Treating Hell the Way it Deserves to be Treated

When the judgment of God is discussed in academic literature, it typically centers around why the account of Lazarus and the Rich Man is a parable about “social justice” or some other milder interpretation which requires a lengthy and heavily footnoted explanation. However, for centuries, God’s people have read of the wrath of God in Scripture and come away with fear like Joseph Alleine communicates below.

While the quote is lengthy, the compounding lines are necessary to begin to pull our hearts out of our own worlds. And of course, since it is a Puritan, you will find no gamesmanship here, no jockeying for position to be published, and no concern to protect someone else’s interpretation.

In an era of triteness that is loath to carry a weighty thought, may God grant the fierce doctrine of eternal punishment to move our souls toward salvation or evangelism.

The furnace of eternal vengeance is heated ready for you. Hell and destruction open their mouths upon you; they gape for you; they groan for you (Is v 14), waiting as it were with a greedy eye as you stand on the brink. If the wrath of men be ‘as the roaring of a lion’ (Prov xix 12), ‘more heavy than the sand’ (Prov xxvii 3), what is the wrath of the infinite God? If the burning furnace heated in Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery rage, when he commanded it to be made seven times hotter, was so fierce as to burn up even those that drew near to throw the three children in, how hot is that burning of the Almighty’s fury! Surely this is seventy times seven more fierce.

What do you think, O man, of being a faggot in hell to all eternity? ‘Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong in the days that I shall deal with thee?’ (Ezek xxii 14). Can you abide the everlasting burnings? Can you dwell with consuming fire, when you shall be as glowing iron in hell, and your whole body and soul shall be as perfectly possessed by God’s burning vengeance as the sparkling iron with fire, when heated in the fiercest furnace?

How then will you endure when God shall pour out all His vials, and set Himself against you to torment you, when He shall make your conscience the tunnel by which He will be pouring His burning wrath into your soul for ever, and when he shall fill all your pores as full of torment as they are now full of sin, when immortality shall be your misery, and to die the death of a brute, and be swallowed in the gulf of annihilation, shall be such a felicity as the whole eternity of wishes and an ocean of tears shall never purchase?

Now you can put off the evil day, and laugh and be merry, and forget the terror of the Lord. But how will you hold out, or hold up, when God casts you into a ‘bed of torments’ (Rev ii 22): and makes you to ‘lie down in sorrow’ (Is 1 I1); when roarings and blasphemies shall be your only music, and the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation, shall be your only drink (Rev xiv 10)? In a word, when the smoke of your torment shall ascend for ever and ever, and you shall have no rest day and night, no rest in your conscience, no ease in your bones; but you shall be an execration and astonishment, and a curse and a reproach, for evermore (Jer xlii 18)?

Oh sinner, stop here, and consider. If you are a man, and not a senseless block, consider. Think where you are standing – upon the very brink of destruction. …

Know from the living God that here you must lie; with these burnings you must dwell till immortality die and immutability change, till eternity run out and omnipotence is no longer able to punish, except you be in good earnest renewed by sanctifying grace.

Joseph Alleine, A Sure Guide to Heaven (1671)

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One Response to Treating Hell the Way it Deserves to be Treated

  1. Justice Mumba says:

    These words not only quake my soul, my heart melts at the portrait they dipict. Oh how sweet these drealful words, and the memory they reward me with. They remind me when we set in your office all most every single week, just to read the dear old Joseph A, with his pen sweetly resounding God’s arlam to our poor sleepifull heart.

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