The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies. Yea, in heart ye work wickedness; ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth. Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
~ Psalm 58:3, Psalm 58:2, Ephesians 2:3
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.
~ John 3:18, 2 Peter 2:3, Jude 1:13, Luke 12:19-21, James 1:10, James 4:14, Job 14:1-2
All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.
~ John 6:37, John 6:60, John 6:66, John 5:40, Hebrews 3:11
Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
~ Ephesians 5:6, 2 Peter 2:4, 2 Peter 2:17, 2 Peter 3:7
The Doctrine of the Misery of Man’s Natural State Applied, by Thomas Boston. This is from his work titled, “Human Nature in its Fourfold State”.
Use 1. Of Information. Is our state by nature a state of wrath? Then,
1. Surely we are not born innocent. Those chains of wrath, which by nature are upon us, show us to be born criminals. The swaddling-bands, where with infants are bound hand and foot as soon as they are born, may put us in mind of the cords of wrath, with which they are held prisoners, as children of wrath.
2. What desperate madness is it, for sinners to go on in their sinful course! What is it but to heap coals of fire on your own head! To lay more and more fuel to the fire of wrath! To “treasure up unto yourself wrath against the day of wrath!” Rom 2:5. You may perish, “when his wrath is kindled but a little,” Psalm 2:12. Why will you increase it yet more? You are already bound with such cords of death, as cannot easily be loosened; what need is there of more? Stand, careless sinner, and consider this.
3. You have no reason to complain, as long as you are out of hell. “Why does a living man complain?” Lam. 3:39. If one, who has forfeited his life, is banished from his native country, and exposed to many hardships, he may well bear all patiently, seeing his life is spared. Do you murmur, because you are under pain and sickness? Nay, bless God, you are not there where the worm never dies! Do you grudge, that you are not in so good a condition in the world as some of your neighbours are? Be thankful, rather, that you are not in the condition of the damned!Is your substance gone from you? Wonder that the fire of God’s wrath has not consumed you! Kiss the rod, O sinner! and acknowledge mercy; forGod “punishes us less than our iniquities deserve,” Ezra 9:13.4. Here is a memorandum, both for poor and rich.(1.) The poorest, who go from door to door, and have not one penny left them by their parents, were born to an inheritance. Their first father Adam left them “children of wrath:” and, continuing in their natural state, they cannot escape it; for “this is the portion of a wicked man from God, and the heritage appointed to him by God,” Job 20:29. An heritage that will furnish them with a habitation, who have no where to lay their head; they shall be “cast into outer darkness,” Matt. 25:30, for to them “is reserved the blackness of darkness forever,” Jude, ver. 13, where their bed shall be sorrow; “they shall lie down in sorrow,” Isaiah 50:11; their food shall be judgment, for God will “feed them with judgment,” Ezek 34:16; and their drink shall be the red wine of God’s wrath, “the dregs where of all the wicked of the earth shall wring out, and drink them,” Psalm 75:8.I know that those who are destitute of worldly goods, and also void of the knowledge and grace of God, who therefore may be called the devil’s poor, will be apt to say, “We hope God will make us suffer all our misery in this world, and that we shall be happy in the next world;” as if their miserable outward condition, in time, would secure their happiness in eternity. A gross and fatal mistake! there is another inheritance which they have, namely, “Lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit,”Jer. 16:19. But, “the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies,” Isaiah 28:17.Do you think, O sinner, that God, who commands judges on earth “not to respect the person of the poor in judgment,” Lev. 19:15, will pervert judgment for you? No! Know for certain, that however miserable you are here, you shall be eternally miserable hereafter, if you live and die in your natural state.
(2.) Many that have plenty in the world, have far more than they know of.You have, it may be, O unregenerate man! an estate, a good portion, a large stock, left you by your father; you have improved it, and the sun of prosperity shines upon you; so that you can say, with Esau, Gen. 33:9, “I have enough.” But know, you have more than all that, an inheritance which you do not think of—you are a child of wrath, an heir of hell! That is a heritage which will abide with you amidst all the changes in the world, as long as you continue in an unregenerate state. When you shall leave your substance to others, this will go along with you into another world. It is no wonder a slaughter ox is fed to the full, and is not set to work as others are, Job 21:30, “The wicked is reserved to the day of destruction; they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.”Well then, “Rejoice, let your heart cheer you, walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes.” Live above reproofs and warning from the word of God; show yourself a man of learning, by casting off all fear of God; mock at seriousness; live like yourself, “a child of wrath,” “an heir of hell.” “But know, that for all these things God will bring you into judgment!” Eccl. 11:9. Assure yourself, your “breaking shall come suddenly at an instant,” Isaiah 30:13. “For as the crackling of thorn sunder a pot, so is the laughter of a fool,” Eccl. 7:6. The fair blaze, and the great noise which they make, are quickly gone—so shall your mirth be.Then that wrath, which is now silently sinking into your soul, shall make a fearful hissing.5. Woe to him, that like Moab, “has been at ease from his youth, Jer. 48:11, and never saw the black cloud of wrath hanging over his head. There are many who “have no changes, therefore they fear notGod,” Psalm 55:19. They have lived in a good hope, as they call it, all their days; that is, they never had power to believe an ill report of their soul’s state. Many have come by their religion too easily—and as it came lightly to them, so it will go from them, when the trial comes. Do you think men flee from wrath in a morning dream? Or will they flee from the wrath which they never saw pursuing them?6. Think it not strange, if you see one in great distress about his soul’s condition, who was accustomed to be as jovial, and as little concerned for salvation as any of his neighbours. Can one get a right view of himself, as in a state of wrath, and not be pierced with sorrows, terrors, and anxiety? When a weight quite above a man’s strength, lies upon him, and he is alone, he can neither stir hand nor foot; but when one comes to lift it off him, he will struggle to get from under it. Thunderclaps of wrath from the word of God, conveyed to the soul by the Spirit of the Lord, will surely keep a man awake.7. It is no wonder that wrath comes upon churches and nations, and upon us in this land, and that infants and children smart under it. Most of the society are yet children of wrath; few are fleeing from it, or taking the way to prevent it—but people of all ranks are helping it on. The Jews rejected Christ; and their children have been smarting under wrath these eighteen hundred years. God grant that the bad treatment given to Christ and his gospel, by this generation, be not pursued with wrath on the succeeding one.
Use 2. Of exhortation. Here I shall drop a word,1. To those who are yet in an unregenerate state.2. To those who are brought out of it.
3. To all equally.
1. To you who are yet in an unregenerate state, I would sound the alarm, and warn you to see to yourselves, while there is yet hope. O, you children of wrath take no rest in this dismal state; but flee to Christ, the only refuge; hasten and make your escape there. The state of wrath is too hot a climate for you to live in, Micah 2:10, “Arise and depart, for this is not your rest.” O sinner, do you know where you are? Do you not see your danger? The curse has entered into your soul—wrath is your covering; the heavens are growing blacker and blacker above your head; the earth is weary of you, the pit is opening her mouth for you, and should the thread of your life be cut this moment, you are thence forth past all hope forever! Sirs, if we saw you putting a cup of poison to your mouth, we would run to you and snatch it out of your hands. If we saw the house on fire about you, while you were fast asleep in it, we would run to you, and drag you out of it. But alas! you are in ten thousand times greater hazard—yet we can do no more than tell you your danger; invite, exhort, and beseech you to look to yourselves; and lament your stupidity and obstinacy, when we cannot prevail with you to take warning. If there were no hope of your recovery, we would be silent, and would not torment you before the time—but though you be lost and undone, there is hope concerning this thing.Therefore, I cry unto you, in the name of the Lord, and in the words of the prophet, Zech. 9:12, “Turn to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope.” Flee to Jesus Christ out of this, your natural state of sin and wrath.Motive 1. While you are in this state, you must stand or fall according to the law, or covenant of works. If you understood this aright, it would strike through your hearts as a thousand darts. One had better be a slave to the Turks, condemned to the galleys, or under Egyptian bondage—than be under the covenant of works! All mankind were brought under it inAdam, as we heard before; and you, in your unregenerate state, are still where Adam left you. It is true, there is another covenant brought in—but what is that to you, who are not brought into it?You must needs be under one of the two covenants; either under the law, or under grace. That you are not under grace, the dominion of sin over you manifestly proves; therefore, you are under the law, Romans 6:14. Do not think God has laid aside the first covenant, Matt. 5:17, 18; Gal. 3:10.No, he will “magnify the law, and make it honourable.” It is broken indeed on your part; but it is absurd to think, that therefore your obligation is dissolved. Nay, you must stand and fall by it, until you can produce your discharge from God himself, who is the party in that covenant; and thisyou cannot pretend to, seeing you are not in Christ.Now, to give you a view of your misery, in this respect, consider these following things:(1.) Hereby you are bound over to death, in virtue of the threatening of death in the covenant, Gen. 2:17. The condition being broken you fall under the penalty. So it concludes you under wrath.(2.) There is no salvation for you under this covenant—but on a condition impossible to be performed by you. The justice of God must be satisfied for the wrong which you have done already. God has written this truth in characters of the blood of his own Son. Yes, and you must perfectly obey the law for the time to come. So says the law, Gal. 3:12, “The man who does them, shall live in them.” Come then, O sinner! see if you can make al adder, whereby you may reach the throne of God—stretch forth your arms, and try if you can fly on the wings of the wind, catch hold of the clouds, and pierce through these visible heavens; and then either climb over, or break through, the jasper walls of the city above. These things you may do, as well as be able to reach heaven in your natural state, under this covenant.(3.) There is no pardon under this covenant. Pardon is the benefit of another covenant, with which you have nothing to do, Acts 13:39, “By him, all that believe are justified from all things, from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” As for you, you are in the hands of a merciless creditor, who will take you by the throat, saying, “Pay what you owe!” and cast you into prison, there to remain until you have paid the utmost farthing—unless you be so wise as to get a surety in time, who is able to answer for all your debt, and get up your discharge. This Jesus Christ alone can do. You abide under this covenant, and plead mercy; but what is your plea founded on? There is not one promise of mercy or pardon in that covenant. Do you plead mercy for mercy’s sake? Justice will step in between it and you, and plead God’s covenant threatening, which he cannot deny.(4.) There is no place for repentance in this covenant, so as the sinner can be helped by it. For as soon as ever you sin, the law lays its curse on you, which is a dead weight you can by no means throw off; no, not though your “head were waters, and your eyes a fountain of tears, to weep day and night” for your sin. That is what the law cannot do, in that it is “weak through the flesh,” Romans 8:3. You are another profane Esau, who has sold the blessing; and there is no place for repentance, though you seek it carefully with tears, while under the covenant.(5.) There is no acceptance of the will for the deed under this covenant, which was not made for good will—but good works. The mistake in this point ruins many. They are not in Christ—but stand under the first covenant; and yet they will plead this privilege. This is just like a man having made a feast for those of his own family, and when they sit down at table, another man’s servant, who has run away from his master, presumptuously comes forward and sits down among them—would not the master of the feast give such a stranger that check, “Friend, why do you come in here?” and since he is none of his family, commanded him tobe gone quickly. Though a master accept the good-will of his own child for the deed, can a hired servant expect that privilege?(6.) You have nothing to do with Christ while under that covenant. By the law of God, a woman cannot be married to two husbands at once—either death or divorce must dissolve the first marriage, before she can marry another. So we must first be dead to the law, before we can be married toChrist, Romans 7:4. The law is the first husband; Jesus Christ, who raises the dead, marries the widow, who was heartbroken, and slain by the first husband. But while the soul is in the house with the first husband, it cannot plead a marriage relation to Christ; nor the benefits of a marriage covenant, which is not yet entered into, Gal. 5:4, “Christ is become of no effect to you; whoever of you are justified by the law, you are fallen from grace.” Peace, pardon, and such like benefits, are all benefits of the covenant of grace. You must not think to stand off from Christ, and the marriage covenant with him, and yet plead these benefits, any more than one man’s wife can plead the benefit of a contract of marriage passed between another man and his wife.(7.) See the bill of exclusion, passed in the court of Heaven, against allunder the covenant of works, Gal. 4:30, “The son of the bond-woman shall not be heir.” Compare ver. 24. Heirs of wrath must not be heirs of glory. Whom the first covenant has power to exclude out of heaven, the second covenant cannot bring into it.
Objection. Then it is impossible for us to be saved.Answer. It is so while you are in that state; but if you would be out of that dreadful condition, hasten out of that state. If a murderer be under sentence of death, so long as he lives within the kingdom, the laws will reach his life; but if he can make his escape, and get over the sea, into the dominions of another prince, our laws cannot reach him there. This is what we would have you to do; flee out of the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of God’s dear Son; out of the dominion of the law, into the dominion of grace—then all the curses of the law, or covenant of works, shall never be able to reach you.Motive 2. O, you children of wrath, your state is wretched, for you have lost God, and that is an unspeakable loss. You are without God in the world, Eph. 2:12. Whatever you may call yours, you cannot call God yours. If we look to the earth, perhaps you can tell us, that land, that house, or that herd of cattle—is yours. But let us look upward to heaven; is that God, that grace, that glory, yours? Truly, you have neither part no lot in this matter. When Nebuchadnezzar talks of cities and kingdoms, O how big does he speak! “Great Babylon, that I have built – my power –my majesty;” but he tells a poor tale, when he comes to speak of God, saying, “Your God,” Dan. 2:47, and 4:30. Alas, sinner! whatever you have,God is gone from you. O, the misery of a godless soul! Have you lost God?Then,(1.) The sap and substance of all you have in the world is gone. The godless man, have what he will, is one who really has nothing, Matt.25:29. I defy the unregenerate man to attain to soul satisfaction, whatever he possesses, since God is not his God. All his days he eats in darkness; in every condition there is a secret dissatisfaction which haunts his heart, like a Spirit. The soul wants something, though perhaps it knows not what; and so it will be always, until the soul returns to God, the fountain of satisfaction.(2.) You can do nothing to purpose for yourself; for God is gone, his soul is departed from you, Jer. 6:8, like a leg out of joint hanging by, whereof a man has no use, as the word there used signifies. Losing God, you have lost the fountain of good; and so all grace, all goodness, all the saving influences of his Spirit. What can you do then? What fruit can you bring forth, more than a branch cut off from the stock? John 15:5. You are become unprofitable, Romans 3:12, as a filthy rotten thing, fit only for theash-heap.(3.) Death has come up into your windows, yes, and has settled on your face; for God, in whose favour life is, Psalm 30:5, is gone from you, and so the life of your soul is departed. What a loathsome lump is the body, when the soul is gone! Far more loathsome is your soul in this case. You are dead while you live. Do not deny it, seeing your speech is laid, your eyes closed, and all spiritual motion in you ceased. Your true friends who see your case, lament, because you are gone into the land of silence.(4.) You have not a steady friend among all the creatures of God; for now that you have lost the master’s favour, all the family is set against you.Conscience is your enemy; the word never speaks good of you; God’s people loathe so far as they see what you are, Psalm 15:4. The beasts and stones of the field are banded together against you, Job 5:23; Hos. 2:18.Your food, drink, and clothes, grudge being serviceable to the wretch that has lost God, and abuses them to his dishonour. The earth groans under you; yes, “the whole creation groans, and travails in pain together,”because of you, and such as you are, Romans 8:22. Heaven will have nothing to do with you; for “there shall never enter into it, anything that defiles,” Rev. 21:27. Only “hell from beneath, is eager to greet your coming,” Isaiah 14:9.(5.) Your hell is begun already. What makes hell—but exclusion from the presence of God? “Depart from me, you cursed.” You are gone from God already, with the curse upon you. That which is now your choice, shall be your punishment at length, if you do not repent. As a gracious state is a state of glory in the bud; so a graceless state is hell in the bud, which, if it continue, will come at length to perfection.Motive 3. Consider the dreadful instances of the wrath of God, and let them serve to awaken you to flee out of this state. Consider,(1.) How it is fallen on men. Even in this world, many have been set up as monuments of Divine vengeance—that others might fear. Wrath has swept away multitudes, who have fallen together by the hand of an angryGod. Consider how the Lord “spared not the old world – bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly. And turning the cities of Sodom andGomorrah into ashes, condemned them with an overthrow, making the man example unto those who after would live ungodly,” 2 Pet. 2:5, 6. But it is yet more dreadful to think of that weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, among those who in hell lift up their eyes—but cannot get a drop of water to cool their tongues. Believe these things and be warned by them, lest destruction come upon you, for a warning to others.
(2.) Consider how wrath fell upon the fallen angels, whose case is absolutely hopeless. They were the first that ventured to break the hedge of the Divine law; and God set them up for monuments of his wrath against sin. They once “left their own habitation,” and were never allowed to look in again at the keyhole of the door; but they are “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day,”Jude, ver. 6.(3.) Behold how an angry God dealt with his own Son, standing in the place of elect sinners, Romans 8:32, “God spared not his Son.”Sparing mercy might have been expected here—if any place at all. If any person could have obtained it, surely his own Son would have got it—but he spared him not. The Father’s delight—is made a man of sorrows! He whois the wisdom of God—becomes sore amazed, ready to faint away in a fit of horror. The weight of this wrath makes him sweat great drops of blood.By the fierceness of this fire, his heart was melted like wax.Behold, here, how severe God is against sin! The sun was struck blind with this terrible sight, rocks were rent, graves opened; death, as it were, in the excess of astonishment, letting its prisoners slip away. What is a deluge, a shower of fire and brimstone, on the people of Sodom, the terrible noise of a dissolving world, the whole fabric of heaven and earth disuniting at once, and angels cast down from heaven into the bottomless pit! What are all these, I say, in comparison with this—God in human nature suffering! groaning! dying upon a cross! Infinite holiness did it, to make sin look like itself, that is, infinitely odious. And will men live atease, while exposed to this wrath?
Motive 4. Unrepentant sinner! Consider what a God he is—with whom you have to do, and whose wrath you are liable unto. He is the God of infinite knowledge and wisdom; so that none of your sins, however secret, can be hidden from him. He infallibly finds out all means, whereby wrath may be executed, toward the satisfying of justice. He is of infinite power, and so can do what he will against the sinner. How heavy must the strokes of wrath be, which are laid on by an omnipotent hand!
Infinite power can make the sinner its prisoner, even when he is in his greatest rage against Heaven. It can bring again the several parcels of dust out of the grave, put them together again, reunite the soul and body, summon them before the tribunal, hurry them away to the pit, and hold them up with the one hand, through eternity, while they are lashed with the other! He is infinitely just, and therefore must punish. It would be acting contrary to his nature—to allow the rebellious sinner to escape wrath. Hence the executing of this wrath is pleasing to him—for though the Lord has no delight in the death of a sinner, as it is the destruction of his own creature—yet he delights in it, as it is the execution of justice.”Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest.” Mark the reason—”For the righteous Lord loves righteousness, “Psalm 11:6, 7. “I will cause my fury to rest upon them, and I will be comforted,” Ezek. 5:13. “I also will laugh at your calamity,” Proverbs 1:26.Finally, He lives forever, to pursue the quarrel. Let us therefore conclude, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” Be awakened then, O young sinner! be awakened, O old sinner! You are yet in the state of wrath, in which you were born in! Your security is the sleep of death; rise out of it, before the pit closes its mouth upon you. It is true, you may put on a breastplate of iron, make your brow brass, and your heart as hard as adamant. But God will break that brazen brow, and make that adamantine heart at last to fly into a thousand pieces! You may, if you will, labor to put these things out of your heads, that you may sleep in fancied safety, though in a state of wrath. You may run away, with the arrows sticking in your consciences, to your job, to work them away. You may go to your beds, to sleep them out; or to company, to sport and laugh them away—but convictions, so stifled, will have a fearful resurrection; and the day is coming, unless you take warning in time, when the arrows of wrath shall so stick in your soul, as you shall never beable to pluck them out through the ages of eternity!
But if any desire to flee from the wrath to come, and, for that end, to know what course to take—I offer them these few advices; and implore and beseech them, as they love their own souls, to comply with them.
(1.) Retire to some secret place and there meditate on this, your misery. Believe it, and fix your thoughts on it. Let each put the question to himself, How can I live in this state? How can I die in it? How shall I rise again, and stand before the tribunal of God in it?
(2.) Consider seriously the sin of your nature, heart, and life. A proper sight of wrath flows from a deep sense of sin. Those who see themselves exceedingly sinful, will find no great difficulty to perceive themselves to be heirs of wrath.
(3.) Labor to justify God in this matter. To quarrel with God about it, and to rage like a wild bull in a net, will but fix you the more in it. Humiliation of soul before the Lord is necessary for an escape. God will not sell deliverance—but freely gives it to those who see themselves altogether unworthy of his favour.
(4.) Turn your eyes, O prisoners of hope, towards the Lord Jesus Christ; and embrace him, as he offers himself in the gospel. “There is no salvation in any other,” Acts 4:12. God is a consuming fire; you are children of wrath—if the Mediator does not interpose between him and you—you are undone forever! If you would be safe, come under his shadow—one drop of that wrath cannot fall there, for he “delivers us from the wrath to come,” 1 Thess. 1:10. Accept of him in this covenant, wherein he offers himself to you; so you shall, as the captive woman, redeem your life, by marrying the conqueror. His blood will quench that fire of wrath which burns against you—in the white raiment of his righteousness you will be safe; for no storm of wrath can pierce it.