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´╗┐Title: Hell - Warm Words on the Cheerful and Comforting Doctrine of Eternal Damnation
Author: Ingersoll, Robert Green, 1833-1899
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hell - Warm Words on the Cheerful and Comforting Doctrine of Eternal Damnation" ***

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By Col. Robert G. Ingersoll

Minister Of The Gospel Of Free Thought In America

Rev. HENRY WARD BEECHER says:--"I admire Ingersoll because he is not
afraid to speak what he honestly thinks, and I am only sorry he does not
think as I do. I never heard so much brilliancy and pith put into a two
hours' Speech as I did on that night. I wish my whole Congregation had
been there to hear it. I regard him as one of the greatest Men of the
Age."--New York Herald.


THE idea of a hell was born of revenge and brutality on the one side,
and cowardice on the other. In my judgment the American people are too
brave, too charitable, too generous, too magnanimous, to believe in the
infamous dogma of an eternal hell. I have no respect for any human being
who believes in it. I have no respect for any man who preaches it.
I have no respect for the man who will pollute the imagination of
childhood with that infamous lie. I have no respect for the man who will
add to the sorrows of this world with the frightful dogma. I have no
respect for any man who endeavours to put that infinite cloud, that
infinite shadow, over the heart of humanity.

For a good many years the learned intellects of Christendom have been
examining into the religions of other countries in the world, the
religions of the thousands that have passed away. They examined into the
religions of Egypt, the religion of Greece, the religion of Rome and
of the Scandinavian countries. In the presence of the ruins of those
religions the learned men of Christendom insisted that those religions
were baseless, that they were fraudulent. But they have all passed away.
While this was being done the Christianity of our day applauded, and
when the learned men got through with the religions of other countries
they turned their attention to our religion. By the same mode of
reasoning, by the same methods, by the same arguments that they used
with the old religions, they were overturning the religion of our day.
Why? Every religion in this world is the work of man. Every book has
been written by man. Men existed before the books. If books had existed
before man, I might admit there was such a thing as a sacred volume. Man
never had an idea--man will never have an idea, except those supplied
to him by his surroundings. Every idea in the world that man has came to
him by nature. You can imagine an animal with the hoof of a bison, with
the pouch of the kangaroo, with the wings of an eagle, with the beak
of a bird, and with the tail of the lion; and yet every point of this
monster you borrowed from nature. Every thing you can think of, every
thing you can dream of, is borrowed from your surroundings. And there
is nothing on this earth coming from any other sphere whatever. Man has
produced every religion in the world. And why? Because each religion
bodes forth the knowledge and the belief of the people at the time it
was made, and in no book is there any knowledge found, except that of
the people who wrote it. In no book is there found any knowledge, except
that of the time in which it was written. Barbarians have produced, and
always will produce barbarian religions; barbarians have produced and
always will produce ideas in harmony with their surroundings, and all
religions to-day. That is to-say, we are changing them, and the religion
of to-day is not the religion of one year ago. What changed it? Science
has done it; education and the growing heart of man has done it. And
just to the extent that we become civilized ourselves, will we improve
the religion of our fathers. If the religion of one hundred years ago,
compared with the religion of to-day is so low, what will it be in one
thousand years?

If we continue making the inroads upon orthodoxy which we have been
making during the last twenty-five years, what will it be fifty years
from to-night? It will have to be remonetized by that time, or else it
will not be legal tender. In my judgment, every religion that stands
by appealing to miracles is dishonoured Every religion in the world has
denounced every other religion as a fraud. That proves to me that they
all tell the truth--about others. Why? suppose Mr. Smith should tell
Mr. Brown that he--Smith--saw a corpse get out of the grave, and that
when he first saw it, it was covered with the worms of death, and that
in his presence it was re-clothed in healthy, beautiful flesh. And then
suppose Mr. Brown should tell Mr. Smith, "I saw the same thing myself.
I was in a graveyard once, and I saw a dead man rise." Suppose then that
Smith should say to Brown, "You're a liar," and Brown should reply to
Smith, "And you're a liar," what would you think? It would simply be
because Smith, never having seen it himself, didn't believe Brown; and
Brown, never having seen it, didn't believe Smith had. Now, if Smith had
really seen it, and Brown told him he had seen it too, then Smith would
regard it as a corroboration of his story, and he would regard Brown
as one of his principal witnesses. But, on the contrary, he says, "You
never saw it." So when a man says, "I was upon Mount Sinai, and there I
met God, and he told me, 'Stand aside and let me drown these people; '"
and another man says to him, "I was up upon a mountain, and there I met
the Supreme Brahma," and Moses says, "That's not true," and contends
that the other man never did see Brahma, and he contends that Moses
never did see God, that is in my judgment proof that they both speak

Every religion, then, has charged every other religion with having been
an unmitigated fraud; and yet, if any man had ever seen the miracle
himself, his mind would be prepared to believe that another man had seen
the same thing. Whenever a man appeals to a miracle he tells-what is not
true. Truth relies upon reason, and the undeviating course of all the
laws of nature.

Now, we have a religion--that is, some people have. I do not pretend
to have religion myself. I believe in living for this world--that's my
doctrine--to make everybody happy that you can. Let the future take care
of itself, and if I ever touch the shores of another world, I will be
just as ready and anxious to get into some remunerative employment as
anybody else. Now, we have got in this country a religion which men have
preached for about eighteen hundred years, and just in proportion as
their belief in that religion has grown great, men have grown mean and
wicked; just in proportion as they have ceased to believe it, men have
become just and charitable. And if they believed it to-night as they
once believed it, I wouldn't be allowed to speak in the city of New
York. It is from the coldness and infidelity of the churches that I
get my right to preach; and I say it to their credit. Now we have a
religion. What is it? They say in the first place that all this vast
universe was created by a Deity. I don't know whether it was or not.
They say, too, that had it not been for the first sin of Adam there
would never have been any devil in this world, and if there had been no
devil there would have been no sin, and if there had been no sin there
never would have been any death. For my part I am glad there was death
in this world, because that gave me a chance. Somebody had to die to
give me room, and when my turn comes I'll be willing to let somebody
else take my place. But whether there is another life or not, if there
is duty being who gave me this, I shall thank him from the bottom of my
heart, because, upon the whole, my life has been a joy. Now they say,
because of this first sin all man was consigned to eternal hell. And
this because Adam was our representative. Well, I always had an idea
that my representative ought to live somewhere about the same time I
do. I always had an idea that I should have some voice in choosing my
representative. And if I had a voice I never should have voted for the
old gentleman called Adam. Now in order to regain man from the frightful
hell of eternity, Christ himself came to this world and took upon
himself flesh, and in order that we might know the road to eternal
salvation he gave us a book, and that book is called the Bible, and
wherever that Bible has been read men have immediately commenced cutting
each others' throats. Wherever that Bible has been circulated, they have
invented inquisitions and instruments of torture, and have commenced
hating each other with all their hearts. But I am told now, we are all
told, that this Bible is the foundation of civilization; I say that this
Bible is the foundation of hell, and we never shall get rid of the dogma
of hell until we get rid of the idea that it is an inspired book.

Now, what does the Bible teach? I am not going to talk about what this
minister or that minister says it teaches; the question is, "Ought a man
to be sent to eternal hell for not believing this Bible to be the work
of a merciful Father?" and the only way to find out is to read it; and
as very few people do read it now, I will read a few passages. This
is the book to be read in the schools, in order to make our children
charitable and good; this is the book that we must read in order that
our children may have ideas of mercy, charity, and justice.

Does the Bible teach mercy? Now be honest. I read: "_I will make mine
arrows drunk with blood; and my sword shall devour flesh?_" (Deut. xxxii.
42.) Pretty good start for a merciful God! "_That thy foot may be dipped
in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same?_"
(Ps. lxviii. 23.) Again: "_And the Lord thy God will put out those
nations before thee by little and little; thou mayest not consume them
at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee?_" (Deut vii.

Read the glorious exploits of Joshua, chosen captain of the Lord,
and note how, having coveted the fertile land of Goshen, he smote the
people, houghed their horses, despoiled their cities, and put all that
breathed to the edge of the sword, as the moral God had commanded.
Moreover he came against them suddenly, not a solitary trumpet blast
from the celestial orchestra was there calling upon the people to yield,
or to move out their country, bag and baggage. No; instantaneous fire
and butchery. Observe, too, the charming naivete of the statement:
"_There-was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save
the Hivites_." Why? Because the Lord "_hardened their hearts, that
they should come against Israel in battle that he might destroy them

Do you wish further examples of a God of mercy? Read in Exodus how the
Lord ordered the harrying of cities and the wholesale slaughter of the
inhabitants. "_Thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth; but thou
shalt utterly destroy them._" The old men and the maidens, and the sweet
dimpled babe smiling upon the lap of its mother.

Recollect, these instructions were given to an army of invasion, and the
people who were fighting were guilty of the crime of fighting for their
homes. The Old Testament is full of curses, vengeance, jealousy, and
hatred; of barbarity and brutality. Now, do not for one moment believe
that these words were written by the most merciful God. Don't pluck from
the heart the sweet flowers of piety and crush them by superstition.
Do not believe that God ever ordered the murder of innocent women and
helpless babes. Do not let this supposition turn your hearts into stone.
When anything is said to have been written by the most merciful God, and
the thing is not merciful, then I deny it, and say he never wrote it. I
will live by the standard of reason, and if thinking in accordance with
reason takes me to perdition, then I will go to hell with my reason
rather than to heaven without it.

Now, does this Bible teach political freedom, or does it teach political
tyranny? Does it teach a man to resist oppression? Does it teach a man
to tear from the throne of tyranny the crowned thing and robber called a
king? Let us see. "_Let every soul be subject to the higher 'powers; for
there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God_."
(Rom. xiii. 1.) All the kings, and princes, and governors, and thieves,
and robbers that happened to be in authority were placed there by the
infinite father of all! "_Whosoever therefore resisteth the power,
resisteth the ordinance of God._" And when George Washington resisted
the power of George the Third, he resisted the power of God. And when
our fathers said "resistance to tyrants is obedience to God," they
falsified the Bible itself. "_For he is the minister of God to thee for
good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not
the sword in vain; for he is the minister of God, revenger to execute
wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject not
only for wrath, but also for conscience's sake._" (Rom. xiii. 4. 5.)

I deny this wretched doctrine. Wherever the sword of rebellion is
drawn to protect the rights of man, I am a rebel. Wherever the sword of
rebellion is drawn to give man liberty, to clothe him in all his just
rights, I am on the side of that rebellion. I deny that rulers are
crowned by the Most High; the rulers are the people, and the presidents
and others are but the servants of the people. All authority comes from
the people, and not from the aristocracy of the air. Upon these texts of
Scripture which I have just read rest the thrones of Europe, and these
are the voices that are repeated from age to age by brainless kings and
heartless kings.

Does the Bible give woman her rights? Is this Bible humane? Does it
treat woman as she ought to be treated, or is it barbarian? Let us see.
"_Let women learn in silence with all subjection_." (1 Timothy ii. 11.)
If a woman would know anything let her ask her husband.

Imagine the ignorance of a lady who had only that source of information.
"_But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the
man, but be in silence._" Observe the magnificent reason. "_For Adam was
first formed, then Eve, And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being
deceived, was in the transgression._" Splendid! "_But I would have you
know that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is
the man; and the head of Christ is God_." That is to say, there is as
much difference between the woman and the man as there is between Christ
and man. There is the liberty of woman. "_For the man is not of the
woman, but the woman is of the man. Neither was the man created for the
woman._" Well, what was he created for? "_But the woman was created
for the man. Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the
Lord_." There's liberty! "_For the husband is the head of the wife, even
as Christ is the head of the church; and he is the saviour of the body.
Therefore, as the church is subject unto Christ so let the wives to be
their own husbands in every thing_." Even the Saviour didn't put man and
woman upon any equality. The man could divorce the wife, but the wife
could not divorce the husband, and according to the Old Testament, the
mother had to ask forgiveness for being the mother of babes. Splendid!

Here is something from the Old Testament: "_When thou goest forth to
war against thine enemies, and the Lord thy God hath delivered them
into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive. And seest among
the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou
wouldst have her to thy wife. Then thou shalt bring her home to thine
house; and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails_," (Deut. xxi.
10, 11, 12.) That is in self-defence, I suppose!

This sacred book, this foundation of human liberty, of morality, does
it teach concubinage and polygamy? Read the thirty-first chapter of
Numbers, read the twenty-first chapter of Deuteronomy, read the blessed
lives of Abraham, of David, or of Solomon, and then tell me that the
sacred scripture does not teach polygamy and concubinage? All the
language of the world is not sufficient to express the infamy of
polygamy; it makes man a beast and woman a stone. It destroys the
fireside and makes virtue an outcast. And yet it is the doctrine of the
Bible. The doctrine defended by Luther and Melancthon! It takes from our
language those sweetest words--father, husband, wife, and mother, and
takes us back to barbarism and fills our hearts with the crawling, slimy

Does the Bible teach the existence of devils? Of course it does. Yes,
it teaches not only the existence of a good Being, but a bad being. This
good Being had to have a home; that home was heaven. This bad being
had to have a home; and that home was hell. This hell is supposed to
be nearer to earth than I would care to have it, and to be peopled with
spirits, hobgoblins, and all the fiery shapes with which the imagination
of ignorance and fear could people that horrible place; and the Bible
teaches the existence of hell and this big devil and all these little
devils. The Bible teaches the doctrine of witchcraft, and makes us
believe that there are sorcerers and witches, and that the dead could be
raised by the power of sorcery. Read the account of the spiritual seance
at which Saul and the Witch of Endor assisted, and which resulted in the
calling up of Samuel. Does any one believe that now?

In another place it is declared that witchcraft is an abomination unto
the Lord. He wanted no rivals in this business. Now what does the
New Testament teach? Turn to the story of Jesus being led into the
wilderness for the devil to experiment upon him. He was starved forty
days and forty nights, and then asked to work a miracle! After that the
devil placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, and asked him to cast
himself down to prove that he was the Son of God. Is it possible that
any one can believe that the devil absolutely took God Almighty, and put
him on the pinnacle of the temple, and endeavoured to persuade him to
jump down? "_Again the devil taketh him into an exceeding high mountain,
and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall
down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan,
for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only
shalt thou serve_." (Matt. iv. 8-11.) Now, the devil must have known at
that time that he was God, and God at that time must have known that
the other was the devil. How could the latter be conceived to have the
impudence to promise God a world in which he did not have a tax-title to
an inch of land.

Then there is that pig story. When the "boss" devil had left Jesus and
angels had ministered unto him, and he had taken a short sea voyage,
there came out to meet him a man possessed of a number of minor devils,
and a man whom no one could tame, nor bind, no not with chains, and who
dwelt among the tombs. A nice quiet citizen truly! And after some parley
the devils beseech Jesus, saying:--"_Send us into the swine that we may
enter into them. And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean
spirits went out, and entered into the swine; and the herd ran violently
down a steep place into the sea_ (there were about two thousand) _and
were choked in the sea._" No doubt a good riddance; but what the owner
of the swine thought of the transaction, or whether he was indemnified
for the loss of his porkers deponent cannot say. Are we reasonable men
in the nineteenth century in the United States of America and believe
this? I deny it. These fables of devils have covered the world with
blood; they have filled the world with fear, and I am going to do what I
can to free the world of these insatiate monsters. Small and great they
have filled the world with monsters, they have made the world a synonym
of liar and ferocity.

And it is this book that ought to be read in all the schools--this book
that teaches man to enslave his brother. If it is larceny to steal the
result of labour, how much more is it larceny to steal the labourer
himself. "_Moreover, of the children of the strangers that do so sojourn
among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with
you, which they begat in your land; and they shall be your possession.
And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to
inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever; but
over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over
another with rigour_." (Lev. xv. 45, 46.) Why? Because they are not as
good as you will buy of the heathen roundabout.

These are edifying texts. Consult also Exod. xxi. 1, where you will find
a complete slave code. No detail is wanting. Under certain conditions
the master is to bring his servant to the judges, then he is to lug him
to the doorpost and bore his ear through with an awl--; "_And he shall
serve him for ever_." This is the doctrine which has ever lent itself
to the chains of slavery, and makes a man imprison himself rather than
desert wife and children. I hate it!

What does this same book with its glad tidings of great joy for all
people say of the rights of children? Let us see how they are treated by
the "most merciful God." "_If a man hath a stubborn and rebellious son,
which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother,
and that when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them. Then
shall his father and his mother lay hold of him, and bring him out unto
the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place. And they
shall say unto the elders of his city: This our son is stubborn and
rebellious, he will not obey our voice, he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die; so
shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear and
fear_." (Deut. xxi. 18.)

Abraham was commanded to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice, and he
intended to obey. The boy was not consulted.

Did you ever hear the story of Jepthah's daughter? Is there in the
history of the world a sadder story than that? Can a God who would
accept such a sacrifice be worthy of the worship of civilized men? I
believe in the rights of children, I plead for the republic at home, for
the democracy of the fireside, and for this I am called a heathen and
a devil by those who believe in the cheerful and comforting doctrine of
eternal damnation. Read the book of Job! God met the devil and asked him
where he had been, and he said: "Walking up and down the country," and
the Lord said to him: "Have you noticed my man Job over here, how
good he is?" And the devil said: "Of course he's good, you give him
everything he wants. Just take away his property and he'll curse you.
You just try it." And he did try it, and took away his goods, but Job
still remained good. The devil laughed and said that he had not been
tried enough. Then the Lord touched his flesh, but he was still true.
Then he took away his children, but he remained faithful, and in the
end, to show how much Job made by this fidelity, his property was all
doubled, and he had more children than ever. If you have a child, and
you love it, would you be satisfied with a God who would destroy it, and
endeavour to make it up by giving you another that was better looking?
No, you want that one; you want no other, and yet this is the idea of
the love of children taught in the Bible.

Does the Bible teach you freedom of religion? To-day we say that every
man has a right to worship God or not, to worship him as he pleases. Is
it the doctrine of the Bible? Read Deut. xii. 6. If a brother, or son,
or daughter, or wife proposes to serve any god but your own, or that of
your fathers, thou shalt not pity, nor spare, nor conceal. "_Thou shalt
surely kill him; thine hand shall be the first upon him to put him to
death, and thou shalt stone him with stones that he die_."

And do you know, according to that, if you had lived in Palestine,
and your wife that you love as your own soul had said to you, "Let us
worship the sun whose golden beams clothe the world in glory; let us
bow to that great luminary; I love the sun because it gave me your face;
because it gave me the features of my babe; let us worship the sun;" it
was then your duty to lay your hands upon her, your eye must not pity
her, but it was your duty to cast the first stone against that tender
and loving breast! I hate such doctrine! I hate such books! I hate gods
that will write such books 1 I tell you that it is infamous! That is
the religious liberty of the Bible--that's it And this God taught
that doctrine to the Jews, and said to them, "Any one that teaches a
different religion, kill him!" Now, let me ask, and I want to-do it

If, as is contended, God gave these frightful laws to the Jews, and
afterwards this same God took upon himself flesh, and came among the
Jews, and taught a different religion, and these Jews, in accordance
with the laws which this same God gave them, crucified him, did he not
reap what he had sown? The mercy of all this comes in what is called
"the plan of salvation." What is that plan? According to this great
plan, the innocent suffer for the guilty to satisfy a law.

What sort of a law must it be that would be satisfied with the suffering
of innocence? According to this plan, the salvation of the whole
world depends upon the bigotry of the Jews and the treachery of Judas.
According to the same plan, there would have been no death in the world
if there had been no sin, and if there had been no death you and I would
not have been called into existence, and if we did not exist we could
not have been saved; so we owe our salvation to the bigotry of the Jews
and the treachery of Judas, and we are indebted to the devil for our
existence. I speak this reverently. It strikes me that what they
call the atonement is a kind of moral bankruptcy. Under its merciful
provisions man is allowed the privilege of sinning credit, and whenever
he is guilty of a mean action, he says, "Charge it." In my judgment,
this kind of bookkeeping breeds extravagance in sin.

Suppose we had a law in New York that every merchant should give credit
to every man who asked it, under pain and penitentiary, and that every
man should take the benefit of the bankruptcy statute any Saturdays
night? Doesn't the credit system in morals breed extravagance in sin?
That's the question. Who's afraid of punishment which is so far away?
Whom does the doctrine of hell stop? The great, the rich, the powerful?
No; the poor, the weak, the despised, the mean. Did you ever hear of a
man going to hell who died in New York worth a million of dollars, or
with an income of twenty-five thousand a year? Did you ever hear of a
man going to hell who rode in a carriage? Never. They are the gentlemen
who talk about their assets, and who say, "Hell is not for me; it is for
the poor. I have all the luxuries I want, give that to the poor." Who go
to hell? Tramps!

Let me tell you a story. There was once a frightful rain, and all
the animals held a convention, to see whose fault it was, and the fox
nominated the lion for chairman. The wolf seconded the motion, and the
hyena said that suits. When the convention was called to order the fox
was called upon to confess his sins. He stated, however, that it would
be much more appropriate for the lion to commence first. Thereupon the
lion said: "I am not conscious of having committed evil. It is true I
have devoured a few men, but for what other purpose were men made?" And
they all cheered, and were satisfied. The fox gave his views upon the
goose question, and the wolf admitted that he had devoured sheep, and
occasionally had killed a shepherd, but "all acquainted with the history
of my family will bear me out when I say that shepherds have been the
enemies of my family from the beginning of the world."

Then away in the rear there arose a simple donkey, with a kind of
Abrahamic countenance. He said, "I expect it's me, I had eaten nothing
for three days except three thistles. I was passing a monastery; the
monks were at mass. The gates were open leading to a yard full of sweet
clover. I knew it was wrong, but I did slip in and I took a mouthful,
but my conscience smote me and I went out," and all the-animals shouted,
"He's the fellow!" and in two minutes they had his hide on the fence.
That's the kind of people that go to hell.

Now this doctrine of hell, that has been such a comfort to my race,
which so many ministers are pleading for, has been defended for ages-by
the fathers of the church. Your preacher says that the sovereignty of
God implies that he has an absolute, unlimited, and independent right
to dispose of his creatures as he will, because he made them. Has he?
Suppose I take this book and change it immediately into a servient human
being. Would I have a right to torture it because I made it? No; on the
contrary. I would say, having brought you into existence, it is my
duty to do the best for you I can. They say God has a right to damn me
because he made me. I deny it.

Another one says, God is not obliged to save even those who believe in
Christ, and that he can either bestow salvation upon his children or
retain it without any diminution of his glory. Another one says, God may
save any sinner whatsoever, consistently with his justice. Let a natural
person--and I claim to be one--moral or immoral, wise or unwise, let him
be as just as he can, no matter what his prayers may be, what pains he
may have taken to be saved, or whatever circumstances he may be in,
God, according to this writer, can deny him salvation, without the
least disparagement of his glory. His glories will not be in the least
obscured; there is no natural man, be his character what it may, but God
may cast down to hell without being charged with unfair-dealing in any
respect with regard to that man. Theologians tell us that God's design
in the creation was simply to glorify himself. Magnificent object! "_The
same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured
out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be
tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels,
and in the presence of the Lamb_." (Rev. i. 10.)

Do you know nobody would have had an idea of hell in this world if it
hadn't been for volcanoes? They were looked upon as the chimneys of
hell. The idea of eternal fire never would have polluted the imagination
of man but for them. An eminent theologian, describing hell, says,
"There is no recounting up the million of ages the damned shall suffer.
All arithmetic ends here"--and all sense, too! "They shall have nothing
to do in passing away this eternity but to conflict with torments. God
shall have no other use or employment for them." These words were said
by gentlemen who died Christians, and who are now in the harp business
in the world to come. Another declares there is nothing to keep any
man or Christian out of hell except the mere pleasure of God, and their
pains never grow any easier by their becoming accustomed to them. It is
also declared that the devil goes about like a lion, ready to doom the
wicked. Did it never occur to you what a contradiction it is to say that
the devil will persecute his own friends? He wants all the recruits he
can get; why then should he persecute his friends? In my judgment he
should give them the best hell affords.

It is in the very nature of things that torments inflicted have no
tendency to bring a wicked man to repentance. Then why torment him if
it will not do him good? It is simply unadulterated revenge. All the
punishment in the world will not reform a man, unless he knows that he
who inflicts it upon him does it for the sake of reformation, and really
and truly loves him, and has his good at heart. Punishment inflicted
for gratifying the appetite makes man afraid but debases him. Various
reasons are given for punishing the wicked? first, that God will
vindicate his injured majesty. Weil, I am glad of that! Second, he will
glorify his justice--think of that. Third, he will show and glorify his
grace. Every time the saved shall look upon the damned in hell it will
cause in them a lively and admiring sense of the grace of God. Every
look upon the damned will double the ardour and the joy of the saints in
heaven. Can the believing husband in heaven look down upon the torments
of the unbelieving wife in hell and then feel a thrill of joy? That is
the old doctrine--that if you saw your wife in hell--the wife you love,
who, in your last sickness, nursed you, that perhaps supported you by
her needle when you were ill; the wife who watched by your couch night
and day, and held your corpse in her loving arms when you were dead--the
sight would give you great joy. That doctrine is not preached to-day.
They do not preach that the sight would give you joy! but they do preach
that it will not diminish your happiness. That is the doctrine of every
orthodox minister in New York, and I repeat that I have no respect for
men who preach such doctrines. The sight of the torments of the damned
in hell will increase the ecstasy of the saints for ever! On
this principle a man never enjoys a good dinner so much as when a
fellow-creature is dying of famine before his eyes, or he never enjoys
the cheerful warmth of his own fireside so greatly as when a poor
and abandoned wretch is dying on his door-step. The saints enjoy the
ecstasy, and the groans of the tormented are music to them. I say here
to-night that you cannot commit a sin against an infinite being. I can
sin against my brother or my neighbour, because I can injure them.
There can be no sin where there is no injury. Neither can a finite being
commit infinite sin.

An old saint believed that hell was in the interior of the earth, and
that the rotation of the earth was caused by the souls trying to get
away from the fire. The old church at Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare's
home, is adorned with pictures of hell and the like. One of the pictures
represents resurrection-morning. People are getting out of their graves,
and devils are catching hold of their heels. In one place there is a
huge brass monster, and devils are driving scores of lost souls into his
mouth. Over hot fires hang caldrons with fifty or sixty people in each,
and devils are poking the fires. People are hung up on hooks by their
tongues, and devils are lashing them. Up in the right-hand corner are
some of the saved, with grins on their faces stretching from ear to ear.
They seem to say: "Aha, what did I tell you?"

Some of the old saints--gentlemen who died in the odour of sanctity and
are now in glory--insisted that heaven and hell would be plainly in view
of each other. Only a few years ago, the Rev. J. Furness (an appropriate
name), published a little pamphlet called "A Sight in Hell" I remember
when I first read that. My little child, seven years old, was ill and in
bed. I thought she would not hear me, and I read some of it aloud. She
arose and asked "Who says that?" I answered, "That's what they preach in
some of the churches." "I never will enter a church as long as I live!"
she said, and she never has.

The doctrine of orthodox Christianity is that the damned shall suffer
torment for ever and for ever. And if you were a wanderer, footsore,
weary, with parched tongue, dying for a drop of water, and you met one
who divided his poor portion with you, and died as he saw you reviving
--if he was an unbeliever and you a believer, and you died and went to
heaven, and he called to you from hell for a draught of water, it would
be your duty to laugh at him.

Rev. Mr Spurgeon says that everywhere in hell will be written the words
"for ever." They will be branded on every wave of flame, they will be
forged in every link of every chain, they will be seen in every lurid
flash of brimstone--everywhere will be those words "for ever." Everybody
will be yelling and screaming them. Just think of that picture of the
mercy and justice of the eternal Father of us all. If these words are
necessary why are they not written now everywhere in the world, on every
tree, and every field, and on every blade of grass? I say I am entitled
to have it so. I say that, it is God's duty to furnish me with the
evidence. In old times they had to find a place for hell, and they found
a hundred places for it. One says that it was under Lake Avernus, but
the Christian thought differently. One divine tells us that it must be
below the earth because Christ descended into hell. Another gives it
as his opinion that hell is in the sun, and he tells us that nobody,
without an express revelation from God, can prove that it is not there.
Most likely. Well, he had the idea at all events of utilizing the damned
as fuel to warm the earth. Another divine preached a sermon no further
back than 1876, in which he said that the damned will grow worse, and
the same divine says that the devil was the first Universalist. Then I
am on the side of the devil.

The fact is, that you have got not merely to believe the Bible, but you
must also believe in a certain interpretation of it, and, mind you,
you must also believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. If you don't
understand it, it is your own fault. You must believe in it all the
same. If you do not, all the orthodox churches agree in condemning you
to everlasting flames. We have got to burn through all our lives simply
with the view of making them happy. We are taught to love our enemies,
to pray for those that persecute us, to forgive. Should not the merciful
God practice what he preaches? I say that reverently. Why should he say
"Forgive your enemies" if he will not himself forgive? Why should he say
"Pray for those that despise and persecute you, but if they refuse to
believe my doctrine I will burn them for ever?" I cannot believe it.
Here is a little child, residing in the purlieus of the city--some
little boy who is taught that it is his duty to steal by his mother
who applauds his success, and pats him on the head and calls him a good
boy--would it be just to condemn him to an eternity of torture? Suppose
there is a God; let us bring to this question some common sense.

I care nothing about the doctrines or religions or creeds of the past.
Let us come to the bar of the nineteenth century and judge the matter by
what we know, by what we think, by what we love. But they say to us,
"If you throw away the Bible what are we to depend on then?" But no two
persons in the world agree as to what the Bible is, what they are to
believe, or what they are not to believe. It is like a guide-post that
has been thrown down in some time of disaster, and has been put up the
wrong way. Nobody can accept its guidance, for nobody knows where it
would direct him. I say, "Tear down the useless guide-post," but they
answer, "Oh, do not do that or we will have nothing to go by." I would
say, "Old Church, you take that road, and I will take this." Another
minister has said that the Bible is the great town-clock, at which we
may all set our watches. But I have said to a friend of that minister,
"Suppose we all should set our watches by that town-clock, there would
be many persons to tell you that in old times the long hand was the hour
hand, and beside, the clock hasn't been wound up for a long time." I
say, let us wait till the sun rises and set our watches by nature. For
my part, I am willing to give up heaven to get rid of hell. I had
rather there should be no heaven than that any solitary soul should be
condemned to suffer for ever and ever. But they tell me that the Bible
is the book of hope. Now, in the Old Testament there is not, in my
judgment, a single reference to another life. Is there a burial-service
mentioned in it in which a word of hope is spoken at the grave of the
dead? The idea of eternal life was not born of any book. That wave of
hope and joy ebbs and flows, and will continue to ebb and flow as long
as love kisses the lips of death.

Let me tell you a tale of the Persian religion--of a man who, having
done good for long years of his life, presented himself at the gates of
Paradise, but the gates remained closed against him. He went back and
followed up his good works for seven years longer, and the gates of
Paradise still remaining shut against him, he toiled in works of charity
until at last they were opened unto him. Think of that, and send out
your missionaries among those people. There is no religion but goodness,
but justice, but charity. Religion is not theory--it is life. It is not
intellectual conviction--it is divine humanity, and nothing else. There
is another tale from the Hindoo of a man who refused to enter Paradise
without a faithful dog, urging that ingratitude was the blackest of all
sins. "And the god," he said, "admitted him, dog and all." Compare that
religion with the orthodox tenets of the city of New York.

There is a prayer which every Brahmin prays, in which he declares
that he will never enter into a final state of bliss alone, but that
everywhere he will strive for universal redemption; that never will he
leave the world of sin and sorrow, but remain suffering and striving
and sorrowing after universal salvation. Compare that with the orthodox
idea, and send out your missionaries to the benighted Hindoos.

The doctrine of hell is infamous beyond all power to express. I wish
there were words mean enough to express my feelings of loathing on this
subject. What harm has it not done? What waste places has it not made?
It has planted misery and wretchedness in this world; it peoples the
future with selfish joys and lurid abysses of eternal flame. But we
are getting more sense every day. We begin to despise those monstrous
doctrines. If you want to better men and women change their conditions
here. Don't promise them something somewhere else. One biscuit will do
more good than all the tracts that were ever peddled in the world.
Give them more whitewash, more light, more air. You have to change men
physically before you change them intellectually.

I believe the time will come when every criminal will be treated as we
now treat the diseased and sick, when every penitentiary will become
a reformatory; and that if criminals go to them with hatred in their
bosoms, they will leave them without feelings of revenge. Let me tell
you the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Eurydice had been carried away by
the god of hell, and Orpheus, her lover, went in quest of her. He took
with him his lyre, and played such exquisite music that all hell was
amazed. Ixion forgot his labours at the wheel, the daughters of Danaus
ceased from their hopeless task, Tantalus forgot his thirst, even Pluto
smiled, and, for the first time in the history of hell, the eyes of the
Furies were wet with tears. As it was with the lyre of Orpheus, so it is
to-day with the great harmonies of science, which are rescuing from the
prisons of superstition the torn and bleeding heart of man.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hell - Warm Words on the Cheerful and Comforting Doctrine of Eternal Damnation" ***

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