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will have their part in the lake of fire-which is the Second death.
To understand the grounds of this conteft is highly important. Mistakes here may be fatal. To affift the inquirer, the characters of conquerors and captives are drawn in the fcriptures. The verse of which the text is a part, mentions feveral 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, fhall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimftone; which is the fecond death.
IN the profecution of our fubject, only one of these general characters will be confidered-the fearful.
WHO then are intended by the fearful? And what is the fear which leads to deftruction?
FEARFUL, is a term feldom used to describe finners. 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 difpofes the subject of it to mind the things which belong to his peace, and flee to the hope fet before him in the gofpel. The fear of God is often used to defcribe the good man, and given as a leading trait in his character. It is noted in favor of Obadiah, the fervant of Ahab, that he "feared the Lord greatly."
To have no fear of God before one's eyes, is expreffive of great obduracy in fin; of the laft grade
of depravity. Yet in the text, the fearful, are mentioned as the firft rank of those who will have their part in the burning lake! What then is this fear?
Ir may be of feveral kinds; particularly-That which precludes truft in God, and reliance on his grace in Chrift-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 fhrinks from the hardships of religion.
I. 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 falvation. Where these are wanting Chrift will not profit. Faith and reliance are united. The latter is dependant on the former, and rifeth out of it. "He that cometh to God, muft believe that he is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently feek him."
THE fearful and unbelieving are here set together-the fearful and unbelieving fhall have their part-Perhaps they are thus joined to intimate that the fear intended precludes the faith to which the promises are made.
THE finner who is the subject of this fear hath so deep a sense of the finfulness 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 afk mercy of God. He would gladly flee the divine prefence, like the firft 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 fave him.
"CHRIST came not to call the righteous, but finners to repentance. He came to feck and fave that which was loft." To finners, To finners, mercy is offered in him. Were we without fin, we should have no need of mercy. If we flee from Chrift because we are finners, we flee the mercy which alone can fave 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 fecure in fin, is an old device of the deceiver, which hath probably often fucceeded.
ON fecure and awakened finners, different delufive arts are practifed. The former are perfuad. ed that fin 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 fame; that it is only to afk mercy, when we can fin no longer, and it will be immediately granted; fo that there is very little danger in fin. But those who are awakened-who fee the evil of fin, and tremble for fear of God's judgments, are tempted to believe that divine juftice will only be exercised, efpecially 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 fuch fuggeftion, the design of the tempter is to drive finners to def
pair, and thus drive them away from Chrift. If he avails to effect it, his end is gained; for there is falvation in no other.
It is emphatically true of the despairing finner, that he "cannot go to Chrift for life." All who go to him, believe him able and willing to fave. Devoid of this faith none can go to him. Therefore doth the fear which precludes faith lead down to ruin.
II. FEAR which operates to explain away the law of God, hath the fame effect.
THIS is fometimes the effect of fear. Those who believe that there is a God, and that the holy scriptures are his word, cannot feel fecure while they confider themselves condemned by his law, and view themselves as the objects of his wrath.
THEREFORE do the slaves of depravity endeavor to explain away God's law-therefore to persuade themselves that certain duties are not requiredthat certain felf denials are not enjoined; or that there is fomething in their particular case which exempts them from this or that, which is required of others.
THE Cunning which fome difcover in finding out excuses and evasions, by which to cheat themfelves and filence their confciences, is affecting. It fhews them to be the flaves of Satan, and fervants of corruption, and that they love their masters, and refuse to go out free, when liberty is of fered.
WHEN people of this defcription pretend to inquire what is their duty, their real design is to
evade the obligations of it. And they often fucceed to perfuade themselves that they are free from the obligations of it. But few others are deceived. The veil of the covering fpread over their designs and views, is opaque only to themfelves; to others it is tranfparent, and leaves them without excufe.
FREQUENT inftances of this unfairness are vifible in the world. When people make themselves eafy and secure, without "faith which works by love and purifies the heart-without repentance which mourns for fin as difhonorable to God, and in itself an evil thing, and a bitter, and without devotedness to the fervice of God, as well as a reliance on his grace in Christ, no matter what they substitute in the place of these graces, all is of no avail; hope is built on the fand. That many of these vain fubftitutes are to be found among men, Who is infenfible? When fear hath this effect, it leads down to the fiery lake.
III. SOMETIMES fear puts men upon duty in order to atone for fin and merit the divine favor. Afraid of God's judgments, they fet themselves to do com. manded duties, and place their dependance on these doings of their own.
DUTIES done by men have nothing meritorious in them. The design of many things which God hath enjoined is to serve as a schoolmafter to bring men to Chrift. None are intended to fave by any virtue in them. By nothing which man can do is God made his debtor, Neither doth ought