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UNCONVERTED MEN WILL REMEMBER THIS WORLD –
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
This sermon by Jonathan Edwards was condensed and adapted to modern English. It was originally titled, “Wicked Men in Hell Will Remember How Things Were with them in the World.” It was preached by Edwards during the First Great Awakening, but is not dated.
“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” (Luke 16:25).
The rich man was a descendant of Abraham, and therefore called him “Father Abraham.” And because the rich man was his descendant, Abraham called him “Son.” Abraham said, “Son, remember.” Being a descendant of Abraham, the rich man expected to go to his forefather Abraham when he died. But to his surprise he found himself in the flames of Hell.
How strangely things are altered by death. Formerly, in his lifetime, Lazarus begged crumbs of bread from him. But now the rich man begs for Lazarus to come and give him a drop of water to cool his inflamed tongue, “that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame” (Luke 16:24).
In the verse of the text we have Abraham’s answer, “Son, remember…” The doctrine is this: Unconverted men in Hell will remember how things were for them here, in this world.
The text, “Son, remember,” shows that unconverted men in Hell will be able to remember their past lives here, in this world; and also that they will be reminded of it.
1. The unconverted in Hell will remember the good things they enjoyed here in this world. They will remember how they lived here day to day in the enjoyment of their ease, and had little to disturb them, without extreme pains of body, or violent distress of mind. They felt nothing of the fury and wrath of God, saw no great manifestations of His anger against sin.
They will remember how they breathed in fresh air and saw the pleasant light of the sun each day, and that they beheld the brightness of the moon each night, and the sky bespangled with stars. In the daytime they saw the sky, the clouds, the trees, and a great variety of objects that made their life sweet, and the world a pleasant place in which to live.
They will remember how they walked up and down, and had the pleasure of speaking with other people in ease and in peace. They will remember how they sat down in quietness to eat and drink, and at night slept on their beds in comfort. They will remember that here, when they were hungry, they used to eat; and how, when they were thirsty, they had water and other liquids to drink, and quench their thirst. They will remember that, when they were tired, they could sit down, or lie down, to rest, how they could sleep when they were exhausted, and have nothing disturb them. They will remember that they had comfortable homes, and a great variety of good things to eat.
They will remember that, here in this world, they had friends and family members who were very concerned for them, who helped them when they needed it, and how pleasant it was to talk with them; and, when they were children, they had parents to take care of them.
Many of them will remember that they had plenty of everything. They had easy lives and were free from the difficulties that some of their neighbors had. They will remember how they advanced, and how people respected them for their achievements in life.
They will remember that they had far more material blessings than many godly Christians in more difficult parts of the world. Thus, the rich man was reminded how much better off he was than Lazarus in his lifetime. The unconverted in Hell will remember such things, and a great deal more than I have mentioned.
2. The unconverted in Hell will remember the opportunities they had to obtain salvation. They will know then what a great opportunity they had to escape the torments of Hell and obtain eternal life. They will remember then what a lengthy time of preparation for eternity they had, what a prolonged time of grace God gave them.
They will remember what a wonderful opportunity they had when they were young to obtain the grace of God in Christ. They will remember what encouragements they heard to seek salvation in their youth.
They will remember how long, how lengthened out, these days of opportunity were – how many precious days passed by before they went to Hell, while they were still on probation, to see where they would spend eternity. God gave them long years to strive to enter in at the narrow gate, and God waited patiently for them to do so. They will remember that they had the same opportunities that others had, who actually did obtain salvation by Christ. And some will remember that they had even better opportunities than many of those who did obtain salvation.
They will remember what good warnings they had – how they were told what a horrible place Hell is. They will remember that they were told about the miseries and torments of Hell, that they are greater than anyone can imagine, and they will remember that they were often told that if they ever got into Hell, they would never get out again.
They will remember that they were warned not to go home and forget about the sermons after the services. They will remember how they were warned about the uncertainty of life, and the danger of putting off serious striving “to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24).
They will remember the warnings they had – how they were warned by the death of others. They will remember the warnings they had by near-accidents: how they narrowly escaped with their lives at such a time, and were thereby warned to prepare for death.
They will remember the counsel they had – how they were told that they must seek salvation in order to obtain it. They will remember how they were counselled to deny themselves and their worldly interests, and to “strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24). They will now see how small a thing it was that they had to do to escape such misery as they are now suffering in Hell. They will remember the inner conflict they had with the Spirit of God. They will remember what convictions of conscience they had. They will remember how God’s Spirit warned them of their danger of entering the eternal flames. And they will remember how they quenched God’s Spirit, and rejected His convictions.
3. The unconverted in Hell will remember the thoughts they had when they were in this world. They will remember the thoughts they had about God, what they thought of His grace, what they thought of His wrath and judgment. And they will remember what they thought about His promises and threats – how they used to think very little, or very light-heartedly about those things, before they entered the flames.
They will remember the thoughts they had about sin – how unimportant it seemed to them, before they entered Hell.
They will remember the thoughts they had about life after death, about Heaven and Hell. They will remember how little they thought about eternity, and how little these thoughts influenced their minds, how they did not appear real to them, that it all seemed like a dream or a fable, a mere myth, before they entered Hell.
They will remember how they once thought it was all-important to succeed and advance in life. They will remember how valuable they once thought it was to prosper and gain esteem among men; and how dreadful a thing it seemed to be poor and not be respected by their fellow men. They will remember how they once thought these things were of far greater importance than the favor of God, and of having an interest in Christ, and, therefore, they strove after those things, instead of obeying Christ, who said,
“Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24).
They will remember what they once thought of godly Christians – that they were gloomy people, unhappy and melancholy – that they thought they were better off without the dismal thoughts these people had. They will remember what they thought about good Christians when they are in the flames.
4. The unconverted in Hell will remember how they lived in this world. They will remember the sins they committed, their sinful actions and practices will be remembered by them. They will remember their neglect of private prayer, their secret sins, and their sinful thoughts. The fire of Hell will bring their sins sharply before their minds. They will remember more of their sins, a great deal more, than they do now. The torments of Hell will help them to remember the sins they committed while they were living in this world. They will remember how they sinned against the mercy Christ, which was once offered to them.
They will remember how they, at a certain time, violated their consciences for a moment’s worthless pleasure, thereby incurring the everlasting wrath of the most high God.
They will remember how senseless, dull, and stupid they were when they heard the preaching of God’s Word – how little they paid attention to what was preached to them. They will remember how they neglected their souls, and how they refused to strive earnestly to seek salvation. They will remember how they hardened themselves in their sin, and shut their hearts against conviction: how they were so hardened in their sinful ways, that they refused to be convinced of the evil of their own hearts and minds. They will remember how they procrastinated, how they put off seeking salvation. They will remember how they quenched and disregarded the convictions of God’s Spirit, and
how they refused to obey God and “strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24), as they should have done. But now, in Hell, it will be everlastingly too late for them to be converted.
1. Use of instruction: That the unconverted will remember this world, will greatly aggravate their misery in Hell, making their torments even worse.
By comparing their misery and torment in Hell with what they did when they were alive, it will make their misery even more intolerable. They will cry and wail when they think how easy their life was in this world, and what horrible torments they now experience in the flames.
How will they be able to bear losing the light of the sun and moon now that they must live in the blackness and darkness of Hell? [Dr. Hymers’ note: Pastor Richard Wurmbrand longed to see the sun and the moon when he was in solitary confinement for two years in Communist Romania.] How will they bear thinking about the beauty of this world when they know they will never see it again – burning in a flame of fire for all eternity?
How will they be able to stand the thought of the good things they had to eat and drink, when they now don’t even have a drop of water to cool their parched, inflamed tongues?
How dreadful to think that they once had homes and comfortable beds to sleep on, but now,
“The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night”
And they will be tormented by the loss of friends to talk with, and their families to comfort them; now they will not have their mother to care for them, and show love to them, because they will be forever separated from her love and care.
How will they bear losing all the money they made, and having all their worldly success turned to ashes?
Consider how it will torment you to think of the foolishness of your sins and the madness of rebelling against your conscience, that you were such a fool that you delayed and put off seeking salvation and refused to “strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24). You will remember that you would not pay attention to the warnings you often heard.
“And thou [shalt] mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!” (Proverbs 5:11-13).
It will be a dreadful torment to think you were such a fool that you paid no attention to the matter of sin; that you were such a fool that you preferred the sin of this world instead of eternal salvation in Christ Jesus. How you will curse yourself for being a fool by losing your soul in Hell for a few days or hours of worthless pleasure and earthly advancement.
2. Use of Inference: Hence we learn that all the present enjoyments of unconverted men will actually make them more miserable when they think about them later, in the flames. They will have memories and remembrances of what they did before they died that will add to the horror of their misery in Hell, in a state of such intolerable, hopeless, endless pain.
The unconverted in Hell will have the good things they enjoyed on earth to remember for all eternity. They will not be able to keep these memories out of their minds; the more they think about them the worse will be their anguish and torment. They will wish a thousand times that they had done differently when they were in this world. So unconverted men will lose all their possessions, all their money, all their advancements and achievements and honors, for unless they are converted, the loss of all those things in Hell will fill them with great grief and sorrow – forever.
3. Use of exhortation: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24), so that the memories you have in eternity are not bitter and tormenting to your soul because you have entered Heaven, by striving for salvation now. But if you remember these things in Hell, the memory of them will haunt you and torment you. Don’t refuse the warnings that are given to you, or you will be greatly disturbed, and find no way to be happy, in Hell fire.
And here think of right motives. If you strive in a way that escapes Hell and obtains Heaven at last, the remembrance of things on earth will comfort you. So don’t refuse these warnings that are given to you.
Therefore, listen to these warnings and “strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24). I fear that many of you will go to Hell. You will find Hell intolerably miserable when you enter it. And among other things, you will be forever angry with yourself for not paying attention to the preaching, the warnings that you rejected. And it may be that some of you will remember in Hell the very warning you heard in this sermon; and how little you paid attention to it; and how little it changed your thinking and your life – and that may happen in a short time, when you descend into the flames of eternal Hell-fire.
Biographical Sketch of Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards was born in 1703 and died in 1758. His conversion took place when he was 17. He began preaching before the age of 19. For about 8 months he preached in a small church in New York City. He then was called to Yale to become a tutor, and remained at Yale for two years. In 1724 he was called and ordained at the First Church of Northfield, Massachusetts, where he served as associate pastor alongside his grandfather, Dr. Solomon Stoddard. Dr. Stoddard died two years later and Edwards became the pastor.
The First Great Awakening of 1734-1744 broke out in his church, and in some neighboring churches, largely under his preaching. His sermons had a powerful influence on his audiences and even influenced the views of the great evangelist George Whitefield, who worked with Edwards in the First Great Awakening. Even from his early preaching days, Edwards was known for his deep thought and fiery preaching. His voice was not commanding, and his gestures were few. But many of his sermons were overwhelming (The above paragraphs were adapted from Elgin S. Moyer, Who Was Who in Church History, Keats Publishing, Inc., 1974 edition, p. 129).
Under the influence of Edwards’ preaching, his Northampton congregation and several nearby churches experienced a powerful religious revival in 1734-1735. Beginning in 1739, again under Edwards’ preaching, the revival expanded and became known as the First Great Awakening. During this time George Whitefield preached in Edwards’ church and they became close friends. A few years later, Edwards’ books were published in England by John Wesley. Dr. Isaac Watts recommended that they be read and wrote an introduction to Edwards’ book on revival. His books and sermons were the fountain from which sprang this mighty revival in the mid-18th century. In a very real sense he was the instrument God used to ignite this greatest of all revivals in the English speaking world. He is now widely considered to be the most important theologian and philosopher America has produced. Late in life Jonathan Edwards became the president of Princeton. (The above paragraph is adapted from J. D. Douglass and Donald Mitchell, editors, Who’s Who in Christian History, Tyndale House Publishers, 1992, p. 224.)
(END OF SERMON)
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