ON A MISERABLE ETERNITY
Consider first, that what above all other things makes hell intolerable is the eternity of its torments. It is this eternity that is an infinite aggravation to all and every one of them. It is this bitter ingredient which makes every drop of that cup of the divine vengeance, of which all the damned are forced to drink, so unsupportable. Were there so much as the least glimpse of hope that the miseries of the damned should one day have an end, though it were after millions of ages, hell would be no longer hell; because it would admit of some comfort. But, for all these inexpressible torments to continue for ever, as long as God shall be God, without the least hope of ever seeing an end of them – oh, this it is that is the greatest rack of the damned! O eternity, eternity, how little do worldlings apprehend thee now! How unwilling are they to believe thee (notwithstanding the express declaration of God’s unerring word) for fear thou shouldst put a restraint upon their vicious inclinations! O how terrible wilt thou be to them hereafter when they shall find themselves ingulfed in the bottomless abyss.
Consider 2ndly, if one short night seems so long and tedious to a poor sick man in a burning fever; if he tosses and turns, and nowhere finds rest; if he counts ever hour, and with so much impatience longs for the morning, which yet will bring him but little relief or comfort; what must this dreadful night of eternity be in the midst of all the pains of hell? No man in his senses would purchase a kingdom at the rate of lying for ten year confined to a soft bed without once coming off. Ah! what a misery, then, must it be to be chained down to a bed of fire, and such a fire as that of hell is, with all the rest of its torments – not for ten years only, not for ten thousand times ten years – but for as many hundred thousand million of ages as there are drops of water in the ocean or atoms in the air; in a word, for a never-ending eternity!
Consider 3rdly, in order to frame a better idea of this miserable eternity, what an immense space of time would be required for any one of the damned, if he were to shed but one tear in a thousand years, to shed tears enough to fill the sea. The world has not yet lasted six thousand years, so that the first of all the damned would not have shed six tears. And yet, O dreadful eternity! the time will most certainly come when any one of these wretches shall be able with truth to say, that at the rate of one tear for a thousand years, he might have shed tears enough not only to make a sea, but to drown the whole world, and to fill up the vast space between heaven and earth. And yet alas! after these millions of millions of ages he shall be as far off from the end of his misery as he was the first day he came into that place of woe. Compute after this, if thou pleasest, as many hundred thousand millions of years as thy thoughts can reach to; suppose if thou wilt the whole surface of the earth to be covered with numeral figures; cast up, if thou canst, this prodigious sum of years, and then multiply if by itself; and multiply again a second time the product by itself; and then at the foot of this immense sum write down here begins eternity. O terrible eternity! Is it possible that they who believe should not fear thee? Is it possible that they who fear thee should dare to sin?
Conclude ever to fly with all thy power, for the time to come, all such sins as lead to this miserable eternity. And as to thy past guilt, to take the best care thou art able to wash away now all the stains of thy soul in the blood of the Lamb, by the means of a hearty repentance, and sincere confession. Penitential tears are capable of effacing those stains at present, which everlasting flames shall never be able to burn away hereafter.