The Consolation of the Righteous, and the Disconsolation of the Wicked in, THE RESURRECTION

Taken and adapted from “Human Nature in its Fourfold State”
Written by, Thomas Boston

resurrection-

“Marvel not at this—for the hour is coming, in which all who are in the graves shall hear his voice—and shall come forth; those who have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and those who have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”      –John 5:28-29
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These words are part of the defense which our Lord Jesus Christ makes for himself…

…when persecuted by the Jews, for curing the impotent man and ordering him to carry away his bed on the Sabbath; and for vindicating his conduct, when accused by them of having thereby profaned that day. On this occasion he professes himself not only the Lord of the Sabbath, but also Lord of life and death; declaring, in the words of the text, the resurrection of the dead to be brought to pass by his power. This he introduces with these words, as with a solemn preface, “Marvel not at this,”—at this strange discourse of mine—do not wonder to hear me, whose appearance is so very base in your eyes; for the day is coming, in which the dead shall be raised by my power.

Observe in this text,

  1. The doctrine of the resurrection asserted, “All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.” The dead bodies, which are reduced to dust, shall revive, and evidence life by hearing and moving.
  2. The author of it—Jesus Christ, “the Son of man,” verse 27. The dead shall hear his voice, and be raised thereby.
  3. The number that shall be raised, “All that are in the graves,” that is, all the dead bodies of men, howsoever differently disposed of, in different kinds of graves; or all the dead, good and bad. They are not all buried in graves, properly so called—some are burnt to ashes; some drowned, and buried in the bellies of fish; yes, some devoured by man-eaters, called cannibals; but, wherever the matter or substance of which the body was composed is to be found, thence they shall come forth.
  4. The great distinction that shall be made between the godly and the wicked—they shall indeed both rise again in the resurrection. None of the godly shall be missing; though, perhaps, they either had no burial, or a very obscure one; and all the wicked shall come forth; their vaulted tombs shall hold them no longer than the voice is uttered. But the former have a joyful resurrection to life, while the latter have a dreadful resurrection to damnation.
  5. The set time of this great event—there is an hour, or certain fixed period of time, appointed of God for it. We are not told when that hour will be, but that it is coming; for this, among other reasons, that we may always be ready. Doctrine.

There shall be a resurrection of the dead. In discoursing of this subject, I shall—

I. Show the certainty of the resurrection.
II. I shall inquire into the nature of it.
III. And, Lastly, make some practical improvement of the whole.

I. In showing the CERTAINTY of the resurrection, I shall evince,

  1. That God can raise the dead.
  2. That he will do it; which are the two grounds or topics laid down by Christ himself, when disputing with the Sadducees, Matt. 22:29, “Jesus answered and said unto them, you do err, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.”

Seeing God is almighty, surely he can raise the dead. We have instances of this powerful work of God, both in the Old and New Testament. The son of the widow in Sarepta was raised from the dead, 1 Kings 17:22; the Shunammite’s son, 2 Kings 4:35; and the man “cast into the sepulcher of Elisha,” chapter 13:21. In which we may observe a gradation, the second of these miraculous events being more illustrious than the first, and the third than the second. The first of these persons was raised when he was but newly dead; the prophet Elijah, who raised him being present at his decease. The second, when he had lain dead a considerable time; namely, while his mother traveled from Shunem, to mount Carmel, reckoned about the distance of sixteen miles, and returned from thence to her house, with Elisha, who raised him. The last, not until they were burying him, and the corpse was cast into the prophet’s grave. In like manner, in the New Testament, Jairus’s daughter, Mark 5:41, and Dorcas, Acts 9:40, were both raised to life, when lately dead; the widow’s son in Nain, when they were carrying him out to bury him, Luke 12:11-15; and Lazarus, when putrid in the grave, John 11:39, 44.

Can men make curious glasses out of ashes, reduce flowers into ashes, and raise them again out of these ashes, restoring them to their former beauty? And cannot the great Creator, who made all things of nothing, raise man’s body, after it is reduced into the dust? If it be objected, “How can men’s bodies be raised up again, after they are reduced to dust, and the ashes of many generations are mingled together?” Scripture and reason furnish the answer, “With men it is impossible, but not with God.” It is absurd for men to deny that God can do a thing, because they see not how it may be done. How small a portion do we know of his ways! How absolutely incapable are we of conceiving distinctly of the extent of almighty power, and much more of comprehending its actings, and method of procedure! I question not, but many illiterate men are as great unbelievers as to many chemical experiments, as some learned men are to the doctrine of the resurrection—and as these last are ready to deride the former, so, “the Lord will have them in derision.”

What a mystery was it to the Indians, that the Europeans could, by a piece of paper, converse together at the distance of some hundreds of miles! How much were they astonished to see them, with their guns, produce as it were thunder and lightning in a moment, and at pleasure kill men afar off! Shall some men do such things as are wonders in the eyes of others because they cannot comprehend them, and shall men confine the infinite power of God within the narrow boundaries of their own shallow capacities, in a matter no ways contrary to reason! An inferior nature has but a very imperfect conception of the power of a superior. Brutes do not conceive of the actings of reason in men; and men have but imperfect notions of the power of angels— how low and inadequate a conception, then, must a finite nature have of the power of that which is infinite! Though we cannot conceive how God acts, yet we ought to believe he can do above what we can think or conceive.

Therefore, let the bodies of men be laid in the grave; let them rot there, and be reduced into the most minute particles—or let them be burnt, and the ashes cast into rivers, or thrown up into the air, to be scattered by the wind—let the dust of a thousand generations be mingled, and the steams of the dead bodies wander to and fro in the air—let birds or wild beasts eat the bodies, or the fish of the sea devour them, so that the parts of human bodies, thus destroyed, pass into substantial parts of birds, beasts or fish; or, what is more that let man-eaters, who themselves must die and rise again, devour human bodies, and let others devour them again, and then let our modern Sadducees propose the questions in these cases, as the ancient Sadducees did in the case of the woman who had been married to seven husbands successively, Matt. 22:28. We answer, as our blessed Lord and Savior did, ver. 29, “You do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God.” We believe God to be omniscient and omnipotent; infinite in knowledge and in power—and hence, agreeably to the dictates of reason, we conclude the possibility of the resurrection, even in the cases supposed.

Material things may change their forms and shapes, may be reduced to the principles of which they are formed—but they are not annihilated, or reduced to nothing; nor can they be so, by any created power. God is omniscient, his understanding is infinite; therefore he knows all things; what they were at any time, what they are, and where they are to be found. Though the countryman, who comes into the apothecary’s shop, cannot find out the drug he wants; yet the apothecary himself knows what he has in his shop, whence it came, and where it is to be found. And, in a mixture of many different seeds, the expert gardener can distinguish between each of them. Why then may not Omniscience distinguish between dust and dust? Can he, who knows all things to perfection, be liable to any mistake about his own creatures? Whoever believes an infinite understanding, must needs own, that no mass of dust is so jumbled together, but God perfectly comprehends, and infallibly knows, how the most minute particle, and every one of them is to be matched.

II. shall inquire into the NATURE of the resurrection, showing,

1. Who shall be raised.
2. What shall be raised.
3. How the dead shall be raised.

  1. WHO shall be raised? Our text tells us who they are; namely “all that are in the graves,” that is, all mankind who are dead. As for those people who are found alive at the second coming of Christ, they shall not die, and soon after be raised again; but such a change shall suddenly pass upon them as shall be to them instead of dying and rising again; so that their bodies shall become like lo those bodies which are raised out of their graves, 1 Cor. 15:51, 52, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” Hence those who are to be judged at the great day, are distinguished into living and dead, Acts 10:42. All the dead shall arise, whether godly or wicked, just or unjust, Acts 24:15, old or young; the whole race of mankind, even those who never saw the sun, but died in their mother’s womb—Rev. 20:12, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God.” The sea and earth shall give up their dead without reserve, none shall be kept back.
  2. WHAT shall be raised? The bodies of mankind. A man is said to die, when the soul is separated from the body, “and returns onto God who gave it,” Eccl. 12:7. But it is the body only which is laid in the grave, and can be properly said to be raised—therefore the resurrection, strictly speaking, applies to the body only. Moreover, it is the same body that dies, which shall rise again. At the resurrection, men shall not appear with other bodies, as to substance, than those which they now have, and which are laid down in the grave; but with the self-same bodies, endowed with other qualities. The very notion of a resurrection implies this, since nothing can be said to rise again, but that which falls.
  3. HOW shall the dead be raised? The same Jesus, who was crucified outside the gates of Jerusalem, shall, at the last day, to the conviction of all, be declared both Lord and Christ—appearing as Judge of the world, attended with his mighty angels, 2 Thess. 1:7, “He shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God,” 1 Thess. 4:16, “The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised, and those who are alive, changed,” 1 Cor. 15:52. Whether this shout, voice, and trumpet, denote some audible voice, or only the workings of Divine power, for the raising of the dead, and other dreadful purposes of that day, though the former seems probable, I will not positively determine. There is no question but this coming of the Judge of the world will be in greater majesty and terror than we can conceive—yet that dreadful grandeur, majesty, and state, which was displayed at the giving of the law, namely, thunders heard, lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount seen, the Lord descending in fire, the whole mount quaking greatly, and the voice of the trumpet waxing louder and louder, Exod. 19:16-19, may help us to form a becoming thought of it. However, the sound of this trumpet shall be heard all the world over; it shall reach to the depths of the sea, and of the earth. At this loud alarm, bones shall come together, bone to his bone—the scattered dust of all the dead shall be gathered together, dust to his dust; “neither shall one thrust another, they shall walk everyone in his path;” and, meeting together again, shall make up that very same body which crumbled into dust in the grave. At the same alarming voice shall every soul come again into its own body, never more to be separated. The dead can stay no longer in their graves, but must bid an eternal farewell to their long homes—they hear His voice, and must come forth, and receive their final sentence.

Now as there is a great difference between the godly and the wicked, in their life, and in their death; so will there be also in their resurrection.

The godly shall be raised out of their graves, by virtue of the Spirit of Christ, the blessed bond of their union with him, Rom. 8:11, “He that raised up Christ from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by his Spirit that dwells in you.” Jesus Christ arose from the dead, as the “first-fruits of those who slept,” 1 Cor. 15:20, So those who are Christ’s shall follow at his coming, ver. 23. The mystical head having got above the waters of death, he cannot but bring forth the members after him, in due time.

They shall come forth with inexpressible joy; for then shall that passage of Scripture, which, in its immediate scope, respected the Babylonish captivity, be fully accomplished in its most extensive meaning, Isa. 26:19, “Awake and sing, you that dwell in the dust.” As a bride adorned for her husband, goes forth of her bedchamber unto the marriage—so shall the saints go forth of their graves, unto the marriage of the Lamb. Joseph had a joyful coming out from the prison, Daniel from the lion’s den, and Jonah from the whale’s belly—yet these are but faint representations of the saint’s coming forth from the grave, at the resurrection. Then shall they sing the song of Moses and of the Lamb, in highest strains; death being quite swallowed up in victory. They had, while in this life, sometimes sung, by faith the triumphant song over death and the grave, “O death, where is your sting? O grave where is your victory?” But then they sing the same, from sight and sense; the black band of doubts and fears, which frequently disturbed them, and disturbed their minds, is forever dispersed and driven away.

May we not suppose the soul and body of every saint, as in mutual embraces, to rejoice in each other, and triumph in their happy meeting again; and the BODY to address the soul thus—”O my soul, have we got together again, after so long a separation! Are you come back to your old habitation, never more to remove! O joyful meeting! How unlike is our present state to what our case was, when a separation was made between us at death! Now is our mourning turned into joy; the light and gladness sown before, are now sprung up; and there is a perpetual spring in Immanuel’s land. Blessed be the day in which I was united to you; whose chief care was to get Christ in us the hope of glory, and to make me a temple for his Holy Spirit. O blessed soul, which in the time of our pilgrimage, kept your eye to the land then afar off, but now near at hand! You took me into secret places, and there made me to bow these knees before the Lord, that I might bear a part in our humiliation before him—and now is the time that I am lifted up. You did employ this tongue in confessions, petitions, and thanksgivings, which henceforth shall be employed in praising for evermore. You made these sometimes weeping eyes, sow that seed of tears, which is now sprung up in joy that shall never end. I was happily beat down by you, and kept in subjection, while others pampered their flesh, and made their bellies their gods, to their own destruction—but now I gloriously arise, to take my place in the mansions of glory, while they are dragged out of their graves to be cast into fiery flames. Now, my soul, you shall complain no more of a sick and pained body; you shall be no more clogged with weak and weary flesh; I shall now keep pace with you in the praises of our God for evermore.”

And may not the SOUL say—“O happy day in which I return to dwell in that blessed body, which was, and is, and will be forever, a member of Christ, a temple of the Holy Spirit! Now I shall be eternally knit to you—the silver cord shall never be loosed more—death shall never make another separation between us. Arise then, my body, and come away! And let these eyes, which were used to weep over my sins, behold with joy the face of our glorious Redeemer; lo! This is our God, and we have waited for him. Let these ears, which were used to hear the word of life in the temple below, come and hear the hallelujahs in the temple above. Let these feet, that carried me to the congregation of saints on earth, take their place among those in heaven. And let this tongue, which confessed Christ before men, and used to be still dropping something to his commendation, join the choir of the upper house, in his praises for evermore. You shall fast no more, but keep an everlasting feast; you shall weep no more, neither shall your countenance be overclouded; but you shall shine forever, as a star in the skies. We took part together in the fight; come, let us go together to receive and wear the crown.”

But on the other hand, the WICKED shall be raised by the power of Christ, as a just Judge, who is to render vengeance to his enemies. The same divine power which shut up their souls in hell, and kept their bodies in the grave, as in a prison, shall bring them forth, that soul and body together may receive the dreadful sentence of eternal damnation, and be shut up together in the prison of hell.

They shall come forth from their graves with unspeakable horror and consternation. They shall be dragged forth, as so many malefactors out of a dungeon, to be led to execution crying to the mountains and to the rocks to fall on them, and hide them from the face of the Lamb. Fearful was the cry in Egypt, that night on which the destroying angel went through, and slew their first-born. Dreadful were the shouts, at the earth opening her mouth, and swallowing up Dathan and Abiram, and all that appertained to them. What hideous crying then must there be, when at the sound of the last trumpet, the earth and sea shall open their mouths, and cast forth all the wicked world, delivering them up to the dreadful Judge! How will they cry, roar, and tear themselves! How will the jovial companions weep and howl, and curse one another! How will the earth be filled with their doleful shrieks and lamentations, while they are pulled out like sheep for the slaughter!

They who, while they lived in this world, were profane, debauchees, covetous worldlings, or formal hypocrites, shall then, in anguish of mind, wring their hands, beat their breasts, and bitterly lament their case, roaring forth their complaints, and calling themselves beasts, fools, and madmen, for having acted so mad a part in this life, in not believing what they then heard. They were driven away in their wickedness at death—and now all their sins rise with them; and, like so many serpents, twist themselves about their wretched souls, and bodies too, which have a frightful meeting, after a long separation.

Then we may suppose the miserable BODY thus to accost the soul—“Have you again found me, O mine enemy, my worst enemy, savage soul, more cruel than a thousand tigers. Cursed be the day that ever we met. O that I had remained a lifeless lump, rotted in the womb of my mother, and had never received sense, life, and motion! O that I had rather been the body of a toad, or serpent, than your body; for then had I lain still, and had not seen this terrible day. If I was to be necessarily yours, O that I had been your donkey, or one of your dogs, rather than your body; for then would you have taken more true care of me than you did! O cruel kindness! Have you thus hugged me to death, thus nourished me to the slaughter? Is this the effect of your tenderness for me? Is this what I am to reap of your pains and concern about me? What do riches and pleasures avail now, when this fearful reckoning is come! Of which you had fair warning? O cruel grave! Why did you not close your mouth upon me forever? Why did you not hold fast your prisoner? Why have you shaken me out, while I lay still and was at rest? Cursed soul, wherefore did you not abide in your place, wrapped up in flames of fire? Wherefore are you come back, to take me also down to the bars of the pit? You made me an instrument of unrighteousness; and now I must be thrown into the fire. This tongue was by you employed in mocking at religion, cursing, swearing, lying, backbiting, and boasting; and withheld from glorifying God—and now it must not have so much as a drop of water to cool it in the flames! You withdrew mine ears from hearing the sermons which gave warning of this day. You found ways and means to stop them from attending to seasonable exhortations, admonitions, and reproofs. But why did you not stop them from hearing the sound of this dreadful trumpet? Why do you not rove and fly away on the wings of imagination, thereby, as it were, transporting me during these frightful transactions; as you were used to do, when I was set down at sermons, communions, prayers, and godly conferences; that I might now have as little sense of the one, as I formerly had of the other? But ah! I must burn forever, for your love to your lusts, your profanity, your sensuality, your unbelief, and hypocrisy.”

But may not the SOUL answer—“Wretched and vile carcass! I am now driven back into you. O that you had lain forever in your grave! Had I not torment enough before? Must I be knit to you again, that, being joined together as two dry sticks for the fire, the wrath of God may burn us up? It was by caring for you, that I lost myself. It was your appetites, and the gratifying of your senses, which ruined me. How often was I ensnared by your ears! How often betrayed by your eyes! It was to spare you, that I neglected opportunities of making peace with God, loitered away Sabbaths, lived in the neglect of prayer; went to the house of mirth, rather than to the house of mourning; and that I chose to deny Christ, and forsake his cause and interest in the world; and so am fallen a sacrifice to your cursed ease. When at any time my conscience began to awake, and I was setting myself to think of my sins, and the misery which I have felt since we parted, and now feel, it was you that diverted me from these thoughts, and drew me off to make provision for you. O wretched flesh! By your silken cords of fleshly lusts, I was drawn to destruction, in defiance of my light and conscience—but now they are turned into iron chains, with which I am to be held under wrath for evermore. Ah wretched profits! Ah cursed pleasures! For which I must lie forever in utter darkness!”

But no complaints will then avail. O that men were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!

As to the qualities with which the bodies of the SAINTS shall be endowed at the resurrection, the apostle tells us, they shall be raised incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual, 1 Cor. 15:42-44, “It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

  1. The bodies of the saints shall be raised INCORRUPTIBLE. They are now, as the bodies of others, a mass of corruption, full of the seeds of diseases and death; and, when dead, become so offensive, even to their dearest friends, that they must be buried out of their sight, and cast into the grave, where they are to rot, and be consumed—yes, loathsome sores and diseases make some of them very unsightly, even while alive. But, at the resurrection, they leave all the seeds of corruption behind them in the grave; and rise incorruptible, incapable of the least indisposition, sickness, or sore, and much more, of dying. External violences and inward causes of pain, shall forever cease—they shall feel it no more—yes, they shall have an everlasting youth and vigor, being no more subject to the decays which age produced in this life.
  2. They shall be GLORIOUS bodies; not only beautiful, lovely, and well proportioned, but full of splendor and brightness. The most beautiful face, and best proportioned body, that now appears in the world, is not to be named in comparison with the body of the lowest saint at the resurrection; for “then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun,” Matt. 13:43. If there was a dazzling glory on Moses’ face, when he came down from the mount; and if Stephen’s face was “as it had been the face of an angel,” when he stood before the council; how much more shall the faces of the saints be beautiful and glorious, full of sweet agreeable majesty, when they have put off all corruption, and shine as the sun! But observe, this beauty of the saints is not restricted to their faces, but diffuses itself through their whole bodies—for the whole body is raised in glory, and shall be fashioned like unto their Lord and Savior’s glorious body, in whose transfiguration, not only did his face shine as the sun, but his clothing also was white as the light, Matt. 17:2. Whatever defects or deformities the bodies of the saints had when laid in the grave, occasioned by accidents in life, or arising from secret causes in their formation in the womb, they shall rise out of the grave free of all these. But suppose the marks of the Lord Jesus, the scars or prints of the wounds and bruises which some of the saints received while on earth, for his sake, should remain in their bodies after the resurrection; the same as the print of the nails remained in the Lord Jesus’ body after his resurrection—these marks will rather be badges of distinction, and add to their glory, than detract from their beauty. But however that be, surely Isaac’s eyes shall not then be dim, nor will Jacob halt—Leah shall not be tender-eyed, nor Mephibosheth lame of his legs. For as the goldsmith melts down the old broken vessel, and casts it over again in a new mold, bringing it forth with a new luster; so shall the vile body, which lay dissolved in the grave, come forth at the resurrection, in perfect beauty and lovely proportion.
  3. They shall be POWERFUL and strong bodies. The strongest men on earth, being frail and mortal, may justly be reckoned weak and feeble; for their strength, however great, is quickly worn out and consumed. Many of the saints now have weaker bodies than others; but “the feeble among them,” to allude to Zechariah 12:8, at that day shall be “as David, and the house of David shall be as God.” A grave divine says, that one shall be stronger at the resurrection than a hundred, yes, than thousands are now. Certainly great, and vastly great, must the strength of glorified bodies be; for they shall bear up under an exceeding and eternal weight of glory. The mortal body is not at all adapted to such a state. Do transports of joy occasion death, as well as excessive grief, and can it bear up under a weight of glory? Can it exist in union with a soul filled with heaven’s rapture? Surely not. The mortal body would sink under that load, and such fullness of joy would make the earthen pitcher to fly all in pieces.

The Scripture has plainly told us, “That flesh and blood,” namely, in their present frail state, though it were the flesh and blood of a giant, “cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Cor. 15:50. How strong must the bodily eyes be, which, to the soul’s eternal comfort, shall behold the dazzling glory and splendor of the New Jerusalem; and steadfastly look at the transcendent glory and brightness of the man Christ, the Lamb, who is the light of that city, the inhabitants whereof shall shine as the sun! The Lord of heaven does now in mercy “hold back the face of his throne, and spreads his clouds upon it;” that mortals may not be confounded with the rays of glory which shine forth from it, Job 26:9. But then the veil shall be removed, and they made able to behold it, to their unspeakable joy. How strong must their bodies be, who shall not rest night nor day, but be, without intermission, forever employed in the heavenly temple, to sing and proclaim the praises of God without weariness, which is a weakness incident to the frail mortal, but not to the glorified body!

  1. They shall be SPIRITUAL bodies. Not that they shall be changed into spirits, but they shall be spiritual as to their spirit-like qualities and endowments. The body shall be absolutely subservient to the soul, subject to it, and influenced by it, and therefore no more a clog to its activity, nor the animal appetites a snare to it. There will be no need to beat it down, nor to drag it to the service of God. The soul, in this life is so much influenced by the body, that, in Scripture style, it is said to be carnal; but then the body shall be spiritual, readily serving the soul in the business of heaven, and in that only, as if it had no more relation to earth than a spirit. It will have no further need of the now necessary supports of life, namely, food, and clothing, and the like. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore,” Rev. 7:16. “For in the resurrection, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” Then shall the saints be strong without food or drink, warm without clothes, ever in perfect health without medicine, and ever fresh and vigorous, though they shall never sleep, but serve him night and day in his temple, Rev. 7:15. They will need none of these things, any more than spirits do. They will be nimble and active as spirits, and of a most refined constitution. The body, that is now lumpish and heavy, shall then be most sprightly. No such thing as melancholy shall be found to make the heart heavy, and the spirits flag and sink. I shall not further dip into this matter— the day will declare it.

As to the qualities of the bodies of the WICKED at the resurrection, I find the Scripture speaks but little of them. Whatever they may need, they shall not get a drop of water to cool their tongues, Luke 16:24, 25. Whatever may be said of their weakness, it is certain they will be continued forever in life, that they may be ever dying; they shall bear up, however unwillingly under the load of God’s wrath, and shall not faint away under it. “The smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever. And they have no rest day nor night.” Surely they shall not partake of the glory and beauty of the saints. All their glory dies with them, and shall never rise again. Daniel tells us, they shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt, chap. 12:2. Shame follows sin, as the shadow follows the body.

But the wicked in this world walk in the dark, and often under a disguise— nevertheless, when the Judge comes in flaming fire at the last day, they will be brought to the light; their mask will be taken off, and the shame of their nakedness will clearly appear to themselves and others, and fill their faces with confusion. Their shame will be too deep for blushes—all faces shall gather blackness at that day, when they shall go forth from their graves, as malefactors out of their prisons to execution—for their resurrection is the resurrection of damnation. The greatest beauties, who now pride themselves in their loveliness of body, not regarding their deformed souls, will then appear with a ghastly countenance, a grim and death-like visage. Their looks will be frightful, and they will be horrible spectacles, coming forth from their graves, like infernal furies out of the pit.

They shall rise also to everlasting contempt. They shall then be the most contemptible creatures, filled with contempt from God, as vessels of dishonor, whatever honorable employments they had in this world; and filled also with contempt from men. They will be most despicable in the eyes of the saints; even of those saints who gave them honor here, either for their high station, the gifts of God in them, or because they were of the same human nature with themselves. But then their bodies shall be as so many loathsome carcasses, which they shall go forth and look upon with abhorrence; yes, “They shall be an abhorring unto all flesh,” Isaiah 66:24. The word here rendered “an abhorring,” is the same which in the other text is rendered “contempt,” and Isaiah and Daniel point at one and the same thing, namely, the loathsomeness of the wicked at the resurrection. They will be loathsome in the eyes of one another. The unclean wretches were never so lovely to each other, and then they will be loathsome; dear companions in sin will then abhor each other; and the great and honorable men who were wicked, shall be no more regarded by their wicked subjects, their servants, their slaves, than the mire in the streets.

Use I. Of COMFORT to the people of God. The doctrine of the resurrection is a spring of consolation and joy unto you. Think on it, O believers, when you are in the house of mourning, for the loss of your godly relations or friends, “That you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope;” for you will meet again, 1 Thess. 4:13, 14. They are but laid down to rest in their beds for a little while, Isa. 57:2; but in the morning of the resurrection they will awake again, and come forth out of their graves. The vessel of honor was but coarse, it had much alloy of base metal in it; it was too weak, too dim and inglorious, for the upper house, whatever luster it had in the lower one. It was cracked, it was polluted; and therefore it must be melted down, to be refined and fashioned more gloriously. Do but wait a while, and you shall see it come forth out of the furnace of earth, vying with the stars in brightness; no, as the sun when he goes forth in his might. Have you laid your infant children in the grave? You will see them again. Your God calls himself “the God of your seed;” which, according to our Savior’s exposition, secures the glorious resurrection of the body. Therefore, let the covenant you embraced for yourselves and your babes now in the dust, comfort your heart, in the joyful expectation, that by virtue thereof, they shall be raised up in glory—and that as being no more infants of days, but brought to a full and perfect stature, as generally supposed.

Be not discouraged by reason of a weak and sickly body—there is a day coming, when you shall be entirely whole. At the resurrection, Timothy shall be no more liable to his often infirmities; his body, that was weak and sickly, even in youth, shall be raised in power. Lazarus shall healthy and sound, his body being raised incorruptible. Although perhaps, your weakness will not allow you now to go one furlong to meet the Lord in public ordinances, yet the day comes, when your body shall be no more a clog to you, but you shall “meet the Lord in the air,” 1 Thess. 4:17. It will be with the saints coming up from the grave, as with the Israelites when they came out of Egypt—”There was not one feeble person among their tribes.”

Have you an unlovely or deformed body? There is a glory within, which will then set all right without, according to all the desire of your heart. It shall rise a glorious, beautiful, handsome, and well-proportioned body. Its unloveliness or deformities may go with it to the grave, but they shall not come back with it. O that those, who are now so desirous to be beautiful and handsome, would not be too hasty to effect it with their foolish and sinful arts, but wait and study the heavenly art of beautifying the body, by endeavoring now to become all glorious within, with the graces of God’s Spirit! This would at length make them admirable and everlasting beauties. You must indeed, O believer, grapple with death, and shall get the first fall—but you shall rise again, and come off victorious at last. You must go down to the grave; but, though it be your long home, it will not be your everlasting home. You will not hear the voice of your friends there; but you shall hear the voice of Christ there. You may be carried there with mourning, but you shall come up from it rejoicing. Your friends, indeed, will leave you there, but your God will not. What God said to Jacob, concerning his going down to Egypt, Gen. 46:3, 4, he says to you, on your going down to the grave, “Fear not to go down—I will go down with you—and I will also surely bring you up again.” O solid comfort! O glorious hopes! “Therefore comfort” yourselves, and “one another with these words,” 1 Thess. 4:18.

Use 2. Of TERROR to all unregenerate men. You who are yet in your natural state, look at this view of the eternal state; and consider what will be your part in it, if you be not in time brought into a state of grace. Think, O sinner, on that day when the trumpet shall sound, at the voice of which the bars of the pit shall be broken asunder, the doors of the grave shall fly open, the devouring depths of the sea shall throw up their dead, the earth cast forth hers; and death everywhere, in the excess of astonishment, shall let go its prisoners; and your wretched soul and body shall be re-united, to be summoned before the tribunal of God. Then, if you had a thousand worlds at your disposal, you would gladly give them all away, on condition that you might lie still in your grave, with the hundredth part of that ease, with which you have sometimes lain at home on the Lord’s day; or, if that cannot be obtained, that you might be but a spectator of the transactions of that day; as you have been at some solemn occasions, and rich gospel feasts; or, if even that is not to be purchased, that a mountain or a rock might fall on you, and cover you from the face of the Lamb.

Ah! How are men infatuated, thus to trifle away their precious time of life, in almost as little concern about death, as if they were like the beasts that perish! Some will be telling where their corpse must be laid; while yet they have not seriously considered, whether their graves shall be their beds, where they shall awake with joy, in the morning of the resurrection; or their prisons, out of which they shall be brought to receive the fearful sentence. Remember, now is your seed-time; and as yon sow, so shall you reap. God’s seed-time begins at death; and at the resurrection, the bodies of the wicked, that were sown “full of sins, that lie down with them in the dust,” Job 20:11, shall spring up again—sinful, wretched, and vile.

Your bodies, which are now instruments of sin, the Lord will lay aside for fire, at death, and bring them forth for the fire, at the resurrection. That body, which is now employed in God’s service, but is abused by uncleanness and lasciviousness, will then be brought forth in all its vileness, thenceforth to lodge with unclean spirits. The body of the drunkard shall then stagger, by reason of the wine of the wrath of God poured out to him, and poured into him, without mixture. Those who now please themselves in their reveling, will reel to and fro and another rate, when, instead of their songs and music, they shall hear the sound of the last trumpet. Many weary their bodies for worldly gain, who will be loath to distress them for the benefit of their souls; by labor, unreasonably hard, they will quite unfit themselves for the service of God; and, when they have done, will reckon it a very good reason for shifting duty, that they are already tired out with other business; but that day comes, when they will be made to abide a yet greater distress. Many will go several miles for food and clothing, who will not go half the way for the good of their immortal souls; many will be sickly and unable on the Lord’s Day, who will be tolerably well all the rest of the week.

But when that trumpet sounds, the dead shall find their feet, and none shall be missing in that congregation.

When the bodies of the saints shine as the sun; frightful will the looks of their persecutors be. Fearful will their condition be, who shut up the saints in nasty prisons, stigmatized, burnt them to ashes, hanged them, and stuck up their heads and hands in public places, to frighten others from the way of righteousness, which they suffered for. Many faces, now fair, will then gather blackness. They shall be no more admired and caressed for that beauty, which has a worm at the root, that will cause it to issue in loathsomeness and deformity. Ah! What is that beauty, under which there lurks a monstrous, deformed, and graceless heart? What, but a sorry paint, a slight varnish; which will leave the body so much the more ugly, before that flaming fire, in which the Judge shall be “revealed from heaven, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel?” 2 Thess. 1:7, 8. They shall be stripped of all their ornaments, and not have a rag to cover their nakedness—their carcasses shall be an abhorrence to all flesh, and serve as a foil to set off the beauty and glory of the righteous, and make it appear the brighter.

Now is the time to secure, for yourselves, a part in the resurrection of the just—which if you would do, unite with Jesus Christ by faith, rising spiritually from sin, and glorifying God with your bodies. He is the “resurrection and the life,” John 11:25. If your bodies be members of Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit, they shall certainly arise in glory. Get into this ark now, and you shall come forth with joy into the new world. Rise from your sins; cast away these grave-clothes, putting off your former lusts. How can anyone imagine, that those who continue dead while they live, shall come forth, at the last day, unto the resurrection of life? But that will be the privilege of all those who, having first consecrated their souls and bodies to the Lord by faith, do glorify him with their bodies, as well as their souls; living and acting to him, and for him, yes, and suffering for him too, when he calls them to it.

In Loving Memory of Pierre Viret: The Forgotten Reformer, Counselor, Angel, and the “Smiling Face” to the Reformation

This is a short biography of Pierre Viret (1511 – 4 May 1571), a Swiss Reformed theologian, who is as obscure now as his tiny native village. However, he was without a doubt, the most sought after Reformed minister of the Sixteenth Century.

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As, one great scholar and professor has pointed out..

No tourist in Geneva can miss the impressive Reformation Monument with its four towering figures: John Calvin, Guillaume Farel, Theodore Beza, and John Knox. Some visitors might even notice a series of reliefs on the statue’s base, which depict various scenes from the Genevan Reformation. Yet only a sharp-eyed observer is likely to spot in one of the reliefs a spare man with a long beard preaching to a crowd of intent listeners: that man is Pierre Viret. Viret is now virtually forgotten among the major reformers. But if we can say that Calvin systematized the theology of the Reformation, it would be equally just to say that Viret popularized it. He preached in a language simple and colorful. He wrote in a style which captivated people, responded to their questions, and provided them with simple apologetic arguments necessary for the defense of their faith.

As a changed and converted man, Pierre Viret (vee-RAY), was a Sixteenth Century Reformer, and one of three sons of a poor tailor of Orbe, which is an obscure village in present-day French Switzerland, near Lausanne. Viret, was born in 1511, which makes him two years younger than John Calvin, and he was one of the Calvin’s closest friends. These two men worked closely together for many years in Geneva and corresponded regularly when Viret left Geneva to accept a pastorate at Lausanne.

Viret was a precocious child who benefited from the new village school where several of the teachers were trained humanists and suspected Lutherans. He developed an interest in the classics as well as theology.  These interests in 1528, led him to study for the priesthood. He entered the Collège de Montaigu at the University of Paris at about the time Calvin was leaving. After studying intensely there, Viret left Paris two years later a changed man. The new Protestant ideas that were flourishing at the great university, led to Viret’s personal commitment to Jesus Christ.

He returned to Orbe, and there he found that his home village was divided into Protestant and Catholic factions. There he also met with William (Guillaume) Farel, the fiery traveling evangelist who was unsurprisingly, largely responsible for this turmoil.  However, Farel challenged young Viret to become a minister of the Gospel and to do so by begin preaching the Gospel in his native village. Viret resisted, then finally yielded to what the older man told him was the absolute, and certain will of God for Viret’s life. (You may recall Farel did the same thing to young Calvin as well, and with equal success.)

In very short time, it became obvious that Viret possessed outstanding gifts as both a pastor and as a theologian, and there he easily won his people’s hearts over. But Viret’s preaching and attitude not only won the hearts and minds of his own people, but he became highly regarded by many outside his parrish. We know of this by, among others, the great Theodore Beza, who spoke of “the wisdom of Calvin, the thunders of Farel, and the honey of Viret.” He also states elsewhere of Viret: “None possessed more charm when he spoke.” Viret’s preaching, which seemed to embrace his hearers in a calm and tranquil stream, as attested by Verheiden, “[Viret] had a word so sweet that he constantly kept his hearers alert and attentive. His style had such strength and a harmony so caressing to the ear and spirit that the least religious amongst his hearers, the most impatient of others, heard him out effortlessly and with pleasure. His audience was, it was said, as though suspended upon his lips, wishing the sermon were longer.”

Many souls were converted under Viret’s preaching, but of greatest importance to the young pastor was the conversion of his two Roman Catholic parents. As he noted later, “I have much occasion to give thanks to God in that it hath pleased him to make use of me to bring my father and mother to the knowledge of the Son of God … Ah! If he had made my ministry of no other use, I should have had good cause to bless him.”

After Viret had won Orbe over to the Reformation’s side of the Gospel, Viret regularly traveled between several of the surrounding villages for the next three years to further the work of the Reformation. Accompanied by Farel, he journeyed first to Grandson, a small town just north of Orbe, which was quickly won to the gospel under the Reformers’ preaching.  He was then asked to preach in Payerne, and it was there that he was badly wounded when a band of Catholics, led by a priest with a sword attempted to kill him. It was perhaps here that the young preacher met with his deadliest opposition. The city was strongly Roman Catholic and violently protested the preaching of the “new faith.” Viret, knowing that his teaching was no more than the truth of the Word of God, begged for a public disputation in which he would be permitted to prove his case from Scripture. The Council of Payerne at last acceded to this request and a date was fixed. The night before the disputation, however, Viret, returning home, was ambushed in a solitary field by a priest from the Payerne Abbey. The would-be murderer gravely wounded the young preacher with his sword and left him for dead, thus seeking to douse the Light against which he could not dispute. Discovered by his friends, Viret, half-dead, was slowly nursed back to health and soon continued his work in another city: Geneva. He later, he preached at Neuchâtel however, before linking up again with Farel in Geneva in 1534.

In 1534 Viret journeyed to Geneva to again assist Farel in his Reformation work. Viret and Farel preached salvation and reform in Geneva for the next two years. The city was in an uproar: its citizens had decided to cast off the rule of the Catholic Duke of Savoy, but they had not yet embraced Protestantism. Viret celebrated the first Genevan baptism according to evangelical forms, took part with Farel in the debate that convinced the Council of Geneva to renounce Catholicism, and, in 1536, silently witnessed Farel accost Calvin and inform him of God’s will for his life.

But in 1534 Geneva was still quite hostile to the teaching of the new preachers, and another murderous attempt awaited the young men. Catholic radicals tried again to silence Viret’s voice, this time by poisoning his spinach soup. At the instigation of the Catholic authorities, a woman, Antonia Vax, was persuaded to eliminate both Farel and Viret by serving them a poisoned spinach soup. Farel, declaring the soup to be too thick, asked for something else to eat. Viret, however, still pale and weak from his sword wounds, was assured by Antonia that the soup would aid in the restoration of his health, and trustingly ate an entire bowl of the poisoned dish. He grew dangerously ill and lay for some time at the point of death.

Upon hearing the news, the townspeople of Geneva mourned the impending loss of their beloved Reformer, exclaiming, “Must the Church be robbed of such a pearl?… Poor Viret! Poor reformers!… Sword-cuts in the back, poison in front … Such are the rewards of those who preach the Gospel!” Viret suffered from digestive problems for the rest of his life, but he would not be intimidated. This episode, though so detrimental to the Reformers, also brought much damage to their adversaries as many now looked with suspicion and contempt upon the perpetrators of such a base crime. The priests and monks were henceforth regarded with grave doubt and misgiving, and little more than a year later, through the indefatigable labors of Farel and Viret, the General Council of Geneva officially accepted the Reformation.

Leading Lausanne to Christ

With the Protestant faith now firmly planted and Calvin ensconced alongside Farel, Viret left Geneva to help consolidate the Reformation in Lausanne, the chief city of his native Pays de Vaud. Lausanne had just come under the authority of Bern, a Protestant canton of Switzerland. The Bernese, desirous of winning their newly acquired city to the gospel, organized a public disputation in which the principal elements of the faith would be discussed.

All Catholic clergy were required to be in attendance. The defense for the Reformed was offered primarily by Farel and Viret, who ably championed the cause of Christ. Calvin also attended the debate, speaking twice throughout its course. At the close of the week-long disputation, Lausanne declared for the Reformation, and Viret was appointed pastor of the city.

Though Lausanne was now officially Reformed, it was still heavily steeped in Catholicism. To rectify the ignorance rampant among the priesthood, Viret determined to begin an academy for the training and education of young men for the ministry. Under the oversight of the Bernese authorities, the Academy was founded in January of 1537 and was the first Protestant and Reformed academy of the French-speaking world. The Lausanne Academy boasted learned instructors from Italy, Germany, France, and Switzerland. Theodore de Beze, future successor to Calvin in Geneva, was principal of the Academy for nine years. Many renowned men of the faith received their training at Viret’s Academy, including Zacharias Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus, authors of the Heidelberg Catechism of 1562, and Guido de Bres, author of the Belgic Confession of 1561.

At the Lausanne Academy, Viret met with a singular joy when the Lord provided him a godly bride. On Sunday, October 6, 1538, Viret and Elisabeth Turtaz, a lady of Orbe, were married. Farel presided over the ceremony.

Two months following these celebrations, Viret was recalled to Geneva after Calvin had been banished from that city. Viret’s loving spirit and gentle character had made him a favorite among the Genevans, and they longed to again have him as their pastor. Known as the Smile of the Reformation, Viret worked in Geneva “to rebuild the ruins, to dress the wounds, to reconcile the divers and opposing elements.” Viret remained a year in Geneva, during which time he urged the Council upon several occasions to recall the exiled Calvin.

However, upon his return, Viret lived in constant tension with the authorities in Berne, however, who wanted to keep a tight political rein on Lausanne. Following a confrontation at Easter 1559, the Bernese exiled Viret. Soon thereafter, Viret joined his old friend Calvin in Geneva, bringing with him many of the Lausanne ministers, all but one of the faculty of the Academy of Lausanne, and nearly 1,000 of his parishioners. From this, Calvin’s city became the undisputed center of the Reformed world.

Needless to say, the Genevans loved Viret. They immediately elected him a minister of the Geneva Church and assigned him a salary of 800 florins plus 12 strikes of corn and two casks of wine a year. The Council also provided him a commodious house, which Calvin, perhaps a bit enviously, noted was bigger and better furnished than his own.

Touching for a moment again upon John Calvin; Geneva had expelled Calvin, and it was, as noted, only the continued pleadings of Viret, that Calvin even got a call back to the city, let alone a continued and anxious call to come back.  And frankly, Calvin, perhaps a bit worn from the inter-church/government warfare, was not at all anxious to go back into that “snake-pit.”  After first rejecting the proposal, he writes to Viret, remarking,

I read that passage of your letter, certainly not without a smile, where you shew so much concern about my health, and recommend Geneva on that ground. Why could you not have said at the cross? For it would have been far preferable to perish once for all than to be tormented again in that place of torture. Therefore, my dear Viret, if you wish well to me, make no mention of such a proposal.

While refusing to return to the troubled city of Geneva, Calvin simultaneously harbored hopes of the city’s reformation after learning of Viret’s arrival there. Writing to Farel in February of 1541, he expressed his assurance of the salubrious effects of Viret’s influence on the tumultuous population, “It was a singular joy for me to learn that the Church of Geneva is endowed with the arrival of Viret … I now foresee that the matter is out of danger.”

Viret, however, could not be dissuaded from calling his friend back to his duty, and exerted his utmost influence to convince the reluctant Calvin to return. Writing again, Viret described the transformation of the city and the people’s willingness to receive the gospel,

You cannot imagine the attentiveness with which they listen to my discourses, and what a crowd of men they attract … such tranquility reigns in the republic, it is completely transformed, and has taken on a wholly new appearance … The Lord has offered us a most favorable moment. If you neglect it, Calvin, the Lord will certainly punish you for neglecting the Church, and not you only, but also those who restrain you.

After many such appeals, Calvin was at last persuaded to return; Viret joyfully assisted him in his reentrance. Having finally restored his friend to his post, Viret at once desired to return to his pastorate in Lausanne, but he was persuaded to remain for several months to aid Calvin. Farel, writing to the pastors of Zurich, noted the importance of Viret’s presence in the city of Geneva at this crucial time, “If Viret is recalled [to Lausanne], then surely Calvin and the Church of Geneva shall fall again into ruins!” Calvin also shared this opinion, as is noted by historian Michael Bruening,

Three days after his return, Calvin told Farel, “I have also kept Viret with me, whom I absolutely would not allow to be taken away from me.” Now it was Calvin who sought to persuade Viret that he was needed in Geneva. He explained to Farel, “If Viret leaves me, I am completely finished; I will not be able to keep this church alive. Therefore, I hope you and others will forgive me if I move every stone to ensure that I am not deprived of him.”

Viret’s selfless assistance of Calvin was not overlooked by the elder Reformer. The friendship of these two men expanded significantly during this time and showed itself in a beautiful brotherly relationship growing and deepening throughout the course of their lives.

Viret finally returned to Lausanne in 1542. His absence had been very detrimental to the health of the church, which he found in a terrible state. Writing to Calvin upon his return, he mourned, “I came, I saw, I was dumbfounded (veni, vidi, obstupui). If only what we had heard about the state of this church were not so true.”

Despite Lausanne’s manifest need for Viret, Calvin still desired to have his fellow Reformer at his side, and in July of 1544 he urged the Council of Geneva to write to the Bernese lords, requesting permission to permanently retain Viret at Geneva. Upon hearing of the letter, however, the Lausanne counselors and pastors immediately sent their own ambassadors to Bern, begging the lords to reject Geneva’s request. Meeting with such a desperate appeal from Lausanne, Bern declined to grant the transfer and ordered Viret to remain in Lausanne. Upon hearing that Geneva’s request was refused, Viret wrote to Geneva to express his devotion to the city, assuring them of his love, “As for me, if you so desire, you will always have me as your humble servant, no less than if I were present with you, as truly I am in spirit, though I am distant in person; I will also be joined with you in body as soon as it is the good pleasure of Him who has called us in His service.”

In 1545 Viret’s life was disturbed by another great tragedy. His wife Elisabeth fell ill, and despite Viret’s desperate efforts to revive her failing health, she died in March of the following year. Writing of her death to a dear friend, Viret wrote, “The Lord has dealt me such a painful blow … in the death of my well-beloved wife. He has taken half of myself … I am so afflicted by this blow that I appear to myself a stranger in my own house.”

Viret’s sorrow was so great that Calvin was terrified lest his friend perish under the weight of the blow. Writing his comrade, Calvin begged Viret to come to Geneva for a time:

“Come to distract yourself, not only from your sorrow, but also from all your troubles. You need not fear that I will impose any work on you. I will take care that you enjoy your own pleasure in tranquility.

The wonderful harmony and brotherly love existing between these two Reformers is truly an example for all ages. Though each man was called individually and fashioned in a particular way quite distinct from the other, God saw fit to bring these tools together, separately crafted, but each endued with the same vision: to engage in the work of the Kingdom of Christ. Writing of this holy friendship in a book dedicated to Viret and Farel, Calvin wrote,

It will at least be a testimony to this present age and perhaps to posterity of the holy bond of friendship that unites us. I think there has never been in ordinary life a circle of friends so heartily bound to each other as we have been in our ministry.

One matter of constant concern to Viret was church discipline. This, he rightly believed, was a tool pertaining solely to the church authorities, not the civil government. The lords of Bern, on the other hand, reserved this right to themselves alone, requiring Viret and other pastors to submit all requests for discipline to the Bernese for either approval or rejection.

Throughout his pastorate at Lausanne, Viret made numerous journeys to Bern to request the magistrates to cede him the authority necessary to establish and build the church. Viret pled with the Bernese lords, assuring them that a true church must be permitted to govern its members. Bern, desirous of retaining its power, refused to relinquish such authority to the church, declaring that it was the state’s prerogative to govern all. For Viret knew well that a lack of discipline would result in no church at all. Pastors, he stated, must be allowed to enforce “this discipline, by which we can distinguish between swine, dogs, and sheep, according to Christ’s teaching.” “Discipline,” he noted, “can be abandoned, if the administration and use of the Word of God and the sacraments are also abandoned, for the Word and the sacraments cannot be properly administered without it.”

Despite the continued appeals, Bern refused to allow Viret to exercise church discipline or restrict the Lord’s Table. They stated that all must be permitted to participate and any pastor who refused to administer communion was to be immediately discharged. The Lausanne pastors, following Peter’s initiative (Acts 5:29), sent numerous letters to Bern in which they stated their obligation to follow God rather than men:

We have not been called to this charge [the ministry] to close our eyes, to keep silent, to conceal vice, and to cover the scandals of those who have been entrusted to us, but to be on guard, to be attentive, to unceasingly lift our voice with strength, when needed … We must do this to discharge our duty in good conscience.

The dispute finally came to a head in 1558. Writing to Calvin on August 24, Viret confided,

“I have more bitter worries than anyone. I am between the anvil and the hammer, and know not where to turn … I pray that God does not withhold His directions from me.”

As Christmas communion approached, Viret announced that he could not in good conscience administer the sacrament without first being permitted to examine and instruct those who wished to partake. Going before the Council of Lausanne, he begged a seven-day postponement of the communion service to provide the time necessary to examine the communicants. After much debate, the Council agreed to grant the pastors the stipulated time.

When news of the ruling reached Bern, however, the magistrates were outraged at this usurpation of their authority. They sent immediately to Lausanne to countermand the decision of the Council and to dismiss and expel Viret and his colleagues. Thus ousted, Viret and his associates were ordered to pack their belongings and leave the city. A refuge was soon found in the neighboring town of Geneva, where Calvin welcomed his friend with the warmest affection.

Geneva’s joy at receiving their former pastor again after a “loan” to Lausanne of twenty-two years was unimaginable. The city welcomed the exiled Viret with acclamation and open arms. Viret was immediately assigned the Church of St. Germain in which to preach, but the multitudes that pressed in to hear his sermons were so numerous that a new location had to be found to accommodate the crowds. The Council therefore determined to move Viret’s preaching to the larger church of St. Pierre, which would provide ample room for the masses desirous of attending the sermons.

Viret’s time in Geneva was cut short, however, due to a serious illness. In April of 1561 he fell dangerously ill and, fearing that this sickness would soon bring him to the grave, drew up his will on April 12. Concerning this time, he later wrote,

“I fell into an illness whereby my body was so debilitated and brought so low that in my judgment I could expect nothing else but to be lowered into the grave. I had never before had a sickness that had brought me so close to death, not even when I was poisoned by the art and cunning of the enemies of the Gospel.”

Despite Viret’s important assignment and generous treatment, he grew restless. Geneva was now almost completely Protestant and back again firmly under Calvin’s theological control. News from France, where Protestants suffered harsh persecution and lacked pastoral guidance, turned his mind to a new challenge.

France

In 1561 Viret requested leave from the Geneva Council and Company of Pastors to visit the land of the Huguenots. The official reason was that his ailing health demanded warmer climes. However, once in southern France, his heart is touched by the need that he sees there, and he quickly recovers sufficient strength to engage in continuous rounds of impassioned preaching.

Viret’s reputation by this time was so great that the moment he set foot on French soil, he was given immediate authority in the Reformed French churches wherever he chose to go. “Offers poured in requesting Viret to come to such places as Orleans, Avignon, Montauban and Montpellier.” “When Viret arrived in France, churches from all over the country sought him out. The churches in Nimes and Paris even sent delegates to Geneva to ask officially for his services.”

He traveled first to Lyon, and then on to Nîmes, Viret arrived in Nimes on October 6; the city received him with the greatest warmth. Indeed, the churches were not large enough to contain the crowds that sought to hear him; Viret was therefore compelled to preach in open fields and pastures. The multitudes responded eagerly to the Word of God, and on January 4, 1562, in a service lasting six hours, Viret administered communion to over eight thousand believers —almost the entire population. Riots followed many of his sermons, despite Viret’s pleas for peace.

Friend and foe alike were drawn to the sweetness and gentleness of Viret’s preaching. As he preached one day in a field in the Vaunage, the very prior and monks themselves came to listen to the man’s words. As Viret explained to his listeners the wonders of the gospel and the blessedness of the Redeemer, his words did not return void: “The success was complete. The priests, the officers,… became Protestant, and the abbey consecrated half its revenues to evangelization, and the other half to aid the poor.”

As Viret’s leave of absence from Geneva neared its conclusion, the Council of Nimes grew terrified of losing their pastor. In an effort to retain him, they sent a delegation to the Genevan Council, writing,

“The harvest surpasses belief, and the famine is intolerable … We need reapers … In the name of the God you honor, we beseech and beg with our greatest affection that you leave [Viret] with us.”

Despite the desperation of the letter, the Council of Geneva did not grant the request. Indeed, they were so flooded with letters begging for Viret’s presence that they at last decided to let Viret himself decide where to proceed. The leaders of Nîmes begged him to remain with them. Requests again poured in from Montpellier, Montauban, Orleans, and even Paris. Viret at length decided upon Montpellier; he entered that city in February of 1562. There he saw the conversion of nearly the entire faculty of the city’s famous medical college. Only the outbreak of the first War of Religion interrupted his ministry. Though there was fighting in the Montpellier area, Viret’s personal intercession apparently kept bloodshed to a minimum.

He then returned to Lyon, the major city of southeastern France, to begin a three-year ministry. Despite ill health, civil war, and a violent outbreak of the plague, Viret was able to establish his moral authority in the city. He preached daily to large crowds, counseled the soldiers of the Protestant army, and wrote at least 12 books while revising and reprinting several more, including his monumental Instruction chrestienne. He also ministered to victims of the plague and carried on a lively correspondence with other leaders of the Protestant Reformation.

The City Council of Lyon, in writing to the Council of Geneva, expressed their indebtedness to Viret in November of 1562,

“We derive more aid and assistance from his learned and holy teaching than from our entire army.” “Without his presence it would be impossible for us to hold our soldiers to their duty.”

Royal authority was re-established in Lyon in July, 1563, however, and with it Roman Catholic worship. In the months that followed, Viret participated in a pamphlet war with the returned Catholic leader and with various radicals and dissidents in the city. This multi-sided verbal warfare continued for nearly two years until local Catholic clergy obtained a royal order for Viret’s expulsion from the kingdom of France. The notice giving him eight days to leave the country was delivered on August 27, 1565.

Viret fled to Béarn in Navarre, a semi-autonomous kingdom in what is now southwestern France. He was befriended there by Jeanne d’Albrêt, the staunchly Protestant Queen of Navarre and mother of the future Henry IV of France. She made Viret one of her chief advisers and superintendent of the academy she had established at Ortez.

In March of 1563 Viret’s ministry was severely threatened by the issuance of a royal edict forbidding all foreign-born pastors from ministering in France. Because of Viret’s renowned Christian character, however, he was exempted from the edict by request of the Catholics themselves.

Eventually, Catholic forces captured Viret and 11 other Reformed ministers in a surprise attack during the third religious war (1568-1570). The Catholic commander ordered the execution of 7 of the 12 but spared Viret largely because of the positive reputation he enjoyed even among his ecclesiastical enemies. A few weeks later, he was rescued by counter-attacking Protestant forces and returned to his intense and successful ministry.

How could Viret, a foreigner, become the most successful and sought-after Protestant preacher in sixteenth-century France?

After a difficult—though fruitful—life spent in service to his God, Pierre Viret died in early 1571 at the age of sixty, as he was preparing for a trip to the National Synod of Reformed churches at La Rochelle. The Protestants in France greatly lamented his death. Jeanne d’Albrêt wrote to the Council of Geneva:

“Among the great losses which I have sustained during and since the last war, I place in the fore-front the loss of Monsieur Viret.”

Like the site of his death and burial, which remains unknown to this day, the life and theological greatness of Pierre Viret remains unknown to the church at large. Is this also the work of God? Has He thus withheld His Reformer, perhaps awaiting the time when, in His providence, Viret’s life and thought shall be most needed for His church?

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Taken and adapted from: 
Pierre Viret: The Unknown Reformer, by R. A. Sheats
Robert D. Linder, “Forgotten Reformer,” Christian History Magazine, Issue 71 (2001), 37
Jean-Marc Berthoud, Pierre Viret: A Forgotten Giant of the Reformation 

Further references, authors, and materials that were used herein, referenced and provided by R.A. Sheats 
J. H. Merle D’Aubigne, D.D., History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin, Vol. III 
Emile Doumergue, Lausanne au temps de la Reformation 
Henri Vuilleumier, L’Église Réformée du Pays de Vaud, Tome I 
Henri Meylan, La Haute École de Lausanne, 1537–1937
Pierrefleur, Mémoires de Pierrefleur (Lausanne: Éditions La Concorde, 1933), 137.
Jean Barnaud, Pierre Viret, Sa Vie et Son Oeuvre 
Felix Bungener, Calvin: His Life, His Labours, and His Writings 
Jules Bonnet, Letters of John Calvin, Vol. 1
“Viret: Réformateur de Lausanne,” 
Pierre Viret D’Après Lui-Même (Lausanne: Georges Bridel & Cie Éditeurs, 1911)
Henri Vuilleumier, Notre Pierre Viret (Lausanne: Librairie Paytot & Cie, 1911), 87.
Michael Bruening, “Pierre Viret and Geneva,” Archive for Reformation History, Vol. 99 
Michael W. Bruening, Calvinism’s First Battleground: Conflict and Reform in the Pays de Vaud, 1528–1559 
Schnetzler, ed., Pierre Viret, 65.
Bulletin de la Société de L’Histoire du Protestantisme Français (Paris, 1864), 93. 
Doumergue, Lausanne au temps de la Reformation, 46. 
J. Cart, Pierre Viret, le Reformateur Vaudois (Lausanne, 1864), 118.
Pierre Viret, Instruction Chrétienne (Lausanne: L’Age d’Homme, 2008), 348. 

The saints have communion with God

Taken and adapted from, “Communion With God” Chapter 1
Originally written as, “Of Communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Each Person Distinctly, In Love, Grace, and Consolation; or, The Saints Fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost Unfolded”
Written by, John Owen, 1657
Modernized, formatted, and annotated by, William H. Gross

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That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you,
that ye also may have fellowship with us:
and truly our fellowship is with the Father,
and with his Son Jesus Christ.

–1 John 3:4

In 1 John 1:3, the apostle assures those to whom he wrote that the fellowship of believers “is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” The expression he uses speaks with such force that we have rendered it, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

The outward appearance and condition of the saints in those days was paltry and contemptible. Their leaders were considered the scum of the earth, the offscouring of all things. Inviting others to fellowship with them, and to participate in the precious things that they enjoyed, evoked a number of awkward encounters and objections: “What benefit is there in communion with them? All it brings is sharing their troubles, reproaches, scorns, and all kinds of evils.” To prevent or remove these and similar objections, the apostle lets the believers know in earnest, that despite all the disadvantages of their fellowship, at least to a carnal view, in truth what they had was very honorable, glorious, and desirable. For “truly,” he says, “our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

This is so earnestly and directly asserted by the apostle, that we may boldly follow him with our affirmation, “That the saints of God have communion with him.” And a holy and spiritual communion it is, as I will demonstrate. Why this reference to the Father and the Son is distinct between them, must be fully examined later.

Since sin entered the world, no man has had communion with God because of his sinful nature. He is light; we are darkness; and what communion has light with darkness? (2Cor. 6:14). He is life; we are dead. He is love; we are enmity. What agreement can there be between us? Men in such a condition have neither Christ, nor hope, nor God in the world, Eph. 2:12. “Being alienated from the life of God through their ignorance,” chap. 4:18. Now, two cannot walk together unless they are agreed, Amos 3:3. So, while this distance between God and man exists, they cannot walk together in fellowship or communion. Our first interest in God was so lost by sin, that no recovery remained in ourselves. We deprived ourselves of all power to return to him. And God had not revealed that there was any way to regain access to him. Nor did he reveal that sinners could approach him in peace for any reason. Nothing that God made, and no attribute that he revealed, provided the least hint of such a possibility. 

The manifestation of God’s grace and pardoning mercy is the only door we have to such communion. It is committed only to the one who atoned. He is the one in whom it is evidenced. He is the one by whom grace and mercy was purchased. He is the one through whom it is dispensed, and from whom it is revealed from the heart of the Father. Hence, this communion and fellowship with God is not expressly mentioned in the Old Testament. It is found there, but its clear light, and the boldness of faith contained in it, is discovered only in the gospel of the New Testament. There the Spirit administers it. By the Spirit we have this liberty of communion, 2Cor. 3:17, 18. Abraham was the friend, of God, Isa. 41:8. David was a man after his own heart. Enoch walked with him, Gen. 5:22. All of them enjoyed the substance of this communion and fellowship. But the way into the holiest of holies was not evident while the first tabernacle was still standing, Heb. 9:8. Although they had communion with God, they did not have parresian [NT:3954], Eph. 3:12, which is a boldness and confidence in that communion. It came only after our High Priest entered into the most holy place, Heb. 4:16, 10:19. And so, the veil remained on those in the Old Testament. They did not have ἐλευθερία [NT:1657], or freedom and liberty in their access to God, 2 Cor. 3:15, 16, etc.

But in Christ we now have boldness and confident access to God, Eph. 3:12. The saints of old were not familiar with this. This distance from God is removed by Jesus Christ alone. He has consecrated a new and living way for us “through the veil, that is, his flesh,” Heb. 10:20. The old way is sealed. “Through him we have access by one Spirit to the Father,” Eph. 2:18. “You who sometimes were far off, are made close by the blood of Christ, for he is our peace…,” verses 13, 14. More of this foundation of our communion with God will follow afterward. On this new foundation, by this new and living way, sinners are admitted into communion with God. They have fellowship with him. It is a truly astonishing provision for sinners to have fellowship with God, the infinitely holy God.

Communion relates to things and persons. It means jointly participating in something, whether good or evil, duty or enjoyment, nature or actions. Sharing a common nature means all men have fellowship or communion in that nature. It is said of the elect, in Heb. 2:14, “Those children partook of” (shared or had fellowship with) “flesh and blood” (their common nature with mankind); “and, therefore, Christ likewise shared in the same fellowship.” 

There is also communion as to our state or condition, whether good or evil, or things internal and spiritual. Such is the communion of saints among themselves, or with regard to their experience of outward things. Christ shared a condition with the two thieves. They were all sentenced to the cross, Luke 23:40. They shared the evil condition they were judged to suffer under. And one of them requested, and obtained, a share in that blessed condition our Savior would enter shortly.

There is also a communion or fellowship in actions, whether those actions are good or evil. Among good actions is the communion and fellowship that the saints enjoy in the gospel, or in performing and celebrating the worship of God that is instituted in the gospel, Phil. 1:5. David rejoices in the same general kind of actions, Ps. 42:4. Among evil actions, there was communion in that cruel act of revenge and murder shared between the brothers Simon and Levi in Gen. 49:5. 

Our communion with God is no single one of these; indeed it excludes some of them. It cannot be natural communion. It must be voluntary and by consent. It cannot be communion in a shared state or condition, but in actions. It cannot be communion in shared actions on a third party. It must be shared actions between God and us. The infinite disparity between God and man made the great philosopher, Aristotle (Ethics, viii. 2; Friendship requires equality), conclude that there could be no friendship between them. He could allow some undetermined closeness between friends; but in his understanding, there was no place for closeness between God and man. Another says that while there is a certain fellowship between God and man, it is only the general interaction of providence. Some expressed higher regard for this communion, but they understood nothing of which they spoke. This knowledge is hidden in Christ, as will be made apparent later. It is too wonderful for our sinful and corrupted nature to comprehend. Guessing only leads to terror and fear of death if we were to come into the presence of God. But as was said, we have a new foundation, and a new revelation of this privilege.

Communion is the mutual communication of the good things that those who commune delight in, based on the union that exists between them. This is how it was with Jonathan and David. Their souls clung to one another in love (1Sam. 20:17). There was a union between them based on love. And they mutually communicated all the outpourings of that love. In spiritual things this exchange is more eminent. The outpourings or issues of that union are the most precious and eminent possible.
Our communion with God consists in him communicating himself to us, and us returning to him the things he requires and accepts. These things flow from the union that we have with him in Jesus Christ.

This communion is twofold:
 
A perfect and complete communion. This is the full fruition of all his glory and our total surrender to him, resting in him as our ultimate end. We will enjoy this kind of communion when we see him as he is in eternity.
An initial and incomplete communion. This consists in the first fruits and the dawning of perfection that we have here and now, in grace. 

By the riches of his grace, the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has restored us from a state of enmity to a condition of communion and fellowship with himself. I pray that anyone who reads these words of his mercy may taste his sweetness and excellence in doing this, so that he will be stirred to a greater longing for the fullness of his salvation, and his eternal fruition in glory.

SINNERS IN ZION TENDERLY WARNED

Adapted from an Essay titled, “SINNERS IN ZION TENDERLY WARNED: OR, THE TEARFULNESS WHICH WILL HEREAFTER SURPRISE SINNERS IN ZION, REPRESENTED AND IMPROVED.”
Taken and adapted from, “The Works of Jonathan Edwards” 
Written by Jonathan Edwards

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Sinners in Zion are terrified; Trembling has seized the godless. “Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?”
–Isaiah 33:14

SECT. I. Showing who are sinners in Zion.

There are two kinds of persons among God’s professing people. The one, those who are truly godly, spoken of in the verse following the text, “He that walks righteously, and speaks uprightly,” etc. The other kind consists of sinners in Zion, or hypocrites. It is to be observed that the prophet in Isaiah chapter thirtythree, speaks interchangeably, first to the one, and then to the other of these characters of men, awfully threatening and denouncing the wrath of God against the one, and comforting the other with gracious promises. Thus you may observe, in the 5th and 6th verses, there are comfortable promises to the godly. Then in the eight following verses, awful judgments are threatened against the sinners in Zion. Again, in the two next verses are blessed promises to the sincerely godly, and in the former part of verse 17. And then in the latter part of verse 17, and in verse 18 and 19 are terrible threatenings to sinners in Zion. Then in the verses that follow are gracious promises to the godly.

Our text is part of what is said in this chapter to sinners in Zion. In verse 10, it is said, “Now will I rise, saith the Lord; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself,” i.e. Now will I arise to execute wrath upon the ungodly. I will not let them alone any longer. They shall see that I am not asleep, and that I am not regardless of mine own honor. “Now will I be exalted.” Though they have cast contempt upon me, yet I will vindicate the honor of my own majesty. I will exalt myself, and show my greatness, and my awful majesty in their destruction. “Now will I lift up myself.” Now I will no longer have mine honor trampled in the dust by them. But my glory shall be manifested in their misery.

In verse 11, the prophet proceeds, “Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble,” i.e. Ye shall pursue happiness in ways of wickedness, but you shall not obtain it. You are as ground which brings forth no fruit, as if only chaff were sowed in it. It brings forth nothing but stubble, which is fit for nothing but to be burned.

It seems to have been the manner in that land where the corn grew very rank, when they had reaped the wheat, and gathered it off from the ground, to set fire to the stubble, which is alluded to here. And therefore it is added, “Your breath, as fire, shall devour you.” i.e. Your own wicked speeches, your wickedness that you commit with your breath, or with your tongues, shall set fire to the stubble and devour it.

Then it follows in verse 12, “And the people shall be as the burnings of lime.” As they are wont to burn lime in a great and exceeding fierce fire, till stones, and bones, and other things are burnt to lime, so shall the wicked be burnt in the fire of God’s wrath. “As thorns cut up shall they be burnt in the fire.” As briers and thorns are the encumbrance and curse of the ground where they grow, and are wont to be burnt, so shall it be with the wicked that are among God’s people, and grow in God’s field. Heb. 6:7, 8, “For the earth which drinks in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and brings forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receives blessing from God: but that which bears thorns and briers, is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.”

Then it follows in verse 13, “Hear ye that are far off, what I have done; and ye that are near, acknowledge my might.” This implies that God will by the destruction of ungodly men, manifest his glory very publicly, even in the sight of the whole world, both in the sight of those that are near, and of those that are far off. “Acknowledge my might.” Which implies that God will execute wrath upon ungodly men in such a manner as extraordinarily to show forth his great and mighty power. The destruction and misery of the wicked will be so dreadful, that it will be a manifestation of the omnipotent power of God, that he can execute such misery; agreeable to Rom. 9:22, “What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.”

Next follow these words: “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” The sense is, That the time will come, when fearfulness will surprise the sinners in Zion, because they will know, that they are about to be cast into a devouring fire, which they must suffer forever and ever, and which none can endure.

It may be inquired, who are the sinners in Zion? — I answer, that they are those who are in a natural condition among the visible people of God. Zion, or the city of David of old, was a type of the church. And the church of God in Scripture is perhaps more frequently called by the name of Zion than by any other name. And commonly by Zion is meant the true church of Christ, or the invisible church of true saints. But sometimes by this name is meant the visible church, consisting of those who are outwardly, by profession and external privileges, the people of God. This is intended by Zion in this text.

The greater part of the world are sinners. Christ’s flock is, and ever hath been, but a little flock. And the sinners of the world are of two sorts: those who are visibly of Satan’s kingdom, who are without the pale of the visible church; and those who do not profess the true religion, nor attend the external ordinances of it. Beside these there are the sinners in Zion. Both are the objects of the displeasure and wrath of God. But his wrath is more especially manifested in Scripture against the latter. Sinners in Zion will have by far the lowest place in hell. They are exalted nearest to heaven in this world, and they will be lowest in hell in another. The same is meant by hypocrites. Sinners in Zion are all hypocrites. For they make a profession of the true religion. They attend God’s ordinances, and make a show of being the worshippers of God. But all is hypocrisy.

SECTION II How fearfulness will hereafter surprise sinners in Zion.

They will hereafter be afraid. Now many of them seem to have little or no fear. They are quiet and secure. Nothing will awaken them. The most awful threatenings and the loudest warnings do not much move them. They are not so much moved with them, but they can eat, and drink, and sleep, and go about their worldly concerns without much disturbance. But the time will come, when the hardest and most stupid wretches will be awakened. Though now preaching will not awaken them, and the death of others will not make them afraid, though seeing others awakened and converted will not much affect them, though they can stand all that is to be heard and seen in a time of general out-pouring of the Spirit of God, without being much moved; yet the time will come, when they will be awakened, and fear will take hold of them. They will be afraid of the wrath of God. However senseless they be now, they will hereafter be sensible of the awful greatness of God, and that it is a fearful thing to fall into his hands.

They will be surprised with fear. This seems to imply two things; viz. the greatness of their fear, and the suddenness of it.

First, the greatness of their fear. Surprise argues a high degree of fear. Their fears will be to the degree of astonishment. Some of the sinners in Zion are somewhat afraid now. They now and then have some degree of fear. They are not indeed convinced that there is such a place as hell. But they are afraid there is. They are not thoroughly awakened. Neither are they quite easy. They have at certain times inward molestations from their consciences. But they have no such degrees of fear, as to put them upon any through endeavors to escape future wrath.

However, hereafter they will have fear enough, as much, and a great deal more, than they will be able to stand under. Their fear will be to the degree of horror. They will be horribly afraid and terrors will take hold on them as water. Thus we read of their fear coming as a desolation, and of distress and anguish coming upon them; Pro. 1:27. It is also very emphatically said of the wicked, that trouble and anguish shall prevail against him, as a king ready to the battle. Job 15:24.

The stoutest heart of them all will then melt with fear. The hearts of those who are of a sturdy spirit, and perhaps scorn to own themselves afraid of any man, and are even ashamed to own themselves afraid of the wrath of God, will then become as weak as water, as weak as the heart of a little child. And the most reserved of them will not be able to hide his fears. Their faces will turn pale. They will appear with amazement in their countenances. Every joint in them will tremble. All their bones will shake and their knees will smite one against another. Nor will they be able to refrain from crying out with fear, and from rending the air with the most dismal shrieks.

Second, they will be suddenly seized with fear. The sinners in Zion often remain secure till they are surprised, as with a cry at midnight. They will be, as it were, awakened out of their secure sleep in a dismal fright. They will see an unexpected calamity coming upon them, far more dreadful than they were aware of, and coming at an unexpected season.

With respect to the TIME when the wicked shall be thus surprised with fear.

1     It is often so on a death-bed. Many things pass in their lifetime, which one would think might well strike terror into their souls, as when they see others die, who are as young as they, and of like condition and circumstances with themselves, whereby they may see how uncertain their lives are, and how unsafe their souls. It may well surprise many sinners, to consider how old they are grown, and are yet in a Christless state. How much or their opportunity to get an interest in Christ is irrecoverably gone, and how little remains. Also how much greater their disadvantages now are, than they have been. But these things do not terrify them. As age increases, so do the hardness and stupidity of their hearts grow upon them.

But when death comes, then the sinner is often filled with astonishment. It may be, when he is first taken sick, he has great hope that he shall recover; as men are ready to flatter themselves with hopes, that things will be as they fain would have them. But when the distemper comes to prevail much upon him, and he sees that he is going into eternity, when he sees that all the medicines of physicians are in vain, that all the care and endeavors of friends are to no purpose, that nothing seems to help him that his strength is gone, that his friends weep over him, and look upon his case as desperate; when he sees, by the countenance and behavior of the physician, that he looks upon his case as past hope, and perhaps overhears a whispering in the room, wherein his friends signify one to another, that they look upon it that he is struck with death, or wherein they tell one another, that his extreme parts grow cold, that his countenance and manner of breathing, and his pulse, show death, and that he begins to be in a cold death-sweat; and when perhaps, by and by, some one thinks himself bound in duty and faithfulness to let him know the worst, and therefore comes and asks him whether or no he be sensible that he is a dying: — then how does fearfulness surprise the sinner in Zion! How does his heart melt with fear! This is the thing which he feared ever since he was taken sick. But till now he had hope that he should recover. The physician did not speak. Or if he despaired, he spoke of such and such medicines as being very proper. And he hoped that they would be effectual. And when these failed, he changed his medicines, and applied something new. Then the sinner hoped that would be effectual. Thus, although he constantly grew worse and worse, still he hoped to recover.

At the same time he cried to God to spare him, and made promises how he would live, if God would spare him, and he hoped that God would hear him. He observed also, that his friends, and perhaps the minister, seemed to pray earnestly for him. And he could not but hope that those prayers would be answered, and he should be restored. But now how does his heart sink and die within him! How does he look about with a freighted countenance! How quick is the motion of his eye, through inward fear! And how quick and sudden are all his motions! What a frightful hurry does he seem to be in! How does forever look to him when he sees pale grim death staring him in the face, and a vast eternity within a few hours or minutes of him!

It may be, he still struggles for a little hope. He is unwilling to believe what is told him. He tells his informers that he hopes they are more affrighted than they need be. He hopes that those symptoms arise from some other cause. And, like a poor drowning man, he catches at slender and brittle twigs, and clinches his hands about whatever he sees within his reach.

But as death creeps more and more on him, he sees his twigs break, all his hopes of life fail, and he sees he must die. O! There is nothing but death before him! He has been hoping, but his hopes are all dashed. He sees this world, and all that belongs to it, are gone. Now come the thoughts of hell into his mind with amazement. O! How shall he go out of the world? He knows he has no interest in Christ. His sins stare him in the face. O the dreadful gulf of eternity! He had been crying to God, perhaps since he was sick, to save him. And he had some hope, if it were his last sickness, that yet God would pity him, and give him pardoning grace before he should die. He begged and pleaded, and he hoped that God would have pity on his poor soul. At the same time he asked others to pray for him, and he had been looking day after day for some light to shine into his soul. But, alas! Now he is a dying, and his friends ask him, how death appears to him? Whether any light appear? Whether God have not given him some token of his favor? And he answers, No, with a poor, faltering, trembling voice, if able to speak at all. Or if his friends ask a signal of hope, he can give none.

Now death comes on him more and more, and he is just on the brink of eternity. Who can express the fear, the misgivings, and hangings back, and the horrible fright and amazement, of his soul? Some who, in such circumstances, have been able to speak, have been known to cry out, O eternity! Eternity! And some, O! A thousand worlds for an inch of time! O! If they might but live a little while longer! But it must not be. Go they must. They feel the frame of nature dissolving, and perceive the soul is just a going. For sometimes the exercise of reason seems to hold to the last.

What, in such a case, is felt in the soul, in those last moments, when it is just breaking its bands with the body, about to fetch its leap, on the edge of eternity, and the very brink of hell, without any Savior, or the lest testimony of divine mercy. I say, what is sometimes felt by Christless souls in these moments, none can tell. Nor is it within the compass of our conception.

2     The misery of the departed soul of a sinner, besides what it now feels, consists in a great part in amazing fears of what is yet to come. When the union of the soul and body is actually broken, and the body has fetched its last gasp, the soul forsakes its old habitation, and then falls into the hands of devils, who fly upon it, and seize it more violently than ever hungry lions flew upon their prey. And with what horror will it fall into those cruel hands!

If we imagine to ourselves the dreadful fear with which a lamb or kid falls into the paws of a world, which lays hold of it with open mouth; or if we imagine to ourselves the feeling of a little child, that has been pursued by a lion, when it is taken hold of, and sees the terrible creature open his devouring jaws to tear it in pieces; or the feeling of those two and forty children, who had mocked Elisha, when they fell into the paws of the bears that [tore] them in pieces; I say if we could have a perfect idea of that terror and astonishment which a little child has in such a case, yet we should have but a faint idea of what is felt in the departing soul of a sinner, when it falls into the hands of those cruel devils those roaring lions, which then seize of it!

And when the soul is carried to hell, and there is tormented, suffers the wrath of the Almighty, and is overwhelmed and crushed with it, it will also be amazed with the apprehensions of what shall yet remain. To think of an eternity of this torment remaining, O how will it fill, and overbear, and sink down the wretched soul! How will the thought of the duration of this torment without end cause the heart to melt like wax! How will the thought of it sink the soul into the bottomless pit of darkness and gloominess! Even those proud and sturdy spirits, the devils, tremble at the thoughts of that greater torment which they are to suffer at the Day of Judgment. So will the poor damned souls of men. They have already more than they will be able to bear. How then will they tremble at the thought of having their misery so vastly augmented!

Persons sometimes in this world are afraid of the Day of Judgment. If there be an earthquake, or if there be more than common thunder and lightning, or if there be some unusual sight in the heavens, their hearts are ready to tremble for fear that the day of judgment is at hand. O how then do the poor souls in hell fear it, who know so much more about it, who know by what they feel already, and know certainly, that whenever it comes they shall stand on the left hand of the judge, to receive the dreadful sentence. And that then, in soul and body, they must enter into those everlasting burnings which are prepared for the devil and his angels, and who probably know that their misery is to be an hundred-fold greater than it is now.

3     Fearfulness will surprise them at the last judgment. When Christ shall appear in the clouds of heaven, and the last trumpet shall sound, then will the hearts of wicked men be surprised with fearfulness. The poor damned soul, in expectation of it, trembles every day and every hour from the time of its departure from the body. It knows not, indeed, when it is to be, but it knows it is to be. But when the alarm is given in hell that the day is come, it will be a dreadful alarm indeed. It will, as it were, fill the caverns of hell with shrieks. And when the souls of the damned shall enter into their bodies, it will be with amazing horror of what is coming. And when they shall lift up their heads out of their graves, and shall see the judge, it will be a most terrible sight. Gladly would they return into hell, their former state of misery, to hide themselves from this awful sight, if that would excuse them.

So those sinners in Zion, who shall then be found alive on the earth, when they shall see this sight, will be surprised with fearfulness. The fear and horror which many poor sinners feel when they are dying, is great, and beyond all that of which we can have any idea. But that is nothing to the horror that will seize them when they shall come to see this sight.

There will not be a wicked man upon earth who will be able to bear it, let him be who he will. Let him be rich or poor, old or young, male or female, servant or master, king or subject, learned or unlearned. Let him be ever so proud, ever so courageous, and ever so sturdy. There is not one who will be able at all to support himself. When he shall see this sight, it will immediately sink his spirit. It will loose the joints of his loins. It will make his countenance more ghastly than death. The rich captains, and valiant generals and princes, who now scorn to show any fear at the face of an enemy, who scorn to tremble at the roaring of cannon, will tremble and shriek when they shall hear the last trumpet, and see the majesty of their judge. It will make their teeth to chatter, and make them fly to hide themselves in the caves and rocks of mountains, crying to the rocks and mountains to fall on them, and cover them from the wrath of the judge.

Fearfulness will surprise them when they shall be dragged before the judgment-seat. The wicked hang back when they are about to meet death. But in no measure as they will hang back when they come to meet their great judge. And when they come to stand before the judge, and are put on his left hand, fearfulness and amazement will surprise them. The majesty of the judge will be intolerable to them. His pure and holy eye, which will behold and search them, and pierce them through, will be more terrible to their souls a thousand times than flashes of lightning piercing their hearts. They will they stand in a trembling, expectation, that by and by they shall hear the words of that dreadful sentence proceed out of the mouth of Christ. They will have a horrible expectation of that sentence. And what shall they do, whither shall they fly, so as to be out of its hearing? They cannot shut their ears, so as not to hear it.

Fearfulness will surprise them when the sentence shall come to be pronounced. At the close of the judgment, that dreadful doom will be uttered by the judge. And it will be the most terrible voice that ever was heard. The sound of the last trumpet, that shall call men to judgment, will be a more terrible sound to wicked men than ever they shall have heard till that time. But the sound of the last sentence will be much more terrible than that. There will not be one of all those millions at the left hand, whether high or low, king or subject, who will be able to support himself at all under the sound of that sentence. But they will all sink under it.

Lastly, fearfulness will surprise them, when they shall come to see the fire kindle upon the world, in which they are to be tormented forever. When the sentence shall have been pronounced, Christ, with his blessed saints and glorious angels, will leave this lower world, and ascend into heaven. Then will the flames begin to kindle, and fire will probably be seen coming down from heaven. And soon will the fire lay hold of that accursed multitude. Then will their hearts be surprised with fearfulness. That fire will appear a dreadful fire indeed. O what chattering of teeth, what shaking of loins, what distortions of body, will there be at that time, when they shall see, and begin to feel, the fierceness of the flames! What shall they do, whither shall they go, to avoid those flames? Where shall they hide themselves? If they creep into holes, or creep into caves of the earth, yea if they could creep down to the center of the earth, it will be in vain. For it will set on fire the bottoms of the mountains, and burn to the lowest hell. They will see no place to fly to, no place to hide themselves.

Then their hearts will be filled with fearfulness and will utterly sink in despair. Thus it shall hereafter be with every one that shall then be found to be a sinner, and especially with sinners in Zion.

SECTION III  Why sinners in general will hereafter be surprised with fear.

1. Fearfulness will surprise them because they will know that they are to be cast into devouring fire. There is nothing which seems to give one a more terrible idea of torment and misery than to think of being cast alive into a great fire, especially if we conceive of the senses remaining quick, and not benumbed by the fire. The wicked will hereafter have that to make them afraid, that they are not only to be cast into a fire, but into devouring fire; which implies, that it will be a fire of extraordinary fierceness of heat, and before which nothing can stand.

The fire into which men are to be cast is called a furnace of fire.

Furnaces are contrived for an extreme degree of heat, this being necessary for the purposes for which they are designed, as the running and refining of metals, and the melting of materials into glass. The fire of such earthly furnaces may be called devouring fire, as the heat of some of them is such, that in them even stones will presently be dissolved. Now, if a person should be brought to the mouth of such a furnace, and there should see how the fire glows, so as presently to make everything cast into it all over white and bright with fire, and at the same time should know that he was immediately to be cast into this furnace, would not fearfulness surprise him?

In some heathen countries, the manner of disposing of dead bodies is to dig a great pit, to put in it a great quantity of fuel, to put the dead bodies on the pile, and to set it on fire. This is some image of the burning of dead souls in the pit of hell. Now, if a person were brought to the edge of such a pit, all filled with glowing flames, to be immediately cast into it, would it not surprise the heart with fearfulness?

The flames of a very great fire, as when a house is all on fire, give one some idea of the fierceness of the wrath of God. Such is the rage of the flames. And we see that the greater a fire is, the fiercer is its heat in every part. And the reason is because one part heats another. The heat in a particular place, besides the heat which proceeds out of the fuel in that place is increased by the additional heat of the fire all around it. Hence we may conceive something of what fierceness that fire will be, when this visible world shall be turned into one great furnace. That will be devouring fire indeed. Such will be the heat of it, that, as the apostle says, “The elements shall melt with fervent heat,” 2 Pet. 3:10.

Men can artificially raise such a degree of heat with burning glasses, as will quickly melt the very stones and sand. And it is probable that the heat of that great fire which will burn the world, will be such as to melt the rocks, and the very ground, and turn them into a kind of liquid fire, so that the whole world will probably be converted into a great lake, or liquid globe of fire, a vast ocean of fire, in which the wicked shall be tossed to and fro, having no rest day nor night, vast waves or billows of fire continually rolling over their heads.

But all this will be only an image of that dreadful fire of the wrath of God, which the wicked shall at the same time suffer in their souls. We read in Rev. 19:15 of “the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” This is an extraordinary expression, carrying a terrible idea of the future misery of the wicked. If it had been only said of the wrath of God that would have expressed what is dreadful. If the wrath of a king be as the roaring of a lion, what is the wrath of God? But it is not only said the wrath of God, but the fierceness and wrath of God, or the rage of his wrath; and not only so, but the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. O what is that! The fierceness and rage or fury of Omnipotence! Of a being of infinite strength! What an idea does that give of the state of those worms that suffer the fierceness and wrath of such an Almighty Being! And is it any wonder that fearfulness surprises their hearts when they see this about to be executed upon them?

2.  Another reason given in the text, why fearfulness will hereafter surprise sinners, is that they will be sensible this devouring fire will be everlasting. If a man were brought to the mouth of a great furnace to be cast into the midst of it, if at the same time he knew he should suffer torment but for one minute, yet that minute would be so terrible to him, that fearfulness would surprise and astonish him. How much more, if he were to be cast into a fire much fiercer, the fire in which wicked men are hereafter to be tormented! And if the thought of suffering this devouring fire for one minute would be enough to fill one with such surprising fearfulness, what will seize them, when they shall know that they are to bear it, not for one minute, nor for one day, nor for one year, nor for one age, nor for a hundred ages, nor for a million of ages, one after another, but forever and ever; without any end, and never, never be delivered!

They shall know that the fire itself will be everlasting fire, a fire that never shall be quenched. Mark 9:43, 44, “To go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.” And they shall know that their torment in that fire never will have an end, Rev. 14:10, 11. They shall know that they shall forever be full of quick sense within and without; their heads, their eves, their tongues, their hands, their feet, their loins, and their vitals, shall forever be full of glowing melting fire, fierce enough to melt the very rocks and elements. And also that they shall eternally be full of the most quick and lively sense to feel the torment.

They shall know that they shall never cease restlessly to plunge and roll in that mighty ocean of fire. They shall know that those billows of fire, which are greater than the greatest mountains, will never cease to roll over them, following one another forever and ever.

At the same time they will have a more lively sense of eternity than we ever can have here. We can have but a little sense of what an eternal duration is. And indeed none can comprehend it. It swallows up all thought and imagination. If we set ourselves to think upon it, we are presently lost. But they will have another and far clearer sense of it than we have. O how vast will eternity appear to them, when they think of spending it in such burnings! This is another reason that fearfulness will surprise them. The thoughts of eternity will always amaze them, and will sink and depress them to a bottomless depth of despair.

3.  The third reason given in the text why fearfulness will surprise them at the apprehension of this punishment is that they will know they shall not be able to bear it. When they shall see themselves going into that devouring fire, they will know that they are not able to bear it. They will know that they are not able to grapple with the fierceness and rage of those flames. For they will see the fierceness of the wrath of God in them. They will see an awful manifestation of Omnipotence in the fury of that glowing furnace. And in those views, their hearts will utterly fail them. Their hands will not be strong, nor can their hearts endure. They will see that their strength is weakness, and that they can do nothing in such a conflict.

When they shall have come to the edge of the pit and of the burning lake, and shall look into the furnace, then they will cry out with exclamations like these: O! What shall I do? How shall I bear the torments of this fire? How can I endure them? Who can endure? Where is the man so stout-hearted, where is the giant of such strength and such courage, that he can bear this? O! What shall I do? Must I be cast in thither? I cannot bear it. I can never endure it. O that I could return to my first nothing! How can I endure it one moment? How much less can I endure it forever and ever! And must I bear it forever? What! Forever and ever, without any end, and never find any refuge, never be suffered to return to my first nothing, and be no nearer to the end of these sufferings after millions of ages? O what dismal contentions and shrieks, and shaking of loins, and gnashing of teeth, will there be then! No wonder that fearfulness will then surprise the wicked.

SECTION IV    Why it will be especially thus with sinners in Zion, who dwell among God’s visible people.

There will hereafter be a very great difference between sinners in Zion and other sinners; a great difference between the most pointed hypocrite of them all, and the drunkards, the adulterers, the Sodomites, the thieves, and murderers among the heathen, who sin against only the light of nature. The fearfulness which will be in no measure so amazing and horrible, as that which will seize the sinners in Zion. That fierceness and wrath of Almighty God, which they will suffer, will be mild and moderate in comparison with that which the sinners in Zion will suffer.

The wrath of God is in his word manifested against the wicked heathens. But it is ten times as much manifested against those sinners who make the profession and enjoy the privileges of the people of God; and yet remain enemies of God. Both the Old Testament and the New are full of terrible denunciations against such. Read the books of Moses, read the prophets, and you will find them full of dreadful threatenings against such. Read over the history of Christ’s life and the speeches which he made when upon earth. There you will see what woes and curses he frequently denounced against such. How often did he say, that it should be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment, than for the cities in which most of his mighty works were done! Read over the history of the Acts of the Apostles, and their epistles. There you will find the same. It is the sinners in Zion, or hypocrites, that are always in Scripture spoken of as the people of God’s wrath. Isa. 10:6, “I will send him against a hypocritical nation, against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil.”  The reasons are chiefly these:

1. That they sin against so much greater light. This is often spoken of in Scripture as an aggravation to the sin and wickedness of sinners in Zion. He that knows not his Lord’s will, and doeth it not, is declared not to be worthy of so many stripes, as he who, being informed of his Lord’s will, is in like manner disobedient. If men be blind, they have comparatively no sin. But then they see, when they have light to know their duty, and to know their obligation, then their sin is great, John 9:14. When the light that is in a man is darkness, how great is that darkness! And when men live in wickedness, in the midst of great light, that light is like to be the blackness of darkness indeed.

2.  That they sin against such professions and vows. The heathens never pretended to be the worshippers of the true God. They never pretended to be Christ’s disciples. They never came under any covenant-obligations to be such. But this is not the case with sinners in Zion. Now, God highly resents falsehood and treachery. Judas, who betrayed Christ with a kiss, was a greater sinner, and much more the object of God’s wrath, than Pilate, who condemned him to be crucified, and was his murderer.

3. That they sin against so much greater mercy. They have the infinite mercy of God, in giving his own Son, often set before them. They have the dying love of Christ represented to them. They have this mercy, this glorious Savior, his blood and righteousness, often offered to them. They have a blessed opportunity to obtain salvation for their souls. A great price is put into their hands to this end. They have that precious treasure, the Holy Scriptures, and enjoy Sabbaths, and sacraments, and the various means of grace. But all these means and advantages, these opportunities, offers mercies, and invitations, they abuse, despise, and reject.

But there is no wrath like that which arises from mercy abused and rejected. When mercy is in this way turned into wrath, this is the fiercest wrath. — Sinners in Zion, beside their fall by the first Adam, have a fall also by the second. He is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, at which they stumble and fall. And there is no fall like this. The fall by the first Adam is light in comparison with it.

On these accounts, whenever we see the day of judgment, as every one of us shall see it, we shall easily distinguish between the sinners in Zion and other sinners by their shriller cries, their louder, more bitter, and dolorous shrieks, the greater amazement of their countenances, and the more dismal shaking of their limbs, and contortions of their bodies.

SECTION V     An earnest exhortation to sinners in Zion, now to fly from the devouring fire and everlasting burnings.

You have often been exhorted to fly from the “wrath to come.” This devouring fire, these everlasting burnings, of which we have been speaking, are the wrath to come. You hear of this fire, of these burnings, and of that fearfulness which will seize and surprise sinners in Zion hereafter. And O what reason have you of thankfulness that you only hear of them, that you do not as yet feel them, and that they have not already taken hold of you! They are, as it were, following you, and coming nearer and nearer every day. Those fierce flames are already kindled in the wrath of God. Yea, the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God burn against you. It is ready for you. That pit is prepared for you with fire and much wood, and the wrath of the Lord, as a stream of brimstone, does kindle it.

Lot was with great urgency hastened out of Sodom, and commanded to make haste, and fly for his life, and escape to the mountains, lest he should be consumed in those flames which burned up Sodom and Gomorrah. But that burning was a mere spark to that devouring fire, and those everlasting burnings, of which you are in danger. Therefore improve the present opportunity.

Now, God is pleased again to put out his Spirit upon us. And he is doing great things amongst us. God is indeed come again, the same great God who so wonderfully appeared among us some years ago, and who has since, for our sins, departed from us, left us so long in so dull and dead a state, and has let sinners alone in their sins, so that there have been scarcely any sins to be seen of any such work as conversion. That same God is now come again. He is really come in like manner, and begins, as he did before, gloriously to manifest his mighty power, and the riches of his grace. He brings sinners out of darkness into marvelous light. He rescues poor captive souls out of the hands of Satan. He saves persons from the devouring fire. He plucks one and another as brands out of the burnings. He opens the prison-doors and knocks off their chains and brings out poor prisoners. He is now working salvation among us from this very destruction of which you have now heard.

Now, now, then, is the time, now is the blessed opportunity to escape those everlasting burnings. Now God has again set open the same fountain among us, and gives one more happy opportunity for souls to escape. Now he has set open a wide door, and he stands in the door-way, calling and begging with a loud voice to the sinners of Zion: Come, saith he, come, fly from the wrath to come. Here is a refuge for you. Fly hither for refuge. Lay hold on the hope set before you.

A little while ago, it was uncertain whether we should ever see such an opportunity again. If it had always continued as it has been for some years past, almost all of you would surely have gone to hell. In a little time fearfulness would have surprised you and you would have been cast into that devouring fire and those everlasting burnings. But in infinite mercy God gives another opportunity. And blessed are your eyes, that they see it, if you did but know your own opportunity.

You have had your life spared through these six years past, to this very time, to another outpouring of the Spirit. What would you have done if you had died before it came? How doleful would your case have been! But you have reason to bless God that it was not so, and that you are yet alive, and now again see a blessed day of grace. And will you not improve it? Have you not so much love to your poor souls, as to improve such an opportunity as this?

Some, there is reason to think, have lately fled for refuge to Christ. And will you be willing to stay behind still, poor miserable captives, condemned to suffer forever in the lake of fire? Hereafter you will see those of your neighbors and acquaintance who are converted, mounting up as with wings, with songs of joy, to meet their Lord. And if you remain unconverted, you at the same time will be surprised with fear and horror will take hold of you, because of the devouring fire, and the everlasting burnings.

It is an awful thing to think of, that there are now some persons in this very congregation, here and there, who will be the subjects of that very misery of which we have now heard, although it be eternal! There are probably some now reading or hearing this discourse, who shall be seen at the Day of Judgment, among the devils, at the left hand of the judge, with freighted, ghastly countenances, wringing their hands, gnashing their teeth, shrieking and crying out.

Now we know not their names, nor where to look for them. But God knows their names, and now sees and knows what they think, and how much they regard the warnings which are given them this day. We have not the least reason to suppose any other than that some of you will hereafter see others entering into glory with Christ, and saints, and angels, while you, with dreadful horror, shall see the fire begin to kindle about you. It may be, that the persons are now blessing themselves in their own hearts, and each one saying with himself, Well, I do not intend it shall be I. Every one hopes to go to heaven. None would by any means miss of it. If any thought they should miss of it, they would be greatly amazed. But all will not go thither; it will undoubtedly be the portion of some to toss and tumble forever among the fiery billows of God’s wrath.

It is not to be supposed, but that there are some here who will not be in earnest. Let them have ever so good an opportunity to obtain heaven, they will not thoroughly improve it. Tell them of hell as often as you will, and set it out in as lively colors as you will, they will be slack and slothful. And they will never be likely to obtain heaven while they are sleeping, and dreaming, and intending, and hoping. The wrath of God, which pursues them, will take them by the heels. Hell, that follows after, will overtake them. And a tempest will steal them away.

Nor is it to be supposed, that all who are now seeking will hold out. Some will backslide. They will be unsteady. If now they seem to be pretty much engaged, it will not hold. Times will probably alter by and by, and they having not obtained grace, there will be many temptations to backsliding, with which they will comply. The hearts of men are very unsteady. They are not to be trusted. Men are very short-winded. They cannot tell how to have patience to wait upon God. They are soon discouraged. Some that are now under convictions may lose them. Perhaps they will not leave off seeking salvation at once. But they will come to it by degrees. After a while, they will begin to hearken to excuses, not to be quite so constant in duty. They will begin to think that they need not be quite so strict. They will say to themselves, they see no hurt in such and such things. They see into but they may practice them without any great guilt. Thus giving way to temptations, and hearkening to excuses, they will by degrees lose their convictions, and become secure in sin.

There were some who were guilty of backsliding, the last time of the revival of religion among us. While the talk upon religious subjects was generally kept alive, they continued to seek. But when this began to abate, and they saw others less zealous than they had been, and especially when they saw some miscarriages of professors, they began to grow more careless, to seek less earnestly, and to plead these things as an excuse. And they are left behind still. They are to this day in a miserable condemned state, in danger of the devouring fire, and of everlasting burnings, in twice so dangerous a state as they were in before they were awakened. And God only knows what will become of them. And as it was then, so we dread it will be now.

Some who are now in a natural condition, are doubtless near death. They have not long to live in the world. And if they seek in a dull way, or if, after they have sought for a while, they are guilty of backsliding, death will come upon them long enough before there will come such another opportunity. When they leave off seeking, it will not be without a design of seeking again some time or other. But death will be too quick for them. It is not the manner of death to wait upon men, while they take time to indulge their sloth, and gratify their lusts. When his appointed time comes, he will do his work. Will you put off in hope of seeing another such time seven years hence? Alas! how many of those who are now in a natural condition may be in hell before another seven years shall have elapsed!

Therefore now let everyone look to himself. It is for your own souls’ salvation. If you be foolish, and will not hearken to counsel, will not improve the opportunity when it is given you, and will not enter into such an open door, you alone must bear it. If you shall miss this opportunity, and quench your convictions now, and there shall come another time of the outpouring of the Spirit, you will be far less likely to have any profit by it. As we see now God chiefly moves on the hearts of those who are very young, who are brought forward upon the stage of action since the last outpouring of the Spirit, who were not then come to years of so much understanding, and consequently not so much in the way of the influences of the Spirit. As to those who were grown up, and had convictions then, and quenched them, the most of these are abundantly more hardened, and seem to be more passed over. So it will probably be with you hereafter, if you miss this opportunity, and quench the convictions of the Spirit which you have now.

As to you who had awakenings the last time of the outpouring of the Spirit, and have quenched them, and remain to this day in a natural condition, let me call upon you also, now that God is giving you one more such opportunity. If passing in impenitence through one such opportunity has so hardened you, and has been such a great disadvantage to you, how sad will your case be, if you shall now miss another! Will you not thoroughly awake out of sleep, bestir yourselves for your salvation, and resolve now to begin again, and never leave off more? Many fled for refuge from the devouring fire before, and you were left behind. Others have fled for refuge now, and still you are left behind. And will you always remain behind? Consider, can you dwell with devouring fire? Can you dwell with everlasting burnings? Shall children, babes and sucklings, go into the kingdom of God before you?

How will you hereafter bear to see them coming and sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God, when yourselves are thrust out, and are surprised with fearfulness at the sight of that devouring fire, and those everlasting burnings, into which you are about to be cast? Take heed lest a like threatening be fulfilled upon you with that which we have in Num. 14:22, 23, “Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles which I did in Egypt, and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; surely they shall not see the land which I swore unto their fathers; neither shall any of them that provoked me see it.” Together with verse 31, “But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.”

SIGNS OF THE SINNER BEING PAST GRACE

Taken and adapted from, “The Barren Fig Tree: The Doom and Downfall of the Fruitless Professor”
Showing, that the day of grace may be past with him long before his life is ended. The signs also by which such miserable mortals may be known.
Written by John Bunyan, of “Pilgrims Progress”

fig-tree-yvonne-ayoub

[This is a very solemn and searching treatise, and I know that it will not sit well with many professing Christians today. Most will not finish this piece because it will be too disquieting to the mind; too disagreeable to their spiritual digestion. They would desire to only have gentle milk.  For there are many that wish to embrace only the goodness and the “lightness” of the Gospel, little realizing, that the Gospel light shines most brightly and most diligently into the doom and gloom of sin, and to the troubled conscience. Why, you may well ask? it is because men wish only to see themselves in the good; either that they are successful in whatever station of life they are occupied, or in the acquirement of wealth, however they may have so attained it. But here, Bunyan strips all that away. And by pure biblical application, endeavors to demonstrate the danger and impending doom of those who may have perhaps tasted of the grace of God, but have not embraced the Gospel fully. 

Do not seek to critique this passage contextually upon its incidental thoughts, as you would dissect part of some small object under a microscope, –though in context Bunyan’s thoughts would well withstand such an examination. Instead, look at this passage as upon the whole, letting it sweep through you, as with a spiritual broom, cleaning into the darker corners of your conscience, and let it work upon you, causing you, like the Disciples to ask, “Lord is it I?” If you do so, then perhaps you will be successful in uncovering some hidden idol –some idol carefully preserved and put away. But do not stop at its examination, take this idol out and immediately give it to the Lord.

And if, by some action of Providence, you are reading this work, and do not know if whether or not you are in the family of God, do not wait, confess all sins before God, –everything. And then, let the Lord Jesus heal you from your grievous sins, and all manner of darkness that inhabits you, and let him keep you unto Himself.

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” –MWP]

SIGNS OF THE SINNER BEING PAST GRACE

Now, then, to show you, by some signs, how you may know that the day of grace is ended, or near to ending, with the barren professor; and after that thou shalt cut it down. He that hath stood it out against God, and that hath withstood all those means for fruit that God hath used for the making of him, if it might have been, a fruitful tree in his garden, he is in this danger; and this indeed is the sum of the parable. The fig-tree here mentioned was blessed with the application of means, had time allowed it to receive the nourishment; but it outstood, withstood, overstood all, all that the husbandman did, all that the vine-dresser did.

But let me distinctly to particularize in four or five particulars.

First sign. The day of grace is like to be past, when a professor hath withstood, abused, and worn out God’s patience, then he is in danger; this is a provocation; then God cries, ‘Cut it down.’ There are some men that steal into a profession nobody knows how, even as this fig-tree was brought into the vineyard by other hands than God’s; and there they abide lifeless, graceless, careless, and without any good conscience to God at all. Perhaps they came in for the loaves, for a trade, for credit, for a blind; or it may be to stifle and choke the checks and grinding pangs of an awakened and disquieted conscience. Now, having obtained their purpose, like the sinners of Sion, they are at ease and secure; saying like Agag, ‘Surely the bitterness of death is past’ (1 Sam 15:22); I am well, shall be saved, and go to heaven. Thus in these vain conceits they spend a year, two, or three; not remembering that at every season of grace, and at every opportunity of the gospel the Lord comes seeking fruit. Well, sinner, well, barren fig-tree, this is but a coarse beginning: God comes for fruit.

  1. What have I here? saith God; what a fig-tree is this, that hath stood this year in my vineyard, and brought me forth no fruit? I will cry unto him, Professor, barren fig-tree, be fruitful! I look for fruit, I expect fruit, I must have fruit; therefore bethink thyself! At these the professor pauses; but these are words, not blows, therefore off goes this consideration from the heart. When God comes the next year, he finds him still as he was, a barren, fruitless cumber-ground. And now again he complains, here are two years gone, and no fruit appears; well, I will defer mine anger. ‘For my name sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off,’ as yet (Isa 48:9). I will wait, I will yet wait to be gracious. But this helps not, this hath not the least influence upon the barren fig-tree. Tush, saith he, here is no threatening: God is merciful, he will defer his anger, he waits to be gracious, I am not yet afraid (Isa 30:18). O! how ungodly men, that are at unawares crept into the vineyard, how do they turn the grace of our God into lasciviousness! Well, he comes the third year for fruit, as he did before, but still he finds but a barren fig-tree; no fruit. Now, he cries out again, O thou dresser of my vineyard, come hither; here is a fig-tree hath stood these three years in my vineyard, and hath at every season disappointed my expectation; for I have looked for fruit in vain; ‘Cut it down,’ my patience is worn out, I shall wait on this fig-tree no longer.
  1. And now he begins to shake the fig-tree with his threatenings: Fetch out the axe! Now the axe is death; death therefore is called for. Death, come smite me this fig-tree. And withal the Lord shakes this sinner, and whirls him upon a sick-bed, saying, Take him, death, he hath abused my patience and forbearance, not remembering that it should have led him to repentance, and to the fruits thereof. Death, fetch away this fig-tree to the fire, fetch this barren professor to hell! At this death comes with grim looks into the chamber; yea, and hell follows with him to the bedside, and both stare this professor in the face, yea, begin to lay hands upon him; one smiting him with pains in his body, with headache, heart-ache, back-ache, shortness of breath, fainting, qualms, trembling of joints, stopping at the chest, and almost all the symptoms of a man past all recovery. Now, while death is thus tormenting the body, hell is doing with the mind and conscience, striking them with its pains, casting sparks of fire in thither, wounding with sorrows, and fears of everlasting damnation, the spirit of this poor creature. And now he begins to bethink himself, and to cry to God for mercy; Lord, spare me! Lord, spare me! Nay, saith God, you have been a provocation to me these three years. How many times have you disappointed me? How many seasons have you spent in vain? How many sermons and other mercies did I, of my patience, afford you? but to no purpose at all. Take him, death! O! good Lord, saith the sinner, spare me but this once; raise me but this once. Indeed I have been a barren professor, and have stood to no purpose at all in thy vineyard; but spare! O spare this one time, I beseech thee, and I will be better! Away, away you will not; I have tried you these three years already; you are naught; if I should recover you again, you would be as bad as you were before. And all this talk is while death stands by. The sinner cries again, Good Lord, try me this once; let me get up again this once, and see if I do not mend. But will you promise me to mend? Yes, indeed, Lord, and vow it too; I will never be so bad again; I will be better. Well, saith God, death, let this professor alone for this time; I will try him a while longer; he hath promised, he hath vowed, that he will amend his ways. It may be he will mind to keep his promises. Vows are solemn things; it may be he may fear to break his vows. Arise from off they bed. And now God lays down his axe. At this the poor creature is very thankful, praises God, and fawns upon him, shows as if he did it heartily, and calls to others to thank him too. He therefore riseth, as one would think, to be a new creature indeed. But by that he hath put on his clothes, is come down from his bed, and ventured into the yard or shop, and there sees how all things are gone to sixes and sevens, he begins to have second thoughts, and says to his folks, What have you all been doing? How are all things out of order? I am I cannot tell what behind hand. One may see, if a man be but a little a to side, that you have neither wisdom nor prudence to order things. And now, instead of seeking to spend the rest of his time to God, he doubleth his diligence after this world. Alas! all must not be lost; we must have provident care. And thus, quite forgetting the sorrows of death, the pains of hell, the promises and vows which he made to God to be better; because judgment was not now speedily executed, therefore the heart of this poor creature is fully set in him to do evil.
  1. These things proving ineffectual, God takes hold of his axe again, sends death to a wife, to a child, to his cattle, ‘Your young men have I slain, – and taken away your horses’ (Amos 4:9,10). I will blast him, cross him, disappoint him, and cast him down, and will set myself against him in all that he putteth his hand unto. At this the poor barren professor cries out again, Lord, I have sinned; spare me once more, I beseech thee. O take not away the desire of mine eyes; spare my children, bless me in my labours, and I will mend and be better. No, saith God, you lied to me last time, I will trust you in this no longer; and withal he tumbleth the wife, the child, the estate into a grave. And then returns to his place, till this professor more unfeignedly acknowledgeth his offence (Hosea 5:14,15). At this the poor creature is afflicted and distressed, rends his clothes, and begins to call the breaking of his promise and vows to mind; he mourns and prays, and like Ahab, awhile walks softly at the remembrance of the justness of the hand of God upon him. And now he renews his promises: Lord, try me this one time more; take off thy hand and see; they go far that never turn. Well, God spareth him again, sets down his axe again. ‘Many times he did deliver them, but they provoked him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity’ (Psa 106:43). Now they seem to be thankful again, and are as if they were resolved to be godly indeed. Now they read, they pray, they go to meetings, and seem to be serious a pretty while, but at last they forget. Their lusts prick them, suitable temptations present themselves; wherefore they turn to their own crooked ways again. ‘When he slew them, then they sought him, and they returned and inquired early after God’; ‘nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongue’ (Psa 78:34-36).
  1. Yet again, the Lord will not leave this professor, but will take up his axe again, and will put him under a more heart- searching ministry, a ministry that shall search him, and turn him over and over; a ministry that shall meet with him, as Elijah met with Ahab, in all his acts of wickedness, and now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees. Besides, this ministry doth not only search the heart, but presenteth the sinner with the golden rays of the glorious gospel; now is Christ Jesus s set forth evidently, now is grace displayed sweetly; now, now are the promises broken like boxes of ointment, to the perfuming of the whole room! But, alas! there is yet no fruit on this fig-tree. While his heart is searching, he wrangles; while the glorious grace of the gospel is unveiling, this professor wags and is wanton, gathers up some scraps thereof; ‘Tastes the good Word of God, and the powers of the world to come’; ‘drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon him’ (Heb 6:3-8; Jude 4). But bringeth not forth fruit meet for him whose gospel it is; ‘Takes no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart’ (2 Kings 10:31). But counteth that the glory of the gospel consisteth in talk and show, and that our obedience thereto is a matter of speculation; that good works lie in good words; and if they can finely talk, they think they bravely please God. They think the kingdom of God consisteth only in word, not in power; and thus proveth ineffectual this fourth means also.
  1. Well, now the axe begins to be heaved higher, for now indeed God is ready to smite the sinner; yet before he will strike the stroke, he will try one way more at the last, and if that misseth, down goes the fig-tree! Now this last way is to tug and strive with this professor by his Spirit. Wherefore the Spirit of the Lord is now come to him; but not always to strive with man (Gen 6:3). Yet a while he will strive with him, he will awaken, he will convince, he will call to remembrance former sins, former judgments, the breach of former vows and promises, the misspending of former days; he will also present persuasive arguments, encouraging promises, dreadful judgments, the shortness of time to repent in; and that there is hope if he come. Further, he will show him the certainty of death, and of the judgment to come; yea, he will pull and strive with this sinner; but, behold, the mischief now lies here, here is tugging and striving on both sides. The Spirit convinces, the man turns a deaf ear to God; the Spirit saith, Receive my instruction and live, but the man pulls away his shoulder; the Spirit shows him whither he is going, but the man closeth his eyes against it; the Spirit offereth violence, the man strives and resists; they have ‘done despite unto the Spirit of grace’ (Heb 10:29). The Spirit parlieth a second time, and urgeth reasons of a new nature, but the sinner answereth, No, I have loved strangers, and after them I will go (Amos 4:6-12). At this God’s fury comes up into his face: now he comes out of his holy place, and is terrible; now he sweareth in his wrath they shall never enter into his rest (Heb 3:11). I exercised towards you my patience, yet you have not turned unto me, saith the Lord. I smote you in your person, in your relations, in your estate, yet you have not returned unto me, saith the Lord. ‘In thy filthiness is lewdness, because I have purged thee, and thou wast not purged; thou shalt not be purged from thy filthiness any more, till I cause my fury to rest upon thee’ (Eze 24:13). ‘Cut it down, why doth it cumber the ground?’

The second sign. That such a professor is almost, if not quite, past grace, is, when God hath given him over, or lets him alone, and suffers him to do anything, and that without control, helpeth him not either in works of holiness, or in straits and difficulties. ‘Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone’ (Hosea 4:17). Woe be to them when I depart from them. I will laugh at their calamities, and will mock when their fear cometh (Prov 1:24-29).

Barren fig-tree, thou hast heretofore been digged about, and dunged; God’s mattock hath heretofore been at thy roots; gospel-dung hath heretofore been applied to thee; thou hast heretofore been strove with, convinced, awakened, made to taste and see, and cry, O the blessedness! Thou hast heretofore been met with under the word; thy heart hath melted, thy spirit hath fallen, thy soul hath trembled, and thou hast felt something of the power of the gospel. But thou hast sinned, thou hast provoked the eyes of his glory, thy iniquity is found to be hateful, and now perhaps God hath left thee, given thee up, and lets thee alone. Heretofore thou wast tender; thy conscience startled at the temptation to wickedness, for thou wert taken off from ‘the pollutions of the world, through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’ (2 Peter 2:20-22). But that very vomit that once thou wert turned from, now thou lappest up– with the dog in the proverb–again; and that very mire that once thou seemedst to be washed from, in that very mire thou now art tumbling afresh. But to particularize, there are three signs of a man’s being given over of God.

  1. When he is let alone in sinning, when the reins of his lusts are loosed, and he given up to them. ‘And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient: being filled with all unrighteousness’ (Rom 1:28,29). Seest thou a man that heretofore had the knowledge of God, and that had some awe of Majesty upon him: I say, seest thou such an one sporting himself in his own deceivings, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and walking after his own ungodly lusts? (Rom 1:30-31). His ‘judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and his damnation slumbereth not’ (2 Peter 2:13). Dost thou hear, barren professor? It is astonishing to see how those that once seemed ‘sons of the morning,’ and were making preparations for eternal life, now at last, for the rottenness of their hearts, by the just judgment of God, to be permitted, being past feeling, to give ‘themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness’ (Eph 4:18,19). A great number of such were in the first gospel-days; against whom Peter, and Jude, and John, pronounce the heavy judgment of God. Peter and Jude couple them with the fallen angels, and John forbids that prayer be made for them, because that is happened unto them that hath happened to the fallen angels that fell, who, for forsaking their first state, and for leaving ‘their own habitation,’ are ‘reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day’ (Jude 5,6; 2 Peter 2:3-8). Barren fig-tree, dost thou hear? (1.) These are beyond all mercy! (2.) These are beyond all promises! (3.) These are beyond all hopes of repentance! (4.) These have no intercessor, nor any more share in a sacrifice for sin! (5.) For these there remains nothing but a fearful looking for of judgment! (6.) Wherefore these are the true fugitives and vagabonds, that being left of God, of Christ, of grace, and of the promise, and being beyond all hope, wander and straggle to and fro, even as the devil, their associate, until their time shall come to die, or until they descend in battle and perish!
  1. Wherefore they are let alone in hearing. If these at any time come under the word, there is for them no God, no savour of the means of grace, no stirrings of heart, no pity for themselves, no love to their own salvation. Let them look on this hand or that, there they see such effects of the word in others as produceth signs of repentance, and love to God and his Christ. These men only have their backs bowed down alway (Rom 11:10). These men only have the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear, to this very day. Wherefore as they go to the place of the Holy, so they come from the place of the Holy, and soon are forgotten in the places where they so did (Eccl 8:10). Only they reap this damage, ‘They treasure up wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God’ (Rom 2:3-5). Look to it, barren professor!
  1. If he be visited after the common way of mankind, either with sickness, distress, or any mind of calamity, still no God appeareth, no sanctifying hand of God, no special mercy is mixed with the affliction. But he falls sick, and grows well, like the beast; or is under distress, as Saul, who when he was engaged by the Philistines was forsaken and left of God, ‘And the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched in Shunem, and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines he was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets’ (1 Sam 28:4-6). The Lord answered him no more; he had done with him, cast him off, and rejected him, and left him to stand and fall with his sins, by himself. But of this more in the conclusion: therefore I here forbear.
  1. These men may go whither they will, do what they will; they may range from opinion to opinion, from notion to notion, from sect to sect, but are steadfast nowhere; they are left to their own uncertainties, they have not grace to establish their hearts; and though some of them have boasted themselves of this liberty, yet Jude calls them ‘wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever’ (Jude 13). They are left, as I told you before, to be fugitives and vagabonds in the earth, to wander everywhere, but to abide nowhere, until they shall descend to their own place, with Cain and Judas, men of the same fate with themselves (Acts 1:25).

A third sign that such a professor is quite past grace is, when his heart is grown so hard, so stony, and impenetrable, that nothing will pierce it. Barren fig-tree, dost thou consider? a hard and impenitent heart is the curse of God! A heart that cannot repent, is instead of all plagues at once; and hence it is that God said of Pharaoh, when he spake of delivering him up in the greatness of his anger, ‘I will at this time,’ saith he, ‘send all my plagues upon thine heart’ (Exo 9:14).

To some men that have grievously sinned under a profession of the gospel, God giveth this token of his displeasure; they are denied the power of repentance, their heart is bound, they cannot repent; it is impossible that they should ever repent, should they live a thousand years. It is impossible for those fall-aways to be renewed again unto repentance, ‘seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame’ (Heb 6:4-6). Now, to have the heart so hardened, so judicially hardened, this is as a bar put in by the Lord God against the salvation of this sinner. This was the burden of Spira’s complaint, ‘I cannot do it! O! how I cannot do it!’

This man sees what he hath done, what should help him, and what will become of him; yet he cannot repent; he pulled away his shoulder before, he stopped his ears before, he shut up his eyes before, and in that very posture God left him, and so he stands to this very day. I have had a fancy, that Lot’s wife, when she was turned into a pillar of salt, stood yet looking over her shoulder, or else with her face towards Sodom; as the judgment caught her, so it bound her, and left her a monument of God’s anger to after generations (Gen 19:26).

We read of some that are seared with a hot iron, and that are past feeling; for so seared persons in seared parts are. Their conscience is seared (1 Tim 4:2). The conscience is the thing that must be touched with feeling, fear, and remorse, if ever any good be done with the sinner. How then can any good be done to those whose conscience is worse than that? that is, fast asleep in sin (Eph 4:19). For that conscience that is fast asleep, may yet be effectually awakened and saved; but that conscience that is seared, dried, as it were, into a cinder, can never have sense, feeling, or the least regret in this world. Barren fig-tree, hearken, judicial hardening is dreadful! There is a difference betwixt that hardness of heart that is incident to all men, and that which comes upon some as a signal or special judgment of God. And although all kinds of hardness of heart, in some sense may be called a judgment, yet to be hardened with this second kind, is a judgment peculiar only to them that perish; hardness that is sent as a punishment for the abuse of light received, for a reward of apostacy. This judicial hardness is discovered from that which is incident to all men, in these particulars:–

  1. It is a hardness that comes after some great light received, because of some great sin committed against that light, and the grace that gave it. Such hardness as Pharaoh had, after the Lord had wrought wondrously before him; such hardness as the Gentiles had, a hardness which darkened the heart, a hardness which made their minds reprobate. This hardness is also the same with that the Hebrews are cautioned to beware of, a hardness that is caused by unbelief, and a departing from the living God; a hardness completed through the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:7, &c). Such as that in the provocation, of whom God sware, that they should not enter into his rest. It was this kind of hardness also, that both Cain, and Ishmael, and Esau, were hardened with, after they had committed their great transgressions.
  1. It is the greatest kind of hardness; and hence they are said to be harder than a rock, or than an adamant, that is, harder than flint; so hard, that nothing can enter (Jer 5:3; Zech 7:12).
  1. It is a hardness given in much anger, and that to bind the soul up in an impossibility of repentance.
  1. It is a hardness, therefore, which is incurable, of which a man must die and be damned. Barren professor, hearken to this.

A fourth sign that such a professor is quite past grace, is, when he fortifies his hard heart against the tenor of God’s word (Job 9:4, etc.) This is called hardening themselves against God, and turning of the Spirit against them. As thus, when after a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus, and of the doctrine that is according to godliness, they shall embolden themselves in courses of sin, by promising themselves that they shall have life and salvation notwithstanding. Barren professor, hearken to this! This man is called, ‘a root that beareth gall and wormwood,’ or a poisonful herb, such an one as is abominated of God, yea, the abhorred of his soul. For this man saith, ‘I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination’ or stubbornness ‘of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst’; an opinion flat against the whole Word of God, yea, against the very nature of God himself (Deut 29:18,19). Wherefore he adds, ‘Then the anger of the Lord, and his jealousy, shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in God’s book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven’ (Deut 19:20).

Yea, that man shall not fail to be effectually destroyed, saith the text: ‘The Lord shall separate that man unto evil, out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant’ (Deut 19:21). He shall separate him unto evil; he shall give him up, he shall leave him to his heart; he shall separate him to that or those that will assuredly be too hard for him.

Now this judgment is much effected when God hath given a man up unto Satan, and hath given Satan leave, without fail, to complete his destruction. I say, when God hath given Satan leave effectually to complete his destruction; for all that are delivered up unto Satan have not, nor do not come to this end. But that is the man whom God shall separate to evil, and shall leave in the hands of Satan, to complete, without fail, his destruction.

Thus he served Ahab, a man that sold himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord. ‘And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also; go forth, and do so’ (1 Kings 21:25, 22:20-22). Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail; do thy will, I leave him in thy hand, go forth, and do so.

Wherefore, in these judgments the Lord doth much concern himself for the management thereof, because of the provocation wherewith they have provoked him. This is the man whose ruin contriveth, and bringeth to pass by his own contrivance: ‘I also will choose their delusions’ for them; ‘I will bring their fears upon them’ (Isa 66:4). I will choose their devices, or the wickednesses that their hearts are contriving of. I, even I, will cause them to be accepted of, and delightful to them. But who are they that must thus be feared? Why, those among professors that have chosen their own ways, those whose soul delighteth in their abominations. Because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved: for this cause God shall send them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie, that they all might be damned, who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

‘God shall send them.’ It is a great word! Yea, God shall send them strong delusions; delusions that shall do: that shall make them believe a lie. Why so? ‘That they all might be damned,’ every one of them, ‘who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness’ (2 Thess 2:10- 12).

There is nothing more provoking to the Lord, than for a man to promise when God threateneth; for a man to delight of conceit that he shall be safe, and yet to be more wicked than in former days, this man’s soul abhorreth the truth of God; no marvel, therefore, if God’s soul abhorreth him; he hath invented a way contrary to God, to bring about his own salvation; no marvel, therefore, if God invent a way to bring about this man’s damnation: and seeing that these rebels are at this point, we shall have peace; God will see whose word will stand, his or theirs.

A fifth sign of a man being past grace is, when he shall at this scoff, and inwardly grin and fret against the Lord, secretly purposing to continue his course, and put all to the venture, despising the messengers of the Lord. ‘He that despised Moses’ law, died without mercy; – of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God?’ &c. (Heb 10:28). Wherefore, against these despisers God hath set himself, and foretold that they shall not believe, but perish: ‘Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in nowise believe, though a man declare it unto you’ (Acts 13:41).

After that thou shalt cut it down.

Thus far we have treated of the barren fig-tree, or fruitless professor, with some signs to know him by; whereto is added also some signs of one who neither will nor can, by any means, be fruitful, but they must miserably perish. Now, being come to the time of execution, I shall speak a word to that also; ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’

PROPOSITION SECOND: The death or cutting down of such men will be dreadful.

Christ, at last, turns the barren fig-tree over to the justice of God, shakes his hands of him, and gives him up to the fire for his unprofitableness. ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’

Two things are here to be considered:

First. The executioner; thou, the great, the dreadful, the eternal God. These words, therefore, as I have already said, signify that Christ the Mediator, through whom alone salvation comes, and by whom alone execution hath been deferred, now giveth up the soul, forbears to speak one syllable more for him, or to do the least act of grace further, to try for his recovery; but delivereth him up to that fearful dispensation, ‘to fall into the hands of the living God’ (Heb 10:31).

Second. The second to be considered is, The instrument by which this execution is done, and that is death, compared here to an axe; and forasmuch as the tree is not felled at one blow, therefore the strokes are here continued, till all the blows be struck at it that are requisite for its felling: for now cutting time, and cutting work, is come; cutting must be his portion till he be cut down. ‘After that thou shalt cut it down.’ Death, I say, is the axe, which God often useth, therewith to take the barren fig-tree out of the vineyard, out of a profession, and also out of the world at once. But this axe is now new ground, it cometh well-edged to the roots of this barren fig-tree. It hath been whetted by sin, by the law, and by a formal profession, and therefore must, and will make deep gashes, not only in the natural life, but in the heart and conscience also of this professor: ‘The wages of sin is death,’ ‘the sting of death is sin’ (Rom 6:23; 1 Cor 15:56). Wherefore death comes not to this man as he doth to saints, muzzled, or without his sting, but with open mouth, in all his strength; yea, he sends his first-born, which is guilt, to devour his strength, and to bring him to the king of terrors (Job 18:13,14).

But to give you, in a few particulars, the manner of this man’s dying.

  1. Now he hath his fruitless fruits beleaguer him round his bed, together with all the bands and legions of his other wickedness. ‘His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins’ (Prov 5:22).
  1. Now some terrible discovery of God is made out unto him, to the perplexing and terrifying of his guilty conscience. ‘God shall cast upon him, and not spare’; and he shall be ‘afraid of that which is high’ (Job 27:22; Eccl 12:5).
  1. The dark entry he is to go through will be a sore amazement to him; for ‘fears shall be in the way’ (Eccl 12:5). Yea, terrors will take hold on him, when he shall see the yawning jaws of death to gape upon him, and the doors of the shadow of death open to give him passage out of the world. Now, who will meet me in this dark entry? how shall I pass through this dark entry into another world?
  1. For by reason of guilt, and a shaking conscience, his life will hang in continual doubt before him, and he shall be afraid day and night, and shall have no assurance of his life (Deut 28:66,67).
  1. Now also want will come up against him; he will come up like an armed man. This is a terrible army to him that is graceless in heart, and fruitless in life. This WANT will continually cry in thine ears, Here is a new birth wanting, a new heart, and a new spirit wanting; here is faith wanting; here is love and repentance wanting; here is the fear of God wanting, and a good conversation wanting: ‘Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting’ (Dan 5:27).
  1. Together with these standeth by the companions of death, death and hell, death and evils, death and endless torment in the everlasting flames of devouring fire. ‘When God cometh up unto the people he will invade them with his troops’ (Hab 3:16).

But how will this man die? Can his heart now endure, or can his hands be strong? (Eze 22:14).

(1.) God, and Christ, and pity, have left him. Sin against light, against mercy, and the long-suffering of God, is come up against him; his hope and confidence now lie a-dying by him, and his conscience totters and shakes continually within him!

(2.) Death is at his work, cutting of him down, hewing both bark and heart, both body and soul asunder. The man groans, but death hears him not; he looks ghastly, carefully, dejectedly; he sighs, he sweats, he trembles, but death matters nothing.

(3.) Fearful cogitations haunt him, misgivings, direful apprehensions of God, terrify him. Now he hath time to think what the loss of heaven will be, and what the torments of hell will be: now he looks no way but he is frighted.

(4.) Now would he live, but may not; he would live, though it were but the life of a bed-rid man, but he must not. He that cuts him down sways him as the feller of wood sways the tottering tree; now this way, then that, at last a root breaks, a heart-string, an eye-string, sweeps asunder.

(5.) And now, could the soul be annihilated, or brought to nothing, how happy would it count itself, but it sees that may not be. Wherefore it is put to a wonderful strait; stay in the body it may not, go out of the body it dares not. Life is going, the blood settles in the flesh, and the lungs being no more able to draw breath through the nostrils, at last out goes the weary trembling soul, which is immediately seized by devils, who lay lurking in every hole in the chamber for that very purpose. His friends take care of the body, wrap it up in the sheet or coffin, but the soul is out of their thought and reach, going down to the chambers of death.

I had thought to have enlarged, but I forbear. God, who teaches man to profit, bless this brief and plain discourse to thy soul, who yet standest a professor in the land of the living, among the trees of his garden. Amen.

LOVE TO GOD: How unholy hearts cannot love God, and why the law stirs up sin.

broken_heart_wallpaper_orig__by_remi_sempaiTaken from, “True Religion Delineated”
Adapted and amplified into modern English and thought,
Condensed to fit format,
Written by, Joseph Bellamy, 1750

And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”  –Matthew 22:27-30

TRUE Religion consists in a conformity to the Law of God, and in a compliance with the Gospel of Christ.

The religion of innocent man consented only in a conformity to the Law of Nature, with the addition of one positive precept: he had no need of Gospel-Grace. But when man lost his innocence and became guilty and depraved, when he fell under the wrath of God and the power of sin; he needed a Redeemer and a Sanctifier: and in the Gospel a Redeemer and a Sanctifier are provided, and a way for our obtaining pardoning mercy and sanctifying grace is opened, a compliance, with which, does now therefore become part of the religion of a fallen creature.

Now if we can but rightly understand the Law, and rightly understand the Gospel, we may easily see wherein a conformity to the one, and a Compliance with the other, does consist: and so what true religion is. —For the present, let us take the Law under consideration. And it will be proper to inquire into these following particulars:

1    What duty does God require of us in his Law?
2   From what motives shall that Duty be done?
3    What is that precise measure of duty which God requires in his Law.”

And a short, but very clear and plain answer to all these questions we have before us in our text; which is the words of our blessed Savior, and in which he does upon design to declare what the sum and substance of the Law is. –He had a question put to him in these words, “Master, which is the great Commandment in the Law?” To which he answers, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy Heart…,” this is the first, —the second is like unto it….”  The Ten Commandments are summed up in these two, and every duty enjoined in the Law, and inculcated in the Prophets, are but so many deductions from these two, in which all are radically contained. A thorough understanding of these two will therefore give us an insight into all.

Showing what is implied in Love to GOD.

A true Knowledge of God is implied. For this lays the foundation for love. A spiritual sight of God, and a sense of his glory and beauty, begets love. When He that commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shines in our hearts, and gives us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God; and when we with open face behold as in a glass the glory of the Lord, then we are changed into the same image: The temper and frame of our hearts become like God’s: (To speak after the manner of men) we begin to feel towards God, in a measure as he does towards himself; i.e. to love him with all our hearts. 2 Cor. 3:18. and 4:6. For now we begin to perceive the grounds and reasons of that infinite esteem he has of himself, and infinite complacency in himself, and why he commands all the world to love and adore him. And the same grounds and reasons which move him thus to love himself, he commands all the world to do so too, so to enkindle the divine flame in our hearts. When we see God, in a measure, such as he sees himself to be, and have a sense of his glory and beauty in being what he is, in a measure, as he himself has, then we begin to love him with the same kind of love, and from the same motives, as he himself does: only in an infinitely inferior degree, this sight and sense of God, discovers the grounds of love to him: We see why he requires us to love him, and why we ought to love him, how right and fit it is; and so we cannot but love him.

This true Knowledge of God supposes, that in a measure, we see God to be just such a God as he is; and, in a measure, having a sense of his infinite glory and beauty in being such. For if our understanding of God is not right, then, it is not God that we love, but only a false image of him framed in our own fancy. And if we have not a sense of his glory and beauty of God being what he is, then it is impossible we should genuinely love and esteem him for being such. To love God for being what he is, and yet not to have any sense of his glory and beauty in Him being such, implies a contradiction.

For our carnal knowledge supposes, that we have a sense of his glory and beauty when we have not: a sense of the beauty and pleasantness of any object of a necessity, always implies a love in it. Where no beauty or pleasantness is seen, there can be no love. Love cannot be forced. Forced love is no love. If we are obliged to try to force ourselves to love anybody, it is a sign they are very odious in our eyes, or at least that we see no beauty nor pleasantness in them, no form or comeliness, wherefore we should desire or delight in them. (Song of Solomon 5:7) In all cases, so far as we see the beauty of God, so far we love, and no farther.

Most certainly, that knowledge of God which is necessary to lay a foundation of a genuine love to him, implies not only right understanding of what He is, but also a sense of his glory and beauty in being such.

For such a knowledge of God as it consists merely in speculation, let it rise ever so high, and be ever so clear, will never move us to love Him. Mere speculation, where there is no sense of beauty, will no sooner fill the heart with love, than a looking-glass will be filled with love by the image of a beautiful countenance, which looks into it. And a mere speculative knowledge of God, will not, cannot, beget a sense of his beauty in being what he is, when as there is naturally no disposition in our hearts to account him glorious in being such, but wholly to the contrary. Romans 8:7, the carnal mind is at enmity against God. When natures are in perfect contrariety, (the one sinful, and the other holy) the more they are known to each other, the more is a mutual hatred stirred up, and their entire aversion to each other becomes more sensible. The more they know of one another, the greater is their dislike, and the plainer do they feel it.  Doubtless the fallen angels have a great degree of speculative knowledge, they have a very clear sight and great sense of what God is: but the more they know of God, the more they hate him, and their hatred and aversion is stirred up the more, and they feel it plainer. So awakened sinners, when under deep and thorough conviction, have comparatively a very clear sight and great sense of God; but it only makes them see and feel their native enmity, which before lay hid. A sight and sense of what God is, makes them fee and feel what his Law is, and so what their duty is, and so what their sinfulness is, and also what their danger is: It makes the commandment come, and so sin revives, and they die, Romans 7:7-9. The clearer sight and the greater sense they have of what God is, the more plainly do they perceive that perfect contrariety there is between his nature and theirs’. Their aversion to God becomes discernible. They begin to see what enemies they be to him: And so the secret hypocrisy there has been in all their pretenses of love, is discovered: And so their high conceit of their goodness, and all their hopes of finding favor in the sight of God upon the Account of it, cease, die away, and come to nothing.

Sin revived, and I died.

The greater sight and sense they have of what God is, the plainer do they feel that they have no Love to him; but the greatest aversion. For the more they know of God, the more their native enmity is stirred up. So again, as soon as ever an unregenerate sinner enters into the world of the spiritual, where he has a much clearer sight and greater sense of what God is; immediately his native enmity works to perfection, and he blasphemes like a very devil: And although perhaps he died full of seeming love and joy. As the Galatians who once loved Paul, so as that they could even have plucked out their eyes and given him, yet when afterwards they came to know more clearly what kind of a man he was, then they turned into his enemies. And so finally, all the wicked at the Day of Judgment, when they shall see very clearly the nature of God, will thereby only have all the enmity of their hearts stirred to perfection. From all which it is exceeding manifest that the cleared speculative knowledge of God, is so far from bringing an unholy heart to love God, that it will only stir up the more aversion. And therefore that knowledge of God which lays the foundation for love, must imply not only right understanding of what God is, but also a sense of his glory and beauty in being such.

Wicked men and devils may know who and what God is, but none but holy beings have any sense of God’s infinite glory and beauty in being such as he is.

This understanding in Bible language is called seeing and knowing, 1 John 3:6. “Whosoever sins has not seen him, neither known him.” 3 John ver. 11. “He that does evil has not seen God.” 1 John 2:4. “He that says, I know him, and keeps not his Commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

Because wicked men have no sense of his glory and beauty, they are therefore said not to know God. And because all knowledge without this is vain, it is therefore only but the form of knowledge that wicked men have. Romans 2:20, and it will never kindle divine Love. In the scriptures sinners are said to be blind, because after all their light and knowledge, they have no sense of God’s glory in being what he is, and so have no heart to love him. And hence also they are said to be dead. They know nothing of the ineffable glory of the divine nature, and the love of God is not in them. John 5:42, and 8:19, 55.

By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous

Pathe Freres, Napoleon, RPPC film still, 1904

“By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
–Romans 5:19

MANY years ago, after a day of fierce fighting at Marengo…

Napoleon Bonaparte had placed his sentinels at different points of the camp. They were charged on pain of death to keep awake, and guard against being surprised by the enemy. About midnight Napoleon rose, and walking round, found one of the sentinels asleep, his gun lying beside him. The soldier, no doubt, had been worn out by the terrible fatigue of the preceding day; but then the law must be obeyed, discipline must be kept up, the sentinel’s duty must be done, or else he must die.

What did the emperor do? Softly and silently he took up the gun, put it on his own shoulder, and acted as sentinel till the dawn of day. When the soldier awoke, he was filled with alarm at having left his duty undone, concluding that he was a lost man. But Napoleon (who had done this generous act from love to him as a soldier) simply handed back to him his gun, and bade him be more awake in future. “By the obedience of that one,” the law was kept to the letter.

My dear friend, do you realize that you are that one lone soldier? And though you try as hard as you might, you can never fulfill your duty to God… not now, not ever? But Jesus has fulfilled it for you, and he has done this in two separate and distinctive ways.

The first way that we all talk about this is how He, Jesus, died on the cross to take away our sins. Yes, this is so important to the child of God; for Jesus’ vicarious death and resurrection saves us from the penalty of sin, and from God’s eternal wrath. We as Christians call this imputed righteousness. But there is another form that this imputed righteousness also occurs and takes shape, and that is in our reconciliation to God. This important aspect is one that is little talked about, or even understood by many Christians. Because Jesus died, after he lived a perfect life and likewise kept the law perfectly, his perfect law keeping was imputed to us as our continued righteousness as well, and it also provides our continued, and daily reconciliation with God, even when we lapse and fall into sin.

Because many people, and even churches do not understand this, there are many who believe that they must somehow “keep the law” in order to maintain their right standing before God. But as Jesus is our perfect sacrifice, He has already made provision for this continued reconciliation, so that not only our justification but also our ongoing walk in the Spirit, as imperfect as that may be, is also covered by the life (law-keeping), and the death of Christ.

Does the Bible speak directly to this? Yes, and we shall look at the many New Testament references at some future time, but right now I would like to give one Old Testament indication that speaks quite clearly to this point, and that is the purification of a young mother after she has given birth to a child. For it is interesting, that a young mother had to in fact, offer up two separate offerings after she gave birth. You may read further about this in, Leviticus 12.

You see, in Israel, when the young woman (mother) was purified from childbirth, two sin-offerings had to be offered on her behalf. It was in all cases with the first sacrifice, that a turtle-dove or a young pigeon was offered for her defilement, which was symbolically attached to the bleeding that occurred in the begetting of life. God wanted to point out to the Israelites two things, with this sacrifice. First was how much he abhors the shedding of blood, and second that it would only be the shedding of innocent blood (Jesus’ blood) that would forgive the most heinous crimes and sins; and only by that innocent blood alone, would and could atonement be made for the appeasement of God’s wrath.

But there was a second offering.

A second burnt-offering was also required and offered, and this sacrifice marked the restoration of the young mother’s communion with God. This burnt-offering was typically a lamb, but the poor might substitute it for another turtle-dove, or a young pigeon. This Sin offering was for an expiation of sin.

Now, expiation, is also used to mean atonement, and, as I said earlier, while people do not talk about it much, the Bible certainly does. In this instance, the first offering, as listed above, was used as a Propitiation. (Propitiation is the word Christians commonly use in describing how Jesus satisfied the wrath of the Father against sin.) But in this second sacrifice, this sacrifice was Expiationary in nature, that is, this sacrifice was for the removal of sin from his people.

Therefore, this burnt offering represented in the Old Testament, the restoration of the Hebrew mother back to God, including her restoration to God in an ongoing sense. But in the New Testament, both of these sacrifices were accomplished in Christ Jesus.

To sum all of this up, God has given to his children, a way of escape. This way of escape is, and has always been God-given, and comes through Jesus the Christ. For Jesus has not only died for us, to appease God’s wrath, but he has lived the law perfectly for us, so that we might be restored in an ongoing relationship to the Father.

But please understand this, for the Bible makes this very clear; man’s way of escape (salvation) neither originates with man, nor is maintained in any way by man, but in all cases, man’s way of escape originates and is maintained by God. This means that the strength of your relationship (as a child of God), depends not upon how hard you hold upon God, but upon the strength of the sacrifice by which God holds onto you! Isn’t that a relief?

For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. –Hebrews 10:14

Grace and peace