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The fearful-shall have their part in the lake which burneth
with fire and brimstone; which is the second death. THE terms on which only we can be Christ's disciples are laid before us in the Scriptures, and we are counselled to consider them before we en
gage to be his.
Though Christ was born to be a king, his kingdom is not of this world. He doth not persuade men with the prospect of great things here; but on the contrary warns his followers, that “in this world they shall have tribulation;" pointing them to another, as the place of their rest, and teaching them there to expect the reward of their labors and suffering here. And here the saints in every age, have " groaned, being burdened. Had God provided nothing better for them, he would be aIhamed to be called their God.
The primitive Christians drank largely of the bitter cup. All the apostles, except John, are said to bave sealed their testimony with their blood. John at an advanced age, died peaceably in his bed at Ephesus. But he did not escape perfecution here. When the revelation was made to him, he was in exile “ for the word of God and for the testimony of Jesus. For his consolation, and for the edification of the church, he was vịfted in his lonely state, by the exalted Redeemer, who unveil. ed futurity before him, briefly sketching the changes which were to pass over his people till the consummation of all things. The vision closed with the folemn, dreadful process of the great day, and its consequences to the righteous and to the wicked!
The divine visitant enlarged on the glories of the heavenly state beyond any of the prophets who had gone before. The description is clothed in figurative language, affording only a partial view of “the glory which is to be revealed;" fufficient however to convince us, that "eye hath not seen, ear heard, or the’heart of man conceived the things which God hath prepared for those who love him.”
But who will be made to possess these glorious things ? They are offered to all who hear the found of the gospel ; but conquering believers will only attain them. Their contrast will be the portion of others.
This life is a warfare, in which we are called to contend with our own corruptions and with the powers of darkness" He that overcometh shall inherit all things :" But those who are oyercome,
will have their part in the lake of fire-which is the second death.
To understand the grounds of this contest is highly important. Mistakes here may be fatal. To aslift the inquirer, the characters of conquerors and captives are drawn in the scriptures. The verse of which the text is a part, mentions several general characters of the latter kind, and determines their future portion—The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and forcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone ; which is the second death.
In the prosecution of our subject, only one of these general characters will be considered-the fearful.
Who then are intended by the fearful ? And what is the fear which leads to destruction ? FEARFUL, is a term seldom used to describe sin
It occurs, we believe, in no other scripture. Every kind of fear is not finful ; much less incon. fiftent with a state of grace.
" The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom"-it disposes the subject of it to mind the things which belong to his peace, and flee to the hope set before him in the gospel. The fear of God is often used to describe the good man, and given as a leading trait in his character. It is noted in favor of Obadiah, the servant of Ahab, that he “ feared the Lord greatly."
To have no fear of God before one's eyes, is expressive of great obduracy in fin; of the last grade
of depravity. Yet in the text, the fearful, are mentioned as the first rank of those who will have their part in the burning lake! What then is this fear? IT may
be of several kinds; particularly—That which precludes trust in God, and reliance on his grace in Christ—that which operates to explain away the law of God—that which puts men upon duty in order to atone for fin—and that which shrinks from the hardships of religion.
1. The fear which leads down to the lake of fire, may be that which precludes truft in God and reliance on his grace in Chrift.
. Faith in Chrift, and reliance on divine grace in him, are conditions of salvation. Where these are wanting Christ will not profit. Faith and reliance are united. The latter is dependant on the former, and riseth out of it. • He that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”
The fearful and unbelieving are here set together-the fearful and unbelieving shall have their part--Perhaps they are thus joined to intimate that the fear intended precludes the faith to which the promises are made.
The Ginner who is the subject of this fear hath so deep a sense of the sinfulness of fin, especially of his own, that he is afraid to make God his hope -afraid to look up to the throne of grace, or to ask mercy of God. He would gladly flee the divine presence, like the first guilty pair, when they heard the voice of God walking in the garden af.
ter their fall. When fear hath this effect, it drives the finner from the mercy which alone can save him.
“ Christ came not to call the righteous, but finners to repentance. He came to seek and save that which was lost." To finners, mercy is offered in him. Were we without sin, we should have no need of mercy. If we flee from Christ because we are finners, we flee the mercy which alone can save us, and put offered falvation from us ; for it is offered us only in him. To drive finners away from the Savior by fear, when he can hold them no longer secure in sin, is an old device of the deceiver, which hath probably often succeeded.
ON secure and awakened finners, different de. lusive arts are practised. The former are persuad. ed that sin is a trivial evil, far from meriting eter. nal punishment ; that God is not greatly offended at it ; that it is easy to obtain forgiveness ; that as we are required to forgive every offender who faith, I repent, God will do the same; that it is only to ask mercy, when we can sin no longer, and it will be immediately granted ; so that there is very little danger in fin. But those who are awakened-who see the evil of fin, and tremble for fear of God's judgments, are tempted to believe that divine justice will only be exercised, especially toward them- that their fins are unpardonable ; their day of grace ended, and that they have nothing before them but " a certain fearful looking for of judgment.” In such suggestion, the design of the tempter is to drive finners to def