Out of the House of Bondage
by Thomas Watson (1620 Ė1686)
 These words can be understood mystically and spiritually. By Israelís deliverance from the house of bondage, is typified their spiritual deliverance from sin, Satan, and hell.
(1) From sin. The house of bondage was a type of Israelís deliverance from sin. Sin is the true bondage, it enslaves the soul. Nihil durius servitute (Cicero). "Of all conditions, servitude is the worst." "I was held before conversion," says Augustine, "not with an iron chain, but with the obstinacy of mine own will." Sin is the enslaver; it is called a law, because it has a binding power over a man (see Rom 7:23); it is said to reign, because it exercises a tyrannical power (see Rom 6:12); and men are said to be the servant of sin, because they are so enslaved by it (see Rom. 6:17). Thus sin is the house of bondage. Israel was not so enslaved in the iron furnace as the sinner is by sin. They are worse slaves and vassals who are under the power of sin, than they are who are under the power of earthly tyrants.
Other slaves have tyrants ruling over their bodies only; but the sinner has his soul tyrannized over. That princely thing, the soul, which sways the sceptre of reason, and was once crowned with perfect knowledge and holiness, now goes on foot; it is enslaved, and made a lackey to every base lust.
Other slaves have some pity shown them: the tyrant gives them meat, and lets them have hours for their rest; but sin is a merciless tyrant, it will let men have no rest. Judas had no rest until he had betrayed Christ, and after that he had less rest than before. How does a man wear himself out in the service of sin, waste his body, break his sleep, distract his mind! A wicked man is every day doing sinís drudgery-work.
Other slaves have servile work; but it is lawful. It is lawful to work in the galley, and tug at the oar; but all the laws and commands of sin are unlawful. Sin says to one man, defraud; to another, be unchaste; to another take revenge; to another, take a false oath. Thus all sinís commands are unlawful; we cannot obey sinís law, but by breaking Godís law.
Other slaves are forced against their will. Israel groaned under slavery (Exod 2:23); but sinners are content to be under the command of sin; they are willing to be slaves; they love their chains; they will not take their freedom; they "glory in their shame" (Phil. 3:19). They wear their sins, not as their fetters, but their ornaments; they rejoice in iniquity (see Jer. 11:15).
Other slaves are brought to correction, but sinís slaves are without repentance, and are brought to condemnation. Other slaves lie in the iron furnace: sinís slaves lie in the fiery furnace. What freedom of will has a sinner to his own confusion, when he can do nothing but what sin will have him? He is enslaved. Thus sinners are in the house of bondage; but God takes His elect out of the house of bondage; He beats off the chains and fetters of sin; He rescues them from their slavery; He makes them free, by bringing them into "the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8:21). The law of love now rules, not the law of sin. Though the life of sin be prolonged, yet not the dominion; as those beasts in Daniel had their lives prolonged for a season, but their dominion was taken away (see Dan. 7:12). The saints are made spiritual kings, to rule and conquer their corruptions, to "bind these kings in chains." It is matter of the highest praise and thanksgiving, to be taken out of the house of bondage, to be freed from enslaving lusts, and made kings to reign in glory forever.
(2) The bringing Israel out of the house of bondage, was a type of the deliverance from Satan. Men naturally are in the house of bondage, they are enslaved to Satan. Satan is called the prince of this world (see John 14:30); and the god of this world (see II Cor 4:4); because he has power to command and enslave them. Though he shall one day be a close prisoner in chains, yet now he insults and tyrannizes over the souls of men. Sinners are under his rule, he exercises over them a jurisdiction such as Caesar did over the senate. He fills menís heads with error, and their hearts with malice. "Why hath Satan filled thine heart?" (Acts 5:3). A sinnerís heart is the devilís mansion-house. "I will return into mine house" (Matt. 12:44). And sure that must needs be a house of bondage, which is the devilís mansion-house. Satan is a complete tyrant. He rules menís minds, he blinds them with ignorance. "The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them that believe not" (II Cor 4:4). He rules their memories. They remember that which is evil, and forget that which is good. Their memories are like a strainer, that lets go all the pure liquor, and retains only the dregs. He rules their wills. Though he cannot force the will, he draws it. "The lusts of your father you will do" (John 8:44). He has got your hearts, and him you will obey. His strong temptations draw men to evil more than all the promises of God can draw them to good. This is the state of every man by nature; he is in the house of bondage; the devil has him in his power. A sinner grinds in the devilís mill; he is at the command of Satan, as the ass is at the command of the driver. No wonder to see men oppress and persecute; as slaves they must do what the god of this world will have them. How could those swine but run, when the devil entered into them? (see Matt 8:32). When the devil tempted Ananias to tell a lie, he could not but speak what Satan had put in his heart (see Acts 5:3). When the devil entered into Judas, and bade him betray Christ, he would do it, though he hanged himself. It is a sad and dismal case, to be in the house of bondage, under the power and tyranny of Satan. When David would curse the enemies of God, how did he pray against them? That Satan might be at their right hand (see Ps. 109:6). He knew he could then lead them into any snare. If the sinner has Satan at his right hand, let him take heed that he be not at Godís left hand. Is it not a case to be bewailed, to see men taken captive by Satan at his will? (see II Tim. 2:26). He leads sinners as slaves before him in triumph; he wholly possesses them. If people should see their beasts bewitched and possessed of the devil, they would be much troubled; and yet, though their souls are possessed by Satan, they are not sensible of it. What can be worse than for men to be in the house of bondage, and to have the devil hurry them on in their lusts to perdition? Sinners are willingly enslaved to Satan; they love their gaoler; are content to sit quietly under Satanís jurisdiction; they choose this bramble to rule over them, though after a while, fire will come out of the bramble to devour them (see Judges 9:15). What an infinite mercy is it when God brings poor souls out of this house of bondage, when he gives them a gaol-delivery from the prince of darkness! Jesus Christ redeems captives, He ransoms sinners by price, and rescues them by force. As David took a lamb out of the lionís mouth (see I Sam. 17:35), so Christ rescues souls out of the mouth of the roaring lion. Oh, what a mercy is it to be brought out of the house of bondage, from captives to the prince of the power of the air, to be made subjects of the Prince of Peace! This is done by the preaching of the Word. "To turn them from the power of Satan unto God" (see Acts 26:18).
(3) The bringing of Israel out of the house of bondage was a type of their being delivered from hell. Hell is domus servitutis, a house of bondage; a house built on purpose for sinners to lie in.
There is such a house of bondage where the damned lie. "The wicked shall be turned into hell" (Ps. 9:17). "How can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matt. 23:33). If any one should ask where this house of bondage is, where is the place of hell? I wish he may never know experimentally. "Let us not so much," says Chrysostom, "labour to know where hell is, as how to escape it." Yet to satisfy curiosity, it may be observed that hell is locus subterraneus, some place beneath. "Hell beneath" (see Prov 15:24). Hesiod says, "Hell is as far under the earth, as heaven is above it." The devils besought Christ "that he would not command them to go out into the deep" (see Luke 8:31). Hell is in the deep.
Why must there be this house of bondage? Why a hell? Because there must be a place for the execution of divine justice. Earthly monarchs have their prison for malefactors, and shall not God have His? Sinners are criminals, they have offended God; and it would not consist with His holiness and justice, to have His laws infringed, and not inflict penalties.
The dreadfulness of the place. Could you but hear the groans and shrieks of the damned for one hour, it would confirm you in the truth, that hell is a house of bondage. Hell is the emphasis of misery. Besides the poena damni, "the punishment of loss", which is the exclusion of the soul from the glorified sight of God, which divines think the worst part of hell, there will be poena sensus, "the punishment of sense". If, when Godís wrath is kindled but a little, and a spark of it flies into a manís conscience in this life, it is so terrible (as in the case of Spira), what will hell itself be?
In hell there will be a plurality of torments, "Bonds and chains" (II Pet. 2:4). There will be the worm (see Mark 9:48). This is the worm of conscience. There will be the lake of fire (see Rev. 20:15). Other fire is but painted to this.
This house of hell is haunted with devils (see Matt 25:41). Anselm says, "I had rather endure all torments, than see the devil with bodily eyes." Such as go to hell must not only be forced to behold the devil, but must be shut up with this lion in his den; they must keep the devil company. He is full of spite against mankind; a red dragon that will spit fire in menís faces.
The torments of hell abide for ever. "The smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever" (Rev. 14:11). Time cannot finish it, tears cannot quench it (see Mark 9:44). The wicked are salamanders, who live always in the fire of hell, and are not consumed. After they have lain millions of years in hell, their punishment is as far from ending, as it was at the beginning. If all the earth and sea were sand, and every thousandth year a bird should come, and take away one grain, it would be a long time before that vast heap would be removed; yet, if after all that time the damned might come out of hell, there would be some hope; but this word forever breaks the heart.
How does it seem to comport with Godís justice to punish a sin committed in a moment, with eternal torment?
Because there is an eternity of sin in manís nature. Because sin is crimen laesae majestatis, "committed against an infinite majesty", and therefore the sin itself is infinite, and proportionally the punishment must be infinite. Because a finite creature cannot bear infinite wrath, he must be eternally satisfying what he can never satisfy. If hell be such a house of bondage, what infinite cause have they to bless God who are delivered from it! Jesus "delivered us from the wrath to come" (II Thess. 1:10). Jesus Christ suffered the torments of hell in His soul, that believers should not suffer them. If we are thankful when we are ransomed out of prison, or delivered from fire, oh, how should we bless God to be preserved from the wrath to come! It may cause more thankfulness in us, seeing the most part go into the house of bondage, even to hell. To be of the number of those few that are delivered from it, is matter of infinite thankfulness. Most, I say, go to that house of bondage when they die; most go to hell. "Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat" (Matt 7: 13). The greatest part of the world lies in wickedness (I John 5:19). Scripture compares the wicked to briers (Isa. 10:17). There are but few lilies in your fields, but in every hedge thorns and briers. It compares them to "the mire in the streets" (Isa. 10:6). Few jewels or precious stones are in the street, but you cannot go a step without meeting with mire. The wicked are as common as the dirt in the street. Look at the generality of people. How many drunkards are there for one that is sober! How many adulterers for one that is chaste! How many hypocrites for one that is sincere! The devil has the harvest, and God a few gleanings only. Oh, then, such as are delivered from the house of bondage, in hell, have infinite cause to admire and bless God. How should the vessels of mercy run over with thankfulness! When most others are carried prisoners to hell, they are delivered from the wrath to come.
How shall I know I am delivered from hell?
(1) Those whom Christ saves from hell He saves from sin. "He shall save his people from their sins" (see Matt 1:21). Has God delivered you from the power of corruption, from pride, malice, and lust? If He has delivered you from the hell of sin, He has delivered you from the hell of torment.
(2) If you have got an interest in Christ, and are prizing, trusting, and loving Him, you are delivered from hell and damnation. "No condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1). If you are in Christ, He has put the garment of his righteousness over you, and hell-fire can never singe it. Pliny observes, nothing will so soon quench fire as salt and blood: the salt tears of repentance and the blood of Christ will quench the fire of hell, so that it shall never kindle upon you.