RPM, Volume 12, Number 45, November 7 to November 13, 2010

The Mischief of Sin

By Thomas Watson

The Furnace Heated Hotter!

A clear description of such people as shall have a greater share in hell torments.

"These shall receive greater damnation." Mark 12:40

I had thought to have stopped my pen here—but supposing the largest discourses of this nature are little enough to divert wicked people from their excesses, I have one word more to add—that if sinners have not lost their reason, they would be persuaded to reflect a little and consider seriously the damnableness of their state after this life—and lay to heart this text dropped from our Savior's own lips, "These shall receive greater damnation."

I do not intend to meddle with the context—but shall take the words as they lie entirely in themselves. In the text there are three parts:

A fiery furnace—damnation.

The furnace heated hotter—greater damnation.

The people for whom this furnace is doubly heated—These shall receive.

Doctrine. The proposition I intend is this: There are some kinds of sinners who shall be more severely tormented in hell than others. "These shall receive greater damnation."

In respect of the duration of torment—all shall be punished alike. All the black regiment of reprobates shall lie in hell forever! But in respect of the degree of torment—all shall not be punished alike. Some shall have a more fiery indignation than others, "How much worse punishment, do you think one will deserve!" Hebrews 10:29.

Those who have the least punishment in hell shall have enough. The coolest part of hell is hot enough punishment—but there are some who shall have a hotter place in hell than others. All shall go into that fiery prison—but some sinners God will thrust into the fiery dungeon. Those whose impieties are more fearfully heightened, and who have sinned at a higher rate than others—God will take His full blow at, in hell, and will tear them in His wrath, "Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue!" Psalm 50:22. For such, He will heat the infernal furnace seven times hotter. I shall briefly give you a list and catalogue of such sinners as dying in impenitence, shall receive greater damnation.

1. Such as are willfully ignorant. It is one thing not to know—and another to be unwilling to know. They might have the notion of the true God—but they will not. They trample upon this pearl of divine knowledge. They not only neglect knowledge, but reject it! Hosea 4:6, "Because you have rejected knowledge." Or, as the Hebrew word signifies, "you have hated it." The Ethiopians curse the sun—just so do these reject the light of saving knowledge. These knowledge despisers shall have a greater share in the torments of hell. Isaiah 27:11, "Israel is a foolish and stupid nation, for its people have turned away from God. Therefore, the one who made them will show them no pity or mercy." And for God to show no pity—is to take the extremity of the Law upon them.

2. Such as will neither follow the thing that is good for themselves, nor yet allow others. Luke 11:52, "How terrible it will be for you experts in religious law! For you hide the key to knowledge from the people. You don't enter the Kingdom yourselves, and you prevent others from entering!" Such as will neither read the Bible themselves, nor allow their children to read it; such as will neither hear a good sermon themselves, and discourage their neighbors from hearing; such as will stop the pipes which are to convey the water of life and who eclipse the lamps of the sanctuary—these shall receive greater damnation. 1 Thessalonians 2:16, "Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles, for fear some might be saved. By doing this, they continue to pile up their sins. But the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost!"

3. Such as sin against clear illuminations and convictions. These the Apostle speaks of in James 4:17, "He knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it." They are not ignorant that the things they do are sin. Conscience, like the cherubim, stands with a flaming sword to deter them—yet they will eat the apple of pleasure—though they die! These men's sins have a vehemence. This made the sin of the fallen angels so great, for which they lie in chains. They had no ignorance, no passion to stir them up, no temptation—but they sinned voluntarily and out of pure choice!

This sinning against conscience, is accompanied with pride. Sinners know the mind of God—yet act contrary to it. They set their will above God's will. They say in their heart as did Pharaoh, Exodus 5:2, "Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice?"

This sinning against conscience, is accompanied with impudence. Let what will come of it—let God punish or not—men will pursue their sins! Here the veil of modesty is laid aside.

If God has been so dreadful against sins of infirmity and passion—as we see in Moses and Uzzah—how fierce will His anger be against tenacious sinners!

Sins against illumination, and conviction make deep wounds in the soul. Other sins fetch blood; these are a stab in the heart! Every little hole in the roof lets in rain—but a crack in the foundation endangers the fall of the house. Every sin of weakness is harmful—but sins against illumination crack the conscience, and threaten the ruin of the soul. To sin in this matter makes sin the heavier—and hell the hotter!

Consider this, all you who rebel against gospel light—if you do not repent—you will be more scorched in hell. Luke 12:47, "That servant who knows his master's will and does not do what his master wants, will be beaten with many blows."

4. Such as are plotters and contrivers of sin. Psalm 36:4, "They lie awake at night, hatching sinful plots." Many men's heads ache until they have found out some new sin. Such were those men who invented a decree against Daniel and got the king to sign it, Daniel 6:9. These inventors of evil things, shall be more plagued in hell than others! He who first plots a treason is counted the capital offender, and has the most aggravated tortures. Micah 2:1, "Woe to those who devise iniquity." This woe is as a ton of lead to sink them deeper into damnation.

5. Such as are haters of holiness. The diamond of grace is hated because of its sparkling luster. If men hate the saints for their grace, how they would hate Christ if He were now upon the earth! Will God lay those in His bosom who hate Him? No! they shall have a lower place in hell than others. Deuteronomy 7:10, "But those who hate Him, He will repay to their face by destruction; He will not be slow to repay to their face, those who hate Him." The repetition shows both the verity and severity of their punishment.

6. Such as are lovers of sin. Jerome said that it is worse to love sin—than to commit it. He who loves sin—his heart is in the sin. He follows it with delight—like a man does his game, "They actually rejoice in doing evil!" Jeremiah 11:15. Sinners say they hate the devil—but they love that which will bring them to the devil! Lovers of sin shall have more of hell torment. The fire will make them forget the pleasure. Revelation 22:15, "Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices lying." It is bad enough to tell a lie—but he who loves a lie shall lie lower in hell.

7. They shall have a greater degree of torment, who persecute the people of God. Acts 7:52, "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?" The godly are called sheep—and the wicked called briars. These briars tear not only the wool—but the flesh of the sheep. These shall be more fearfully punished. What they are to endure afterwards, may be witnessed by the hell many of them feel in their conscience and by the judgments of God upon them in this life.

Charles IX of France, who shed so much Protestant blood in the massacre at Paris, that it dyed the rivers a crimson color—was struck by God with an excessive bleeding in several parts of his body, to the amazement of the beholders. If God in this life ordains His arrows against the persecutors, Psalm 7:13—then surely He will make them His standing mark in hell—at which He will be shooting to all eternity!

8. Such as are seemingly good—so that they may be really bad. Those who make profession a specious covering for their wickedness so that, under this mask, they may lie and deceive. They do the devil's work in Christ's uniform! Proverbs 7:14, "This day have I paid my vows, come let us take our fill of love." Who would have suspected this harlot, having been at church? She made her devotion, a preface to adultery. Luke 20:47, "They devour widow's houses—and for a show make long prayers, the same shall receive greater damnation." To make long prayers for this end—that they might do unrighteous actions—was damnable hypocrisy! Those who make religion a covering to carry on their sin more smoothly—these shall lie in the hottest place of hell!

9. Such as do no works of mercy. Their hearts are hardened against Christ's poor. These shall have a greater portion in hell torments. James 2:13, "He shall have judgment without mercy—who has showed no mercy." He shall have torment—and nothing but torment. A person may as well be cruel by not relieving the poor—as by wronging him. Such a one shall have judgment without mercy.

10. Such as die under final unbelief. Many think none are to be counted infidels, but Turks and pagans. Yes, there are many infidel professors—who do not believe God's veracity and holiness. They do not have as much faith as devils, James 2:19. Infidelity is linked with impenitence. Acts 19:9, "Some became hardened and would not believe." Unbelief gives God the lie, 1 John 5:10. Therefore, such people are put in the forefront of those who go to hell. Revelation 21:8, "The unbelieving shall have their place in the fiery lake of burning sulfur."

11. Such as have grown gray under the gospel—but are never the better. These have enjoyed the prayers, tears and lessons of God's choicest ministers. They have been put in the fattest pastures of ordinances—but yet they may say with the Prophet, "My leanness, my leanness," Isaiah 24:16. They have had warm preaching—but they freeze in the sun. They can hear ministers preach the most startling messages—and see them throw the flashes of hellfire about in the congregation—but their consciences are no more stirred than the pillars in the church!

Proud they were—and they are proud still. Profane they were—and they are profane still. All the sermons they have heard are like the showers falling on a rock which is never made softer or more fruitful. The lungs of ministers are spent—but no refining work of grace has passed upon them. These certainly shall have greater degrees of torment!

If heathen who never heard of Christ are damned, these shall be double-damned. Matthew 11:23-24, "And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to hell. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you." Jesus Christ preached in Capernaum, there He worked miracles. Therefore, by not repenting and believing, she was in a worse condition than Sodom and would be more severely punished.

You who have had God's golden candlestick among you and are not more holy, it would have been better to have lived in Africa where Christ had never been preached, than in London. It will be better with Indians—than with such nominal professors who live in the bosom of the Church.

12. Such as who apostatize and fall away from the truth. There are some in this age, who have not only lost their former strictness in religion—but the very leaves of their profession are dropped off. As their sin is more odious because their apostasy brings a scandal upon the ways of God—so their punishment shall be answerable. These renegades shall be hung up in chains in hell. Hebrews 10:38, "If any man draws back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him." It is as if God should say, "I will execute the fierceness of My anger upon him. He shall drink the dregs of the cup of wrath—and that cup shall never pass away from him!"

13. Such Ishmael spirits, as scoff at true religion. The Apostle has foretold it as a sin of the last times. 2 Peter 3:3, "I want to remind you that in the last days there will be scoffers who will laugh at the truth and do every evil thing they desire." This is fearful, when men have arrived at such a height of impiety as, with Lucian, to deride holy living. The tongue of the scoffers is the devil's gun out of which he shoots his bullets against true religion. There are some who, though they are not good themselves—yet they have a venerable esteem of those who are good. Herod reverenced John the Baptist. But such the devil has taken great possession of—who reproach others for that wherein they most resemble God.

Take heed of this sin," said Latimer, "for I never knew but one scorner who repented." Scoffers are, for the most part, atheists. When men have outfaced their conscience and lost all principle of sincerity and modesty—then they fall a-scoffing. These shall have greater damnation. Isaiah 28:22, "So scoff no more, or your punishment will be even greater. For the Lord, the Lord Almighty, has plainly told me that he is determined to crush you." You shall be bound in chains of darkness—and these chains shall be made strong.

14. Such as have perverted others by their corrupt writings. They have set forth books full of error—and others have sucked in the poison of those books and been damned. Some have published to the world that moral virtue does not differ from grace—and so have caused people to rest in their moralities, never aspiring after the New Birth. Alas, a man may keep a moral decorum—yet there may be some sin which reigns in his heart. The Pharisee could say, "I am no adulterer," Luke 18:11—but he could not say, "I am not proud." Morality may curb—but it cannot change.

The Socinians have broached many damnable errors in print against the deity of Christ. These shall drink deeper in the cup of wrath. If the breakers of God's law are punished seven-fold—then those who teach men to break God's law, shall be punished seventy-seven fold. Revelation 19:20, "The false prophet was taken (he who by his errors had deceived the world) and was cast alive into the midst of the lake of fire!"

15. Such as make their bodies (which should be the temples of the Holy Spirit) vessels of uncleanness. Those who burn in lust shall one day (without repentance) burn in hotter flames than others, 2 Peter 2:9. Oh, who would, for a cup of pleasure, drink a sea of wrath!

16. Such as send other men to hell by their bad example. The drunken master has made his servant to reel by his example. The swearing father has taught his son to swear, and damned him by his example. Would it not be something to be lamented, if the child should get the plague of his father and die? And is it not often so, in a spiritual sense, that the father poisons and infects his child by his cursed example! Doubtless, such monsters in wickedness shall have a greater portion in hell torments. They shall not only be damned for their own sins—but for other men's sins. This was the reason why Dives desired that some might go preach to his brethren—that they might not come to hell. He had given his brethren a bad example—and he thought that if they were sentenced to hell his torments would be increased, and he would be punished for their sins as well as his own.

Exhortation 1. As we should take heed of living in any sin (for the least sin lived in and unrepented of will bring us to hell), so especially let us take heed of being in the black roll of these sinners I have now mentioned. These dying in final impenitence shall be more severely punished. A greater millstone of wrath will fall upon their head. If a spark or two of God's anger is so grievous, what is it when He shall stir up all His wrath! "Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath!" Psalm 78:38.

Exhortation 2. Let us labor to fly to Christ by faith. Let us get Him to stand as a screen between us and the fire of God's indignation. Romans 8:1, "There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus." God the Father will not condemn them, because He is satisfied in the price paid for them. He will not require the debt twice—from both the Surety and the debtor. And Jesus Christ will not condemn them, for believers are His spouse; and Christ will not condemn His own spouse. So that, if ever we would be safe, let us get into Christ—and being in this city of refuge, God's justice, that avenger of blood, will not touch us. Having put on the garment of our Lord's righteousness, the fire of hell can never singe this garment! 1 Thessalonians 1:10, "Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath!"

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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