let the greater burning overcome the lesser -- Thomas Brooks.
Hell is a place of endless, ceaseless, and remediless torment
BY THOMAS BROOKS
But now for the fact, that there is a hell, that there is such a place of misery prepared and appointed for the wicked—I shall briefly demonstrate against the high atheists and Socinians of this day.
[1.] First, God created angels and men after his own image. Man must be so much honored as to be made like God; and no creature must be so much honored as to be made like man. The pattern after which man was made is sometimes called image alone. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him," Gen. 1:27. Sometimes likeness alone: Gen. 5:1, "In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him." Sometimes both: Gen. 1:26, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness;" which makes a prudent interpreter think that when they are joined, that the Holy Spirit means an image most like his own. It is exceeding much for man's honor that he is an epitome of the world, an abridgment of other creatures, partaking with the stones in being, with the stars in motion, with the plants in growing, with the beasts in sense, and with angels in knowledge. But his being made after God's image is far more. You know, when great men erect a stately building, they cause their own picture to be hung upon it, that spectators may know who was the chief builder of it. Just so, when God had created the fabric of this world, the last thing he did was the setting up his own picture in it, creating man after his own image.
When the great Creator went about that noble work, that prime piece of making of man, he does, as it were, call a solemn council of the sacred persons in the Trinity: "And God said, Let us make man in our image," etc., Gen. 1:26. Man before his fall was the best of creatures—but since his fall he is become the worst of creatures. ["Man," says one, "in his creation is angelic; in his corruption diabolical; in his renovation theological; in his translation majestical. Man was angel in Eden, a devil in the world, a saint in the church, a king in heaven.] He who was once the image of God, the glory of Paradise, the world's master, and the Lord's darling, has now become an abomination to God, a burden to heaven, a plague to the world, and a slave to Satan. When man first came out of God's mint, he did shine most gloriously, as being bespangled with holiness and clad with the royal robe of righteousness; his understanding was filled with knowledge; his will with uprightness; his affections with holiness, etc. But yet, being a mutable creature, and subject to temptations, Satan quickly stripped him of his happiness, and cheated and cozened him out of his imperial crown—with an apple.
If God had created angels and men immutable, he had created them gods and not creatures—but being made mutable we know they did fall from their primitive purity and glory; and we know that out of the whole host of angels, he kept some from falling; and when all mankind was fallen, he redeemed some by his Son. Now mark, as he shows mercy upon some in their salvation, so it is fit that he should glorify his justice upon others in their condemnation, Romans 7:21-23. And because there must be distinct places for the exercise of the one and for the execution of the other, which are in God equally infinite by an irreversible decree from the foundation of the world—a glorious habitation was prepared for the one, and a most hideous dungeon for the other. "These shall go into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal," Mat. 25:46. Yes, so certain are both these places, that they were of old prepared for that very purpose. "Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;" and so, "Depart, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels," verse 41.
Look! As God foresaw the different estates and conditions of men and angels, so he provided for them distinct and different places. Doubtless, hell was constituted before angels or men fell. Hell was framed before sin was hatched—just as heaven was formed and fitted before any of the inhabitants were produced. But,
[2.] Secondly, That there is a hell, both the Old and New Testament cloth clearly and fully testify. Take some instances: Psalm 9:17, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." In the Hebrew there are two "intos," "into, into" hell; that is, "The wicked shall certainly be turned into the nethermost hell;" yes, they shall forcibly be turned into the lowest and darkest place in hell. [Sheol is often put for the grave, Psalm 16:10—but not always.] God will, as it were, with both hands thrust him into hell. If Sheol here signify the grave only, what punishment is here threatened to the wicked, which the righteous is not equally liable to? Doubtless, Sheol here is to be taken for that prison or place of torment where divine justice detains all those in hold that have all their days rebelled against him, scorned his Son, despised the means of grace, and died in open rebellion against him.
"The psalmist," says Mollerus, "declares the miserable condition of all those who live and die in their sins—They shall be everlastingly punished." And Musculus reads the place thus: "The souls of the ungodly shall be punished in hell with deserved torments." Certainly, the very place in which the wicked shall lodge and be tormented to all eternity—namely, hell, the bottomless pit, a dungeon of darkness, a lake of fire and brimstone, a fiery furnace,—will extremely aggravate the dolefulness of their condition. O sirs, were all the water in the sea ink, and every blade of grass a pen, and every hair on all the men's heads in the world the hand of a ready writer, all would be too short graphically to delineate the nature of this dungeon, where all lost souls must lodge forever. Where is the man who, to gain a world, would lodge one night in a room that is haunted with devils; and is it nothing to dwell in hell with them forever?
So Solomon, Proverbs 5:5, says of the harlot, "that her feet go down to death, her steps take hold on hell." Here Sheol is translated hell, and in the judgment of Lavater is well translated too: "which," says he, "is spoken not so much of natural death as of spiritual, and that eternal destruction which follows thereupon." And he gives this for a reason why we should understand the place so, because whoredom being an abominable sin, defiling the members of the body of Christ, dissolving and making void the covenant between God and man, must needs be accompanied with an equivalent judgment, even excluding those who are guilty thereof, without repentance, the kingdom of heaven, into which pure and undefiled place no unclean thing can enter. ["By death and hell is in this place meant not only temporal death and the visible grave—but also eternal death and hell itself, even the place of the damned." The Dutch Annotations.]
And mark those words of the apostle, "Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." If men will not judge them, God himself will, and give them a portion of misery answerable to their transgression. [1 Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:27; Heb. 13:4.] Though the magistrate be negligent in punishing them—yet God will judge them. Sometimes he judges them in this life, by pouring forth of his wrath upon their bodies, souls, consciences, names, and estates—but if he does not thus judge them in this life—yet he will be sure to judge them in the life to come; which Bishop Latimer well understood when he presented to Henry the Eighth, for a New-year's gift, a New Testament, with a napkin, having this note on it, "Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge;" yes, he has already adjudged them "to the fiery lake of burning sulfur," Rev. 21:8. "Nothing," says one, "has so much enriched hell as beautiful faces." The Germans have a proverb that "the pavement of hell is made of the skulls of shaved priests and the glorious crests of gallants." Their meaning is, that these sorts of people being most given up to fleshly lusts and pleasures, they shall be sure to have the lowest place in hell. The harlot's feet go down to death, and her steps take hold on hell. Immorality brings men to hell. "Whoremongers shall have their part in fiery lake of burning sulfur," Rev. 21:8. "For fornication and uncleanness the wrath of God comes on the children of disobedience," Col. 3:5-6. The adulterer herself goes there; and is it not fit that her companions in sin should be her companions in misery? "I will cast her into a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation," Rev. 2:22. She hastens with sails and oars to hell, and draws her lovers with her. All her courses tend towards hell. The unchaste are the foundations and upholders of hell; they are the devil's best customers.
Oh, the thousands of men and women who are sent to hell for sexual immorality! Hell would be very thin and empty were it not for these. Other sins are toilsome and troublesome—but sexual immorality is pleasant, and sends men and women merrily to hell.
I have read a story, that one asking the devil which were the greatest sins? he answered, "Covetousness and lust." The other asking again, whether perjury and blasphemy were not greater sins? the devil replied, "that in the schools of divinity they were the greater sins—but for the increase of his revenues the other were the greater." Bede, therefore, styles lust, "the daughter of the devil, which brings forth many children to him." Oh, that all wantons would take that counsel of Bernard, "Let the fire of hell extinguish the fire of lust in you; let the greater burning overcome the lesser," 1 Tim. 5:6. Ponder upon that Proverbs 9:18, "But he knows not that the dead are there, and that her guests are in the depths of hell." Namely, those who are spiritually dead, and who are in the highway to be cut off, either by filthy diseases, or by the rage of the jealous husband, or by the sword of the magistrate, or by some quarrels arising among those who are rivals in the harlot's love, and are as sure to be damned as if they were in hell already. It is a metaphor from a dungeon. He knows not that the dead are there, and that her guests are in the depths of hell. Aben Ezra will have the original word "there," to be referred to hell; and the meaning of the whole verse to be more plainly thus, "He knows not that her guests being dead are in the depth of hell."
But the Hebrew word here used and translated dead, is Rephaim, which word properly signifies giants. The meaning of this place seems to be no other—but that the immoral woman will bring those who are her guests to hell, to keep the apostate giants company,—those mighty men of renown of the old world, whose wickedness was so great in the earth, that it repented and grieved God that he had made man, Gen. 6:4-5; and to take vengeance on whom he brought the general deluge upon the earth, and destroyed both man and beast from the face thereof. These giants are called in Hebrew Nephilim, such as, being fallen from God, fell upon men, and by force and violence made others fall before them, even as the beasts of the field do fall before the roaring lions. These great oppressors were first drowned, and then damned, and sent to that accursed place which was appointed for them. Now to that place and condition, in which they are, the harlot will bring all her wanton lovers.
Take one scripture more: Proverbs 15:11, "Hell and destruction are before the Lord; how much more then the hearts of the children of men." [Destruction is put as an epithet of hell.] Some by Sheol understand the grave, and by Abaddon hell. There is nothing so deep, or secret, that can be hid from the eyes of God. He knows the souls in hell, and the bodies in the grave, and much more men's thoughts here in this place, Proverbs 15:11. The Jews take the word Abaddon, which we render destruction, for Gehenna, that is, elliptically for Beth-Abaddon, the house of destruction.
Though we know not where hell is, nor what is done there—though we know not what is become of those who are destroyed, nor what they suffer—yet God does; and if the secrets of hell and devils are known to him, then much more the secrets of the hearts of the children of men. The devil, who is the great executioner of the wrath of God, is expressed by this word; as hell is called destruction in the abstract, so the devil is called a destroyer in the concrete. "And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, or hell, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon—but in the Greek tongue has his name Apollyon," Rev, 9:11. Both the one and the other, the Hebrew and the Greek, signify the same thing—a destroyer. The devil, who is the jailer of hell, is called a destroyer, as hell itself is called destruction. Oh, sirs! hell is destruction; those who are once there are lost, yes, lost forever, Rev. 14:11. The reason why hell is called destruction, is because those who are cast to hell are undone to all eternity. "If hell," said one, "were to be endured a thousand years, methinks I could bear it—but forever—that astonishes me."
Bellarmine tells us of a learned man, who after his death appeared to his friend, complaining that he was adjudged to hell-torments, which, says he, were they to last but a thousand thousand years, I should think it tolerable—but alas! they are eternal. The fire in hell is like that stone in Arcadia I have read of, which being once kindled, could not be quenched. There is no estate on earth so miserable—but a man may be delivered out of it—but out of hell there is no deliverance. No prayers can rescue any who are once become hell's prisoners! I might add other scriptures out of the Old Testament—but let these suffice.
That there is such a place as hell is, prepared for the torment of the bodies and souls of wicked and impenitent sinners, is most clear and evident in the New Testament as well as in the Old. Among the many that might be produced, take these for a taste: Mat. 5:22, "Whoever shall say, You fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." "You fool," the word signifies unsavory, or without relish; a fool here is, by a metaphor, called insipid, Hebrew, Sote, which we call Sot.
"Shall be in danger of hell-fire," or to be cast into Gehenna. Gehenna comes from the Hebrew word Gettinnom, that is, the valley of Hinnom, lying near the city of Jerusalem; in which valley, in former times, the idolatrous Jews caused their children to be burned alive between the glowing arms of the brazen image of Moloch, imitating the abominations of the heathen, Josh. 15:8. And hence the Scripture often makes use of that word to signify the place of eternal punishment, where the damned must abide under the wrath of God forever, 2 Kings 23:10; Jer. 7:31, 32:35, and 19:4- 6.
There were four kinds of punishments exercised among the Jews—
2. The sword;
4. The fire.
Now this last they always judged the worst. In these words, "shall be in danger of hell-fire," Christ alludes to the highest degree of punishment that was inflicted by them, namely, to be burned in the valley of Hinnom, which, by a known metaphor, is transferred to hell itself, and the inexpressible torments thereof. For as those poor wretches being inclosed in a brazen idol, heated with fire, were miserably tormented in this valley of Hinnom; so the wicked being cast into hell, the prison of the damned, shall be eternally tormented in unquenchable fire. This valley of Hinnom, by reason of the pollution of it with slaughter, blood, and stench of carcasses, did become so execrable, that hell itself did afterwards inherit the same name, and was called Gehenna of this very place. And that,
1. In respect of the hollowness and depth thereof, being a low and deep valley.
2. This valley of Hinnom was a place of misery, in regard of those many slaughters that were committed in it through their barbarous idolatry; so hell is a place of misery and sorrowfulness, wherein there is nothing but sorrow.
3. Thirdly, by the bitter and lamentable cries of poor infants in this valley, is shadowed out the cries and lamentable torments of the damned in hell.
4. In this valley of Hinnom was another fire which was kept continually burning for the consuming of dead carcasses, and filth, and the garbage that came out of the city. Now our Savior, by the fire of Gehenna, in Mat. 5:22, has reference principally to this fire, signifying hereby the perpetuity and everlastingness of hellish pains. To this last judgment of burning, does Christ appropriate that kind of open reviling of a brother, that he might notify the heinousness of that sin.
See also Mat. 5:29-30, "If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell-fire." Julian, taking these commands literally, mocked at the Christian religion, as foolish, cruel, and vain, because they require men to maim their members. He mocked at Christians because no man did it; and he mocked at Christ because no man obeyed him. But this apostate might have seen from the scope that these words were not to be taken literally—but figuratively. Some of the ancients, by the right hand, and the right eye, do understand relations, friends, or any other dear enjoyments which draws the heart from God. Others of them, by the right eye, and the right hand, do understand such darling sins which are as dear to men as their right eyes or right hands. That this hell here spoken of is not meant of the grave, into which the body shall be laid, is most evident, because those Christians who do pull out their right eyes, and cut off their right hands—that is, mortify those special sins which are as dear and near to them as the very members of their bodies—shall be secured and delivered from this hell, whereas none shall be exempt from the grave, though they are the choicest people on earth for grace and holiness.
Death knows no difference between robes and rags, between prince and peasant. "All flesh is grass," Isaiah 40:6. The flesh of princes, nobles, counselors, generals, etc., is grass, as well as the flesh of the lowest beggar that walks the streets. "The mortal scythe," says one, "is master of the royal scepter, it mows down the lilies of the crown, as well as the grass of the field." Never was there orator so eloquent, nor monarch so potent, who could either persuade or withstand the stroke of death when it came! Death's motto is, "I spare none!" It is one of Solomon's sacred aphorisms, "The rich and the poor meet together," Proverbs 22:2, sometimes in the same bed, sometimes at the same board, and sometimes in the same grave. Death is the common inn of all mankind. "There is no defense against the stroke of death, nor no discharge in that war," Heb. 9:27; Eccles. 8:8. Death is that only king against whom there is resistance, Proverbs 30:31. If your houses be on fire, by good help they may be quenched; if the flood breaks out, by art and industry it may be repaired; if princes invade by power and policy, they may be repulsed; if devils from hell shall tempt, by assistance from heaven they may be resisted. But death comes into royal palaces, and into the poorest cottages, and there is not a man to be found, who can make resistance against this king of terrors and terror of kings.
Thus you see that by hell in Mat. 5:29-30, you may not, you cannot, understand the grave; and therefore by it you must understand the place of the damned.
But if you please you may cast your eye upon another scripture, namely, Mat. 10:28, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." We should not fear man at all—when he stands in competition with God. Just so, Victorian, the proconsul of Carthage, being solicited to Arianism by the ambassadors of King Hunnerick, answered thus, "Being assured of God and my Lord Christ, I tell you, what you may tell the king, Let him burn me, let him drive me to the beasts, let him torment me with all kinds of torments, I shall never consent to be an Arian!" And though the tyrant afterwards did torture him with very great tortures—yet he could never force him over to Arianism. The best remedy against the slavish fear of tyrants, is to set that great God up as the object of our fear, who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Mark, Jesus does not say to destroy soul and body simply or absolutely, so that they should be no more—but to punish them eternally in hell, where the worm never dies, nor the fire ever goes out. Now by hell in Mat. 10:28, the grave cannot be meant, because the soul is not destroyed with the body in the grave, as they both shall be, if the person be wicked, after the morning of the resurrection, in hell, Eccles. 12:7, and Phil. 1:3.
From the immortality of the soul, we may infer the eternity of man's future condition. The soul being immortal, it must be immortally happy or immortally miserable.
Take one scripture more, namely, 1 Pet. 3:19-20, "By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; which once were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah." [Spirits, that is, the souls departed, not men—but spirits, to keep an analogy to the 18th verse, Christ suffered, being made dead in the flesh, and made alive by the Spirit; in which Spirit he had gone and preached to those who are now spirits in prison, because they disobeyed, when the time was, when the patience of God once waited in the days of Noah.] That is, Christ by his Spirit, in the ministry of Noah, did preach to the men of the old world, who are now in hell. In Noah's time they were on earth—but in Peter's time they were in hell. Mark, Christ did not preach by his Spirit, in his ministry, or any other way, to spirits who were in prison or in hell while he preached to them. There are no sermons in hell, nor any salvation there. The loving-kindness of God is abundantly declared on earth—but it shall never be declared in hell. Look, as there is nothing felt in hell but destruction, so there is nothing found in hell of the offers of salvation. One offer of Christ in hell would turn hell into a heaven!
One of the ancients has reported the opinion of some in his time who thought, that though there is destruction in hell—yet not eternal destruction—but that sinners should be punished, some a lesser, others a longer time, and that, at last, all shall be freed. "And yet," says he, "Origen was more merciful in that point than these men, for he held that the devil himself should be saved at last." Of this opinion I shall say no more in this place, than this one thing which he there said. These men will be found to err by so much the more foully, and against the right words of God so much the more perversely, by how much they seem to themselves to judge more mercifully; for indeed the justice of God in punishing of sinners is as much above the reach of man's thoughts—as his mercies in pardoning them are, Isaiah 55:7-9. Oh, let not such who have neglected the great salvation when they were on earth, Heb. 2:3, ever expect to have an offer of salvation made to them when they are in hell! Consult these scriptures, Mat. 25:30, 13:41-42; Rev. 9:2, 14:19-20, 20:1-3, 7. I must make haste, and therefore may not stand upon the opening of these scriptures, having said enough already to prove both out of the Old and New Testament that there is a hell, a place of torment, provided and prepared for all wicked and ungodly men. But the third argument to prove that there is a hell, is this,
[3.] The beams of natural light in some of the heathens have made such impressions on the heart of natural conscience, that several of them have had confused notions of a hell, as well as of a judgment to come. Though the poor blind heathens were ignorant of Christ and the gospel, and the great work of redemption, etc.—yet by the light of nature, and reasonings from thence, they did attain to the understanding of a deity, who was both just and good; as also, that the soul was immortal, and that both rewards and punishments were prepared for the souls of men after this life, according as they were found either virtuous or wicked. Profound Bradwardine, and several others, have produced many proofs concerning their apprehensions of hell, of wrath to come. What made the heathen Emperor Adrian when he lay a-dying, cry out, "O my little wretched wandering soul, where are you now hastening? Oh, what will become of me! Live I cannot, die I dare not!" Look, as these poor heathens did imagine such a place as the Elysian fields, where the virtuous should spend an eternity in pleasures; so also they did feign a place called Tartarum, or hell, where the wicked should be eternally tormented. Tertullian, and after him Chrysostom, affirms that poets and philosophers, and all sorts of men, speaking of a future retribution, have said that many are punished in hell. Plato is very plain, that the profane shall go into hell to be tormented for their wickednesses, with the greatest, most bitter and terrible punishments, forever in that prison in hell.
And Jupiter, speaking to the other gods concerning the Grecians and Trojans, says— If any shall so hardy be, To aid each part in spite of me; Him will I tumble down to hell, In that infernal place to dwell.
So Horace, speaking concerning Jove's thunderbolts, says— With which earth, seas, the Stygian lake, And hell with all her furies quake.
And Trismegistus affirms concerning the soul's going out of the body defiled, that it is tossed to and fro with eternal punishments. Nor was Virgil ignorant thereof when he said— They all shall pack, Sentence once past, to their deserved rack.
The horror of which place he acknowledges he could not express, No heart of man can think, no tongue can tell, The direful pains ordained and felt in hell.
It was the common opinion among the poor heathen that the wicked were held in chains by Pluto—so they called the prince of devils—in chains which cannot be loosed. To conclude, the very Turks speak of the house of perdition, and affirm that they who have turned the grace of God into impiety, shall abide eternally in the fire of hell, and there be eternally tormented. I might have spent much more time upon this head—but that I do not judge it expedient, considering the people for whose sakes and satisfaction I have sent this piece into the world. But,
[4.] Fourthly, The secret checks, gripes, stings, and the amazing horrors and terrors of CONSCIENCE, which sometimes astonish, affright, and even distract sinful wretches—do clearly and abundantly evidence that there is a hell, that there is a place of torment prepared and appointed for ungodly sinners. ["Every man is tormented with his own conscience," says the philosopher.] Doubtless, it was not merely the dissolution of nature—but the sad consequences, which so startled and terrified Belshazzar when he saw the handwriting on the wall, Dan. 5:5-6. Guilty man, when conscience is awakened, fears an after-reckoning, when he shall be paid the wages of his sins, proportionate to his demerits.
Wolfius tells you of one John Hufmeister, who fell sick in his inn as he was traveling towards Augsburg in Germany, and grew to that horror that they had to bind him in his bed with chains, where he cried out that "he was for ever cast off from before the face of God, and should perish forever, he having greatly wounded his conscience by sin," etc.
James Abyes, who suffered martyrdom for Christ's sake and the gospel's, as he was going along to execution he gave all his money and his clothes away to one, and another to his shirt, upon which one of the sheriff's attendants scoffingly said that "he was a madman and a heretic;" but as soon as the godly man was executed this wretch was struck mad, and threw away his clothes, and cried out that "James Abyes was a godly man, and gone to heaven—but he was a wicked man, and was damned!" And thus he continued crying out until his death.
Dionysius was so troubled with fear and horror of conscience, that, not daring to trust his best friends with a razor, he used to singe his beard with burning coals—says Cicero.
Bessus having slain his father, and being afterwards banqueting with several nobles, arose from the table and beat down a swallow's nest which was in the chimney, saying they lied "to say that he slew his father," for his guilty conscience made him think that the swallows, when they chattered, proclaimed his parricide to the world.
Theodoricus the king having slain Boetius and Symmachus, and being afterwards at dinner, began to change countenance, his guilty conscience so blinding his eyes that he thought the head of a fish which stood before him to have been the head of his cousin Symmachus, who bit at him and threatened him, the horror whereof did so amaze him, that he presently died.
Nero, that monster of nature, having once slain his mother, had never more any peace within—but was plagued with horrors, fears, visions, and clamors which his guilty conscience set before him and suggested unto him. He suspected his nearest and dearest friends and favorites, he trembled at the barking of a puppy, and the crowing of a rooster, yes, the shaking of a leaf, and neither dared speak unto others nor could endure others to speak to him, when he was retired into a private house, lest the noise should be heard by some who lay in wait for his life.
Now were there not a hell, were there not a place of torment where God will certainly inflict unspeakable miseries and intolerable torments upon wicked and ungodly men, why should their consciences thus plague, torture, and torment them? Yes, the very heathen had so much light in their natural consciences, as made such a discovery of that place of darkness, that some of them have been terrified with their own inventions concerning it, and distracted with the very sense of those very torments which they themselves have described. The very flashes of hell-fire which sinners daily experience in their own consciences—may be an argument sufficient to satisfy those who there is a hell, a place of torment provided for them in the eternal world.
[5.] Fifthly, Those matchless, easeless, and endless torments that God will certainly inflict upon the bodies and souls of all wicked and ungodly men, after the resurrection, does sufficiently evidence that there is a hell—that there is a place of torment provided, prepared, and fitted by God, wherein he will, "pour forth all the vials of his wrath upon wicked and ungodly men."
Isaiah 30:33, "Topheth has long been prepared. Its fire pit has been made deep and wide, with an abundance of fire and wood; the breath of the Lord, like a stream of burning sulfur, sets it ablaze." This place that was so famous for judgment and vengeance is used to express the torments of hell, the place of the damned. Tophet was a place in the valley of Hinnom; it was the place where the angel of the Lord destroyed the host of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, Isaiah 30:31, 33; and this was the place where the idolatrous Jews were slain and massacred by the Babylonian armies, when their city was taken and their carcasses left, for lack of room for burial, for food for the fowls of heaven and beasts of the field, according to the word of the Lord by the prophet Jeremiah, Jer. 7:31-33, and 19:4-6. And this was the place where the children of Israel committed that abominable idolatry in making their children pass through the fire to Moloch; that is—burnt them to the devil, 2 Kings 23:10; 2 Chron. 33:6. Therefore king Josiah polluted it, and made it a place execrable, ordaining it to be the garbage dump where dead carcasses, rubbish, and other unclean things should be cast out. For consuming whereof, to prevent annoyance, a continual fire was there burning, 2 Kings 33:8. Now this place, being so many ways execrable for what had been done therein, especially having been as it were the gate to eternal destruction, by so remarkable judgments and vengeance of God there executed for sin, it came to be translated to signify the place of the damned—as the most accursed, execrable, and abominable place of all places.
The Spirit of God, in Scripture, by metaphors of all sorts of things which are dreadful unto sense—sets forth the condition of the damned, and the torments that he has reserved for them in the life to come. Hell's punishments do infinitely exceed all other punishments, that there is no pain so extreme—as that of the damned. Look, as there are no joys which can compare to the joys of heaven, so there are no pains which can compare to the pains of hell, Psalm 116:3. All the cruelties in the world cannot possibly make up any horror comparable to the horrors of hell. The brick-kilns of Egypt, the furnace of Babylon—are but as a fleeting spark—compared to this tormenting Tophet which has been prepared of old to punish the bodies and souls of sinners with. Hanging, racking, burning, scourging, stoning, sawing asunder, flaying of the skin, etc., are not to be compared with the tortures of hell. If all the pains, sorrows, miseries, and calamities which have been inflicted upon all men, since Adam fell in Paradise, should meet together and center in one man--they would not so much as amount to one of the least of the pains of hell.
Who can sum up the diversity of torments which are in hell!
1. In hell there is darkness; hell is a dark region.
2. In hell there are sorrows!
3. In hell there are bonds and chains!
4. In hell there are pains and pangs!
5. In hell there is the worm that never dies!
6. In hell there is a lake of fire!
7. In hell there is a furnace of fire!
8. In hell there is the devil and his demons! And oh, how dreadful must it be to be shut up forever with those roaring lions!
9. In hell there is weeping and gnashing of teeth! [Jude 13; Psalm 116:3; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6; Mark 9:44; Rev. 20:15; Mat. 13:41-42, 25:41, 24:51, 25:30, 13:42.]
10. In hell there is unquenchable fire! Mat. 3:12, "He will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire;" in hell there is "everlasting burnings." "The sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling grips the godless—Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?" Isaiah 33:14 Wicked men, who are now the only jolly fellows of the time, shall one day go from burning to burning; from burning in sin to burning in hell; from burning in flames of lusts to burning in flames of torment, except there be found true repentance on their sides, and pardoning grace on God's. [Gen. 4:17; Amos 6:7; Job 21:12; Dan. 5:21; Amos 6:4.]
O sirs! in this devouring fire, in these everlasting burnings, Cain shall find no cities to build, nor shall his posterity have any instruments of music to invent there; none shall take up the timbrel or harp, or rejoice at the sound of the organ. There Belshazzar cannot drink wines in bowls, nor eat the lambs out of the flocks, nor the calves out of the midst of the stall. In everlasting burnings there will be no merry company to pass time away, nor any dice or cards to pass care away. Nor shall there be bottles of wine wherein to drown the sinner's grief. By fire in the scriptures last cited, is meant, as I conceive, all the positive part of the torments of hell; and because they are not only upon the soul but also upon the body. As in heaven there shall be all bodily perfection, so there shall be also in hell all bodily miseries. Whatever may make a man perfectly miserable shall be in hell; therefore the wrath of God and all the positive effects of this wrath is here meant by fire.
I have read of Pope Clement the Fifth, that when a nephew of his, whom he had loved sensually and sinfully, died, he sent one to a necromancer to learn how it fared with him in the other world. The conjuror showed him the nephew lying in a fiery bed in hell; which when it was told the Pope, he never more joyed after it—but, within a short time after, died also. Out of this fiery bed there is no deliverance. When a sinner is in hell, shall another Christ be found to die for him, or will the same Christ be crucified again? Oh, no!
O sirs, the torments of hell will be exceeding great and dreadful, such as will make the stoutest sinners to quake and tremble! If the handwriting upon the wall, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin, made Belshazzar's "countenance to change, his thoughts to be troubled, and his joints to be loosed, and his knees to knock one against another," Dan. 5:5, 6:25. Oh, how terrible will the torments of hell be to the damned! The torments of hell will be universal torments. All torments meet together in that place of torment. Hell is the center of all punishments, of all sorrows, of all pains, of all wrath, and of all vengeance, etc.
One of the ancients says that, "the least punishment in hell is more grievous than if a child-bearing woman should continue in the most violent pangs and throes a thousand years together, without the least ease or intermission."
A heathen poet, speaking of the multitude of the pains and torments of the wicked in hell, affirmed, "that although he had a hundred mouths, and as many tongues, with a voice as strong as iron—yet were they not able to express the names of them." But this poet spoke more like a prophet, than a poet. The poets tell you of a place called Tartarum, or hell, where the impious shall be eternally tormented. This Tartarum the poets did set forth with many fictions to affright people from wicked practices, such as of the four lakes of Acheron, Styx, Phlegethon, and Cocytus; over which Charon, in his boat, did waft over the departed souls. They also tell of the three judges, Aeacus, Minos, and Rhadamanthus, who were to call the souls to an account, and judge them to their state. They also tell of the three furies, Tisophone, Megaera, and Alecto, who lashed guilty souls to extort confession from them. They also tell of Cerberus, the dog of hell, with three heads, which would let none come out when once they were in. They also tell of several sorts of punishments inflicted, as iron chains, horrid stripes, gnawing of vultures, wheels, rolling great stones, and the like. In the chapel of Ticam, the China Pluto, the pains of hell were so pictured, that they could not but strike terror into the beholders—some roasted in iron beds, some fried in scalding oil, some cut in pieces, or divided in the middle, or torn by dogs, etc. In another part of the chapel were painted the dungeons of hell, with horrible serpents, flames, devils, etc.
"In hell," says one "there is the floor of brimstone, smoky, pitchy, with stinking flames, deep pits of scalding pitch, and sulphurous flames wherein the damned are punished daily." There the wicked shall be fed with the tree Ezecum, which shall burn in their bellies like fire; there they shall drink fire, and be held in chains. In the midst of hell, they say, is a tree full of fruit, every apple being like to the head of a devil, which grows green in the midst of all those flames, called the tree of bitterness; and the souls that shall eat thereof, thinking to refresh themselves, shall so find them, and by them and their pains in hell, they shall grow mad; and the devils shall bind them with chains of fire, and shall drag them up and down in hell; with much more which I am not free to transcribe.
Now, although most of those things which you may find among many poets, heathens, and Turks, concerning the torments of hell, are fictions of their own brains—yet that there is such a place as hell, and that there are diversity of torments there, the very light of nature does witness, and has forced many to confess, etc.
And as there are diversity of torments in hell, so the torments of hell are everlasting. Mark, everything that is conducible to the torments of the damned is eternal.
1. God himself, who damns them, is eternal, Deut. 33:27; 1 Tim. 1:17.
2. The fire which torments them is eternal, Isaiah 30:33, and 66:24; Jude 7.
3. The prison and chains which hold them are eternal, Jude 6-7, 13; 2 Pet. 2:17.
4. The worm which gnaws them is eternal, Mark 9:44. 5.
5. The sentence which shall be passed upon them, shall be eternal, Mat. 25:41, "Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire."
You know that fire is the most tormenting element. Oh, the most dreadful impression that it makes upon the flesh—everlasting fire! There is the vengeance and continuance of it—You shall go into fire, into everlasting fire—which shall never consume itself, nor consume you. The eternity of hell—is the hell of hell.
The fire in hell is like that stone in Arcadia, which being once kindled could never be quenched. If all the fires which ever were, or which be in the world, were contracted into one fire—how terrible would it be! Yet such a fire would be but as a painted fire—compared to the fire of hell. For to be tormented without end, this is that which goes beyond all the bounds of desperation. Grievous is the torment of the damned, for the bitterness of the punishments—but it is more grievous for the diversity of the punishments—but most grievous for the eternity of the punishments! If, after so many millions of years as there are drops in the ocean, there might be a deliverance out of hell, this would yield a little ease, a little comfort to the damned. Oh—but this word Eternity! Eternity! Eternity! this word Everlasting! Everlasting! Everlasting! this word Forever! Forever! Forever! will even break the hearts of the damned in ten thousand pieces!
Oh, that word 'never', said a poor despairing creature on his deathbed, breaks my heart. "The reprobate shall have punishment without pity; misery without mercy, sorrow without support, crying without compassion, mischief without measure, and torment without end," (Drexelius.) Plato could say, "That the profane shall go into hell, to be tormented for their wickedness, with the greatest, the most bitter and terrible punishments, forever in that prison of hell." And Trismegistus could say, "That souls going out of the body defiled, were tossed to and fro with eternal punishments." Yes, the very Turks, speaking of the house of perdition, do affirm, "That they who have turned God's grace into wantonness, shall abide eternally in the fire of hell, and there be eternally tormented."
A certain man going to visit Olympius, who lived cloistered up in a dark cell, which he thought uninhabitable, by reason of heat, and swarms of gnats and flies, and asking him how he could endure to live in such a place, he answered, "All this is but a light matter, that I may escape eternal torments: I can endure the stinging of gnats, that I might not endure the stinging of conscience, and the gnawing of that worm that never dies; this heat you think grievous, I can easily endure, when I think of the eternal fire of hell; these sufferings are but short—but the sufferings of hell are eternal." [There is no Christian which does not believe the fire of hell to be everlasting. Jackson]
Certainly, infernal fire is neither tolerable nor terminable. Impenitent sinners in hell shall have end without end, death without death, night without day, mourning without mirth, sorrow without solace, and bondage without liberty. The damned shall live as long in hell as God himself shall live in heaven. Their imprisonment in that land of darkness, in that bottomless pit, is not an imprisonment during the king's pleasure—but an imprisonment during the everlasting displeasure of the King of kings.
Suppose that the whole world were turned to a mountain of sand, and that a little bird should come once every thousand years and carry away from that heap, one grain of sand. What an infinite number of years, not to be numbered by all finite beings, would be spent before this great mountain of sand would be fetched away! Just so—if a man should lie in everlasting burnings so long a time as this, and then have an end of his woe—it would give some ease, some hope, and some comfort to him. But when that immortal bird shall have carried away this great mountain of sand—a thousand times over and over—alas, alas, sinful man shall be as far from the end of his anguish and torment as ever he was! He shall be no nearer coming out of hell, than he was the very first moment that he entered into hell! If the fire of hell were terminable, it might be tolerable—but being endless, it must needs be easeless, and remediless. We may well say of it, as one does, "Oh, killing life! oh, immortal death!"
Suppose, say others, that a man were to endure the torments of hell as many years, and no more, as there be sands on the sea-shore, drops of water in the sea, stars in heaven, leaves on trees, blades of grass on the ground, hairs on the heads of every person who ever was, or shall be in the world, from the beginning of it to the end of it—yet he would comfort himself with this poor thought, "Well, there will come a day when my misery and torment shall certainly have an end." But woe and alas, this word, "Forever! Forever! Forever!" will fill the hearts of the damned with the greatest horror and terror, anger and rage, bewilderment and astonishment.
Suppose, say others, that the torments of hell were to end, after a little bird should have emptied the sea, and only carry out one drop once in a thousand years.
Suppose, say others, that the whole world, from the lowest earth to the highest heavens, were filled with grains of sand, and once in a thousand years an angel should fetch away one grain, and so continue until the whole heap were gone.
Suppose, say others, if one of the damned in hell, should weep after this manner, namely—that he should only let fall one tear in a thousand years; and these tears should be kept together, until such time as they should equal the water in the sea. How many millions of ages would pass! And when that were done, that he must weep again after the same manner, until he had filled a second, a third, and a fourth sea!
If then there should be an end of their miseries, there would be some hope, some comfort, that they would end at last. But that they shall never, never, never end—this is that which sinks them under the most tormenting terrors and horrors.
You know that the extremity and eternity of hellish torments is set forth by the worm which never dies. And it is observable that Christ, at the close of his sermon, makes a threefold repetition of this worm: Mark 9:44, "where their worm never dies;" and again, verse 46, "where their worm never dies;" and again, verse 48, "where their worm never dies, and their fire never goes out." Certainly, those punishments are beyond all conception and expression, which our Lord Jesus does so often inculcate within so small a space.
Now if there be such a diversity, extremity, and eternity of hellish pains and torments, which the great God will certainly inflict upon the bodies and souls of all impenitent people, after the day of judgment; then there must certainly be some hell, some place of torment, wherein the wrath of God shall be executed upon wicked and ungodly men. But,
[6.] Sixthly, The greatest part of wicked and ungodly men escape unpunished in this present world. The greatest number of ungodly people spend their days in pride, ease, pleasures, and delights, in lust and luxury, in voluptuousness and wantonness. "For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. They say, 'How can God know? Does the Most High have knowledge?' This is what the wicked are like—always carefree, they increase in wealth." Psalms 73:3-12
"Why do the wicked continue to live, growing old and becoming powerful? Their homes are secure and free of fear; no rod from God strikes them. Their children skip about, singing to the tambourine and lyre and rejoicing at the sound of the flute. They spend their days in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace. Yet they say to God: Leave us alone! We don't want to know Your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him?" Job 21:7-15
God does not punish all here on earth, that he may make way for the displaying of his mercy and goodness, his patience and forbearance. Nor does he forbear all here, that he may manifest his justice and righteousness, lest the world should turn atheist, and deny his providence, Romans 2:4-5; 2 Pet. 3:9-15. He spares that he may punish, and he punishes that he may spare. God smites some sinners in the very acting of their sins, as he did Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and others, Num. 16; not until they have filled up the measure of their sins, as you see in the men of the old world, Gen. 6:5-7. But the greatest number of sinners God reserves for the great day of his wrath, Mat. 7:13.
There is a sure punishment, though not always a present punishment, for every sinner, Eccles. 8:12-13. Those wicked people which God allows to go uncorrected here, he reserves to be punished forever hereafter, 2 Thes. 1:7-10. Sinners, know your doom—you must either smart for your sins in this world, or in the world to come. Augustine hit the mark when he said, "Many sin are punished in this world, who the providence of God might be more apparent; and many, yes, most, reserved to be punished in the world to come, that we might know that there is yet judgment behind."
Sir James Hamilton, having been murdered by the Scottish king—he appeared to the king in a vision, with a naked sword drawn, and strikes off both his arms, with these words, "Take this, before you receive a final payment for all your impieties;" and within twenty-four hours—two of the king's sons died. If the glutton in that historical parable being in hell, Luke 16:22-24, only in part, namely, in soul—yet cried out that he "was horribly tormented in that flame," what shall that torment be, when body and soul come to be united for torture! It being just with God, that as they have been, like Simeon and Levi, brethren in iniquity, and have sinned together desperately and impenitently, so they should suffer together jointly, eternally, Gen. 49:5.
The Hebrew doctors have a pretty parable to this purpose: A man planted an orchard, and going from home, was careful to leave such watchmen as both might keep it from strangers and not deceive him themselves; therefore he appointed one blind—but strong of his limbs, and the other seeing—but a cripple. These two, in their master's absence, conspired together; and the blind man took the lame man on his shoulders, and so gathered and stole the fruit. Their master returning, and finding out this subtlety, punished them both together. Just so, shall it be with those two sinful yoke-fellows, the soul and the body, in the great day; they have sinned together, and they shall suffer at last together, 2 Cor. 5:10-11.
But now, in this world the greatest number of transgressors do commonly escape all sorts of punishments; and therefore we may safely conclude that there is another world, wherein the righteous God will revenge upon the bodies and souls of sinners the high dishonors that have been done to his name by them. But,
[7.] Seventhly, In all things natural, and supernatural, there is an opposition and contrariety. There is good, and there is evil; there is light and darkness, joy and sorrow. Now as there are two distinct ways, so there are two distinct ends:
1. Heaven, a place of admirable and inexpressible happiness, where the holy angels convoy the souls of the saints who have, by a holy life, glorified God, and adorned their profession, Luke 16:22.
2. Hell, a place of horror and confusion, where the evil angels hurry the souls of wicked, incorrigible, and impenitent wretches, when they are once separated from their bodies. "The rich man also died and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments," Luke 16:22-23.
"And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal," Mat. 25:46. In these words we have described the different estate of the wicked and the righteous after judgment, "They shall go away into everlasting punishment—but these into life eternal." After the sentence is past, the wicked go into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal. Everlasting punishment, the end thereof is not known, its duration is infinite. Hell is a bottomless pit, and therefore shall never be fathomed. It is an unquenchable fire, and therefore the smoke of their torments ascends forever and ever, Rev. 14:11. Hell is a prison from whence is no escape, because there is no ransom to be paid. No price will be accepted for one in that estate. And as there is no end of the punishments of hell, into which the wicked must enter, so there is no end of the joys of heaven, into which the saints must enter.
"In your presence is fullness of joy, and at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore," Psalm 16:11. Here is as much said as can be said. For quality, there is in heaven joy and pleasures; for quantity, a fullness, a torrent; for constancy, it is at God's right hand; and for perpetuity, it is for evermore. The joys of heaven are without measure, mixture, or end.
Thus you see that there are two distinct ends, two distinct places, to which the wicked and the righteous go. And, indeed, if this were not so, then the bloody Nero would be as blessed a man as Paul, and Esau as happy a man as Jacob, and Cain as blessed a man as Abel. Then as believers say, "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable," 1 Cor. 15:19; because none out of hell ever suffered more, if so much, as the saints have done. So might the wicked say, "If in this life only we were miserable, we were then of all men most happy." But,
[8.] Eighthly, and lastly, You know that all the princes of the world, for their greater grandeur and state, as they have their royal palaces for themselves, their nobles and attendants; so they also have their jails, prisons, and dark dungeons for rogues and robbers, for malefactors and traitors. And shall not he who is the King of kings and Lord of lords, Rev. 19:16; he who is the Prince of the kings of the earth, Rev. 1:5; he who removes kings and sets up kings, Dan. 2:21; shall not he have his royal palace, a glorious heaven, where he and all his noble attendants, angels, and saints shall live forever? Shall not the great king have his royal and magnificent court in that upper world, as poor petty princes have theirs in this lower world? Surely he shall, as you may see by comparing these scriptures. [Eph. 2:3 John 14:1-4 Luke 12:32; Neh. 9:6; 1 Kings 8:27; Heb. 8:1; Rev. 3:21.]
And shall not the same great King have his hell, his prison, his dungeon, to secure and punish impenitent sinners in? Surely yes! And doubtless, the least glimpse of this hell, of this place of torment, would strike the proudest, and the stoutest sinners dead with horror. O sirs! those who have seen the flames, and heard the roarings of Mount Etna, the flashing of Vesuvius, the thundering and burning flakes evaporating from those lava rocks, have not yet seen, no, not so much as the very glimmering of hell. A painted fire is a better shadow of these, than these can be of hell torments, and the miseries of the damned therein!
Now these eight arguments are sufficient to demonstrate that there is a hell, a place of torment, to which the wicked shall be sent at last. Now certainly, Socinians, atheists, and all others who are men of corrupt minds, and that believe that there is no hell—but what they carry about with them in their own consciences; these are worse than those poor Indians, who believe that there are thirteen hells, according to the differing demerits of men's sins; yes, they are worse than devils, for they believe and tremble, James 2:19. The original word seems to imply an extreme fear, which causes not only tremblings—but also a roaring and shrieking out. Their hearts ache and quake within them, they quiver and shake as men do when their teeth chatter in their heads in extreme cold weather, Mark 6:49, and Acts 16:29.
The devils acknowledge four articles of our faith: Mat. 8:29, "And behold, they cried out, saying—Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?"
1. They acknowledge God;
2. They acknowledge Christ;
3. They acknowledge the day of judgment;
4. That they shall be tormented then.
Those who scorn the day of judgment are worse than devils; and they who deny the deity of Christ are worse than devils. The devils are, as it were, for a time respited and reprieved, in respect of full torment, and they are allowed as free prisoners to flutter in the air, and to course about the earth until the great day of the Lord, which they tremble to think on. But those who mock at, or make light of the day of judgment, are worse than devils. The devils knew that torments were prepared for them, and a time when these torments shall be fully and fatally inflicted on them, and they were loath to suffer before that time. Ah, sirs, shall not men tremble to deny what the devils are forced to confess! Shall I now make a few short INFERENCES from what has been said, and so conclude this head?
1. First, then, Oh labor to set up God as the great object of your fear. This grand lesson Christ commands us to take out, "Fear not those who kill the body—but are not able to kill the soul—but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell; yes, I say unto you, fear him!" Mat. 10:28. Christ doubles the precept, that it might stick with more life and power upon us, Luke 12:5. As one fire drives out another, so one fear drives out another. Both the punishment of loss and the punishment of sense may be the objects of a filial fear—the fear of a son, of a saint, of a soul who is espoused and married to Christ. The fear of God, and the fear of sin, will drive out the fear of death, and the fear of hell, 2 Cor. 11:2; Hos. 2:19-20.
O sirs, will you not fear that God who has the keys of hell and death in his own hand, who can speak you into hell at pleasure, who can by a word of command bring you to dwell with a devouring fire, yes, to dwell with everlasting burnings? Rev. 1:18.
Ah, friends, will you fear a burning fever, and will you not fear a burning in hell? Will you fear when your house is on fire, and when the bed you lie on is on fire, though it may be quenched; and will you not fear that fire which is unquenchable? Isaiah 33:14. When men run through the streets and cry, Fire! fire! fire! how do your hearts quake and tremble in you. And will you not fear the fire of hell? Will you not fear everlasting fire? Mat. 3:12, 25:41.
Sir Francis Bacon, in his history, relates how it was a byword of Cordes, who was a profane, popish, atheistical French Lord, that he could be content to lie seven years in hell, so he might win Calais from the English. But had this popish Lord lain but seven minutes under unsupportable torments, he would quickly have repented of his mad bargain. It was good counsel which Bernard gave, "Let us go into hell while we are alive, by a serious meditation and holy consideration, that we may not go into it when we be dead, by real miseries."
God can kill, and more than that, he can cast into hell. Here is both temporal and eternal destruction, both rods and scorpions. He can kill the body, and then damn both body and soul, and cast them into hell. Therefore it behooves every person to set up God as the great object of their fear. "Yes, I say unto you, fear him! Yes, I say unto you, fear him!" This redoubling of the speech adds a greater enforcement to the admonition. It is like the last stroke of the hammer, that rivets and drives up all to the head. Thus David uses this reinforcement, "You, even you, are to be feared; who may stand in your sight when you are angry—you can look them to death, yes, to hell," Psalm 76:7.
O sirs, temporal judgments are but the smoke of his anger—but in hell there are the flames of his anger! That fire burns fiercely, and there is no quenching of it. Thus said the martyr, "You threaten bonds and imprisonments, O emperor—but God's threatenings are much more terrible. He threatens hell torments and everlasting damnation!" Certainly, where there is the greatest danger, there it is fit that there should be the greatest dread. But,
2. Secondly, Then flee from the wrath to come! "Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?" Luke 3:7. O sirs, that you would seriously and frequently dwell upon those short hints!
[1.] The coming wrath is the greatest wrath. It is the greatest evil which can befall a soul. "Who knows the power of your wrath?" Psalm 19:11. Wrath to come is such wrath as no unsaved man can either avoid or abide, and yet such is most men's stupidity, that they will not believe it until they feel it! As God is a great God, so his wrath is a great wrath. I may allude to that which Zebah and Zalmunna said to Gideon, "As the man is, so is his strength," Judges 8:21. Just so, may I say, "as the Lord is, so is his wrath!" The wrath of an earthly king is compared to the roaring of a lion, Proverbs 19:12; that is—of a young lion, which, being in his prime, roars most terribly. He roars with such a force that he terrifies the creatures whom he hunts, so as that they have no power to fly from him. Now if the wrath of a king is so terrible, oh how dreadful must the wrath of the King of kings then be! The greater the evil is, the more cause we have to flee from it. Now wrath to come is the greatest evil, and therefore the more it concerns us to flee from it, Rev. 17:14. But,
[2.] The coming wrath is treasured-up wrath. Sinners are still "a-treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath," Romans 2:5. In treasuring there is, 1. Laying in; 2. Lying hid; 3. Bringing out again as there is occasion.
While wicked men are following their own lusts, they think that they are still adding to their own happiness—but alas, they do but add wrath to wrath, they do but heap up judgment upon judgment, punishment upon punishment! Look, as men are daily adding to their treasure more and more, so impenitent sinners are daily increasing the treasury of wrath against their own souls. Now, who would not flee from this storehouse of wrath? But,
[3.] The coming wrath is pure wrath. It is "judgment without mercy," James 2:13. The cup of wrath which God will put into sinners' hands at last will be a cup of pure wrath, all wrath, nothing but wrath, Rev. 14:10, "They must drink the wine of God's wrath. It is poured out undiluted into God's cup of wrath. And they will be tormented with fire and burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the Lamb." Look! as there is nothing but the pure glory of God, which can make a man perfectly and fully happy; just so, there is nothing but the pure wrath of God, which can make a man fully and perfectly miserable. Reprobates shall not only sip of the top of God's cup—but they shall drink the dregs of his cup. They shall not have one drop of mercy, nor one crumb of comfort. They have filled up their lifetime with sin, and God will fill up their eternity with torments. But,
[4.] The coming wrath is everlasting wrath. Rev. 14:11, "And the smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever!" "Would to God," says Chrysostom, "that men would everywhere think and talk more of hell, and of that eternity of punishment—which they shall never be able to avoid, or to abide." See the scriptures in the margin. [2 Thes. 1:8; Jude 6, 7; Mat. 25:46; Isaiah 33:14, etc.] "The damned," says Gregory, "shall suffer an end without end, a death without death, a decay without decay; for their death ever lives, their end ever begins, their decay never ceases, they are ever healed to be newly wounded, and always repaired to be newly devoured; they are ever dying and never dead, eternally broiling and never burnt up, ever roaring in the pangs of death, and never rid of those pangs; for they shall have punishment without pity, misery without mercy, sorrow without support, crying without comfort, mischief without measure, and torment without ease—where the worm dies not, and the fire is never quenched." The torments of the damned shall continue as many eternities as there are stars in the skies, as there are grains of sand on the sea-shore, and as there are drops of water found in the sea! When the present worlds are ended, the pains and torments of hell shall not cease—but begin afresh, and thus this wheel shall turn round and round, without end.
Oh the folly and vanity, the madness and baseness of poor wretched sinners who expose themselves to everlasting torments, for a few fleshly momentary pleasures! O sirs! "Who can stand before his fierce anger? Who can survive his burning fury? His rage blazes forth like fire, and the mountains crumble to dust in his presence!" Nahum 1:6. Now how should these things work poor sinners to flee from wrath to come by fleeing to Christ, "who alone is able to save them from wrath to come," 1 Thes. 1:10.
Themistocles, understanding that King Admetus was highly displeased with him, he took up the king's young son in his arms, and so talked with the father, holding his darling in his bosom; and by that means pacified his wrath. Ah sinners, sinners! the King of kings is highly offended with you, and there is no way to appease his wrath—but by taking up Christ in your arms, and so present your suits to him. But,
3. Thirdly, If there is a hell, then don't let fly so fiercely against those faithful ministers who seriously and conscientiously do all they can to prevent your dropping into hell. 2 Cor. 5:20, 12:15. Don't call them legal preachers, who tell you that there is a hell, and that there are no torments compared to hellish torments, if either you consider their extremity or eternity. Be not so hot nor so angry with those ambassadors of Christ who are willing to spend and be spent that they may keep you from running headlong to hell. "To think of hell," says one, "preserves a man from falling into it!" Says the same author, "I could wish men would discourse much and oft of hell." It was a saying of Gregory Nyssen, "He who does but hear of hell is, without any further labor or study, taken off from sinful pleasures." But what minister can say so now? Surely men's hearts are grown worse since, for how do most men run headlong to hell, and take a pleasure to dance hoodwinked into everlasting burnings! [Millions of years multiplied by millions, make not up one minute to this eternity—but who considers it, who believes it? etc.] Oh, had but the sinners of this day who swear and curse, drink and party, and drown themselves in fleshly pleasures—but one sight of this hell, how would it shut their mouths, appall their spirits, and strike fear and astonishment into their hearts!
I cannot think that the high transgressors of this day dared be so highly wicked as they are, did they but either see or foresee what they shall one day certainly feel—except there be sound and serious repentance on their sides, and pardoning grace on God's. Bellarmine was of opinion that one glimpse of hell were enough to make a man, not only turn Christian and sober. And yet, he tells us of a certain advocate of the court of Rome, who being, at the point of death, stirred up by those who were about him to repent and call upon God for mercy, he, with a constant countenance, and without sign of any fear, turned his speech to God, and said, "Lord, I have longed much to speak to you, not for myself—but for my wife and children; for I am hastening to hell, I am now a-going to dwell with devils, neither is there anything that I would have you to do for me." And this he spoke with as placate, serene and tranquil a mind, as if he had been speaking of going to the next town or village. Ah, who can read or write such a story without horror and terror! But,
4. Fourthly, If there is a hell, then do not fret, do not envy the prosperity and flourishing estate and condition of wicked and ungodly men; for God has given it under his hand, that they shall be turned into hell: "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God," Psalm 37:1-2, 73:21; Proverbs 3:31; Psalm 9:17. It was a wise saying of Marius to those who envy great men their honor, "Let them envy them their burdens!" I have read a story of a Roman, who was by a court-martial condemned to die for breaking his rank to steal a bunch of grapes; and as he was going to execution, some of the soldiers envied him—that he had grapes, and they had none. Says he, "Do you envy me my grapes, I must pay dearly for them!" Ah sirs! do not envy wicked men's grapes, do not envy their riches, their honors, their greatness, their offices, their dignities; for they shall one day pay dearly for their things.
High seats to many are uneasy, and the downfall terrible: "How have you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" Isaiah 14:12. It is spoken of the Chaldean monarch, who, though high—yet had a sudden change befell him. It is not a matter of so great joy to have been high and honorable, as it is of grief, anguish, and vexation to be afterwards despicable and contemptible: "Come down, and sit in the dust," Isaiah 47:1. Babylon was the lady of kingdoms—but, says God, "sit in the dust; take the mill-stones, and grind," verse 2; "The Lord Almighty has purposed to stain (Hebrew, to pollute) the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth," Isaiah 23:9; "He shall bring down their pride together," Isaiah 25:11; "Woe to the crown of pride: the crown of pride shall be trodden under feet," Isaiah 28:1, 3. God will bring down the crown of pride to the dust, to ashes, yes, to hell; and, therefore, do not envy the crown of pride.
Croesus was so puffed up with his crown of pride, with his great riches and worldly glory, that he boasted himself to be the happiest man who lived—but Solon told him, that no man was to be accounted happy before death. Croesus little regarded what Solon had said unto him, until he came, by miserable experience, to find the uncertainty of his riches, and all worldly glory, which before he would not believe. For when he was taken captive by King Cyrus, and condemned to be burned, and saw the fire preparing for him, then he cried out, "O Solon, Solon!" Cyrus asking him the cause of the outcry, he answered, that now he remembered what Solon had told him in his prosperity—that no man was to be accounted happy before death. Who can sum up those crowns of pride that in Scripture and history God has brought down to the dust, yes, to the ash-heap! Have not some wished, when they have been breathing out their last, that they had never been kings, nor queens, nor lords, nor ladies? etc. Where is there one of ten thousand who is advanced, and thereby anything bettered?
Few men believe what vexations lie under the pillows of princes. "You look upon my crown and my purple robes," says Artaxerxes—"but did you know how they were lined with thorns, you would not stoop to take them up." Damocles highly extolled Dionysius. Dionysius, to convince him of his mistake, provides a royal feast, invites him to it, commands his servants to attend him. No dainties, no mirth, no music are lacking—but over the table, a sharp sword was hung by a horse hair, which made Damocles tremble, and to forbear both food and mirth. "Such, even such," says Dionysius the Sicilian tyrant, "is my life, which you deem so pleasant and happy." O sirs! there is a sword of wrath which hangs over every sinner's head, even when he is surrounded with all the mirthful and gallant things of this world!
Outward prosperity is commonly given in God's wrath, as you may see by comparing these scriptures. [Hos. 13:11; Psalm 73 and 78:30-31; Proverbs 1:32; Luke 12:16-22; Eccles. 5:12-13.] Prosperity kills and damns more than adversity. It had been infinitely better for the great men of this world that they had never been so great, for their horrid abuse of God's mercy and bounty will but increase their misery and damnation at last. Augustine hit it on the head when he said, "Because they have tasted so liberally of God's kindness, and have employed it only against God's glory, their felicity shall be short—but their misery shall be endless; and therefore to see the wicked prosper and flourish in this world is matter rather of pity than envy. It is all the heaven they must have." ["The whole Turkish empire is nothing else but a crust cast by our Father to his dogs, and it is all they are likely to have, let them make them merry with it," said Luther.]
These are as terrible texts as any in the whole Book of God: Mat. 6:2, "Truly I say unto you, they have their reward." Luke 6:24, "Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation." James 5:1-3, "Go now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver is cankered: and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire!" Gregory, being advanced to places of great preferment, professed that there was no scripture that went so near his heart, and that struck such a trembling into his spirit, as that speech of Abraham to Dives, Luke 16:25, "Son, remember you in your lifetime received your good things." Those who have their heaven here—are in danger to miss it hereafter. "It is not God's usual way," says Jerome, to move from delights to delights—to bestow two heavens, one here and another hereafter!" Doubtless hence it was, that David made it his solemn prayer, "Deliver me from the wicked, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly you fill with your hid treasure," Psalm 17:14. It is a very difficult thing to have earth and heaven too. God did not turn man out of one paradise, that he should here provide himself of another. Many men with the prodigal cry out, "Give me the portion that belongs to me," Luke 15:12. "Give me riches, and give me honor, and give me preferment, etc." And God gives them their desires—but it is with a vengeance; as the Israelites had quail to choke them, and afterwards a king to vex them, and a table to be a snare unto them, Psalm 78:24-32. When the Israelites had eaten of their dainty dishes, justice sent in a sad reckoning which spoiled all.
Ah friends, there is no reason why we should envy the prosperity of wicked men. "Suppose," says Chrysostom, "that a man one night should have a pleasant dream that for the time might much delight him; yet for the pleasure of such a dream should be tormented a thousand years together with extreme torments; would any man desire to have such a dream upon such conditions? All the contentments of this life are not so much, compared to eternity—as a dream is to a thousand years! And, oh, how little is that man's condition to be envied, who for these short pleasures of sin must endure an eternity of torments!
O sirs! do wicked men purchase their present pleasures at so dear a rate as eternal torments? And do we envy their enjoyment of them so short a time? Would any envy a man going to execution, because he saw him in prison nobly feasted and nobly attended and bravely courted? or because he saw him go up the ladder with a gold chain about his neck and a scarlet gown upon his back? or because he saw him walk to execution through pleasant fields or delightsome gardens? or because there went before him drums beating, colors flying, and trumpets sounding, etc.? Surely not! Oh, no more should we envy the grandeur of the men of the day, for every step they take is but a step to an eternal execution! The sinner is cursed, and all his blessings are cursed! Who in their wits would envy a man under a curse? Oh, how much more worthy of our pity than envy, is that man's condition who has all his happiness confined to the narrow compass of this life—but his misery extended to the uttermost bounds of an everlasting duration! Mal. 2:2. But,
5. Fifthly, If there is a hell, then, Christians, spend your days in admiring and in being greatly affected with the transcendent love of Christ—in undergoing hellish punishments in your stead! Oh pray, pray hard that you "may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of that love of Christ, which passes knowledge," Eph. 3:18-19—of that love of Christ, which put him upon these bodily and spiritual sufferings which were so exceeding great, acute, extreme, universal and continual—and all to save us from wrath to come! 1 Thes. 1:10. Christ's outward and inward miseries, sorrows, and sufferings are not to be paralleled, and therefore Christians have the more cause to lose themselves in the contemplation of his matchless love. Oh, bless Christ! oh, kiss Christ! oh, embrace Christ! oh, welcome Christ! oh, cleave to Christ! oh, follow Christ! oh, walk with Christ! oh, long for Christ! who for your sakes has undergone insupportable wrath and most hellish torments, as I have evidenced at large before, and therefore a touch here may suffice. [Psalm 103:1-2, and 2:12; Cant. 3:4; Rev. 14:4-5; Isaiah 63:8; Gen. 6:9; Cant. 8:14.]
Oh, look up to dear Jesus, and say, "O blessed Jesus, you were accursed that I might be blessed, Gal. 3:13; you were condemned that I might be justified, Isaiah 53; you did for a time undergo the very torments of hell, that I might forever enjoy the pleasures of heaven, Romans 8:30, 34; Psalm 16:11; and therefore I cannot but dearly love you, and highly esteem you, and greatly honor you, and earnestly long after you!"
But, for a close, you will say, "Where is hell? where is this place of torment? where is that very place that is so frequently called hell in the Scripture? That there is a hell, you have sufficiently proved—but, please, where is it? where is it?" Now, to this I answer,
[1.] First, That it becomes all sober, serious Christians to rest satisfied and contented with those scriptural arguments that do undeniably prove that there is a hell, a place appointed where the wicked, the damned, shall be tormented forever and ever—though they do not know, nor for the present cannot understand, where this hell is. But,
[2.] Secondly, I answer, Curiosity is one of the most dangerous engines, which the devil uses to undo souls with. When Satan observes that men do in good earnest set themselves to the obtaining of knowledge, then he strives to turn them to vain inquiries and curious speculations; so that, if they will are knowing, he may keep them busied about unprofitable curiosities. [Curious inquirers have always lain under the lash of Christ, as you may see by comparing these scriptures together: Job 21:22; Acts 1:6, 7; Luke 13:22, 24.] The way to make us mere fools, is to attempt to know more than God would have us to know. Adam's tree of knowledge made him and his posterity fools, Gen. 3:5-6. Curiosity was the bait whereby the devil caught our first parents—and undid us all! Curiosity is the spiritual adultery of the soul. Curiosity is spiritual drunkenness. Look, as the drunkard, be the cup ever so deep, he is not satisfied unless he sees the bottom of it; so the curious searcher into the depths of God, he is unsatisfied until he comes to the bottom of them, and by this means they come to be 'mere fools', as the apostle says, Romans 1:22. Adam had a mind to know as much of God as God himself; and by this means he came to know nothing. Curiosity is that green-sickness of the soul, whereby it longs for novelties, and loathes sound and wholesome truths; it is the epidemic distemper of this age.
Ah! how many are there who spend their precious time in inscrutable and curious questions! [Basil says that multitudes of questions may be made about 'a fly'—which no philosopher is ever able to answer; how much rather about heaven, hell, or the work of grace!] Ah, what did Christ dispute of, among the doctors? Where did Paradise stand? In what part of the world is local hell? What fruit was it that Adam ate, and ruined us all? What became of Moses his body? How many orders and degrees of elect angels are there? etc. Oh, that we could learn to be contentedly ignorant, where God would not have us knowing; and let us not account it any disparagement to acknowledge some depths in God's counsels, purposes, decrees, and judgments, which our shallow reason cannot fathom, Romans 11:33.
It is sad when men will be wise above what is written, and love to pry into God's secrets, and scan the mysteries of religion by carnal reason, Romans 12:3, and 1 Cor. 4:6. God often plagues such pride and curiosity by leaving that sort of men to strange and fearful falls. When a curious inquisitor asked Austin what God did before he created the world, Austin told him that "God was making hell for such busy questionists, for such curious inquirers into God's secrets!" Such sharp replies are the best answers to men of curious minds. But,
[3.] Thirdly, I answer, It concerns us but little to know whether hell is in the air, or in the concave of the earth, or of what longitude, latitude, or profundity it is. ["Let us not be inquisitive where hell is—but rather let our care be to escape it!" says Chrysostom.] Let hell be where it has pleased God in his secret counsel to place it—to men unknown, whether it is in the north or in the south, under the frozen zone, or under the burning zone, or in a pit or a gulf. Our great care should be to avoid it, to escape it, and not to be curiously inquisitive about where it s—which the Lord in his infinite wisdom has not thought fit clearly to reveal or make known to the sons of men.
In hell there's nothing heard but yells and cries; In hell the fire never slacks, nor worm ever dies. But where is this hell placed? My muse, stop there: Lord, show me what it is—but never where!
Look, as there are many who please themselves with discourses of the degrees of glory—while others make sure their saving interest in glory; just so, many please themselves with discourses of the degrees of the torments of hell—while others make sure their escaping those torments! Look, as many take pleasure to be discoursing about the place where hell is—so some take pleasure to make sure their escaping of that place; and certainly they are the best and wisest of men who spend most thoughts, and time, and pains how to keep out of hell—than to exercise themselves with disputes about it. ["As in heaven one is more glorious than another, so in hell one shall be more miserable than another." Augustine.] But,
[4.] Fourthly, I answer, That it has been the common opinion of the fathers, that hell is in the heart of the earth; yes, Christ and the blessed Scriptures, which are the highest authority, do strongly seem to favor this opinion, by speaking of a descent unto hell, in opposition unto heaven; and, therefore, we may as well doubt whether heaven be above us, as doubt of hell being beneath us. Among other scriptures ponder upon these: Psalm 140:10, "Let them be cast into the deep pits, that they rise not up again. Bring them down into the pit of destruction." Proverbs 9:18, "Her guests are in the depths of hell." Proverbs 15:24, "The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath." Sheol is sometimes taken for a pit, sometimes for the grave, and sometimes, and that significantly too, for hell—all downwards. One says that Sheol generally signifies all places under the earth; whence some conclude that hell is in the heart of the earth, or under the earth. Without doubt it is below, because it is everywhere opposed to heaven, which is above. It is therefore called Abyssus, a deep pit, a vast gulf; such a pit as, by reason of the depth thereof, may be said to have no bottom. The devils entreated Christ that he would not send them to this place, Luke 8:31, in Abyssum, which is, says one, "a gulf of immeasurable depth," etc.
The apostle, 2 Pet. 2:4, speaking of the angels that sinned, says, "God cast them down into hell." So Beza, in his Annotations, tells us the Greeks called that place which was ordained for the prison and torment of the damned. And reason itself does teach us that it must needs be opposite and contrary to that place in which the spirits of just men made perfect, Heb. 12:23, do reside, which, on all hands, is granted to be above. Some have been of opinion that the pit spoken of, into which Korah, Dathan, and Abiram went down alive, when the earth opened up and swallowed them up, was the pit of hell, into which both their souls and bodies were immediately conveyed, Num. 16:33.
As we know little in respect of the height of heaven, so we know as little in respect of the lowness of hell. Some of the upper part of the earth is to us yet an unknown land—but all of the lowest parts of hell is to us an unknown land. Many thousands have traveled there—but none have returned thence, to make reports or write books of their travels. That piece of geography is totally unknown to us. Heaven and hell are the greatest opposites, or remotest extremes: "And you people of Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to hell!" Mat. 11:23. Heaven and hell are at farthest natural distance, and are therefore the everlasting receptacles of those who are at the farthest moral distance—believers and unbelievers, saints and impenitents. And it is observable, that as the height of heaven, so the depth of hell, is ascribed to wisdom, to show the unsearchableness of it. "Oh the depth," as well as "Oh the height," "of the wisdom of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" Romans 11:33. Certainly God's depths, and Satan's depths, and hell's depths, lie far out of our view, and are hard to be found out, 1 Cor. 10, and Rev. 2:24.
Though I ought piously to reverence the wonderful wisdom of God, and to wonder at his unsearchable judgments—yet I ought not curiously and profanely to search beyond the compass of that which God has revealed to us in his word.
The Romans had a certain lake, the depth whereof they knew not. Doubtless hell is such a lake, the depth whereof no man knows; it is such a bottomless pit that no mortal can sound. But,
[5.] Fifthly and lastly, I answer, Some of the learned are of opinion, that hell is outside this visible world, which will pass away at the last day, 2 Pet. 3:10-13, and removed at the greatest distance from the place where the righteous shall forever inhabit: Mat. 8:12, "But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness." Mat. 22:30, "Then said the king to his servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness." Mat. 25:30, "And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness." Into a darkness beyond a darkness, into a dungeon beyond and beneath the prison. The darkness of hell is compared to the darkness of those prisons, which were oftentimes outside of the city.
A prison was outside the gate, near mount Calvary, and it was the loathsomest and vilest prison of all, for in it the thieves who were carried to Calvary to be executed were kept; and Christ alludes to this prison in Mat. 8:12, and Mat. 22:13, and that Mat. 25:30, "Cast him into utter darkness;" which allusion could not be understood, unless there had been a dark prison without the city, where was utter darkness. 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6; Acts 12:10. By outer darkness, the Holy Spirit would signify to us that the wicked should be in a state most remote from all heavenly happiness and blessedness; and that they should be expelled out of the blessed presence of God, who is highest good. By outer darkness we are to understand the greatest darkness that is, as in a place most remote from all light. They shall be cast into outer darkness, that is, they shall be cast into the palpable darkness of the infernal prison. Immediately after death, sinners' souls shall be cast into the infernal prison, and in the day of judgment both their souls and their bodies shall be cast into outer darkness. Darkness is no other thing than a privation of light. Now light is twofold, namely,
1. Spiritual light—as wisdom, grace, truth. Now the privation of this light is internal darkness, and ignorance in the spirit and inward man.
2. There is a sensible and physical light, whose privation is outer darkness; and this is the darkness spoken of in the three scriptures last cited. For although there is fire in hell—yet it is a dark and smoky fire, and not clear, except only so as the damned may see one another, for the greater increase of their misery, as some write. Now I shall leave the ingenuous reader to conclude as he pleases concerning the place where hell is—desiring and hoping that he will make it the greatest business of his life to escape hell, and to get to heaven, etc.