VI. TRUTH OF HELL
This is how the Son of God speaks to us of hell:
“Woe to the world because of scandals; for it must needs be that scandals come; nevertheless, woe to that man by whom scandal cometh!”
“If, then, thy hand or thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off and cast it from thee; it is better for thee to go into life maimed or lame, than, having two hands or two feet, be cast into everlasting fire.”
“And if thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee; it is better for thee, having one eye, to enter into life, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” (Matt. xviii, 7; compare v., 29)
“And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body into hell.” (Matt. x. 28)
“The rich man also died, and he was buried in hell.”
“Now, lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom.”
“And he said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame.” (Luke xvi., 22)
“Then the Judge will say to them that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt xxv., 41)
“Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down in the kingdom of heaven.
“But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. viii., 11)
“The King went in to see the guests, and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. And he saith to him: “Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having on a wedding garment? But he was silent.”
“Then the King said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall weeping, and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 22. 11-14)
“The unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping, and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt xxv., 30)
“But I say to you: Whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment, and whosoever shall say to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matt. v., 22)
“The Son of Man shall send His angels, and they shall gather out of His Kingdom all scandals and them that work iniquity;
“And shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. xviii., 41-42)
“If thy hand scandalize thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into unquenchable fire.”
“There, the gnawing worm dies not and the fire is not extinguished.”
“And if thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter lame into life everlasting than having two feet, to be cast into the hell of unquenchable fire.”
“Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished.”
“And if thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out; it is better for thee with one eye to enter into the Kingdom of God, than, having two eyes, to be cast into the hell of fire.”
“Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished.” (Mark ix., 42)
“Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down and shall be cast into the fire.” (Matt. XII., 19)
“I am the vine; you the branches; he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit. If any one abide not in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth.” (John xv., 6)
“Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days shall come, wherein they shall say to the mountains: Fall upon us; and to the hills: Cover us.”
“For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry? — that is to say, what will sinners be, destined, like the dry wood, to be burned.” (Luke xxiii., 31)
“Already, the axe is laid to the root of the tree: and every tree that doth not yield good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire.”
“He that shall come after me is mightier than I, and he shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire.”
“Whose fan is in his hand and he will thoroughly cleanse his floor; and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Words of St. John the Baptist. (Matt. iii., 12.)
“The beast and the false prophet who had seduced them who had received the character of the beast, and who had admired his image, were cast alive into the pool of fire burning with brimstone.” (Apoc., xix., 20.)
“Where they were tormented day and night, forever and ever.”
“And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the pool of fire.” (Apoc. xx., 10, 15)
To doubt about hell, is to doubt the infallible word of God; it is to give ear to the speech of the libertines rather than to the infallible teaching of the Church.
The Church teaches that there is a hell; a libertine tells you that there is not; and should you prefer to believe a libertine? An honorable Roman, Emilius Scaurus, was accused by a certain Varus, a man without word or honor. Being obliged to prove his innocence, Scaurus addressed the people in this short speech: “Romans, you know Varus says I am guilty of the crime charged against me, and I protest that I am not guilty. Varus says yes, I say no; whom do you beleive?
The people applauded, and the accuser was confounded.
Natural reason confirms the dogma of hell. An atheist was boasting that he did not believe in hell. Among his hearers, there was a sensible young man, modest, but who thought that he ought to shut the silly speaker’s mouth. He put him a single question: “Sir,” he said, “the kings of the earth have prisons to punish their refractory subjects; how can God, the King of the Universe, be without a prison for those who outrage His majesty?” The sinner had not a word to answer. The appeal was presented to the light of his own reason, which proclaims that, if kings have prisons, God must have a hell.
The atheist who denies hell is like the thief who should deny the prison. A thief was threatened with sentence to prison. The foolish fellow replied: “There is no Court, there is no prison.” He was speaking thus, when an officer of justice put his hand on his shoulder, and dragged him before the Judge. This is an image of the atheist who is foolish enough to deny hell. A day will come, when, taken unawares by divine justice, he shall see himself dashed headlong into the pit which he stubbornly denied, and he shall be forced to acknowledge the terrible reality.
The atheist who denies hell is like the African heron. That stupid bird, when chased by hunters, plunges its head into the sand, and keeping stirless, believes it is secure from danger, because it does not see the enemy. But soon the piercing arrow comes to undeceive it. Thus absorbed, sunk in earthly things, the sinner is persuaded that he has nothing to fear from hell until the day when death strikes him and shows him, by a sad experience, how deceive he has been.
The truth of hell is so clearly revealed that heresy has never denied it. Protestants, who have demolished almost all dogmas, have not dared to touch this dogma. This fact suggests to a Catholic lady this witty answer.
Anxiously importuned by two Protestant ministers to pass over into the camp of the Reformation: “Gentlemen,” she replied, “you have indeed achieved a fine reformation. You have suppressed fasting, confession, purgatory. Unfortunately, you have kept hell; put hell away, and I shall be one of you.” Yes, Messrs. Freethinkers, remove hell, and then ask us to be yours. But know that an “I do not believe in it,” is not sufficient to do away with it.
Is it not the most inconceivable folly to rely on a perhaps, at the risk of falling into hell? Two atheists went one day into an anchorite’s cell.
At the sight of his instruments of penance, they asked him why he was leading so mortified a life. “To deserve paradise,” he replied. “Good Father,” they said, smiling, “You would be nicely caught, if there is nothing after death!” “Gentlemen,” rejoined the holy man, as he looked at them with compassion, “you will be quite otherwise, if there is any.”
A young man belonging to a Catholic family in Holland, as a consequence of imprudent reading, had the misfortune to lose the treasure of faith and fall into a state of complete indifference. It was a subject of the bitterest grief for his parents, especially his pious mother.
In vain did this other Monica give him the most solid lectures, in vain did she admonish him with tears to come back to God; her unhappy son was deaf and insensible.
Yet, at last, to satisfy his mother, he was pleased to consent to spend a few days in a religious house, there to follow the exercises of a retreat, or rather, as he put it, to rest a few days and smoke tobacco, and enjoyment he loved. So, he listened with a distracted mind to the instructions given to those making the retreat, and speedily after began again to smoke without thinking further of what he had heard.
The instruction on hell, to which he seemed to listen to like the rest, came on, but being back again in his little cell, while he was taking his smoke as usual, a reflection arose, in spite of him, in his mind. “If, however, it should be true,” he says to himself, “that there is a hell! If there be one, clearly it shall be for me! And in reality, do I know, myself, that there is not a hell? I am obliged to acknowledge that I have no certainty in this behalf; the whole ground of my ideas is only a perhaps. Now, to run the risk of burning for eternity on a perhaps, frankly speaking, as a matter of extravagance, would be to go beyond the bounds. If there are some who have such courage, I have not sufficiently lost my senses to imitate them.” Thereupon, he begins to pray, grace penetrates his soul, his doubts vanish, and he rises up, converted.
A pious author relates the history of the tragic punishment that befell an ungodly scoffer of hell. This was a man of quality, whom the author, through respect for his family, does not name; he designates him by the fictitious name of Leontius.
This unfortunate man made it a boast to brave heaven and hell, which he treated as chimerical superstitions. One day, when a feast was about to be celebrated at his castle, he took a walk, accompanied by a friend, and wished to go through the cemetery.
Chancing to stumble against a skull lying on the ground, he kicked it aside with profane, blasphemous words: “Out of my way,” he said, “rotten bones, worthless remains of what is not more.” His companion, who did not share in his sentiments, ventured to say to him “that he did wrong to use this language. The remains of the dead,” he added, “must be respected, on account of their souls, which are always alive, and which will assume their bodies again on the day of the resurrection.” Leontius answered by this challenge spoken to the skull: “If the spirit that animated thee still exists, let it come and tell me some news about the other world. I invite it for this very evening to my banquet.”
Evening came, he was at table with numerous friends, and telling his adventure of the cemetery, while repeating his profanations, when, all at once, a great noise is made and almost at the same time a horrible ghost appears in the dining-room, and spreads fright among the guests, Leontius, especially, losing all audacity, is pale, trembling, out of his wits. he wants to flee; the specter does not give him time, but springs on him with the swiftness of lightning, and smashed his head to pieces against the wainscot.
I do not know how far this recital is authentic; but what is certain is that a day will come when the pride of the ungodly shall be dashed down, and their heads broken by the Judge of the living and the dead: “The Lord shall judge among nations, He shall fill ruins; He shall crush the heads in the land of many.” (Ps. 109.)
Here is another fact almost contemporaneous and related by a trustworthy author: Two young men, whose names, through respect for their families, must remain secret, but whom I shall call Eugene and Alexander, old schoolmates and college friends, met again later in life after a long separation.
Eugene, having stayed at home; used to occupy himself with the works of charity, according to the spirit of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, of which he was a member. Alexander had entered the army and obtained the rank of colonel; but, unhappily, there he lost every spark of religion.
Having procured a leave of absence of a few days, he had returned to his family, and wished to see Eugene. The interview happened on a Sunday. After they had chatted together for a time, “Friend,” said Eugene, “it is time to leave you. Wither do you wish to go? It cannot be there is anything pressing?” “I am going first after the business of salvation; then I must attend a benevolent reunion.” “Poor Eugene; I see it; you still believe in paradise and hell. ‘Tis all a chimera, superstition, fanaticism.” “Dear Alexander, do not speak so; you, like me, learned that the dogmas of faith rest on unexceptionable facts.” “Chimeras, I tell you, which I believe no longer. If there be a hell, I am willing to go there today. Come with me to the theater.” “Dear friend, use your liberty, but do not brave God’s justice.” Eugene spoke to a deaf man, who was unwilling to heed salutary advice. He left him with a sore heart.
That very day, in the evening, Eugene was already in bed, when he was awakened. “Quick,” they said to him, “rise, go to Alexander’s; he has been just brought back from the theater, seized by a frightful pain.” Eugene runs thither, and finds him tossed by violent convulsions, with foam in his mouth and rolling his wild eyes. As soon as he sees Eugene, “You say there is a hell,” he shouts; “you say, truly, there is a hell, and I am going thither; I am there already; I feel its tortures and fury.”
In vain did Eugene try to calm him; the unhappy man answers only by yells and blasphemies. In the transports of his rage, he tore with his teeth the flesh off his arms, and cast the bleeding fragments at Eugene, his mother, and sisters. It was in this paroxysm of agony that he expired. His mother died of grief, his two sisters entered religion, and Eugene also renounced the world; owner of a brilliant fortune, he forsook all to consecrate himself to God, and avoid hell.