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Psalm 11 In Contrast to Psalm 10

Psalm 10:1-13 begins with the psalmist lamenting what I have lamented before myself, why do the wicked prosper while in their sins?  Why is it that the faithful slaves of Christ have to suffer while the sinners tend to live lives of carefree full of worldly joy?  Saints of God all over the world suffer for the name and cause of Christ while the wicked sit in places of honor and our culture glorifies the wicked and forsakes the righteous.  Our political leaders in the United States are corrupt while the righteous leaders are hard to find and often are hated by the media.

Why is this so?  I understand that people love the darkness instead of the light (John 3:19).  People do not love God.  People do not seek God.  People, in fact, hate God (Romans 3:10-18).  They have exchanged the truth of God for lies (Romans 1:25).  People do this wickedness for one reason:  because they love their sins (Romans 1:18).  Apart from the grace of God, none could be saved.  We would not want to be saved.  We would want to try to save ourselves, to earn our own righteousness (which is tainted by our selfishness).  We despise the Word of God.  We despise God’s sovereignty.  We despise His salvation.  We despise His Son.

Psalm 10:14-18 promises us that God does know.  God does notice.  He is not blind to the wicked.  He sees their sins.  It is by His mercy that the wicked are not dead now.  God, in His mercy, lets the wicked go forth in their sins.  God lets the wicked eat, sleep, breath His air, and enjoy His earth.  A time of judgment is coming but for now, God is merciful and is waiting for them to repent of their sins (2 Peter 3:9).

Psalm 11 is a contrast to Psalm 10.  Psalm 11 exalts the fact that God will judge.  The righteous need to trust in the LORD for He will judge in His perfect timing.  We can easily become defeated as we look around at the sin in our world, the fact that people love darkness instead of light.  We can lament that people are not seeking God.  We can lament that Romans 1:32 is true of our world.  We live in a wicked, evil, God-hating age.

But God will judge.  His judgment will come (Psalm 11:6).  God sees what is taking place in our wicked age (Psalm 11:4).  God surely hates the wicked (Psalm 11:5) but He loves the righteous (Psalm 11:7).  We who love Jesus Christ, who fear Him (Proverbs 16:6), we are loved by God!  We who love Jesus know that we are not righteous in our own good works (Ephesians 2:8-9) but we know that we righteous because of Christ alone (2 Corinthians 5:21).  We are righteous in Him (Romans 10:4) and we are living righteously because of Him (Titus 2:11-12; 1 John 3:7).  We understand that we love God because He has loved us first (1 John 4:10).

Now our pursuit, the righteous man’s pursuit, is to know Christ and to love Him more.  We prove this by obeying His commandments (John 14:15; 1 John 5:2-3).  Those who claim to love God but love their sins prove they are not His children (1 John 3:6-10).  Those who claim to love God prove their love by obedience to His Lordship (Matthew 7:21-27; Luke 6:46-49; 1 John 2:3-6).  We understand that our salvation, our righteousness is based on the Lord Jesus and our holiness comes from Him (Romans 6:11-14).  Because of what He has done for us, we strive for holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 1:15-16).

Psalm 11 gives the righteous the promise of judgment of the wicked to come.  We can trust that God will be just in His justice and He is merciful toward the wicked to bring them to repentance (Romans 2:4).  Jesus came to save the sinful (Luke 19:10) and we must admit that we too were once sinful as the wicked around us (Titus 3:1-7).  Thankfully the Lord was merciful toward us and He brought us to salvation by His grace.  Bless His name forever!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/22/2013 at 4:47 PM

People Desire To Suppress The Truth of God

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
– Romans 1:18

Scripture makes it clear that people love sin more than they love God (John 3:19-21).  Our desire is not to know God nor to love God nor to serve God or worship Him but our desire is to live our lives free from any restraints and to do whatever we desire whether it be to kill the baby inside of our women or to have lust for each other, people love darkness rather than light. People are by nature children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).  We are full of sin and lies (Romans 3:10-18).  The picture the Bible paints of us is not one of goodness and moral uprightness but sinfulness and utter depravity (Jude 8-16).

The fact is that we do know about God.  Scripture makes it clear that people can see evidence of God all around us in His creation (Psalm 19:1-6).  While creation is not sufficient to save us, it is sufficient to condemn us because we see His creation and yet we don’t seek after God (Romans 1:21) and instead we worship false gods of our creation (Romans 1:22-23).  The gods here in the United States are not trees or the Sun but instead we worship the gods of sports, sex, power, money, position, things, etc.  In the United States people tend to think that the amount of stuff you own equals success and happiness.  For many men it is sexual experiences with various women.  We have many gods in this nation.  But the one true and living God is the very one that we suppress.  We hate Him.  We hate His kingdom.  We hate His Son.  We hate His commandments.  We hate His judgments.  We hate His authority.  We hate His true Church.  We don’t love God.  We would kill Him if we could.

But the truth of God remains.  We may seek to suppress God’s truth through our sins.  We may try to suppress God’s truth through laws of the land that allow for sinning such as abortion on demand or homosexual “marriages” but the truth of God remains.  His laws will not change simply because people decide that God calls sinful will not be sinful anymore.  The truth of God will stand no matter what (Matthew 5:17-18).  God’s moral law will still judge all.  Only a perfect Redeemer could rescue us from the wrath of Almighty God who will judge justly (Genesis 18:25).  God’s wrath will come but for now, He has given us grace in the Son of God.  He has given us the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ.  Jesus alone is able to satisfy the just wrath of God against our sins.  Without Him, the wrath of God will be poured out upon our sinfulness.  An eternal hell demonstrates the depth of God’s holiness as to show us that our sins are not just mere violations but are criminal acts against God and His laws.  The righteous Judge will judge justly on that day (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10).  Our only hope is Jesus and His blood that was shed for our forgiveness (2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  Without Jesus, we are dead in our sins (John 15:1-11).  Without Jesus, we are blasphemers about to stand before the very One that we blasphemed.  Only a holy Savior can save us from the just wrath of God.

And that is the hope of the gospel.  I now have peace with God through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).  I cannot earn God’s forgiveness for my sins are too great and my desire is for sin.  The Son of God came to bear my sins and to take away the wrath of God against my sins.  Forgiveness only comes through Jesus Christ.  It does not come through a religion or through a religious organization but only through faith in the Son of God (Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-9).  Jesus came to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29) and He became, through the cross, our only hope for salvation (John 14:6).  Indeed, Jesus is the Savior of the world (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14) but He is only the Savior of those who appropriate His blood for our salvation (1 Timothy 4:10).  Without His blood, we are doomed (Hebrews 9:22, 27-28).  But by grace through faith in Jesus, we are saved from the penalty of sin and forgiven before God (Hebrews 8:12).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

02/19/2013 at 10:17 AM

Why Are Sinners Condemned?

All of salvation is a gift of God.  This is the position of many Calvinists.  No Arminian would disagree.  We firmly believe that salvation is the gracious work of Christ and that salvation is fully accomplished by God and for His glory.  The only “work” for the sinner is to believe the gospel (John 6:29) which Paul clearly shows in Romans 4:4-5 is not a work.  Here Paul the Apostle contrasts faith with works and shows that faith is the opposite of work.  To work for one’s salvation would nullify grace (Romans 11:6).  Faith is the full acceptance of the gracious work of God that He has given to us in Christ Jesus who finished the work of saving sinners through His sacrificial death on the cross (John 19:30).

However, why will people then be condemned at the judgment seat of Christ?  Will it be because they were not sovereignly chosen by God to be saved?  Will it be because they refused the gospel?  Will it be for the sins?  The answers to those questions are vital to our understanding of God, His nature, the purpose of the atonement, evangelism, discipleship, etc.  So let us work through these questions.

First, why are people condemned?  The obvious answer is sin.  It was the warning of Genesis 2:17 that brought death to the human race in our forefather Adam (Romans 5:12).  Adam was created with a sinful nature, without being depraved, yet he sinned against God.  He violated God’s holy law.  This brought condemnation to all and now all of Adam’s posterity is born with a sinful desire.  Arminius rightly saw this as total depravity.  Arminius wrote:

The whole of this sin, however, is not peculiar to our first parents, but is common to the entire race and to all their posterity, who, at the time when this sin was committed, were in their loins, and who have since descended from them by the natural mode of propagation, according to the primitive benediction. For in Adam “all have sinned.” (Rom. v, 12.) Wherefore, whatever punishment was brought down upon our first parents, has likewise pervaded and yet pursues all their posterity. So that all men “are by nature the children of wrath,” (Ephes. ii, 3,) obnoxious to condemnation, and to temporal as well as to eternal death; they are also devoid of that original righteousness and holiness. (Rom. v, 12, 18, 19.) With these evils they would remain oppressed forever, unless they were liberated by Christ Jesus; to whom be glory forever.

So people are condemned because of sin.  This is obvious.  Sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4).  Sin brings death (Romans 6:23) and sin only breeds more sin (Galatians 6:7-8).  James 1:14-15 (NKJV) tells us where sin comes from:

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

Jesus said that whoever sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34).  Ecclesiastes 7:20 says, “For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin.”  Romans 3:10-18 perfectly describes our condition before a holy God:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”
“Their throat is an open tomb;
With their tongues they have practiced deceit”;
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Destruction and misery are in their ways;
And the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

We sin because we are both sinful and we are sinful because we sin.  Condemnation comes because of sin.  The fact of Genesis 2:17 did not change.  Those who sin deserve death and the wages of sin is death.  People are condemned because of sin.  Paul writes in Galatians 5:19-21 about the works of the flesh and how such acts will keep us from the kingdom:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Notice that it is sin that will keep a person from the kingdom.  There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that the sovereignty of God will keep us from heaven or that God has decreed such.  The fact is that people are condemned because of sin.

The only remedy for sin is the precious blood of Jesus.  Hebrews 9:22 says, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”  Why?  Because God demands that the one who sins shall die (Genesis 2:17) and He requires blood to atone for sins (Leviticus 17:11).  Only the blood of Jesus can cleanse us from sin (Hebrews 9:28; 1 John 1:7).  The blood of Jesus was absolutely perfect and holy blood that had never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21).  The blood of Jesus is our only hope for salvation (Matthew 26:28; 1 Timothy 2:5-6).  The soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4).  Someone must die when someone sins.  Whether it be the Lamb of God, our substitute, our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7) or our own blood, someone must die.  The problem is that our blood is tainted with sin.  Jesus’ blood was not.  He stood condemned in our place, for our sins (Isaiah 53:4-6).  He died on the cross for our transgressions.  And not just ours but for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).  What a great sacrifice was the cross!  How unlimited is His atonement!

People then will stand before God at the final judgment and will be cast aside not because of election or reprobation but because of their own sins and their rejection of the truth.  Romans 1:18-32 establishes universal condemnation.  The necessity of the gospel and world evangelism are seen in the words of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8) and in the words of Paul in Romans 10:14-17.  The way for people to be saved is through the gospel.  We are under obligation to preach to all (2 Corinthians 5:18-6:3).  We must declare that Jesus alone can forgive sins by His blood.  And what brings condemnation is their own sins before a holy God and rejection of His truth (John 3:17-21).  No person will stand at the judgment and say that it was God’s decree that sent them to hell but their own sins.  They know that they are guilty before God (Romans 2:12-16).  Arminius stated, “The opposite to justification is condemnation, and this by an immediate contrariety, so that between these two no medium can be imagined.”  In other words, Arminius acknowledged that we are either justified through faith in Christ or we are condemned in our sins.  There is only one way to justification before God and that is in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).  He alone is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father but through Him (John 14:6; cf. Acts 4:12).

I believe, in closing, that the will of God is for all to be saved and He has demonstrated this in the giving of His Son (John 3:16).  I believe He takes no delight in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:32).  People will be condemned not because of God’s failure to provide His Son for their sins but their rejection of His gospel.  Through their own sins, their false worshiping and idolatry, they will stand before God and face condemnation.  The only hope is Jesus.  We must preach the gospel to all.  The gospel of Christ alone has the power to save those who believe (1 Corinthians 1:21; cf. Romans 1:16-17).  Our salvation will come only in Christ and what He has accomplished with His death on the cross and His glorious resurrection (Romans 4:24-5:1).  Arminius rightly said about men rejecting the gospel,

The accidental issue of vocation is, the rejection of the doctrine of grace, contempt of the divine counsel, and resistance manifested against the Holy Spirit, of which the proper and per se cause is, the wickedness and hardness of the human heart; and to this not unfrequently is added the just judgment of God, avenging the contempt shown to his word, from which arise blindness of mind, hardening of the heart, and a delivering up to a reprobate mind, and to the power of Satan.

But Arminius also noted that justification before God only comes through faith and with it comes blessings:

The object of justification is man, a sinner, acknowledging himself, with sorrow, to be such an one, and a believer, that is, believing in God who justifies the ungodly, and in Christ as having been delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification. As a sinner, man needs justification through grace, and, as a believer, he obtains justification through grace.

May we preach to all to come and be saved, to look to the Lord Jesus for salvation (John 3:14-15) and repent of their sins (Acts 17:30-31).  All can be forgiven and accepted in the chosen Son of God (Ephesians 1:7).

Written by The Seeking Disciple

12/12/2012 at 12:39 AM

>John Wesley’s Sermon on Hell (Part 3)

>It remains now only to consider two or three circumstances attending the never-dying worm and the unquenchable fire.

1. And, First, consider the company wherewith everyone is surrounded in that place of torment. It is not uncommon to hear even condemned criminals, in our public prisons, say, “O I wish I was hanged out of the way, rather than to be plagued with these wretches that are round about me!” But what are the most abandoned wretches upon earth, compared to the inhabitants of hell? None of these are, as yet, perfectly wicked, emptied of every spark of good; certainly not till this life is at an end; probably not till the day of judgment. Nor can any of these exert, without control, their whole wickedness on their fellow-creatures. Sometimes they are restrained by good men; sometimes even by bad. So even the tortures in the Romish Inquisition are restrained by those that employ them, when they suppose the sufferer cannot endure any more. They then order the executioners to forbear; because it is contrary to the rules of the house that a man should die upon the rack. And very frequently, when there is no human help, they are restrained by God, who hath set them their bounds which they cannot pass, and saith, “Hitherto shall ye come, and no farther.” Yea, so mercifully hath God ordained, that the very extremity of pain causes a suspension of it. The sufferer faints away; and so, for a time at least, sinks into insensibility. But the inhabitants of hell are perfectly wicked, having no spark of goodness remaining. And they are restrained by none from exerting to the uttermost their total wickedness. Not by men; none will be restrained from evil by his companions in damnation: And not by God; for He hath forgotten them, hath delivered them over to the tormentors. And the devils need not fear, like their instruments upon earth, lest they should expire under the torture. They can die no more: They are strong to sustain whatever the united malice, skill, and strength of angels can inflict upon them. And their angelic tormentors have time sufficient to vary their torments a thousand ways. How infinitely may they vary one single torment, — horrible appearances! Whereby, there is no doubt, an evil spirit, if permitted, could terrify the stoutest man upon earth to death.

2. Consider, Secondly, that all these torments of body and soul are without intermission. They have no respite from pain; but “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up day and night.” Day and night! that is, speaking according to the constitution of the present world; wherein God has wisely and graciously ordained that day and night should succeed each other: So that in every four and twenty hours there comes a

Daily sabbath, made to rest 
Toiling man and weary beast.

Hence we seldom undergo much labour, or suffer much pain, before

Tired nature’s sweet restorer, balmy sleep,

steals upon us by insensible degrees, and brings an interval of ease. But although the damned have uninterrupted night, it brings no interruption of their pain. No sleep accompanies that darkness: Whatever either ancient or modern poets, either Homer or Milton, dream, there is no sleep either in hell or heaven. And be their suffering ever so extreme, be their pain ever so intense, there is no possibility of their fainting away; no, not for a moment.

Again: The inhabitants of earth are frequently diverted from attending to what is afflictive, by the cheerful light of the sun, the vicissitudes of the seasons, “the busy hum of men,” and a thousand objects that roll around them with endless variety. But the inhabitants of hell have nothing to divert them from their torments, even for a moment:

Total eclipse: No sun, no moon!

No change of seasons, or of companions. There is no business; but one uninterrupted scene of horror, to which they must be all attention. They have no interval of inattention or stupidity: They are all eye, all ear, all sense. Every instant of their duration, it may be said of their whole frame, that they are

Tremblingly alive all o’er, 
And smart and agonize at every pore!

3. And of this duration there is no end! What a thought is this! Nothing but eternity is the term of their torment! And who can count the drops of rain, or the sands of the sea, or the days of eternity? Every suffering is softened, if there is any hope, though distant, of deliverance from it. But here, Hope never comes, that comes to all the inhabitants of the upper world! What! sufferings never to end!

NEVER! — Where sinks the soul at that dread sound? 
Into a gulf how dark, and how profound!

Suppose millions of days, of years, of ages elapsed, still we are only on the threshold of eternity! Neither the pain of body nor of soul is any nearer an end, than it was millions of ages ago. When they are cast into to pyr, to asbeston, (How emphatical! “The fire, the unquenchable”) all is concluded: “Their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched!”

Such is the account which the Judge of all gives of the punishment which he has ordained for impenitent sinners. And what a counterbalance may the consideration of this be to the violence of any temptation! In particular, to the fear of man; the very use to which it is applied by our Lord himself: “Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But fear Him, who after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell.” (Luke 12:4, 5)

What a guard may these considerations be against any temptation from pleasure! Will you lose, for any of these poor, earthly pleasures, which perish in the using, (to say nothing of the present substantial pleasures of religion) the pleasures of Paradise; such as “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into our hearts to conceive?” Yea, the pleasures of heaven, the society of angels, and of the spirits of just men made perfect; the conversing face to face with God your Father, your Saviour, your Sanctifier; and the drinking of those rivers of pleasure that are at God’s right hand for evermore?

Are you tempted by pain, either of body or mind? O compare present things with future! What is the pain of body which you do or may endure, to that of lying in a lake of fire burning with brimstone? What is any pain of mind; any fear, anguish, sorrow, compared to the “worm that never dieth?” That never dieth! This is the sting of all! As for our pains on earth, blessed be God, they are not eternal. There are some intervals to relieve and there is some period to finish them. When we ask a friend that is sick, how he does; “I am in pain now,” says he, “but I hope to be easy soon.” This is a sweet mitigation of the present uneasiness. But how dreadful would his case be if he should answer, “I am all over pain, and I shall never be eased of it. I lie under exquisite torment of body, and horror of soul; and I shall feel it for ever!” Such is the case of the damned sinners in hell. Suffer any pain, then, rather than come into that place of torment!

I conclude with one more reflection, taken from Dr. Watts, — “It demands our highest gratitude, that we who have long ago deserved this misery are not yet plunged into it. While there are thousands who have been adjudged to this place of punishment, before they had continued so long in sin as many of us have done, what an instance is it of divine goodness, that we are not under this fiery vengeance! Have we not seen many sinners, on our right and left, cut off in their sins? And what but the tender mercy of God hath spared us week after week, month after month, and given us space for repentance? What shall we render unto the Lord for all his patience and longsuffering even to this day? How often have we incurred the sentence of condemnation by our repeated rebellion against God! And yet we are still alive in his presence, and are hearing the words of hope and salvation. O let us look back and shudder at the thoughts of that dreadful precipice, on the edge of which we have so long wandered! Let us fly for refuge to the hope that is set before us, and give a thousand thanks to the divine mercy, that we are not plunged into this perdition!”

Note: In light of the coming controversy over eternal punishment, I wanted us to hear from a great Arminian such as John Wesley about hell.  We must adhere to sound doctrine (Titus 2:1) and not embrace the spirit of our age.  I pray that reformation Arminianism will continue and that we will abide faithfully to the inerrant Word of the living and true God.  

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/10/2011 at 1:11 PM

>John Wesley’s Sermon on Hell (Part 2)

>1. From the time that sentence was pronounced upon man, “Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,” it was the custom of all nations, so far as we can learn, to commit dust to dust: It seemed natural to restore the bodies of the dead to the general mother, earth. But in process of time another method obtained, chiefly among the rich and great, of burning the bodies of their relations, and frequently in a grand magnificent manner; for which purpose they erected huge funeral piles, with immense labour and expense. By either of these methods the body of man was soon restored to its parent dust. Either the worm or the fire soon consumed the well-wrought frame; after which the worm itself quickly died, and the fire was entirely quenched. But there is, likewise, a worm that belongs to the future state; and that is a worm that never dieth! And there is a fire hotter than that of the funeral pile; and it is a fire that will never be quenched!

2. The First thing intended by the worm that never dieth, seems to be a guilty conscience; including self-condemnation, sorrow, shame, remorse, and a sense of the wrath of God. May not we have some conception of this, by what is sometimes felt even in the present world? Is it not of this, chiefly, that Solomon speaks, when he says, “The spirit of a man may bear his infirmities;” his infirmities, or griefs, of any other kind; “but a wounded spirit who can bear?” Who can bear the anguish of an awakened conscience, penetrated with a sense of guilt, and the arrows of the Almighty sticking in the soul, and drinking up the spirit? How many of the stout-hearted have sunk under it, and chose strangling rather than life! And yet what are these wounds, what is all this anguish of a soul while in this present world, in comparison of those they must suffer when their souls are wholly awakened to feel the wrath of an offended God! Add to these all unholy passions; fear, horror, rage; evil desires; desires that can never be satisfied. Add all unholy tempers; envy, jealousy, malice, and revenge; all of which will incessantly gnaw the soul, as the vulture was supposed to do the liver of Tityus. To these if we add hatred of God, and all his creatures; all these united together may serve to give us some little, imperfect idea of the worm that never dieth.

3. We may observe a remarkable difference in the manner wherein our Lord speaks concerning the two parts of the future punishment. He says, “Where their worm dieth not,” of the one; “where the fire is not quenched,” of the other. This cannot be by chance. What then is the reason for this variation of the expression?

Does it not seem to be this? The fire will be the same, essentially the same, to all that are tormented therein; only perhaps more intense to some than others, according to their degree of guilt; but their worm will not, cannot be the same. It will be infinitely varied, according to the various kinds, as well as degrees, of wickedness. This variety will arise partly from the just judgment of God, “rewarding every man according to his works:” For we cannot doubt but this rule will take place no less in hell than in heaven. As in heaven “every man will receive his own reward,” incommunicably his, according to his own labours, — that is, the whole tenor of his tempers, thoughts, words, and actions; — so undoubtedly, every man, in fact, will receive his own bad reward, according to his own bad labour. And this, likewise, will be incommunicably his own, even as his labour was. Variety of punishment will likewise arise from the very nature of the thing. As they that bring most holiness to heaven will find most happiness there; so, on the other hand, it is not only true, that the more wickedness a man brings to hell the more misery he will find there; but that this misery will be infinitely varied according to the various kinds of his wickedness. It was therefore proper to say, the fire, in general; but their worm, in particular.

4. But it has been questioned by some, whether there be any fire in hell; that is, any material fire. Nay, if there be any fire, it is unquestionably material. For what is immaterial fire? The same as immaterial water or earth! Both the one and the other is absolute nonsense, a contradiction in terms. Either, therefore, we must affirm it to be material, or we deny its existence. But if we granted them, there is no fire at all there, what would they gain thereby? seeing this is allowed, on all hands, that it is either fire or something worse. And consider this: Does not our Lord speak as if it were real fire? No one can deny or doubt of this. Is it possible then to suppose that the God of truth would speak in this manner if it were not so? Does he design to fright his poor creatures? What, with scarecrows? With vain shadows of things that have no being? O let not anyone think so! Impute not such folly to the Most High!

5. But others aver, “It is not possible that fire should burn always. For by the immutable law of nature, it consumes whatever is thrown into it. And by the same law, as soon as it has consumed its fuel, it is itself consumed; it goes out.”

It is most true, that in the present constitution of things, during the present laws of nature, the element of fire does dissolve and consume whatever is thrown into it. But here is the mistake: The present laws of nature are not immutable. When the heavens and the earth shall flee away, the present scene will be totally changed; and, with the present constitution of things, the present laws of nature will cease. After this great change, nothing will be dissolved, nothing will be consumed any more. Therefore, if it were true that fire consumes all things now, it would not follow that it would do the same after the whole frame of nature has undergone that vast, universal change.

6. I say, If it were true that “fire consumes all things now.” But, indeed, it is not true. Has it not pleased God to give us already some proof of what will be hereafter? Is not the Linum Asbestum, the incombustible flax, known in most parts of Europe? If you take a towel or handkerchief made of this, (one of which may now be seen in the British Museum) you may throw it into the hottest fire, and when it is taken out again, it will be observed, upon the nicest experiment, not to have lost one grain of its weight. Here, therefore, is a substance before our eyes, which, even in the present constitution of things, (as if it were an emblem of things to come) may remain in fire without being consumed.

7. Many writers have spoken of other bodily torments, added to the being cast into the lake of fire. One of these, even pious Kempis, supposes that misers, for instance, have melted gold poured down their throats; and he supposes many other particular torments to be suited to men’s particular sins. Nay, our great poet himself supposes the inhabitants of hell to undergo a variety of tortures; not to continue always in the lake of fire, but to be frequently,

By harpy-footed furies, haled

into regions of ice; and then back again through extremes, by change more fierce: But I find no word, no tittle of this, not the least hint of it in all the Bible. And surely this is too awful a subject to admit of such play of imagination. Let us keep to the written word. It is torment enough to dwell with everlasting burnings.

8. This is strongly illustrated by a fabulous story, taken from one of the eastern writers, concerning a Turkish King, who, after he had been guilty of all manner of wickedness, once did a good thing: For seeing a poor man falling into a pit, wherein he must have inevitably perished, and kicking him from it, he saved his life. The story adds, that when, for his enormous wickedness, he was cast into hell, that foot wherewith he had saved the man’s life was permitted to lie out of the flames. But allowing this to be a real case, what a poor comfort would it be! What, if both feet were permitted to lie out of the flames, yea, and both hands, how little would it avail! Nay, if all the body were taken out, and placed where no fire touched it, and only one hand or one foot kept in a burning fiery furnace; would the man, meantime, be much at ease? Nay, quite the contrary. Is it not common to say to a child, “Put your finger into that candle: Can you bear it even for one minute? How then will you bear hell-fire?” Surely it would be torment enough to have the flesh burnt off from only one finger. What then will it be, to have the whole body plunged into a lake of fire burning with brimstone!

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/09/2011 at 1:10 PM

>John Wesley’s Sermon on Hell (Part 1)

>”Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Mark 9:48 KJV

I. Let us consider the paena damni, — “the punishment of loss.”

II. We will then consieder the paena sensus, — “the punishment of what one feels.”

III. I shall touch on a few additional circumstances, and conclude with two or three inferences.

1. Every truth which is revealed in the oracles of God is undoubtedly of great importance. Yet it may be allowed that some of those which are revealed therein are of greater importance than others, as being more immediately conducive to the grand end of all, the eternal salvation of men. And we may judge of their importance even from this circumstance, — that they are not mentioned once only in the sacred writings, but are repeated over and over. A remarkable instance of this we have with regard to the awful truth which is now before us. Our blessed Lord, who uses no superfluous words, who makes no “vain repetitions,” repeats it over and over in the same chapter, and as it were, in the same breath. So, (Mark 9:43-44 KJV) “If thy hand offend thee,” — if a thing or person, as useful as a hand, be an occasion of sin, and there is no other way to shun that sin, — “cut it off: It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” So again, (Mark 9:45-46 KJV) “If thy foot offend thee, cut it off: It is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” And yet again, (Mark 9:47-48 KJV) “If thine eye” — a person or thing as dear as thine eye — “offend thee,” — hinder thy running the race which is set before thee, — “pluck it out : It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell-fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”

2. And let it not be thought, that the consideration of these terrible truths is proper only for enormous sinners. How is this supposition consistent with what our Lord speaks to those who were then, doubtless, the holiest men upon earth? “When innumerable multitudes were gathered together, he said to his disciples” (the Apostles) “first of all, I say unto you, my friends, Fear not them that can kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I say unto you, Fear him, who after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.” (Luke 12:1-5 KJV) Yea, fear him under this very notion, — of having power to cast into hell: That is, in effect, fear lest he should cast you into the place of torment. And this very fear, even in the children of God, is one excellent means of preserving them from it.

3. It behoves, therefore not only the outcasts of men, but even you, his friends, you that fear and love God, deeply to consider what is revealed in the oracles of God concerning the future state of punishment. How widely distant is this from the most elaborate accounts which are given by the heathen authors! Their accounts are (in many particulars at least) childish, fanciful, and self-inconsistent. So that it is no wonder they did not believe themselves, but only related the tales of the vulgar. So Virgil strongly intimates, when, after the laboured account he had given of the shades beneath, he sends him that had related it out at the ivory gate, through which (as he tells us) only dreams pass; thereby giving us to know that all the preceding account is no more than a dream. This he only insinuates; but his brother poet, Juvenal, speaks out flat and plain, —

Esse aliquos manes, et subterranea regna, 
Nec pueri credunt, nisi qui nondum aere lavantur:
“Even our children do not believe a word of the tales concerning another world.”

4. Here, on the contrary, all is worthy of God, the Creator, the Governor of mankind. All is awful and solemn; suitable to his wisdom and justice by whom “Tophet was ordained of old;” although originally prepared, not for the children of men, but “for the devil and his angels.”

I. The punishment of those who, in spite of all the warnings of God, resolve to have their portion with the devil and his angels, will, according to the ancient and not improper division, be either paena damni, — “what they lose;” or

II. paena sensus, — “what they feel.”

III. After considering these separately, I shall touch on a few additional circumstances, and conclude with two or three inferences.


1. And, First, let us consider the paena damni, — “the punishment of loss.” This commences in that very moment wherein the soul is separated from the body; in that instant, the soul loses all those pleasures, the enjoyment of which depends on the outward senses. The smell, the taste, the touch, delight no more: The organs that ministered to them are spoiled, and the objects that used to gratify them are removed far away. In the dreary regions of the dead all these things are forgotten; or, if remembered, are only remembered with pain; seeing they are gone for ever. All the pleasures of the imagination are at an end. There is no grandeur in the infernal regions; there is nothing beautiful in those dark abodes; no light but that of livid flames. And nothing new, but one unvaried scene of horror upon horror! There is no music but that of groans and shrieks; of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth; of curses and blasphemies against God, or cutting reproaches of one another. Nor is there anything to gratify the sense of honour: No; they are the heirs of shame and everlasting contempt.

2. Thus are they totally separated from all the things they were fond of in the present world. At the same instant will commence another loss, — that of all the persons whom they loved. They are torn away from their nearest and dearest relations; their wives, husbands, parents, children; and (what to some will be worse than all this) the friend which was as their own soul. All the pleasure they ever enjoyed in these is lost, gone, vanished away: For there is no friendship in hell. Even the poet who affirms, (though I know not on what authority)

Devil with devil damn’d
Firm concord holds,

does not affirm that there is any concord among the human fiends that inhabit the great abyss.

3. But they will then be sensible of a greater loss than that of all they enjoyed on earth. They have lost their place in Abraham’s bosom, in the paradise of God. Hitherto, indeed, it hath not entered into their hearts to conceive what holy souls enjoy in the garden of God, in the society of angels, and of the wisest and best men that have lived from the beginning of the world; (not to mention the immense increase of knowledge which they will then undoubtedly receive) but they will then fully understand the value of what they have vilely cast away.

4. But as happy as the souls in paradise are, they are preparing for far greater happiness. For paradise is only the porch of heaven; and it is there the spirits of just men are made perfect. It is in heaven only that there is the fulness of joy; the pleasures that are at God’s right hand for evermore. The loss of this, by those unhappy spirits, will be the completion of their misery. They will then know and feel, that God alone is the centre of all created spirits; and, consequently, that a spirit made for God can have no rest out of him. It seems that the Apostle had this in his view when he spoke of those “who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” Banishment from the presence of the Lord is the very essence of destruction to a spirit that was made for God. And if that banishment lasts for ever, it is “everlasting destruction.”

Such is the loss sustained by those miserable creatures, on whom that awful sentence will be pronounced: “Depart from me, ye cursed!” What an unspeakable curse, if there were no other! But, alas! This is far from being the whole: For, to the punishment of loss, will be added the punishment of sense. What they lose implies unspeakable misery, which yet is inferior to what they feel. This it is which our Lord expresses in those emphatical words: “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”

Written by The Seeking Disciple

03/08/2011 at 2:07 PM

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