By Adam Clarke
HELL was made only for the devil and his
angels, not for man: man is an intruder into it; no human spirit
shall ever be found there, but through its own fault. He who refuses
the only means of salvation is lost. God willeth not his death.
Every sinner earns everlasting perdition by long, sore, and painful service. O what pains do men take to get to hell! Early and late they toil at sin; and would not divine justice be in their debt, if it did not pay them their due wages?
Men may quibble and trifle here, but their desperate criticisms will not be urged there. There is no injustice in hell, more than there is in heaven. He who does not deserve it shall never fall into the bitter pains of eternal death.
The utmost power of human nature could not, for a moment, endure the wrath of God, the deathless worm, and the unquenchable fire. The body must die, be decomposed, and be built upon indestructible principles, before this punishment can be borne.
Could it be even supposed that moral purgation could be effected by penal sufferings, which is already proved to be absurd, we have no evidence of any such place as purgatory, in which this purgation can be effected: it is a mere fable, either collected from spurious and apocryphal writings, canonized by superstition and ignorance; or it is the offspring of the deliriums of pious visionaries, early converts from heathenism, from which they imported this part of their creed. There is not one text of Scripture, legitimately interpreted, that gives the least countenance to a doctrine, as dangerous to the souls of men as it has been gainful to its inventors: so that, if such purgation were possible, the place where it is to be effected cannot be proved to exist. Before, therefore, any dependance can be placed on the doctrines raised on this supposition, the existence of the place must be proved; and the possibility of purgation in that place demonstrated.
A purgatory was reigned by the papists, for the refinement and cleansing of offences which had not been duly satisfied for in life: and even in this place, the prayers of the church, purchased by the money of surviving friends, were of sovereign virtue, to alleviate and shorten the sufferings of the deceased culprits, and get them a speedier passport from penal fire to the paradise into which all sent thither by the church had an unalienable right to enter.
We may safely conclude that the view which damned souls have in the gulf of perdition, of the happiness of the blessed, and the conviction that they themselves might have eternally enjoyed this felicity, from which, through their own fault, they are eternally excluded, will form no mean part of the punishment of the lost.
Even in hell, a damned spirit must abhor the evil by which he is tormented, and desire that good which would free him from his torment. If a lost soul could be reconciled to its torment, and to its situation, then, of course, its punishment must cease to be such. An eternal desire to escape from evil, and an eternal desire to he united to the supreme good, the gratification of which is for ever impossible, must make a second circumstance in the misery of the lost.
The remembrance of the good things possessed in life, and now to be enjoyed no more for ever, together with the grace offered or abused, will form a third circumstance in the perdition of the ungodly.
The torments which a soul endures in the hell of fire will form, through all eternity, a continual, present source of indescribable wo. The known impossibility of ever escaping from this place of torment, or to have any alleviation of one's misery in it, forms a fifth circumstance in the punishment of ungodly men.
The iniquitous conduct of relations and friends, who have been perverted by the bad example of those who are lost, is a source of present punishment to them.
The bitter reflection, "I might have avoided sin, but I did not; I might have been saved, but I would not," must be equal to ten thousand tormentors. What intolerable anguish must this produce in a damned soul!
There are various degrees of punishment in hell, answerable to various degrees of guilt; and the contempt manifested to, and the abuse made of, the preaching of the gospel, will rank semi-infidel Christians in the highest list of transgressors, and purchase them the hottest hell! It will be more tolerable for certain sinners, who have already been damned nearly four thousand years, than for those who live and die infidels under the gospel! An eternity of darkness, fears, and pains, for comparatively a moment of sensual gratification,—how terrible the thought!
To suppose that sinners shall be annihilated, is as great a heresy, though scarcely so absurd, as to believe that the pains of damnation are emendatory, and that hell fire shall burn out. There is presumptive evidence from Scripture to lead us to the conclusion that, if there be not eternal punishment, glory will not be eternal; as the same terms are used to express the duration of both. No human spirit, that is not united to God, can be saved. "Those who are far from thee shall perish;" they shall be lost, undone, ruined, and that without remedy. Being separated from God by sin, they shall never be rejoined; the great gulf must be between them and their Maker eternally. As the sinful nature continues its operations even in the place of torment, these are continual reasons why that punishment should be continued.
When we can prove that the gospel shall be preached in hell, and offers of salvation, free, full, and present, be made to the damned, then we may expect that the worm that dieth not, shall die; and the fire that is not quenched, shall burn out!
We have no evidence from Scripture or reason that there are emendatory punishments in the eternal world. The state of probation certainly extends only to the ultimate term of human life. We have no evidence, either from Scripture or reason, that it extends to another state. There is not only a deep silence on this in the divine records, but there are the most positive declarations against it. In time and life, the great business relative to eternity is to be transacted. On passing the limits of time, we enter into eternity: this is the unchangeable state. In that awful and indescribable infinitude of incomprehensible duration, we read of but two places or states: heaven and hell; glory and misery; endless suffering and endless enjoyment. In these two places or states, we read of but two descriptions of human beings: the saved and the lost; between whom there is that immeasurable gulf, over which no one can pass. In the one state we read of no sin, no imperfection, no curse: there all tears are for ever wiped away from off all faces; and the righteous shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. In the other we read of nothing but "weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth;" of the worm that dieth not; and of "the fire which is not quenched." Here, the effects and consequences of sin appear in all their colourings, and in all their consequences. Here, no dispensation of grace is published; no offers of mercy made: the unholy are unholy still, nor can the circumstances of their case afford any means by which their state can be meliorated; and it is impossible that sufferings, whether penal or incidental, can destroy that cause (sin) by which they were produced.
It cannot be said that beings, in a state of penal sufferings, under the wrath and displeasure of God, (for if they suffer penally, they must be under that displeasure,) can either love or serve him. Their sufferings are the consequences of their crimes, and can form no part of their obedience. Therefore, all the ages in which they suffer, are ages spent in sinning against the first and essential law of their creation; and must necessarily increase the aggregate of their demerit, and lay the eternally successive necessity of continuance in that place and state of torment. Thus it is evident that this doctrine, so specious and promising at its first appearance, is essentially defective, and contains in itself the seeds of its own destruction. Besides, if the fire of hell could purify from sin, all the dispensations of God's grace and justice among men must have been useless: and the mission of Jesus Christ most palpably unnecessary, as all that is proposed to be effected by his grace and Spirit, might be, on this doctrine, effected by a proportionate continuance in hell fire: and there, innumerable ages are but a point in reference to eternity; and any conceivable or inconceivable duration of these torments is of no consequence in this argument, as long as, at their termination, an eternity still remains.
What this everlasting destruction consists in, we cannot tell. It is not annihilation, for their being continues; and as the destruction is everlasting, it is an eternal continuance and presence of substantial evil, and absence of all good; for a part of this punishment consists in being banished from the presence of the Lord—excluded from his approbation for ever; so that the light of his countenance can be no more enjoyed, as there will be an eternal impossibility of ever being reconciled to him. Never to see the face of God throughout eternity, is a heart-rending, soul- appalling thought, and to be banished from the glory of his power, that power the glory of which is peculiarly manifested in saving the lost and glorifying the faithful, is what cannot be reflected on without confusion and dismay.