Endless Punishment, In the Very Words of Its Advocates

Orchard Ministry

I am so hungry to know better. I cannot imagine being so close as to know best. That is up to God. He has blessed me with a desire to know Him better. He leads me to want to be near to Him. He draws me to Himself. I am changed. I am confident that God is love.

1 John 4:8
He who is not loving knew not God, for God is love.

God’s love for me and the realization that God’s essence is love I am forced to examine my long held beliefs. I was trained by Sunday School teachers, preachers, pastors, church elders and even my parents. All impacted my belief that God would subject His enemies to eternal conscious torment; or in other words, Hell.

I was taught what the orthodoxy was teaching. I was taught that persons not appealing to God for Salvation through Christ Jesus would be justifiably sentenced by God to an eternal conscious torment. I taught what I was taught.

I am not shifting blame from myself to any other. I am responsible for the things I said, for the things I preached. I am responsible for advancing the false doctrine of eternal conscious torment.

Because God leads me to believe that His essence is love, how can I continue to rationalize the consequences to anyone for not professing a faith in Him. The consequences for failing to believe in the orthodox world is a righteous judgment of eternal conscious torment.

I am convinced, however, that the doctrine of an orthodox hell is not true. A better understanding is Universal Restoration. A better term may be Ultimate Reconciliation. The Orthodox teach traditions of men. Of the many traditions the eternal torment of unbelievers is in a word unbelievable. However, the Orthodox seem to have won the fight for the minds of men. The ancient tradition of eternal punishment still prevails.

In an endeavor to learn and in my heartfelt desire to serve I am editing an article written by Thomas J. Sawyer. I pray this effort is blessed and I am grateful to our Lord Who stays with me while I struggle to find His Truth in His Word.

Dr. Sawyer prepared this booklet, “Endless Punishment, In the Very Words of Its Advocates,” using the quotations and the doctrines espoused by notable men of his time and from the past. He examines scripture and contrasts the words of the theologian against the Word of God. Dr. Sawyer did not select one denomination to single out as the power behind the doctrine of eternal punishment. He used the words of the most prominent proponents of that theological doctrine to shed light on that darkness.

I am not as favorable as Dr. Sawyer. I find it utterly amazing that with all the evidence, resources, scholarship and divine inspiration men could still conclude God is loathsome and exists to punish. It troubles me that after all these years the doctrine of eternal conscious torment still persists.

The evil one is successful in this battle. He continues practicing deception. He continues to drive wedges between all that God creates hoping to capture God’s Sovereignty for himself. I believe the devil is behind the orthodox doctrine of eternal conscious torment.

Moreover, that despite the evidence, resources and divine inspiration certain men continue the doctrine of eternal torment into this day. Nearly 140 years have passed since the original publication of this article. The doctrine Dr. Sawyer stood against over a century ago; that is the doctrine of eternal conscious torment still stands and is propagated in local churches throughout this land and the world.

It does not seem like Dr. Sawyer’s article had much effect on orthodoxy’s view of eternal conscious torment. It is a blessing to read and comment on Dr. Sawyer’s arguments.

Dr. Sawyer directly quotes some of the greater named theologians of his day. Jonathan Edwards, Albert Barnes, and Dr. Hodge are among the experts quoted.

My comments will add little to the work completed by Dr. Sawyer. However, I’ll use the occasion to update some of the language, rephrase some of the Old English terms. I, the Lord willing, will add the words of more modern theologians who make the same claim that eternal punishment is a valid doctrine. Hopefully, we’ll all see the words that support such a doctrine are the very words that invalidate that doctrine to its core.

My comments are outlined in gray boxes such as this.

Endless Punishment, In the Very Words of Its Advocates
Thomas J. Sawyer, S.T.D., 1880

If all the severest and most barbarous tortures which were ever invented by the tyrants of the earth, who by anxious thought and hellish contrivance improved and refined the art of cruelty and brought it to perfection; if these, I say, were to be heaped upon the head of one man, and he were to endure them for a hundred years, yet they would not come near the pains of the damned for one day. So fearful a thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God. The quickest and sorest punishments which in all ages have been inflicted upon thieves, parricides, and other malefactors, are seldom known to have lasted above three or four days, or a week at farthest; but the torments of those who lie wailing under the vengeance of a power armed with omnipotence, are not for a year or an age, but for an interminable duration: God will always punish them, and he can never torment them enough, though their torments will endure to all eternity.” —DREXELIUS

This is a terribly frightening assessment. This man, Drexelius, is convicted by his belief that the worst torment developed by the worst human, group of humans or groups of humans pales in what God has reserved to those who do not believe Him. Drexelius’ quote declares the worst torment devised by men could only be endured for a short time “…three or four days, or a week at farthest…”

My mind swirls at the thought of how depraved man can be generally. But, then Drexelius declares the Creator of those who hate Him will exact on those “haters” a punishment worse than what man can do to man.

Moreover, Drexelius, believes that the worst that man can do to another for only a few days God will do for ever. Not only that Drexelius says that God “…can never torment them enough….” The kind of Supreme justice or punishment Drexelius would find appropriate smacks of vindictiveness not love.

That the punishment will be endless is certain, but whether it will be progressive I will not venture to assert. But the thing being once admitted, consequences result enough to shake the world. Then the time will come when the smallest soul in hell will contain more misery than Satan now does; – time will come when the smallest soul in hell will endure more in one hour than has been endured on earth by all nations since the creation. And further still – it is too awful to proceed. Oh, what a God is that which lives from eternity to eternity!” – DR. GRIFFIN

Explore what a statement like this means. There will be a punishment for those who reject God; that is, refuse to believe Christ Jesus is their Savior. “The smallest soul in hell will contain more misery than Satan does now….”

An unbeliever will be subjected to such torment that “…the smallest soul in hell will endure more in one hour than has been endured on earth by all nations since the creation.”

This kind of thinking, these kinds of statements regarding what our Father will do to His creation for failing to believe should make our stomachs wretch.

Dr. Griffin then goes on and in his mind to glorify God. Dr. Griffin declares God will cause an unimaginable angst, pain, torment on another of His creation. “Oh, what a God is that which lives from eternity to eternity!”

I cannot imagine ever again celebrating my Lord because He is the Grand Tormentor. Dr. Griffin seems to revel in what he deems theological understanding.

My heart breaks that I once thought this way.

Oh gracious Lord! Oh precious Father! Oh, I thank You for delivering me from such a trap as thinking You are not capable of loving even the most vile. I am confident that men such as Drexelius and Dr. Griffin are now aware of their error and they understand clearly You are love.

Copyright, 1879,





Dr. Sawyer’s book is a part of the Public Domain. The original copy of this book was transcribed electronically from Tentmaker.org and can be viewed here.

The works of others will be cited in these commentary notes. Copyright Fair Use doctrines apply.

The comments made by me are probably not based in any original thoughts. That being the case I do not copyright any of my work, comments, research, or any other narrative.

Dr. Sawyer writes this book or booklet, whichever term you choose to label it, in 1879.

The “Civil War” has ended. Abraham Lincoln has been assassinated and buried. Andrew Johnson advances to the highest office in the land. U.S. Grant then Rutherford Hayes are elected. It is Hayes who is the President when Dr. Sawyer’s work is published.

California amends its Constitution first written in 1849 prior to its admission into the United States.

The Zulu Nation in Africa is waging war against the British. Austria and Germany enter into an alliance that will eventually lead to a great European conflict the engulfs the world in war. Chile declares war on Bolivia and Peru. An Afghan state is formally established by way of a treaty, the Treaty of Gandamak, between Russia and the United Kingdom.

Charles Taze Russell of Jehovah’s Witness fame publishes the first “Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.” That magazine is to this day published and distributed as “The Watchtower.”

Thomas Edison developed the first incandescent light bulb and patented his work in 1879.

Not much has changed in the nearly 140 years since Dr. Sawyer’s work. Almost thirty new President’s have been elected or elevated to the highest office in the United States. California is still a state and its constitution remains in force. Africa is a hotbed of upheaval. The wars are not between the Zulu Nation and Great Britain, the wars are now theological and ideological between Islam and everything else.

The so-called World Wars are rooted in the Austrian-German alliance. Afghanistan did not become a buffer between two nations it has become a spark in another war. Reasons for wars haven’t changed. The ferocity of wars; the destruction of wars; the desolation of wars has worsened.

Jehovah’s Witnesses probably perform greater outreach through their sect leading people to their set of beliefs in greater numbers than all the so-called evangelical outreach combined.

Light from a bulb has changed not in the product; light, but in the process light is delivered. Mr. Edison’s patent has expired and has been replaced by other patents for other light emitting devices.

For the purpose of this writing the basic Christian doctrine of “Eternal Punishment” for unbelievers continues to stand almost unchallenged. That has not changed. Dr. Sawyer was one of a few who preached Ultimate Reconciliation in a sea of Evangels who preached eternal torment. Those who preach Ultimate Reconciliation today are few in the same sea of Evangels.

About Jim Barnes

A man seeking to please the Lord. A man striving to abide in Christ Jesus. A man whose hope is to see just one more come into the fold.
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