Category Archives: hell

“The safest road to Hell is the gradual one” by C.S. Lewis

“My Dear Wormwood,

A few weeks ago you had to tempt your patient to unreality and inattention in his prayers: but now you will find him opening his arms to you and almost begging you to distract his purpose and benumb his heart.

He will want his prayers to be unreal, for he will dread nothing so much as effective contact with the Enemy. His aim will be to let sleeping worms lie.

As this condition becomes more fully established, you will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations.

As the uneasiness and his reluctance to face it cut him off more and more from all real happiness, and as habit renders the pleasures of vanity and excitement and flippancy at once less pleasant and harder to forgo (for that is what habit fortunately does to a pleasure) you will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention.

You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do.

You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him.

You can make him do nothing at all for long periods.

You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room.

All the healthy and out-going activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at least he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.’

The Christians describe the Enemy as one ‘without whom Nothing is strong’.

And Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness.

But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy.

It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.

Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one— the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,

Your affectionate uncle,

SCREWTAPE”

–C.S. Lewis, “Letter XII,” The Screwtape Letters (New York: Macmillian, 1950), 63-65.

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“A single day in hell” by J.C. Ryle

“Count up and compare, for another thing, the trouble that true Christianity entails, and the troubles that are in store for the wicked beyond the grave.

Grant for a moment that Bible-reading, and praying, and repenting, and believing, and holy living, require pains and self-denial.

It is all nothing compared to that ‘wrath to come’ which is stored up for the impenitent and unbelieving.

A single day in Hell will be worse than a whole life spent in carrying the cross.

The ‘worm that never dies, and the fire that is not quenched,’ (Mark 9:48) are things which it passes man’s power to conceive fully or describe.”

–J.C. Ryle, Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties and Roots (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1877/2014), 107-108.

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“The conversion of Luke Short” by Michael Boland

“Even a brief glance at Flavel’s history gives some indication of his outstanding character. Of his influence, Wood, the Royalist historian, observes that he had more disciples than either John Owen or Richard Baxter.

One who was intimately acquainted with him, John Galpine of Totnes, draws attention in his memoir of Flavel to three characteristics: his diligence, his longing for the conversion of souls, and his peaceable and healing spirit.

In addition to the incidents recorded in his own writings, there are some remarkable examples of the effects of Flavel’s ministry. Luke Short was a farmer in New England who attained his hundredth year in exceptional vigour though without having sought peace with God.

One day as he sat in his fields reflecting upon his long life, he recalled a sermon he had heard in Dartmouth as a boy before he sailed to America.

The horror of dying under the curse of God was impressed upon him as he meditated on the words he had heard so long ago and he was converted to Christ– eighty-five years after hearing John Flavel preach.”

–Michael Boland, “Introduction” in John Flavel, The Mystery of Providence (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1678/2002), 11.

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“Choose life” by Jonathan Edwards

“What a vast difference is there between the death of a child of the devil and a child of God! The one leaves all his troubles and afflictions behind him, never to feel them more; the other, he leaves all his pleasures behind him, all the pleasure that ever he will enjoy while God endures.

The one leaves all his temptations forever, but the other instead of that falls into the hands of the tempter, not to be tempted but to be tormented by him. The one is perfectly delivered from all remainders of corruption; the other, he carries all that vast load of sin, made up of original sin, natural corruption, and actual sins, into hell with him, and there the guilt of them breaks forth in the conscience and burns and scorches him as flames of hell within.

The filthiness of sin will then appear and be laid open before the world to his eternal shame. Death to the true Christian is an entrance into eternal pleasures and unspeakable joys, but the death of a sinner is his entrance into never-ending miseries. This world is all the hell that ever a true Christian is to endure, and it is all the heaven that unbelievers shall ever enjoy.

‘Tis a heaven in comparison of the misery of the one, and a hell in comparison of the happiness of the other. The sinner, when he dies, he leaves all his riches and possessions: there is no more money for him to have the pleasure of fingering; there is no more gay apparel for him to be arrayed in, nor proud palace to live in. But the Christian, when he dies, he obtains all his riches, even infinite spiritual, heavenly riches.

At death, the sinner leaves all his honor and enters into eternal disgrace; but the Christian is then invested with his. The one leaves all his friends forever more: when he sees them again at the resurrection, it will be either glorifying God in his justice in damning him, or else like furies ready to tear him.

But the other, he goes to his best friends and will again meet his best earthly friends at the resurrection in glory, full of mutual joy and love. The death of a believer is in order to a more glorious resurrection, but the death of a sinner is but only a faint shadow and preludium of the eternal death the body is to die at the great day and forever more.

So great is the difference between the death of the one and the other, ’tis even as the difference between life and death, between death and a resurrection. Wherefore, now you have both before you—the glorious gainfulness of the death of a Christian, and the dreadfulness of the death of a sinner—or rather you have life and death set before you, to make your choice: therefore, choose life.”

–Jonathan Edwards, “Dying to Gain” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 10: Sermons and Discourses, 1720-1723 (The Works of Jonathan Edwards Series) Ed. Wilson H. Kimnach (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 588-589. Edwards was 19 years old when he preached this sermon.

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“Then and only then” by John Stott

“Only he who knows the greatness of wrath will be mastered by the greatness of mercy. All inadequate doctrines of the atonement are due to inadequate doctrines of God and man. If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to His, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical atonement to secure it.

When, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely ‘hell-deserving sinners’, then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before.

The essential background to the cross, therefore, is a balanced understanding of the gravity of sin and the majesty of God. If we diminish either, we thereby diminish the cross.”

–John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 109-110.

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“The mere pleasure of God” by Jonathan Edwards

“There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any one moment, out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God.”

–Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Sermons and Discourses: 1739-1742, in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 22, Ed. Harry S. Stout (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), 405. Preached in Enfield, Connecticut on July 8, 1741.

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