Sinners In Zion Tenderly
THE FEARFULNESS WHICH WILL HEREAFTER SURPRISE SINNERS IN ZION, REPRESENTED AND IMPROVED
By Jonathan Edwards
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?
Subject: The time will come when fearfulness will surprise the sinners in Zion; because they will know that they are going to be cast into a devouring fire, which they must suffer forever and ever, and which none can endure.
Showing who are sinners
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 walketh
righteously, and speaketh uprightly,” etc. The other kind consists of sinners
in Zion, or hypocrites. It is to be observed that the prophet in this chapter
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 drinketh in the rain that cometh oft
upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed,
receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth 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
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.
How fearfulness will
hereafter surprise sinners in Zion.
I. 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.
II. 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
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
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
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
It may be, he still struggles for
a little hope. He is loth 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
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 chatterings
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.
Why sinners in general
will hereafter be surprised with fear.
I. 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
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
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?
II. 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
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 dieth 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
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.
III. 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.
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:
I. 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.
II. 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.
III. 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.
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
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
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
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 knoweth their names, and now seeth and knoweth
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 heave. 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 every one 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
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 sware 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.”