The Mischief of Sin
by Thomas Watson, 1671
The Furnace Heated
A clear description of such people as shall have a greater share in hell
"These shall receive greater damnation." Mark
I had thought to have stopped my pen here—but supposing
the largest discourses of this nature are little enough to divert wicked
people from their excesses, I have one word more to add—that if sinners have
not lost their reason, they would be persuaded to reflect a little and
consider seriously the damnableness of their state after this life—and lay
to heart this text dropped from our Savior's own lips, "These shall
receive greater damnation."
I do not intend to meddle with the context—but
shall take the words as they lie entirely in themselves. In the text there
are three parts:
A fiery furnace—damnation.
The furnace heated hotter—greater damnation.
The people for whom this furnace is doubly heated—These
Doctrine. The proposition I intend is this: There
are some kinds of sinners who shall be more severely tormented in hell than
others. "These shall receive greater damnation."
In respect of the duration of torment—all shall be
punished alike. All the black regiment of reprobates shall lie in hell
forever! But in respect of the degree of torment—all shall not be
punished alike. Some shall have a more fiery indignation than others, "How
much worse punishment, do you think one will deserve!" Hebrews 10:29.
Those who have the least punishment in hell shall have
enough. The coolest part of hell is hot enough punishment—but there
are some who shall have a hotter place in hell than others. All shall go
into that fiery prison—but some sinners God will thrust into the
fiery dungeon. Those whose impieties are more fearfully
heightened, and who have sinned at a higher rate than others—God will take
His full blow at, in hell, and will tear them in His wrath, "Consider
this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to
rescue!" Psalm 50:22. For such, He will heat the infernal furnace seven
times hotter. I shall briefly give you a list and catalogue of such
sinners as dying in impenitence, shall receive greater damnation.
1. Such as are willfully ignorant. It is one
thing not to know—and another to be unwilling to know. They
might have the notion of the true God—but they will not. They trample upon
this pearl of divine knowledge. They not only neglect knowledge, but
reject it! Hosea 4:6, "Because you have rejected knowledge."
Or, as the Hebrew word signifies, "you have hated it." The Ethiopians
curse the sun—just so do these reject the light of saving knowledge. These
knowledge despisers shall have a greater share in the torments of
hell. Isaiah 27:11, "Israel is a foolish and stupid nation, for its people
have turned away from God. Therefore, the one who made them will show
them no pity or mercy." And for God to show no pity—is to take the extremity
of the Law upon them.
2. Such as will neither follow the thing that is good for
themselves, nor yet allow others. Luke 11:52, "How terrible it
will be for you experts in religious law! For you hide the key to knowledge
from the people. You don't enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent
others from entering!" Such as will neither read the Bible themselves, nor
allow their children to read it; such as will neither hear a good sermon
themselves, and discourage their neighbors from hearing; such as will stop
the pipes which are to convey the water of life and who eclipse the
lamps of the sanctuary—these shall receive greater damnation. 1
Thessalonians 2:16, "Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, for fear some
might be saved. By doing this, they continue to pile up their sins. But the
wrath is come upon them to the uttermost!"
3. Such as sin against clear illuminations and
convictions. These the Apostle speaks of in James 4:17, "He knows
the good he ought to do and doesn't do it." They are not ignorant that the
things they do are sin. Conscience, like the cherubim, stands with a flaming
sword to deter them—yet they will eat the apple of pleasure—though
they die! These men's sins have a vehemence. This made the sin of the fallen
angels so great, for which they lie in chains. They had no ignorance, no
passion to stir them up, no temptation—but they sinned voluntarily and out
of pure choice!
This sinning against conscience, is accompanied with
pride. Sinners know the mind of God—yet act contrary to it. They set
their will above God's will. They say in their heart as did
Pharaoh, Exodus 5:2, "Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?"
This sinning against conscience, is accompanied with
impudence. Let what will come of it—let God punish or not—men will
pursue their sins! Here the veil of modesty is laid aside.
If God has been so dreadful against sins of infirmity
and passion—as we see in Moses and Uzzah—how fierce will His
anger be against tenacious sinners!
Sins against illumination, and conviction make deep
wounds in the soul. Other sins fetch blood; these are a stab in the heart!
Every little hole in the roof lets in rain—but a crack in the foundation
endangers the fall of the house. Every sin of weakness is harmful—but
sins against illumination crack the conscience, and threaten the ruin
of the soul. To sin in this matter makes sin the heavier—and hell the
Consider this, all you who rebel against gospel light—if
you do not repent—you will be more scorched in hell. Luke 12:47, "That
servant who knows his master's will and does not do what his master wants,
will be beaten with many blows."
4. Such as are plotters and contrivers of sin.
Psalm 36:4, "They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots." Many men's
heads ache until they have found out some new sin. Such were those men who
invented a decree against Daniel and got the king to sign it, Daniel 6:9.
These inventors of evil things, shall be more plagued in
hell than others! He who first plots a treason is counted
the capital offender, and has the most aggravated tortures. Micah 2:1, "Woe
to those who devise iniquity." This woe is as a ton of lead to sink
them deeper into damnation.
5. Such as are haters of holiness. The diamond
of grace is hated because of its sparkling luster. If men hate the saints
for their grace, how they would hate Christ if He were now upon
the earth! Will God lay those in His bosom who hate Him? No! they shall have
a lower place in hell than others. Deuteronomy 7:10, "But those who hate
Him, He will repay to their face by destruction; He will not be slow to
repay to their face, those who hate Him." The repetition shows both the
verity and severity of their punishment.
6. Such as are lovers of sin. Jerome said that
it is worse to love sin—than to commit it. He who loves
sin—his heart is in the sin. He follows it with delight—like a man
does his game, "They actually rejoice in doing evil!" Jeremiah 11:15.
Sinners say they hate the devil—but they love that which will bring them to
the devil! Lovers of sin shall have more of hell torment. The fire will
make them forget the pleasure. Revelation 22:15, "Outside are the dogs,
those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the
idolaters and everyone who loves and practices lying." It is bad
enough to tell a lie—but he who loves a lie shall lie lower in
7. They shall have a greater degree of torment, who
persecute the people of God. Acts 7:52, "Which of the prophets
have not your fathers persecuted?" The godly are called sheep—and the
wicked called briars. These briars tear not only the wool—but
the flesh of the sheep. These shall be more fearfully punished. What
they are to endure afterwards, may be witnessed by the hell many of them
feel in their conscience and by the judgments of God upon them in this life.
Charles IX of France, who shed so much Protestant blood
in the massacre at Paris, that it dyed the rivers a crimson color—was struck
by God with an excessive bleeding in several parts of his body, to the
amazement of the beholders. If God in this life ordains His arrows against
the persecutors, Psalm 7:13—then surely He will make them His standing mark
in hell—at which He will be shooting to all eternity!
8. Such as are seemingly good—so that they may be really
bad. Those who make profession a specious covering for
their wickedness so that, under this mask, they may lie and deceive. They
do the devil's work in Christ's uniform! Proverbs
7:14, "This day have I paid my vows, come let us take our fill of love." Who
would have suspected this harlot, having been at church? She made her
devotion, a preface to adultery. Luke 20:47, "They devour widow's houses—and
for a show make long prayers, the same shall receive greater
damnation." To make long prayers for this end—that they might do unrighteous
actions—was damnable hypocrisy! Those who make religion a covering to carry
on their sin more smoothly—these shall lie in the hottest place of hell!
9. Such as do no works of mercy. Their hearts
are hardened against Christ's poor. These shall have a greater portion in
hell torments. James 2:13, "He shall have judgment without mercy—who has
showed no mercy." He shall have torment—and nothing but torment. A person
may as well be cruel by not relieving the poor—as by wronging him. Such a
one shall have judgment without mercy.
10. Such as die under final unbelief. Many
think none are to be counted infidels, but Turks and pagans. Yes, there are
many infidel professors—who do not believe God's veracity and
holiness. They do not have as much faith as devils, James 2:19. Infidelity
is linked with impenitence. Acts 19:9, "Some became hardened and would not
believe." Unbelief gives God the lie, 1 John 5:10. Therefore, such people
are put in the forefront of those who go to hell. Revelation 21:8, "The
unbelieving shall have their place in the fiery lake of burning sulfur."
11. Such as have grown gray under the gospel—but
are never the better. These have enjoyed the prayers, tears and
lessons of God's choicest ministers. They have been put in the fattest
pastures of ordinances—but yet they may say with the Prophet, "My leanness,
my leanness," Isaiah 24:16. They have had warm preaching—but they freeze in
the sun. They can hear ministers preach the most startling messages—and see
them throw the flashes of hellfire about in the congregation—but their
consciences are no more stirred than the pillars in the church!
Proud they were—and they are proud still. Profane they
were—and they are profane still. All the sermons they have heard are like
the showers falling on a rock which is never made softer or more fruitful.
The lungs of ministers are spent—but no refining work of grace has passed
upon them. These certainly shall have greater degrees of torment!
If heathen who never heard of Christ are damned,
these shall be double-damned. Matthew 11:23-24, "And you, Capernaum, will
you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to hell. If the miracles
that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have
remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable
for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you." Jesus Christ preached in
Capernaum, there He worked miracles. Therefore, by not repenting and
believing, she was in a worse condition than Sodom and would be more
You who have had God's golden candlestick among you and
are not more holy, it would have been better to have lived in Africa where
Christ had never been preached, than in London. It will be better with
Indians—than with such nominal professors who live in the bosom of the
12. Such as who apostatize and fall away from the truth.
There are some in this age, who have not only lost their former strictness
in religion—but the very leaves of their profession are dropped off.
As their sin is more odious because their apostasy brings a scandal upon the
ways of God—so their punishment shall be answerable. These renegades shall
be hung up in chains in hell. Hebrews 10:38, "If any man draws back, My soul
shall have no pleasure in him." It is as if God should say, "I will execute
the fierceness of My anger upon him. He shall drink the dregs of the cup of
wrath—and that cup shall never pass away from him!"
13. Such Ishmael spirits, as scoff at true religion.
The Apostle has foretold it as a sin of the last times. 2 Peter 3:3, "I want
to remind you that in the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at
the truth and do every evil thing they desire." This is fearful, when men
have arrived at such a height of impiety as, with Lucian, to deride holy
living. The tongue of the scoffers is the devil's gun out of which he
shoots his bullets against true religion. There are some who, though they
are not good themselves—yet they have a venerable esteem of those who are
good. Herod reverenced John the Baptist. But such the devil has taken great
possession of—who reproach others for that wherein they most resemble God.
Take heed of this sin," said Latimer, "for I never knew
but one scorner who repented." Scoffers are, for the most part, atheists.
When men have outfaced their conscience and lost all principle of sincerity
and modesty—then they fall a-scoffing. These shall have greater damnation.
Isaiah 28:22, "So scoff no more, or your punishment will be even greater.
For the Lord, the Lord Almighty, has plainly told me that he is determined
to crush you." You shall be bound in chains of darkness—and these chains
shall be made strong.
14. Such as have perverted others by their corrupt
writings. They have set forth books full of error—and others have
sucked in the poison of those books and been damned. Some have published to
the world that moral virtue does not differ from grace—and so
have caused people to rest in their moralities, never aspiring after the New
Birth. Alas, a man may keep a moral decorum—yet there may be some sin which
reigns in his heart. The Pharisee could say, "I am no adulterer," Luke
18:11—but he could not say, "I am not proud." Morality may curb—but
it cannot change.
The Socinians have broached many damnable errors in print
against the deity of Christ. These shall drink deeper in the cup of wrath.
If the breakers of God's law are punished seven-fold—then those who
teach men to break God's law, shall be punished seventy-seven fold.
Revelation 19:20, "The false prophet was taken (he who by his errors had
deceived the world) and was cast alive into the midst of the lake of fire!"
15. Such as make their bodies (which should be the
temples of the Holy Spirit) vessels of uncleanness. Those who
burn in lust shall one day (without repentance) burn in hotter flames than
others, 2 Peter 2:9. Oh, who would, for a cup of pleasure, drink a sea of
16. Such as send other men to hell by their bad example.
The drunken master has made his servant to reel by his example. The swearing
father has taught his son to swear, and damned him by his example. Would it
not be something to be lamented, if the child should get the plague of his
father and die? And is it not often so, in a spiritual sense, that the
father poisons and infects his child by his cursed example! Doubtless, such
monsters in wickedness shall have a greater portion in hell torments.
They shall not only be damned for their own sins—but for other men's sins.
This was the reason why Dives desired that some might go preach to his
brethren—that they might not come to hell. He had given his brethren a bad
example—and he thought that if they were sentenced to hell his torments
would be increased, and he would be punished for their sins as well as his
Exhortation 1. As we should take heed of
living in any sin (for the least sin lived in and unrepented of will bring
us to hell), so especially let us take heed of being in the black roll of
these sinners I have now mentioned. These dying in final impenitence shall
be more severely punished. A greater millstone of wrath will fall upon their
head. If a spark or two of God's anger is so grievous, what is it when He
shall stir up all His wrath! "Time after time he restrained his anger and
did not stir up his full wrath!" Psalm 78:38.
Exhortation 2. Let us labor to fly to Christ
by faith. Let us get Him to stand as a screen between us and the fire of
God's indignation. Romans 8:1, "There is no condemnation to those who are in
Christ Jesus." God the Father will not condemn them, because He is satisfied
in the price paid for them. He will not require the debt twice—from both the
Surety and the debtor. And Jesus Christ will not condemn them,
for believers are His spouse; and Christ will not condemn His own spouse. So
that, if ever we would be safe, let us get into Christ—and being in this
city of refuge, God's justice, that avenger of blood, will not touch us.
Having put on the garment of our Lord's righteousness, the fire of hell can
never singe this garment! 1 Thessalonians 1:10, "Jesus, who rescues us from
the coming wrath!"