John Bunyan (28 November 1628 – 31 August 1688 / Elstow, Bedfordshire, England.)
From Mount Ebal
Thus having heard from Gerizzim, I shall
Next come to Ebal, and you thither call,
Not there to curse you, but to let you hear
How God doth curse that soul that shall appear
An unbelieving man, a graceless wretch;
Because he doth continue in the breach
Of Moses' law, and also doth neglect
To close with Jesus; him will God reject
And cast behind him; for of right his due
Is that from whence all miseries ensue.
Cursed, saith he, are thy that do transgress
The least of my commandments, more or less.
Nothing that written is must broken be,
But always must be kept unto by thee,
And must fulfilled be; for here no man
Can look God in the face, or ever stand
Before the judgment-seat; for if they be
Convict, condemned too assuredly.
Now keep this law no mortal creature can,
For they already do, as guilty, stand
Before the God that gave it; so that they
Obnoxious to the curse lie every day,
Which also they must feel for certainty,
If unto Jesus Christ they do not fly.
Hence, then, as they for ever shall be blest,
That do by faith upon the promise rest,
So peace unto the wicked there is none;
'Tis wrath and death that they must feed upon.
That what I say may some impression make
On carnal hearts, that they in time may take
That course that best will prove when time is done,
These lines I add to what I have begun.
First, thou must know that God, as he is love
So he is justice, therefore cannot move,
Or in the least be brought to favour those
His holiness and justice doth oppose.
For though thou mayst imagine in thy heart
That God is this or that, yet if thou art
At all besides the truth of what he is,
And so dost build thy hope for life amiss,
Still he the same abideth, and will be
The same, the same for ever unto thee.
As God is true unto his promise, so
Unto his threat'ning he is faithful too.
Cease to be God he must, if he should break
One tittle that his blessed mouth did speak.
Now, then, none can be saved but the men
With whom the Godhead is contented when
It them beholds with the severest eye
Of justice, holiness, and yet can spy
No fault nor blemish in them; these be they
That must be saved, as the Scriptures say.
If this be true, as 'tis assuredly,
Woe be to them that wicked live and die;
Those that as far from holiness have been
All their life long as if no eye had seen
Their doings here, or as if God did not
At all regard, or in the least mind what,
Wherein, or how they did his law transgress,
Either by this or other wickedness;
But how deceived these poor creatures are,
They then shall know when they their burthen bear.
Alas, our God is a consuming fire;
So is his law, by which he doth require
That thou submit to him, and if thou be
Not in that justice found that can save thee
From all and every sentence which he spake
Upon mount Sinai, then as one that brake
It, thou the flames thereof shall quickly find
As scourges thee to lash, while sins do bind
Thee hand and foot, for ever to endure
The strokes of vengeance for thy life impure.
What I have said will yet evinced be,
And manifest abundantly to thee,
If what I have already spoken to
Be joined with these lines that do ensue.
Justice discovers its antipathy
Against profaneness and malignity.
Not only by the law it gave to men,
And threatenings thereunto annexed then.
But inasmuch as long before that day,
He did prepare for such as go astray,
That dreadful, that so much amazing place–
Hell, with its torments–for those men that grace
And holiness of life slight and disdain,
There to bemoan themselves with hellish pain.
This place, also, the pains so dismal be,
Both as to name and nature, that in me
It is not to express the damning wights,
The hellish torture, and the fearful plights
Thereof; for as intolerable they
Must needs be found, by those that disobey
The Lord, so can no word or thought express
Unto the full the height of that distress;
Such miserable caitiffs, that shall there
Rebukes of vengeance, for transgressions bear.
Indeed the holy Scriptures do make use
Of many metaphors, that do conduce
Much to the symbolizing of the place,
Unto our apprehension; but the case–
The sad, the woeful case–of those that lie
As racked there in endless misery,
By all similitudes no mortals may
Set forth in its own nature; for I say
Similitudes are but a shade, and show
Of those or that they signify to you.
The fire that doth within thine oven burn,
The prison where poor people sit and mourn,
Chains, racks, and darkness, and such others, be
As painting on the wall, to let thee see
By word and figures the extremity
Of such as shall within these burnings lie.
But certainly, if wickedness and sin
Had only foolish toys and trifles been,
And if God had not greatly hated it,
Yea, could he any ways thereof admit,
And let it pass, he would not thus have done.
He doth not use to punish any one
With any place or punishment that is
Above or sharper than the sin of his
Hath merited, and justice seeth due;
Read sin, then, by the death that doth ensue.
Most men do judge of sin, not by the fruits
It bears and bringeth forth, but as it suits
Their carnal and deluded hearts, that be
With sensual pleasures eaten up; but he
That now so judgeth, shortly shall perceive
That God will judge thereof himself, and leave
Such men no longer to their carnal lusts,
To judge of wickedness, and of the just
And righteous punishment that doth of right
Belong thereto; and will, too, in despite
Of all their carnal reason, justify
Himself, in their eternal misery.
Then hell will be no fancy, neither will
Men's sins be pleasant to them; but so ill
And bitter, yea, so bitter, that none can
Fully express the same, or ever stand
Under the burden it will on them lay,
When they from life and bliss are sent away.
When I have thought how often God doth speak
Of their destruction, who HIS law do break;
And when the nature of the punishment
I find so dreadful, and that God's intent,
Yea, resolution is, it to inflict
On every sinner that shall stand convict,
I have amazed been, yet to behold,
To see poor sinners yet with sin so bold,
That like the horse that to the battle runs,
Without all fear, and that no danger shuns,
Till down he falls. O resolute attempts!
O sad, amazing, damnable events!
The end of such proceedings needs must be,
From which, O Lord, save and deliver me.
But if thou think that God thy noble race
Will more respect, than into such a place
To put thee; hold, though thou his offspring be,
And so art lovely, yet sin hath made thee
Another kind of creature than when thou
Didst from his fingers drop, and therefore now
Thy first creation stands thee in no stead;
Thou hast transgressed, and in very deed
Set God against thee, who is infinite,
And that for certain never will forget
Thy sins, nor favour thee if thou shalt die
A graceless man; this is thy misery.
When angels sinned, though of higher race
Than thou, and also put in higher place,
Yet them he spared not, but cast them down
From heaven to hell; where also they lie bound
In everlasting chains, and no release
Shall ever have, but wrath, that shall increase
Upon them, to their everlasting woe.
As for the state they were exalted to,
That will by no means mitigate their fear,
But aggravate their hellish torment here;
For he that highest stands, if he shall fall,
His danger needs must be the great'st of all.
Now if God noble angels did not spare
Because they did transgress, will he forbear
Poor dust and ashes? Will he suffer them
To break his law, and sin, and not condemn
Them for so doing? Let not man deceive
Himself or others; they that do bereave
Themselves by sin of happiness, shall be
Cut off by justice, and have misery.
Witness his great severity upon
The world that first was planted, wherein none
But only eight the deluge did escape,
All others of that vengeance did partake;
The reason was, that world ungodly stood
Before him, therefore he did send the flood,
Which swept them all away. A just reward
For their most wicked ways against the Lord,
Who could no longer bear them and their ways,
Therefore into their bosom vengeance pays.
We read of Sodom, and Gomorrah too,
What judgments they for sin did undergo;
How God from heaven did fire upon them rain,
Because they would not wicked ways refrain;
Condemning of them with an overthrow,
And turned them to ashes. Who can know
The miseries that these poor people felt
While they did underneath those burnings melt?
Now these, and many more that I could name,
That have been made partakers of the flame
And sword of justice, God did then cut off,
And make examples unto all that scoff
At holiness, or do the gospel slight;
And long it will not be before the night
And judgment, painted out by what he did
To Sodom and Gomorrah, fulfilled
Upon such sinners be, that they may now
That God doth hate the sin, and persons too.
Of such as still rebellious shall abide,
Although they now at judgment may deride.
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