The Christian Idea Of Hell

Hell Really Exists

Hell Really Exists

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has sometimes been, may be seen by quoting the following testimonies. Do they resemble anything in the Old Testament? Do they not exactly copy the heathen descriptions? Whence came these idea? They are not found in the Old Testament? And yet the world was full of them when

Christ came. Read the verse of Pollok as lurid and blasphemous as it is vigorous:

Wide was the place,

And deep as wide, and ruinous as deep.

Beneath 1 saw a lake of burning fire,

With tempest tost perpetually, and still

The waves of fiery darkness, gainst the rocks

Of dark damnation broke, and music made

Of melancholy sort; and over head,

And all around, wind warred with wind, storm howled

To storm, and lightning forked lightning, crossed,

And thunder answered thunder, muttering sound

Of sullen wrath; and far as sight could pierce,

Or down descend in caves of hopeless depth,

Thro' all that dungeon of unfading fire,

1 saw most miserable beings walk,

Burning continually, yet unconsumed;

Forever wasting, yet enduring still;

Dying perpetually, yet never dead.

Some wandered lonely in the desert flames,

And some in fell encounter fiercely met,

With curses loud, and blasphemies, that made

The cheek of darkness pale; and as they fought,

And cursed, and gnashed their teeth, and wished to die

Their hollow eyes did utter streams of wo.

And there were groans that ended not, and sighs

That always sighed, and tears that ever wept,

And ever fell, but not in Mercy's sight

And Sorrow, and Repentance, and Despair,

Among them walked, and to their thirsty lips

Presented frequent cups of burning gall.

And as 1 listened, 1 heard these being curse

Almighty God, and curse the Lamb, and curse

The Earth, the Resurrection morn, and seek,

And ever vainly seek for utter death.

And to their everlasting anguish still,

The thunders from above responding spoke

These words, which thro' the caverns of perdition

Forlornly echoing, fell on every ear-

"Ye knew your duty but ye did it not" * * *

The place thou saw'st was Hell; the groans thou heard'st

The wailings of the damned-of those who would

Not be redeemed-and at the judgment day,

Long past for unrepented sins were damned

The seven loud thunders which thou heard'st, declare

The eternal wrath of the Almighty God.

* * There in utter darkness, far

Remote, 1 beings saw forlorn in wo.

Burning, continually yet unconsumed.

And there were groans that ended not, and sighs

That always sighed, and tears that ever wept

And ever fell, but not in Mercy's sight;

And still 1 heard these wretched beings curse

Almighty God, and curse the Lamb, and curse

The Earth, the Resurrection morn, and seek,

And ever vainly seek for utter death;

And from above the thunders answered stiff,

"Ye know your duty, but ye did it not."

Such descriptions are not confined to poetry. Plain prose has sought to set forth the doctrine in words equally repulsive and graphic. Rutherford, in his "Religious Letters," declares that hereafter "Tongue, lungs and liver, bones and all shall boil and fry in a torturing fire,—a river of fire and brimstone, broader than the earth!"

Boston, in his 'Fourfold State,' says: "There will be universal torments, every part of the creature being tormented in that flame. When one is cast into a fiery furnace, the fire makes its way into the very bowels, and leaves no member untouched; what part then can have ease when the damned sinner is in a lake of fire, burning with brimstone?"

Buckle, in his "Civilization in England," thus sums up the popular doctrine: "In the pictures which they drew, they reproduced and heightened the barbarous imagery of a barbarous age. They delighted in telling their hearers that they would be roasted in great fires and hung up by their tongues. They were to be lashed with scorpions, and see their companions writhing and howling around them. They were to be thrown into boiling oil and scalding lead. A river of brim-stone broader than the earth was prepared for them; in that they were to be immersed. . . Such were the first stages of suffering, and they were only the first. For the torture besides being unceasing, was to become gradually worse. So refined was the cruelty, that one Hell was succeeded by another; and, lest the sufferer should grow callous, he was, after a time, moved on, that he might undergo fresh agonies in fresh places, provision being made that the torment should not pall on the sense, but should be varied in its character as well as eternal in its duration.

"All this was the work of the God of the Scotch clergy. It was not only his work, it was his joy and his pride. For, according to them, Hell was created before man came into the word; the Almighty, they did not scruple to say, having spent his previous leisure in preparing and completing this place of torture, so that when the human race appeared, it might be ready for their reception. Ample, however, as the arrangements were, they were insufficient; and Hell not being big enough to contain the countless victims incessantly poured into it, had, in these latter days, been enlarged. But in that vast expanse there was no void, for the whole of it reverberated with the shrieks and yells of undying agony. Both children and fathers made Hell echo with their piercing screams, writhing in convulsive agony at the torments which they suffered, and knowing that other torments more grievous still were reserved for them." And it was not an infinite Devil, but a just and merciful God who was accused of having committed all this infernal cruelty.

Michael Angelo's Last Judgment is an attempt to de-scribe in paint, what was believed then and has been for centuries since. Henry Ward Beecher thus refers to that great painting. (Plymouth Pulpit, Oct. 29, 1870): "Let any one look at that; let any one see the enormous gigantic coils of fiends and men; let any one look at the defiant Christ that stands like a superb athlete at the front, hurling his enemies from him and calling his friends toward him as Hercules might have done; let any one look upon that hideous wriggling mass that goes plunging down through the air-serpents and men and beasts of every nauseous kind, mixed together; let him look at the lower parts of the picture, where with the pitchforks men are by devils being cast into caldrons and into burning fires, where hateful fiends are gnawing the skulls of suffering sinners, and where there is hellish cannibalism going on-let a man look at that picture and the scenes which it depicts, and he sees what were the ideas which men once had of Hell and of divine justice. It was a night-mare as hideous as was ever begotten by the hellish brood it-self; and it was an atrocious slander on God. . . . I do not wonder that men have reacted from these horrors-I honor them for it."

Tertullian says: "How shall I admire, how laugh, how rejoice, how exult, when I behold so many proud monarchs groaning in the lowest abyss of darkness; so many magistrates liquifying in fiercer flames than they ever kindled against the Christians; so many sage philosophers blushing in redhot fires with their deluded pupils; so many tragedians more tuneful in the expression of their own sufferings; so many dancers tripping more nimbly from anguish then ever before from applause."

Jeremy Taylor, of the English Church, says: "The bodies of the damned shall be crowded together in hell, like grapes in a wine-press, which press one another till they burst; every distinct sense and organ shall be assailed with its own appropriate and most exquisite sufferings."

Calvin describes it: "Forever harassed with a dreadful tempest, they shall feel themselves torn asunder by an angry God, and transfixed and penetrated by mortal stings, terrified by the thunderbolts of God, and broken by the weight of this hand, so that to sink into any gulf would be more tolerable than to stand for a moment in these terrors."

Jonathan Edwards said: "The world will probably be converted into a great lake or liquid globe of fire, in which the wicked shall be overwhelmed, which will always be in tempest, in which they shall be tossed to and fro, having no rest day or night, vast waves and billows of fire continually rolling over their heads, of which they shall forever be full of a quick sense within and without; their heads, their eyes, their tongues, their hands, their feet, their loins and their vitals, shall forever be full of a flowing, melting fire, fierce enough to melt the very rocks and elements; and, also, they shall eternally be full of the most quick and lively sense to feel the torments; not for one minute, not for one day, not for one age, not for two ages, not for a hundred ages, nor for ten thousand millions of ages, one after another, but forever and ever, without any end at all, and never to be delivered."

And Spurgeon uses this language even in our own days: "When thou diest, they soul will be tormented alone: that will be a hell for it, but at the day of judgment thy body will join thy soul, and then thou wilt have twin hells, thy soul sweating drops of blood, and thy body suffused with agony. In fire exactly like that which we have on earth thy body will lie, asbestoslike, forever unconsumed, all thy veins roads for the feet of pain to travel on, every nerve a string on which the devil shall forever play his diabolical tun of Hell's Unutterable Lament."

"A Catholic Book for Children" says: "The fifth dungeon is a red-hot oven in which is a little child. Hear how it screams to come out! see how it turns and twists itself about in the fire! It beats its head against the roof of the oven. It stamps its little feet on the floor of the oven. To this child God was very good. Very likely God saw that this child would get worse and worse, and would never repent, and so it would have to be punished much worse in Hell. So God, in his mercy, called it out of the world in its early childhood."

Now the horrible ideas we have just quoted were not obtained from the Old Testament, and yet they were fully believed by the Jew and Pagan when Christ came. Whence came these views? If the New Testament teaches them, then Christ must have borrowed them from uninspired heathen. What does the New Testament teach concerning Hell?

Within a few years Christians have quite generally abandoned their faith in material torments, and have substituted mental anguish, spiritual torture. But the torment, the anguish, the woe and agony are only faintly hinted by any possible effect of literal fire. The modification of opinion from literal fire to spiritual anguish, gives no relief to the character of God, and renders the "orthodox" hell no less revolting to every just and merciful feeling in the human heart, no less dishonorable to God. It is woe unspeakable to millions, without alleviation and without end, inflicted by a being called God, ordained by him from the foundation of the world for those he foresaw, before their birth, would inevitably suffer that woe, if he consented to their birth, compelling his wretched children to cry for endless eons in the language of Young (Night Thoughts): "Father of Mercies! why from silent earth Didst thou awake and curse me into birth, Tear me from quiet, banish me from night, And make a thankless present of Thy light, Push into being a reverse of Thee And animate a clod with misery? This question never can be answered. Good men groping in the eclipse of faith created by the false doctrine of an endless Hell, have tried in vain to see or explain the reason of it. Albert Barnes, (Presbyterian,) voices the real thought of millions, when he says: "That any should suffer forever, lingering on in hopeless despair, and rolling amidst infinite torments without the possibility of alleviation and without end; that since God can save men and will save a part, he has not proposed to save all-these are real, not imaginary, difficulties. . . . My whole soul pants for light and relief on these questions. But I get neither; and in the distress and anguish of my own spirit, I confess that I see no light whatever. I see not one ray to disclose to me why sin came into the world; why the earth is strewn with the dying and the dead; and why man must suffer to all eternity. I have never seen a particle of light thrown on these subjects, that has given a moment's ease to my tortured min. . . . I confess, when I look on a world of sinners and sufferers-upon death-beds and grave-yards-upon the world of woe filled with hosts to suffer for ever: when I see my friends, my family, my people, my fellow citizens when I look upon a whole race, all involved in this sin and danger-and when I see the great mass of them wholly unconcerned, and when I feel that God only can save them, and yet he does not do so, I am stuck dumb. It is all dark, dark, dark to my soul, and I cannot disguise it."


The word Hadees occurs but eleven times in the New Testament, and is translated Hell ten times, and grave once. The word is from a, not, and eulo, to see, and means concealed, invisible. It has exactly the same meaning as Sheol, literally the grave, or death, and figuratively destruction, downfall, calamity, or punishment in this world, with no intimation whatever of torment or punishment beyond the grave. Such is the meaning in every passage in the Old Testament containing the word Sheol or Hadees, whether translated Hell, grave or pit. Such is the invariable meaning of Hadees in the New Testament. Says the "Emphatic Diaglott:" "To translate Hadees by the word Hell as it is done ten times out of eleven in the New Testament, is very improper, unless it has the Saxon meaning of helan, to cover, attached to it. The primitive signification of Hell, only denoting what was secret or concealed, perfectly corresponds with the Greek term Hadees and its equivalent Sheol, but the theological definition given to it at the present day by no means expresses it."

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