The Awaking of the Ungodly Soul in Hell
Unhappy sinners who are lulled to rest by the illusions of the world and who live as if there were no Hell, will be suddenly stripped of their illusions by the most frightful of catastrophes. From the midst of their pleasures they shall fall into the Pit of Torments.
The disaster of the Café Kivoto supplies an image of the catastrophe still more terrible which awaits them sooner or later.
The Kivoto was a theatrical café at Smyrna, built upon piles in the sea. The extremely stout stakes that kept the house above the waves--water and time-eaten--had lost their solid contents. It was on February 11, 1873, at 10 p.m. Two hundred persons had assembled to witness a comic spectacle. They were amusing themselves, when all at once a frightful crash was heard. At the same moment everything gave way and was turned topsy-turvy; the house, with the theater and spectators, was pitched forward and swallowed up in the sea. What an awful surprise for those amusement amateurs! But a more tragic surprise awaits the worldling! A day will come when, from the center of his pleasures, he shall all of a sudden behold himself cast headlong into a sea of sulphur and fire.
On the night of March 31-April 1, 1873, a stately and magnificent steamship, the Atlantic, foundered on the Canadian banks near Halifax. The number on board, passengers and crew, reached 950, of whom 700 were lost in the shipwreck. Most of them were wrapped in sleep when the vessel, striking some rocks, sank almost instantaneously. Swallowed up by the sea in the middle of their repose, they awoke in the waters and were suffocated before being able to account for the terrible accident which had just happened. Frightful awaking! But more frightful by far will be the awaking of the atheist when he shall see himself suddenly engulfed in Hell.
On December 28, 1879, there occurred the Tay Bridge accident. The train from London to Edinburgh crosses the Tay, near Dundee, over an iron bridge half a league long. A dreadful storm, which had swelled the waves and broken the bridge during the day, ended by sweeping away several arches, despite the iron cross-bars and piers. These arches, when falling, left an empty space, which was not perceived in the darkness. At 7:30 p.m., the express train out from Edinburgh thundered along, carrying a hundred travelers; it mounted the fatal bridge, and soon coming on the empty space, was hurled into the waves. Not a cry was heard; in the twinkling of an eye, the victims were in the depths below. What a surprise! What a sudden change! But what will it be, when the sinner shall see himself, in the twinkling of an eye, in the pit of Hell?
The 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: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom scandal cometh.
"And if 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 to 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. 18: 7-9; compare 5:29-30).
"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 in hell." (Matt. 10:28).
"The rich man also died: and he was buried in hell.
"And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
"And he cried, and 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 16:22-24).
"Then he shall say to them also 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. 25:41).
"And I say to you that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob 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. 8:11-12).
"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 be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 22:11-13).
"The unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt. 25:30).
"But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matt. 5:22).
"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. 13:41-42).
"And 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.
"Where their worm dieth 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 9:42-47).
"Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire." (Matt. 7:19).
"I am the vine; you the branches; he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.
"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 15:5, 6).
"But Jesus turning to them, said: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over me; but weep for yourselves, and for your children.
"For behold, the days shall come, wherein they will say: Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that have not borne, and the paps that have not given suck.
"Then shall they begin to 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?" (Luke 23:28, 30-31). That is to say, what will sinners be, destined, like the dry wood, to be burned.
"For now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that doth not yield good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire.
"I indeed baptize you in water unto penance, but he that shall come after me, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear, 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." (Matt. 3:10-12). Words of St. John the Baptist.
"And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet, who wrought signs before him, wherewith he seduced them who received the character of the beast, and who adored his image. These two were cast alive into the pool of fire, burning with brimstone." (Apoc. 19:20).
Where they were tormented day and night, for ever and ever.
"And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the pool of fire." (Apoc. 20:15).
To doubt about Hell is to doubt the infallible word of God; it is to give ear to the speech of libertines rather than to the infallible teachings 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, and you know me; now, 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 will you believe?" 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 without 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 of hell.
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 suggested to a Catholic lady this witty answer. Anxiously importuned by two Protestant ministers to pass over into the camp of the Reformation, she replied, "Gentlemen, 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 (hermit'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!"
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 to 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, an 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 his mind in spite of himself: "If, however, it should be true," he said 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 basis of my thinking is only a perhaps. Now, to run the risks of burning for eternity on a perhaps, frankly speaking, as a matter of extravagance, would be to go beyond bounds. If there are some who have such courage, I have not sufficiently lost my senses to imitate them." Thereupon, he began to pray; grace penetrated his soul; his doubts vanished; and he rose 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 no 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 was made, and almost at the same time a horrible ghost appeared in the dining room, and spread fright among the guests. Leontius, especially, losing all his audacity, was pale, trembling, out of his wits. He wanted to flee; the spectre did not give him time, but sprang upon him with the swiftness of lightning, and smashed his head to pieces against the wainscot. 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." (Psalm 109: 6).
Here is a 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 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 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, Eugene said, "Alexander, it is time to leave you." "Where 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. It is 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 just been brought back from the theater, seized by a frightful pain." Eugene ran there, and found him tossed by violent convulsions, with foam in his mouth and rolling his wild eyes. As soon as he saw Eugene, he shouted, "You say there is a Hell; you say truly there is a Hell, and I am going there; I am there already; I feel its tortures and fury."
In vain did Eugene try to calm him; the unhappy man answered 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 quitted the world; owner of a brilliant fortune, he forsook all to consecrate himself to God and avoid Hell.
Chapter 7: Pains of Hell
Four Last Things Page