T H E
By J O H N.B U N Y A N,
A Servant of the Lord's Christ.
Written from Bedford Prison.
THE JUDGMENT OF THE WICKED.
hen every one is thus set in his proper place, the Judge on his throne, with his attendants, and the prisoners coming up to judgment, forthwith there shall issue forth a mighty fire and tempest from before the throne, which shall compass it round about; which fire, shall be as bars and bounds to the wicked, to keep them at a certain distance from the heavenly Majesty. As David saith, "Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him" (Psa 50:3). And again, "His throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him;" &c. (Dan 7:9,10).
This preparation being made, to wit, the Judge with his attendants, on the throne; the bar for the prisoners, and the rebels all standing with ghastly jaws, to look of what comes after: presently the books are brought forth, to wit, the books both of death and life; and every one of them opened before the sinners, now to be judged and condemned. For after that he had said before, "A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him": he adds, "Thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the book was opened" (Dan 7:10). And again, "I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" (Rev 20:11,12).
He doth not say, the book was opened, as of one, but the books, as of many. And indeed, they are more than one, two, or three, out of which the dead shall in the judgment be proceeded against.
First then, there is the book of the creatures to be opened. Second, The book of God's remembrance. Third, The book of the law. And fourth, the book of life. For by every one of these, that is, out of what is written in them, shall the world of the ungodly be judged.
"And the books were opened."
First, The book of the creatures shall be opened, and that first, it concerns man's nature; and next, as it relates to all other creatures.
I. He will shew in what the principles of nature were, as they were God's creation; and how contrary to these principles, the world have walked, acted, and done. The principles of nature are concluded under three general heads.
1. That man by his own natural reason and judgment may gather, that there is a God, a Deity, a chief, or first, or principal Being, who is over all, and supreme above all. This instinct, I say, man merely as he is a rational creature findeth in himself; and hence it is, that all heathens that mind their own natural reason, do conclude, that we are his offspring; that is, His creation and workmanship. That He made heaven and earth, and hath made of one blood, all nations of men; that "in him we live, and move, and have our being;" &c. (Acts 17:24-29).
It appears further, that man by his own nature, doth know that there is such a God.
(1.) By his being able to judge by nature, that there is such a thing as sin; as Christ saith, "Why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?" (Luke 12:57). As if he had said, You are degenerated even from the principles of nature, and right reason; as Paul saith in another place, "Doth not even nature itself teach you?" (1 Cor 11:14). Now he that can judge, that there is such a thing as sin, it must of necessity be, that he understandeth that there is a God, to whom sin is opposite; for if there be no God, there is no sin against him; and he that knows not the one, knows not the other.
(2.) It is evident further, that man by nature knows that there is a God, by those fits of fear, and dread that are often begotten in themselves, even in every man that breatheth in this world; for they are by their own consciences, and thoughts, convicted and reproved, judged and condemned, though they know neither Moses nor Christ—For the Gentiles which have not the law, these are a law to themselves, and shew the work of the law written in their hearts (Rom 2:14,15)—that is, by this very thing, they hold forth to all men, that God created them in that state and quality, that they might in and by their own nature, judge and know that there is a God. And it further sheweth itself, saith he, by those workings of heart, convictions of conscience, and accusations, that every thought maketh within them, together with the fear that is begotten in them, when they transgress, or do those things that are irrational, or contrary to what they see they shall do. I might add further, that the natural proneness that is in all men to devotion and religion, that is, of one kind or another, doth clearly tell us, that they by the book of nature, which book is themselves, do read that there is one great and eternal God.
2. The second principle of nature is, that this God should by man be sought after, that they might enjoy communion with him for ever. As I said before, the light of nature sheweth man, that there is a great God, even God that made the world; and the end of its shewing him this is, that "they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us" (Acts 17:27).
3. This light of nature teacheth, that men between themselves, should do that which is just and equal. As Moses said, and that long before the law was given, "Sirs, ye are brethren, why do ye wrong one another?" (Acts 7:26; Exo 2:13). as who should say, You are of equal creation, you are the same flesh; you both judge, that it is not equally done of any, to do you wrong, and therefore ought to judge by the same reason, that ye ought not to wrong one another.
Now against every one of these three principles, hath every man in the whole world transgressed; as Paul saith, "For both Jews and Gentiles - - are all under sin" (Rom 3:9). For as touching the first, (1.) who is he that hath honoured, reverenced, worshipped, and adored the living God, to the height, both of what they saw in him, and also according to the goodness and mercy they have as men received from him? All have served and worshipped the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever (Rom 1:25), and so have walked contrary to, and have sinned against, this bond of nature, in this first principle of it.
(2.) Men, instead of minding their own future happiness, as nature teacheth, they have, through their giving way to sin and Satan, minded nothing less; for though reason teacheth all men to love that which is good and profitable, yet they, contrary to this, have loved that which is hurtful and destructive. Yea, though sense teacheth to avoid the danger that is manifest; yet man, contrary to reason and sense both, even all men, have both against light and feeling, rejected their own happiness; as Paul saith, "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them" (Rom 1:31).
(3.) Man, instead of doing equity, and as he would be done by, which nature itself teacheth: he hath given up himself to vile affections, being filled, by refusing the dictates of nature, "with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant- breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful" (Rom 1:29-31).
And observe it, he doth not say, that all these things are by every man put into practice; but every man hath all these in his heart, which there defile the soul, and make it abominable in the sight of God. They are filled with all unrighteousness, which also appears, as occasion serveth, sometimes one of them, sometimes more. Now, man having sinned against that natural light, judgment, reason, and conscience, that God hath given him; therefore, though as I said before, he neither knew Moses nor Christ, yet he shall perish. "As many," saith Paul, "as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law" (Rom 2:12).
Yea, here will man be found not only a sinner against God, but an opposer of himself, a contradictor of his own nature, and one that will not do that which he judgeth even of himself to be right (2 Tim 2:25). Their sin is written upon the tables of their own heart (Jer 17:1), and their own wickedness and backsliding shall both correct and reprove them (Jer 2:19).
It is marvellous, if we consider, how curious a creature man was made of God; to behold how much below, besides, and against that state and place, man acts and does in this state of sin and degeneracy. Man in his creation was made in the image of God (Gen 1:26), but man, by reason of his yielding to the tempter, hath made himself the very figure and image of the devil. Man by creation was made upright and sinless; but man by sin, hath made himself crooked and sinful (Eccl 7:29). Man by creation had all the faculties of his soul at liberty to study God his creator, and his glorious attributes and being; but man by sin, hath so bound up his own senses and reason; and hath given way for blindness and ignorance of God, so to reign in his soul; that now he is captivated and held bound in alienation and estrangedness both from God, and all things truly spiritually good; "Because," saith he, "that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, - - but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened" (Rom 1:21). And again, "Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts" (Eph 4:18).
Now, for this abuse of the workmanship of God, shall man be brought forth to the judgment, shall be convicted, cast, and condemned as a rebel, against both God and his own soul, as Paul affirmeth, and that when he reasoned but as a man (Rom 3:5,6).
When this part of the book touching man's nature is opened, and man convicted and cast by it, by reason of his sinning against the three general principles thereof:
II. Then forthwith is the second part of the book opened, which is the mystery of the creatures; for the whole creation, that is before thee, are not only made to shew the power of God in themselves; but also to teach thee, and to preach unto thee, both much of God and thyself; as also the righteousness, and justice of God against sin; "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse" (Rom 1:18-20).
1. The creation then of the world, namely, of the heavens, earth, sun, moon, stars, with all other the creatures of God: they preach aloud to all men, the eternal power and Godhead of their Creator (Psa 8:3). In wisdom he hath made them all (Psa 104:24): to be teachable, and carrying instruction in them; and he that is wise, and will understand these things, even he shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord; for "the works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein" (Psa 107; 111:2).
2. As the creation in general preacheth to every man something of God; so they do hold forth, how man should behave himself both to God, and one to another; and will assuredly come in, in the judgment, against all those that shall be found crossers, and thwarters of what God by the creatures doth hold forth to us.
(1.) As First, The obedience of the creatures, both to God and thee. (a.) To God, they are all in subjection (set devils and men aside) even the very dragons, and all deeps, fire, hail, snow, and vapours (Psa 148:7,8), fulfilling his word. Yea, the winds and seas obey him (Mark 4:41). Thus, I say, by their obedience to God they teach thee obedience, and by their obedience shall thy disobedience be condemned in the judgment (Psa 147:15-18). (b.) Their obedience to thee, also teacheth thee obedience to all superiors; for every kind of beasts, and of birds, and serpents, and things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed, and brought into obedience by mankind. Man only remains untamed and unruly, and therefore by these is condemned (James 3:7,8).
(2.) The fruitfulness of all the creatures in their kind, doth teach and admonish thee to a fruitful life to Godward, and in the things of his holy word. God did but say in the beginning, Let the earth bring forth fruit, grass, herbs, trees, beasts, creeping things, and cattle after their kind; and it was so (Gen 1:24). But to man, he hath sent his prophets, rising early, and sending them, saying, "O do not this abominable thing that I hate" (Jer 44:4). but they will not obey. For if the Gentiles, which have not the law, do, by some acts of obedience, condemn the wickedness of those who do by the letter and circumcision, break the law: how much more shall the fruitfulness of all the creatures come in, in the judgment, against the whole world! As Job saith, By the obedience and fruitfulness of the creatures he judgeth, and so will judge, the people (Job 36:27-32).
(3.) The knowledge and wisdom of the creatures, do with a check, command thee to be wise, and do teach thee wisdom. The stork in the heaven, the swallow and the crane, by observing the time and season of their coming, do admonish thee to learn the time of grace, and of the mercy of God (Jer 8:7). The ox and the ass, by the knowledge they have of their master's crib, do admonish thee to know the bread and table of God, and both do and shall condemn thy ignorance of the food of heaven (Isa 1:3).
(4.) The labour and toil of the creatures doth convict thee of sloth and idleness. "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise;" for she provideth her food in the summer, and layeth up against the day of trial (Prov 6:6,7). But thou spendest the whole summer of thy life in wasting both time and soul. All things are full of labour, saith Solomon (Eccl 1:8), only man spendeth all the day idle (Matt 20:6), and his years like a tale that is told (Psa 90:9; Rom 10:21). The coney is but a feeble folk, yet laboureth for a house in the rock, to be safe from the rage of the hunter (Prov 30:26).
The spider also, taketh hold with her hands, and is in king's palaces (Prov 30:28). It is man only that turneth himself upon the bed of sloth, as the door doth itself upon the hinges. 'Tis man, I say, that will neither lay hold on the rock Christ, as the coney doth teach, nor lay hold on the kingdom of heaven, as the spider doth bid him (John 5:40).
(5.) The fear that is in all creatures, when they perceive that danger is near, it teacheth men to fly from the wrath to come, "In vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird" (Prov 1:17), but man, man only is the fool-hardy creature, that lieth wait for his own blood, and that lurketh privily for his own life. How I say, will every creature fly, run, strive, and struggle to escape the danger it is sensible of! 'Tis man only that delighteth to dance about the mouth of hell, and to be knowingly smitten with Satan's snare (Rom 1:32).
(6.) The dependence that all the creatures have upon God; they teach thee to depend on him that made thee; yea, and will in the judgment condemn thee for thy unlawful practices, and dealings for thy preservation. The young ravens seek their food from God (Psa 147:9; Job 38:41), and will condemn thy lying, cheating, overreaching, defrauding, and the like. They provide neither storehouse, nor barn (Luke 12:24); but thou art so greedy of these things, that thou for them shuttest thyself out of the kingdom of heaven (Prov 17:16).
(7.) The love and pity that is in their hearts to their young, and one another: will judge and condemn the hard-heartedness that is in thee to thy own soul. What shall I say? "The heaven shall reveal his iniquity; and the earth shall rise up against him" (Job 20:27). That is, all the creatures of God, they will, by their fruitfulness and subjection to the will of their Creator, judge and condemn thee for thy disobedience, and rebellion against him.
3. Now, as these creatures do every day call unto thee, and lay before thee these things: so he hath for thy awakening, in case thou be asleep, and senseless, creatures of another nature; as,
(1.) Thy bed, when thou liest down in it, preacheth to thee thy grave; thy sleep, thy death; and thy rising in the morning, thy resurrection to judgment (Job 14:12; 17:13; Isa 26:19).
(2.) The jail that thou seest with thine eyes, and the felons that look out at the grate, they put thee in mind of the prison of hell, and of the dreadful state of those that are there (Luke 12:58,59).
(3.) The fire that burns in thy chimney, it holds forth the fire of hell unto thee (Isa 10:16; Rev 20:14).
(4.) The ugly smell, stench, and steam, of the burning brimstone, it shews thee the loathsome, odious, and dreadful torments of hell (Rev 19:20).
(5.) The darkness of the night in solitary places, and the fears that do commonly haunt those that walk therein: it preacheth to thee the fears and frights, the scares and amazements, that will for ever attend all damned souls (Matt 8:12; Deu 28:65-67).
(6.) By thy delighting, when thou art cold, to lay sticks on the fire to warm thyself, not caring how fiercely they flame therein, so thou canst be warm and be refreshed thereby, by this, I say, God preacheth to thee, with what delight he will burn sinners in the flames of hell, for the easing of his mind, and the satisfaction of his justice. "Ah," saith he, "I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies" (Isa 1:24).
(4.) Yea, by thy blowing the fire, that it may fasten upon the wood the better; thou preachest to thyself how God will blow the fire of hell by the rigour of his law, to the end, it may by its flames, to purpose, kindle upon damned sinners (Isa 30:33).
All these things, as inconsiderable and unlikely as they may appear to you now, yet in the judgment will be found the items, and warning words of God to your souls. And know, that he who could overthrow the land of Egypt with frogs, lice, flies, locusts, &c., will overthrow the world, at the last day, by the book of the creatures; and that by the least and most inconsiderable of them, as well as by the rest. This book of the creatures, it is so excellent, and so full, so easy, and so suiting the capacity of all, that there is not one man in the world but is catched, convicted, and cast by it. This is the book, that he who knows no letters may read in; yea, and that he who neither saw New Testament, nor Old, may know both much of God, and himself by. 'Tis this book, out of which generally, both Job and his friends did so profoundly discourse of the judgments of God; and that out of which God himself did so convincingly answer Job. Job was as perfect in this book, as we are, many of us in the scriptures; yea, and could see further by it, than many now adays do see by the New Testament and Old. This is the book out of which, both Christ, the prophets, and apostles, do so frequently discourse by their similitudes, proverbs, and parables, as being the most easy way to convince the world, though by reason of their ignorance, nothing will work with them, but what is set on their heart by the Holy Ghost.
One word further, and I have done with this, and that is, God hath sealed the judgment of the world by the book of the creatures; even by man's own carriage unto such of them, which, through any impediment, have disappointed his expectations. As thus: if thou hast but a tree in thy orchard, that neither beareth fruit, nor aught else that is good; why, thou art for hewing it down, and for appointing it, as fuel for the fire. Now thou little thinkest that by thy thus judging thou shouldst pass sentence upon thy own fruitless soul; but it is so; "And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees, therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." For as truly as thou sayest of thy fruitless tree, Cut it down, why doth it cumber the ground? so truly doth thy voice cause heaven to echo again upon thy head, Cut him down; why doth he cumber the ground? (Matt 3:10; Luke 13:6-8; Eze 15:1-6).
Further, the inclination of thy heart towards fruitless and unprofitable creatures, doth fore-preach to thee, the inclination of the heart of God towards thee in the judgment. If thou hast either cow, or any other beast, that is now unprofitable to thee, though thou mayst suffer them for some time to be with thee, as God suffereth sinners in the world, yet all this while thy heart is not with them, but thou wilt take thy time to clear thy hands of them. Why, just so shall thy judgment be, as God saith, "Though Moses and Samuel stood before me," that is, to pray me to spare this people, "yet my mind could not be towards this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth" (Jer 15:1; Eze 14:13,14).
Thus I say, will God judge the world at the last day; he will open before them, how they have degenerated and gone back from the principles of nature in which he created them. Also how they have slighted all the instructions that he hath given them, even by the obedience, fruitfulness, wisdom, labour, fear, and love of the creatures; and he will tell them, that as to their judgment, they themselves have decided it, both by their cutting down that which was fruitless, and by the withdrawing of their hearts from those things, which to them were unprofitable, "As therefore the tares are gathered, and burned in the fire, so shall it be in the end of the world." As men deal with weeds, and rotten wood: so will God deal with sinners in the day of judgment: and will bring in, I say, all the counsels and warnings he hath given men by these things, both to clear up and to aggravate their judgment to them.
Second. The second book that will be opened at this day, it will be the book of God's remembrance (Mal 3:16). For as God hath in his remembrance, recorded all and every particular good thing that his own people hath done to, and for his name while they were in this world: so he hath in his remembrance, recorded all the evil and sin of his adversaries, even everything (Eccl 12:14). Now God's remembrance is so perfect every way, that it is impossible that anything should be lost, that is committed to it to be kept, and brought forth to the judgment at the time appointed; for as a thousand years are but as yesterday, with his eternity: so the sins that have been committed thousands of years since, they are all so firmly fixed in the remembrance of the eternal God, that they are always as fresh and clear in his sight, as if they were but just now in committing. He calleth again the things that are past (Eccl 3:15), and hath set "our [most] secret sins in the light of his countenance" (Psa 90:8). As he also saith in another place, "Hell [itself] is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering" (Job 26:6), that is, the most secret, cunning, and hidden contrivances of the most subtle of the infernal spirits, which yet are far more slethy, than men, to hide their wickedness; yet, I say, all their ways, hearts, and most secret doings, are clear, to the very bottom of them, in the eyes of the great God. All things are open and bare before the eyes of him with whom we have to do; who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the heart (Heb 4:13; 1 Cor 4:5).
"Ye that say, The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, [O] ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see? he that chastiseth the heathen, shall not he correct? he that teacheth man knowledge, shall not he know?" (Psa 94:8-10; Hosea 7:2; 8:13). "Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him?"—that is, when he is committing wickedness—"saith the Lord: Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord" (Jer 23:24).
Now to know and see things, it is the cause among men of their remembrance. Wherefore, God to shew us, that he will remember all our sins if we die out of Christ, he tells us, that he knoweth, and seeth them all, and therefore must needs remember them; for as is his sight and knowledge, so is his remembrance of all things.
When this book of his remembrance therefore is opened, as it shall be, in the judgment, then shall be brought forth of their hidden holes, all things, whatsoever hath been done since the world began, whether by kingdoms in general, or persons in particular. Now also shall be brought forth to open view, all the transactions of God and his Son, among the sons of men, and everything shall be applied to every particular person, in equity and justice, to whom they belong: the sins that thou hast committed shall be thy own, and thou thyself shalt bear them. "The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed" (1 Sam 2:3).
It will be marvellous to behold how by thousands, and ten thousands, God will call from their secret places, those sins, that one would have thought, had been dead, and buried, and forgotten; yea, how he will shew before the sun, such things, so base and so horrid, that one would think, it was not in the hearts of any to commit; for all is recorded in the book of God's remembrance. While men are here, they have a thousand tricks to present themselves one to another, far more fair, and honest than they are, or ever were. As Christ said to the Pharisees, "Ye are they which justify yourselves before men: but God knoweth your hearts" (Luke 16:15): Ay, God knoweth, indeed, what a nest, what a heap, what swarms; yea, what legions of hellish wickednesses, there are with power lurking, like cockatrices, in those men, that one would swear a thousand times, are good and honest men. The way of men in their sins, it is like "an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent upon a rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid," saith Solomon (Prov 30:19), that is, hiddenly, closely, covertly, burying all under fair pretences, wipeth their mouths in the close of their evil, saying, "I have done [no] wickedness" (Prov 30:20).
But this, though it may serve for the time present, and no longer, God will not be deluded, nor blinded, nor mocked, nor put off (Gal 6:7). "They consider not - - that I remember all their wickedness" (Hosea 7:2); saith he, "but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes" (Psa 50:21). Here will be laid open the very heart of Cain the murderer, of Judas the traitor, of Saul the adversary of David, and of those that under pretences of holiness have persecuted Christ, his word, and people. Now shall every drunkard, whoremaster, thief, and other wicked person, be turned their inside outward; their hearts right open, and every sin, with every circumstance of place, time, person with whom, with the causes also that drew them to the commission of every evil, be discovered to all. Here will be no hiding yourselves behind curtains, nor no covering yourselves with the black and dark night. "If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me: Yea," O God, "darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee" (Psa 139:11,12).
The piercing eye of God, beholds all places, persons, and things; the holy hand of his justice writeth them down in the book of his remembrance; and by his power and wisdom, will he open and read to all men exactly, distinctly, and convincingly, whatever hath passed from them, or been done by them, in their whole life; for, "For all these things God will bring thee into judgment" (Eccl 11:9). Again, as God will bring out of the book of his remembrance, whatever hath passed from thee against him; so also will he then bring forth by the same book, all things and carriages of his towards thee.
Here will he bring to thy mind, every sermon thou hast heard, every chapter thou hast read; every conviction thou hast had on thy conscience; and every admonition that hath been given thee in all thy life, when thou wast in the land of the living.
Now will God lay open before thee, what patience he extended to thee, how he let thee live one year, two years, ten, yea, twenty and twenty years,  and all to try thee. Yea, now also will he bring to thy view, how many times he warned, rebuked, threatened, and chastised thee for thy wickedness; how many awakening providences and judgments he continually laid before thy face; yea, how many a time thou didst, like Balaam, run upon the point of the sword of justice, and how he gave back, as being loath to kill thee (Num 22:23-34).
Now also again, shall be brought before thee and all men, how many strugglings God had with thy heart, on thy sick-bed, to do thee good; yea, and at such times, how many vows, promises, engagements, and resolutions thou madest before God, to turn, if he would release thee from thy affliction, and take off his rod from thy back; and yet, how thou didst, like the man possessed (Mark 5:1-5), break and snap in twain all these chains of iron, with which thou hadst bound thy soul, and that for a very lust and sin. Here also, will be opened before thee, how often thou hath sinned against thy light and knowledge; how often thou hast laid violent hands on thy own conscience; how often thou hast laboured to put out that light that hath stood in thy way to hinder thee from sinning against thy soul. Ah, Lord, what a condition will the Christless soul be in at this day! how will every one of these things afflict the damned soul! They will pierce like arrows, and bite like serpents, and sting like an adder. With what shame, will that man stand before the judgment-seat of Christ who must have all things he hath done against God, to provoke the eyes of his glory to jealousy, laid open before the whole host of the heavenly train! It would make a man blush to have his pockets searched, for things that are stolen in the midst of a market, especially, if he stand upon his reputation and honour. But thou must have thy heart searched, the bottom of thy heart searched; and that, I say, before thy neighbour whom thou hast wronged, and before the devils whom thou hast served; yea, before God, whom thou hast despised, and before the angels, those holy and delicate creatures, whose holy and chaste faces will scarce forbear blushing, while God is making thee vomit up, all thou hast swallowed; for God shall bring it out of thy belly (Job 20:12-15).
For as for God to forget iniquity, is one of the chief heads of the covenant of grace, and is an argument of the highest nature, to beget and to continue consolation in the godly: so the remembrance of iniquity, by the Lord, it is one of the heaviest loads and judgments, that can befall any poor creature. "Lord," saith the prophet, "remember not against us former iniquities." And again, "If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?" (Psa 130:3). And the reason is, because, that which the Lord forgetteth, is forgiven for ever (Heb 8:12; Rom 4:6-8); but that which he remembereth, it is charged for ever, and nothing can take it away—"Though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord God" (Jer 2:22).
Third. The third book that will at this day be opened, and out of which God will judge the world: it is the book of the law, or ten words given forth on the Mount Sinai. But this book will more specially concern those that have received it, or that have had knowledge thereof. Every one shall not be judged by this book, as there delivered, though they shall be judged by the works of it, which are written in their hearts. "As many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law" (Rom 2:12). That is, the heathens that never knew the law, as delivered on Sinai, they shall be judged by the law, as it was written in man's heart in his creation, which is comprised within the book of the creatures, but those that have knowledge of the law, as delivered on Sinai: they shall be judged by the law as there given.
Now then, this book when it is opened at the day of judgment, it will to those to whom it especially relates, be a most terrible law, far surpassing the two afore-mentioned. This law, as I may so say, it is the chief and most pure resemblance of the justice and holiness of the heavenly majesty, and doth hold forth to all men the sharpness and keenness of his wrath above the other two that I have before mentioned. I say, both because it hath been delivered more plain and open, both as to the duty enjoined, and the sin prohibited; and therefore must of necessity, fall with the more violence upon the head of all that shall be found within the compass of it. This law, it hath in it to be opened at this day, these two general heads:
1. A discovery of the evil of sin, that is so, against plain light and truth; and, secondly, a discovery of the vanity of all things, that will at this day be brought by sinners for their help and plea at the judgment. Alas, who can but imagine, that the poor world, at the day of their arraignment, should muster up all that ever they can think of, as arguments to shelter them from the execution of that fierce wrath, that then, with sinking souls, they will see prepared for them.
As to the first of these, the apostle tells us that "the law entered, that the offence might abound" (Rom 5:20), or be discovered what it is. As he saith again, "I had not known sin, but by the law" (Rom 7:7,13). Thus it is in this life, and thus it will be in the day of judgment, that is, those that see sin, and that in its abounding nature, and in its exceeding sinfulness, they must see it by the law, for that is indeed the glass by which God discovereth sin, and the filthy spots of leprosy, that are in the soul (James 1:22-25). Now those that have not the happiness to see their sin by the law in this life, while there is a fountain of grace to wash in, and be clean; they must have the misery to see it at the judgment, when nothing is left but misery and pain, as the punishment for the same. At which day, those little tittles of this holy law, that now men so easily look over, and sin against with ease, they will every one of them appear with such dread, and with such flaming justice against every offence committed; that if heaven and earth itself, should step in to shelter the sinner from the justice and wrath due to sin, it would turn them up by the roots. "It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail" (Luke 16:17). If there appeared such flames, such thunderings, and tempests, as there were at the giving of the law; what flames and blackness will there appear at the execution thereof! And if at the giving of the law there appeared so much holiness and justice, that it made all Israel fly; yea, holy Moses "exceedingly fear and quake," what will become of these that God shall judge by the rigour of this law in the day of judgment? (Exo 19:16; Heb 12:21).
O what thunderings and lightnings, what earthquakes and tempests, will there be in every damned soul, at the opening of this book? Then, indeed, will God visit them "with thunder, and with earthquake, and great noise, with storm and tempest, and the flame of devouring fire" (Isa 29:6). "For behold," saith the prophet, "the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire" (Isa 66:15).
The Lord will come with fire, that is, in the flaming heat of his justice and holiness against sin, and sinners, to execute the rigour of his threatenings upon their perishing souls.
2. The second general head, that is contained in this law, to be opened at this day is, its exactness, and purity, and strictness as to all acts of good that any poor creature hath done in this life, whereby he in the judgment will think to shelter, or secure himself from the wrath of God. This is the rule, and line, and plummet, whereby every act of every man shall be measured (Rom 3:21,22); and he whose righteousness is not found every way answerable to this law, which all will fall short of, but they that have the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ: he must perish, as he saith, "Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place" (Isa 28:17). That is, though men may not shelter themselves under legal repentance, cold profession, good meaning, thinkings, and doings: yet all these things must be measured, and weighed in the balance of God's most righteous law: and, as I said, whatever in that day is not found the righteousness of God, it will be found a refuge of lies, and will be drowned by the overflowing of the wrath of God, as the waters of Noah overflowed the world. And hence it is that all the ungodly will at this day, be found as stubble, and the law as fire (Mal 4:1). As it saith, "From his right hand went a fiery law" (Deu 33:2). And again, "His lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire" (Isa 30:27). For as fire, where it seizeth, doth burn, eat, destroy, devour and consume: so will the law, all those that at this day, shall be found under the transgression of the least tittle of it. It will be with these souls at the day of judgment, as it is with those countries that are overrun with most merciless conquerors, who leave not anything behind them, but swallow up all with fire and sword. "For by fire, and by his sword, will the Lord plead with all flesh: and the slain of the Lord shall be many" (Isa 66:16). There are two things at the day of judgment, will meet in their height and utmost strength, and they are sin and the law; for the judgment will not be, till the iniquity of the world be full ripe (Joel 3:13; Rev 14:15-20).
Now then, when sin is come to its full, having played all its pranks, and done all the mischief it can against the Lord of glory: then God brings forth the law, his holy and righteous law, one of which will now reign for ever, that is, either the law or sin: wherefore sin and sinners, they must tremble, with all that help, and hold them up; for God "will magnify the law, and make it honourable" (Isa 42:21). That is, will give it the victory over the world for ever; for that is holy, just, and good; they are unholy, unjust, and bad. Therefore by this law "the Lord shall rain snares, fire, and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup" (Psa 11:6). Let no man say then, that because God is so famous in his mercy and patience, in this day of his grace, that therefore he will not be fierce, and dreadful in his justice, in the day of judgment; for judgment and justice, are the last things that God intends to bring upon the stage, which will then be to the full, as terrible, as now his goodness and patience, and long- sufferance are admirable. Lord, "who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath" (Psa 90:11).
You may see, if you will, a few of the sparks of the justice of God against sin and sinners. By his casting off angels for sin, from heaven to hell; by his drowning the old world; by his burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, to ashes; condemning them with an overthrow, making them an example to those that after should live ungodly (2 Peter 2:4-6; Jude 6,7).
For "what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Rom 3:19).
Moses seems to wonder, that the children of Israel could continue to live, when they did but hear the law delivered on the mountain—"Did ever people," saith he, "hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live?" (Deu 4:33). O that ye did but know the law, and the wondrous things that are written therein, before the Lord cause that fearful voice to be heard—"Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal 3:10); which curse must fall on all that walk not in all the commandments of God without iniquity (Eze 33:15); which none do, I say, but they that walk in Christ, who hath alone fulfilled them all (Col 2:10).
The law is that which standeth at the entrance of the paradise of God, as a flaming sword, turning every way to keep out those that are not righteous with the righteousness of God (Gen 3:24); that have not skill to come to the throne of grace by that new and living way which he hath consecrated for us through the veil; that is to say, his flesh (Heb 10:20), for though this law, I say, be taken away by Christ Jesus, for all that truly and savingly believe (Col 2:14); yet it remains in full force and power, in every tittle of it, against every soul of man, that now shall be found in his tabernacle, that is, in himself, and out of the Lord Jesus (Rom 3:19); it lieth, I say, like a lion rampant at the gates of heaven, and will roar upon every unconverted soul, fiercely accusing every one that now would gladly enter in through the gates into this city (Job 18:14; John 5:45). So, then, he that can answer all its most perfect and legal commands, and that can live in the midst of devouring fire, and there enjoy God and solace himself, he shall dwell on high, and shall not be hurt by this law—"His place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure. Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off" (Isa 33:16,17). Blessed then is he whose righteousness doth answer every point of the law of God, according to 1 Corinthians 1:30 he shall be able to escape all those things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man; for in himself, our God is a consuming fire, and man out of Christ, is but as stubble, chaff, thorns, briars, and fuel for the wrath of this holy and sinner- consuming God to seize upon for ever (Heb 12:29; Mal 4:1; Matt 3:12; Heb 6:8; Isa 27:4; 2 Sam 23:6,7). "Who can stand before his indignation? And who can abide the fierceness of his anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him" (Nahum 1:6).
Now when these three books are thus opened, there will without doubt, be sad throbbing and pricking, in every heart that now stands for his life, before the judgment-seat of Christ, the righteous Judge; and without all question, they will be studying a thousand ways to evade and shift the stroke, that by the sin that these three books do charge them with, will immediately fall upon them.
But now to cut off all these at a blow, forthwith appear the witnesses, who are ready to evince, and make full and soul-killing proof of every particular charged against them.
[First Witness.]—and the first is God himself. "I," saith he, "will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts" (Mal 3:5).
This must needs be of great sway with every soul, that God should now come in. I will witness, saith God, that these things of which you are accused before the Judge are true. I have seen all, know all, and write down all. There hath not been a thought in your heart, nor a word in your tongue, but I have known it altogether; all things have always been open and naked to mine eye (Heb 4:13). Yea, my eyelids try the children of men (Psa 11:4). I have known your down- sitting, and your up-rising; and have understood your thoughts afar off. I have compassed your path, and am well acquainted with all your ways (Psa 139:1-3).
1. You have not continued in that state of nature in which I did at first create you (Eccl 7:29); you have not liked to retain that knowledge and understanding of God, that you had, and might have had, by the very book of the creatures (Rom 1). You gave way to the suggestions of fallen angels, and so your foolish hearts were darkened and alienated, and estranged from God.
2. All the creatures that were in the world, have even condemned you; they have been fruitful, but you fruitless; they have been fearful of danger, but you foolhardy; they have taken the fittest opportunity for their own preservation, but thou hast both blindly, and confidently gone on to thy punishment (Prov 22:3).
3. Touching the book of my remembrance, who can contradict it? Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord. Was not I in all places to behold, to see, and to observe thee in all thy ways? My eye saw the thief, and the adulterer, and I heard every lie and oath of the wicked. I saw the hypocrisy of the dissembler. "They have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery with their neighbours' wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the Lord" (Jer 29:23).
4. God will also come in against them for their transgressing his law, even the law which he delivered on Mount Sinai; he will, I say, open every tittle thereof in such order and truth: and apply the breach of each particular person with such convincing argument, that they will fall down silenced for ever—"Every mouth shall be stopped, and all the world shall become guilty before God" (Rom 3:19).
[Second Witness.]—There is yet another witness, for the condemning the transgressors of these laws, and that is, conscience—"Their conscience also bearing witness," saith the apostle (Rom 2:15). Conscience is a thousand witnesses. Conscience, it will cry amen to every word that the great God doth speak against thee. Conscience is a terrible accuser, it will hold pace with the witness of God as to the truth of evidence, to a hair's breadth. The witnesses of conscience, it is of great authority, it commands guilt, and fasteneth it on every soul which it accuseth; and hence it is said, "If our heart [or conscience] condemn us" (1 John 3:20). Conscience will thunder and lighten at this day; even the consciences of the most pagan sinners in the world, will have sufficiently wherewith to accuse, to condemn, and to make paleness appear in their faces, and breaking in their loins, by reason of the force of its conviction. Oh, the mire and dirt, that a guilty conscience, when it is forced to speak, will cast up, and throw out before the judgment- seat! It must out, none can speak peace, nor health, to that man upon whom God hath let loose his own conscience. Cain will now cry, "My punishment is greater than I can bear;" Judas will hang himself; and both Belshazzar and Felix will feel the joints of their loins to be loosened, and their knees to smite one against another, when conscience stirreth (Gen 4:13; Matt 27:3; Dan 5:6; Acts 24:23). When conscience is once thoroughly awakened, as it shall be before the judgment-seat: God need say no more to the sinner than Solomon said to filthy Shimei, "thou knowest all the wickedness which thine heart is privy to" (1 Kings 2:44). As who should say, Thy conscience knoweth, and can well inform thee of all the evil, and sin that thou art guilty of. To all which it answereth, even as face answereth to face in a glass; or as an echo answereth the man that speaketh; as fast, I say, as God chargeth conscience will cry out, Guilty, guilty; Lord, guilty of all, of every whit; I remember clearly all the crimes thou layest before me. Thus, I say, will conscience be a witness against the soul, in the day of God.
[Third Witness.]—As God and conscience will at this day be most dreadful witnesses against the sinful man; so also will those several thoughts that have passed through man's heart, be a witness also against him. As he said before, "Their conscience also baring witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing, or else excusing one another; In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel" (Rom 2:15,16).
The thoughts come in as a witness for God against the sinner upon the account of that unsteadiness and variety that were in them, both touching God, and their own selves. Sometimes the man thinks there is no God, but that everything hath its rise of itself, or by chance, or fortune—"The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God" (Psa 14:1).
Sometimes, again, they think there is a God, but yet they think and imagine of him falsely. "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself," saith God; "but I will reprove thee" (Psa 50:21).
Men think, that because they can sin with delight: that therefore God can let them escape without punishment. Nay, oftentimes they think, that God doth either quite forget their wickedness, or else that he will be pleased with such satisfaction as they are pleased to give him, even a few howling prayers (Hosea 7:14), feigned and hypocritical tears, and weepings, which pass from them more for fear of the punishment of hell-fire, than because they have offended so holy, so just, and so glorious a God, and so loving and so condescending a Jesus (Mal 2:13).
Sometimes again, they have had right thoughts of something of God, but not of him together; either thinking so of his justice, as to drive them from him, and also cause them to put him out of their mind (Job 21:14). Or else so thinking of his mercy as that they quite forget his holiness and justice. Now both these are but base thoughts of God, and so erroneous, and sinful thoughts.
Sometimes also, they have pretty right thoughts of God, both as to justice and mercy, but then, through the wretchedness of their unsatisfied nature, they, against this light and knowledge, do, with shut eyes, and hardened hearts, rush fiercely, knowingly, and willingly again into their sins and wickedness (Heb 6:4-6; 10:26; 2 Peter 2:20).
As men have these various thoughts of God, so also their thoughts are not steady about themselves.
Sometimes they think they are sinners, and therefore they have need of mercy.
Sometimes again, they think they are righteous, and so have not so much need; mark, and yet both alike rotten and base; because, as the last is altogether senseless, so the first is not at all savingly sensible (Mark 10:17-22; Luke 18:11,12).
Sometimes again, they think they are gods (Eze 28:1-6); that they shall never die; or that if they do die, yet they shall never rise again (1 Cor 15:12); or if they do rise again, yet they shall be saved, though they have lived vilely and in their sins all the days of their life (Deu 29:18-20). Now, I say, every one of these thoughts, with ten thousand more of the like nature, will God bring in against the rebels in the judgment-day. Which thoughts shall every one of them be brought forth in their distinct order. He sheweth to man what is his thought (Amos 4:13). And, again, "I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be with-holden from thee" (Job 42:2). We read, that when the strangers at Jerusalem did but hear the apostles speak to every one of them in their own language, how it amazed and confounded them (Acts 2:6-8). But, I say, how will they look and be amazed when God shall evidently, clearly, and fully speak out all their hearts, and every thought they have had before them!
Now the reason and strength of this witness will lie here, that God will by the variety and crossness that their thoughts had one to another, and by the contradiction that was in them, prove them sinners and ungodly; because that, I say, sometimes they thought there was a God, sometimes again, they thought there was none. Sometimes they thought, that he was such a God, and sometimes again, they thought of him quite contrary; sometimes they thought he was worth regarding, and sometimes they thought he was not; as also, sometimes they thought he would be faithful, both to mercy, and justice, and sinners; and sometimes again, they thought he would not.
What greater argument now can there be, to prove men, vanity, froth, a lie, sinners, deluded by the devil, and such as had false apprehensions of God, his ways, his word, his justice, his holiness, of themselves, their sins, and every action?
Now they will indeed appear a very lump of confusion, a mass of sin, a bundle of ignorance, of atheism, of unbelief, and of all things that should lay them obnoxious to the judgments of God. This will God, I say, by mustering up the thoughts of man, and by shewing of them, that every imagination and thought of their heart was only evil, and that continually, (by shewing of them what staggering, drunken, wild, and uncomely thoughts they have had, both of him, and of themselves,) convince them, cast them, and condemn them for sinners, and transgressors against the book of creatures, the book of his remembrance, and the book of the law. By the variety of their thoughts, they shall be proved unstable, ignorant, wandering stars, clouds carried with a tempest, without order or guidance, and taken captive of the devil at his will.
Now, while the wicked are thus standing upon their trial and lives before the judgment-seat, and that in the view of heaven and hell, they, I say, hearing and seeing such dreadful things, both written and witnessed against every one of them, and that by such books and such witnesses as do not only talk, but testify, and that with the whole strength of truth against them: they will then begin, though poorly, and without any advantage, to plead for themselves, which plea will be to this effect.
Lord, we did find in the scriptures, that thou didst send a Saviour into the world, to deliver us from these sins and miseries. We heard this Saviour also published, and openly proffered to such poor sinners as we are. Lord, Lord, we also made profession of this Saviour, and were many of us frequenters of his holy ordinances. We have eaten and drank in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. Lord, we have also some of us, been preachers ourselves, we have prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have we cast out devils, and done many wondrous works. Nay, Lord, we did herd among thy people; we forsook the profane and wicked world, and carried our shining lamps before us in the face of all men; Lord, Lord, open to us (Matt 7:21-23; 25:1,2,10,11; Luke 13:24-28).
And all the while they are thus pleading, and speaking for themselves: behold, how earnestly they groan, how ghastly they look, and how now the brinish tears flow down like rivers from their eyes, ever redoubling their petition, Lord, Lord, Lord, Lord: first thinking of this thing, and then of that, ever contending, seeking, and striving to enter in at this strait gate. As Christ saith, "When once the master of the house is risen up," that is, when Christ hath laid aside his mediation for sinners, and hath taken upon him only to judge and condemn; then will the wicked begin to stand without, and to knock and contend for a portion among them that are the blessed. Ah, how will their hearts twitter while they look upon the kingdom of glory! and how will they ache and throb at every view of hell, their proper place! still crying, O that we might inherit life, and O that we might escape eternal death!
Fourth, But now, to take away all cavils and objections, that of this nature will arise in the hearts of these men: forthwith the book of life is brought out for a conclusion, and a final end of eternal judgment. As John saith, "The books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" (Rev 20:12).
But this book of life, it is not at this time opened, because there are not any godly to be tried; for as I have shewed before, their judgment is past and over, before the wicked rise. The book of life, then, is now opened for further conviction of damned reprobates, that their mouths may be stopped for ever, as touching all their cavils, contendings, and arguments against God's proceeding in judgment with them. For believe it, while God is judging them, they will fall to judging him again; but he will be justified in his sayings, and will overcome when he is judged at this day (Rom 3:4-6). Yet not by a hasty and angry casting them away, but by a legal and convincing proceeding against them, and overthrowing all their cavils by his manifest and invincible truth. Wherefore, to cut off all that they can say, he will now open the book of life before them, and will shew them what is written therein, both as to election, conversion, and a truly gospel conversation. And will convince them that they neither are of the number of his elect, neither were they ever regenerate, neither had they ever a truly gospel conversation in the world.
By these three things, then, out of this book, thou, who art not saved, must at last be judged and overcome.
1. Here will be tried, whether thou art within that part of this book wherein all the elect are recorded; for all the elect are written here, as Christ saith, "Rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20); and again, "In thy book," saith he to his Father, "all my members were written" (Psa 139:16; Heb 12:22,23). Now, then, if thy name be not found, either among the prophets, apostles, or the rest of saints, thou must be put by, as one that is cast away, as one polluted, and as an abominable branch (Isa 14:19); thy name is wanting in the genealogies and rolls of heaven (Ezra 2:62), thou art not pricked for everlasting life, therefore thou must not be delivered from that soul-amazing misery; for there are no souls can, though they would give a thousand worlds, be delivered at the day of God but such that are found written in this book. Every one of those that are written, though never an one of those that are not written, shall in that day be delivered from the wrath to come (Dan 12:1).
But, O methinks, with what careful hearts will the damned now begin to look for their names in this book. Those that, when once the long- suffering of God waited on them, made light of all admonition, and slighted the counsel of making their calling and election sure: would now give thousands of treasures, that they could but spy their names, though last and least among the sons of God. But, I say, how will they fail? how will they faint? how will they die and languish in their souls? when they shall still as they look, see their names wanting. What a pinch will it be to Cain to see his brother there recorded, and he himself left out. Absalom will now swoon, and be as one that giveth up the ghost, when he shall see David his father, and Solomon his brother written here, while he withal is written in the earth, among the damned. Thus, I say, will sadness be added to sadness, in the soul of the perishing world when they fail of finding their names in this part of "the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev 13:8).
2. The second part of this book, is that in which is recorded, the nature of conversion, of faith, love, &c. And those that have not had the effectual word of God upon them, and the true and saving operation of grace in their hearts, which is indeed the true life which is begun in every Christian, they will be found still not written in this book; for the living, the holy living souls, are they only that are written therein; as the prophet saith, "and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem" (Isa 4:3): Eternal life is already in this life, begun in every soul that shall be saved; as Christ saith, "He that believeth in me hath everlasting life." And again, "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:54). And hence they are called the living, that are written in this book. Here then, the Lord will open before thee, what conversion is, in the true and simple nature of it, which when thou beholdest, thou wilt then be convinced, that this thou hast missed of; for it must needs be, that when thou beholdest by the records of heaven, what a change what a turn; what an alteration the work of regeneration maketh on every soul, and in every heart, where the effectual call, or the call according to his purpose, is; that thou who hast lived a stranger to this, or that hast contented thyself with the notion only, or a formal, and feigned profession thereof: I say, it cannot be but that thou must forthwith fall down, and with grief conclude, that thou hast no share in this part of the book of life neither, the living only are written herein. There is not one dead, carnal, wicked man recorded here. No; but when the Lord shall at this day make mention of Rahab, of Babylon, of Philistia, and Ethiopia: that is, of all the cursed rabble and crew of the damned: then he will say, that this man was born there—that is, amongst them, and so hath his name where they have theirs; namely, under the black rod, in the king's black book, where he hath recorded all his enemies and traitors. It shall be said of this man, of this ungodly man, that he was born there (Psa 87:4), that he lived and died in the state of nature, and so under the curse of God, even as others: for as he said of wicked Coniah, "Write ye this man childless" (Jer 22:30), so he saith of every ungodly man that so departeth out of this world, Write this man graceless.
Wherefore, I say, among the Babylonians and Philistines; among the unbelieving Moors and pagans, his name will be found in the day when it will be inquired where every man was born; for God at this day, will divide the whole world into these two ranks—the children of the world, and the children of Zion. Wherefore here is the honour, the privilege, and advantage that the godly above the wicked will have at the day of their counting, when the Lord maketh mention of Zion, it shall be then acknowledged that this and that (good) man was born in her. "The Lord shall count," saith the prophet, "when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there" (Psa 87:6). This man had the work of conversion, of faith, and grace in his soul. This man is a child of Zion, of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is also written in heaven (Gal 4:26; Heb 12:23). Blessed is the people that is in such a case (Psa 144:15).
But, poor soul, counters will not go for gold now; for though so long as thou didst judge thyself by the crooked rule of thy own reason, fancy, and affection, thou wast pure in thine own eyes: yet now thou must be judged alone by the words and rule of the Lord Jesus: which word shall not now, as in times past, be wrested and wrung, both this way and that, to smooth thee up in thy hypocrite's hope and carnal confidence; but be thou king or keser, be thou who thou wilt, the word of Christ, and that with this interpretation only, it shall judge thee in the last day (John 12:48).
Now will sinners begin to cry with loud and bitter cries, Oh! ten thousand worlds for a saving work of grace. Crowns and kingdoms for the least measure of saving faith, and for the love, that Christ will say, is the love of his own Spirit.
Now they will begin also to see the work of a broken and a contrite spirit, and of walking with God, as living stones, in this world. But alas! these things appear in their hearts to the damned too late; as also do all things else. This will be but like the repentance of the thief, about whose neck is the halter, and he turning off the ladder; for the unfortunate hap of the damned will be, that the glory of heavenly things will not appear to them till out of season. Christ must now indeed be shewed to them, as also the true nature of faith and all grace; but it will be, when the door is shut, and mercy gone. They will pray, and repent most earnestly; but it will be in the time of great waters of the floods of eternal wrath, when they cannot come nigh him (1 Tim 6:15; Matt 25:10,11; Psa 32:6).
Well, then, tell me, sinner, if Christ should now come to judge the world, canst thou abide the trial of the book of life? art thou confident that thy profession, that thy conversion, thy faith, and all other graces thou thinkest thou hast, will prove gold, silver, and precious stones in this day? Behold, he comes as a refiner's fire, and as fuller's soap. Shalt thou indeed abide the melting and washing of this day? Examine, I say, beforehand, and try thyself unfeignedly; for every one "that doth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God" (John 3:21).
Thou sayest thou art a Christian, that also thou hast repented, dost believe, and love the Lord Jesus; but the question is, whether these things will be found of equal length, height, and breadth with the book of life, or whether, when thou art weighed in the balance, thou wilt yet be found wanting (Dan 5:27). How if, when thou comest to speak for thyself before God, thou shouldst say Sibboleth instead of Shibboleth: that is, though almost, yet not rightly and naturally the language of the Christians (Judg 12:6).
If thou miss but one letter in thy evidence, thou art gone; for though thou mayest deceive thy own heart with brass, instead of gold, and with tin instead of silver, yet God will not be so put off (Gal 6:7). You know how confident the foolish virgins were, and yet how they were deceived. They herded with the saints, they went forth from the gross pollutions of the world, they every one had shining lamps, and all went forth to meet the bridegroom, and yet they missed the kingdom; they were not written among the living at Jerusalem; they had not the true, powerful, saving work of conversion, of faith, and grace in their souls: they that are foolish take their lamps, but take no oil, no saving grace, with them (Matt 25:1-4). Thus you see how sinners will be put to it before the judgment-seat from these two parts of this book of life. But,
3. There is yet another part of this book to be opened, and that is, that part of it in which are recorded those noble and Christian acts, that they have done since the time of their conversion and turning to Christ. Here, I say, are recorded the testimony of the saints against sin and antichrist; their suffering for the sake of God, their love to the members of Christ, their patience under the cross, and their faithful frequenting the assemblies of the saints, and their encouraging one another to bear up in his ways in the worst of times; even when the proud were called happy, and when they that wrought wickedness were even set up. As he there saith, "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name" (Mal 3:16).
For indeed, as truly as any person hath his name found in the first part of this book of life, and his conversion in the second; so there is a third part, in which there are his noble, spiritual, and holy actions recorded and set down. As it is said by the Spirit to John, concerning those that suffered martyrdom for the truth of Jesus, "Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord: - - Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them" (Rev 14:13).
And hence it is that the labours of the saints and the book of life, are mentioned together, signifying that the travels, and labours, and acts of the godly, are recorded therein (Phil 4:3).
And hence it is again, that the Lord doth tell Sardis, that those among them that stood it out to the last gasp, in the faith and love of the gospel, should not be blotted out of the book of life; but they, with the work of God on their soul, and their labour for God in this world; should be confessed before his Father, and before his angels (Rev 3:5).
This part of this book, is in another place called, "The book of the wars of the Lord," (Num 21:14), because in it, I say, are recorded these famous acts of the saints against the world, flesh, and the devil.
You find also, how exact the Holy Ghost is, in recording the travels, pains, labour, and goodness of any of the children of Israel, in their journey from Egypt to Canaan, which was a representation of the travels of the saints, from nature to grace, and from grace to glory. King Ahasuerus, kept in his library a book of records, wherein was written, the good service that his subjects did for him at any time, which was a type also of the manner and order of heaven. And as sure as ever Mordecai, when search was made in the rolls, was found there to have done such and such service for the king and his kingdom (Esth 6:1,2): so surely will it be found, what every saint hath done for God, at the day of inquiry. You find in the Old Testament also, still as any of the kings of Judah died, there was surely a record in the book of Chronicles, of their memorable acts and doings for their God, the church, and the commonwealth of Israel, which still doth further hold forth unto the children of men, this very thing, that all the kings of the New Testament, which are the saints of God, have all their acts, and what they have done for their God, &c., recorded in the book of Chronicles in the heavenly Jerusalem.
Now, I say, when this part of the book of life shall be opened, what can be found in it, of the good deeds and heaven-born actions of wicked men? Just nothing; for as it is not to be expected that thorns should bring forth grapes, or that thistles should bear figs: so it cannot be imagined, that ungodly men should have anything to their commendations, recorded in this part of the book of life. What hast thou done, man, for God in this world? Art thou one of them that hast set thyself against those strong strugglings of pride, lust, covetousness, and secret wickedness, that remain in thy heart, like Job and Paul? (Job 1:8; 2 Cor 10:4,5). And do these strugglings against these things, arise from pure love to the Lord Jesus, or from some legal terrors and conviction for sin (Gal 5:6). Dost thou, I say, struggle against thy lusts, because thou dost in truth, love the sweet, holy, and blessed leadings of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus; its leadings of thee, I say, into his blood and death, for thy justification and deliverance from wrath to come (Phil 3:6-8; 2 Cor 5:14).
What acts of self-denial, hast thou done for the name of the Lord Jesus, among the sons of men? I say, what house, what friend, what wife, what children, and the like, hast thou lost, or left for the word of God, and the testimony of his truth in the world? (Matt 19:27,28; Rev 12:11). Wast thou one of them, that didst sigh, and afflict thyself for the abominations of the times? and that Christ hath marked and recorded for such an one? (Eze 9:4; Zeph 3:18).
In a word, art thou one of them, that wouldst not be won, neither by fear, frowns, nor flatteries, to forsake the ways of God, or wrong thy conscience? or art thou one of them that slightest those opportunities that Satan and this world did often give thee to return to sin in secret (Heb 11:15). These be the men whose praise is in the gospel, and whose commendable and worthy acts are recorded before the Judge of all the world. Alas, alas, these things are strange things to a carnal and wicked man. Nothing of this hath been done by him in this life, and therefore how can any such be recorded for him in the book of life? wherefore he must needs be shut out of this part also. As David saith, "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous" (Psa 69:28).
Thus I say, the wicked will find nothing for their comfort, either in the first part of this book, where all the names of the elect are, neither will they find anything in the second part thereof, where are recorded the true nature and operation of effectual conversion, of faith, or love, or the like; and I say, neither can anything be found in this third part, wherein are recorded the worthy acts, and memorable deeds of the saints of the Lord Jesus. Thus, when Christ therefore hath opened before them this book of life, and convinced the ungodly at this day out of it, he will then shut it up again, saying, I find nothing herein that will do you good; you are none of my elect, you are the sons of perdition. For as these things will be found clear and full in the book of life, so they will be found effectually wrought in the hearts of the elect, all whose conversion and perseverance shall now be opened before thine eyes, as a witness, I say, of the truth of what thou here seest opened before thee, and also of thy unregenerate estate. Now, thou wilt see what a turn, what a change, and what a clinging to God, to Christ, and his word and ways; there was found in the souls of the saved ones!
Here shall be seen also how resolvedly, unfeignedly, and heartily the true child of God did oppose, resist, and war against his most dear and darling lusts and corruptions. Now the saints are hidden ones, but then they shall be manifest; this is the morrow in which the Lord will shew who are his, and who they are that fear the Lord, and who that fear him not (Psa 83:3; 1 Sam 8:19; Num 16:5; Mal 3:18). Now you shall see how Abraham left his country (Heb 11:8); how close good Lot did stick to God in profane and wicked Sodom (2 Peter 2:7,8); how the apostles left all to follow Jesus Christ (Matt 19:29); and how patiently they took all crosses, afflictions, persecutions, and necessities for the kingdom of heaven's sake; how they endured burning, striving, stoning, hanging, and a thousand calamities; how they manifested their love to their Lord, his cause, and people in the worst of times, and in the days when they were most rejected, slighted, abused, and abased; "then shall the King say to them on his right hand, (and that when all the devils and damned sinners stand by,) Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (you are indeed the truly converted souls, as appears by the grace that was in your hearts) for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me" (Matt 25:34-36).
You owned me, stood by me, and denied yourselves to nourish me and my poor members, in our low, and weak, and most despised condition. This, I say, the world shall see, hear, and be witnesses of, against themselves and their souls for ever; for how can it be, but these poor damned sinners should be forced to confess, that they were both Christless and graceless, when they shall find, both in the book of life, and in the hearts of the holy and beloved souls, that which themselves are quite barren of, and greatest strangers to. The saints, by the fruits of regeneration, even in this world, do testify to the world, not only the truth of conversion in themselves, but also that they are yet Christless, and so heavenless, and salvationless, that are not converted (1 Tim 6:12; 1 Thess 2:10; 2 Tim 2:2). But alas! while we are here, they will evade this testimony, both of our happiness, by calling our faith, phantasy; our communion with God, delusion; and the sincere profession of his word before the world, hypocrisy, pride, and arrogancy: yet, I say, when they see us on the right hand of Christ, commingled among the angels of light, and themselves on his left hand, and commingled with the angels of darkness; and, I say, when they shall see our hearts and ways opened before their eyes, and owned by the Judge for honest hearts and good ways, and yet the same ways that they hated, slighted, disowned and contemned, what will they, or what can they say, but thus—We fools counted their lives madness, and their end to be without honour; but how are they numbered with the saints, and owned by God and Christ!
And truly, was it not that the world might, by seeing the turn that is wrought on the godly at their conversion, be convinced of the evil of their ways, or be left without excuse the more in the day of God, (with some other reasons) they should not, I am persuaded, stay so long from heaven as they do, nor undergo so much abuse and hardship as frequently befalls them. God, by the lengthening out the life of his people that are scattered here and there among men in this world, is making work for the day of judgment, and the overthrow of the implacable, for ever and ever; and, as I have said, will by the conversion, life, patience, self-denial, and heavenly-mindedness of his dear children, give them a heavy and most dreadful blow. Now, when God hath thus laid open the work of grace, both by the book of life and the Christian's heart: then, of itself will fall to the ground, their pleading what gifts and abilities they had in this world; they will now see that gifts, and grace, are two things: and also, that whosoever is graceless, let their gifts be never so excellent, they must perish and be lost for ever; wherefore, for all their gifts, they shall be found the workers of iniquity, and shall so be judged and condemned (Matt 7:22,23). That is a notable place in the prophecy of Ezekiel, "Thus saith he Lord GOD," saith he, "If the prince," the Prince of Life, "give a gift to any of his sons,"—that is, to any that are truly gracious—"the inheritance," or the profit that he gets thereby, "shall be his son's"— that is, for the exercise of his gift he shall receive a reward; "but if he give a gift of his inheritance to one of his servants," that is not a son, "then it shall be his" but "to the year of liberty; after, it shall return to the prince," &c. (Eze 46:16,17). This day of liberty it is now, when the Judge is set upon the throne to judgment, even the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom 8:21), wherefore then will Christ say to them that stand by, "Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds. This servant must not abide in the house for ever, though with the son it shall be so" (John 8:35; Luke 19:24). A man may be used as a servant in the church of God, and may receive many gifts, and much knowledge of the things of heaven, and yet at last himself be no more than a very bubble and nothing (1 Cor 13:1-3).
But now, I say, at this day, they shall clearly see the difference between gifts and grace, even as clearly, as now they that have eyes can see the difference between gifts and ignorance, and very foolishness. This our day doth indeed abound with gifts; many sparkling wits are seen in every corner; men have the word and truths of Christ at their fingers' ends; but alas, with many, yea, a great many, there is nought but wits and gifts; they are but words, all their religion lieth in their tongues and heads, the power of what they say and know, it is seen in others, not in themselves. These are like the lord on whom the king of Israel leaned, they shall see the plenty, the blessed plenty that God doth provide, and will bestow upon his church, but they shall not taste thereof (2 Kings 7:17-20).
Obs. First. Before I conclude this matter, observe, [first,] that among all the objections and cavils that are made, and will be made, by the ungodly, in the day of the Lord Jesus, they have not one hump about election and reprobation; they murmur not at all that they were not predestinated to eternal life; and the reason is, because then they shall see, though now they are blind, that God could in his prerogative royal, without prejudice to them that are damned, choose and refuse at pleasure; and besides, they at that day shall be convinced, that there was so much reality and downright willingness in God, in every tender of grace and mercy to the worst of men; and also so much goodness, justness, and reasonableness in every command of the gospel of grace, which they were so often entreated and beseeched to embrace, that they will be drowned in the conviction of this, that did refuse love, grace, reason, &c.: love, I say, for hatred, grace for sin, and things reasonable, for things unreasonable and vain. Now they shall see they left glory for shame, God for the devil, heaven for hell, light for darkness. Now they shall see that though they made themselves beasts, yet God made them reasonable creatures, and that he did with reason expect that they should have adhered to, and have delighted in, things that are good, and according to God; yea, now they shall see, that though God did not determine to bring them to heaven against their hearts and wills, and the love that they had to their sins: yet then they shall be convinced, that God was far from infusing anything into their souls, that should in the least hinder, weaken, obstruct, or let them in seeking the welfare of their souls. Now men will tattle and prattle at a mad rate, about election and reprobation, and conclude, that because all are not elected, therefore God is to blame that any are damned: but then they will see, that they are not damned because they were not elected, but because they sinned; and also that they sinned, not because God put any weakness into their souls, but because they gave way, and that willfully, knowingly, and desperately, to Satan and his suggestions; and so turned away from the holy commandment delivered unto them; yea, then they will see, that though God at some times did fasten his cords about their heads, and heels, and hands, both by godly education, and smarting convictions, yet they rushed away with violence from all, saying, "Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us" (Psa 2:3). God will be justified in his sayings, and clear when he judgeth (Psa 51:4), though thy proud ignorance thinks to have, and to multiply, cavils against him.
Obs. Second. But secondly, as the whole body of the elect, by the nature of conversion in their hearts, shall witness a non- conversion in the hearts of the wicked; and as the ungodly shall fall under the conviction of this cloud of witnesses: so, to increase their conviction, there will also be opened before them all the labours of the godly, both ministers and others, and the pains that they have taken, to save, if it had been possible, these damned wretches; and now will it come burning hot upon their souls, how often they were forewarned of this day; now they shall see, that there was never any quarter-sessions, nor general jail-delivery more publicly foretold of, than this day. You know that the judges before they begin their assizes, do give to the country in charge, that they take heed to the laws and statutes of the king. Why rebel, thou shalt be at this day convicted, that every sermon thou hast heard, and that every serious debate thou hast been at about the things of God, and laws of eternity, they were to thee as the judge's charge before the assizes and judgment began. Every exhortation of every minister of God, it is as that which Paul gave to Timothy, and commanded him to give in charge to others—"I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels," saith he, "that thou observe these things;" and again, "I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Jesus Christ, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Tim 5:21; 6:13,14). These things give in charge, saith he, that they may be blameless. This, I say, hast thou heard and seen, and yet thou hast not held fast, but hast cast away the things that thou hast heard, and hast been warned of: alas! God will multiply his witnesses against thee.
1. Thy own vows and promises shall be a witness against thee, that thou hast, contrary to thy light and knowledge, destroyed thy soul, as Joshua said to the children of Israel, when they said the Lord should be their God. Well, saith he, "Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve him." That is, if now you turn back again, even this covenant and resolution of yours will in the great day be a witness against you—"And they said, We are witnesses" (Josh 24:22).
2. Every time you have with your mouth said well of godliness, and yet gone on in wickedness; or every time you have condemned sin in others, and yet have not refrained it yourselves; I say, every such word and conclusion that hath passed out of thy mouth, sinner, it shall be as a witness against thee in the day of God, and the Lord Jesus Christ; as Christ saith, "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" (Matt 12:37). I observe, that talk with who you will, they will with their mouth say, serving of God, and loving of Christ, and walking in ways of holiness, are best, and best will come of them. I observe again, that men that are grossly wicked themselves, will yet, with heavy censures and judgments, condemn drunkenness, lying, covetousness, pride, and whoring, with all manner of abominations in others; and yet, in the meantime, continue to be neglecters of God, and embracers of sin and the allurements of the flesh themselves. Why, such souls, every time they speak well of godliness, and continue in their sins; they do pass judgment upon themselves, and provide a witness, even their own mouth, against their own soul, at the judgment-seat—"Out of thy own mouth," saith Christ, "will I judge thee, thou wicked servant;" thou knewest what I was, and that I loved to see all my servants zealous, and active for me, that at my coming, I might have received again what I gave thee, with increase; thou oughtest therefore to have been busying thyself in my work, for my glory, and thy own good; but seeing thou hast, against thy own light and mouth gone contrary: Angels, take this unprofitable servant, and cast ye him into utter darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth; he sinned against his light, he shall go to hell against his will (Matt 25:26-31).
The very same I say, will befall all those that have used their mouth to condemn the sins of others, while they themselves live in their sins. Saith God, O thou wicked wretch, thou didst know that sin was bad, thou didst condemn it in others, thou dist also condemn, and pass judgment upon them for their sin, "Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for" thou that judgest dost the same thing; wherefore, "wherein thou hast judged another, thou condemnest thyself." I must therefore, saith Christ, look upon thee to be no other but a sinner against thy own mouth, and cannot but judge thee as a despiser of my goodness, and the riches of my forbearance; by which means, thou hast treasured up wrath against this day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Rom 2:1-5). He that knoweth to do good, and doth it not, to him it is sin. Thus will God, I say, judge and condemn poor sinners, even from and by themselves, to the fire, that lake of brimstone and fire.
3. God hath said in his word, that rather than there shall want witness at the day of judgment, against the workers of iniquity: the very dust of their city, that shall cleave to his messengers that publish the gospel shall itself be a witness against them; and so Christ bid his servants say—"Into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you": &c. "But I say unto you," saith he to his ministers, "it shall be more tolerable for Sodom" at the judgment "than for that city" (Luke 10:10- 12).
It may be, that when thou hearest that the dust of the street, (that cleaveth to a minister of the gospel, while thou rejectest his word of salvation,) shall be a witness against thee at the day of judgment: thou wilt be apt to laugh, and say, The dust a witness! Witnesses will be scarce where dust is forced to come in to plead against a man. Well sinner, mock not; God doth use to confound the great and mighty by things that are not, and that are despised. And how sayest thou? If God had said by a prophet to Pharaoh, but two years before the plague, that he would shortly come against him with one army of lice, and a second army of frogs, and with a third army of locusts, &c., and would destroy his land, dost thou think it had been wisdom in Pharaoh, now to have laughed such tidings to scorn? "Is anything too hard for the Lord? Hath he said it, and shall he not bring it to pass?" You shall see in the day of judgment, of what force all these things will be, as witnesses against the ungodly.
Many more witnesses might I here reckon up, but these at this time shall suffice to be nominated; for out of the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word shall be established (2 Cor 13:1). "And at the mouth of two or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death, be put to death" (Deu 17:6; John 8:17).
[Fourth—the sentence of the ungodly.] Thus then, the books being opened, the laws read, the witnesses heard, and the ungodly convicted; forthwith the Lord and Judge proceeds to execution.