For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee thanks?
~ Psalm 6:5
What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?
~ Psalm 30:9
Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction?
~ Psalm 88:11
The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence. But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD.
~ Psalm 115:17-18
They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation.
~ Numbers 16:33
The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.
~ Proverbs 14:32
But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
~ Matthew 8:12
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
~ Matthew 25:46
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
~ Luke 16:26-31
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.
~ Ecclesiastes 9:10
They That Are Gone to Hell Are All of Them in Despair, by Jonathan Edwards. 1733.
For the grave cannot praise thee, death can not celebrate thee: they that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
~ Isaiah 38:18
They that go down into the pit cannot hope for thy truth.
This is part of Hezekiah’s song of praise to God when he was recovered from his dangerous sickness. The argument of praise that he insists on in this verse is a greatness of the evil that God had delivered him from, even of a state of death. And the dolefulness of the state of death is here set forth and three things, namely,
That those that are in the state can neither do good, nor enjoy good, nor hope for good. The two former are implied in these expressions in the former part of the verse, the grave cannot praise thee, death cannot celebrate thee. They that are in a state of death cannot praise and celebrate God. They cannot glorify God, and so they can do no good. For they that do not glorify God, do no good. The death cannot praise God, because in death there is nothing enjoyed or received to praise God for. And so they enjoy no good.
And the third thing namely, that they can hope for no good is in the last part of the verse, they that go down to the pit cannot hope for thy truth. Hezekiah praises God that God had delivered him from such a doleful state as this. But then here a question may arise namely, how can this be true that none that are in a state of death can praise God or celebrate him, or hope for his truth—seeing that many of those that are dead not only can but do praise God in heaven, and praise him far better than the living, and enjoy a thousand times as much to praise him for. And it is so far from being so, that they cannot hope for God’s truth, that they do depend on God’s truth, to continue their happiness to all eternity, and greatly to augment it at the resurrection. If this would have been the case of Hezekiah himself, if he had died by that sickness, he’d be a good man.
An answer to this, I would observe that Hezekiah in this song it’s not only praising God for the temporal delay that he had had, but while he is praising God for his preservation from temporal death, he in the same song also praises him for God’s spiritual salvation. The redemption of a soul from destruction, of which that temporal deliverance was but an image. This is plain by the words immediately foregoing this verse, and the seventeenth verse. Thou has cast all my sins behind thy back. So that he is here praising God for the redemption of a soul from the guilt and punishment of sin. And this may be generally observed in Scripture songs for temporal deliverances, as in the song of Moses at the Red Sea and others. They all have a plain reference to the greater redemption of which these temporal deliverances are but images and shadows. So that the death spoken of here in this verse is not mere temporal death, that which Hezekiah here speaks of his death, as it is in itself, or as it is originally and in its own nature, and not as to changed by a redemption from a state of death into a state of life.
Look upon death as that it is in the saints and death is no more death. It is changed by redemption into another thing. It is changed that instead of being a state of death, it is a state of more glorious sort of life than was before. That which Hezekiah speaks of is that which is death indeed. That, is properly so called. He speaks of the death were in men to really die and are truly dead. And not that wherein they are a thousand times more alive than they were before. A state of death as it is originally, and when it is properly death as a state in which men can’t praise God, nor celebrate him nor hope for his truth. It is a state in which there is no good done, and no good enjoyed, nor any good hoped for. It is a state of evil without any good. It is, as Job says in Chapter 10, Verse 22, a land of darkness as darkness itself, and of the shadow of death without any order, and where the light is, has darkness.
They that are in Hell or in such a state of death. Such was death originally before Christ changed it and destroyed it. Such was death, as it was threatened to our first parents. And very commonly when death is spoken of in the Old Testament, it is in this notion of it. For the change of a state of death into a state of more glorious life, was not fully revealed under the Old Testament. Life and immortality is brought to light through the gospel 2nd Timothy 1, Verse 10. It is under this notion that death seems to be spoken of in Ecclesiastes 9, Verse 5, when it is said the dead have no more a reward. This is not true of those that are redeemed for with them, that is a very time of their reward, when they are dead. Hezekiah did not mean that they that are redeemed from the power of the grave, they they get the victory over death, and shall never die as Christ promises his disciples, shall not praise God, nor hope for his truth.
They that are gone to Hell or all of them in despair.
There are many men that are gone to Hell. There are many of all sorts kings and beggars rich and poor, old and young, wise and unwise, bond and free. There are the generality of those of the old world that were drown in the flood as appears by first Peter 3, Verse 19. their God into the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, Jude 7. There is Judas. There are those Pharisees that we read of in Matthew 12, Verse 24, and so on that blaspheme against the Holy Ghost. There are those that are gone that we read of in Jude Verse 4, that were before of old ordained to condemnation. There are gone many wicked children. There are gone many lewd young people that died in their youth and were cut off in the middle of their mirth and jollity, in the middle of their uncleanness and pursuit of carnal pleasures. There are gone many carnal creatures, unsanctified old people that lay down their whoreheads in the grave, and their souls went to Hell. There are many disobedient and undutiful children that are gone to Hell. There are many negligent parents that have neglected the education and government of their families. There are many unrighteous creatures selfish proud magistrates. And there are many unfaithful ministers that are gone to Hell. There are doubtless many that we have seen and conVersed with here in the world. Though we know not who of them, yea, doubtless many of them are there. When they died their souls went down to Hell. We read much in the scriptures of Hell—a place of woe and misery, called the furnace of fire in outer darkness, a blackness of darkness, the bottomless pit—the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. There it is that they are gone there now tormented in that flame. We cannot know precisely what circumstances they are in. But as the Scriptures represent it, they are now wailing and gnashing their teeth. They’re subject to the wrath of God, that is executed, to the utmost upon them. There are many devils and men delivered up to them.
They that are gone down to Hell—their misery will be eternal. Their misery will be absolutely eternal. Sometimes things are said to be everlasting as to be an always or forever, when it is not meant absolutely. Sometimes as we use a word, it signifies no more than as long as a man lives. Thus, if it be such or such and one is like to be always poor or despised. Or it is like always to be subject to such a disease or infirmity. It is intended only as long as he lives. Sometimes when things are said to be everlasting or forever, it is not meant absolutely, but only as long as the world stands. Thus, when we say that God would dwell in our land forever, it is so intended. Things were often said to be forever or everlasting in scripture, when it is not intended that they’re absolutely eternal, so Exodus 27, Verse 21. There speaking of a law about the sacrifices, God says that it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. Leviticus 16, Verse 34, there shall be an everlasting statute unto you. So it is often said of the ceremonial laws, whereby forever is meant only during the continuance of the Jewish state. The things are sometimes said to be everlasting or forever, and yet it is to be understood in a limited sense. But the misery of those that are gone to Hell will be absolutely everlasting or without end. And therefore it is said to be forever and ever, Revelation 4, Verses 10 and 11, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the Holy Angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. In a smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever, as they have no rest day nor night—so Chapter 19, Verse 3 three and 20, Verse 10.
And into their misery is absolutely denied in Scripture, as it is positively declared though they shall not have any, in Mark 9, Verse 43 and 44—it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Hell into the fire that never shall be quenched, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. There shall be no end to their misery, by their being brought into a more happy stating condition. For there remains no more sacrifice for sin, and as it is appointed to men once to die, so Christ is but once offered—Hebrews 9, Verses 27 and 28. And all change after death as expressly denied in Revelation 22, Verse 11—he that is unjust let him be unjust still. As there never will be any end by death or annihilation. Revelation 9, Verse 6—men shall seek death and shall not find it, and shall desire to die and death shall flee from them. Their misery is eternal not only as it will never wholly cease, but also as it will never in any part come to an end. It will never be diminished, but it will be increased. Those that are gone to Hell haven’t their full punishment now, but it is to be increased at the day of judgment. Their misery is very dreadful now, as the peers by what we are told of the rich man in Luke 16, Verses 23 and 24—and in Hell he lift up his eyes being in torments, and see if Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said father Abraham have mercy on me and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. But yet the punishment of both wicked men and devils will be greatly augmented that the day of judgment. And therefore the devil tremble at the expectation of that day. So that the misery of them that are gone to Hell is not only eternal in that degree, that they now suffer it, but it is to be greatly increased, hereafter. And to remain eternal in that degree, that it shall be inflicted then. Some things are said to be everlasting that shall yet still come to an end when men die. But this misery that is absolutely eternal does not begin when men die.
Some things are said to be everlasting that shall come to an end at the end of the world. But this misery will be but then and its beginning and in its highest degree. When the heavens are grown old and God shall change them as a vesture, and the earth and all the works that are therein shall be dissolved, then shall the misery of those that are gone to Hell be so far from coming to an end, it shall then but commence in the highest degree of it. We have this expression often in scripture, as long as the Sun and Moon endures it signifies an exceeding long continuance, but this space of time will be so far from being commensurate to the misery of those that are gone to Hell, that it is all but an introduction to it.
Those that are gone to Hell know this. They know that their misery will be eternal, and therefore are in despair. It would be well for them if it were hidden from them, and if they were ignorant of it. It would be well for them if they could be deceived, and entertain a hope that they should some time or other be delivered—though there were no foundation for it. But the eternity of their sufferings will be what they will be assured of. To that degree that it won’t allow the least measure of hope. Sometimes persons see no probability of their attaining such a good, or being delivered from such and such a calamity. Everything seems to look dark. All things seem to concur against them, and they’re very greatly afraid. They have very little hope. All the room there is left to hope is that the thing is merely possible. But in this case, there is not so much as that. They shall not only see that there is no probability of it, and be very much discouraged and disheartened about it, but they shall know fully that it is utterly impossible. And there will not arise in their heart so much as the least glimmering of hope.
It is impossible that there should be such a thing as hope in Hell. As it is said in the text they that shall go down to the pit cannot hope for thy truth. They despair of ever enjoying any good. They despair of ever obtaining heaven. Once they had an opportunity of obtaining it, and they had no reason to despair of it. But now that opportunity is passed. Once the door was open, but now it is not so. They came to the door too late, and found it shut, and it is shut forever, never to be opened again. They shall lift up their eyes and see many others, and some of them perhaps such as have been acquainted with in this world, with Jesus Christ in his glory. But at the same time see between them, a great gulf fixed—so that there is no passing from one to the other. They shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom, and many come from the east and from the west, and sitting down in the kingdom of God. But they utterly despair of ever being partners with them. They see that they have lost heaven forever. They despaired of ever returning again to this world into the enjoyments thereof. They despaired of ever anymore see in the sweet light of the Sun, and in many pleasant objects that entertain their eyes when they were here in this world. They despair of evermore having friends to be concerned for them, and to help them as once they had. They despair of ever any more gratifying their sensual appetites. Those of them that were rich and great in the world, despair of ever anymore having a pleasure to think that they had so much in the world, and so much more than their neighbors. They despair of ever having their pride gratified in seeing themselves above others. The soul of man necessarily craves happiness, and in Hell this craving is as strong as elsewhere. But there they despair of the least grain of good or comfort to gratify it. They shall know that they shall never have anything, but the blackness of darkness without the least glimmering of light.
2. They despair of ever being in anywise delivered from the evil they suffer. They despair of God’s being ever reconciled to them, and of his hatred and wrath any at all abated. They despair of God ever having any pity upon them. They despair of his heart relenting at all at the sight of their doleful case. They know that all cries to him would be in vain, that it is now too late to beg his mercy. They despair of ever moving his pity by their cries and groans, dolors, lamentings. They know that they never can fly from God, or by any ardour contrivance hide themselves from him, or get out of that place of torment. They despair of ever escaping from the tormenting hand of Satan. They despair of ever being turned to nothing, and having an input to their miseries that way, they would be glad to be turned into a toad or a serpent, that they might not be capable of such a degree of misery. But they despair of it. They despair not only of any end to their misery, but of any abatement. They despair of obtaining so much as one drop of water. They despair of ever having one minutes rest, or one breath of relaxation from the extremity of their torments, throughout the neverending ages of eternity.
I will proceed now to give the reasons why they despair to take notice of the means by which they will come to be thus assured that in Hell, their misery will thus be eternal, or how they come to know that they never shall be delivered from it.
1. They now see that the Word of God that so often threatens that their punishment shall be eternal is true. While they lived in this world they were not sensible of the truth of God’s Word. They doubted whether there was any truth and the threatenings of it. They questioned whether the threatenings or the Bible, where God threatenings, whether the scripture was the Word of God. But now they are in Hell. Their minds are greatly altered about those things. They have other notions about the things of religion than they used to have. They now know that there is a God, and they know that he is such a God as the Scriptures declared him to be, i.e., a sin hating sin-avenging God. They now are convinced that he is a God, that is true to his word. And that if threatenings are true, they find the truth of the word of God and their being cast into Hell, in inflicting the threatened misery, and they’ll be fully assured that his word is also true, in the eternal continuance. Then all doubting of the truth of God’s Word concerning an eternal world ceases.
2. The sentence of the judge that has been passed upon them assures them that they shall never be delivered. When a man dies his soul goes to appear before God—Ecclesiastes 12, Verse 7. And the spirit returns to God that gave it. It goes to appear before God to be judged and sentences pronounced according to his words. They that are gone to Hell of head sentence passed upon him by the great judge, whereby they have been doomed to eternal misery. The eternity of the punishment was part of the sentence. Thus it is in the sentence that is pronounced on the wicked and the day of judgment—Matthew 25, Verse 41, depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. There they are bid to depart in the burnings that are everlasting, and the sentence is the same that is pronounced on every wicked man it is particular judgment at death, only at the day of judgment. It is pronounced in a more public manner. This sentence shall be pronounced by the great God. In such a manner with such manifestations of the awful majesty, greatness, holiness and wrath of God, that there will give the greatest assurance of the truth of it to the subjects of it. There will be no possibility of the wicked souls doubting of the truth of certainty of it. They will know that God is in earnest and that he declares his fixed and unalterable decrees.
3. They received these testimonies of the hatred of God as assurance that he never intends to deliver them. They know that God is not only angry with them, but hates them. That he hates them with perfect hatred. They know his hatred from what they feel, from the misery that he inflicts. It is not every calamity that God brings on men that is a sign of his hatred. The most extreme temporal calamities that ever happen to men are no certain signs of God’s hatred. They are consistent with the love of God. But the calamities that the Damned are subject to is such as as a clear evidence of God’s hatred. It be not consistent with any mercy or love to God towards the subject, thereof. The misery that they suffer is so inexpressibly dolors, and attended with those dismal circumstances that renders it a perfect manifestation of God’s utter hatred. God will immediately give inward manifestation of his dreadful hatred and wrath in the soul, and that in ways that we know not of, and that we now cannot conceive of in ways more dreadful than now we can conceive of. These discoveries of God’s hatred exclude all hope of ever being delivered from their miseries. For their being delivered or not delivered must be according to God’s will. But they know that he hates them enough to continue them under the misery they now suffer forever and ever, without any pity towards them. God’s absolute hatred is not consistent with the design of mercy. If God should entertain a design of mercy some time or other, there and he would not absolutely hate them, but would have mercy for them. But those that God absolutely hates he can have no design of any mercy towards them. And is a damned have such great manifestations of God’s hatred, so they know that he never intends them any mercy. They know that he hates him with an eternal hatred. God’s eternal decrees are now made known to them.
4. They know that God is so powerful that he is able to do with them what he will. They know what his power is now, better than they did while on earth. They see what a great in dreadful God is. They know his power by what they feel, for so dreadful are the torments of the damned that the mighty power of God has made known in them. This is one end of them Romans 9, Verse 22. But if the mighty power of God has made known by them to others much more to them who suffer them. They know that God is so powerful that they can ever escape out of his hands. They know that he is able to fulfill his threatenings, and to execute his own sentence. And to do them according to his hatred and wrath. And that he is able to make their misery eternal, is able to keep them from all remedy.
1. Use of awakening to those that are in a natural condition.
Those that are so are in the same condition that those that are gone to Hell enter there in despair were in, and that they perished in. If you should look into Hell, and behold a state of the Damned there, and hear their cries and consider that they are all of them in utter despair of ever being delivered from their misery, and should enquire how they came such multitudes of them to be brought into such misery, it must be answered that it was because they died in such a state as you were in. And if you should inquire of particulars, it must be answered concerning of them, that it was because they went on in some ways of sin that you are going on in. Because they delayed and put off the concern of their souls, as you do, or that they flattered themselves and trusted in themselves as you do.
Here for your awakening consider how dreadful it argues a case of those that are in Hell to be that they are in despair. Despair is a thing of all things a most dark and doleful. The sting of a calamity. It is a misery of miseries. It is the dregs of the cup. It is a Hell of Hell. It is that which makes any person utterly miserable, and no person can be said to be perfectly miserable without it. It cuts off all relief. There is no person or calamity whatsoever, but what is light without it in comparison of what it is with it. The wrath of Almighty God would itself be but light. Hellfire would be cool without it, in comparison of what it is with it. It would be terrible beyond expression for a man to endure the pain that he would do if he were in the midst of a great furnace of earthly fire, or a red-hot oven. And it could be that he could remain there full of quick simps for one day, though he knew that at the day’s end his torment would be in an end, and he should be in perfect ease and soundness again. We cannot conceive of the dreadfulness of such a day, as that would be to have the body from head to foot and within and without all red-hot and bright with fire, and a sense not diminished and the pain proportionable to the fire. How terrible with such a day be! Though there was no despair attended it but the person all the while was full of hope. Yea, the person should not merrily hope for deliverance but be certain of it, and that in so short a time. Yet, to endure such pain but one quarter of an hour would doubtless be inexpressibly dreadful, and if a man knew what it was it is not probable that anything that could be offered him would tempt him to endure it. Or that any man would be persuaded though he knew he could have all the riches of the world given him for it. But how much more terrible would it be to spend a quarter an hour in Hell, of which our earthly fire though most durable, is but the image as it were only a picture of fire, in comparison of it. But yet if they in Hell knew they were to endure what they now suffer for four thousands of years and had hopes that then after so long a time they should have deliverance, their misery would be light to what it is now. If the Damned could have such news as this proclaimed among them, that after they have suffered for thousands of years they should be delivered, it would take off a very great part of their burden. Hell would be no Hell in comparison of what it is now. Absolute despair is a thing perfectly overwhelming to nature. There is nothing that can fill the mind with such a gloom as this. This is a very blackness of darkness to be in such extreme misery and to have no hope of ever being delivered. Let them look as far forward as they will. Let their thoughts run out to never such length in future duration, doubling and multiplying thousands and millions, and yet to think that when they had worn out such ages in torment, that it will bring them no nearer to relief, and that their eternity of misery will yet be but beginning, that there will never, never come in the end or any abatement of their torments.
This covers the damned souls in the thick clouds of most inexpressible darkness and horror. This perfectly amazes them. The thought of eternity is infinitely too great for them to bear. It overwhelms them destroys him it crushes them. It sinks him down into the gulf of woe and misery to an unfathomable depth. It is but a little that we can express or conceive of the terribleness of this state. These things are too big for the conceptions or tongues of mortals. The misery is too great. The horror and amazement too great for us to think or speak of as they are. The comparisons that we are capable of using all fail, and can give us but some faint idea of it. But to help your conceptions in this manner, consider—
1. That this despair is universal, absolute and final. First it is universal. Man in this world may sometimes be said to despair particular things that they desire, as of being delivered from particular calamities they suffer. As he that loses some dear earthly relation or friend, he despaired of ever having the enjoyment of them anymore. One that is carried into captivity may in a great measure despair of ever being delivered and returning again to his possessions and friends. But in such cases despair is not universal but peculiar of particular enjoyments. They don’t despair of all good. They despair that he has may cast him into deep despondency in melancholy, but yet he doesn’t despair of every enjoyment. But they that are in Hell, their despair is universal. They utterly despair of all good of every sort. They despair of pleasure, of profit and honor, of any comfort or friends, or possessions, or anything else they despair of the favor of God and spiritual good. And they despaired of all temporal good. Their misery that they despair of being delivered from is universal. They despair of being delivered from shame and disgrace. They despair of being delivered from the manifestations of the wrath of God. They despair of being delivered from the cruelty of devils. They despair being delivered from the horrors of conscience. They despair being delivered from torments of body which will be inflicted after the resurrection. They despair of being delivered from torment in any part of their bodies.
2. Their despair is absolute. Men and ordinaries sometimes said to despair are things when their despair is not altogether absolute, as persons very far gone in some very mortal disease, or he that is condemned to an execution may be said to despair of life—because there is no manner of prospect any way of their deliverance. But yet they are not absolutely certain that they shall not be delivered. An escape though altogether improbable, yet may not be said to be simply a possible, so the Apostle says in 2nd Corinthians 1, Verse 8. But the despair of the damned is absolute despair, as it is attended with the perfect assurance that they shall never escape.
Thirdly, their despair is final no despair and earthly things can be said in like manner to be final. If men are subject to extreme poverty, or captivity in carnal bondage or imprisonment, or some painful disease, and despair of ever being delivered as long as they live, yet their despair with respect to those things cannot be said to be final in the same manner as that in Hell. For the evils that it has respect to our temporal. They don’t reach beyond death. If they despair of ever being delivered as long as they live, that is very disheartening and discouraging, and greatly augments the affliction. But yet death will terminate all temporal differences between one man and another as to prosperity and adversity. It will put an end to earthly poverty, and diseases and bondage and afflictions of all sorts, as Joel observes Chapter 3, Verse 17, 18 and 19. And therefore despair with respect to those things never looks any further forward than death. But the despair of the damned has no such period or termination. It looks forward without end. Job under his calamity seems to have had very little hope of ever being delivered while he lived, but yet he hoped for it when he died and this made him wish for death. Job 7, Verse 15—my soul chooses strangling and death rather than my life. But the damned in Hell, they have no such refuge for their thoughts to fly to. If they might hear the news that they should die in turn to nothing, that would be joyful tidings to them. But they shall despair of ever being delivered by such means. They wish and longed for death but shall not find it, and they wish it they had never been born, but that is to no purpose.
2. Consider how terrible absolute despair be, if it should only attempt some of those pains that men are want to suffer in this world. If it were only a sharp toothache or an aching finger. If persons went under those pains were at the same time assured that they must never have any relief or any rest at all, but must endure it that pain without any intermission forever and ever, how dark discouraging of sinking would be the thought, this would afflict in distress a sufferer immensely more than simply present pain. When we endure pain it is hope that makes it tolerable, that which we now account a light suffering, take away hope and it will become intolerable. Despair would aggravate an enhance the affliction beyond all account, and would make it overbearing. Though now with hope men make no great matter of it. But if despair would be so terrible when attending so light an affliction, what is it when attending the torments of Hell. What is a toothache to the misery of the soul in Hellfire under the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. Despair is dreadful in proportion to the evil the person’s despair of being delivered from. Despair when it attends a great calamity it adds to the distress and is great a portion when it attends a small ones. If we suppose that despair joined with pain of an aching tooth, would make the present distress an hundredfold or a thousandfold greater—so will it by a parody of reason augment and multiply in a like proportion the present distress of the torments of Hell. You may perhaps conceive in some measure how much more dreadful absolute despair will make your present distress, under temporal pains that you suffer. And consider that as much in proportion are the present sufferings and horror of damnation increased—though they are so dreadful in themselves. The despair that attempts a torments of the damned is more dreadful than we can now conceive of it to be and that upon two accounts—
1. Because we now cannot have a notion of the dreadfulness of the pains and inflictions which they suffer, and so can apprehend the dreadfulness of despairing of ever being delivered from them. Those torments are what we never have experienced. It is difficult for us oftentimes to have an idea of temporal calamities that others suffer—that we never have experienced. To have a true sense of the sorrowfulness of their case, much more the sufferings of all that are so great and so much more beyond all that here we experienced.
2. Their despair is also more dreadful than we can now conceive of it to be, because they have a greater sense of eternity than we have. Many hear it—they hear often of eternity. They think a little of it and don’t consider what it is, and therefore have very little of a sense how great and awful it is. But they in Hell don’t want consideration—they can’t help thinking of it. The endlessness of eternity is continually in their thoughts. The more we consider of eternity, the more fixedly we meditate on it now. The more great and awful will it appear to us, but they that are in Hell have more to fix our thoughts on than we have. If we were under some sharp pain of body and we’re assured we must suffer it to all eternity, that would make us think about eternity and what fix our thoughts upon it, much more than now they all want to be fixed. Much more if we endured their torments. The damned are not able to divert their thoughts from it. Time sings long to men when they are in pain. When persons lie in great pain they are ready to thank the days long and the nights long. And the day they say, when will it be evening. And that evening, when will it be morning. But how much more may we conclude do the pains of Hell make eternity seem long to them.
Thirdly, consider how terrible are those degrees of despair of mercy, that means sometimes have been the subject of in us, in this world. There have been instances of persons while alive, that have been brought to despair in a considerable degree, when the appearances of distress have been far beyond all that has ever suffered under any bodily torment. Some have been brought to that, to which they would change places with the wood and the fire. But we cannot suppose that any despair on earth should be equal to the despair of Hell. The earth is not the place where God has want either to inflict such misery, as is in Hell, or to bestow such happiness as is enjoyed in heaven. Those that seem to be in despair whilst living, their despair can’t be supposed to be so absolute as that in Hell. For they in Hell have already had a sentence passed upon them. And if they were a certain that they should never obtain mercy, their despair would not be so in supportable as it is in Hell, for the aforementioned reason—because here they can’t have that full sense of the greatness of the misery they despair of being delivered from as in Hell. Where they know about the experience of it. The foretastes some have of the wrath of God in this world are but foretastes. But it preludes before the battle. We can’t suppose in our frail mortal nature is it all capable of subsisting under the weight of such suffering, as they endure in Hell. The despair of Hell also differs from all despair on earth, and that it is without the least intermissions. The least ease by diversion of thought of sleep or stupefaction from, by the disorder of the body. In Hell souls are every way fitted to destruction. The vessel is enlarged to a greater capacity that it may be able to contain more misery than we are capable of in this world. Those of you that have had any sense of the terribleness of the wrath of God, may consider how doleful your case would have been a few at the same time had been an absolute despair. Though the notion that he had of the wrath of God was so imperfect, and far short of the reality.
4. The despair of the damned does in a sense make future misery present according to the degree of our apprehension of future suffering. So far we suffer it beforehand. It is sometimes observe that, it is a mercy that God doesn’t reveal them in beforehand what calamities and afflictions they are to meet with. And that if he should do so, it would tend much to take away the comfort of our living. For it would make our future suffering present. But it is made known to the damned in Hell what misery they are to suffer, hereafter. They know that they must endure those torments forever and ever. So that besides what is now immediately inflicted there is their future misery throughout eternity, that is in some sense made present to them. So as to endure in some sort a whole eternity of misery at once, so far as they are capable of conceiving of eternity. If they were capable of perfectly comprehending eternity, their despair would make their misery truly infinite. Their punishment is infinite considering it is in its whole duration, what is present and what is to come. But if they were capable of a perfect comprehension of eternity, so that they could see all their future misery at once with a full view, it would make the present misery infinite, and their despair does make an eternity of misery all present at once, so far as they can conceive of it. So their rational faculties will be their calamity—it would be well if they were brutes.
If it be so that the wicked in Hell, are all of them in despair let sinners be exhorted to improve a day of hope. Now you enjoy day in which there is room for hope. There is standing open a door of hope and you have no reason to despair. You now have hope, that you may obtain mercy you have ground to entertain such hope for you have an opportunity. If you have but a heart to improve it. You have encouragement of obtaining mercy if you do what you can for it. Now you may have hope of wholly escape in the misery of Hell. The damned would give thousands of worlds if it were possible if they might have hope of deliverance after millions of ages. But you may have opportunity to escape wholly and never endure it at all. The damned would prize it even ten thousand times, more than men prize kingdoms. If they could have hope of being delivered from some small part of their misery, for some hope of mitigation of their torments. But you may have hope of escaping of it all and never taste in it at all of the misery of Hell—Revelation 2, Verse 11, he that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. Revelation 20, Verse 6—on such the second death hath no power. Yea, not only so but now you may have hope of attaining a glorious and eternal happiness. A happiness as glorious as a misery of the damned is dreadful. And that shall be is lasting. How blessed an opportunity have you! How happy a day do those that are in Hell think that they have hoped to be that the living enjoy. All that are now here present do is yet enjoy a day of hope. Though it be uncertain how long they will enjoy it. If you are old and old and sin and have a hard heart and a blind mind, yet it is a day of hope. It is a glorious day of hope with you a blessed opportunity. So whatever your disadvantages are, whatever your sins have been, whatever courses you have taken to augment your guilt and harden in your heart, though you’ll brought yourself into great danger thereby, yet it is a day of hope but not a day of despair, as it is in Hell. Nor have you reasoned to despair. I would mention three things for motives—
1. The doctrine shows how precious the present day of hope is, and that it is the only day of hope that ever sinners will enjoy. After sinners die then it is a day of despair with them. For as we have heard, all that are in Hell are in despair. It should make this time of life seem precious to sinners. That though it be so short, yet it is the only time of hope that sinners are want to enjoy throughout the whole eternity. This should make it seem to them too precious to lose any part of it, and resolved in an earnest to improve it to the utmost. When you consider the dreadful despair that the damned are in, in Hell they should make every hour in every moment here seem precious to you, because they are hours and moments of hope.
2. The doctrine leads you to consider of the one excellency of the happiness that you’ve had opportunity to obtain, namely, that it is that which is accompanied with assurance of its everlasting continuance. If the damned in Hell are sure that there will be no end of their misery, and so are in the despair, so the saints in heaven have equal assurance that they never will be at an end of their happiness. And if the despair of the damned as a sting of their misery, and is the Hell of their Hell so the assurance of saints in heaven have of the everlasting continuance of happiness as the heaven of their heaven, and crowns all their blessings. When the saints in heaven experience the joys and pleasures of that stage, and consider what glory they are advanced to, it will be as pleasant and joyful to them to look forward and consider that this blessedness of theirs will surely continue to all eternity, and will fill them with as great ecstasy of joy, as despair fills that damned with horror and amazement.
3. Consider that it is the abuse of this day of hope that brings persons to that despair in Hell. They that have a day of hope given them that have their lives continued a space in the world they’re not brought into the state of despair but by abuse in this day of hope. Those that make a good improvement of it do escape Hell and obtain a more lasting blessedness—Luke 19, Verse 42, O if that thou has known even though I am this I day the things which belong unto thy peace but now they’re hid from thine eyes. Proverbs 1, Verse 24—I called but you would not answer. I will now conclude with a few directions on how to improve your day of hope.
1. Be often considering the state of despair that the wicked in Hell are in. A day of hope will never be improved without serious consideration. Many are exceeding thoughtless of the state that we have now heard of. Though it be so awful, and what we so often hear of.
2. Improve your day of hope as a day of hope. Don’t give way to desponding despairing thoughts. They are now unseasonable because a proper time of despair is not yet come, but it is now the day of hope. Don’t give way to any such thoughts as it is in vain for you to seek salvation. And vain for you to pray or read or attend after means of grace. If you do so you won’t improve your day as a day of hope, and yet—
3. Improve the day of hope in a way answerable to the danger that attends it. Though it be a day of hope, yet it is also a day of great danger. Though there be hope that you may with the use of proper means escape the state of despair, yet to danger is very great. You hang over the pit by a slender thread. The danger is such that it proves fatal for the greater part. This day of life is filled up with dangers. There are enemies everywhere and snares and evil for us on every side. Therefore, you should improve your day of hope that all that lasts, with the utmost watchfulness and diligence and earnest prayer—begging of God to keep and save you, that you may not be destroyed by the dangers that surround you.
4. If you would well improve a day of hope, improve all means in which you can have hope, or all means in the use of which you can have any rational grounds to hope for success—which are all the means that God is appointed. Neglect no duty of morality or religion, be found walking in all the ways of hope. Neglect no opportunity and particularly these special opportunities, Sabbath days, days of youth, times of health, days of the striving of the spirit, times of special impressions by sermons or Providence. Improve advantages of every kind. If you have a good understanding, that is, an advantage to improve. If you are comfortably, if you have for a good reputation, if you have much influence on others, if you have good books, good friends, and acquaintances, much leisure—improve them to the utmost.
5. If you would well improve a day of hope so as to escape the state of despair, seek earnestly that you may despair in yourself. It is persons hoping in themselves, hoping into their own strength, own righteousness, that very often brings them to despair. Earnestly seek that you may see—
6. Earnestly seek that you may hope in Christ. If you improve your day of hope by hoping in a right manner, your hope shall not be disappointed. You shall never have reason to despair. Never shall be in that state of despair. If you hope alone in the infinite mercy and grace of God, in a Redeemer, in His Blood and Righteousness, your hope will be built on a rock, and shall surely bring you above all danger, and in the fruition of an ending—an unchangeable glory.