Transcription

SINNERS IN THE HANDS OF AN ANGRYGOD-Their foot shall slide in due time- Deut. 32:35In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wickedunbelieving Israelites, who were God's visible people, and who livedunder the means of grace; but who, notwithstanding all God'swonderful works towards them, remained (as ver. 28.) void ofcounsel, having no understanding in them. Under all the cultivationsof heaven, they brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the twoverses next preceding the text. The expression I have chosen for mytext, Their foot shall slide in due time, seems to imply the followingdoings, relating to the punishment and destruction to which thesewicked Israelites were exposed.1. That they were always exposed to destruction; as one that standsor walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall. This is implied inthe manner of their destruction coming upon them, beingrepresented by their foot sliding. The same is expressed, Psalm73:18. "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedstthem down into destruction."2. It implies, that they were always exposed to sudden unexpecteddestruction. As he that walks in slippery places is every momentliable to fall, he cannot foresee one moment whether he shall standor fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once withoutwarning: Which is also expressed in Psalm 73:18, 19. "Surely thoudidst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down intodestruction: How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!"

3. Another thing implied is, that they are liable to fall of themselves,without being thrown down by the hand of another; as he that standsor walks on slippery ground needs nothing but his own weight tothrow him down.4. That the reason why they are not fallen already, and do not fallnow, is only that God's appointed time is not come. For it is said, thatwhen that due time, or appointed time comes, their foot shall slide.Then they shall be left to fall, as they are inclined by their ownweight. God will not hold them up in these slippery places anylonger, but will let them go; and then at that very instant, they shallfall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery decliningground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let gohe immediately falls and is lost.The observation from the words that I would now insist upon is this."There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out ofhell, but the mere pleasure of God." By the mere pleasure of God, Imean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by noobligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than ifnothing else but God's mere will had in the least degree, or in anyrespect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men onemoment.The truth of this observation may appear by the followingconsiderations.1. There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell atany moment. Men's hands cannot be strong when God rises up. Thestrongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of hishands.-He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he canmost easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a greatdeal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortifyhimself, and has made himself strong by the numbers of hisfollowers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is anydefense from the power of God. Though hand join in hand, and vastmultitudes of God's enemies combine and associate themselves, they

are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaffbefore the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble beforedevouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm thatwe see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe aslender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, whenhe pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that weshould think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earthtrembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?2. They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice neverstands in the way, it makes no objection against God's using hispower at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justicecalls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justicesays of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom, "Cut it down,why cumbereth it the ground?" Luke xiii. 7. The sword of divinejustice is every moment brandished over their heads, and it isnothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God's mere will, thatholds it back.3. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. Theydo not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence ofthe law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness thatGod has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them,and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell.John iii. 18. "He that believeth not is condemned already." So thatevery unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place;from thence he is, John viii. 23. "Ye are from beneath." And thitherbe is bound; it is the place that justice, and God's word, and thesentence of his unchangeable law assign to him.4. They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath ofGod, that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason whythey do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, inwhose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is withmany miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who there feel andbear the fierceness of his wrath. Yea, God is a great deal more angry

with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with manythat are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease, than heis with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, anddoes not resent it, that he does not let loose his hand and cut themoff. God is not altogether such an one as themselves, though theymay imagine him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them,their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire ismade ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flamesdo now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held overthem, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them.5. The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as hisown, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; hehas their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. Thescripture represents them as his goods, Luke 11:12. The devils watchthem; they are ever by them at their right hand; they stand waitingfor them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect tohave it, but are for the present kept back. If God should withdraw hishand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment flyupon their poor souls. The old serpent is gaping for them; hell opensits mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit it, theywould be hastily swallowed up and lost.6. There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principlesreigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if itwere not for God's restraints. There is laid in the very nature ofcarnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell. There are thosecorrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possessionof them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active andpowerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for therestraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, theywould flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, thesame enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would begetthe same torments as they do in them. The souls of the wicked are inscripture compared to the troubled sea, Isa. 57:20. For the present,

God restrains their wickedness by his mighty power, as he does theraging waves of the troubled sea, saying, "Hitherto shalt thou come,but no further;" but if God should withdraw that restraining power, itwould soon carry all before it. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul;it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it withoutrestraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectlymiserable. The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate andboundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like firepent up by God's restraints, whereas if it were let loose, it would seton fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so ifsin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into a fieryoven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.7. It is no security to wicked men for one moment, that there are novisible means of death at hand. It is no security to a natural man, thathe is now in health, and that he does not see which way he shouldnow immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that thereis no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifoldand continual experience of the world in all ages, shows this is noevidence, that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that thenext step will not be into another world. The unseen, unthought-ofways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world areinnumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pitof hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in thiscovering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and theseplaces are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noon-day; thesharpest sight cannot discern them. God has so many differentunsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world andsending them to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear, thatGod had need to be at the expense of a miracle, or go out of theordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked man, at anymoment. All the means that there are of sinners going out of theworld, are so in God's hands, and so universally and absolutelysubject to his power and determination, that it does not depend at allthe less on the mere will of God, whether sinners shall at any

moment go to hell, than if means were never made use of, or at allconcerned in the case.8. Natural men's prudence and care to preserve their own lives, orthe care of others to preserve them, do not secure them a moment.To this, divine providence and universal experience do also beartestimony. There is this clear evidence that men's own wisdom is nosecurity to them from death; that if it were otherwise we should seesome difference between the wise and politic men of the world, andothers, with regard to their liableness to early and unexpected death:but how is it in fact? Eccles. ii. 16. "How dieth the wise man? even asthe fool."9. All wicked men's pains and contrivance which they use to escapehell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men,do not secure them from hell one moment. Almost every natural manthat hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he dependsupon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he hasdone, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every onelays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, andflatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that hisschemes will not fail. They hear indeed that there are but few saved,and that the greater part of men that have died heretofore are goneto hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for hisown escape than others have done. He does not intend to come tothat place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to takeeffectual care, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail.But the foolish children of men miserably delude themselves in theirown schemes, and in confidence in their own strength and wisdom;they trust to nothing but a shadow. The greater part of those whoheretofore have lived under the same means of grace, and are nowdead, are undoubtedly gone to hell; and it was not because they werenot as wise as those who are now alive: it was not because they didnot lay out matters as well for themselves to secure their own escape.If we could speak with them, and inquire of them, one by one,

whether they expected, when alive, and when they used to hear abouthell ever to be the subjects of that misery: we doubtless, should hearone and another reply, "No, I never intended to come here: I had laidout matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive wellfor myself: I thought my scheme good. I intended to take effectualcare; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at thattime, and in that manner; it came as a thief: Death outwitted me:God's wrath was too quick for me. Oh, my cursed foolishness! I wasflattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what Iwould do hereafter; and when I was saying, Peace and safety, thensuddenly destruction came upon me.10. God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keepany natural man out of hell one moment. God certainly has made nopromises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance or preservationfrom eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace,the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises areyea and amen. But surely they have no interest in the promises of thecovenant of grace who are not the children of the covenant, who donot believe in any of the promises, and have no interest in theMediator of the covenant.So that, whatever some have imagined and pretended aboutpromises made to natural men's earnest seeking and knocking, it isplain and manifest, that whatever pains a natural man takes inreligion, whatever prayers he makes, till he believes in Christ, God isunder no manner of obligation to keep him a moment from eternaldestruction.So that, thus it is that natural men are held in the hand of God, overthe pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are alreadysentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as greattowards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions ofthe fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in theleast to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least boundby any promise to hold them up one moment; the devil is waiting for

them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash aboutthem, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; thefire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out: and theyhave no interest in any Mediator, there are no means within reachthat can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge,nothing to take hold of, all that preserves them every moment is themere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forbearance of anincensed God.APPLICATIONThe use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconvertedpersons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case ofevery one of you that are out of Christ.-That world of misery, thatlake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There isthe dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there ishell's wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon,nor any thing to take hold of, there is nothing between you and hellbut the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holdsyou up.You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out ofhell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, asthe good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life,and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed thesethings are nothing; if God should withdraw his band, they wouldavail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up aperson that is suspended in it.Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tenddownwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if Godshould let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descendand plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution,and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all yourrighteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keepyou out of hell, than a spider's web would have to stop a falling rock.

Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would notbear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groanswith you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of yourcorruption, not willingly; the sun does not willingly shine upon youto give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willinglyyield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage foryour wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not willingly serveyou for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while youspend your life in the service of God's enemies. God's creatures aregood, and were made for men to serve God with, and do not willinglysubserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused topurposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the worldwould spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him whohath subjected it in hope. There are black clouds of God's wrath nowhanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm, and bigwith thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God, itwould immediately burst forth upon you. The sovereign pleasure ofGod, for the present, stays his rough wind; otherwise it would comewith fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, andyou would be like the chaff of the summer threshing floor.The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for thepresent; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher,till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the morerapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, thatjudgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; thefloods of God's vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in themean time is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuringup more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing moreand more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God,that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, andpress hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand fromthe flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods ofthe fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivablefury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if yourstrength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten

thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiestdevil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.The bow of God's wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on thestring, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains thebow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of anangry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps thearrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood. Thus allyou that never passed under a great change of heart, by the mightypower of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all you that were neverborn again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead insin, to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced light andlife, are in the hands of an angry God. However you may havereformed your life in many things, and may have had religiousaffections, and may keep up a form of religion in your families andclosets, and in the house of God, it is nothing but his mere pleasurethat keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlastingdestruction. However unconvinced you may now be of the truth ofwhat you hear, by and by you will be fully convinced of it. Those thatare gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that itwas so with them; for destruction came suddenly upon most of them;when they expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, Peaceand safety: now they see, that those things on which they dependedfor peace and safety, were nothing but thin air and empty shadows.The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds aspider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and isdreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looksupon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he isof purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are tenthousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hatefulvenomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely morethan ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but hishand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is tobe ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night;that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed

your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why youhave not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but thatGod's hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given whyyou have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house ofGod, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner ofattending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to begiven as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down intohell.O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnaceof wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that youare held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked andincensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell.You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrathflashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn itasunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing tolay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath,nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing thatyou can do, to induce God to spare you one moment. And considerhere more particularly1. Whose wrath it is: it is the wrath of the infinite God. If it were onlythe wrath of man, though it were of the most potent prince, it wouldbe comparatively little to be regarded. The wrath of kings is verymuch dreaded, especially of absolute monarchs, who have thepossessions and lives of their subjects wholly in their power, to bedisposed of at their mere will. Prov. 20:2. "The fear of a king is as theroaring of a lion: Whoso provoketh him to anger, sinneth against hisown soul." The subject that very much enrages an arbitrary prince, isliable to suffer the most extreme torments that human art can invent,or human power can inflict. But the greatest earthly potentates intheir greatest majesty and strength, and when clothed in theirgreatest terrors, are but feeble, despicable worms of the dust, incomparison of the great and almighty Creator and King of heavenand earth. It is but little that they can do, when most enraged, andwhen they have exerted the utmost of their fury. All the kings of the

earth, before God, are as grasshoppers; they are nothing, and lessthan nothing: both their love and their hatred is to be despised. Thewrath of the great King of kings, is as much more terrible than theirs,as his majesty is greater. Luke 12:4, 5. "And I say unto you, myfriends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, haveno more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shallfear: fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell:yea, I say unto you, Fear him."2. It is the fierceness of his wrath that you are exposed to. We oftenread of the fury of God; as in Isaiah lix. 18. "According to their deeds,accordingly he will repay fury to his adversaries." So Isaiah 66:15."For behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like awhirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flamesof fire." And in many other places. So, Rev. 19:15, we read of "thewine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." The wordsare exceeding terrible. If it had only been said, "the wrath of God,"the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful: but itis "the fierceness and wrath of God." The fury of God! the fiercenessof Jehovah! Oh, how dreadful must that be! Who can utter orconceive what such expressions carry in them! But it is also "thefierceness and wrath of Almighty God." As though there would be avery great manifestation of his almighty power in what the fiercenessof his wrath should inflict, as though omnipotence should be as itwere enraged, and exerted, as men are wont to exert their strength inthe fierceness of their wrath. Oh! then, what will be the consequence!What will become of the poor worms that shall suffer it! Whosehands can be strong? And whose heart can endure? To what adreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable depth of misery must the poorcreature be sunk who shall be the subject of this!Consider this, you that are here present, that yet remain in anunregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of his anger,implies, that he will inflict wrath without any pity. When Godbeholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your tormentto be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your

poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinitegloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear theexecutions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shallbe no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his roughwind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lestyou should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that youshall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall bewithheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. Ezek. viii. 18."Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neitherwill I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice,yet I will not hear them." Now God stands ready to pity you; this is aday of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement ofobtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your mostlamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will bewholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare.God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery; youshall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel ofwrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of thisvessel, but to be filled full of wrath. God will be so far from pityingyou when you cry to him, that it is said he will only "laugh andmock," Prov. 1:25, 26, &c.How awful are those words, Isa. 63:3, which are the words of thegreat God. "I will tread them in mine anger, and will trample them inmy fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and Iwill stain all my raiment." It is perhaps impossible to conceive ofwords that carry in them greater manifestations of these threethings, vis. contempt, and hatred, and fierceness of indignation. Ifyou cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in yourdoleful case, or showing you the least regard or favour, that insteadof that, he will only tread you under foot. And though he will knowthat you cannot bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you,yet he will not regard that, but he will crush you under his feetwithout mercy; he will crush out your blood, and make it fly, and itshall be sprinkled on his garments, so as to stain all his raiment. Hewill not only hate you, but he will have you, in the utmost contempt:

no place shall be thought fit for you, but under his feet to be troddendown as the mire of the streets.The misery you are exposed to is that which God will inflict to thatend, that he might show what that wrath of Jehovah is. God hath hadit on his heart to show to angels and men, both how excellent his loveis, and also how terrible his wrath is. Sometimes earthly kings have amind to show how terrible their wrath is, by the extremepunishments they would execute on those that would provoke them.Nebuchadnezzar, that mighty and haughty monarch of the Chaldeanempire, was willing to show his wrath when enraged with Shadrach,Meshech, and Abednego; and accordingly gave orders that theburning fiery furnace should be heated seven times hotter than it wasbefore; doubtless, it was raised to the utmost degree of fiercenessthat human art could raise it. But the great God is also willing toshow his wrath, and magnify his awful majesty and mighty power inthe extreme sufferings of his enemies. Rom. 9:22. "What if God,willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endurewith much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?"And seeing this is his design, and what he has determined, even toshow how terrible the unrestrained wrath, the fury and fierceness ofJehovah is, he will do it to effect. There will be somethingaccomplished and brought to pass that will be dreadful with awitness. When the great and angry God hath risen up and executedhis awful vengeance on the poor sinner, and the wretch is actuallysuffering the infinite weight and power of his indignation, then willGod call upon the whole universe to behold that awful majesty andmighty power that is to be seen in it. Isa. 33:12-14. "And the peopleshall be as the burnings of lime, as thorns cut up shall they be burntin the fire. Hear ye that are far off, what I have done; and ye that arenear, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid;fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites," &c.Thus it will be with you that are in an unconverted state, if youcontinue in it; the infinite might, and majesty, and terribleness of theomnipotent God shall be magnified upon you, in the ineffable

strength of your torments. You shall be tormented in the presence ofthe holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shallbe in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shallgo forth and look on the awful spectacle,

3. Anot her thing implied is, that they are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the ha nd of another; as he that stands