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HELL AND HEAVEN.
MATT. XXV. 46.
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.
THAT there are two eternal states, the one of happiness, and the other of misery, in one of which each of us will soon be fixed, is a truth which most men profess to believe. But if we look at the actions of most men, and these speak louder than their words, we are forced to say with the Scripture "All men have not faith." A true belief of an eternal hell, and an eternal heaven, cannot fail to make us fly from the one, and endeavour to secure the other. But even where we may hope there is a settled belief of these things, it must be owned, through the cares and labours, or pleasures of life, they do not make so strong an impression upon us as they ought; nor are we so diligent in our preparations for eternity as we should be. It will be therefore profitable for us to consider those two states of hell and heaven, which are spoken of in the text; which tells us what will be the immediate consequence of the sentences which Christ, the great Judge of quick and dead, shall pronounce on all mankind at the great day. To those on the right hand he will say, "Come, ye blessed;" to those on the left, "Go, ye cursed." The sentence will be no sooner pronounced than executed. "These last shall go away
into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal."
The very word Eternity ought to fix our attention on this great subject. Oh, that it may have as good an effect upon every one here as it had upon a lady, of whom the following story is related by several authors. A lady, who was fond of gaiety, spent the whole afternoon and evening with a party at cards, and other vain amusements; and returning home late at night, found her waiting-maid diligently reading a religious book. Happening to look over her shoulder, she saw what it was, and said, "Poor melancholy soul, why dost thou sit here so long poring upon thy book?" After this she retired to bed, but could not sleep; but lay sighing and weeping for several hours. Being repeatedly asked by her servant what was the matter, she burst into tears, and said, "Oh, it was one word that I saw in your book that troubles me; there I saw the word Eternity." God grant, my friends, that we may now so consider eternity, that the word may not be a trouble to us, but a pleasure! In order to this, we must, First, Consider the Scripture account of hell, hat so we may escape it: and Secondly, The Scripture account of heaven, that so we may be put upon seeking it.
First, then, let us turn our thoughts to the account that the word of God gives us of hell. It is true, it is an awful subject, and wicked men do not love to hear of it; but if they cannot bear to hear of it, how will they be able to endure it? Our Saviour, in the text, calls it Everlasting Punishment.
It is punishment. Now punishment is a pain inflicted on account of the breaking some law. Hell is the prison where the breakers of God's law will be confined and punished. God has made known his will in the ten commandments. These require us to love and serve him; but being fallen creatures
and unable of ourselves to do it aright, he has also given us his Gospel. Herein Christ is set forth as an all-sufficient Saviour, able and willing to save us from the guilt already contracted by our sins; and to renew and sanctify us, that we may comply with his will, and serve him acceptably hereafter. This is certainly our reasonable service. But the sinner refuses it. He is so strongly bound with the cords of his sins, so much entangled with the lusts of the flesh, and so besotted with the love of the world, that he persists in his sin, notwithstanding the warnings of God; and neglects salvation, though a thousand times invited and entreated. Thus he lives, and thus he dies. What must be the consequence? God is just as well as merciful. His laws cannot be dispensed with. The sinner has no room to complain. He was warned; he was entreated; but he chose the ways of sin, and now he must receive the wages; for "the wages of sin is death"-not the death of the body only, for good men as well as bad men die ;-but the second death, the death of the soul, in its everlasting separation from God, the fountain of life and happiness.
This is the import of that awful word Depart. In the present world, whether men know it or not, all their comforts flow from his favour. God is the chief good, and the source of all the good in the world. It is he who has made creatures what they are. It is his sun which fills the world with light. It is his power by which man subsists and enjoys his senses and his health. It is from his creatures
we get our food and raiment; and though wicked men forget God in all their mercies, they are nevertheless from him, and in their proper tendency lead to him, for "the goodness of God leadeth us to repentance," But in hell, all these comforts will be withdrawn. They did not answer their purpose, to
soften the hard and rebellious heart to obedience; and now, the season of trial and the day of grace being over, there is no end for which they should be continued.
But it is not the loss of bodily comforts only that the damned must sustain: they must for ever lose the infinite pleasures that the redeemed will enjoy in the presence of Christ, and in the society of the blessed. This indeed they do not value now; but they will then. They will then plainly see that heaven itself consists in the presence and favour of God. They will have a tormenting prospect of the happiness of others; so Dives, in the parable, is represented as seeing " Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom; and this will aggravate their misery, as it would that of a man perishing for hunger to see others feasting: or, as our Lord expresses it, Luke xiii. 28. "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out."
The punishment of loss is not all; there is the punishment of sense likewise; hell is not only the loss of happiness, but it is the sense and feeling of the most exquisite sufferings. Take an account of it from the lips of Jesus Christ himself; speaking of hell, he says, "Where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." This is the description he gives of it over and over again, in Mark ix. By "the worm that dieth not" is generally understood the gnawings of a guilty conscience; or that painful remorse which sinners will feel when they remember the sin and folly which brought them to hell. Thus, in the parable, Abraham speaks of Dives, and says, "Son, remember that thou, in thy lifetime, receivedst thy good things."
Memory will be a dreadful source of misery. "Son, remember!" said Abraham to Dives. Poor sinners
will remember the good instructions they received from their parents, the faithful sermons they heard from their ministers, the solemn admonitions they had from their own conscience. They will remem ber what Sabbaths they mispent, what mercies they abused, what judgments they slighted. They will remember with what contempt they treated serious piety; and in vain will they wish to be in the place of those they once despised. It will be intolerable for them to reflect on their folly in parting with heaven for such wretched trifles. How despicably small will the pleasures of sin then appear to them!They will not be able to bear themselves, when they think for what they have lost their God, their heaven, and their souls. And this will fill them with the most horrid rage and fury. They will be inwardly racked with envy, hatred, and resentment against God, against their tempers, against the companions of their sins, and especially against themselves.
But, besides this inward torment, or "the worm that never dies," there will be outward torment, or "the fire that is never quenched." The nature of this fire, or the place where it is, are matters of foolish curiosity: our business is not to amuse ourselves with questions about it, but to take care to avoid it. God, who sustained the companions of Daniel in a hot furnace, so that they were not scorched, can easily support life in the burnings of hell. The wrath of God, who, as an avenger of sin, is "a consuming fire," is the hell of hell: and "who can tell the power of his anger?" Our utmost fears of it come short of the truth. A spark of this fire in a guilty conscience is intolerable, for "a wounded spirit who can bear?" Job in his affliction cried, "The arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God set themselves in array against me.”