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the commission of those sins, out of which we may never be able to recover ourselves to our former strength, comfort, and stability. We may fall, to the breaking of our bones: and we may rise again, possibly; but it will be to the breaking of our hearts.
So much for this time, and for this subject.
DREADFULNESS OF GOD'S WRATH AGAINST
HEB. x. 30, 31.
FOR WE KNOW HIM THAT HATH SAID, VENGEANCE BELONGETH UNTO ME, I WILL RECOMPENSE, SA1TH THE LORD. AND AGAIN, THE LORD SHALL JUDGE His PEOPLE.
IT IS A FEARFUL THING, TO FALL INTO THE HANDS OF THE LIVING GOP.
.1 Here are two principal attributes of God, which the Scripture propounds to us, as the most powerful and efficacious motives to restrain us from sin: and they are his Mercy and his Justice.
Mercy, though it be a soft, yet it is a strong argument, to encourage us to purity and holiness. And, therefore, says the Apostle, Rom. ii. 4. The goodness of God leadeth us to repentance. And, certainly, that mercy, that expresseth itself so ready to pardon sin, cannot but lay a mighty obligation upon the ingenuity of a Christian spirit, to abstain from the commission of it. He, that can encourage himself in wickedness, upon the consideration of the infinite free-grace of God, doth but spurn those very bowels that yearn towards him, and strike at God with his own golden sceptre: yea he tears abroad those wounds, which were at first opened for him; and casts the blood of his Saviour back again in his face.
But, because ingenuity is perished from off the earth, and men are generally more apt to be wrought upon by arguments drawn from fear than love, therefore the Scripture propounds to us the consideration of the dreadful Justice of God, arrayed in all the terrible circumstances of it; that, if mercy cannot allure us, justice at least might affright us from our sins. And, as those, who are to travel through wildernesses and deserts, carry fire with them to terrify wild and ravenous beasts, and to secure themselves from their assaults; so doth the Great God, who hath to deal with brutish men, men more savage than wild beasts: he kindles a fire about him, and appears to them all in flames and fury; that so he may fright them from their bold attempts, who otherwise would be ready to run upon his neck and upon the thick bosses of his buckler. Job xv. 26.
And, therefore, in the four preceding verses, we find the Apostle threatening most tremendous judgments against all that should wilfully transgress, after they had received the knowledge of the truth. He tells us, v. 26. that there remaineth no more sacrifice for their sins: nothing to expiate their guilt; but that they themselves must fall a burnt-sacrifice to the offended justice of God; consumed with that fiery indignation, that shall certainly seize and prey upon them for ever. And, in v. 28, 29. he sets forth the exceeding dreadfulness of their judgment, by a comparison between those that violated the Law of Moses, and those that renounce and annul the Law of Christ. He, that despised Moses'' law, who himself was but a servant, and whose laws consisted of inferior and less spiritual ordinances; yet a despiser and transgressor of these was to die without mercy: certainly, much sorer judgments await those, who reject the laws of Christ; and trample him, who is the Son and Lord of the House, under foot; accounting his blood unholy and profane, renouncing his merits, and blaspheming the Holy Spirit by which our Saviour acted: such as these, says the Apostle, shall eternally perish with less mercy, than those that died without mercy.
Where, by the way, observe the strange emphasis, that the Apostle lays upon this dreadful commination. He tells us that they shall be sorer punished, than those, that are punished without mercy: to let us know, that, as there are transcendent glories, such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor can it enter into the heart of man to conceive, reserved in the highest heavens for those that love God; so, also, are there woes and torments, such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor can it enter into the heart of man to conceive how great and insupportable they are, prepared in hell for those that hate him. They shall die with less mercy, than those, that die without mercy.
Now that we might not wonder at such a paradox as this, the Apostle gives the reason of it in my text: For we know him, that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me. It is the vengeance of God, and a falling into the hands of God: and, therefore, it »s no wonder if their punishments shall be beyond all extremity.