Judgment of Sin

He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
~ Revelation 22:11

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
~ Revelation 21:8

And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;
~ Genesis 4:11

And the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.
~ Deuteronomy 29:28

The Uses of Sin and Judgment Pertaining to Spiritual Barrenness, by John Owen. The following contains an excerpt from his sermon.

Sermon XV.

We shall now proceed to the uses.

Use 1. Wonder not if you see a diversity of success in preaching of the word. Some receive it with joy; the most despise it as a thing of nought. Whence is this difference? Multitudes are rejected of God, — cast out of his care, — barren land; he will till them no more. A cursed state! Marvel not that many refuse to hear the word, that they love lies; they are given up of God to their hearts’ lusts. Marvel not that the word which they hear affects them no more; — the power of the Spirit is withheld from them. Multitudes are thus cast out of the care of God, and tokens of the plague are upon them. They like their condition, rejoice and triumph in it, think none so happy as themselves, and despise them that love the waters of the sanctuary: all which are tokens of this sore plague. Can they expel the gospel from any place? can they quench the light that is in it? can they triumph over the ways of God? — they suppose they have gotten a great victory. This is not an ordinary judgment: they are poor creatures, assuredly cast out of the care of God; “they are given to salt,” and it is a miracle of mercy if ever any of them be healed.

Oh! it is a woeful thing to look on a place or persons that give evidences of their withstanding the season of their healing, as so many in this nation do! How was our Saviour affected with it in reference to Jerusalem, Luke xix. 41, 42, “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.” Oh! if we had but any measure of that pity and compassion which dwelt in his holy soul, how could we pass through towns and cities, and see and hear, and not mourn!

Use 2. Take that advice of the prophet, Jer. xiii. 16, “Give glory to the Lord your God, before he cause darkness, and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains, and, while ye look for light, he turn it into the shadow of death, and make it gross darkness.”

(2.) The second thing that God doth, in giving up an unhealed land unto barrenness, is his judicial hardening of them, or leaving 191them to hardness and impenitency, that so they may fill up the measure of their sins. Heb. vi. 8, “That which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing.” When the care of God is once taken from them, they are nigh unto cursing. The next thing that God will do to them, is to curse them, as our Saviour did the barren fig-tree.

This woeful judgment is at large set forth, Isa. vi. 9, 10, “And he said, Go and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” Isaiah was a gospel preacher; “Yet this,” saith God, “shall be the effect of thy preaching towards them that have withstood their season, and have not been healed by the word.” And John tells us that this very thing was accomplished when the gospel was preached by our Saviour himself, John xii. 40, 41. And surely their condition is most woeful whom the preaching of the gospel hardeneth, — whom the only remedy destroys.

Now, there are four things in this spiritual judgment that God sends upon unhealed souls, that have outlived their season of healing, more or less:—

(1.) Blindness of mind and understanding. Their natural blindness and ignorance shall be increased and confirmed; and that by two ways:—

1st. God will send them a “spirit of slumber,” Rom. xi. 8; that is, a great inadvertency and negligence as to the things of the gospel that are spoken of or preached unto them. As men that slumber take little notice of what is spoken to them or about them; they hear a noise, and sometimes discern a little what is spoken, but not to any use or purpose: so is it with these persons on whom God doth judicially send this spirit of slumber; they hear the sound of the word, and sometimes, it may be, take notice of some one thing or other that is spoken; but to receive and understand the design of it, to ponder it and improve it, that they cannot do; — they are under a spiritual slumber. We may see multitudes in this condition every day. The word hath no life nor vigour towards them; they perceive not the mind of God in it; they understand it not. God hath given them a “spirit of slumber,” and they die under it.

2dly. God sends them a spirit of giddiness, causing them to err in their ways, Isa. xix. 14. We have a notable instance of this judgment of God, 2 Thess. ii. 10–12. The waters of the sanctuary came unto them, and they were not healed; the gospel was preached unto them, but they withstood their season. They received not the love of the truth; they did not believe and obey, that they might be saved; 192— because they had pleasure in unrighteousness. How, then, doth God deal with them? Verse 11, He will send them a spirit of giddiness or delusion, that “they shall believe a lie,” — false doctrine, false worship, superstition, and idolatry. This they shall believe, and have pleasure in; which will have the fearful end mentioned, verse 12. And this judgment, as it is already come upon many, so it lies at the door, I fear, of the most. We see men every day that have for some years, it may be, enjoyed the preaching of the gospel; but not being healed, quickened, and sanctified by it, are now, with all greediness, given up to follow after fables on the one hand, or superstition on the other; — there is a spirit of giddiness from the Lord upon them. And by these means is the darkness of the minds of men increased when God is giving of them up to barrenness.

(2.) Obstinacy in the will, or hardness of heart properly so called, is in this judgment of God also. God will give up unhealed persons to hardness of heart. So is it in that place of Isaiah, Isa. vi. 10: and it is the same with that which the apostle calls “a reprobate mind,” Rom. i. 28; that is, a mind and heart that is good for nothing with regard to spiritual things, — profligate, and altogether insensible of them. And when this befalls any, they will openly despise the word, and cast it off, using one foolish pretence or other for their so doing; as Jer. xliv. 16, with xliii. 2. Such persons, whenever the word is preached unto them, and it lies cross to their carnal imaginations or sensual affections, lusts, or sports, rise up in their hearts with contempt, and rage against it. Sometimes they will colour their wickedness in their hearts by some pretence or other: “This is the way, the humour, the singularity, of the preacher.” Or sometimes their rage will carry them directly out against the word, without any colour or pretence, but because it displeaseth them. Or if they fall not thus into pride and rage (which usually is occasioned by their temptations), they grow utterly senseless, and stupid, and unconcerned in the things of God. Let the word thunder from heaven against their sins, they regard it not; let the still small voice of the gospel persuade them unto reconciliation, they attend not unto it; let the judgments of God be abroad in the world, if they escape themselves they are not concerned about them. Do they reach their own persons, they have wrath, and anger, and vexation; but they cannot repent or turn to the Lord. This is, apparently, the condition of most in the world.

(3.) Sensuality of affections is in this judgment also, Rom. i. 26, “He gave them up to vile affections;” that is, to place their affections on vile, sensual things. Unhealed persons shall do so. Our streets, ale-houses, and many other places, are full of such whose affections are fixed with madness on vile things; and they please themselves in them, little thinking that this is part of the judgment whereunto they 193are given up of God for their unprofitableness under the word, — for their not being healed by the waters of the sanctuary.

(4.) Searedness of conscience. 1 Tim. iv. 2, “Having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” Eph. iv. 19, “Being past feeling.” Whatever sin they commit, or condition they fall into, conscience shall no more discharge its duty in them and towards them.

And this is the second thing that God will do towards such unhealed persons.

(3.) The third thing considerable is the event of this dealing of God with them, or what is meant by this land’s becoming salt.

Two things, as I have showed before, are hereby intended:— (1.) Barrenness in this world; (2.) Eternal ruin in the world to come:—

(1.) Barrenness. They shall never bear any fruit to God. This was the curse that our Saviour gave to the fig-tree, “Never fruit grow on thee.” Man was made to bear fruit unto God; — this is all he came into the world for. Now, when God shall say to any, “Go your ways; you shall never do any thing more for me whilst you live in this world; you shall never bear any fruit to me;” — what sorer judgment can any man possibly fall under? I might show you the misery of this condition in many particulars. “Israel is an empty vine,” Hos. x. 1.

(2.) Eternal ruin, and that irreparable. Prov. xxix. 1, “He that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” John xv. 6, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” 2 Thess. ii. 12, “That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Heb. vi. 8, “But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.” This is the certain event of that land that is left unto salt, because not healed; and of those persons who, having passed over their season of quickening and sanctifying by the word, are given up to barrenness and ruin. It will do neither me nor you good to flatter you, and to put you into any better hope than your condition will admit of. See Ezek. xxxiii. 8, “When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thine hand.” This will be the end of the one and the other, when that course is taken. Did I not see the tokens of this judgment of God abroad in the world, I would not thus insist upon it as I do.

Use 1. Of exhortation. Make use of your season, that you fall not under this sore and inexpressible judgment. God gives men a season, 194a space to repent in, Rev. ii. 21. This space and season, as I have showed you before, is not ofttimes all the while that the gospel is preached unto you. The word may be preached, and yet its efficacy wholly restrained from you, and that because your time and season is gone. And so it comes to pass daily; and you know not how soon it may be your lot and portion, and you perceive it not. Therefore is the apostle so earnest in exhorting men to make use of their day, before their season be gone, Heb. iii. 12, 13, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To-day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” As if he should say, “Take heed to yourselves; stir up yourselves: for if your day be once passed over, you are then gone for ever; it will then be too late for you to look out after mercy.” And so again., 2 Cor. vi. 2, “Now is the day, now is the time.” If you stand in need of any commodity that can be had but at one fair, — that day, that season you will not neglect. You stand in need, I am sure, of grace, mercy, pardon, Christ, life, — salvation; there is only this day, this season, for you to obtain it in. O that you would be persuaded to look out after it before it be hidden from you! See Heb. x. 31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” So the same apostle again, Heb. xii. 15, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God.” Use all diligence in this matter.

To excite you a little to this, consider, —

(1.) That if you are not healed during your season, you can never be healed. If the gospel cure you not, you must die in your sins. Men are greatly mistaken, when they flatter themselves that it can never be too late for them in this world, — there is time enough whilst they are alive. Alas! you have but your season; and that may be over with you many days before you leave the world, yea, many years. We have everywhere ground evidently “left to salt,” though yet not burned up. Use your day.

(2.) You know not how your day is going away, nor when it will be over. The traveller on the road, that hath a journey to go, knows how to order his affairs. “It is,” saith he, “so many hours to night, and I have time enough before me;” — so doth the labouring man also: but, alas! it is not so with you; you know not how soon your day may be over. I speak not of your lives, which, the Lord knows, are uncertain; but the day of the gospel may be over whilst the day of your lives continue. Nor can you be certain of the day of the preaching of the word; but your day, and your season in it, may come to an end this day, or this night, for aught that you or I know: so that your concernment is unspeakably great in the proposal that is made 195unto you. Remember the virgins that were shut out, and their cry at midnight!