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bour, no periods of the stroke nor taking off the hand, no intervals between blow and blow ; but a continued stroke, which neither shortens the life, nor introduces a brawny patience, or the toleration of an ox, but it is the same in every instant, and great as the first stroke of lightning; the smart is as great for ever as at the first change, from the rest of the grave to the flames of that horrible burning. The church of Rome amongst some other strange opinions hath inserted this one into her public offices; that the perishing souls in hell may have sometimes remission and refreshment, like the fits of an intermitting fever : for so it is in the Roman missal printed at Paris, 1626, in the mass for the dead; “ Ut quia de ejus vitæ qualitate diffidimus, etsi plenam veniam anima ipsius obtinere non potest, saltem vel inter ipsa tormenta quæ forsan patitur, refrigerium de abundantia miserationum tuarum sentiat:" and something like this is that of Prudentius, *
Sunt et spiritibus sæpe nocentibus
The evil spirits have ease of their pain, and he names their holiday, then when the resurrection of our Lord from the grave is celebrated :
Marcent suppliciis Tartara mitibus,
They then thought, that when the paschal taper burned, the flames of hell could not burn till the holy wax was spent : but because this is a fancy without ground or revelation, and is against the analogy of all those expressions of our Lord, " where the worm dieth not, and the fire is never quenched,” and divers others, it is sufficient to have noted it without farther consideration; the pains of hell have no rest, no drop of water is allowed to cool the tongue, there is no advocate to plead for them, no mercy belongs to their portion, but fearful wrath and continual burnings.
6. And yet this is not the worst of it; for as it is continual during its abode, so its abode is for ever ; it is conti
Hymn v. lib. Cathemer.
nual, and internal. Tertullian speaks something otherwise, “ Pro magnitudine cruciatus non diuturni, verum sempiterni ; not continual, or the pains of every day, but such which shall last for ever. But Lactantius is more plain in this affair : “ The same Divine fire by the same power and force shall burn the wicked, and shall repair instantly whatsoever of the body it does consume :" 66 Ac sibi ipsi æternum pabulum subministrabit,--and shall make for itself an eternal fuel."
Vermibus et flammis et discruciatibus ævum
So Prudentius, eternal worms, and unextinguished flames, and immortal punishment, are prepared for the ever-never dying souls of wicked men. Origen is charged by the ancient churches for saying, that after a long time the devils and the accursed souls shall be restored to the kingdom of God, and that after a long time again they shall be restored to their state, and so it was from their fall and shall be for ever; and it may be, that might be the meaning of Tertullian's expression, of “ cruciatus non diuturni sed sempiterni.” Epiphanius charges not the opinion upon Origen, and yet he was free enough in his animadversion and reproof of him; but St. Austin did, and confuted the opinion in his books De Civitate Dei. However, Origen was not the first that said, the pains of the damned should cease ; Justin Martyr in his dialogue with Triphon expresses it thus : “ Neither do I
say that all the souls do die, for that indeed would be to the wicked again unlooked for: what then? The souls of the godly in a better place, of the wicked in a worse, do tarry the time of judgment; then they that are worthy shall never die again, but those that are designed to punishment shall abide so long as God please to have them to live and to be punished.” But I observe, that the primitive doctors were very willing to believe that the mercy of God would find out a period to the torment of accursed souls ; but such a period, which should be nothing but eternal destruction, called by the Scripture, “the second death ;” only Origen (as I observed) is charged by St. Austin to have said, they shall return into joys, and back again to hell by an
eternal revolution. But concerning the death of a wicked soul, and its being broke into pieces with fearful torments, and consumed with the wrath of God, they had entertained some different fancies very early in the church, as their sentences are collected by St. Jerome at the end of his commentaries upon Isaiah. And Irenæus* disputes it largely, “that they that are unthankful to God in this short life, and obey him not, shall never have an eternal duration of life in the ages to come,” “sed ipse se privat in sæculum sæculi perseverantia,—he deprives his soul of living to eternal ages;” for he supposes an immortal duration not to be natural to the soul, but a gift of God, which he can take away, and did take away from Adam, and restored it again in Christ to them that believe in him and obey him : for the other; they shall be raised again to suffer shame, and fearful torments, and according to the degree of their sins, so shall be continued in their sorrows; and some shall die, and some shall not die: the devil, and the beast, and they that worshipped the beast, and they that were marked with his character, these St. John saith “shall be tormented for ever and ever ;" he does not say so of all, but of some certain great criminals ; önws äv Osds d'énn, all so long as God please, some for ever and ever, and some not so severely; and whereas the general sentence is given to all wicked persons, to all on the left hand, to go into everlasting fire: it is answered, that the fire indeed is everlasting, but not all that enters into it is everlasting, but only the devils for whom it was prepared, and others more mighty criminals (according as St. John intimates): though also everlasting signifies only to the end of its proper period.
Concerning this doctrine of theirs so severe, and yet so moderated, there is less to be objected than against the supposed fancy of Origen: for it is a strange consideration to suppose an eternal torment to those to whom it was never threatened, to those who never heard of Christ, to those that lived probably well, to heathens of good lives, to ignorants and untaught people, to people surprised in a single crime, to men that die young in their natural follies and foolish lusts, to them that fall in a sudden gayety and excessive joy, to all alike; to all infinite and eternal, even to unwarned peo
• Lib. ij. cap. 65.
ple; and that this should be inflicted by God who infinitely loves his creatures, who died for them, who pardons easily, and pities readily, and excuses much, and delights in our being saved, and would not have us to die, and takes little things in exchange for great: it is certain that God's mercies are infinite, and it is also certain that the matter of eternal torments cannot truly be understood ; and when the schoolmen go about to reconcile the Divine justice to that șeverity, and consider why God punishes eternally a temporal sin, or a state of evil, they speak variously, and uncertainly, and unsatisfyingly. But, that in this question we may separate the certain from the uncertain;
1. It is certain that the torments of hell shall certainly last as long as the soul lasts; for eternal and everlasting can signify no less but to the end of that duration, to the perfect end of the period which it signifies. So Sodom and Gomorrah, when God rained down hell from heaven upon the earth (as Salvian's expression is) they are said “to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire:” that is, of a fire that consumed them finally, and they never were restored : and so the accursed souls shall suffer torments till they be consumed; who because they are immortal either naturally or by gift, shall be tormented for ever, or till God shall take from them the life that he restored to them on purpose to give them a capacity of being miserable, and the best that they can expect is to despair of all good, to suffer the wrath of God, never to come to any minute of felicity, or of a tolerable state, and to be held in pain till God be weary of striking. This is the gentlest sentence of some of the old doctors,
But, 2. The generality of Christians bave been taught to believe worse things yet concerning them; and the words of our blessed Lord are κόλασις αιώνιος, eternal affliction or smiting;
Nec mortis panas mors altera finiet hujus,
Horaque erit tantis ultima nulla malis.
And St. John, * who well knew the mind of his Lord, saith; “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and
Rev. xiv. 11.
ever, and they have no rest day nor night:" that is, their torment is continual, and it is eternal. Their second death shall be but a dying to all felicity; for so death is taken in Scripture; Adam died when he ate the forbidden fruit; that is, he was liable to sickness and sorrows, and pain and dissolution of soul and body : and to be miserable, is the worse death of the two; they shall see the eternal felicity of the saints, but they shall never taste of the holy chalice. Those joys shall indeed be for ever and ever; for immortality is part of their reward, and on them the second death shall have no power; but the wicked shall be tormented horribly and insufferably, till “ death and hell be thrown into the lake of fire, and shall be no more: which is the second death.”* But that they may not imagine that this second death shall be the end of their pains, St. John speaks expressly what that is, Rev. xxi. 8. “ The fearful and unbelieving, the abominable and the murderers, the whoremongers and sorcerers, the idolaters and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone : which is the second death;” no dying there, but a being tormented, burning in a lake of fire, that is, the second death. For if life be reckoned a blessing, then to be destitute of all blessing is to have no life; and therefore to be intolerably miserable is this second death, that is, death eternal.
3. And yet if God should deal with man hereafter more mercifully and proportionably to his weak nature, than he does to angels, and as he admits him to repentance here, so in hell also to a period of his smart, even when he keeps the angels in pain for ever ; yet he will never admit him to favour, he shall be tormented beyond all the measure of human ages, and be destroyed for ever and ever.
It concerns us all, who hear and believe these things, to do as our blessed Lord will do before the day of his coming ; he will call and convert the Jews and strangers: conversion to God is the best preparatory to doomsday: and it concerns all them, who are in the neighbourhood and fringes of the flames of hell, that is, in the state of sin, quickly to arise from the danger, and shake the burning coals off our flesh, lest it consume the marrow and the bones : “ Exuenda
• Rev. xx. 14.