Eternal Punishment: Chapter 6 – Fire and Frost

ENDLESS PUNISHMENT: IN THE VERY WORDS OF ITS ADVOCATES

C H A P T E R VI.

FIRE AND FROST.

But fire, in the opinion of some, is only a part of the punishment which the damned in hell suffer. And one of the refinements of cruelty which orthodoxy has invented to increase the torments of the wretches, lying forever under the curse of God, is their frequent and sudden transition from excessive heat to equally excessive cold.

We can easily conceive something, though very imperfectly no doubt, what a painful effect this would produce. “The sense of touching,” says Jeremy Taylor, “as it is the most extended sense of all the rest, so it shall be the most tormented in that burning fire: all the torments, which the Scripture doth exhibit to us as prepared for the reprobate, seem to fall upon this only sense: ‘They shall pass,’ saith Job, ‘from extremity of cold to intolerable heats;’ whole floods of fire and brimstone, which shall shower down upon these unfortunate wretches. All this belongs unto the sense of touching.”

The passage here quoted from the book of Job is not found in our English Bibles, but occurs in the Latin Vulgate, (chap. xxiv. 19), whence Jeremy Taylor evidently translated it. In the English version we have nothing like it, but read: “Drought and heat consume the snow waters; so doth the grave those that have sinned.”

Whether the notion of increasing the miseries of the damned by these alternations from cold to heat and from heat to cold was suggested by the Latin version of Job, as Jeremy Taylor seems to have thought; or whether it may have been derived from the expression of our Savior, “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” or chattering of teeth, as Dr. Adam Clarke seems to think; or, finally, whether it was derived from some other source, it is now impossible to say.

The words” (of our Savior), says Dr. Clarke, “convey the idea, not only of extreme anguish, but of extreme cold. Some have imagined that the punishment of the damned consists in sudden transitions from extreme heat to extreme cold; the extremes of both I have found to produce exactly the same sensation.”

It’s not enough that eternal conscious torment is a burning torment with extraordinary fire that cuts then heals. The orthodoxy of Dr. Sawyer’s day wish to add to that torment. A rebellious sinner is consigned to hell to be not only burned forever, but to be burned alternatively by fire and then by extreme cold.

Until I read Dr. Sawyer’s expose I never considered ice in hell. In fact, when confronted with an unacceptable choice I will often say, “It will be a cold day in hell!” Little did I know I was touching on the doctrine of eternal conscious torment in my exclamation.

I am struck by the certainty of the words spoken by the orthodoxy. To them there is no doubt that extremes will be placed on body and soul in hell. Yet, I do not find in scripture any such description. It’s as if the doctrine is made up or embellished as we go along.

Father Müller, in his book on Purgatory, before quoted, tells us soberly that a very honest Englishman, by the name of Drathelmus, having died, was permitted, by special grace, to return to the world again, “for the conversion of many,” and reported that that place of divine justice was provided with fire on one side, and snow and ice on the other; so that the inmates of Purgatory could be conveniently translated from one to the other. “And I saw,” said Drathelmus, “a great number of souls horribly tormented, being tossed from the fires to the snows, and from the snows to the fires, thus passing from the most extreme cold to the most extreme heat, without a moment of rest.”

Father Müller finds this account in the works of the venerable Beda, and, as he was an Englishman as well as Drathelmus, who witnessed this whole transaction, what reason have we for doubting its truth? Besides, Milton, whose authority here is equal to that of Beda or Drathelmus himself, in his description of hell, says:

Beyond this flood a frozen continent
Lies dark and wild, beat with perpetual storms
Of whirlwind and dire hail, which on firm land
Thaws not, but gathers heap, and ruin seems
Of ancient pile; all else deep snow and ice
Of gulf profound.The parching air
Burns frore, and cold performs the effect of fire.
Thither by harpy-footed furies haled,
At certain revolutions all the damned
Are brought; and feel by turns the bitter change
Of fierce extremes – extremes by change more fierce –
From beds of raging fire, to starve in ice
Their soft ethereal warmth, and then to pine
Immovable infixed, and frozen round,
Periods of time, thence hurried back to fire.

It seems, however, that Christians are not the only people who enjoy the faith of this ingenious torment. The Hindoos, according to Dr. Adam Clarke, have it in their theology, as well as our religious neighbors in theirs; and it is by no means certain that we are not, after all, indebted to them for its invention, as we undoubtedly are for other things, as the grand institution of monks and nuns, and some very interesting features of our fashionable philosophy.

Dr. Sawyer is right to point out this particular element of eternal conscious torment is based in other religions as well. I searched the Internet hoping to find current Christian thinking regarding the coupling of ice and fire in hell. I found a great deal, but what I found was not relative to Christian thinking. What I found was primarily Islamic in nature. The Islamic holy book is cited mostly.

In the Institutes of Menu occurs the following passage, which I quote from Dr. Clarke: “The wicked shall have a sensation of agony in Tamisra, or utter darkness, and in other seats of horror; in Asipatrivana, or the sword-leaved forest, and different places of binding fast and rending, multifarious tortures await them; they shall be mangled by ravens and owls; and shall swallow cakes boiling hot, and shall walk over inflamed sands, and shall feel the pangs of being baked like the vessels of a potter. They shall assume the forms of beasts continually miserable, and suffer afflictions from extremities of cold and heat, surrounded with terrors of various kinds. They shall have old age without resource; diseases attended with anguish; pangs of innumerable sorts; and, lastly, unconquerable death.”

Dr. Clarke also quotes an expression from the Persian Zend-Avesta, in which hell is represented as “the places of darkness, the germs of the thickest darkness;” and he then asks with intense interest: “And is this, or anything as bad as this, Hell?” To this question he returns the emphatic answer: “Yes; and worse than the worst of all that has been already mentioned. Hear Christ himself: Their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched. Great God, save the reader from this damnation!” Fortunately, like our other orthodox friends, Dr. Clarke himself was safe.

Thus, on the most orthodox grounds, we are forced to the conclusion that, bad as any pagan hell may be, that of the Christian is unspeakably worse. Let heathen philosophers and poets exert their highest powers in picturing a place of misery and describing its most horrible torments, and the simplest Christian, with the New Testament in his hand, can infinitely surpass them all! If the gospel reveals a grace, a goodness, a love, that have been the admiration of the best men the world ever saw; if it discloses a moral government vastly superior to that of all other religions, – it also makes known a hell for a part of mankind that, in the severity of its torments and in its multiplied and aggravated horrors, far transcends everything the heathen world was ever able to invent, or seems to have entered the realm of their wildest thought. Of this we shall have frequent illustrations!

Dr. Sawyer points out that the Christian hell is far more punishing than the “hells” of other religions. He points to contradictions in the orthodoxy’s Christian walk. We have God’s Holy Word and all the expressions of love within it. Men, however, have also created a “hell” that is anything but an expression of love.

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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