ON THE WORM OF HELL
Consider first, that as we are assured by the word of God that the fire of hell shall never be quenched, so are we also assured by the same unerring word that the worm of the damned shall never die, (St. Mark ix.) this never-dying worm of a wicked conscience, like a black poisonous serpent, will for ever fasten itself upon their breast: it will continually gnaw them; it will eat its way in their hearts; it will perpetually prey upon their very souls. O who can conceive the greatness of this torment? this eternal remorse; this most bitter but fruitless repentance; this dismal melancholy; this extremity of anguish, accompanied with everlasting horror, confusion, and despair! O how hateful, how abominable will all their former crimes now appear in the eyes of the damned! O how will they now be convinced when ‘tis too late of the enormity of them! O how will they now detest them!
Consider 2ndly, that what eternally feeds this never dying worm is the enormous guilt of mortal sin with which the souls of the damned are eternally stained, infected, and corrupted. This dreadful guilt is ever written on their foreheads: it penetrates them on all sides; renders them more ugly and filthy than the very dungeons of hell; eternally odious in the eyes of their creator; and most intolerable and insupportable to themselves – the very devils are not more hateful to them than their own souls are as long as they see them thus strangely tainted and corrupted, and eternally possessed by this hellish monster – or rather by as many hellish monsters as they have committed mortal sins. Ah! Christians, see by this what the guilt of mortal sin is. See what the dreadful consequences of it are for eternity! And learn from hence to detest it above all evils. O be assured that hell itself can produce nothing worse!
Consider 3rdly, what a racking torture it will be to the damned to all eternity to be revolving, without ceasing, in their memory their past folly, stupidity, and madness in forfeiting the eternal joys of heaven, which they might have obtained at so easy a rate, and selling both their God and their souls for an empty toy – for a filthy satisfaction, that lasted but one moment, and left nothing behind it but guilt and remorse; or for some punctilio of honour or petty interest, by which thy were then robbed of all their true treasures and of all their true honour, and for which they are now reduced to the extremity of all kinds of misery. Oh! what will their judgment be of this cheating world, and of all its short-lived fooleries and vanities, when, after having been millions of years in hell, looking back and scarce being able to find in that immense duration the small point of their mortal life, they shall, with most bitter regret, be continually comparing together time and eternity, past enjoyments and present punishments, virtue and vice, heaven and hell.
Conclude to keep off from the guilt of wilful sin, and the worm of hell shall never come near thee: it can prey upon nothing but mortal sin.