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"Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." Rom 3:27-28
HOME > Exhortations > On Lamentations of the Lost - an excerpt from "The Saint's Everlasting Rest" by Richard Baxter
by Richard Baxter
On Lamentations of the Lost
2. As their understanding will be cleared, so it will be more enlarged, and made more capacious to conceive the worth of that glory which they have lost. The strength of their apprehensions, as well as the truth of them, will then be increased. What deep apprehensions of the wrath of God, the madness of sinning, the misery of sinners, have those souls that now endure this misery, in comparison with those on earth that do but hear of it! What sensibility of the worth of life has the condemned man that is going to be executed, compared with what he was wont to have in the time of his prosperity! Much more will
3. Their consciences also will make a truer and closer application of this doctrine to themselves, which will exceedingly tend to increase their torment. It will then be no hard matter to them to say, 'This is my loss! and this is my everlasting remediless misery!' The want of this self-application is the main cause why they are so little troubled now. They are hardly brought to believe that there is such a state of misery; but more hardly to believe that it is like to be their own. This makes so many sermons lost to them, and all threatenings and warnings in vain. Let a minister of Christ show them their misery ever so plainly and faithfully, they will not be persuaded they are so miserable. Let him tell them of the glory they must lose, and the sufferings they must feel, and they think he means not them, but some notorious sinners. It is one of the hardest things in the world to bring a wicked man to know that he is wicked, or to make him see himself in a state of wrath and condemnation. Though they may easily find, by their strangeness to the new birth, and their enmity to holiness, that they never were partakers of them; yet they as verily expect to see God and be saved, as if they were the most sanctified persons in the world. How seldom do men cry out, after the plainest discovery of their state, I am the man!
4. Then will their affections likewise be more lively, and no longer stupified. A hard heart now makes heaven and hell seem but trifles. We have showed them everlasting glory and misery, and they are as men asleep; our words are as stones cast against a wall, which fly back in our faces. We talk of terrible things, but it is to dead men; we search the wounds, but they never feel it; we speak to rocks rather than to men; the earth will as soon tremble as they. But when these dead souls are revived, what passionate sensibility, what working affections, what pangs of horror, what depths of sorrow will there then be! How violently will they denounce and reproach themselves! How will they rage against their former madness! The lamentations of the most affectionate wife for the loss of her husband, or of the tenderest mother for the loss of her children, will be nothing to theirs for the loss of heaven. O the self-accusing and self-tormenting fury of those forlorn creatures! How will they even tear their own hearts, and be God's executioners upon themselves! As themselves were the only meritorious cause of their sufferings, so themselves will be the chief executioners. Even Satan, as he was not so great a cause of their sinning as themselves, will not be so great an instrument of their torment. How happy would they think themselves then, if they were turned into rocks, or any thing that had neither passion nor sense! How happy, if they could then feel as lightly as they were wont to hear! if they could sleep out the time of execution as they did the time of the sermons that warned them of it! But their stupidity is gone: it will not be.
5. Their memories will moreover be as large and strong as their understanding and affections. Could they but lose the use of their memory, their loss of heaven, being forgot, would little trouble them. Though they would account annihilation a great mercy, they cannot lay aside any part of their being. Understanding, conscience, affections, memory, must all live to torment them, which should have helped to their happiness. As by these they should have fed upon the love of God, and drawn forth perpetually the joys of his presence, so by these must they feed upon his wrath, and draw forth continually the pains of his absence. Now they have no leisure to consider, nor any room in their memories for the things of another life; but then they shall have nothing else to do; their memories shall have no other employment. God would have had the doctrine of their eternal state 'written on the posts of their doors, on their hands and hearts:' he would have them mind it, 'and mention it when they lay down and rose up, when they sat in their houses, and when they walked by the way;' and seeing they rejected this counsel of the Lord, therefore it shall be written always before them in the place of their thraldom, that, which way soever they look, they may still behold it. It will torment them to think of the greatness of the glory they have lost. If it had been what they could have spared, or a loss to be repaired with any thing else, it had been a smaller matter. If it had been health, or wealth, or friends, or life, it had been nothing. But, O! to lose that exceeding and eternal weight of glory! It will also torment them to think of the possibility they once had of obtaining it. Then they will remember, 'Time was, when I was as fair for the kingdom as others. I was set upon the stage of the world; if I had believed in Christ I might now have had possession of the inheritance. I who am now tormented with these damned fiends, might have been among yonder blessed saints. The Lord did set before me life and death; and having chosen death, I deserve to suffer it. The prize was held out before me; if I had run well, I might have obtained it; if I had striven, I might have had the victory; if I had fought valiantly, I had been crowned.' It will yet more torment them to remember that their obtaining the crown was not only possible, but very probable. It will wound them to think, 'I had once the gales of the Spirit ready to have assisted me. I was proposing to be another man, to have cleaved to Christ, and forsake the world. I was almost resolved to have been wholly for God.
It will exceedingly torment them to remember their lost opportunities. 'How many weeks, and months, and years did I lose, which if I had improved, I might now have been happy! Wretch that I was! could I find no time to study the work for which I had all my time? no time, among all my labors, to labor for eternity? Had I time to eat, and drink, and sleep, and none to save my soul? Had I time for mirth and vain discourse, and none for prayer? Could I take time to secure the world, and none to try my title to heaven? O precious time! I had once enough, and now I must have no more. I had once so much I knew not what to do with it; and now it is gone, and cannot be recalled. O that I had but one of those years to live over again! how speedily would I repent! how earnestly would I pray! how diligently would I hear! how closely would I examine my state! how strictly would I live! But it is now too late, alas! too late.'
It will add to their calamity to remember how often they were persuaded to return. 'Fain would the minister have had me escape these torments. With what love and compassion did he beseech me! and yet I did but make a jest of it. How oft did he convince me! and yet I stifled all these convictions. How did he open to me my very heart! and yet I was loth to know the worst of myself. O how glad would he have been if he could have seen me cordially turn to Christ! My godly friends admonished me; they told me what would become of my wilfulness and negligence at last; but I neither believed nor regarded them. How long did God himself condescend to entreat me! How did the Spirit strive with my heart, as if he was loth to take a denial!
It will also be most cutting to remember on what easy terms they might have escaped their misery. Their work was not to remove mountains, nor conquer kingdoms, nor fulfil the law to the smallest tittle, nor satisfy justice for all their transgressions. 'The yoke was easy and the burden light' which Christ would have laid upon them. It was but to repent and cordially accept him for their Savior; to renounce all other happiness, and take the Lord for their supreme good; to renounce the world and the flesh, and submit to his meek and gracious government; and to forsake the ways of their own devising, and walk in his holy, delightful way. 'Ah,' thinks the poor tormented wretch, 'how justly do I suffer all this, who would not be at so small pains to avoid it! Where was my understanding when I neglected that gracious offer; when I called 'the Lord a hard master,' and thought his pleasant service a bondage, and the service of the devil and the flesh the only freedom? Was I not a thousand times worse than mad, when I censured the holy way of God as needless preciseness; when I thought the laws of Christ too strict, and all too much that I did for the life to come? What would all sufferings for Christ and well doing have been, compared with these sufferings that I must undergo for ever? Would not the heaven, which I have lost, have recompensed all my losses? And would not all my sufferings have been there forgotten? What if Christ had bid me to do some great matter; whether to live in continual fears and sorrows, or to suffer death a hundred times over: should I not have done it? How much more, when he only said, 'Believe and be saved. Seek my face, and thy soul shall live. Take up thy cross and follow me, and I will give thee everlasting life.' O gracious offer! O easy terms! O cursed wretch, that would not be persuaded to accept them!"
This also will be a most tormenting consideration, to remember for what they sold their eternal welfare. When they compare the value of the pleasures of sin with the value of 'the recompense of reward,' how will the vast disproportion astonish them! To think of the low delights of the flesh, or the applauding breath of mortals, or the possessing heaps of gold, - and then to think of everlasting glory. 'This is all I had for my soul, my God, my hopes of blessedness!' It cannot possibly be expressed how these thoughts will tear his very heart. Then will he exclaim against his folly: 'O miserable wretch! Did I set my soul to sale for so base a price? Did I part with my God for a little dirt and dross; and sell my Savior, as Judas, for a little silver? I had but a dream of delight for my hopes of heaven; and, now I am awakened, it is all vanished. My morsels are now turned to gall, and my cups to wormwood. When they were past my taste, the pleasure perished. And is this all that I have had for the inestimable treasure?
It will add yet more to their torment, when they consider that they most wilfully procured their own destruction. Had they been forced to sin, it would much abate the rage of their consciences; or if they were punished for another man's transgressions; or any other had been the chief author of their ruin. But to think it was the choice of their own will, and that none in the world could have forced them to sin against their wills: this will be a cutting thought. 'Had I not enemies enough in the world,' thinks this miserable creature, 'but I must be an enemy to myself? God would never give the devil, nor the world, so much power over me as to force me to commit the least transgression. They could but entice: it was myself that yielded and did the evil. And must I lay hands upon my own soul, and imbrue my hands in my own blood? Never had I so great an enemy as myself. Never did God offer any good to my soul but I resisted him. He hath heaped mercy upon me, and renewed one deliverance after another, to draw my heart to him; yea, he hath gently chastised me, and made me groan under the fruit of my disobedience; and though I promised largely in my affliction, yet never was I heartily willing to serve him.' Thus will it gnaw the hearts of these sinners, to remember that they were the cause of their own ruin; and that they wilfully and obstinately persisted in their rebellion, and were mere volunteers in the service of the devil.
The wound in their consciences will be yet deeper, when they shall not only remember it was their own doing, but that they were at so much cost and pains for their own damnation. What great undertakings did they engage in to effect their ruin; to resist the Spirit of God; to overcome the power of mercies, judgments, and even the word of God; to subdue the power of reason and silence conscience! All this they undertook and performed. Though they walked in continual danger of the wrath of God, and knew he could lay them in the dust, and cast them into hell in a moment; yet would they run upon all this. O the labor it costs sinners to be damned! Sobriety, with health and ease, they might have had at a cheaper rate; yet they will rather have gluttony and drunkenness, with poverty, shame, and sickness. Contentment they might have, with ease and delight; yet they will rather have covetousness and ambition, though it costs them cares and fears, labor, of body and distraction of mind. Though their anger be self-torment, and revenge and envy consume their spirits; though uncleanness destroy their bodies, estates, and good names; yet will they do and suffer all this, rather than suffer their souls to be saved.
O that God would persuade thee, reader, to take up these thoughts now, for preventing the inconceivable calamity of taking them up in hell as thy own tormentor! Say not that they are only imaginary. Read what Dives thought, being in torments. As the joys of heaven are chiefly enjoyed by the rational soul in its rational actings, so must the pains of hell be suffered. As they will be men still, so will they feel and act as men."
Richard Baxter, exerpt on the lamentings of the lost from "The Saint's Everlasting Rest"
"For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries." Heb 10:26-27 KJV
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