Isaac Watts.

The world to come : or, Discourses on the joys or sorrows of death, judgment and eternity : to which are added an essay on the separate state of souls and an appendix containing select poems online

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Online LibraryIsaac WattsThe world to come : or, Discourses on the joys or sorrows of death, judgment and eternity : to which are added an essay on the separate state of souls and an appendix containing select poems → online text (page 1 of 39)
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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1836,

in the Clerk's Office for the District Court of Ohio.




Discourses on the -world to come.

DISCOURSE I. The End of Time 13

DISCOURSE II. The watchful Christian dying in peace 33

DISCOURSE III. Surprise in Death 58

DISCOURSE IV. Christ admired and glorified in his Saints 78

DISCOURSE V. The Wrath of the Lamb 10

DISCOUKSE VI. The vain Refuge of Sinners, or a meditation on the

rocks near Tunbridge- Wells. 1729 114

DISCOURSE VII. No Night in Heaven 130

DISCOURSE VIII. A Soul prepared for Heaven 147

DISCOURSE IX. No Pain among the Blessed 175

DISCOURSE X. The first fruits of the Spirit, or the foretaste of Hea-
ven 210

DISCOURSE XI. Safety in the Grave, and joy at the Resurrection . . 233

A Speech over a Grave 255

DISCOURSE XII. The Nature of the Punishments in Hell 257

DISCOURSE XIII. The eternal Duration of the Punishments in Hell 291
An Essay toward the proof of a Separate State of Souls between

Death and the Resurrection , 334


Earth and Heaven 383

Death and Eternity 384

The Atheist's Mistake 385

The Welcome Measenger 386

The Farewell 387

Launching into Eternity 388

Happy Frailty 388

The Day of Judgment 390

A Prospect of the Resurrection , 391

A Sight of Heaven in Sickness 392

Felicity Above 393

The Presence of God worth dying for ; or the Death of Moses 394

God's Dominion and Decrees 395

The Incomprehensible 396

True Wisdom 397

Christ dying, rising, and reigning 399

The Song of Angels above 399

Two happy Rivals, Devotion and the Muse 402

Come, Lord Jesus 404

A Sight of Christ 408


Dr.. ISAAC WATTS, the author of the following Discourses, was born at
Southampton, in England, in the year 1674. His parents were noncon-
formists, and his father was a sufferer for conscience' sake, having been im-
prisoned more than once for refusing to conform to the religion established
by government During his confinement, his afflicted and sympathising
wife was sometimes seen sitting on a stone, near the prison door, with her
son Isaac on her bosom. Isaac, at a very early age, gave promising indica-
tions of genius, and from fifteen to fifty, poetical composition contributed to
his amusement, as it also did to his usefulness and fame. In his nineteenth
year, he became a professed follower of Christ, and devoted himself to those
studies, and assiduously cultivated those habits, which were calculated to
prepare him for the sacro:! duties of a Christian tninister. At the age of
twenty-four, and on his birth-day, he preached his first sermon. During the
iirst three or four years of his ministry, his labours were much interrupted
by sick-.iess ; but he was so far restored as to labour with much acceptance
and success, till 1712, when a violent fever so completely prostrated his
constitution, that he was never afterwards able to discharge, statedly, the
public duties of a pastor. During a period of thirty-six years, which he
spent in a state 01* retirement, he laboured most laudably and industriously,
to promote by his pen, that holy cause, which he was no longer permitted
to plead from the sacred desk. In 1748, he died, in the 74th year of his
age, sustained by the consolations, and animated with the hopes of that
gospel, which h ' had so long been spared and privileged to recommend to

His poetical works are, for the greater part, well known, and favourably
appreciated, by all who love pious sentiments expressed in an elegant sim-
plicity of diction. His prose works arc various and excellent. The writer
of these remarks takes a pleasure in recording here his obligations to Dr.
Walts' treatise " On the improvement of the mind," from which, in youth,
A 2 V


he derived more permanent advantage than from any other work of human
composition. The Discourses contained in this volume, and generally pub-
lished under the title of " The World to come," have been long known to
the Christian public, and highly esteemed by pious people, of every degree
of mental cultivation. The author combines, in the happiest manner, ele-
gance with perspicuity, tenderness with fidelity, a vivacity of imagination
with cogency of argument, clear statement, and impressive thought.

While I think that every serious Christian reader will agree with me, in
a high estimate of the excellence of these Discourses, I would not conceal,
and at the same time, I would not aggravate, the blemishes which I see in
them. A few, and but a few sentences occur, in which there are expres-
sions, which although not intended to teach error, are rather loose and un-
guarded. On several of the most remarkable of these, I have taken the lib-
erty to comment briefly in the Notes, which the reader will find at the bottom
of the pages, where the faulty expressions occur. It would not have been
consistent with my respect for the author, nor with the sense which I enter-
tain of my own imperfection, to enter my caveat against every turn of ex-
pression which might appear to me exceptionable : to notice some of these,
I considered to be necessary, for the sake of guarding the inexperienced and
unsuspecting reader from taking upon trust every thing which may fall
from the pen of even a truly learned and pious man. With the few excep-
tions to which I have reference, the reader will find that the work is at once
scriptural, luminous, and solemn, treating of the most awful subjects that
can engage the attention of men, in a manner the most becomingly tender,
and instructively interesting.

Besides these Notes, which I hope the intelligent reader will not consider
captious, as they were not written in a captious spirit, there are a few
others, intended for illustration. I might have increased the number of
these; but in a work professedly, and I may add, pre-eminently practical,
I judged it best not to divert the attention of the reader too often from the
train of thought presented by the author.

The subjects treated of in the following pages are o r universal concern ;
every human being, now on earth, is hastening on, as rapidly as time can
carry him, to the joys or terrors of a " World to come." The change
which we must all experience at death, and the asi-crtained or possible in-
terests, which we may have in eternity, as they unspeakably surpass all
earthly objects of contemplation, so they ought to have a suitable share of
our daily attention, and awaken in us the most serious thoughts. " What
shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own
soul V What will be the amount of all our care, and toil, and acquire-
ments, when calculated in the dying hour, if we have not cared and toiled
for our eternal interests, and obtained a hope, through grace, of an inheri-
tance in heaven ? These are questions which we all should ask ; and none


of us should rest, until we are enabled to adopt the language of the apostle,
and say : " According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in no-
thing I shall be ashamed, but that .... Christ shall be magnified in my
body, whether it be by life or by death : for to me, to live is Christ, and to
die is gain."

That the perusal of this volume may be blessed to the reader, and be a
means of exciting him to live habitually in view of the glory of God, and
the salvation of his soul, is the earnest prayer of his sincere well-wisher,



AMONG all the solemn and important things which relate to reli-
gion, there is nothing that strikes the soul of man with so much awe
and solemnity, as the scenes of death, and the dreadful or delightful
consequents which attend it. Who can think of entering into that
unknown region where spirits dwell, without the strongest impres-
sions upon the mind arising from so strange a manner of existence ?
Who can take a survey of the resurrection of the millions of the dead,
and of the tribunal of Christ, whence men and angels must receive
their doom, without the most painful solicitude, ' What will my sen-
tence be ?' Who can meditate on the intense and unmingled plea-
sure or pain in the world to come, without the most pathetic emotions
of soul, since each of us must be determined to one of these states,
and they are both of everlasting duration 1

These are the things that touch the springs of every passion in the
most sensible manner, and raise our hopes and our fears to their su-
preme exercise. These are the subjects with which our blessed Sa-
viour and his Apostles frequently entertained their hearers, in order to
persuade them to hearken, and attend to the divine lessons which they
published amongst them. These were some of the sharpest weapons
of their holy warfare, which entered into the inmost vitals of man-
kind, and pierced their consciences with the highest solicitude.
These have been the happy means to awaken thousands of sinners to
flee from the wrath to come, and to allure and hasten them to enter
into that glorious refuge that is set before them in the gospel.

It is for the same reason that I have, selected a few discourses on
these arguments out of my public ministry, to set them before the
eyes of the world in a more public manner, that if possible, some
thoughtless creatures might be roused out of their sinful slumbers,
and might awake into a spiritual and eternal life, through the concur-
ring influences of the blessed Spirit.

lam not willing to disappoint my readers, and therefore I would



let them know before-hand, that they will find very little in this book
to gratify their curiosity abort the many questions relating to the in-
visible world, and the things which God has not plainly revealed.
Something of this kind, perhaps, may be found in two discourses of
death and heaven, which I published long ago : but in the present dis-
courses I have very much neglected such curious enquiries. Noi
will the ear that has an itch for controversy be much entertained here,
for I have avoided matters of doubtful debate. Nor need the most
zealous man of orthodoxy, fear to be led astray into new and dangerous
sentiments, if he will hut take the plainest and most evident dictates
of Scripture, for his direction into all truth.

My only design has been to set the great and most momentous
things of a future world in the most convincing and affecting light,
and to enforce them upon the conscience with all the fervour that such
subjects demand and require. And may our blessed Redeemer, who
reigns Lord of the invisible world, pronounce these words with a di-
vine power to the heart of pvery man, who shall either read or hear

The treatise which is set as an introduction to this book, * was
printed many years 230 without the author's name, and there, in a
short preface, represented to the reader these few reasons of its wri-
ting and publication, viz.

The principles of atheism and infidelity have prevailed so far upon
our age, as to break in upon the sacred fences of virtue and piety,
and to destroy the noblest and most effectual springs of true and vital
religion? I mean those which are contained in the blessed gospel.
The doctrine of the resurrection of the body, and the consequent states
of heaven and hell, is a guard and motive of divine force ; but it is re-
nounced by the enemies of our holy Christianity : and should we
give up the recompences of separate souls, while the deist denies the
resurrection of the lody, I fear between both we should sadly enfeeble
and expose the cause of virtue, and leave it too naked and defenceless.
The Christian would have but one persuasive of this kind remaining,
and the deist would have none at all.

It is necessary therefore to be upon our guard, and to establish eve-
ry motive that we can derive either from reason or Scripture, to se-
cure religion in the world. The doctrine of the state of separate
spirits, and the commencement of rewards and punishments, imme-
diately after death, is one of those sacred fence? of virtue which we
borrow from Scripture, and it is highly favoured by reason,and there-

* In the present edition, the treatise, or Essay, referred to here, is placed
it the end of the volume. ED.


fore it may not le unseasonable to publish such arguments as may
tend to the support of it.

In this second edition of this small treatise, I have added several
paragraphs and pages to defend the same doctrine, and the last sec-
tion contains an answer to various new objections which I had not
met with, when I first began to write on this subject. I hope it is
set upon such a firm foundation of many Scriptures, as cannot pos-
sibly be overturned, nor do I think it a very easy matter any way to
evade the force of them. May the grace of God lead us on further
into every truth that tends to maintain and propagate faith and holi-

In the first cf these discourses, I have endeavoured to prove, that
'at the departure of the soul from the body by death, the rewards or
punishments,' i. e. the joys or sorrows ' of the other world, are ap-
pointed to commence :'. and I hope I have given, from the evidence of
Scripture, such arguments to support this doctrine, as that the faith
of Christians may not be staggered and confounded by different opin-
ions, or made to wait for these events, through all the many years
that may arise between death and the resurrection.

I know nothing besides this, that is made r. matter of controversy ;
and I hope that the whole of these sermons, by the blessing of God,
wil 1 be made happily useful to Christians, to awaken and v/arn them
against the danger of being seized by death in a state unprepared for
the presence of God, and the happiness of heaven, and to raise the
comforts and joys of many pious souls in the lively expectation of
future blessedness.

The last discourses of this book, especially the 'eternity of the
punishments of hell,' have been in latter and former years made a
matter of dispute ; and were I to pursue my enquiries inLo this doc-
trine, only by the aids of the light of nature and reason, I fear my
natural tenderness might warp me aside from the rules and the de-
mands of strict justice, and the wise and holy government of the
great God. But as I confine myself almost entirely to the revelation
of Scripture in all my searches into the things of revealed religion
and Christianity, I am constrained to forget or to lay aside that soft-
ness and tenderness of animal nature which might lead rie astray,
and to follow the unerring dictates of the word of God.

The Scripture frequently, and in the plainest and strongest man-
ner, asserts the everlasting punishment of sinners in hell ; and that
by all the methods of expression which are used in Scripture to sig-
nify an everlasting continuance.

God's utter hatred and aversion to sin, in this perpetual punish-


ment of it, are manifested many ways ; (1.) By the just and severe
threatenings of the wise and righteous Governor of the world, which
are scattered up and down in his word. (2.) By the veracity of
God in his intimations or narratives of past events, as Jude v. 7.
" Sodom and Gomorrah suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (3.)
By his express predictions, Matth. xxv. 46, " These shall go away
into evarlasting punishment :" 2 Thess. i. 9, " Who shall be pun-
ished with everlasting destruction ;" and I might add, (4.) by the
veracity and truth of all his holy Prophets and Apostles, and his Son
Jesus Christ at the head of them, whom he has sent to acquaint man-
kind with the rules of their duty, and the certain judgment of God in
a holy correspondence therewith, and that in such words as seem to
admit of no way of escape, or of hope for the condemned criminals.

i. must confess here, if it were possible for the great and blessed
God any other way to vindicate his own eternal and unchangeable
hatred of sin, the inflexible justice of his government, the wisdom of
his severe threatenings, and the veracity of his predictions, if it were
also possible for him, without this terrible ex-scution, to vindicate
the veracity ^sincerity, and wisdom of the Prophets and Apostles,
and Jesus Christ his Son, the greatest and chiefest of his divine
messengers ; and then, if the blessed God should at any time, in a
consistence with his glorious and incomprehensible perfections, re-
lease those wretched creatures from their acute pains and long im-
prisonment in hell, either with a design of the utter destruction of
their beings by annihilation, or to put them into some unknown world,
upon a new foot of trial, I think I ought cheerfully and joyfully to
accept this appointment of God, for the good of millions of my fel-
low-creatures, and add my joys and praises to all the songs and tri-
umph* of the heavenly world in the day of such a divine and glori-
ous release of these prisoners.

But I feel myself under a necessity of confessing, that I am utter-
ly unable to solve these difficulties according to the discoveries of the
New Testament, which must be my constant rule of faith, and hope,
and expectation, with regard to myself and others. I have read the
strongest and best writers on the other side, yet after all my studies
I have not been able to find any way how these difficulties may be
removed, and how the divine perfections, and the conduct of God in
his word, may he fairly vindicated without the establishment of this
doctrine, as awful and formidable as it is.

'The ways' indeed of the great God and his 'thoughts are above
our thoughts and our ways, as the heavens are above the earth ;' yet
I most rest and acquiesce where our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father's


chief Minister, both of his wrath and his love, has left me in the di-
vine revelations of Scripture ; and I am constrained therefore to leave
these unhappy creatures under the chains of everlasting darkness, in-
to which they have cast themselves by their wilful iniquities, till the
blessed God shall see fit to release them.

This would be indeed such a new, such an astonishing and univer-
sal jubilee, both for devils and wicked men, as must fill heaven, earth,
and hell, with hallelujahs and joy. In the mean time it is my ardent
wish, that this awful sense of the terrors of the Almighty, and his
everlasting anger, which the word of the great God denounces, may
awaken some souls timely to bethink themselves of the dreadful danger
into which they are running, before these terrors seize them at death,
and begin to be executed upon them without release and without

Note. Where these Discourses shall be used as a religious service in
private families on Lord's-day evenings, each of them will afford a division
near the middle, lest the service be made too long and tiresome.





RET. x. 5, 6. And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea, and upon
the earth, lifted up his hand to heaven, and sware by him that liveth for
ever and ever, that there should be time no longer.

THIS is tfie oath and the solemn sentence of a mighty
angel who came down from heaven, and by the descrip-
tion of him in the first verse, he seems to be the "angel
of God's presence, in whom is the name of God, 7 ' even
our Lord Jesus Christ himself, * who pronounced and
sware that "Time should be no longer;" for all seasons
and times are now put into his hand, together with the
book of his Father's decrees, Rev. v. 7, 9. What special
age or period of time in this world the prophecy refers
to, may not be so easy to determine; t but this is certain,
that it may be happily applied to the period of every
man's life ; for whensoever the term of our continuance
in this world is finished, 'our Time,' in the present cir-
cumstances and scenes that attend it, ' shall be no more.'
We fhall be swept off the stage of this visible state into
an unseen and eternal world: Eternity comes upon us at
once, and all that we enjoy, all that we do, and all that
we suffer in 'Time, shall be no longer.'

* Commentators are generally agreed, in considering the Angel, men-
tioned in the text, as Christ himself, or that which represented him to
John, in the vision, as the Messenger of the covenant. ED.

f Judicious expositors concur in believing this part of the prophecy to
apply to that period, which immediately precedes the sounding of the seventh
trumpet, and during the events which are introductory to the latter day
of glory, predicted to the church. ED.

B 13


Let us stand still here, and consider in the first place
what awful and important thoughts are contained in this
sentence ; what solemn ideas should arise to the view of
mortal creatures when it shall be pronounced concerning
each of them, that ' Time shall be no more. '

1. 'The Time of the recovery of our nature from its
sinful and wretched state shall be no longer.' We come
into this world fallen creatures, children of iniquity, and
heirs of death ; we have lost the ' image of God' who
made us, and which our nature enjoyed in our first
parents; and instead of it we are changed into the 'image
of the devil' in the lusts of the mind, in pride and malice,
in self-sufficiency and enmity to God; and we have put on
also the ' image of the brute' in sinful appetites and sensu-
alities, and in the lusts of the flesh; nor can we ever be
made truly happy till the image of the blessed God be
restored upon us, till we are made holy as he is holy, till
we have a divine change past upon us, whereby we are
created anew and reformed in heart and practice. And
this life is the only time given us for this important change.
If this life be finished before the image of God be restored
to us, this image will never be restored ; but we shall bear
the likeness of devils for ever; and perhaps the image
of the brute too at the resurrection of the body, and be
further off from God and all that is holy than ever we
were here upon earth.

Of what infinite importance is it then to be frequently
awakening ourselves at special seasons and periods of life
to enquire, whether this image of God is begun to be
renewed, whether we have this glorious change wrought
in us, whether our desires and delights are fixed upon
holy and heavenly things, instead of those sensual and
earthly objects which draw away all our souls from God
and heaven. Let it appear to us as a matter of utmost
moment to seek after this change; let us pursue it with
unwearied labours and strivings with our own hearts,
and perpetual importunities at the throne of grace, lest
the voice of him who swears that, < there shall be Time
no longer,' should seize us in some unexpected moment,
and lest he^wear in his wrath concerning us, "let him
that is unholy be unholy still, and let him that is filthy
be filthy still."

2. When thissentence is pronounced concerningus, < the


season and the means of restoring us to the favour and
love of God shall be no longer.' We are born ' children
of wrath' as well as the sons and daughters of iniquity,
Ephes. ii. 2. We have lost the original favour ef, our
Maker and are banished from his love, and the superior
blessings of his goodness; and yet, blessed be the Lord,
that we are not at present for ever banished beyond all
hope : This ' Time of life' is given us to seek the recovery of
the love of God, by returning to him according to the
gospel of his Son : Now is pardon and peace, now is
grace and salvation preached unto men, to sinful wretched
men, who are at enmity with God and the objects of his
high displeasure ; now the voice of mercy calls to us,
"This is the accepted time, this is the day of salvation,"
2 Cor. vi. 2. "To-day if ye will hear his voice, let not
your hearts be hardened to refuse it:" Now the fountain
of the blood of Christ is set open to wash our souls from
the guilt of sin; now all the springs of his mercy are broken
up in the ministrations of the gospel: Now ' God is in
Christ reconciling sinners to himself,' and 'he has sent us,'

Online LibraryIsaac WattsThe world to come : or, Discourses on the joys or sorrows of death, judgment and eternity : to which are added an essay on the separate state of souls and an appendix containing select poems → online text (page 1 of 39)