« PreviousContinue »
Things without life may be useful to put the godly under advantages to bring forth fruit, as the timber and stones with wbich his house is built, the wool and flax with which he is clothed; but the fruit which is brought forth to God's glory, cannot be said to be the fruit of these lifeless things, but of the godly man who makes use of them. So it is when wicked men put the godly under advantages to glorify God, as Cyrus, and Artaxerxes, and others have done.
III. If men bring not forth fruit to God, there is no other way in which they can be useful passively, but in being destroyed. They are fit for nothing else.
1. They are not fit to be suffered to continue always in this world. It is not fit that this world should be the constant abode of those who bring forth no fruit to God. It is not fit that the barren tree should be allowed always to stand in the vineyard. The husbandman lets it stand for a while, till he digs about it, dungs it, and proves it to be incurable, or till a convenient time to cut it down come; but it is not fit that they who bring forth no fruit to God, should be suffered to live always in a world which is so full of the divine goodness, or that his goodness should be spent upon them for ever.This world, though fallen, and under a curse, has many streams of divine goodness. But it is not fit that those who bring forth no fruit to God, should always be continued in partaking of these streams. There are three different states; one, wherein is nothing but good, which is heaven; another, wherein is a mixture of good and evil, which is the earthly state ; and the third, wherein is nothing but evil, which is the state of eternal destruction. Now they that bring forth no fruit to God, are not fit for either of the
former. It is not fit that an unprofitable, unfruitful creature, who will not glorify his Creator, should always live here to consume the fruits of divine bounty ; to have the good things of this life spent upon him in vain. While a man lives here, the other creatures are subjected to him. The brute creatures serve him with their labour and with their lives. The sun, moon, and stars; the clouds, fields, and trees, all serve him. But why should God always keep his creatures in subjection to that man who will not be subject to him? Why should the creation be always kept in such bondage, as to be subject to wicked men ? The creatures indeed are made subject to varity, God hath subjected them to wicked men, and given them for their use. This however he would not have done, but as it is only for a little while;, and the creatures can bear it through the hope of approaching deliverance; otherwise it would have been intolerable. Rom. viii. 20. “ For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but
by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope.”The creature, as it were, groans by reason of this subjection to wicked men, although it be but for a while, ver. 22. “ For we know that the whole creation groaneth, and travaileth in pain together until now.” Therefore
, surely it would be no way fit that wicked men, who do no good, and bring forth no fruit to God, should live here always, to have the various creatures subservient to them, as they are now. The earth can scarcely bear wicked men during that short time for which they stay here. It is no way fit, therefore, that it should be forced to bear them always.
Men who bring forth no fruit to God are cumberers of the ground, Luke xiii. 7. And it is not meet that they should be suffered to cumber the ground always. God cannot be glorified in this way of disposing of unfruitful persons, If such men should be suffered to live always in such a state as this, it would be so far from being to the glory of God, that it would be to the disparagement of his wisdom to continue them in a state so unsuitable for them. It would also be a disparagement to his justice; for this is a world where “ all things come alike to all, and there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked." If there were no other state but this for wicked men, justice could not possibly take place. It would also reflect upon the holiness of God. For ever to uphold this world for an habitation of such persons, and for ever to continue the communications of his bounty and goodness to them, would appear as though he were disposed to countenance and encourage wickedness.
2. If men do not bring forth fruit to God, they are not fit to be disposed of in heaven. Heaven, above all others, is the most improper place for them. Every thing appertaining to that state is unsuitable for them. The
is most unsuitable. The original inhabitants of that world are the angels. But what a disagreeable union would that be, to unile wicked men and angels in the same society? The employments of that world are unsuitable. The employments are serving and glorifying God. How unsuitable then would it be to plant barren trees in that heavenly paradise, trees that would bring forth no fruit to the divine glory! The enjoyments of heaven are unsuitable. The enjoyments are holy and spiritual, the happiness of beholding the glory of God, and praising his name, and the like. But these enjoyments are as unsuitable as can be to the carnal earthly minds of wicked men. They would be no enjoyments to them; but on the contrary would be most disagreeable, and what they cannot relish, but entirely nauseate. The design of heaven is unsuitable to them. The design of God in making heaven was, that it might be a place of holy habitation, for the reward of the righteous, and not an habitation for the wicked. It would greatly reflect on the wisdom of God to dispose of wicked men there ; for it would be the greatest confusion. But God is not the author of confusion, 1 Cor. xiv. 33. It would be contrary to the holiness of God, to take wicked men so near to himself, into his glorious presence, to dwell for ever in the part of that creation which is, as it were, his own palace, and to sit at his table. We read in Psalm v. 4. “ Thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness, neither shall evil dwell with thee." "Therefore it would be impossible that the end of the existence of wicked men should be answered by placing them in heaven.
IV. Men who bring forth no fruit to God, may yet in suffering destruction be useful. Although they be not useful by any thing they do; yet they may be useful in what they may suffer; just as a barren tree, which is no way useful standing in the vineyard, may be good fuel. God can find use for the most wicked men; he hath his use for vessels of wrath as well as for vessels of mercy: 2 Tim. ii. 20. “In a great house there are not only vessels of gold, and of silver, but also of wood and of earth, and some to honour, and some to dishonour:” Prov. xvi. 4. “ The Lord hath made all things for bimself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” I shall briefly take notice of some ends which God accomplishes by it.
1. Unfruitful persons are of use in their destruction for the glory of God's justice. The vindictive justice of God is a glorious attribute, as well as his mercy; and the glory of this attribute appears in the everlasting destruction and ruin of the barren and unfruitful.--The glory of divine justice in the perdition of ungodly men, appears wonderful and glorious in the eyes of the saints and angels in heaven. Hence we have an account, that they sing praises to God, and extol his justice at the sight of the awful judgments which he inflicts on wicked men : Rev. xvi. 5, 6. “ l'hou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because thou hast judged thus : for they have shed the blood of saints and proo phets, and thou hast given them blood to drink; for they are worthy:" And Rev. xix. 1, 2." And after these things I heard a great voice, saying, Alleluia ; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God : for true and righteous are his judgments; for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her band.”
2. Unfruitful persons in their destruction are of use for God to glorify his majesty upon them. The awful majesty of God remarkably appears in those dreadful and amazing punishments which he inflicts on those who rise up against him.
A sense of the majesty of an earthly prince is supported very much by a sense of its being a dreadful thing to affront him. God glorifies his own majesty in the destruction of wicked men; and herein he appears infinitely great, in that it appears to be an infinitely dreadful thing to offend bim. How awful doth the majesty of God appear in the dreadfulness of his anger! This we may learn to be one end of the damnation of the wicked, from Rom. ix. 22. “ What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make bis power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction ?” This is a part of his majesty and glory. God tells Pharaoh, that for this cause he raised him up, that he might shew his power in him, and that his name might be declared through all the earth, in his destruction, Exod. ix. 15, 16; and again, chap. xiv. 17. “ I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his borsemen.”
3. The destruction of the unfruitful is of use, to give the saints a greater sense of their happiness, and of God's grace to them. The wicked will be destroyed and tormented in the view of the saints, and other inhabitants of heaven. This we are taught in Rev. xiv. 10. “ The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture, into the cup of bis indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and Brimstone, in the presence of his holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.” And in Isa. Ixvi. 24. “ And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” When the saints in heaven shall look upon the damned in liell, it will serve to give them a greater sense of their own happiness. When they shall see how dreadful the anger of God is, it will make them the more prize his love. They will rejoice the more, that they are not the objects of God's anger, but of his favour; that they are not the subjects of his dreadful wrath, but are treated as his children, to dwell in the everlasting embraces of his love. The misery of the damned, will give them a greater sense of the distinguishing grace and love of God to them, that he should from all eternity set his love on them, and make so great a difference between them and others who are of the same species, and have deserved no worse of God than they. What a great sense will this give them of the wonderful grace of God to them! and how will it heighten their praises ! with how much greater admiration and exultation of soul will they sing of the free and sovereign grace of God to them!
When they shall look upon the damned, and see their misery, how will heaven ring with the praises of God's justice towards the wicked, and his grace towards the saints! And with how much greater enlargement of heart will they praise Jesus Christ, their Redeemer, that ever he was pleased to set his love upon them, his dying love! and that he should so distinguish them as to shed his blood, and make his soul an offering to redeem them from that misery, and to bring them to such happiness! With what love and ecstacy will they sing that song in Rev. v. 9, 10. “ Thou art worthy : for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every tongue, and kindred, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests.” One end, which the apostle mentions, why God appointed vessels of wrath, is the more to make known the wonderfulness of his mercy towards the saints. In Rom. ix. 22, 23. there are two ends mentioned : “ Wbat if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction ?" That is one end; another is mentioned immediately after : « And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.”
1. Hence we may learn, how just and righteous God is in the destruction of those who bring forth no fruit to him. Seeing there is no other way in which the end of their being can be obtained, certainly it is most just that God should thus dispose of them. Why should he be frustrated of his end through their perverseness? If men will not do the work for which he hath made and fitted them; if they, through a spirit of opposition and rebellion, refuse; why should God suffer himself to be disappointed of his end in making them ? It doth not become his infinite greatness and majesty to suffer himself to be frustrated by the wickedness and perverseness of sinful worms of the dust. If God should suffer this, it would seem to argue, either a want of wisdom to fix upon a good end, or a want of power to accomplish it.—God made all men that they might be useful; and if they will not be useful in their conduct and actions, how just is it that God should make them useful in their sufferings! He made all men for his own glory; and if they, contrary to the revealed will of God, refuse to glorify him actively and willingly, how just is it that God should glorify himself upon them !
Men are under no natural necessity of being put to this use of glorifying God in their sufferings. God gives them op portunity of glorifying him in bringing forth fruit, puts them under advantages for it, and uses many means to bring them to it. But if they will not be useful this way, it is very just