A lost soul speaks
(John Bunyan, "Visions of Heaven and Hell")
We had not gone much farther, before we saw a wretched soul lying on a bed of burning steel, almost choked with brimstone. He cried out with such dreadful anguish and desperation, and I heard him speak as follows:
1. First, we undergo a variety of torments. We are tormented here a thousand, no, ten thousand different ways! Those who suffer upon the earth, seldom have more than one affliction at a time. But if they had ulcers, gallstones, headaches, and fever all at the same time—would they not be very miserable? Yet all those together are but like the biting of a flea—compared to those intolerable, sharp pains which we endure. Here we have all the sufferings of hell. Here is an unquenchable fire which burns us; a lake of burning brimstone which ever chokes us; and eternal chains which bind us. Here there is utter darkness to frighten us, and a worm of conscience which gnaws upon us everlastingly. Any one of these is worse to bear—than all the torments that mankind ever felt on earth!
2. But our torments here are not only various—but are also universal. They afflict every part of the body, and torment all the powers of the soul. This makes what we suffer—the worst of tortures. In those sicknesses which men have on earth, though some members of their bodies will suffer—yet other parts will have no pain. Here it is different; every member of the soul and body suffers at the same time!
“Our eyes are tormented here with the sight of devils who appear in all the horrible shapes and black appearances which sin can give them. Our ears are continually tormented with the loud continual yellings of the damned. Our nostrils are smothered with sulfurous flames; our tongues with burning blisters; and the whole body is rolled in flames of liquid fire! All the powers and faculties of our souls are also tormented here. The imagination suffers with the thoughts of our present pain, and the memory of the heaven we have lost. Our minds are tormented as we remember how foolishly we spent our precious time on earth. Our understanding is tormented with the thoughts of our past pleasures, present pains, and future sorrows, which are to last forever. And our consciences are tormented with a continual gnawing worm!
3. Another thing that makes our misery so dreadful—is the sharpness of our torments. The fire which burns us is so violent that all the water in the sea can never quench it. The pains we suffer here are so extreme, that it is impossible for anyone to know them except the damned.
4. Another part of our misery is the ceaselessness of our torments. As various, as universal, and as extremely violent as they are, they are also continual. We have no rest from them. If there were any relaxation, it might be some relief. But there is no easing of our torments, and what we suffer now—we must suffer forever!
5. The company we have here, is another part of our misery. Tormenting devils and tormented souls—are all our company. Dreadful shrieks, howlings, and fearful cursings—are our continual conversation because of the fierceness of our pain.
6. The place we are in also increases our sufferings. It is the epitome of all misery—a prison, a dungeon, a bottomless pit, a lake of brimstone, a furnace of fire which burns to eternity, the blackness of darkness forever; and lastly, hell itself. Such a wretched place as this, can only increase our wretchedness.
7. The cruelty of our tormentors is another thing which adds to our sufferings. Our tormentors are devils in whom there is no pity. While they are tormented themselves, they still take pleasure in tormenting us!
8. All those sufferings that I have recounted are very grievous. But that which makes them the most grievous—is that they shall all be forever! All of our intolerable sufferings shall last to all eternity! "Depart from Me, you who are cursed—into everlasting fire!" is continually sounding in my ears. Oh, that I could reverse that fatal sentence! Oh, if there was but a bare possibility of salvation!
This is the miserable situation we are in—and shall be in forever!