hast thou done for the name of the Lord Jesus, among the sons of men? I say, what house, what friend, what wife, what children, and the like, hast thou lost, or left for the word of God, and the testimony of his truth in the world? (Matt 19:27, 28, Rev 12:11) Wast thou one of them, that didst sigh, and afflict thyself for the abominations of the times? and that Christ hath marked and recorded for such an one? (Eze 9:4, Zeph 3:18)
In a word, art thou one of them, that wouldst not be won, neither by fear, frowns, nor flatteries, to forsake the ways of God, or wrong thy conscience? or art thou one of them that slightest those opportunities that Satan and this world did often give thee to return to sin in secret. (Heb 11:15) These be the men whose praise is in the gospel, and whose commendable and worthy acts are recorded before the Judge of all the world. Alas, alas, these things are strange things to a carnal and wicked man. Nothing of this hath been done by him in this life, and therefore how can any such be recorded for him in the book of life? wherefore he must needs be shut out of this part also. As David saith, ‘Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.’ (Psa 69:28)
Thus I say, the wicked will find nothing for their comfort, either in the first part of this book, where all the names of the elect are, neither will they find anything in the second part thereof, where are recorded the true nature and operation of effectual conversion, of faith, or love, or the like; and I say, neither can anything be found in this third part, wherein are recorded the worthy acts, and memorable deeds of the saints of the Lord Jesus. Thus, when Christ therefore hath opened before them this book of life, and convinced the ungodly at this day out of it, he will then shut it up again, saying, I find nothing herein that will do you good; you are none of my elect, you are the sons of perdition. For as these things will be found clear and full in the book of life, so they will be found effectually wrought in the hearts of the elect, all whose conversion and perseverance shall now be opened before thine eyes, as a witness, I say, of the truth of what thou here seest opened before thee, and also of thy unregenerate estate. Now, thou wilt see what a turn, what a change, and what a clinging to God, to Christ, and his word and ways; there was found in the souls of the saved ones! Here shall be seen also how resolvedly, unfeignedly, and heartily the true child of God did oppose, resist, and war against his most dear and darling lusts and corruptions. Now the saints are hidden ones, but then they shall be manifest; this is the morrow in which the Lord will shew who are his, and who they are that fear the Lord, and who that fear him not. (Psa 83:3, 1 Sam 8:19, Num 16:5, Mal 3:18) Now you shall see how Abraham left his country (Heb 11:8); how close good Lot did stick to God in profane and wicked Sodom (2 Peter 2:7, 8); how the apostles left all to follow Jesus Christ (Matt 19:29); and how patiently they took all crosses, afflictions, persecutions, and necessities for the kingdom of heaven’s sake; how they endured burning, striving, stoning, hanging, and a thousand calamities; how they manifested their love to their Lord, his cause, and people in the worst of times, and in the days when they were most rejected, slighted, abused, and abased; ‘then shall the King say to them on his right hand, [and that when all the devils and damned sinners stand by,] Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: [you are indeed the truly converted souls, as appears by the grace that was in your hearts] for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.’ (Matt 25:34–36) You owned me, stood by me, and denied yourselves to nourish me and my poor members, in our low, and weak, and most despised condition. This, I say, the world shall see, hear, and be witnesses of, against themselves and their souls for ever; for how can it be, but these poor damned sinners should be forced to confess, that they were both Christless and graceless, when they shall find, both in the book of life, and in the hearts of the holy and beloved souls, that which themselves are quite barren of, and greatest strangers to. The saints, by the fruits of regeneration, even in this world, do testify to the world, not only the truth of conversion in themselves, but also that they are yet Christless, and so heavenless, and salvationless, that are not converted. (1 Tim 6:12, 1 Thess 2:10, 2 Tim 2:2) But alas! while we are here, they will evade this testimony, both of our happiness, by calling our faith, phantasy; our communion with God, delusion; and the sincere profession of his word before the world, hypocrisy, pride, and arrogancy: yet, I say, when they see us on the right hand of Christ, commingled among the angels of light, and themselves on his left hand, and commingled with the angels of darkness; and, I say, when they shall see our hearts and ways opened before their eyes, and owned by the Judge for honest hearts and good ways, and yet the same ways that they hated, slighted, disowned and contemned, what will they, or what can they say, but thus—We fools counted their lives madness, and their end to be without honour; but how are they numbered with the saints, and owned by God and Christ!
And truly, was it not that the world might, by seeing the turn that is wrought on the godly at their conversion, be convinced of the evil of their ways, or be left without excuse the more in the day of God, (with some other reasons) they should not, I am persuaded, stay so long from heaven as they do, nor undergo so much abuse and hardship as frequently befalls them. God, by the lengthening out the life of his people that are scattered here and there among men in this world, is making work for the day of judgment, and the overthrow of the implacable, for ever and ever; and, as I have said, will by the conversion, life, patience, self-denial, and heavenly-mindedness of his dear children, give them a heavy and most dreadful blow. Now, when God hath thus laid open the work of grace, both by the book of life and the Christian’s heart: then, of itself will fall to the ground, their pleading what gifts and abilities they had in this world; they will now see that gifts, and grace, are two things: and also, that whosoever is graceless, let their gifts be never so excellent, they must perish and be lost for ever; wherefore, for all their gifts, they shall be found the workers of iniquity, and shall so be judged and condemned. (Matt 7:22, 23) That is a notable place in the prophecy of Ezekiel, ‘Thus saith he Lord GOD,’ saith he, ‘If the prince,’ the Prince of Life, ‘give a gift to any of his sons,’—that is, to any that are truly gracious—‘the inheritance,’ or the profit that he gets thereby, ‘shall be his son’s’—that is, for the exercise of his gift he shall receive a reward; ‘but if he give a gift of his inheritance to one of his servants,’ that is not a son, ‘then it shall be his’ but ‘to the year of liberty; after, it shall return to the prince,’ &c. (Eze 46:16, 17) This day of liberty it is now, when the Judge is set upon the throne to judgment, even the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom 8:21), wherefore then will Christ say to them that stand by, ‘Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. This servant must not abide in the house for ever, though with the son it shall be so.’ (John 8:35, Luke 19:24) A man may be used as a servant in the church of God, and may receive many gifts, and much knowledge of the things of heaven, and yet at last himself be no more than a very bubble and nothing. (1 Cor 13:1–3)
But now, I say, at this day, they shall clearly see the difference between gifts and grace, even as clearly, as now they that have eyes can see the difference between gifts and ignorance, and very foolishness. This our day doth indeed abound with fits; many sparkling wits are seen in every corner; men have the word and truths of Christ at their fingers’ ends; but alas, with many, yea, a great many, there is nought but wits and gifts; they are but words, all their religion lieth in their tongues and heads, the power of what they say and know, it is seen in others, not in themselves. These are like the lord on whom the king of Israel leaned, they shall see the plenty, the blessed plenty that God doth provide, and will bestow upon his church, but they shall not taste thereof. (2 Kings 7:17–20)
Obs. First. Before I conclude this matter, observe, [first,] that among all the objections and cavils that are made, and will be made, by the ungodly, in the day of the Lord Jesus, they have not one hump about election and reprobation; they murmur not at all that they were not predestinated to eternal life; and the reason is, because then they shall see, though now they are blind, that God could in his prerogative royal, without prejudice to them that are damned, choose and refuse at pleasure; and besides, they at that day shall be convinced, that there was so much reality and downright willingness in God, in every tender of grace and mercy to the worst of men; and also so much goodness, justness, and reasonableness in every command of the gospel of grace, which they were so often entreated and beseeched to embrace, that they will be drowned in the conviction of this, that did refuse love, grace, reason, &c.: love, I say, for hatred, grace for sin, and things reasonable, for things unreasonable and vain. Now they shall see they left glory for shame, God for the devil, heaven for hell, light for darkness. Now they shall see that though they made themselves beasts, yet God made them reasonable creatures, and that he did with reason expect that they should have adhered to, and have delighted in, things that are good, and according to God; yea, now they shall see, that though God did not determine to bring them to heaven against their hearts and wills, and the love that they had to their sins: yet then they shall be convinced, that God was far from infusing anything into their souls, that should in the least hinder, weaken, obstruct, or let them in seeking the welfare of their souls. Now men will tattle and prattle at a mad rate, about election and reprobation, and conclude, that because all are not elected, therefore God is to blame that any are damned: but then they will see, that they are not damned because they were not elected, but because they sinned; and also that they sinned, not because God put any weakness into their souls, but because they gave way, and that willfully, knowingly, and desperately, to Satan and his suggestions; and so turned away from the holy commandment delivered unto them; yea, then they will see, that though God at some times did fasten his cords about their heads, and heels, and hands, both by godly education, and smarting convictions, yet they rushed away with violence from all, saying, ‘Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.’ (Psa 2:3) God will be justified in his sayings, and clear when he judgeth (Psa 51:4), though thy proud ignorance thinks to have, and to multiply, cavils against him.
Obs. Second. But secondly, as the whole body of the elect, by the nature of conversion in their hearts, shall witness a non-conversion in the hearts of the wicked; and as the ungodly shall fall under the conviction of this cloud of witnesses: so, to increase their conviction, there will also be opened before them all the labours of the godly, both ministers and others, and the pains that they have taken, to save, if it had been possible, these damned wretches; and now will it come burning hot upon their souls, how often they were forewarned of this day; now they shall see, that there was never any quarter-sessions, nor general jail-delivery more publicly foretold of, than this day. You know that the judges before they begin their assizes, do give to the country in charge, that they take heed to the laws and statutes of the king. Why rebel, thou shalt be at this day convicted, that every sermon thou hast heard, and that every serious debate thou hast been at about the things of God, and laws of eternity, they were to thee as the judge’s charge before the assizes and judgment began. Every exhortation of every minister of God, it is as that which Paul gave to Timothy, and commanded him to give in charge to others—‘I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels,’ saith he, ‘that thou observe these things’; and again, ‘I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Jesus Christ, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (1 Tim 5:21, 6:13, 14) These things give in charge, saith he, that they may be blameless. This, I say, hast thou heard and seen, and yet thou hast not held fast, but hast cast away the things that thou hast heard, and hast been warned of: alas! God will multiply his witnesses against thee.
1. Thy own vows and promises shall be a witness against thee, that thou hast, contrary to thy light and knowledge, destroyed thy soul, as Joshua said to the children of Israel, when they said the Lord should be their God. Well, saith he, ‘Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve him.’ That is, if now you turn back again, even this covenant and resolution of yours will in the great day be a witness against you—‘And they said, We are witnesses.’ (Josh 24:22)
2. Every time you have with your mouth said well of godliness, and yet gone on in wickedness; or every time you have condemned sin in others, and yet have not refrained it yourselves; I say, every such word and conclusion that hath passed out of thy mouth, sinner, it shall be as a witness against thee in the day of God, and the Lord Jesus Christ; as Christ saith, ‘By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.’ (Matt 12:37) I observe, that talk with who you will, they will with their mouth say, serving of God, and loving of Christ, and walking in ways of holiness, are best, and best will come of them. I observe gain, that men that are grossly wicked themselves, will yet, with heavy censures and judgments, condemn drunkenness, lying, covetousness, pride, and whoring, with all manner of abominations in others; and yet, in the meantime, continue to be neglecters of God, and embracers of sin and the allurements of the flesh themselves. Why, such souls, every time they speak well of godliness, and continue in their sins; they do pass judgment upon themselves, and provide a witness, even their own mouth, against their own soul, at the judgment-seat—‘Out of thy own mouth,’ saith Christ, ‘will I judge thee, thou wicked servant’; thou knewest what I was, and that I loved to see all my servants zealous, and active for me, that at my coming, I might have received again what I gave thee, with increase; thou oughtest therefore to have been busying thyself in my work, for my glory, and thy own good; but seeing thou hast, against thy own light and mouth gone contrary: Angels, take this unprofitable servant, and cast ye him into utter darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth; he sinned against his light, he shall go to hell against his will. (Matt 25:26–31)
The very same I say, will befall all those that have used their mouth to condemn the sins of others, while they themselves live in their sins. Saith God, O thou wicked wretch, thou didst know that sin was bad, thou didst condemn it in others, thou dist also condemn, and pass judgment upon them for their sin, ‘Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for’ thou that judgest dost the same thing; wherefore, ‘wherein thou hast judged another, thou condemnest thyself.’ I must therefore, saith Christ, look upon thee to be no other but a sinner against thy own mouth, and cannot but judge thee as a despiser of my goodness, and the riches of my forbearance; by which means, thou hast treasured up wrath against this day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. (Rom 2:1–5) He that knoweth to do good, and doth it not, to him it is sin. Thus will God, I say, judge and condemn poor sinners, even from and by themselves, to the fire, that lake of brimstone and fire.
3. God hath said in his word, that rather than there shall want witness at the day of judgment, against the workers of iniquity: the very dust of their city, that shall cleave to his messengers that publish the gospel shall itself be a witness against them; and so Christ bid his servants say—‘Into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you’: &c. ‘But I say unto you,’ saith he to his ministers, ‘it shall be more tolerable for Sodom’ at the judgment ‘than for that city.’ (Luke 10:10–12)
It may be, that when thou hearest that the dust of the street, (that cleaveth to a minister of the gospel, while thou rejectest his word of salvation,) shall be a witness against thee at the day of judgment: thou wilt be apt to laugh, and say, The dust a witness! Witnesses will be scarce where dust is forced to come in to plead against a man. Well sinner, mock not; God doth use to confound the great and mighty by things that are not, and that are despised. And how sayest thou? If God had said by a prophet to Pharaoh, but two years before the plague, that he would shortly come against him with one army of lice, and a second army of frogs, and with a third army of locusts, &c., and would destroy his land, dost thou think it had been wisdom in Pharaoh, now to have laughed such tidings to scorn? ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord? Hath he said it, and shall he not bring it to pass?’ You shall see in the day of judgment, of what force all these things will be, as witnesses against the ungodly.
Many more witnesses might I here reckon up, but these at this time shall suffice to be nominated; for out of the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word shall be established. (2 Cor 13:1) ‘and at the mouth of two or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death, be put to death.’ (Deut 17:6, John 8:17)
[Fourth—the sentence of the ungodly.] Thus then, the books being opened, the laws read, the witnesses heard, and the ungodly convicted; forthwith the Lord and Judge proceeds to execution.
[THE SENTENCE AND PUNISHMENT OF THE WICKED]
And to that end doth pass the sentence of eternal death upon them, saying, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.’ (Matt 25:41) You are now by the book of the creatures, by the book of God’s remembrance, by the book of the law, and by the book of life, adjudged guilty of high treason against God and me; and as murderers of your own souls, as these faithful and true witnesses here have testified, every one of them appearing in their most upright testimony against you. Also, you never had a saving work of conversion, and faith, passed upon you, you died in your sins; neither can I find anything in the last part of this book that will serve your turn, no worthy act is here recorded of you—When ‘I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat’: when ‘I was thirsty, ye game me no drink: when I was a stranger, ye took me not in: I was naked, but ye clothed me not: I was sick and in prison, but ye visited me not’: I have made a thorough search among the records of the living, and find nothing of you, or of your deeds, therein—‘Depart from me, ye cursed,’ &c. (Matt 25:42, 43)
Thus will these poor ungodly creatures be stripped of all hope and comfort, and therefore must need fall into great sadness and wailing, before the Judge; yea, crying out, as being loath to let go all for lost; and even as the man that is fallen into the river, will catch hold of anything when he is struggling for life, though it tend to hold him faster under the water to drown him: so, I say, while these poor creatures, as they lie struggling and twining under the ireful countenance of the Judge; they will bring out yet one more faint and weak groan, and there goes life and all; their last sigh is this—Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and gave thee no meat: or when saw we thee thirsty, and gave thee no drink? when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee not in? or naked, and clothed thee not? or when wast thou sick, or in prison, and we did not minister unto thee? (Matt 25:44)
Thus you see, how loath the sinner is now to take a ‘nay’ of life everlasting. He that once would not be persuaded to close with the Lord Jesus, though one should have persuaded him with tears of blood: behold how fast he now hangs about the Lord, what arguments he frames with mournful groans; how with shifts and words he seeks to gain the time, and to defer the execution: Lord, open unto us! Lord, Lord, open unto us! (Matt 25:11) Lord, thou hast taught in our streets, and we have both taught in thy name and in thy name have we cast out devils. (Matt 7:22) We have eaten and drank in thy presence. (Luke 13:26) And when did we see thee an hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? (Matt 25:10, 11) O poor hearts! how loath, how unwillingly do they turn away from Christ! How loath are they to partake of the fruit of their ungodly doings! Christ must say, Depart once, and depart twice, before they will depart. When he hath shut the door upon them, yet they knock, and cry, ‘Lord, open unto us’; when he hath given them their answer, ‘that he knows them not,’ yet they plead and mourn. Wherefore he is fain to answer again, ‘I tell you, I know you not whence you are; depart.’ (Luke 13:25–27)
‘DEPART.’ O this word, Depart! How dreadful is it! with what weight will it fall on the head of every condemned sinner! For you must note, that while the ungodly stand thus before the Judge; they cannot choose but have a most famous view both of the kingdom of heaven, and of the damned wights in hell. Now they see the God of glory, the King of glory, the saints of glory, and the angels of glory; and the kingdom in which they have their eternal abode. Now, they also begin to see the worth of Christ, and what it is to be smiled upon by him; from all which they must depart; and as I say, they shall have the view of this; so they will most famously behold the pit, the bottomless pit, the fire, the brimstone, and the flaming beds that justice hath prepared for them of old. (Jude 4) Their associates also, will be very conspicuous, and clear before their watery eyes. They will see now, what and which are devils, and who are damned souls; now their great-grandfather Cain, and all his brood, with Judas and his companions, must be their fellow-sighers in the flames and pangs for ever. O heavy day! O heavy word!
This word ‘depart,’ therefore, it looketh two ways, and commands the damned to do so too. Depart from heaven, depart to hell; depart from life, depart to death: ‘depart from me’—now the ladder doth turn from under them indeed.
The Saviour turns them off, the Saviour throws them down. He hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. (John 5:27) Depart from me: I would come to have done you good; but then you would not. Now then, though you would have it never so willingly, yet you shall not.
‘Depart from me, ye cursed.’ You lie open to the stroke of justice for your sins; ye forsaken, and left of God, ye vessels of wrath, ye despisers of God and goodness, you must now have vengeance feed on you; for you did, when you were in the world, feed on sin, and treasure up wrath against this day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. (Rom 2:3–6)
‘Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.’ Fire is that which of all things is the most insufferable and insupportable. Wherefore, by fire, is shewed the grievous state of the ungodly, after judgment. Who can eat fire, drink fire, and lie down in the midst of flames of fire? Yet this must the wicked do. Again; not only fire, but everlasting fire. ‘Behold how great a fire a little matter kindleth.’ A little sin, a little pleasure, a little unjust dealing and doing; what preparation is made for the punishment thereof. And hence it is, that the fire into which the damned fall, is called the lake, or sea of fire—‘And whosoever,’ saith John, ‘was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone.’ (Rev 20:15) Little did the sinner seriously think, that when he was sinning against God, he was making such provision for his poor soul; but now ‘tis too late to repent, his worm must never die, and his fire never shall be quenched. (Mark 9:48) Though the time in which men commit sin is short, yet the time of God’s punishing of them for their sin, is long.
‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.’ In that he saith, ‘prepared for the devil and his angels’: he insinuates a further conviction upon the consciences of the damned. As if he had said, As for this fire and lake that you must go to, though you thought but little of it, because you were careless, yet I did betimes put you in mind of what would be the fruits of sin; even by preparing of this judgment for the devil and his angels. The devil in his creation is far more noble than you; yet when he sinned, I spared him not. He sinned also before man; and I, upon his sinning, did cast him down from heaven to hell, and did hang the chains of everlasting darkness upon him (Jude 6), which might, yea, ought to have been a fair item to you to take heed, but you would not. (Gen 3:2–5) Wherefore, seeing you have sinned as he hath done, and that too, after he had both sinned, and was bound over to eternal punishment; the same justice that layeth hold on these more noble creatures, must surely seize on you. (Rev 20:1) The world should be convinced of judgment then, ‘because the prince of this world is judged.’ (John 16:8) And that before they came to this condition of hearing the eternal sentence rattle in their ears; but seeing they did not regard it then, they must and shall feel the smart of it now. ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.’
God would have men learn both what mercy and justice is to them, by his shewing it to others; but if they be sottish and careless in the day of forbearance, they must learn by smarting in the day of rebukes and vengeance. Thus it was with the old world; God gave them one hundred and twenty years’ warning, by the preparation of Noah, for the flood that should come; but forasmuch as they then were careless, and would not consider the works of the Lord, nor his threatening them by this preparation: therefore he brought in the flood upon the world of the ungodly, as he doth here the last judgment upon the workers of iniquity, and sweeps them all away in their willful ignorance. (Matt 24:37–39)
Wherefore, I say, the Lord Chief Judge by these words, ‘Prepared for the devil and his angels,’ doth as good as say, This fire into which now I send you, it did of itself, even in the preparation of it, had you considered it, forewarn you of this that now is come upon you. Hell-fire is no new, or unheard-of thing; you cannot now plead, that you heard not of it in the world, neither could you with any reason judge, that seeing I prepared it for angels, for noble, powerful, and mighty angels; that you, poor dust and ashes, should escape the vengeance.
‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels’: The sentence being thus passed, it remains now, the work being done, that every one goeth to his eternal station. Wherefore, forthwith this mighty company, do now with heavy heart, return again from before the judgment-seat: and that full hastily, God knoweth, for their proper centre, is the hell of hell; into which they descend like a stone into a well, or like Pharaoh into the bottom of the Red Sea. (Exo 15:10) For all hope being now taken from them, they must needs fall with violence, into the jaws of eternal desperation, which will deal far worse with the souls of men, and make a greater slaughter in their tortured consciences, than the lions in the den with Daniel, could possibly do with the men that were cast in among them. (Dan 6:24)
This is that which Paul calleth eternal judgment (Heb 6:2), because it is that which is last and final. Many are the judgments that God doth execute among the sons of men, some after this manner, and some after that; divers of which, continue but for awhile, and none of them are eternal; no, the very devils and damned spirits in hell, though there, is the longest and most terrible of all the judgments of God, yet on foot: yet I say, they must pass under another judgment, even this last, great, and final judgment—‘The angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.’ (Jude 6) And so also it is with damned souls; for both Sodom and Gomorrah, with all other, though already in hell in their souls; yet they must, as I have before shewed, all arise to this judgment, which will be their final judgment. Other of the judgments of God, as they have an end, so the end of many of them prove the profit of those on whom they are inflicted, being I say, God’s instrument of conversion to sinners; and so may fitly be compared to those petty judgments among men, as putting in the stocks, whipping, or burning in the hand: which punishments, and judgments, do often prove profitable to those that are punished with them; but eternal judgment, it is like those more severe judgments among men, as beheading, shooting to death, hanging, drawing and quartering, which swoop all, even health, time, and the like, and cut off all opportunity of good, leaving no place for mercy or amendment—‘These shall go away into everlasting punishment,’ &c. (Matt 25:46) This word, ‘depart,’ &c., is the last word the damned for ever are like to hear—I say, it is the last voice, and therefore will stick longest, and with most power, on their slaughtered souls; there is no calling of it back again; it is the very wind-up of eternal judgment.
Thus then, the judgment being over, the kingdom ceaseth to be any longer in the hand of the man Christ Jesus; for as the judges here among men, when they have gone their circuit, do deliver up their commission to the king; so Christ the judge, doth now deliver up his kingdom to his Father (Matt 21:8), and now, all is swallowed up of eternity. The damned are swallowed up of eternal justice and wrath; the saved, of eternal life and felicity; and the Son also delivereth up, I say, the kingdom to the Father, and subjects himself under him that did put all things under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Cor 15:24–28)
For now is the end come, and not before, even the end of the reign of death itself; for death, and hell, and sinners, and devils, must now [fall] together into the lake, that burns with fire and brimstone. (Rev 20:14, 15) And now is the end of Christ’s reign, as the Son of man; and the end of the reign of the saints with him, in this his kingdom, which he hath received of his Father for his work sake, which he did for him, and for his elect. ‘Then cometh the end,’ saith Paul, ‘when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father’; But when shall that be? Why, he answers saying, ‘When he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign,’ saith he, ‘till he hath put all enemies under his feet,’ which will not be until the final sentences and judgment be over; for ‘the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he [God] hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith, All things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.’ (1 Cor 15:24–28)
All things being now at this pass—to wit, every one being in its proper place, God in his, Christ in his, the saint in his, and the sinner in his; I shall conclude with this brief touch upon both the state of the good and bad after this eternal judgment—
The righteous now shall never fear death, the devil, and hell more; and the wicked shall never hope of life.
The just shall ever have the victory over these things: but the wicked shall everlastingly be swallowed up of them.
The holy shall be in everlasting light: but the sinner in everlasting darkness. Without light, I say, yet in fire ever burning, yet not consumed; always afraid of death and hell, vehemently desiring to be annihilated to nothing. Continually fearing to stay long in hell, and yet certainly sure they shall never come out of it. Ever desiring the saints’ happiness, and yet always envying their felicity. They would have it, because it is easy and comfortable; yet cannot abide to think of it, because they have lost it for ever. Ever laden with the delight of sin; and yet that is the greatest torture; always desiring to put it out of their mind, and yet assuredly know they must for ever abide the guilt and torment thereof.
The saints are always inflamed with the consideration of the grace that once they embraced; but the wicked, most flamingly tormented with the thoughts of rejecting and refusing it.
The just, when they think of their sins, they are comforted with the thoughts of their being delivered from them; but the ungodly, when they think of their righteousness, will gnaw themselves, to think that this would not deliver them from hell.
When the godly think of hell, it will increase their comfort; but when the wicked think of heaven, it will twinge them like a serpent. Oh, this eternal judgment! What would a damned soul give that there might be, though after thousands and hundreds of thousands of millions of years, an end put to this eternal judgment. But their misery is, they have sinned against a God that is eternal; they have offended that justice that will never be satisfied; and therefore they must abide the fire that never shall be quenched. Here is judgment, just and sad.
Again; as it will be thus with good and bad in general, so again, more particularly, when the wicked are thus adjudged and condemned, and also received of the fiery gulf, then they shall find, That as he that busieth himself to do good, shall have more glory than others; so they that have been more busy and active in sin than others, they shall have more wrath and torment than others. For as doing good abundantly, doth enlarge the heart to receive and hold more glory: so doing evil abundantly, doth enlarge the heart and soul to receive punishment so much the more. And hence it is that you have such sayings as these—It shall be more tolerable in the judgment for Sodom than for others (Luke 10:12)—that is, than for those that had sinned against much greater light and mercy. ‘For these,’ as he saith in another place, ‘shall receive greater damnation.’ (Luke 20:47) Yea, it standeth to reason, that he who had most light, most conviction, most means of conversion, and that was highest towards heaven, he must needs have the greatest fall, and so sink deepest into the jaws of eternal misery. As one star—that is, as one saint—differeth from another in heaven; so one damned soul shall differ from another in hell. It is so among the devils themselves; they are some worse than others; Beelzebub is the prince, or chief of the devils. (Matt 9:34, Mark 3:22) That is, one that was most glorious in heaven; chief among the reprobate angels before his fall (Is 14:12), and therefore sinned against the greater light, mercy, and goodness; and so became the chief for wickedness, and will also have as the wages thereof, the chief of torments. For that will be true of the damned in hell, which is prayed for against Babylon.—‘How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her.’ (Rev 18:7) Can it be imagined that Judas should have no more torment, who betrayed the Prince of life and Saviour of the world, than others who never came near his wickedness by ten thousand degrees? He that knew his master’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; with many more stripes, than others that through ignorance did commit sin worthy of many stripes. But what should I thus discourse of the degrees of the torments of the damned souls in hell? For he that suffers least, will the waters of a full cup be wrung out to him; the least measure of wrath, it will be the wrath of God, eternal and fiery wrath, insupportable wrath; it will lay the soul in the gulf of that second death, which will for ever have the mastery over the poor damned perishing sinner. ‘And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.’ (Rev 20:14, 15)