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MEDITATION XLIX

THE SEVERITY OF FUTURE PUNISHMENT

Ever keep in mind the torments of hell!

Johann Gerhard

(Translated by Rev. C. W. Heisler, A.M.)

MEDITATE, O devout soul, upon the awfulness of future punishment, and thou wilt easily overcome every base and sinful desire. Future torment will mean the presence of all that is base and sinful, and the entire absence of all that is good. What imaginable evil can be wanting to those who are being punished for sin, the greatest of all evils? And what possible good can they enjoy who are banished from the presence of God, the very highest good? There, in that world of woe, shall be the heat of fire and the rigor of cold; perpetual darkness, and the smoke of their torment arising forever; there scalding tears of sorrow shall unceasingly flow; there the awful sight of the demons of hell shall strike terror into the souls of the lost; there shall be weeping and wailing forever and ever; the torment of a perpetual and unquenchable thirst, sulphurous vapors, the worm that dieth not, a horrible fear, pains unspeakable, and shame and confusion of face as they stand with the black record of their sins unfolded before them; envy, hatred, sorrow, eternal exclusion from the beatific vision of God, with no ray of hope to cheer the awful gloom of that place of unending torment. The light of that fire shall by the power of God be separated from its burning power; its light shall be the source of endless joy to the saints of God, but its burning power shall contribute to the endless torment of the damned; its light will never give consolation to the lost, nor present to their vision any object of delight, but shall serve rather to augment their misery, as it will disclose ever new horrors to torment them. Their eyes shall never gaze upon the light of the sun or the moon or the stars, nor upon redeemed saints or their glorified Saviour, but rather upon the fiends of hell and all the host of the damned, while their wails of despair shall unceasingly resound and “the smoke of their torment ascend forever and ever.” Their ears shall be continually saluted with the despairing shrieks and incessant blasphemies and horrible cries of demons. Their palates shall be constantly afflicted with an unquenchable thirst and an insatiable hunger, and yet robbed of all capacity for the enjoyment of food and drink. Their sense of smell shall be tortured with the horrible odors of sulphurous flame. The sense of touch shall experience within and without the utmost agony from the raging flames of that infernal fire, that shall pierce even to the very marrow of their bones!

The bodies of the damned shall be hideously deformed, sluggish and unwieldly. Memory shall torture them with the record of their sins; and the burden of their grief shall be not their awful sins, but the loss of their former pleasures of this life. One spark of hell fire shall cause more horrible anguish to lost sinners than if the pangs of travail were prolonged a thousand years; “there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. xxii. 13), “for their worm shall not die neither shall their fire be quenched” (Is. lxvi. 24). Every several sin committed here in the body shall there have its own peculiar punishment. As the redeemed soul shall have no desire in the kingdom of God ungratified, so the lost soul in the realms of despair shall not have one desire gratified. It will profit the lost nothing that in this life they enjoyed the good things of the world in greatest profusion, nay rather the very recollection of them then will add to their awful torment. It will profit them nothing that in this life they lived in rioting and drunkenness, since there they cannot obtain even a drop of water to cool their parched tongues. It will avail them nothing that in this life they arrayed themselves in gorgeous apparel, for there they will be clothed in shame and confusion, and their poor bodies will be arrayed in ignominy. What avail will all their earthly honors be to them then, for in hell there will be no honor, but continual pain and groans of despair? What will the heaps of riches they have gathered in this life avail them there, since there all will be equally poor? Far removed will they be from the beatific vision of God! And not to see God will exceed all the other punishments of hell. Ah, if those lost souls shut up in the awful prison of hell could look upon the face of their God, it would dispel all sense of punishment, of pain, of sorrow. The awful wrath of God they shall suffer, but never, never, shall they behold His blessed face! Banishment from His face shall they experience, and yet never look upon that holy face. The holy wrath of God shall ever keep kindling the fires of eternal damnation. And their punishment will be not only a removal from a blessed contemplation of God, but they shall be tormented by the perpetual sight of devils, whose willing slaves they were in this life. If the sight of a supposed spectre here strikes such terror into the soul as almost to deprive it of life, how will it ever endure the horrible sight of the devils forever and ever? Not only will the lost be obliged to company eternally with these demons of hell, but it will add to their awful wretchedness to realize that through all eternity they will be tormented and tortured by these same evil spirits.

If the devil afflicts the righteous so severely in this life, by permission of God, for their profit, oh, how dreadfully will he torture the lost who are given over into his power forever? And not only shall they be thus tormented by Satan outwardly, but also by an accusing conscience within, as a worm that dieth not; conscience shall marshal in dark array before their eyes all the sins they have ever committed. And their torment will be all the severer because there remaineth no more room for repentance. When the wise virgins entered with the Bridegroom, immediately the door was shut; that is, the door of divine favor, the door of mercy, the door of consolation, the door of hope, the door of holy conversion. Then shall the lost cry out and say to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. vi. 16); but how vain that cry, for the heavens and the earth shall flee away from His wrath, as it is written, “Every island fled away, and the mountains were not found” (Rev. xvi. 20).

Every circumstance or gift that adds to the blessedness and glory of the redeemed, shall but add to the misery and torment of the lost. There will be indeed degrees of punishment, and yet this will afford no consolation, not even to one who suffers the least of those eternal torments; while he who suffers the greater tortures will envy him who suffers the less. It will be no mitigation of their awful miseries for the lost to know that some of their relatives and friends have been admitted into the heavenly home, as also the redeemed will be capable of feeling no sorrow that some of their friends have passed into the place of eternal torment. So awful will be their pain and torment that everything else will be excluded from their minds.

The damned shall bear a bitter hatred against all God’s creature; they shall hate themselves, the holy angels, the elect saints of God, aye, even God Himself, not because of anything in His holy nature, but because of His righteous punishment of their sins. The evils of this life come, to a large extent, singly. One is straitened by poverty; another suffers by severe sickness; another is oppressed by a hard servitude, and another is burdened with a load of insult and contumely. But in that world of woe a host of evils will torture every lost soul; every faculty, every member of the body, will suffer the dreadful penalty of sin. In this life hope serves to lighten every burden, but there hope will forever have vanished from their breasts; the punishments of hell will not only last forever, but they will last forever without one single moment’s interruption of relief. And so if is that if it were possible for all the men born from Adam to the present day, and who shall yet be born, to share equally the punishment that shall be justly inflicted upon the lost soul in hell for only one sin, then the torture that each one would suffer would exceed all the torments ever suffered by evil doers in this world.

O dear Lord, help us so to keep this eternal punishment in mind that by Thy grace we may be preserved from ever suffering its awful torments!



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