Page images

he were to be burnt alive an hundred times, and his torment was to last every time for the space of an hour, with what compassionate eyes would all the world look upon such a miserable wretch! Nevertheless, without all doubt, any of the damned in hell would receive this as a great happiness to end his torments with those hundred times burning: for what comparison is there betwixt an hundred hours burning, with some space of time betwixt every hour, and to burn an hundred years of continual torment! And what comparison will there be betwixt burning for an hundred years' space, and to be burning without interruption, as long as God is God!

Who can express the strange and horrible confusion which shall inhabit the appetite of these wretched creatures? If all the disorders of man's life spring from his passions, what disorder must those miserable souls needs feel in that part, what convulsions, what rage, what fury? Alas! that noble passion, love, the queen of all the rest, the sun of life, that passion which might have made them happy for ever, if they had turned it towards God; that amiable object being razed out of them, the perpetual aversion they have to love shall eternally afflict them, the passion of hatred shall be outrageous in the damned, whence shall proceed their continual blasphemies against God, and the perpetual curses, and imprecations, which they shall make against the creatures; and if they have any desires, they shall be desirous to see all the world partaker of their pains; their aversion from all good shall be as much tormenting, as in itself it is execrable of joy there must no mention be made in that place of dolour; but contrariwise of incredible sadness, which shall oppress them without any consolation. The heat of anger shall redouble the heat of their flames; hope banished from their hearts shall leave the place void to despair, which shall be one of their fiercest tormentors. And though their bodies be within hell's bosom, yet shall they bear about them another hell in their own bosoms.

Consider now, my soul, whether thou art able to live in this devouring fire, whether thou wilt make choice of thy habitation in eternal, flames. This fire is prepared for the devil and his angels; consider whether thou wilt enter in to this cursed crew, and take part of the dregs of their chalice.

There is no medium; either thou must forsake thy sins, or else thou must be given up a prey to this eternal torment. I doubt not, thou wilt make a happy choice; and, to escape so dangerous a gulf, cast thyself into the arms of Divine mercy, which only admits the penitent, and say thus: "O great God, who art a consuming fire, and makest the fire of thy Divine justice issue from amongst the thorns, to burn the tallest cedars in Lebanon; let the fire, which walks before thee as executioner of thy justice, never depart from our memory; may it be unto us a pillar of light in the darkness of our errors, a lamp unto our feet, and a lantern to our ways, whereby we may discover this infernal gulf, which is ready to swallow us up. Thou, O Lord, who didst deliver the three children out of the Babylonian furnace, preserve us from those eternal flames, and exempt us from the burning ones of thy wrath; place us in the light and bright one of thy love, where, like Pyratides and sacred Salamanders, we shall live happy, without pain or torment, singing honour, praise, and benediction unto thee, our God, for ever and ever. Amen.


The Pains of the Powers of a damned Soul.

THE imagination shall afflict those miserable offenders, increasing the pains of the senses by the liveliness of its apprehension: if, in this life, the imagination is sometimes so vehement, that it hurts more than real evils; in the other, the torment which it causes will be excessive. Baptista Fulgosus recounts, as an eye-witness, that being a judge in a duel, one of the competitors made the other fly, but instantly fell down dead himself, without any other cause than an imagination that he was hurt to death; for he neither received wound or blow, neither was the sign of any found upon his dead body. If, in this life, the imagination be so powerful in men who are in health, as to cause a sense of pain, where none hurts; grief, where none molests; and death, where none kills; what shall it be in hell, where so

many devils punish and afflict with torments, preserving only life, that the pain of death may live eternally? And if we see some timorous people with an imaginary fear tremble and remain half dead, there is no doubt but the imagination of those miserable persons, joined with the horror of the place where they are, will cause a thousand pains and torments.

Frame a judgment of it, by that which happens to such, as in this life, finding themselves guilty of grievous crimes, fear to fall into temporal justice: they may indeed sometimes be in a secure place, but never in security: they may be hid from the eyes of men, and be placed out of their reach; but never shall they be able to hide themselves from themselves, or escape the assault of their own consciences. While they wake, they are tortured with fears and suspicions; their sleep is interrupted with wicked dreams; dread doth still follow them; at each one's approach they quake with fear, and the furies, having seized upon them, grant them neither peace nor truce; their troubled thoughts put their hearts upon the rack. Now, if the apprehension of human justice, which hath power only over the body, gives so dreadful alarms to the imagination, what will the sense of the darts of the Divine justice do, which are so many instruments of death, and burning arrows shot at the damned souls ?

The will shall be tormented with an eternal abhorring and rage against itself, against all creatures, and against God, the Creator of all; and shall, with an intolerable sadness, anger, grief, and disorder of all the affections, violently desire things impossible, and despair of all that is good. If joy consists in the possession of what one loves, and pain in the want of that which is desired, and being necessitated to what is abhorred; what greater pain and torment, than to be ever desiring that which shall never be enjoyed, and ever abhorring that which we can never be quit of? That which he desires, he shall never obtain, and what he desires not, eternally suffer; and from hence shall spring that raging fury which David speaks of: "The sinner shall see, and be raging; he shall gnash his teeth, and be consumed." This rage and madness shall be increased by the despair which shall be joined unto it, which must needs be most terrible unto the damned for as the greatest evil is eased by, hope,

so the least is made grievous by despair. Hope in afflictions is supported by two things; one is, the fruit which may result from suffering; the other is, the end and conclusion of the evil suffered but in regard the despair of the damned is of so great evils, the despair itself will be a most horrible


If one suffers and reaps fruit by it, it is a comfort unto him, and the grief is recompensed by the joy of the benefit thereof; but when the suffering is without fruit or profit, then it comes to be heavy indeed: the hope of a good harvest makes the labourer with cheerfulness endure the toil of ploughing and sowing; but if he were certain to reap no profit, every pace he moved would be grievous and irksome unto him. Though in temporal afflictions this hope of recompense should fail, yet the hope that they should sometimes cease and have an end, would afford some comfort and ease unto the sufferers: but in hell both those are wanting; the damned shall never receive reward for their sufferings, nor shall their torments ever have an end.

O let us consider how great a recompense attends the least of our sufferings here in God's service; and how vain and unprofitable shall all our sufferings be hereafter here some few penitent ejaculations may gain eternal glories, there the most intense pains and torments, both in soul and body, cannot deserve a drop of cold water, nor so much ease as to turn from one side to the other. In this raging despair end the vain hopes of sinners: hell is full of those who hoped they should never enter into it, and full of those who despair of getting out of it; they offended with a presumptuous hope they should not die in sin, and that proving false, are fallen into eternal desperation; there is no hope can excuse the falling into so great a danger. Let us therefore secure heaven, and not sin.

The memory shall be another cruel tormentor of those miserable sinners, converting all they have done, good or bad, into torments: the good, because they have lost their reward; the bad, because they have deserved their punishment: the delights also which they have enjoyed, and all the happiness of this life, in which they have triumphed, (seeing that for them they fell into this misery,) shall be a sharp sword which shall pierce their hearts; they shall be

full of affliction, when they shall compare the shortness of their past pleasures with the eternity of their present torments. What groans, what sighs, will they pour out, when they see that those delights, which hardly lasted an instant, and that the pains they suffer for them, shall last for ages and eternities; all that is past, appearing but as a dream. Let us tremble at the pleasures and felicity of this life, since they may turn into arsenic or wormwood. The miserable wretch shall, with great grief, remember, how often he might have gained heaven, and did not, but is now tumbled into hell; and shall say unto himself, "How many times might I have prayed, and spent that time in play; but now I pay for it? How many times ought I to have fasted, and left it, to satisfy my greedy appetite? How many times might I have given alms, and spent it in sin? How many times might I have pardoned my enemies, and chose rather to be revenged? How many times might I have frequented the sacraments, and forbore them, because I would not quit the occasion of sinning? There never wanted means of serving God, but I never made use of them, and am, therefore, justly paid for all. Behold, wretched soul, that, entertaining thyself in pleasures, thou hast for toys and fooleries lost heaven. If thou wouldest, thou mightest have been a companion for angels; if thou wouldest, thou mightest have been in eternal joy, and thou hast left all for the pleasure of a moment. 'O accursed and miserable creature, thy Redeemer courted thee with heaven, and thou despisedst him for a base trifle. This was thy fault, and now thou sufferest for it; and since thou wouldest not be happy with God, thou shalt now be eternally cursed by him and his angels."

[ocr errors]

The understanding shall torment itself with discourses of great bitterness, discoursing of nothing but what may grieve it. Aristotle shall not then take delight in his wisdom, nor Seneca comfort himself with his philosophy; Galen shall find no remedy in his physic, nor the profoundest scholar in his divinity.

Besides these miseries and calamities, in this power of the soul is engendered the worm of conscience; which is so often proposed unto us in holy Scripture, as a most terrible torment, and greater than that of fire. Only in one sermon, Christ, our Redeemer, three times menaces us "with that worm

« PreviousContinue »