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THE DOOM OF THE RIGHTEOUS
AND THE WICKED.
Rev. xxi. 7, 8.
He that overcometh, shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and the unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcer ers, and idolaters, and all iars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death.
Tis a subject deserving the most profound re
flections, my brethren, that the most irregular being, I mean the devil, is at the same time the most miserable, and that the most holy Being, he who is holy by excellence, is at the same time the most happy, and thus unites in his own essence supreme holiness with sovereign happiness. Satan, who began his audacious projects in heaven, the habitation of holiness, 2 Chron. xxx. 27. Satan, who rebelled against God amidst the most noble displays of his magnificence, and who is still a murderer and a liar, John viii. 44. Satan is in the depth of misery. He was hurled down from a pinnacle of glory, expelled for ever from the society of the blessed, and there is a lake of fire prepared for him and his angels, Matt. xxv. 41. God is the most holy Being. Indeed, the terms virtue and holiness are very equivocal, when applied to an independent being, whose authority is absolute, who has no law but his own wisdom, no
rules of rectitude but his own volitions. order, whatever is sublime in what we mortals call holiness, virtue, justice, eminently dwells on the Deity, and forms one grand and glorious object of the admiration and praise of the purest intelligences, who incessantly make it the matter of the songs, which they sing to his honor, and who cry day and night one to another, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty. O Lord, thou king of saints, who shall not fear thee and glorify thy name? For thou art holy, for all nations shall come and worship before thee, Rev. xv. 3. 4. This being, so holy, so just; this being, who is the source of holiness, justice and virtue; this being possesses at the same time the highest possible happiness. He is, in the language of scripture the happy God, and, as I said before, he unites in his own essence supreme holiness with supreme happiness.
What boundless objects of contemplation would this reflection open to our view, my brethren, were it necessary to pursue it? Consider it only in one point of light. The destination of these two beings so different, is, if I may be permitted to say so, the rule of the destination of all intelligent beings. All things considered, the more we partake of the impurity of Satan, the more we partake of his misery. It would be absurd to suppose, that in the time of the restitution of all things, Acts iii. 21. which will soon arrive, and justify providence against the innumerable censures passed upon it, it would be absurd to suppose, that if we have appropriated the irregularities of the impure spirit, we should not at that time partake of his misery; and it would be absurd to suppose, that we can partake of the virtues of the holy Being, without participating his felicity and glory.
Each part of these propositions is contained in the words of my text. He, that overcometh, he, who, in this world of obstacles to virtue, shall take the holiness of God for his rule, as far as it is allowable for frail creatures to regulate themselves by an example so perfect and sublime, he that overcometh, shall have no bounds set to his happiness. He shall inherit all things, he shall enter into the family of God himself. I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, of what order soever they be, all those, who do the works of the devil, shall be placed in a condition like his, shall have their part in the lake, which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
We invite you to-day to meditate on these truths, and, in order to reduce the subject to the size of a single sermon, we will only insist on such articles of the morality of St. John as are least known,' and most disputed. We will distinguish in this system such virtues to be practised, and such vices to be avoided, as are most opposite to those prejudices, which the world usually forms concerning the final doom of mankind.
I. The first prejudice, which we intend to attack, is this. A life spent in ease and idleness is not incompatible with salvation, if it be free from great crimes. Against this we oppose this part of our text, He, that overcometh shall inherit. In order to inherit, we must overcome. Here vigilance, action and motion are supposed.
II. The second prejudice is this. A just God will not impute to his creatures sins of infirmity and constitution, though his creatures should be
subject to them during the whole course of their lives. Against this we oppose these words of the apostle. The fearful, and whoremongers, shall have their part in the lake, which burneth with fire and brimstone.
III. The third prejudice is this. Speculative errors cannot be attended with any fatal consequences, provided we live uprightly, as it is called, and discharge our social duties. Against this we oppose this word, the unbelieving. The unbelieving are put into the class of the miserable.
IV. The fourth prejudice is this. Religions are indifferent. The mercy of God extends to those, who live in the most erroneous communions. Against this we oppose the word idolaters. Idolaters are considered among the most criminal of mankind.
V. The last prejudice is this. None but the vulgar ought to be afraid of committing certain crimes. Kings will be judged by a particular law. The greatness of the motive, that inclined them to manage some affairs of state, will plead their excuse, and secure them from divine vengeance. Against this we oppose these words, abominable, poisoners, and all liars, which three words include almost all those abominations, which are called illustrious crimes. However, these abominable, these poisoners, and all these liars, shall have, as well as the fearful, the unbelieving, the unclean, and the idolaters, their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.
I. Let us begin with the first prejudice. A life spent in case and idleness is not incompatible with
* Poisoners. Papuaxevos Veneficis. Incantatoribus. Qui malis magiæ artibus utuntur. The French bibles read empoisonneurs,
salvation, if it be free from great crimes. St. John takes away this unjust pretext, by considering salvation as a prize to be obtained by conquest. He who overcometh, implies vigilance, activity, and motion. Two considerations will place the meaning of our apostle in the clearest light. We take the first from the nature of evangelical virtues, and the second from the nature of those vices, which are forbidden in the gospel.
1. The nature of evangelical virtues demands vigilance, action and motion. It is impossible to exercise these virtues under the influence of indolence, idleness and ease. Let us examine a few of these virtues.
What is the love of God? It is that disposition of the soul, which inclines us to adore his perfections, to admire with the highest joy his glorious attributes, and to desire with the utmost ardor to be closely united to him as to our supreme good: but this disposition cannot be exercised, it cannot be acquired without vigilance, action and motion. We must meditate on that sovereign power, which formed this universe, and by a single volition determined its doom. We must meditate that supreme wisdom, which regulates all the works of supreme power, combining causes with effects, and means with ends, and which by this infinite combination hath always adjusted, and continues to arrange and direct all the works, which we behold, and others without number, which lie beyond the utmost stretch of our imagination. We must meditate on that perfect justice, which is engraven on all the productions of the creator, on all the conduct of providence, and remarkably on the consciences of mankind, which continually accuse or excuse their actions, Rom. ii. 15. Conscience is either tortured with remorse, or involved in de