Human Nature in its Fourfold State
Thomas Boston (1676 - 1732)
I. The State of INNOCENCE
II. The State of NATURE
1. The SINFULNESS of man's natural state
2. The MISERY of man's natural state
"We were by nature the children of wrath,
even as others." Ephesians 2:3
Having shown you the sinfulness of man's natural state, I
come now to lay before you the misery of it. A sinful state cannot but be a
miserable state. If sin goes before, wrath follows of course.
Corruption and destruction are so knit together, that the Holy Spirit calls
destruction, even eternal destruction, "corruption," Gal. 6:8, "He who sows
to his flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption," that is, everlasting
destruction; as is clear from its being opposed to life everlasting, in the
The apostle, having shown the Ephesians their real state
by nature, namely, that they were dead in sins and trespasses, altogether
corrupt; he tells them, in the words of the text, their relative state,
namely, that the pit was dug for them, while in that state of
corruption—being dead in sins, they "were by nature children of wrath, even
In the words we have four things:
1. The MISERY of a natural state; it is a
state of wrath, as well as a state of sin. "We were," says the apostle,
"children of wrath," bound over and liable to the wrath of God; under wrath
in some measure; and, in wrath, bound over to more, even the full measure of
it, in hell, where the floods of it go over the prisoners forever. Thus
Saul, in his wrath, adjudging David to die 1 Sam. 20:31; and David, in his
wrath, passing sentence of death against the man in the parable, 2 Sam.
12:5, says, each of them, of his supposed criminal, "He shall surely die;"
or, as the words in the original language are, "He is a son of death." So
the natural man is "a child of wrath, a son of death." He is a malefactor,
dead in law, lying in chains of guilt; a criminal, held fast in his fetters,
until the day of execution; which will not fail to come, unless a pardon be
obtained from his God, who is his judge and his opponent too. By that means,
indeed, children of wrath may become children or the kingdom. The phrase in
the text, however common in the holy language, is very significant. And as
it is evident that the apostle, calling natural men the "children of
disobedience," verse 2, means more than that they were disobedient children;
for such may the Lord's own children be—no, to be children of wrath, is more
than simply to be liable to, or under wrath. Jesus Christ was liable to, and
under wrath; but I doubt whether we have any warrant to say he was a child
The phrase seems to intimate, that men are, whatever they
are in their natural state, under the wrath of God; that they are wholly
under wrath—wrath is, as it were, woven into their very nature, and mixes
itself with the whole of the man, who is, if I may so speak, a very lump of
wrath, a child of hell, as the iron in the fire is all fire. For men
naturally are children of wrath; they come forth, so to speak, out of the
womb of wrath—as Jonah's gourd was the "son of a night," which we render,
"came up in a night," Jonah 4:10; as if it had come out of the womb of the
night, as we read of the "womb of the morning," Psalm 110:3. Thus sparks of
fire are called "sons of the burning coal," Job 5:7, Isaiah 21:10, "O my
thrashing, and the corn" or son "of my floor," thrashed in the floor of
wrath, and, as it were, brought forth by it. Thus the natural man is a
"child of wrath;" it "entered into his body like water, into his bones like
oil," Psalm 109:18. For, though Judas was the only son of perdition among
the apostles; yet all men, by nature, are of the same family.
2. Here is the ORIGIN of this misery; men have
it by nature. They owe it to their nature, as vitiated and corrupted by the
fall; to the wicked quality, or corruption of their nature, as before
noticed, which is their principle of action, and, ceasing from action, the
only principle in an unregenerate state. Now, by this nature, men are
children of wrath; as, in time of pestilential infection, one draws in death
with the disease then raging. Therefore seeing, from our first being as
children of Adam, we are corrupt children, shaped in iniquity, conceived in
sin, we are also from that moment children or wrath.
3. The UNIVERSALITY of this misery. All are by
nature children of wrath—"we," says the apostle, "even as others;" Jews as
well as Gentiles. Those who are now, by grace, the children of God were, by
nature, in no better case than those who are still in their natural state.
4. Here is a glorious and happy CHANGE intimated—we
were children of wrath—but are not so now; grace has brought us out
of that state. This the apostle says of himself, and other believers. And
thus, it well becomes the people of God to be often standing on the shore,
and looking back to the Red Sea, or the state of wrath, which they were once
weltering in, even as others.
DOCTRINE. The state of nature is a state of wrath.
Everyone, in a natural unregenerate state, is in a state of wrath. We are
born children of wrath; and continue so, until we be born again. Nay, as
soon as we are children of Adam, we are children of wrath.
I shall introduce what I am to say on this point, with a
few observations, as to the universality of this state of wrath,
which may serve to prepare the way for the word into your consciences.
Wrath has gone as wide as ever sin went. When angels
sinned, the wrath of God broke in upon them like a flood. "God spared not
the angels who sinned—but cast them down to hell," 2 Pet. 2:4. It was
thereby demonstrated, that no natural excellence in the creature can shield
it from the wrath of God, if it once becomes a sinful creature. The finest
and nicest piece of the workmanship of heaven, if once the Creator's image
upon it be defaced by sin, God can and will dash in pieces in his wrath,
unless satisfaction be made to justice, and that image be restored; neither
of which the sinner himself can do. Adam sinned; and the whole lump of
mankind was leavened, and bound over to the fire of God's wrath. From the
text you may learn,
1. That ignorance of this state, cannot free men from it.
The Gentiles, that know not God, "were by nature children of wrath, even as
others." A man's house may be on fire, his wife and children perishing in
the flames, while he knows nothing of it; and therefore is not concerned
about it. Such is your case, O you who are ignorant of these things! Wrath
is silently sinking into your souls while you are blessing yourselves,
saying, "We shall have peace." You need not a more certain token that you
are children of wrath, than that you never saw yourselves such. You
cannot be the children of God, who never yet saw yourselves the children of
the devil. You cannot be in the way to heaven, who never saw yourselves
by nature in the high road to hell. You are grossly ignorant of your state
by nature; and so ignorant of God and of Christ, and your need of him—and
though you look on your ignorance as a covert from wrath—yet take it out of
the mouth of God himself, that it will ruin you if it be not removed; Isaiah
27:11, "For this is a people without understanding; so their Maker has no
compassion on them, and their Creator shows them no favor." See also 2 Thess.
1:8; Hos. 4:6.
2. No outward privileges can exempt men from this state
of wrath, for the Jews, the children of the kingdom, God's
peculiar people, were "children of wrath, even as others." Though you be
church members, partakers of all church privileges; though you be descended
of godly parents, of great and honorable families; be what you will, you are
by nature heirs of hell, children of wrath.
3. No profession, no attainments in a profession of
religion, do or can exempt men from this state of wrath. Paul was
one of the strictest sect of the Jewish religion, Acts 26:5; yet a child of
wrath, even as others, until he was converted. The religious hypocrite, and
the profane, are alike as to their state, however different their
conversation be; and they will be alike in their fatal end, Psalm 125:5, "As
for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them
forth with the workers of iniquity."
4. Young ones, who are but setting out in the world, have
nothing to do to make themselves children of wrath, by following the
graceless multitude—they are children of wrath by nature; so it
is done already. They were born heirs of hell; and they will indeed make
themselves more so, if they do not, while they are young, flee from that
wrath to which they are born, by fleeing to Jesus Christ.
5. Whatever men are now by grace, they were even as
others by nature. This may be a sad meditation to those who have
been at ease from their youth, and have had no changes.
Now these things being premised, I shall, in the first
place, show what this state of wrath is; secondly, confirm the
doctrine; and, thirdly, apply it.
I. I am to show WHAT the state of wrath is.
But who can fully describe the wrath of an angry God? None can do it. Yet so
much of it may be discovered, as may serve to convince men of the absolute
necessity of fleeing to Jesus Christ, out of that state of wrath. Anger, in
men, is a passion and commotion of the spirit, for an injury received; with
a desire to resent the same. When it comes to a height, and is fixed in
one's spirit, it is called wrath. Now there are no passions in God, properly
speaking; they are inconsistent with his absolute unchangeableness, and
independency—therefore, Paul and Barnabas, to remove the mistake of the
Lycaonians, who thought they were gods, tell them, "they were men of like
passions with themselves," Acts 14:15. Wrath, when it is attributed to God,
must not be considered in respect of the passion of wrath—but the effects
thereof. Wrath is a fire in the affections of men; tormenting the man
himself—but there is no perturbation in God. His wrath does not in the least
mar that infinite repose and happiness which he has in himself. It is a most
pure and undisturbed act of his will, producing dreadful effects against the
sinner. It is little that we know of the infinite God; but, condescending to
our weakness, he is pleased to speak of himself to us after the manner of
men. Let us therefore notice man's wrath—but remove everything in our
consideration of the wrath of God, that implies imperfection; and so we may
attain to some view of it, however scanty. By this means we are led to
consider the wrath of God against the natural man in these three
1. There is wrath in the HEART of God against him.
The Lord approves him not—but is displeased with him. Every natural man lies
under the displeasure of God; and that is heavier than mountains of brass.
Although he be pleased with himself, and others be pleased with him too—yet
God looks down on him displeased.
(1.) His person is under God's displeasure; "You
hate all workers of iniquity," Psalm 5:5. A godly man's sin is displeasing
to God—yet his person is still "accepted in the Beloved," Eph. 1:6. But "God
is angry with the wicked every day," Psalm 7:11. There is a fire of wrath
which burns continually against him in the heart of God. They are as dogs
and swine—most abominable creatures in the sight of God. Though their
natural state be gilded over with a shining profession—yet they are abhorred
of God; and are to him as smoke in his nose, Isaiah 65:5, and lukewarm
water, to be spewed out of his mouth, Rev. 3:16; whited sepulchers, Matt.
23:27; a generation of vipers, Matt. 12:34; and a people of his wrath,
(2.) He is displeased with all they do—it is
impossible for them to please him, being unbelievers, Heb. 11:6. He hates
their persons; and so has no pleasure in—but is displeased with their best
works, Isaiah 66:3, "he who sacrifices a lamb, is as if he cut off a dog's
neck," etc. Their duty as done by them, is "an abomination to the Lord,"
Proverbs 15:8. And as men turn their back on those with whom they are angry,
so when the Lord refuses communion with the natural man in his duties, it is
a plain indication of his wrath.
2. There is wrath in the WORD of God against him.
When wrath is in the heart, it seeks a vent by the lips—so God fights
against the natural man with the sword of his mouth, Rev. 2:16. The Lord's
word never speaks good of him—but always curses and condemns him. Hence it
is, that when he is awakened, the word read or preached often increases his
horror. It condemns all his actions, together with his corrupt nature. There
is nothing he does—but the law declares it to be sin. It is a rule of
perfect obedience, from which he always, in all things, declines; and so it
rejects everything he does, as sinful. It pronounces his doom, and denounces
God's curse against him, Gal. 3:10, "For as many as are of the works of the
law are under the curse—for it is written, Cursed in everyone who continues
not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."
However well he may be in the world, it pronounces a woe from heaven against
him, Isaiah 3:11. The Bible is a quiver filled with arrows of wrath
against him, ready to be poured in on his soul. God's threatenings, in
his word, hang over his head as a black cloud, ready to shower down on him
every moment. The word is, indeed, the saint's security against wrath—but it
binds the natural man's sin and wrath together, as a certain pledge of his
ruin, if he continues in that state. So the conscience being awakened, and
perceiving this tie made by the law, the man is filled with terrors in his
3. There is wrath in the HAND of God against the natural
man. He is under heavy strokes of wrath already, and is liable to
(1.) There is wrath on his BODY. It is a piece
of cursed clay, which wrath is sinking into by virtue of the threatening of
the first covenant, Gen. 2:17, "In the day that you eat thereof, you shall
surely die." There is not a disease or pain that affects him—but it comes on
him with the sting of God's indignation in it. They are all cords of death,
sent before to bind the prisoner.
(2.) There is wrath upon his SOUL.
[1.] He can have no communion with God; he is "foolish,
and shall not stand in God's sight," Psalm 5:5. When Adam sinned, God turned
him out of paradise—and natural men are, as Adam left them, banished from
the gracious presence of the Lord; and can have no access to him in that
state. There is war between heaven and them; and so all commerce is cut off.
"They are without God in the world," Eph. 2:12. The sun is gone down on
them, and there is not the least glimpse of favor towards them from heaven.
[2.] Hence the soul is left to pine away in its
iniquity—the natural darkness of their minds, the averseness to good in
their wills, the disorder of their affections, and distemper of their
consciences, and all their natural plagues, are left upon them in a penal
way; and, being so left, increase daily. God casts a portion of this
world's goods to them, more or less, as a bone is thrown to a dog—but
alas! his wrath against them appears, in that they get no grace. The
Physician of souls comes by them, and goes by them, and cures others on each
side of them, while they are consuming away in their iniquity, and ripening
daily for utter destruction.
[3.] They lie open to fearful additional plagues on their
souls, even in this life. Sometimes they meet with deadening strokes, silent
blows from the hand of an angry God; arrows of wrath, that enter into their
souls without noise. Isaiah 6:10, "Make the heart of this people fat, and
make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes,"
etc. God strives with them for a while, and convictions enter their
consciences; but they rebel against the light—and by a secret judgment they
receive a blow on the head; so that, from that time, they do as it were live
and rot above ground. Their hearts are deadened; their affections withered;
their consciences stupefied; and their whole souls blasted; "cast forth as a
branch, and withered," John 15:6. They are plagued with judicial blindness.
They shut their eyes against the light; and they are given over to the
devil, the god of this world, to be blinded more, 2 Cor. 4:4. Yes, "God
sends them strong delusions, that they should believe a lie," 2 Thess. 2:11.
Even conscience, like a false light on the shore, leads them upon rocks—by
which they are broken in pieces.
They harden themselves against God, and he leaves them to
Satan and their own hearts, whereby they are hardened more and more. They
are often given up unto "vile affections," Romans 1:26. They are left to run
into all excess, as their furious lusts drive them. Sometimes they meet with
sharp fiery strokes, whereby their souls become like mount Sinai, where
nothing is seen but fire and smoke; nothing heard but the thunder of God's
wrath, and the voice of the trumpet of a broken law, waxing louder and
louder—which makes them, like Pashur, Jer. 20:4, "a terror to themselves."
God takes the filthy garments of their sins, which they were accustomed to
sleep in securely, overlays them with brimstone, and sets them on fire about
their ears—so they have a hell within them.
(3.) There is wrath on the natural man's enjoyments.
Whatever is lacking in his house, there is one thing that is never
lacking there, Proverbs 3:33, "The Lord's curse is on the house of the
wicked." Wrath is on all that he has, on the bread that he eats, the water
he drinks, the clothes which he wears. "His basket and kneading bowl are
cursed," Deut. 28:17. Some things fall wrong with him; and that comes to
pass by virtue of this wrath—other things go according to his wish, and
there is wrath in that too; for it is a snare to his soul, Proverbs 1:32,
"The prosperity of fools shall destroy them." This wrath turns his blessings
into curses, Mal. 2:2, "I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already
cursed them." The holy law is "a killing letter to him," 2 Cor. 3:6. The
ministry of the gospel "a savor of death unto death," chapter 2:16. In the
sacrament of the Lord's Supper, "he eats and drinks damnation to himself," 1
Cor. 11:29. Nay, more than all that, Christ himself is to him a stone of
stumbling, and a rock of offence," 1 Pet. 2:8. Thus wrath follows the
natural man, as his shadow does his body. "The plowing of the wicked, is
sin." Proverbs 21:4
(4.) He is under the power of Satan, Acts
24:18. The devil has overcome him, so he is his by conquest, his lawful
captive, Isaiah 49:24. The natural man is condemned already, John 3:18, and
therefore under the heavy hand of "him who has the power of death, that is,
the devil." He keeps his prisoners in the prison of a natural state, bound
hand and foot, Isaiah 61:1, laden with various lusts, as chains with which
he holds them fast. You need not, as many do, call on the devil to capture
you; for he has a fast hold of you already, as a child of wrath. "Then they
will come to their senses and escape from the Devil's trap. For they have
been held captive by him to do whatever he wants." 2 Timothy 2:26
(5.) The natural man has no security for a moment's
safety, from the wrath of God coming on him to the uttermost. The
curse of the law, denounced against him, has already tied him to the
stake—so that the arrows of justice may pierce his soul; and, in him, may
meet all the miseries and plagues which flow from the avenging wrath of God.
See how he is set as a mark to the arrows of wrath, Psalm 7:11-13, "God is
angry with the wicked every day. If he does not repent, God will sharpen His
sword; He has strung His bow and made it ready. He has prepared His deadly
weapons; He tips His arrows with fire." Does he lie down to sleep? There is
not a promise that he knows of, or can know, to secure him that he shall not
be in hell before he awakens. Justice pursues, and cries for vengeance on
the sinner; the law casts the fire-balls of its curses continually upon him.
The abused and long-tired patience of God, is that which sustains his life.
He walks amidst enemies armed against him—his name may rightly be called
Magor-missabib, that is, terror round about, Jer. 20:3. Angels, devils, men,
beasts, stones, heaven and earth, are in readiness, on a word of command
from the Lord—to put him to death.
Thus the natural man lives—but he must die too; and DEATH
is a dreadful messenger to him. It comes upon him armed with wrath, and puts
three sad charges in his hand.
(1.) Death charges him to bid an eternal farewell to
all things in this world; to leave it, and haste away to another world.
Ah, what a dreadful charge must this be to a child of wrath! He can have no
comfort from heaven, for God is his enemy—as for the things of the world,
and the enjoyment of his lusts, which were the only springs of his comfort,
these are in a moment dried up to him forever. He is not ready for another
world—he was not thinking of dying so soon; or, if he was—yet he has no
portion secured to him in the other world—but that which he was born to, and
was increasing all his days, namely, a treasury of wrath. But go he must;
his clay-god, the world, must be parted with, and what more does he
have? There was never a glimmering of light, or favor from heaven, to his
soul—the wrath which hung in the threatening, as a cloud like a man's hand,
is darkening the whole heaven above him; if he "looks unto the earth," from
whence all his light was accustomed to come, "behold trouble and darkness,
dimness of anguish; and he shall be driven to darkness," Isaiah 8:22.
(2.) Death charges soul and body to part, until
the great day of judgment. His soul is required of him, "You fool! This very
night your soul will be demanded from you." Luke 12:20. O, what a miserable
parting must this be to a child of wrath! Care was indeed taken to provide
for the body things necessary for this life; but, alas! there is nothing
laid up for another life, nothing to be a seed of a glorious resurrection—as
it lived, so it must die, and rise again—sinful flesh, fuel for the fire
of God's wrath! As for the soul, he was never solicitous to provide for
it. It lay in the body, dead to God, and all holy things; and so must be
carried out into the pit, in the grave-clothes of its natural state—for now
that death comes, the companions in sin must part.
(3.) Death charges the soul to appear before the tribunal
of God, while the body lies to be carried to the grave, Eccl. 12:7, "The
spirit shall return unto God who gave it." Heb. 9:27, "It is appointed unto
all men once to die—but after this the judgment." Well were it for the
sinful soul, if it might be buried together with the body. But that cannot
be; it must go, and receive its sentence; and shall be shut up in the prison
of hell—while the cursed body lies imprisoned in the grave, until the day of
the general judgment.
When the end of the world, as appointed by God, is come,
the trumpet shall sound, and the dead arise. Then shall the weary earth, at
the command of the Judge, cast forth the bodies, the cursed bodies, of those
who lived and died in their natural state. "The sea, death, and hell, shall
deliver up their dead," Rev. 20:13. Their miserable bodies and souls shall
be reunited, and they summoned before the tribunal of Christ. Then shall
they receive that fearful sentence, "Depart from me, you cursed, into
everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels," Matt. 25:41.
Whereupon "they shall go away into everlasting punishment," ver. 46. They
shall be eternally shut up in hell, never to get the least drop of comfort,
nor the smallest alleviation of their torment!
There they will be punished with the punishment of
loss, being excommunicated forever from the presence of God, his
angels, and saints. All means of grace, all hopes of a delivery, will be
forever cut off from their eyes. They shall not have a drop of water to cool
their tongues, Luke 16:24, 25. They will be punished with a punishment of
sense. They must not only depart from God—but depart into fire;
into everlasting fire! There the worm which shall gnaw them will never die;
the fire which will scorch them, shall never be quenched. God will, through
eternity, hold them up with the one hand, and pour the full vials of wrath
into them with the other!
"The wrath of God abides on him." John 3:36. This is that
state of wrath natural men live in; being under much of the wrath of God,
and liable to more. But, for a farther view of it, let us consider
the QUALITIES of this wrath:
1. The wrath of God is IRRESISTIBLE, there is no
standing before it; "Who can stand in your sight, when once You are angry?"
Psalm 76:7. Can the worm or the moth defend itself against him who designs
to crush it? Can the worm, man, stand before an angry God? Foolish man,
indeed, practically bids a defiance to Heaven; but the Lord often, even in
this world, opens such sluices of wrath upon them, as all their might cannot
stop—they are carried away thereby, as with a flood! How much more will it
be so in hell!
2. The wrath of God is INSUPPORTABLE. What a man
cannot resist, he will try to endure—but who shall dwell in devouring fire?
Who shall dwell with everlasting burnings? God's wrath is a weight that will
sink men into the lowest hell. It is a burden which no man can stand under.
3. The wrath of God is UNAVOIDABLE to such as
continue impenitently, and die in their sinful course. "He who, being often
reproved, hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without
remedy," Proverbs 29:1. We may now flee from it, indeed, by fleeing to Jesus
Christ. But such as flee from Christ, will never be able to avoid it. Where
can men flee from the avenging God? Where will they find a shelter? The
hills will not bear them. The mountains will be deaf to their loudest
supplications, when they cry to them to "hide them from the wrath of the
4. The wrath of God is POWERFUL and FIERCE
wrath, Psalm 90:11, "Who can comprehend the power of Your anger? Your wrath
is as awesome as the fear You deserve." We are apt to fear the wrath of man
more than we ought; but no man can apprehend the wrath of God to be more
dreadful than it really is. The power of God's wrath can never be known to
the utmost; for it is infinite, and, properly speaking, has no utmost limit.
However fierce it is, either on earth or in hell, God can still carry it
farther. Everything in God is most perfect in its kind; and therefore no
wrath is so fierce as his. O sinner! how will you be able to endure that
wrath, which will tear you in pieces, Psalm 50:22, and grind you to powder!
Luke 20:18. The history of the two bears, which came out of the woods and
mauled forty-two boys, is an awful one, 2 Kings 2:23, 24. But the united
force of the rage of lions, leopards, and bears bereaved of their cubs, is
not sufficient to give us even a faint view of the power of the wrath of
God; Hos. 13:7, 8, "So now I will attack you like a lion, or like a leopard
that lurks along the road. I will rip you to pieces like a bear whose cubs
have been taken away. I will tear you apart and devour you like a hungry
5. The wrath of God is PENETRATING and PIERCING
wrath. It is burning wrath, and fiery indignation. There is no pain more
intense than that which is caused by fire; and no fire so piercing as the
fire of God's indignation, which burns unto the lowest hell, Deut. 32:22.
The arrows of men's wrath can pierce flesh, blood, and bones—but cannot
reach the soul; but the wrath of God will sink into the soul, and so pierce
a man in the most tender part. Like as, when a person is thunderstruck,
oft-times there is not a wound to be seen in the skin; yet life is gone, and
the bones are melted, as it were—so God's wrath can penetrate into, and melt
a man's soul within him, when his earthly comforts stand about him entire
and untouched; as in Belshazzar's case, Dan. 5:6.
6. The wrath of God is CONSTANT wrath, running
parallel with the man's continuance in an unregenerate state; constantly
attending him from the womb to the grave. There are few days so dark—but the
sun sometimes looks out from under the clouds. But the wrath of God is an
abiding cloud on the objects of it; John 3:36, "The wrath of God abides on
him" who believes not.
7. The wrath of God is ETERNAL. O, miserable soul!
if you flee not from this wrath unto Jesus Christ; though your misery had a
beginning—yet it will never have an end! Should devouring death wholly
swallow you up, and forever hold you fast in the grave, it would be kind—but
your body must be reunited to your immortal soul, and live again, and never
die; that you may be ever dying, in the hands of the living God. Death will
quench the flame of man's wrath against us, if nothing else does. But God's
wrath, when it has come on the sinner for millions of ages, will still be
the wrath to come, Matt. 3:7; 1 Thess. 1:10; as the water of a river is
still coming, however much has passed. While God is, He will pursue the
8. However dreadful it is, and though it be eternal—yet
it is most JUST wrath! It is a clear fire, without the least smoke of
injustice. The sea of wrath, raging with greatest fury against the sinner,
is clear as crystal. The Judge of all the earth can do no wrong—He knows no
passion, for they are inconsistent with the perfection of his nature. "Is
God unrighteous to inflict wrath? Absolutely not! Otherwise, how will God
judge the world?" Romans 3:5, 6.
II. I shall CONFIRM the doctrine of the state of wrath.
1. How decided the threatening of the first covenant is.
"In the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die," Gen. 2:17. Hereby
sin and punishment being connected, the veracity of God makes the execution
of the threatening certain. Now, all men being by nature under this
covenant, the breach of it lays them under the curse.
2. The justice of God requires that a child of sin be
a child of wrath; that the law being broken, the sanction thereof should
take place. God, as man's ruler and judge, cannot but do right, Gen. 18:25.
Now, it is "a righteous thing with God to recompense sin" with wrath, 2
Thess. 1:6. He "is of purer eyes than to behold evil," Hab. 1:13. And "he
hates all the workers of iniquity," Psalm 5:5.
3. The horrors of a natural conscience prove this.
Conscience, in the breasts of men, tells them that they are sinners, and
therefore liable to the wrath of God. Let men, at any time, soberly commune
with themselves, and they will find that they have the witness in
themselves, "knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things
are worthy of death," Romans 1:32.
4. The pangs of the new birth, the work of the Spirit on
elect souls, in order to their conversion, demonstrate this. Hereby
their natural sinfulness and misery, as liable to the wrath of God, are
plainly taught them, filling their hearts with fear of that wrath. As it is
the Spirit's work to "convince of sin, righteousness, and judgment," John
16:8, this testimony must needs be true; for the Spirit of truth cannot
witness an untruth. But true believers, being freed from the state of wrath,
"receive not the spirit of bondage again to fear—but receive the Spirit of
adoption," Romans 8:15. Therefore, if fears of that nature do arise, after
the soul's union with Christ, they come from the saint's own spirit, or from
5. The sufferings of Christ plainly prove this doctrine.
Why was the Son of God a son under wrath—but because the children of men
were children of wrath? He suffered the wrath of God; not for himself—but
for those who were liable to it in their own persons. Nay, this not only
shows us to have been liable to wrath—but also that wrath must have a vent,
in the punishment of sin. If this was done in the green tree, what will
become of the dry? What a miserable case must a sinner be in, who is out of
Christ; that is not vitally united to Christ, and partakes not of his
Spirit! God, who spared not his own Son, surely will not spare such a one!
But the unregenerate man, who has no great value for the
honor of God, will be apt to rise up against this Judge, and in his own
heart condemn his procedure. Nevertheless, the Judge being infinitely
just—the sentence must be righteous. Therefore, to stop your mouth, O
proud sinner! and to still your clamor against your righteous Judge,
1. You are a sinner by nature; and it is just, that wrath
be as old as sin and guilt. Why should not God begin to vindicate his honor,
as soon as vile worms attempt to impair it? Why shall not a serpent bite the
thief, as soon as he leaps over the hedge? Why should not the threatening
take hold of the sinner, as soon as he casts away the command? The poisonous
nature of the serpent affords a man sufficient ground to kill it, as soon as
ever he can reach it; and by this time you may be convinced that your nature
is a very compound of enmity against God.
2. You have not only enmity against God in your
nature—but have revealed it by actual sins, which are, in his eye, acts of
hostility. You have brought forth your lusts into the field of battle
against your sovereign Lord. And because you are such a criminal, your
condemnation is just—for, besides the sin of your nature, you have done that
against Heaven, which if you had done against men, you must have suffered
the penalty for it; and shall not wrath from Heaven overtake you?
(1.) You are guilty of high treason and rebellion against
the King of heaven. The thought and wish of your heart, which he knows as
well as the language of your mouth, has been, "No God," Psalm 14:1. You have
rejected his government, blown the trumpet, and set up the standard of
rebellion against him, being one of those that say, "We will not have this
man to reign over us!" Luke 19:14. You have striven against, and quenched
his Spirit; practically disowned his laws proclaimed by his messengers;
stopped your ears at their voice, and sent them away mourning for your
pride. You have conspired with his grand enemy, the devil. Although you are
a servant of the King of glory, daily receiving of his favors, and living on
his bounty, you are holding a correspondence, and have contracted a
friendship, with his greatest enemy, and are acting for him against your
Lord; for "the lusts of the devil you will do," John 8:44.
(2.) You are a murderer before the Lord. You have laid
the stumbling-block of your iniquity before the blind world, and have ruined
the souls of others by your sinful course. Though you do not see now, the
time may come when you shall see the blood of your relations, neighbors,
acquaintances, and others upon your head, Matt. 18:7, "Woe unto the world
because of offences. Woe to that man by whom the offence comes." Yes, you
are a self-murderer before God; Proverbs 8:36, "He who sins against me,
wrongs his own soul—all they that hate me, love death." Ezek. 18:31, "Why
will you die?" The laws of men mark the self-murderer; what wonder is it,
that the law of God is so severe against soul-murderers?
Is it unjust, that those who depart from God now, cost
what it will, should be forced to depart from him at last, into everlasting
fire? But, what is yet more criminal, you are guilty of the murder of the
Son of God; for the Lord will reckon you among those that pierced him, Rev.
1:6. You have rejected him, as the Jews did; and by rejecting him, you have
justified their deed. They, indeed, did not acknowledge him to be the Son of
God—but you do. What they did against him, was in his state of humiliation;
but you have acted against him, in his state of exaltation. These things
will aggravate your condemnation. What wonder, then, if the voice of the
lamb change to the roaring of the lion, against the traitor and murderer!
OBJECTION. But some will say,
"Is there not a vast disproportion between our sin, and that wrath you
I answer, "No! God punishes no more than the sinner
deserves." To rectify your mistake in this matter, consider,
1. The vast rewards which God has annexed to obedience.
His word is no more full of fiery wrath against sin, than it is of
gracious rewards to the obedience it requires. If heaven be in the promises,
it is altogether equal that hell is in the threatenings. If death were not
in the balance with life, eternal misery with eternal happiness, where would
be the proportion? Moreover, sin deserves the misery—but our best works do
not deserve the happiness—yet both are set before us; sin and misery,
holiness and happiness. What reason is there, then, to complain?
2. However severe the threatenings be—yet all have enough
to do to reach the end of the law. "Fear him," says our Lord,
"who after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say unto you,
Fear him," Luke 12:5. This bespeaks our dread of divine power and majesty;
yet how few fear him indeed! The Lord knows the hearts of sinners to be
exceedingly intent upon fulfilling their lusts; they cleave so fondly to
their beloved sins, that a small force does not suffice to draw them away
from them. Those who travel through deserts, where they are in hazard from
wild beasts, have need to carry fire along with them—so a holy law must be
fenced with dreadful wrath in a world lying in wickedness. But who are those
who complain of that wrath as too great—but those to whom it is too little
to draw them off from their sinful courses? It was the man who pretended to
fear his Lord, because he was an austere man, who kept his money laid up in
a napkin; and so he was condemned out of his own mouth, Luke 19:20-22. You
are that man, even you whose objection I am answering. How can the wrath
which you are under, and liable to, be too great, when as yet it is not
sufficient to awaken you to flee from it? Is it time to relax the penalties
of the law, when men are trampling the commands of it under foot?
3. Consider how God dealt with his own Son, whom he
spared not, Romans 8:32. The wrath of God seized on his soul and
body both, and brought him into the dust of death. That his sufferings were
not eternal, flowed from the quality of the Sufferer, who was infinite; and
therefore able to bear at once the whole load of wrath; and, upon that
account, his sufferings were infinite in value. But as the sufferings of a
mere creature cannot be infinite in value, they must be protracted to an
eternity. And what confidence can a rebel subject, have to quarrel with his
part of a punishment executed on the King's Son?
4. The sinner does against God all that he can—"Behold,
you have done evil things as you could," Jer. 3:5. That you have not done
more, and worse, thanks to him who restrained you; to the chain by which the
wolf was kept in, not to yourself. No wonder that God shows his power on the
sinner, who puts forth his power against God, as far as it will reach. The
unregenerate man puts no period to his sinful course; and would put no
bounds to it either, if he were not restrained by divine power, for wise
ends—therefore, it is just that he be forever under wrath.
5. It is infinite majesty which sin strikes against;
and so it is, in some sort, an infinite evil. Sin rises in its demerit,
according to the quality of the party offended. If a man wound his neighbor,
his goods must pay for it; but if he wound his prince, his life must pay for
that. The infinity of God makes infinite wrath the just demerit of sin. God
is infinitely displeased with sin; and when he acts, he must act like
himself, and show his displeasure by proportionable means.
6. Those who shall lie forever under this wrath will be
eternally sinning, and therefore must eternally suffer; not only
in respect of divine judicial procedure—but because sin is its own
punishment, in the same manner as holy obedience is its own reward.
III. I now proceed to APPLY this doctrine of
the misery of man's natural state.
Use 1. Of INFORMATION. Is our state by nature
a state of wrath? Then,
1. Surely we are not born innocent. Those
chains of wrath, which by nature are upon us, show us to be born criminals.
The swaddling-bands, wherewith infants are bound hand and foot as soon as
they are born, may put us in mind of the cords of wrath, with which they are
held prisoners, as children of wrath.
2. What desperate madness is it, for sinners to go on in
their sinful course! What is it but to heap coals of fire on your
own head! To lay more and more fuel to the fire of wrath! To "treasure up
unto yourself wrath against the day of wrath!" Rom 2:5. You may perish,
"when his wrath is kindled but a little," Psalm 2:12. Why will you increase
it yet more? You are already bound with such cords of death, as cannot
easily be loosened; what need is there of more? Stand, careless sinner, and
3. You have no reason to complain, as long as you are out
of hell. "Why does a living man complain?" Lam. 3:39. If one, who
has forfeited his life, is banished from his native country, and exposed to
many hardships, he may well bear all patiently, seeing his life is spared.
Do you murmur, because you are under pain and sickness? Nay, bless God, you
are not there where the worm never dies! Do you grudge, that you are not in
so good a condition in the world as some of your neighbors are? Be thankful,
rather, that you are not in the condition of the damned! Is your substance
gone from you? Wonder that the fire of God's wrath has not consumed you!
Kiss the rod, O sinner! and acknowledge mercy; for God "punishes us less
than our iniquities deserve," Ezra 9:13.
4. Here is a memorandum, both for poor and rich.
(1.) The POOREST, who go from door to door, and have not
one penny left them by their parents, were born to an inheritance. Their
first father Adam left them "children of wrath:" and, continuing in their
natural state, they cannot escape it; for "this is the portion of a wicked
man from God, and the heritage appointed to him by God," Job 20:29. An
heritage that will furnish them with a habitation, who have no where to lay
their head; they shall be "cast into outer darkness," Matt. 25:30, for to
them "is reserved the blackness of darkness forever," Jude, ver. 13, where
their bed shall be sorrow; "they shall lie down in sorrow," Isaiah 50:11;
their food shall be judgment, for God will "feed them with judgment," Ezek
34:16; and their drink shall be the red wine of God's wrath, "the dregs
whereof all the wicked of the earth shall wring out, and drink them," Psalm
I know that those who are destitute of worldly goods, and
also void of the knowledge and grace of God, who therefore may be called
the devil's poor, will be apt to say, "We hope God will make us suffer
all our misery in this world, and that we shall be happy in the next world;"
as if their miserable outward condition, in time, would secure their
happiness in eternity. A gross and fatal mistake! there is another
inheritance which they have, namely, "Lies, vanity, and things wherein there
is no profit," Jer. 16:19. But, "the hail shall sweep away the refuge of
lies," Isaiah 28:17. Do you think, O sinner, that God, who commands judges
on earth "not to respect the person of the poor in judgment," Lev. 19:15,
will pervert judgment for you? No! Know for certain, that however miserable
you are here, you shall be eternally miserable hereafter, if you live and
die in your natural state.
(2.) Many that have plenty in the world, have far more
than they know of. You have, it may be, O unregenerate man! an estate, a
good portion, a large stock, left you by your father; you have improved it,
and the sun of prosperity shines upon you; so that you can say, with Esau,
Gen. 33:9, "I have enough." But know, you have more than all that, an
inheritance which you do not think of—you are a child of wrath, an heir of
hell! That is a heritage which will abide with you amidst all the changes in
the world, as long as you continue in an unregenerate state. When you shall
leave your substance to others, this will go along with you into another
world. It is no wonder a slaughter ox is fed to the full, and is not
set to work as others are, Job 21:30, "The wicked is reserved to the day of
destruction; they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath."
Well then, "Rejoice, let your heart cheer you, walk in
the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes." Live above reproofs
and warning from the word of God; show yourself a man of learning, by
casting off all fear of God; mock at seriousness; live like yourself, "a
child of wrath," "an heir of hell." "But know, that for all these things God
will bring you into judgment!" Eccl. 11:9. Assure yourself, your "breaking
shall come suddenly at an instant," Isaiah 30:13. "For as the crackling of
thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of a fool," Eccl. 7:6. The fair
blaze, and the great noise which they make, are quickly gone—so shall your
mirth be. Then that wrath, which is now silently sinking into your soul,
shall make a fearful hissing.
5. Woe to him, that like Moab, "has been at ease from his
youth, Jer. 48:11, and never saw the black cloud of wrath hanging
over his head. There are many who "have no changes, therefore they fear not
God," Psalm 55:19. They have lived in a good hope, as they call it, all
their days; that is, they never had power to believe an ill report of their
soul's state. Many have come by their religion too easily—and as it came
lightly to them, so it will go from them, when the trial comes. Do you think
men flee from wrath in a morning dream? Or will they flee from the wrath
which they never saw pursuing them?
6. Think it not strange, if you see one in great distress
about his soul's condition, who was accustomed to be as jovial,
and as little concerned for salvation as any of his neighbors. Can one get a
right view of himself, as in a state of wrath, and not be pierced with
sorrows, terrors, and anxiety? When a weight quite above a man's strength,
lies upon him, and he is alone, he can neither stir hand nor foot; but when
one comes to lift it off him, he will struggle to get from under it.
Thunderclaps of wrath from the word of God, conveyed to the soul by the
Spirit of the Lord, will surely keep a man awake.
7. It is no wonder that wrath comes upon churches and
nations, and upon us in this land, and that infants and children smart under
it. Most of the society are yet children of wrath; few are
fleeing from it, or taking the way to prevent it—but people of all ranks are
helping it on. The Jews rejected Christ; and their children have been
smarting under wrath these eighteen hundred years. God grant that the bad
treatment given to Christ and his gospel, by this generation, be not pursued
with wrath on the succeeding one.
Use 2. Of EXHORTATION. Here I shall drop a
1. To those who are yet in an unregenerate state.
2. To those who are brought out of it.
3. To all equally.
1. To you who are yet in an UNREGENERATE state,
I would sound the alarm, and warn you to see to yourselves, while there is
yet hope. O, you children of wrath take no rest in this dismal state; but
flee to Christ, the only refuge; hasten and make your escape there. The
state of wrath is too hot a climate for you to live in, Micah 2:10, "Arise
and depart, for this is not your rest." O sinner, do you know where you are?
Do you not see your danger? The curse has entered into your soul—wrath is
your covering; the heavens are growing blacker and blacker above your head;
the earth is weary of you, the pit is opening her mouth for you, and should
the thread of your life be cut this moment, you are thenceforth past all
Sirs, if we saw you putting a cup of poison to your
mouth, we would run to you and snatch it out of your hands. If we saw the
house on fire about you, while you were fast asleep in it, we would run to
you, and drag you out of it. But alas! you are in ten thousand times greater
hazard—yet we can do no more than tell you your danger; invite, exhort, and
beseech you to look to yourselves; and lament your stupidity and obstinacy,
when we cannot prevail with you to take warning. If there were no hope of
your recovery, we would be silent, and would not torment you before the
time—but though you be lost and undone, there is hope concerning this thing.
Therefore, I cry unto you, in the name of the Lord, and in the words of the
prophet, Zech. 9:12, "Turn to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope." Flee
to Jesus Christ out of this, your natural state of sin and wrath.
Motive 1. While you are in this state, you
must stand or fall according to the law, or covenant of works. If you
understood this aright, it would strike through your hearts as a thousand
darts. One had better be a slave to the Turks, condemned to the galleys, or
under Egyptian bondage—than be under the covenant of works! All mankind were
brought under it in Adam, as we heard before; and you, in your unregenerate
state, are still where Adam left you. It is true, there is another covenant
brought in—but what is that to you, who are not brought into it?
You must needs be under one of the two covenants; either
under the law, or under grace. That you are not under grace, the dominion of
sin over you manifestly proves; therefore, you are under the law, Romans
6:14. Do not think God has laid aside the first covenant, Matt. 5:17, 18;
Gal. 3:10. No, he will "magnify the law, and make it honorable." It is
broken indeed on your part; but it is absurd to think, that therefore your
obligation is dissolved. Nay, you must stand and fall by it, until you can
produce your discharge from God himself, who is the party in that covenant;
and this you cannot pretend to, seeing you are not in Christ.
Now, to give you a view of your misery, in this respect,
consider these following things:
(1.) Hereby you are bound over to death, in virtue of the
threatening of death in the covenant, Gen. 2:17. The condition being broken
you fall under the penalty. So it concludes you under wrath.
(2.) There is no salvation for you under this
covenant—but on a condition impossible to be performed by you. The justice
of God must be satisfied for the wrong which you have done already. God has
written this truth in characters of the blood of his own Son. Yes, and you
must perfectly obey the law for the time to come. So says the law, Gal.
3:12, "The man who does them, shall live in them." Come then, O sinner! see
if you can make a ladder, whereby you may reach the throne of God—stretch
forth your arms, and try if you can fly on the wings of the wind, catch hold
of the clouds, and pierce through these visible heavens; and then either
climb over, or break through, the jasper walls of the city above. These
things you may do, as well as be able to reach heaven in your natural state,
under this covenant.
(3.) There is no pardon under this covenant. Pardon is
the benefit of another covenant, with which you have nothing to do, Acts
13:39, "By him, all that believe are justified from all things, from which
you could not be justified by the law of Moses." As for you, you are in the
hands of a merciless creditor, who will take you by the throat, saying, "Pay
what you owe!" and cast you into prison, there to remain until you have paid
the utmost farthing—unless you be so wise as to get a surety in time, who is
able to answer for all your debt, and get up your discharge. This Jesus
Christ alone can do. You abide under this covenant, and plead mercy; but
what is your plea founded on? There is not one promise of mercy or pardon in
that covenant. Do you plead mercy for mercy's sake? Justice will step in
between it and you, and plead God's covenant threatening, which he cannot
(4.) There is no place for repentance in this covenant,
so as the sinner can be helped by it. For as soon as ever you sin, the law
lays its curse on you, which is a dead weight you can by no means throw off;
no, not though your "head were waters, and your eyes a fountain of tears, to
weep day and night" for your sin. That is what the law cannot do, in that it
is "weak through the flesh," Romans 8:3. You are another profane Esau, who
has sold the blessing; and there is no place for repentance, though you seek
it carefully with tears, while under the covenant.
(5.) There is no acceptance of the will for the deed
under this covenant, which was not made for good will—but good works. The
mistake in this point ruins many. They are not in Christ—but stand under the
first covenant; and yet they will plead this privilege. This is just like a
man having made a feast for those of his own family, and when they sit down
at table, another man's servant, who has run away from his master,
presumptuously comes forward and sits down among them—would not the master
of the feast give such a stranger that check, "Friend, why do you come in
here?" and since he is none of his family, commanded him to be gone quickly.
Though a master accept the good-will of his own child for the deed, can a
hired servant expect that privilege?
(6.) You have nothing to do with Christ while under that
covenant. By the law of God, a woman cannot be married to two husbands at
once—either death or divorce must dissolve the first marriage, before she
can marry another. So we must first be dead to the law, before we can be
married to Christ, Romans 7:4. The law is the first husband; Jesus Christ,
who raises the dead, marries the widow, who was heartbroken, and slain by
the first husband. But while the soul is in the house with the first
husband, it cannot plead a marriage relation to Christ; nor the benefits of
a marriage covenant, which is not yet entered into, Gal. 5:4, "Christ is
become of no effect to you; whoever of you are justified by the law, you are
fallen from grace." Peace, pardon, and such like benefits, are all benefits
of the covenant of grace. You must not think to stand off from Christ, and
the marriage covenant with him, and yet plead these benefits, any more than
one man's wife can plead the benefit of a contract of marriage passed
between another man and his wife.
(7.) See the bill of exclusion, passed in the court of
Heaven, against all under the covenant of works, Gal. 4:30, "The son of the
bond-woman shall not be heir." Compare ver. 24. Heirs of wrath must not be
heirs of glory. Whom the first covenant has power to exclude out of heaven,
the second covenant cannot bring into it.
OBJECTION. Then it is impossible for us to be saved.
Answer. It is so while you are in that state; but if you
would be out of that dreadful condition, hasten out of that state. If a
murderer be under sentence of death, so long as he lives within the kingdom,
the laws will reach his life; but if he can make his escape, and get over
the sea, into the dominions of another prince, our laws cannot reach him
there. This is what we would have you to do; flee out of the kingdom of
darkness, into the kingdom of God's dear Son; out of the dominion of the
law, into the dominion of grace—then all the curses of the law, or covenant
of works, shall never be able to reach you.
Motive 2. O, you children of wrath, your state
is wretched, for you have lost God, and that is an unspeakable loss. You are
without God in the world, Eph. 2:12. Whatever you may call yours, you cannot
call God yours. If we look to the earth, perhaps you can tell us, that land,
that house, or that herd of cattle—is yours. But let us look upward to
heaven; is that God, that grace, that glory, yours? Truly, you have neither
part no lot in this matter. When Nebuchadnezzar talks of cities and
kingdoms, O how big does he speak! "Great Babylon, that I have built
– my power – my majesty;" but he tells a poor tale, when he
comes to speak of God, saying, "Your God," Dan. 2:47, and 4:30. Alas,
sinner! whatever you have, God is gone from you. O, the misery of a godless
soul! Have you lost God? Then,
(1.) The sap and substance of all you have in the world
is gone. The godless man, have what he will, is one who really has nothing,
Matt. 25:29. I defy the unregenerate man to attain to soul satisfaction,
whatever he possesses, since God is not his God. All his days he eats in
darkness; in every condition there is a secret dissatisfaction which haunts
his heart, like a Spirit. The soul wants something, though perhaps it knows
not what; and so it will be always, until the soul returns to God, the
fountain of satisfaction.
(2.) You can do nothing to purpose for yourself; for God
is gone, his soul is departed from you, Jer. 6:8, like a leg out of joint
hanging by, whereof a man has no use, as the word there used signifies.
Losing God, you have lost the fountain of good; and so all grace, all
goodness, all the saving influences of his Spirit. What can you do then?
What fruit can you bring forth, more than a branch cut off from the stock?
John 15:5. You are become unprofitable, Romans 3:12, as a filthy rotten
thing, fit only for the ash-heap.
(3.) Death has come up into your windows, yes, and has
settled on your face; for God, in whose favor life is, Psalm 30:5, is gone
from you, and so the life of your soul is departed. What a loathsome lump is
the body, when the soul is gone! Far more loathsome is your soul in this
case. You are dead while you live. Do not deny it, seeing your speech is
laid, your eyes closed, and all spiritual motion in you ceased. Your true
friends who see your case, lament, because you are gone into the land of
(4.) You have not a steady friend among all the creatures
of God; for now that you have lost the master's favor, all the family is set
against you. Conscience is your enemy; the word never speaks good of you;
God's people loathe so far as they see what you are, Psalm 15:4. The beasts
and stones of the field are banded together against you, Job 5:23; Hos.
2:18. Your food, drink, and clothes, grudge being serviceable to the wretch
that has lost God, and abuses them to his dishonor. The earth groans under
you; yes, "the whole creation groans, and travails in pain together,"
because of you, and such as you are, Romans 8:22. Heaven will have nothing
to do with you; for "there shall never enter into it, anything that
defiles," Rev. 21:27. Only "hell from beneath, is eager to greet your
coming," Isaiah 14:9.
(5.) Your hell is begun already. What makes hell—but
exclusion from the presence of God? "Depart from me, you cursed." You are
gone from God already, with the curse upon you. That which is now your
choice, shall be your punishment at length, if you do not repent. As a
gracious state is a state of glory in the bud; so a graceless state
is hell in the bud, which, if it continue, will come at length to
Motive 3. Consider the dreadful instances of
the wrath of God, and let them serve to awaken you to flee out of this
(1.) How it is fallen on men. Even in this world, many
have been set up as monuments of Divine vengeance—that others might fear.
Wrath has swept away multitudes, who have fallen together by the hand of an
angry God. Consider how the Lord "spared not the old world – bringing in the
flood upon the world of the ungodly. And turning the cities of Sodom and
Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow, making them an
example unto those who after would live ungodly," 2 Pet. 2:5, 6. But it is
yet more dreadful to think of that weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth,
among those who in hell lift up their eyes—but cannot get a drop of water to
cool their tongues. Believe these things and be warned by them, lest
destruction come upon you, for a warning to others.
(2.) Consider how wrath fell upon the fallen angels,
whose case is absolutely hopeless. They were the first that ventured to
break the hedge of the Divine law; and God set them up for monuments of his
wrath against sin. They once "left their own habitation," and were never
allowed to look in again at the keyhole of the door; but they are "reserved
in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day,"
Jude, ver. 6.
(3.) Behold how an angry God dealt with his own Son,
standing in the place of elect sinners, Romans 8:32, "God spared not his
Son." Sparing mercy might have been expected here—if any place at all. If
any person could have obtained it, surely his own Son would have got it—but
he spared him not. The Father's delight—is made a man of sorrows! He who is
the wisdom of God—becomes sore amazed, ready to faint away in a fit of
horror. The weight of this wrath makes him sweat great drops of blood. By
the fierceness of this fire, his heart was melted like wax.
Behold, here, how severe God is against sin! The sun was
struck blind with this terrible sight, rocks were rent, graves opened;
death, as it were, in the excess of astonishment, letting its prisoners slip
away. What is a deluge, a shower of fire and brimstone, on the people of
Sodom, the terrible noise of a dissolving world, the whole fabric of heaven
and earth disuniting at once, and angels cast down from heaven into the
bottomless pit! What are all these, I say, in comparison with this—God in
human nature suffering! groaning! dying upon a cross! Infinite holiness did
it, to make sin look like itself, that is, infinitely odious. And will men
live at ease, while exposed to this wrath?
Motive 4. Unrepentant sinner! Consider what a
God he is—with whom you have to do, and whose wrath you are liable unto. He
is the God of infinite knowledge and wisdom; so that none of your
sins, however secret, can be hidden from him. He infallibly finds out all
means, whereby wrath may be executed, toward the satisfying of justice. He
is of infinite power, and so can do what he will against the sinner.
How heavy must the strokes of wrath be, which are laid on by an omnipotent
hand! Infinite power can make the sinner its prisoner, even when he is in
his greatest rage against Heaven. It can bring again the several parcels of
dust out of the grave, put them together again, reunite the soul and body,
summon them before the tribunal, hurry them away to the pit, and hold them
up with the one hand, through eternity, while they are lashed with the
other! He is infinitely just, and therefore must punish. It would be
acting contrary to his nature—to allow the rebellious sinner to escape
wrath. Hence the executing of this wrath is pleasing to him—for though the
Lord has no delight in the death of a sinner, as it is the destruction of
his own creature—yet he delights in it, as it is the execution of justice.
"Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible
tempest." Mark the reason—"For the righteous Lord loves righteousness,"
Psalm 11:6, 7. "I will cause my fury to rest upon them, and I will be
comforted," Ezek. 5:13. "I also will laugh at your calamity," Proverbs 1:26.
Finally, He lives forever, to pursue the quarrel. Let us therefore
conclude, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!"
Be awakened then, O young sinner! be awakened, O old
sinner! You are yet in the state of wrath, in which you were born in! Your
security is the sleep of death; rise out of it, before the pit closes its
mouth upon you. It is true, you may put on a breastplate of iron, make your
brow brass, and your heart as hard as adamant. But God will break that
brazen brow, and make that adamantine heart at last to fly into a thousand
pieces! You may, if you will, labor to put these things out of your heads,
that you may sleep in fancied safety, though in a state of wrath. You may
run away, with the arrows sticking in your consciences, to your job, to work
them away. You may go to your beds, to sleep them out; or to company, to
sport and laugh them away—but convictions, so stifled, will have a fearful
resurrection; and the day is coming, unless you take warning in time, when
the arrows of wrath shall so stick in your soul, as you shall never be able
to pluck them out through the ages of eternity!
; and implore
and beseech them, as they love their own souls, to comply with them.
But if any desire to flee from the wrath to come, and, for that end, to know
what course to take—I offer them these few ADVICES
(1.) Retire to some secret place and there meditate on
this, your misery. Believe it, and fix your thoughts on it. Let each put
the question to himself, How can I live in this state? How can I die in it?
How shall I rise again, and stand before the tribunal of God in it?
(2.) Consider seriously the sin of your nature, heart,
and life. A proper sight of wrath flows from a deep sense of sin. Those
who see themselves exceedingly sinful, will find no great difficulty to
perceive themselves to be heirs of wrath.
(3.) Labor to justify God in this matter. To quarrel
with God about it, and to rage like a wild bull in a net, will but fix you
the more in it. Humiliation of soul before the Lord is necessary for an
escape. God will not sell deliverance—but freely gives it to
those who see themselves altogether unworthy of his favor.
(4.) Turn your eyes, O prisoners of hope, towards the
Lord Jesus Christ; and embrace him, as he offers himself in the gospel.
"There is no salvation in any other," Acts 4:12. God is a consuming fire;
you are children of wrath—if the Mediator does not interpose between him and
you—you are undone forever! If you would be safe, come under his shadow—one
drop of that wrath cannot fall there, for he "delivers us from the wrath to
come," 1 Thess. 1:10. Accept of him in this covenant, wherein he offers
himself to you; so you shall, as the captive woman, redeem your life, by
marrying the conqueror. His blood will quench that fire of wrath which burns
against you—in the white raiment of his righteousness you will be safe; for
no storm of wrath can pierce it.
2. I shall drop a few words to the SAINTS.
"Remember that at that time you were without Christ . . .
having no hope and without God in the world." Ephesians 2:12
at that time," namely, when you were in your natural state, "you were
without Christ – having no hope, and without God in the world." Call to mind
the state you were in formerly; and review the misery of it. There are five
memorials which I may thence give in to the whole assembly of the saints,
who are no longer children of wrath—but "heirs of God, and joint heirs with
Christ," though as yet in their minority.
[1.] Remember—that in the day our Lord first took you by
the hand, you were in no better a condition than others. O, what moved Him
to take you—when He passed by your neighbors? He found you children of
wrath, even as others—but He did not leave you so. He came into the common
prison, where you lay in fetters, even as others. From among the multitude
of condemned malefactors, He picked you out, commanded your fetters to be
taken off, put a pardon in your hand, and brought you into the glorious
liberty of the children of God—while He left others in the devil's fetters!
[2.] Remember—there was nothing in you to engage Him to
love you, in the day he appeared for your deliverance. You were children of
wrath, even as others; fit for hell, and altogether unfit for heaven! Yet
the King brought you into the palace; the King's Son made love to you, a
condemned criminal, and espoused you to Himself, on the day in which you
might have been led forth to execution! "Even so, Father, for so it seems
good in Your sight!" Matt. 11:26.
[3.] Remember—you were fitter to be loathed, than loved,
in that day. Be amazed and wonder! that when He saw you in your blood, that
He did not look upon you with abhorrence, and pass you by. Wonder, that ever
such a time could be a time of love, Ezek. 16:8.
[4.] Remember—you are decked with borrowed garments. It
is His loveliness which is upon you, ver. 14. It was He who took off your
prison garments, and clothed you with robes of righteousness, garments of
salvation; garments with which you are arrayed as the lilies, which toil
not, neither do they spin. He took the chains from off your arms, the rope
from about your neck; put you in such a dress, as you might be fit for the
court of heaven, even to eat at the King's table!
[5.] Remember your faults this day, as Pharaoh's butler,
who had forgotten Joseph. Mind how you have forgotten, and how unkindly you
have treated Him who remembered you in your dreadful estate. Is this your
kindness to your friend? In the day of your deliverance, did you think you
could have thus requited Him, your Lord?
(2.) PITY the children of
wrath—the world which lies in wickedness. Can you be unconcerned
for them, you who were once in the same condition? You have got ashore,
indeed—but your companions are yet in hazard of perishing; and will not you
afford them all possible help for their deliverance? What they are—you
formerly were. This may draw pity from you, and engage you to use all means
for their recovery. See Titus 3:1-3.
(3.) Admire that matchless love
which brought you out of the state of wrath. Christ's love was
active love; He brought your soul from the pit of corruption! It was no easy
work to purchase the life of the condemned sinner; but He gave His life for
your life. He gave His precious blood to quench the flame of wrath, which
otherwise would have consumed you! Men get the best view of the stars from
the bottom of a deep pit; from this pit of misery, into which you were cast
by the fall of the first Adam, you may get the best view of the Sun of
Righteousness, in all his dimensions. He is the second Adam, who took you
out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay. How broad was that love,
which covered such a multitude of sins! Behold the length of it, reaching
from everlasting to everlasting, Psalm 103:17. The depth of it, going so low
as to deliver you from the lowest hell, Ps. 86:13. The height of it, raising
you up to sit in heavenly places, Eph. 2:6.
(4.) Be HUMBLE, carry low sails,
walk softly all your years. Be not proud of your gifts, graces,
privileges, or attainments; but remember you were children of wrath, even as
others. The peacock walks slowly, hangs down his lovely feathers, while he
looks to his black feet. "Look to the hole of the pit whence you are dug;"
and walk humbly, as it becomes free grace's debtors.
(5.) Be wholly for your Lord.
Every wife is obliged to be dutiful to her husband; but double
ties lie upon her who was taken from a prison, or an ash-heap. If your Lord
has delivered you from wrath, you ought, on that very account, to be wholly
his; to act for him, to suffer tor him, and to do whatever he calls you to.
The saints have no reason to complain of their lot in the world, whatever
it is. Well may they bear the cross for Him—by whom the curse was borne
away from them. Well may they bear the wrath of men in his cause—who has
freed them from the wrath of God; and cheerfully go to a fire for him, by
whom hell-fire is quenched as to them.
Soul and body, and all you had in the world, were
formerly under wrath—he has removed that wrath; shall not all these be at
his service? That your soul is not overwhelmed with the wrath of God, is
owing purely to Jesus Christ; and shall it not be a temple for his Spirit?
That your heart is not filled with horror and despair is owing to Him only;
to whom then should it be devoted—but to him alone? That your eyes are not
blinded with the smoke of the pit; your hands not fettered with chains of
darkness; your tongue is not broiling in the fire of hell; and your feet are
not standing in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone—is owing purely
to Jesus Christ! and shall not these eyes be employed for him, these hands
act for him, this tongue speak for him, and these feet speedily run his
errands? To him who believes that he was a child of wrath, even as
others—but is now delivered by the blessed Jesus, nothing will appear too
much, to do or suffer for his Deliverer, when he has a fair call to it.
3. To conclude with a word to ALL. Let no man
think lightly of sin—which lays the sinner open to the wrath of God. Let not
the sin of our nature—which wreathes the yoke of God's wrath so early about
our necks—seem a small thing in our eyes. Fear the Lord because of his
dreadful wrath. Tremble at the thought of sin, against which God has such
fiery indignation. Look on his wrath—and stand in awe—and sin not! Do you
think this is to press you to slavish fear? If it were so, one had better be
a slave to God with a trembling heart, than a free man to the devil, with a
seared conscience and a heart of adamant. But it is not so; you may love
him, and thus fear him too; yes, you ought to do it, though you were saints
of the first magnitude. See Psalm 119:120; Matt. 10:28; Luke 12:5; Heb.
12:28, 29. Although you have passed the gulf of wrath, being in Jesus
Christ—yet it is but reasonable that your hearts should shiver when you look
back to it. Your sin still deserves wrath, even as the sins of others; and
it would be terrible to be in a fiery furnace, although by a miracle we were
so protected against it, as that it could not harm us.