The Ten Commandments by Thomas Watson
3. THE LAW AND SIN
3.3 The Wrath of God
What does every sin deserve?
God's wrath and curse, both in this life, and in that which is
'Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.' Matt xxv
41. Man having sinned, is like a favourite turned out of the king's
favour, and deserves the wrath and curse of God. He deserves God's
curse. Gal iii 10. As when Christ cursed the fig-tree, it withered;
so, when God curses any, he withers in his soul. Matt xxi 19. God's
curse blasts wherever it comes. He deserves also God's wrath, which
is nothing else but the execution of his curse.
What is this wrath?
I. It is privative; that is, deprives of the smiles of God's
face. It is hell enough to be excluded his presence: in whose
'presence is fulness of joy.' Psa xvi 11. His smiling face has that
splendour and beauty in it that ravishes the angels with delight.
This is the diamond in the ring of glory. If it were such a misery
for Absalom, that he might not see the King's face, what will it be
for the wicked to be shut out from beholding God's pleasant face!
Privatio Divinae visionis omnium suppliciorum summum [To be deprived
of the sight of God is the greatest of all punishments].
II. This wrath has something in it positive. It is 'wrath come
upon them to the uttermost.' I Thess ii 16.
[I] God's wrath is irresistible. 'Who knoweth the power of
thine anger?' Psa xc 2: Sinners may oppose God's ways, but not his
wrath. Shall the briers contend with the fire? Shall finite contend
with infinite? 'Hast thou an arm like God?' Job xl 9.
 God's wrath is terrible. The Spanish proverb is, The lion
is not so fierce as he is painted. We are apt to have slight
thoughts of God's wrath; but it is very tremendous and dismal, as if
scalding lead should be dropped into one's eyes. The Hebrew word for
wrath signifies heat. To show that the wrath of God is hot,
therefore it is compared to fire in the text. Fire, when in its
rage, is dreadful. So the wrath of God is like fire, it is the
terrible of terrible. Other fire is but painted to this. If when
God's wrath is kindled but a little, and a spark of it flies into a
wicked man's conscience in this life, it is so terrible, what will
it be when God shall 'stir up all his wrath'? Psa lxxviii 38. How sad is
it with a soul in desertion! God then dips his pen in gall, and
'writes bitter things;' his poisoned arrows stick fast into the
heart. 'While I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted; thy fierce
wrath goes over me.' Psa lxxxviii 15, 16. Luther, in desertion, was in
such horror of mind, that nec calor, nec sanguis superesset [no
warmth or blood remained]; he had no blood seen in his face, but he
lay as one dead. Now, if God's wrath be such towards those whom he
loves, what will it be towards those whom he hates? If they who sip
of the cup find it so bitter, what will they do who drink its dregs?
Psal lxxv 8. Solomon says, 'The king's wrath is as the roaring of a
lion.' Prov xix 12. What then is God's wrath? When God musters up
all his forces, and sets himself in battalia against a sinner, how
can his heart endure? Ezek xxii 14. Who is able to lie under
mountains of wrath? God is the sweetest friend but the sorest enemy.
(1) The wrath of God shall seize upon every part of a sinner.
Upon the body. The body, which was so tender that it could not bear
heat or cold, shall be tormented in the wine press of God's wrath.
Those eyes which before could behold amorous objects, shall be
tormented with the sight of devils. The ears, which before were
delighted with music, shall be tormented with the hideous shrieks of
the damned. The wrath of God shall seize upon the soul of a
reprobate. Ordinary fire cannot touch the soul. When the martyrs'
bodies were consuming, their souls triumphed in the flames; but
God's wrath burns the soul. The memory will be tormented to remember
what means of grace have been abused. The conscience will be
tormented with self-accusations. The sinner will accuse himself for
presumptuous sins, for misspending his precious hours, and for
resisting the Holy Ghost.
(2) The wrath of God is without intermission. Hell is an
abiding place, but no resting place; there is not a minute's rest.
Outward pain has some abatement. If it be the stone or colic, the
patient has sometimes ease; but the torments of the damned have no
intermission; he who feels God's wrath never says, 'I have ease.'
(3) The wrath of God is eternal. So says the text. 'Everlasting
fire.' No tears can quench the flame of God's anger; no, though we
could shed rivers of tears. In all pains of this life men hope for
cessation - the suffering will not continue long; either the
tormentor dies or the tormented; but the wrath of God is always
feeding upon the sinner. The terror of natural fire is, that it
consumes what it burns; but what makes the fire of God's wrath
terrible is, that it does not consume what it burns. Sic morientur
damnati ut semper vivunt [Those that are lost will so die as to
remain always alive]. Bernard. The sinner will ever be in the
furnace. After innumerable millions of years the wrath of God is as
far from ending as it was at the beginning. If all the earth and sea
were sand, and every thousand years a bird should come and take away
a grain, it would be a long while ere that vast heap of sand were
emptied; but if, after all that time, the damned might come out of
hell, there would be some hope; but this word 'Ever' breaks the
How does it consist with God's justice to punish sin, which
perhaps was committed in a moment, with eternal fire?
On account of the heinous nature of sin. Consider the Person
offended; it is Crimen laesae majestatis [a charge of the highest
treason]. Sin is committed against an infinite majesty, therefore it
is infinite, and the punishment must be infinite. Because the nature
of man is but finite, and a sinner cannot at once bear infinite
wrath, therefore he must be satisfying in enmity what he cannot
satisfy at once.
(4) While the wicked lie scorching in the flames of wrath, they
have none to commiserate them. It is some ease of grief to have some
to condole with us; but the wicked have wrath and no pity shown
them. Who will pity them? God will not. They derided his Spirit, and
he will now laugh at their calamity. Prov i 26. The saints will not
pity them. They persecuted them upon earth, therefore they will
rejoice to see God's justice executed on them. 'The righteous shall
rejoice when he sees the vengeance.' Psa lviii 10.
(5) The sinner under wrath has no one to speak a good word for
him. If an elect person sins, he has one to intercede for him. 'We
have an advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous.' I John ii 1. Christ
will say, 'It is one of my friends, one for whom I have shed my
blood; Father, pardon him.' But the wicked who die in sin have none
to solicit for them; they have an accuser, but no advocate; Christ's
blood will not plead for them; they slighted Christ and refused to
come under his government, therefore Christ's blood cries against
 God's wrath is just. The Greek word for vengeance signifies
justice. The wicked shall drink a sea of wrath, but not one drop of
injustice, It is just that God's honour be repaired, and how can
that be but by punishing offenders? He who infringes the king's laws
deserves the penalty. Mercy goes by favour, punishment by desert.
'To us belongeth confusion of face.' Dan ix 8. Wrath is that which
belongs to us as we are simmers; it is due to us as any wages that
For information. (1) God is justified in condemning
sinners at the last day. They deserve wrath, and it is no injustice
to give them that which they deserve. If a malefactor deserves
death, the judge does him no wrong in condemning him.
(2) See what a great evil sin is, which exposes a person to
God's wrath for ever. You may know the lion by his paw; and you may
know what an evil sin is by the wrath and curse it brings. When you
see a man drawn upon a hurdle to execution, you conclude he is
guilty of some capital crime that brings such a punishment; so when
a man lies under the torrid zone of God's wrath, and roars out in
flames, you must say, 'How horrid an evil sin is!' They who now see
no evil in swearing, or Sabbath breaking, will see it looks black in
the glass of hell-torments.
(3) See here a handwriting upon the wall; that which may check
a sinner's mirth. He is now brisk and frolicsome, he chants to the
sound of the viol, and invents instruments of music (Amos vi 5); he
drinks 'stolen waters,' and says, 'they are sweet;' but let him
remember that the wrath and curse of God hang over him, which will
shortly, if he repent not, be executed on him. Dionysus thought, as
he sat at table, that he saw a naked sword hang over his head; but
the sword of God's justice hangs over a sinner, and when the slender
thread of life is cut asunder it falls upon him. 'Rejoice, O young
man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy
youth... but know thou, that for all these things God will bring
thee into judgement.' Eccl xi 9. For a drop of pleasure thou must
drink a sea of wrath. Your pleasure cannot be so sweet as wrath is
bitter. The delights of the flesh cannot countervail the horror of
conscience. Better want the devil's honey than be stung with the
wrath of God. The garden of Eden, which signifies pleasure, had a
flaming sword placed at the east end of it. Gen iii 24. The garden of
carnal and sinful delight is surrounded with the flaming sword of
For reproof. The stupidity of sinners is reproved who
are no more affected with the curse and wrath of God which is due to
them. 'None considereth in his heart.' Isa xliv 19. If they were in
debt and the sergeant was about to arrest them, they would be
affected with that; but though the fierce wrath of God is ready to
arrest them, they remember it not. Though a beast has no shame, he
has fear: he is afraid of fire; but sinners are worse than brutish,
for they fear not the 'fire of hell' till they are in it. Most have
their consciences asleep, or seared; but when they shall see the
vials of God's wrath dropping, they will cry out as Dives, 'Oh! I am
tormented in this flame!' Luke xvi 24.
For exhortation. (1) Let us adore God's patience,
who has not brought this wrath and curse upon us all this while. We
have deserved wrath, yet God has not given us our desert. We may all
subscribe to Psa ciii 8, 'The Lord is slow to anger;' and to ver 10,
'He has not rewarded us according to our iniquities.' God has
deferred his wrath, and given us space to repent. Rev ii 21. He is
not like a hasty creditor, who requires the debt, and gives no time
for payment; he shoots off his warning-piece, that he may not shoot
off his murdering-piece. 'The Lord is long suffering to usward, not
willing that any perish.' 2 Pet iii 9. God adjourns the assizes, to
see if sinners will turn; he keeps off the storm of his wrath: but
if men will not be warned, let them know that long forbearance is no
(2) Let us labour to prevent the wrath we have deserved. How
careful are men to prevent poverty or disgrace! O labour to prevent
God's eternal wrath, that it may not only be deferred, but removed.
What shall we do to prevent and escape the wrath to come?
 By getting an interest in Jesus Christ. Christ is the only
screen to stand betwixt us and the wrath of God; he felt God's wrath
that they who believe in him should never feel it. 'Jesus which
delivered us from the wrath to come.' I Thess i 10.
Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace was a type of God's wrath, and that
furnace did not singe the garments of the three children, nor had
'the smell of fire passed upon them.' Dan iii 27. Jesus Christ went
into the furnace of his Father's wrath; and the smell of the fire of
hell shall never pass upon those that believe in him.
 If we would prevent the wrath of God, let us take heed of
those sins which will provoke it. Edmund, successor of Anselm, had a
saying, 'I had rather leap into a furnace of fire, than willingly
commit a sin against God.' There are several fiery sins we must take
heed of, which will provoke the fire of God's wrath. The fire of
rash anger. Some who profess religion cannot bridle their tongue;
they care not what they say in their anger; they will even curse
their passions. James says, 'The tongue is set on fire of hell;'
chap iii 6. Oh! take heed of a 'fiery tongue,' lest it bring thee to
'fiery torment.' Dives begged a drop of water to cool his tongue.
Cyprian says he had offended most in his tongue, and now that was
most set on fire. Take heed of the fire of malice. Malice is a
malignant humour, whereby we wish evil to others; it is a vermin
that lives on blood; it studies revenge. Caligula had a chest where
he kept deadly poisons for those against whom he had malice. The
fire of malice brings men to the fiery furnace of God's wrath. Take
heed of the sin of uncleanness. 'Whoremongers and adulterers God
will judge.' Heb xiii 4. Such as burn in uncleanness are in great
danger to burn one day in hell. Let one fire put out another; let
the fire of God's wrath put out the fire of lust.
(3) To you who have a well-grounded hope that you shall not
feel this wrath, which you have deserved, let me exhort you to be
very thankful to God, who has given his Son to save you from this
tremendous wrath. Jesus has delivered you from wrath to come. The
Lamb of God was scorched in the fire of God's wrath for you. Christ
felt the wrath which he did not deserve, that you might escape the
wrath which you have deserved. Pliny observes, that there is nothing
better to quench fire than blood. Christ's blood has quenched the
fire of God's wrath for you. 'Upon me be thy curse,' said Rebekah to
Jacob. Gen xxvii 13. So said Christ to God's justice, 'Upon me be the
curse, that my elect may inherit the blessing.' Be patient under all
the afflictions which you endure. Affliction is sharp, but it is not
wrath, it is not hell. who would not willingly drink in the cup of
affliction that knows he shall never drink in the cup of damnation?
Who would not be willing to bear the wrath of man that knows he
shall never feel the wrath of God?
Christian, though thou mayest feel the rod, thou shalt never
feel the bloody axe. Augustine once said, 'Strike, Lord, where thou
wilt, if sin be pardoned.' So say, 'Afflict me, Lord, as thou wilt
in this life, seeing I shall escape the wrath to come.'