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“The hoary deep, a dark Illimitable ocean without bound, Without dimension; where length, breadth and height,
And time and place are lost." In this it is but just to say that Milton differs widely from the Jewish Rabbins, who maintain that hell is in the immediate neighborhood of Paradise, nay only“ a hand's breadth," and some say only two fingers' breadth, or even “ the thickness of a thread from it." I like the modesty of Dr. Trapp, who says,
“The place allotted to this scene of wo
We know not." Though afterwards with all his modesty, he very innocently falls into a little dogmatism on the subject by assuring us that it is at an immeasurable distance from heaven.
" From the empyrean heaven, the blest abode
Most distant sure is hell." And yet nothing is more certain from the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, than that heaven and hell are so near that people can see and converse with each other across the gulf which separates them. But on this point I shall leave my readers as I found them; and having merely stated the different opinions that have been entertained by the learned, pass lastly to speak of the magnitude of hell.
Concerning this there can be little ground for dispute among orthodox christians. If the size of a place may be judged from the number of those who are to occupy it, no one can hesitate to believe that hell is one of the largest and most important parts of the universe. Milton denominates it “ a universe of death," and represents it as vast beyond all that “ an angel's ken” can comprehend. Modern divines, as I have before remarked, significantly call it a “world of wo.” The Jewisha Rbbins tell us that hell is so large that it would take a man three hundred years to pass through it. All this is sufficiently indefinite, it must be confessed, and yet it is all well calculated to give us a notion of its vastness.
But all these are questions of mere curiosity compared with what relates to the nature of hell and the kinds and degrees of punishment there inflicted. And here I must say that all the powers of human language and imagination have been exhausted in setting forth the multiplied torments and horrors of that “world of wo," that "universe of death.” I shall therefore devote to this part of my subject an entire chapter.
OF HELL'S HORRORS.
This, I need not remark, is a very important chapter-important both to those who receive the dogma of endless punishment, and those who reject it.
The former must rely upon the horrors of hell to give weight and moral power to their favorite doctrines, while the latter can hardly fail to find in those horrors a most convincing proof of its falsehood and absurdity. And it is a curious fact, deserving the attention of both friends and foes, that just in proportion as hell's horrors are heightened, must they appear the more absurd and impossible. Hence it happens that in the present age, and especially in this country, those who most effectually preach the endless torments of hell, may justly be regarded as those who are also doing most to bring the doctrine into disrepute. I am thoroughly persuaded that nothing would so soon and so effectually destroy all faith in endless punishment, as particular and terrific descriptions of its torments. It is much to be regretted, therefore, that the advocates of that doctrine should be so exceedingly cautious in exhibiting its true character, and most of all that they should so generally shun all descriptions of the various miseries of the popular hell. Formerly it was not so. Formerly orthodox divines did not hesitate to pronounce the name of hell in “ polite," nor to portray its horrors in the most vivid
But among the other improvements of the age, hell itself seems to be undergoing some modifications. It is growing more tolerable every year. What the end of this is to be, I need not foretell. It requires no spirit of prophecy to
see that it must completely deprive hell of its power, and leave it a mere name.
It was the opinion of Cardinal Bellarmine, if I mistake not, that a view of hell, for the space of five minutes, would strike such a terror into the most desperate sinner as to produce his immediaté conversion. Now, although God has refused this healing vision to mortals, still something may be done by lively descriptions of the place and its various horrors. The old divines, therefore, did not judge unwisely when they introduced such representations of hell as they thought most likely to terrify men and lead them to repentance. Having assumed that fear is the proper motive to act upon
the human heart in such cases, I can see no impropriety in employing all kinds of description, and every form of illustration, which are calculated to excite a vivid conception of hell torments. On the contrary, they seem to me not only called for, but indispensably necessary to any tolerable success in working repentance and reformation in our fellow men. Why is it, then, that they are permitted to fall into so general disrepute? Why is it that they are employed so seldom, except by a very small class of fire-brand preachers, who go flaming about like " wandering stars,” to be gazed at by the multitude for a season, and then pass away unloved and unrespected, and are forgotten forever?
In what I am about to offer on the subject of:
hell's horrors, I shall indulge in no speculations of my own, but shall confine myself to the opinions entertained by orthodox writers. I may add, that I shall endeavor always to state these opinions in the very language of the advocates of the doctrine of endless punishment. This will be done, sometimes in prose, and sometimes in verse, for have
sung as well as said the horrors of that place of wrath and torment! And for the clearer exhibition of the facts in the case, I shall present the subject under several minor divisions.
1. Brief but general description.
As I have before observed, Prof. Stuart euphoniously calls hell the “world of wo.” This is, perhaps, rather a name than a description, but it at the same time gives a fearful notion of that 6 universe of death.” The venerable Christian Stock tells us that hell is “a place where the damned will be racked and tormented forever." Cardinal Hugo goes somewhat farther, and says “ hell is a boundless and bottomless lake, full of incomparable heat, an intolerable stench and innumerable pains; there is misery, there is darkness, there is no order, there is eternal horror, there is no hope of good, no avoiding of evil.” Erasmus Franciscus is still better; “Hell,” says he, " is the abyss of torment; the scene of the racks and pains of eternal, penal justice; the pit of everlasting death; the hall of mourning; the house of ceaseless lamentation of heaven-lost souls; the