The Rich Man and Lazarus
by John Bunyan
Luke 16:23: "And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." Our Lord does show in this verse partly what does and shall befall the reprobate after this life is ended where He says, "And in hell he lift up his eyes"; that is, the ungodly after they depart this life do lift up their eyes in hell. From these words may be observed these things:
1. That there is a hell for souls to be tormented in when this life is ended. Mark, after he was dead and buried, in hell he lift up his eyes.
2. That all that are ungodly and do live and die in their sins, so soon as ever they die they go into hell. "The rich man died also, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes."
3. That some are so fast asleep and secure in their sins that they scarce know well where they are until they come into hell. And that I gather from these words "In hell he lift up his eyes." He was asleep before, but hell makes him lift up his eyes.
As I said before, it is evident that there is an hell for souls, yea, and bodies to be tormented in after they depart this life, as is clear first because the Lord Jesus Christ who cannot lie did say that after the sinner was dead and buried, "in hell he lift up his eyes." Now if it be objected that by hell is here meant the grave, that I plainly deny.
1. Because there the body is not sensible of torment or ease, but in that hell into which the spirits of the damned depart, they are sensible of torment and would very willingly be from it to enjoy ease, which they are sensible of the lack of, as is clearly discovered in this parable. "Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue."
2. It is not meant the grave but some other place because the bodies so long as they lie there are not capable of lifting up their eyes to see the glorious condition of the children of God as the souls of the damned do. "In hell he lift up his eyes."
3. It cannot be the grave, for then it must follow that the soul was buried there with the body, which cannot stand with such a dead state as is here mentioned for He says, "The rich man died"; that is, his soul was separated from his body and "in hell he lift up his eyes."
If it be again objected that there is no hell but in this life, that I do also deny as I said before. After he was dead and buried, "in hell he lift up his eyes." And let me tell you, oh soul, whoever you are, if you close not in savingly with the Lord Jesus Christ and lay hold on what He has done and is doing in His own person for sinners, you will find such a hell after this life is ended that you will not get out of it again forever and ever.
And you that are wanton and do make a mock at the servants of the Lord when they tell you of the torments of hell, you will find that when you depart out of this life, that hell, even the hell which is after this life, will meet you in your journey there and will with its hellish crew give you such a sad salutation that you will not forget to all eternity when that scripture comes to be fulfilled on your soul in Isaiah 14:9: "Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised from their thrones all the king of the nations." All they, that is, that are in hell shall say, "Art thou become as weak as we? art thou become like unto us?"
Oh sometimes I have had but thoughts of going to hell and consider the everlastingness of their ruin that fall in there. It has stirred me up rather to seek to the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver me from that place than to slight and make a mock at it.
"And in hell he lift up his eyes." The second thing I told you was this: that all the ungodly that live and die in their sins so soon as ever they depart from this life do descend into hell. This is also verified by the words in this parable where Christ says, "The rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes." As the tree falls so it shall lie whether it be to heaven or hell. And as Christ said to the thief on the cross, "Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise," even so the devil in like manner may say unto the soul, "Tomorrow you shall be with me in hell." See then what a miserable case he that dies in an unregenerate state is in. He departs from a long sickness to a longer hell, from the gripings of death to the everlasting torments of hell.
"And in hell he lift up his eyes." Ah, friends, if you were but yourselves, you would have a care of your souls. If you did but regard, you would see how mad they are that slight the salvation of their souls. Oh what will it profit your soul to have pleasure in this life and torment in hell? You had better part with all your sins and pleasures and companions or whatsoever you delight in than to have soul and body cast into hell. Oh friend, do not neglect our Lord Jesus Christ lest you drop down to hell.
Consider, would it not wound you to your heart to come upon your death bed, and instead of having the comfort of a well spent life and the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ together with the comfort of His glorious Spirit, to have the sight of an ill-spent life, your sins flying in your face, your conscience uttering of itself with thunder claps against you, the thoughts of God terrifying you, death with its merciless paws seizing upon you, the devil standing ready to scramble for your soul, and hell enlarging herself and ready to swallow you up, and an eternity of misery and torment impending upon you from which there will be no relief, for mark, death does not come alone to an unconverted soul, but with such company, as were you but sensible of, it would make you tremble. I pray, consider that scripture in Revelation 6:8, "And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and hell followed with him." Mark, death does not come alone to the ungodly. No, but hell goes with him. Oh miserable comforters! Oh miserable society! Here comes death and hell unto you. Death goes into your body and separates body and soul asunder. Hell stands without, as I may say, to embrace or rather to crush your soul between its everlasting grinders. Then your mirth, your joy, your sinful delights will be ended when this comes to pass. Low, it will come. Blessed are all those who through Jesus Christ's mercy by faith do escape these soul murdering companions.
"And in hell he lift up his eyes." The third thing you know we did observe from these words was this: that some are so fast asleep and secure in their sins that they scarce know where they are until they come into hell, and that I told you I gather by these words "in hell he lift up his eyes." Mark, it was in hell that he lifts up his eyes. Now some do understand by these words that he came to himself or began to consider with himself or to think with himself in what a state he was and what he was deprived of, which is still a confirmation of the thing laid down by me. There it is that they come to themselves; that is, there they are sensible where they are indeed.
Thus it fairs with some men that they scarce know where they are till they lift up their eyes in hell. It is with those people as with those that fall down in a swoon. You know if a man falls down in a swoon in one room, though you take him up and carry him into another, yet he is not sensible where he is till he comes unto himself and lifts up his eyes. Truly, thus it is to be feared it is with many poor souls. They are so senseless, so hard, so seared in their conscience that they are ignorant of their state. And when death comes, it strikes them as it were into a swoon, especially if they die suddenly. And so they are huried away and scarce know where they are till in hell they lift up their eyes. This is he who dies in his full strength, fully at ease and quiet. Of this sort are they spoken of in Psalm 73: "There are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men." And again, "They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment," mark, in a moment before they are aware, they "go down to the grave" (Job 21:13).
Indeed, this is too much known by willful and daily experience. Sometimes when we go to visit them that are sick in the towns and places where we live; how senseless, how seared in their conscience are they. They are neither sensible of heaven nor of hell, of sin nor of a savior. Speak to them of the condition and state of their souls, and you shall find them as ignorant as if they had no soul to regard. Others, though they lie ready to die, yet they are busying themselves about their outward affairs as though they should certainly live here, even to live and enjoy the same forever.
Again, come to others; speak to them about the state of their souls, though they have no experience of the new birth than a beast, yet they will speak as confidently of their eternal state and the welfare of their souls as if they had the most excellent experience as any man or woman in the world saying, "I shall have peace" when, as I said, even now the Lord knows they are ignorant of the new birth, of the nature and operation of faith, of the witness of the spirit as if there were no new birth, no faith, no witness of the spirit of Christ in any of His saints in the world. Nay, thus many of them are even an hour or less before their departure. Ah, poor souls! Though they may go here like a lamb, as the world says, yet if you could but follow them a little to stand and listen soon after their departure, it is to be feared you shall hear them roar like a lion at their first entrance into hell. Far worse than ever did Korah and company when they went down quick into the ground.
Now by this one thing does the devil take great advantage on the hearts of the ignorant, suggesting unto them that because the party deceased departed so quietly, without all doubt they are gone to rest and joy. When alas, it is to be feared the reason why they went away so quietly was rather because they were senseless and hardened in their conscience, yea, dead in sins and trespasses. For had they but some awakenings on their death bed as some have had, they would have made all the town ring of their doleful condition. But because they are seared and ignorant, so depart quietly. Therefore, the world takes heart of grace, as we used to say, and makes no great matter of living and dying they cannot tell how. Therefore, pride compasses them as a chain. But let them look to themselves, for if they have not an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ now while they live in this world, they will, whether they die raging or still, go into the same place and lift up their eyes in hell. Oh, my friends, did you but know what a miserable condition they are in that go out of this world without an interest in the Son of God, it would make you smite upon your thigh, and in the bitterness of your souls cry out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?" And not only so, but you would not be comforted until you did find a rest for your soul in the Lord Jesus Christ.
"And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." Something in brief I have observed from the first part of this verse, namely, from these words "And in hell he lift up his eyes." Indeed, I have observed but some things for they are very full of matter, and many things might be taken notice of in them. There is one thing more I might touch upon that is couched in this saying and that is this: It seems to me the Lord Jesus Christ does hereby signify that men are naturally unwilling to see or take notice of their sad state. I say, "by nature" that though they are now willingly ignorant, yet in hell they shall lift up their eyes; that is, in hell they shall see and understand their miserable condition, and therefore to these words "in hell he lift up his eyes" he adds, "being in torment" as if he had said, "though once they shut their eyes, though once they were willingly ignorant, yet when they depart into hell, they shall be so miserably handled and tormented that they shall be forced to lift up their eyes."
While men live in this world and are in a natural state, they will have a good conceit of themselves and of their condition. They will conclude that they are Christians; that Abraham is their father, and their state to be as good as the best. They will conclude they have faith, the Spirit, good hope, an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ. But when they drop into hell and lift up their eyes there and behold their souls to be in extreme torments, their dwelling to be the bottomless pit, their company thousands of damned souls; also the innumerable company of devils, and the hot scalding vengeance of God, not only to drop, but to fall very violently upon them, then they will be awakened who all their lifetime were in a sleep. I say, when this comes to pass, for low it will, then in hell they shall lift up their eyes. In the midst of torment they shall lift up their eyes.
Again, you may observe in these words "and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments" that ungodly men will smart for their sins in the torments of hell. Now here I am put to a stand when I consider the torments of hell into which the damned do fall. Oh unspeakable torments! Oh endless torments! Now that your soul may be made to flee from those intolerable torments into which the damned do go, I shall show you briefly what are the torments of hell first, by the names of it; secondly, by the sad state you will be in if you come here.
First, the names: It is called a never dying worm (Mark 9). It is called and oven fire hot (Mal. 4:1). It is called a furnace, a fiery furnace (Matt. 13). It is called the bottomless pit, the unquenchable fire, fire and brimstone, hell-fire, the lake of fire, devouring fire, everlasting fire, eternal fire, and stream of fire.
1. One part of your torments will be this: You shall have a full sight of your ill-spent life from first to last. Though here you can sin today and forget it by tomorrow, yet there you shall be made to remember how you did sin against God at such a time and in such a place for such a thing and with such an one, which will be a hell unto you. Psalm 50:21: "I will ... set them in order before thine eyes."
2. You shall have the guilt of them all lie heavy upon your soul, not only the guilt of one or two, but the guilt of them all together. And there they shall lie in your soul as if your belly were full of pitch and set on a light fire. Here men can sometimes think on their sins with delight, but there with unspeakable torment, for that I understand to be the fire that Christ speaks of; it shall never be quenched. While men live here, oh how does the guilt of one sin sometimes crush the soul! It makes a man in such a plight that he is weary of his life so that he can neither rest at home nor abroad, neither up nor in bed. Nay, I do know that they have been so tormented with the guilt of one sinful thought that they have been even at their wits end and have hanged themselves. But now when you come into hell and have not only one or two or an hundred sins with the guilt of them all on your soul and body, but all the sins that ever you did commit since you came into the world altogether clapped on your conscience at one time, as one should clap a red-hot iron to your breast, and there to continue to all eternity--this is miserable!
3. Again, then you shall have brought into your remembrance the slighting of the gospel of Christ. Here you shall consider how willing Christ was to come into the world to save sinners and for what a trifle you did reject Him. This is plainly held forth in Isaiah 28 where it's speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, the foundation of salvation (verse 16). He says of them that reject the gospel that when the overflowing scourge shall pass through the earth (which I understand to be at the end of the world), then says He, "It shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night"; that is, continually without any intermission, "and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report"; that is, a torment or a great part of hell only to understand the good tidings that came into the world by Christ's death for poor sinners. And you will find this truly to be the mind of the Spirit if you concur it with Isaiah 53:1 where he speaks of men turning their backs upon the tenders of God's grace and the gospel. He says, "Who hath believed our report [or the gospel declared by us]?"
Now this shall be a mighty torment to the ungodly when they shall understand the goodness of God is so great that He even sent His Son out of His bosom to die for sinners, and yet that they should be so foolish as to put Him off from one time to another; that they should be so foolish as to lose heaven and Christ and eternal life and glory for the society of a company of drunkards; that they should lose their souls for a little sport, for this world, for a strumpet, for that which is lighter than vanity and nothing. I say, this will be a very great torment unto you.
4. Another part of your torment will be this: You shall see your friends, your acquaintance, your neighbors. Nay, it may be your father, your mother, your wife, your husband, your children, your brother, your sister with others in the kingdom of heaven and yourself thrust out. Luke 13:28: "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out." Nay, He says, "they shall come from the east, and from the west"; that is, those that you did ever see in all your life before. And they shall sit down with your friends and your neighbors, your wife, and children in the kingdom of heaven, and you for your sins and disobedience shall be shut, nay, thrust out. Oh terrible torment!
5. Again, you shall have none but a company of damned souls with an inumerable company of devils to keep company with you. While you are in this world, the very thought of the devil appearing to you makes your flesh to tremble and your hair ready to stand up right on your head. But oh what will you do when not only the supposition of the devils appearing, but the real society of all devils of hell will be with you howling and roaring and screeching and roaring in such a hideous manner that you will be even at your wits end and be ready to run stark mad for anguish and torments!
6. Again, that you might be tormented to purpose, the mighty God of heaven will lay His great wrath and vengeance upon you as ever He can by the might of His glorious power. As I said before, you shall have His wrath not by drops, but by whole showers shall it come and thunder upon your body and soul so fast and so thick that you shall be tormented out of measure. And so says the Scripture (2 Thessalonians1:9) speaking of the wicked, "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power" when the saints shall be admiring His goodness and glory.
Again, this you shall have, as I said before, without any intermission. You shall not have any ease so long as a man may turn himself round. You shall have it always, every hour, day and night, for the worm never dies but always gnaws, and the fire is never quenced. Again, in this condition you must be forever. And this is as sad as all the rest, for if a man were to have all his sins laid to his charge in communion with the devils and as much wrath as the great God of heaven can inflict upon him, I say, if it were but for a time, even ten thousand years and so end, there would be a ground of comfort and hope of deliverance. But here is your misery--this is your state forever. Here you must be forever. When you look about you and see what an inumerable company of howling devils you are among, you shall think this again--this is my portion forever. When you have been in hell so many thousand years as there are stars in the firmament or drops in the sea or sand upon the seashore; yet you have to lie there forever. Oh, this one word "ever"--how will it torment your soul!
Friends, I have only given a very short touch of the torments of hell. Oh, I am sick! I am sick! I am not able to utter what my mind conceives of the torments of hell; yet let me say to you, accept of God's mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ lest you feel that with your conscience which I cannot express with my tongue and say, "I am sorely tormented in this flame."
Luke 16:24: "And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy upon 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." You know I told you that verse 22 is a discovery of the departure of the godly and the ungodly out of this life for He says, "the beggar died" and "the rich man also died." The 23rd verse is a discovery of the proper place of both the godly and ungodly after death--one being in Abraham's bosom in glory; the other in hell. Now verse 24 is a discovery of part of the too late repentance of the ungodly when they are dropped down into hell.
"And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me." From the words "And he cried" we may observe 1) What a change the ungodly will have when they come into hell. "He cried." It is like he was laughing, jesting, jeering, drinking, mocking, swearing, cursing, prating, persecuting the godly in his prosperity among his filthy companions. But now the case is otherwise. Now he is in another frame. Now his proud, stout, courage carriage has come down. "And he cried." The laughter of the ungodly will not always last, but will be sure to end in a cry. The triumphing of the wicked is short. Consider, you must have a change either here or in hell. If you be not new creatures, regenerate persons, new born babes in this world before you go hence, your note will be changed; your condition will be changed, for if you come into hell you must cry. Oh did but the singing drunkards when they are making merry on the old house bench think on this, it would make them change their note and cry, "What shall I do? Where shall I go when I die?" But as I said before, the devil, as he labors to get poor souls to follow their sins, so he labors also to keep the thoughts of eternal damnation out of their minds. And indeed, these two things are so nearly linked together that the devil cannot well get the soul to go on in sin with delight unless he can keep the thought of that terrible after clap out of their minds. But let them know that it shall not always be thus with them, for if when they depart they drop down into eternal destruction, they shall have such a sense of their sins and the punishment due to them that it shall make them cry.
"And he cried." Oh what an alteration will there be among the ungodly when they go out of this world. It may be a fortnight or a month before their departure they were light, stout, surly, drinking themselves drunk, slightng God's people, mocking at goodness and delighting in sin, following the world, seeking after riches, faring deliciously, keeping company with the bravest. But now they are dropped down into hell; they cry. A little while ago they were painting their faces, feeding their lusts, following their whores, robbing their neighbors, telling lies, following plays and sports to pass away the time. But now they are in hell; they do cry. It may be last year they heard some good sermons, were invited to receive heaven, were told that their sins should be pardoned if they closed in with Jesus, but refusing His proffers and slighting the grace that was once tendered, they are now in hell and they cry. Before they had so much time they thought they could not tell how to spend it unless they were hunting and whoring and dancing and playing and spending whole hours, nay days, nay weeks in the lusts of the flesh. But when they depart into another place and begin to lift up their eyes in hell and consider their miserable and irrecoverable condition, they will cry.
Oh what a condition will you fall into when you depart this world! If you depart unconverted and not born again, you were better to have been smothered the first hour you were born. You were better to have been plucked one limb from another. You were better to have been made a dog, a toad, a serpant, nay, any other creature in the visible world than to die unconverted. And this you will find to be true when in hell you lift up your eyes and do cry--cry to think that when the judgment is over and others are taken into the everlasting kingdom of glory, then they must depart back again into that dungeon of darkness from whence they came out to appear before the terrible tribunal where they shall be tormented so long as eternity lasts without the least intermission or ease.
How say you, you wanton, proud, swearing, lying, ungodly wretch whether this be to be slighted and made a mock at? And again, tell me now if it's not be better to leave sin and to close in with Christ Jesus, notwithstanding that reproach you shall meet with for so doing, than to live a little while in this world in pleasures and feeding your lusts and neglecting the welfare of your soul and refusing to be justified by Jesus and in a moment to drop down to hell and to cry. Oh consider, I say, consider the times and put not off the tenders and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ lest you lift up your eyes in hell and cry for anguish of spirit!
"And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus" and so on. These words do not only hold forth the lamentable condition of the damned and their lamentable howling and crying out under their anguish of spirit, but also they do signify to us, as I said before, their too late repentance and also that they would very willingly, if they might, be set at liberty from the everlasting misery that by their sins they have plunged themselves into. I say, these words do hold the desire that the damned have to be delivered from those torments that they now are in.
"Oh Father Abraham," says he, "have mercy upon 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." These words "Father Abraham" may have some difficulty in them. It is possible that some may think them to be meant of Abraham, and those or him that crieth out here to be the Jews. Or it may be some understand it to be God or Jesus Christ His Son, which I rather suppose it may be that is here cried unto because you find the same cry to Him as it was uttered by the ungodly in other places of Scripture: "Then shall ye begin to say, we have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets" (Luke 13:26), nay more, "...in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works?" (Matt. 7:22). This was just at their rejection. And again, they cry again to Him, even to Jesus, "Lord, Lord, open unto us" (Luke 13:25). And He there again gives them a repulse as also in this parable.
But however or whosoever Abraham is, yet these truths may be observed from these words: 1) That the damned when in an irrecoverable state will seek for or desire deliverance from the wrath that they are and shall be in for eternity. "Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him" (Ps.32:6). 2) That they will pray, if I may so call it, earnestly for deliverance from their miserable estate. These two things are clear from these words, for mark, he not only said, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me," but he cried and said, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me." From whence take a third observation, and that is, there is a time coming wherein, though men shall both cry and pray, yet they are like to have no mercy at the hand of God, for so was this man served as I shall further show by and by when I come to it.
Some people are so deluded by the devil as to think that God is so merciful as to own and regard anything for prayer. They think anything will go for current and good satisfaction while they are here in this world through ignorance of the true nature of the mercy of God and the knowledge of what way God is satisfied for sinners. Now, I say, through ignorance they think that if they do but mutter over some form of prayers, though they know not what they say nor what they request, yet God is satisfied, yea, very well satisfied with their doings when alas there is nothing less. Oh, friends, I beseech you to look about you and seek in good earnest for the Spirit of Christ so to help you now to strive and pray and to enable you to lay hold on Christ that your souls may be saved, lest a time come that though you cry and pray and wish also that you had laid hold on the Lord Jesus, yet you must and shall be damned!
Then again, you may see that though God be willing to save sinners at some time, yet this time does not always last. No, he that can find in his heart to turn his back upon Jesus Christ now shall have the back turned upon him hereafter when he may cry and pray for mercy and yet go without it. God will have a time to meet with them that now do not seek after Him. They shall have a time, yea, time enough hereafter to repent their folly and to be fooled themselves for turning their backs upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
"I will laugh at your calamity," says He, "and mock when your fear cometh" (Prov. 1:26). Again, this should admonish us to take time while it is proffered, lest we repent us of our unbelief and rebellion when we are deprived of it. Ah, friends, time is precious, and our time to hear a sermon is precious. I have sometime thought thus with myself. Set the case. The Lord should send two or three of His servants, the ministers of the gospel, to hell among the damned with a commission, "Go ye to hell and preach My grace to those that are there. Let your sermon be an hour long and hold forth the merits of My Son's birth, righteousness, death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession. Give all My love in Him and proffer it to them, telling them that now once do I proffer the means of reconciliation to them." They who are now roaring, being past hope, would then leap at the proffer of mercy. Oh they that could spend whole days, weeks, nay, years in rejecting the Son of God would now be glad of one tender of that mercy!
"Father," says he, "have mercy on me." Again, from these words you may observe that mercy would be welcome when souls are under judgment. Now this soul is in the fire. Now he is under the wrath of God. Now he is in hell, there to tormented. Now he is with the devils and damned spirits. Now he feels the vengeance of God. "Now, oh now, have mercy upon me." Here you may see that mercy is prized by them that are in hell. They would be glad if they could have it.
"Father, have mercy on me. For my poor soul's sake, send me a little mercy and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue." These words do not only hold forth that the ungodly have a desire of mercy, but what those mercies are that these poor creatures would be glad of as 1) to have the company of a Lazarus granted to them: "Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus." Now Lazarus was he that was beloved of God and also he that was hated of them; therefore, 2) observe that those saints that the world in their lifetime could not endure, now they are departed; they would be glad to have society with them. "Oh now send Lazarus. Though the time was when I cared not for him, yet now let me have some society with him." Though the world disregard the society of God's children now, yet there is a time coming in which they would be glad to have the least company with them. Nay, do but observe, those of the saints that are now most rejected by them, even from them shall they be glad of comfort.
"If it might be, send Lazarus. He that I slighted more than my dogs; he that I could not endure should come into my house, but must lie at my gate--send him. Now Lazarus shall be welcome to me; now I desire some comfort from him." But he shall go without it. From whence again observe that there is a time coming, oh ye surly dogged, persecutors of the saints, that they shall slight you as much as ever you slighted them. You have given them many a hard word, told many a lie of them, given them many a blow, and now in your greatest need and extremity, they shall not pity you. The righteous shall rather rejoice when he sees the vengeance of God upon you.
"And send Lazarus." From whence observe that any of the saints shall then be owned by you to be saints. Now you look upon them to be the sect with Hymenaus and Philetus, but then you shall see them to be the Lazaruses of God, even of God's dear children. Though now the saints of the Lord will not be owned by you because they are beggarly, low, poor, contemptible among you, yet the day is coming that you shall own them, desire their company, and wish for the least courtesy from them. "Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame." Thus shall the souls that abide in their sins cry out in the bitterness of their spirits with wonderful anguish and torment of conscience without intermission.
"That he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue." That he, namely the man whom I before scorned should eat with the dogs of my flock; that before I slighted and had no regard of; that I shut out of door--send him that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue." Now these words "that he may dip the tip of his finger in water" and so on do hold forth the least friendship or favor as if he should have said, "Now I would be glad of the least mercy. Now I would be glad of the least comfort, though it be but one drop of cold water on the tip of his finger." One would have thought that this had been a small request, a small courtesy. One drop of water--what is that? Take a pail full of it if that will do you any good. But mark, he is not permitted so much as one drop, not so much as a man may hold on the tip of his finger. This signifies that they that fall short of Christ shall be tormented even as long as eternity lasts, and shall have not so much as the least ease, no, not so long as while a man may turn himself round, not so much leave as to swallow his spittle, not one drop of cold water. Oh that these things did take place in your hearts! How would it make you to seek after rest for your souls before it be to late--before the sun of the gospel be set upon you.
Consider, I say, the misery of the ungodly, that they shall be in and avoid their vices by closing in with the tenders of mercy, lest you partake of the same portion with them and cry out in the bitterness of your souls, "one drop of water to cool my tongue for I am tormented in this flame." Indeed, the reason why the poor world does not so earnestly desire mercy is partly because they do not so seriously consider the torment that they must certainly fall into if they die out of Christ. For let me tell you, did the poor souls indeed consider the wrath that does by right fall to their shares because of their sins against God, they would make more haste to God through Christ for mercy than they do. Then we should have them say, "It is good closing with Christ today before we fall into such distress."
But why is it said, "That he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue"? Because that as the several members in the body have their share in sin and comitting of that, so the several members of the body shall at that time be punished for the same. Therefore, when Christ is admonishing His disciples that they should not turn aside from Him, and that they should rather fear and dread the power of their God than another power, He says, "Fear Him which after He hath killed hath power to cast into hell" (Luke 12:5), and again, "Fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body into hell" (Matt. 10:28). Here is not one member only, but all the body, the whole body of which the hands, feet, eyes, ears, and tongue are members. And I am persuaded that though this may be judged carnal by some now, yet it will appear to be a truth then to the greater misery of those who shall be forced to undergo that which God in His just judgment shall inflict upon them. Oh then they will cry, "One drop of ease for my cursing, swearing, lying, jeering tongue--some ease for my bragging, brazing, flattering, threatening, dissembling tongue."
Now men can let their tongues run at random as we used to say. Now they will be apt to say, "Our tongues are our own; who shall control them?" (Pa. 12:4). But then they will be in another mind. Then--"Oh that I might have a little ease for my deceitful tongue!" Sometimes to consider how some men let their tongues run at randorn, it makes me marvel. Surely they do not think they will be made to give an account for their offending with their tongue. Did they but think they shall be made to give an account to Him who is ready to judge the quick and the dead, surely they would be more wary of and have more regard to their tongue.
"The tongue," says James, is an unruly evil, full of deadly poisen" (3:8). "It setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell" (3:6). The tongue--how much mischief will it stir up in a very little time? How many blows and wounds does it cause? How many times does it, as James says, "curse man"? How often is the tongue made the conveyer of that hellish poison that is in the heart both to the dishonor of God, the hurt of its neighbor, and the utter ruin of its own soul? And do you think the Lord will sit still, as I may say, and let your tongue run as it lifts, and yet never bring you to an account for the same? No, stay, the Lord will not always keep silent but will reprove you and set your sins in order before your eyes.
Oh, sinner, you and your tongue together with the rest of your members shall be tormented for sinning! And, I say, I am very confident that though this be made light of now, yet the time is coming when many poor souls will woo the day that ever they did speak with the tongue. Oh will one say, "That I should so disregard my tongue! Oh that I, when I said so and so, had before bitten off my tongue; that I had been born without a tongue. My tongue! my tongue! a little water to cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame, even that flame which my tongue together with the rest of my members by sinning has brought me to."
Poor souls will now let their tongue say anything for a little profit--for two pence or three pence gain. But oh what a grief will this be at that day when they together with their tongue must smart for that which they by their tongues have done while they were in this world! Then you that love your souls look to your tongues, lest you bind yourselves down so fast to hell with the sins of your tongue that you will never be able to get loose again to all eternity, for by your words you shall be condemned if you have not a care of your tongue. "I say unto you, That every idle word that man shall speak, they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment" (Matt. 12:36).
Luke 16:25: "But Abraham said, Son remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things, but now he is comforted and thou art tormented." These words are the answer to the request of the damned. The first, before as I told you, is a discovery of the desires that they have after they depart this world. Here is the answer, "Son remember." The answer signifies thus much, that instead of having any relief or ease, they are hereby the more tormented and that by fresh recollections or by bringing afresh their former ill-spent life while in the world into their remembrance.
"Son remember, that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things" as much as if he had said, "You are now sensible what it is to lose your soul. You are now sensible what it is to put off repentance. You are now sensible that you have befooled yourself, and that you did spend that time in seeking after outward momentary, earthly things, which you should have spent seeking to make Jesus Christ sure to your soul. And now through your anguish of spirit and the pains of hell, you would enjoy that which in former times you did make light of. But alas, you are here beguiled and altogether disappointed.
Your crying will now avail you nothing at all. This is not the acceptable time. This is not a time to answer the desires of damned reprobates. If you had cried out in good earnest while grace was offered, much might have been, but then you were careless and did turn the forbearance and goodness of God into wantonness. Were you not told that those who would not hear the Lord when He did call should not be heard if they turned away from Him when they did call? But contrarywise, he would laugh at their calamity and mock when their fear did come. Now, therefore, instead of expecting the least drop of mercy and favor, call into your mind how you did spend those days which God did permit you to live. I say, remember that in your lifetime, you did behave yourself rebelliously against the Lord, and that you were careless of His Word and ordinances, yea, and of the welfare of your own soul also. Therefore, now, I say, instead of expecting or hoping for any relief, you must be forced to call to remembrance your filthy ways, and feed upon them to your everlasting astonishment and confusion.
From these words, therefore, which say, "remember that thou in thy lifetime receivest thy good things," there are these things to be taken notice of. They that by putting off repentance and living in their sins lose their souls shall, instead of having the least measure of comfort when they come into hell, have their ill-spent life always very fresh in their remembrance. While they live here, they can sin and forget it. But when they shall depart, they shall have it before them. They shall have a remembrance of their memory notably enlightened, and a clearer and a continual sight of all their wicked practices that they wrought and did while they were in the world. "Son, remember," says he. Then you will be made to remember how you were born in sin and brought up in the same.
Remember how you have many a time the gospel preached to you for taking away of the same by him whom the gospel does hold forth. Remember that out of love to your sins and lusts, you did turn your back on the tenders of the same gospel of good tidings and peace. Remember that the reason why you did lose your soul was because you did not close in with free grace and the tenders of a loving and freehearted Jesus Christ. Remember how near you were to turning at such and such a time. Only you were willing to give way to your lusts when they wrought to drunkards when they called, to pleasures when they proffered themselves, to the cares and encumbrances of the world, which like so many thorns did choke that or those convictions that were set on your heart. Remember how willing you were to satisfy yourself with a hypocrite's hope and with a notion of the things of God without the will-power and life of them. Remember how you, when you were admonished to turn, did put off turning and repenting till another time.
Remember how you did dissemble at such a time, lie at such a time, cheat your neighbor at such a time, mock, flout, scoff, taunt, hate, persecute the people of God at such a time and such a place among such a company. Remember that while others were met together in the fear of the Lord to seek Him, you were met with a company of vain companions to sin against Him. While the saints were praying, you were cursing; while they were speaking good of the name of God, you were speaking evil of the saints of God.
Oh then you shall have a scalding hot remembrance of all your sinful thoughts, words, and actions from the very first to last of them that ever you did commit in all your lifetime! Then you will find that scripture to be a truth. Deuteronomy 28:65-67: "The Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart and failing of eyes and sorrow of mind: and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night and shalt have none assurance of thy life: in the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thy heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see." Nay, you shall find worse things to your woe than the scripture does manifest, for indeed, there is no tongue able to express the horror, terror, torment, and eternal misery that those poor souls shall undergo without the least mitigation of ease. A very great part of it shall come from that quick, full and continual remembrance of their sins that they shall have. And therefore, there is much weight in these words "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things."
From these words you see this to be observed that the ungodly shall remember or have in remembrance the mispending their lives. "Remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things." You may take these words "good things" either simply for the things of this world, which in themselves are called and may be called good things, or else with these words, namely, the things of this life--all the pleasures, delights, profits, and vanities, which the ignorant people of the world do count their good things and do very much cheer themselves therewith. "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry" (Luke 12:19).
Now, I say, God, according to His glorious power and wisdom, will make poor creatures have always in their minds a fresh and clear remembrance of their ill-spent life. He will say unto them, "Remember, remember that in your lifetime it was thus and thus with you, and in your lifetime your carriage was so and so." If sinners might have their choice, they would not have their sins and transgressions so much in remembrance as is evident by their carriages here in this world, for they will not endure to entertain a serious thought of their filthy life. They put far away the evil day and labor by all means to put the thoughts of it out of their mind. But there they shall be made to remember to purpose and to think continually of their ungodly deeds. And therefore, it is said that when our Lord Jesus Christ comes to judgment, it will be to convince the ungodly world of their wicked and ungodly deeds, mark, to convince them. They will not willingly take notice of them now, but then they shall hereafter in spite of their teeth. For those that die out of Christ shall be made to see, acknowledge and confess their guilt--do what they can. When they lift up their eyes in hell and remember their transgressions, God will be a swift witness against them and will say, "Remember what you did in your lifetime. "Ah, friend, if you do not in these days of light remember the days of darkness, the days of death, hell, and judgment, you shall be made in the days of darkness, death, hell, and the judgment to remember the days of the gospel and how you did regard them to your own destruction and everlasting misery. (This is intimated in the 25th of St. Matthew.)
"Remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things." The great God, instead of giving the ungodly any ease, will even aggravate their torments first by slighting their perplexities and by telling of them what they must be thinking of. "Remember," says He, "Oh you lost souls, that you had your joy in your lifetime, your peace in your lifetime, your comforts, delights, ease, wealth, health, your heaven, your happiness, and your portion in your lifetime." Oh miserable state! You will then be in a sad condition indeed when you shall see that you have had your good things, your best things, your pleasant things, for that is clearly signified in these words "Remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things" or "all the good things you are like to have."
From whence take notice of another truth, though it be a dreadful one, which is this. There are many poor creatures who have all there good, sweet, and comfortable things in this life while they are alive in this world. "Remember," says He, "that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things." The wicked's good things will shortly have an end. They will last no longer with them than this life or their lifetime. That scripture was not written in vain: "It is like the crackling of thorns under a pot"-- makes a little blaze for a sudden, a little heat for awhile, but come and consider them by and by, and instead of a comfortable heat, you will find nothing but a few dead ashes, and instead of a flaming fire, nothing but a smell of smoke.
There is a time coming that the ungodly would be glad of a better portion when they shall see the vanity of this; that is, when they shall see what a poor thing it is for a man to have his portion in this world. It is true, while they are here on this side of hell, they think there is nothing to be compared with riches, honors, and pleasures in this world, which make them cry out, "Who will show us any good that is comparable to the pleasures, profits, and glory of this world?" But then they will see there is another thing that is better and of more value than ten thousand worlds. And seriously, friends, will it not grieve you, trouble, perplex and torment you when you shall see that you lost heaven for a little pleasure and profit in your lifetime. Certainly it will grieve you and perplex you exceedingly to see what a blessed heaven you left for a dunghill world.
Oh that you did but believe this; that you did but consider this and say within yourself, "What, shall I be contented with my portion in this world? What, shall I lose heaven for this world?" I say, consider it while you have daylight and gospel light, while the Son of God holds out terms of reconciliation to you, lest you be made to hear such a voice as this: "Son, remember that in thy lifetime thou receivedst thy good things--your comforts, your joys, your ease, your peace, and all the heaven you are like to have" Oh poor heaven! Oh short pleasures! What a pitiful thing it is to be left in such a case! So consider, is it not miserable to lose heaven for twenty, thirty, or fifty years sinning against God? When your life is done, your heaven is done also. When death comes to separate your soul and body, in that day also you must have your heaven and happiness separated from you and you from that. Consider these things early, lest you have your portion in your lifetime. For if in this life only we have our portion, we are of all people the most miserable.
"Remember, that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy goods things, and likewise Lazarus evil things." Again, consider that when other men, the saints, are to receive their good things, then you have had yours. When others are to enter into joy, then you are to leave and depart from your joy. When others are to go to God, you must go to the devil. Oh miserable! It had better for you never to have been born than to be an heir of such a portion. Therefore, I say, have a care it be not your condition.
Luke 16:26: "And besides 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." These words are still part of that answer that the souls in hell shall have for all the sobbing, sighing, grevious cries, tears, and desires that they have to be released out of those intolerable pains they feel and are perplexed with. And oh it seems to me the words of the first view, if rightly considered, are enough to make any hard-hearted sinner in the world to fall down dead!
The verse I last spoke to was and is a very terrible one, and aggravates the torment of poor sinners wonderfully where He says, "Remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things" and so on. I say, these words are very terrible to those poor souls that die out of Christ. But these latter words do much more hold out their sorrow. They were spoken as to the present condition of the sinner. These do not only back the former, but do yet further aggravate their misery, holding forth that which will be more intolerable. The former verse is enough to smite any sinner into a swoon. But this is to make them fall down dead where He says, "And besides all this, there is still something to aggravate your misery yet far more abundantly."
I shall briefly speak to the words as they have relation to those spoken of in the verses before, as if he had said, "You think the present state unsupportable. It makes you to rue the time that ever you were born. Now you find the lack of mercy; now you would sleep at the least roccian of it. Now you feel what it is to slight the tenders of the grace of God; now it makes you to sob, sigh and roar exceedingly for the anguish that you are in. But besides all this, I have other things to tell you of that will break your heart indeed.
You are now deprived of a being in the world. You are deprived of hearing the gospel. The devil has been too hard for you and has made you miss of heaven. You are now in hell among an innumerable company of devils. And all your sins beset you round. You are all over wrapped in flames and cannot have one drop of water to give you any ease. You cry in vain for nothing will be granted. You see the saints in heaven which is no small trouble to your damned soul. You see that neither God nor Christ takes any care to ease you or speak any comfort unto you. But besides all this, there you are like to lie. Never think of any ease. Never look for any comfort. Repentance now will do you no good. The time is past and can never be called again. Look, what you have now, you must have forever. It is true, I spoke enough before to break your heart asunder, but besides all this, there lie and swim in flames forever.
These words "besides all this" are terrible words indeed. I will give you the scope of them in a similitude. Set the case. You should take a man and tie him to a stake, and with a red hot pinchers, pinch off his flesh by little pieces for two or three years together, and, alas, when the poor man cries out for ease and help, the tormentors answer, "Nay, but besides all this, you must be handled worse. We will serve you thus these twenty years together, and after that we will fill your mangled body full of scalding lead or run you through with a red-hot spit." Would not this be lamentable? Yet this is but a flea bite to the sorrow of those that go to hell, for if a man were served so, there would ere it were long be an end of him. But he that goes to hell shall suffer ten thousand times worse torments than these, and yet shall never be quite dead under them. There they shall ever be whining, pining, weeping, mourning, ever tormented without ease, and yet never dissolved into nothing.
If the biggest devil in hell might pull you all to pieces and rend you small as dust and dissolve you into nothing, you would count this a mercy. But here you may lie and fry, scorch and broil and burn forever--forever! That is a long while, and yet it must be so long. "Depart from Me," says Christ, "into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41). Oh you that were loath to foul your foot if it were but dirty or did but rain; you that were loath to come out of the chimney corner if the wind did but blow a little cold and would loath to go half a mile, yea, half a furlong to hear the Word of God if it were but a little dark; you that were loath to leave a few vain companions to edify your soul, you shall have fire enough; you shall have night enough and evil company enough--your belly full if you miss of Jesus Christ. And besides all this, you shall have them forever and forever.
Oh you that do spend whole nights in carding and dicing and rioting and wantonness; you that count it a brave thing to swear as fast as the bravest, to spend with the greatest spend-thrift in the country; you that love to sin in a corner when nobody sees you; oh you that for by-ends do carry on the hypocrite's profession because you would be counted someone among the children of God, but are an enemy to the things of Christ in your heart; you that do satisfy yourself either with sins or a bare profession of godliness, your soul will fall into extreme torments and anguish so soon as ever you do depart this world, and there you shall be weeping and gnashing your teeth. And besides all this, you are like never to have any ease or remedy. Never look for any deliverance. You shall die in your sins and be tormented as many years as there are stars in the firmament or sand on the seashore. And besides all this, you must abide it forever.
"And besides 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." There is a great gulf fixed. You will say, "What is that?" Answer: It is a nice question. Therefore, first seek rather to enter in at the strait gate, then curiously to inquire what this gulf is. But secondly, if you would needs know if you do fall short of heaven, you will find it this, namely, the everlasting decree of God; that is, there is a decree gone forth from old that those who fall short of heaven in this world, God has resolved that they shall never enjoy it in the world to come. And you will find this gulf so deep that you shall never be able to wade through it as long as eternity lasts.
As Christ says, "Agree with thine adversary quickly whiles thou art in the way with him, lest at anytime the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence" (Matt. 5:25-26a). There is a gulf. The decree: You shall not depart from there till you have paid the utmost farthing or very last mite. These words, therefore, "there is a great gulf fixed" I do understand to be the everlasting decree of God. God has decreed that those who go to heaven shall never go from there again to a worse place. And also, those that go to hell and would come out, they shall not come out from there again. And, friend, this is such a gulf so fixed by Him who cannot lie, that you will find it so which way so ever you go, whether it be to heaven or hell.
Here, therefore, you see how secure God will make those who die in the faith. God will keep them in heaven. But those that die in their sins, God will throw them to hell and keep them there so that they that would go from heaven to hell cannot, neither can they come from hell that would go to heaven. Mark, He does not say they would not, for oh how fain would those who have lost their souls for a lust, for two pence, for a jug of ale, for an harlot, for this world, come out of that hot, scalding, fiery furnace of God's eternal vengeance if they might. But here is their misery. They that would come from you to us; that is, from hell to heaven cannot; they must not; they shall not. God has decreed it and has resolved the contrary. Here therefore lies the misery, not so much that they are in hell, but there must lie forever and ever.
Therefore, if your heart would at anytime tempt you to sin against God, cry out, "No! for then I must go to hell and lie there forever. If the drunkards, swearers, lyers, and hypocrites did but take this doctrine soundly down, it would make them tremble when they think of sinning. But, poor souls, now they will make a mock of sin and play with it as a child doth play with a rattle. But the time is coming that these rattles that now they play with will make such a noise in their ears and consciences that they shall find that if all the devils in hell were yelling at their heels, the noise would not be comparable to it. Friend, your sins as so many bloodhounds will first hunt you out and then take you and bind you and hold you down forever. They will drag you and gnaw you as if you had a nest of poisonous serpents in your bowels, and this will not be for a time, but as I have said, forever, forever, forever!
Luke 16:27-28: "Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldst 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." These words are, if I may so say, a reason given by those in hell why they are so restless and do cry so aloud. It is that their companions might be delivered from those intolerable torments which they must and shall undergo if they fall short of everlasting life by Jesus Christ.
"Send him to my father's house, for I have five brethren" and so on. Though while they lived among them in the world, they were not so sensible of their ruin, yet now they are passed out of the world and do partake of that which they were before warned of. They can, I say, then cry out, "I find that to be true indeed which was once and again told and declared to me that it would certainly come to pass, for I have five brethren." Here you may see that there may be and are whole households in a damnable state and condition as our Lord Jesus does by this signify. "Send him to my father's house, for they are all in one state. I left all my brethren in a pitiful case."
People while they live here cannot endure to hear that they should be all in a miserable condition. But when they are under the wrath of God, they see it; they know it and are very sure of it, for they themselves when they were in the world lived as they do. But they fell short of heaven, and therefore, if they go on, so shall they. "Oh, therefore, send quickly to my father's house, for all the house is in an undone condition and must be damned if they continue so!" The thing observable is this, namely, that those that are in hell do not desire that their companions should come there, nay, rather says he, "Send him to my father's house and let him testify to them that are therein, lest they also come and so on.
Question: But some may say, "What would be the reason that the damned should desire not to have their companions come into the same condition that they are fallen into, but rather that they might be kept from it and escape that dreadful state. Answer: I do believe there is scarce so much love in any of the damned in hell as really to desire the salvation of any. But in that there is any desire in them that are damned that their friends and relations should not come into that place of torment, it appears to me to be rather for their own ease than for their neighbor's good. For let me tell you this, I do believe that it will aggravate the grief and horror of them to see their ungodly neighbors in the like destruction with them, for where the ungodly do live and die and descend into the pit together, the one is rather a vexation to the other than anything else. And it must needs be so because there are no ungodly people that so live ungodly together but they do learn ill examples one of another. And thus if there live one in a town that is very expert and cunning for the world, why now the rest that are of a same mind with him will labor to imitate and follow his steps. This is commonly seen.
Yea, if you should die and go to hell before your neighbors or companions, besides the guilt of thine own sins, you would be so loaded with the fear of the damnation of others to be laid to your charge that you would cry out, "Oh send one from the dead to this companion and that companion with whom I have had society in my lifetime, for I see my cursed carriage will be one cause of his condemnation if he falls short of glory! I left him living in a foul and heinous offense, but I was one of the first instruments to bring him there. Oh I shall be guilty both of my own and his damnation too! Oh that he might be kept out of this place, lest my torments be aggravated by his coming here!" For where ungodly people do dwell together, they being a snare and stumbling block one to another by their practice, they must be a torment one to another and an aggravation of each others damnation.
"Oh cursed be your face," says one, "that ever I set my eyes on you! It was you that did entice and ensnare me. It was your filthy conversation that was a stumbling block to me; it was your covetousness; it was your pride, your haunting the ale house, your gaming and whoring. It was because of you that I fell short of life. If you had set me a good example as you had set me an ill one, it may be I might have done better than now I do. But I learned of you. I followed your steps. I took counsel of you. Oh that I had never seen your face! Oh that you had never been born to do my soul this wrong as you have done!
"Oh," says the other, "and I may as much blame you. For do you not remember how at such a time and such a place you drew me out and drew me away and ask me if I would go with you when I was going about other business about my calling. But you called me away. You sent for me. You are as much at fault as I. Though I was covetous, you were proud. And if you learned covetousness of me, I learned pride and drunkeness of you. Though I learned you to cheat, you learned me to whore, to lie, to scoff at goodness. Though I, base wretch, did stumble you in some things, you did as much stumble me in others. I can blame you as you blame me. And if I have to answer for some of your most filthy actions, you have to answer for some of mine. I would you had not come here. The very looks of you do wound my soul by bringing my sins afresh into my mind. The time when, the manner how, the place where, the persons with whom--it was with you. You grieve my soul. Since I could not shun your company there, oh that I had been without your company here!"
While men live here, if they can be counted the cunningness in cheating, the boldness for lying, the subtleness for coveting in getting the world, if they can cunningly defraud, undermine, cross and anger their neighbors, yea, and hinder them from the means of grace, the gospel of Christ, they glory in it, take a pride in it and think themselves pretty well at ease. And their minds are somewhat quiet being beguiled with sin. But, friend, when you have lost this life and do begin to lift up your eyes in hell and see what your sins have brought you to, and not only so, but that you by your filthy sins did cause others devil-like to fall in the same condemnation with you, and that one of the reasons for their damnation was this: that you did lead them to the commission of those wicked practices of this world and the lust thereof. Then, "Oh that somebody would stop them from coming, lest also they come into this place of torment and be damned as I am! How will it torment me!"
Balaam could not be contented to be damned himself, but also he must by his wickedness cause others to stumble and fall. The Scribes and Pharisees could not be content to keep out of heaven themselves, but they must labor to keep out others too. Therefore, theirs is the greater damnation. The deceived cannot be content to be deceived himself, but he must labor to deceive others also. The drunkard cannot be content to go to hell for his sins, but he must labor to cause others to fall into the same furnace with him. But look to yourselves, for here will be damnation upon damnation-- damned for your own sins and damned for your being partakers with others in their sins and damned for being guilty of the damnation of others. Oh how will the drunkards cry for leading their neighbors into drunkedness! How will the covetous person howl for setting his neighbor, his friend, his brother, his children, and relations so wicked an example by which he hath not only wronged his own soul but also the souls of others! The lier by lying teaches others to lie. The swearer teaches others to swear. The whoremonger teaches others to whore.
Now all these with others of the like sort will be guilty not only of their own damnation but of others. I tell you that some men have so much been the authors of the damnation of others, that I am ready to think that the damnation of them will trouble them as much as their own damnation. Some men, it is to be feared, at the day of judgment will be found to be the authors of destroying whole nations. How many souls do you think Balaam with his deceit will have to answer for? How many Mahomet? How many the Phariseas that hired the soldiers to say the disciples stole away Jesus, and by that means stumble their brethren to this day and was one means of blinding them from believing the things of God and Jesus Christ and so the cause of the damnation of their brethren to this very day. How many poor souls hath Bonner to answer for and several filthy, blind priests? How many souls have they been the means of destroying by their ignorance and corrupt doctrine--preaching that was no better for their souls than rats bane to the body for filthy lucre's sake? They shall see that they (many of them it is to be feared) will have whole towns to answer for, whole cities to answer for.
Ah, friend, I tell you, you that have taken in hand to preach to the people, it may be you have taken in hand you cannot tell what. Will it not grieve you to see your whole parish come bellowing after you to hell crying out, "This we may thank you for. This is because of you. You did not teach us the truth. You led us away with fables. You were afraid to tell us of our sins, lest we should not put meat fast enough into your mouth. Oh, cursed wretch, that ever you should beguile thus, deceive us thus, flatter us thus! We should have gone out to hear the Word abroad, but that you did reprove us and tell us that that which we see now is the way of God was heresy and a deceiveable doctrine, and was not contented, blind guide as you were, to fall into the ditch yourself, but have also led us there with you." I say, look to yourself, lest you cry when it is too late, "Send Lazarus to my people, my friends, my children, my congregation to whom I preached and beguiled through my folly. Send him to the town in which I did preach last, lest I be the cause of their damnation. Send him to my friends from where I came, lest I be made to answer for their souls and mine too.
Consider and regard these things and lay them to your heart before it be too late to recover yourself by repenting of the one and desiring to close in with the other. Oh, I say, regard, regard for hell is hot! God's hand is up. The law is resolved to discharge against your soul. The Judgment Day is at hand. The graves are ready to fly open. The trumpet is near the sounding. The sentence will ere long be past, and then you and I cannot call time again!
The Reformed Reader Home Page
Copyright 1999, The Reformed Reader, All Rights Reserved