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Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Moving-springs of Hell

There is in hell not only a certain natural succession of time, but also something of social and political order. Families herd together, and souls of one and the same century like to congregate. And there is a kind of progressive development. The most recent arrivals, as a rule, take the lowest place, advancing to make room for fresh troops appearing. Those who in the world were of one way of thinking, or alike in manner of acting, soon meet here, though of different nationality or separate centuries. Thus there is here a town of injustice, called also the town of politicians; there is a town of the Holy Inquisition; a gigantic city of Jews, of Mormons; a town of Antediluvians, and many others.

I begin to understand the moving-springs of hell. It is insatiate desire on the one hand, and remorse on the other—I had almost said sorrow; but that is too sweet a grace, admitting of sorrow for sin, for opportunity wasted, and that is unknown here; it is a dull flinty grief, a mere wailing for pain. The punishment of hell is twofold, but after all it is the self-same retribution. Some are driven continuously to brood over the same evil passions they indulged in on earth, satisfaction alone being absent; or with horror and loathing are obliged again and again to commit in the spirit the self-same crimes that polluted their days in the flesh. The miser forever is dreaming of riches, the voluptuary of uncleanness, the glutton of feasting, the murderer of his bloody deed. Others, on the contrary, are pursuing the very things they neglected on earth; they know it is hopeless, but pursue them they must. Thus men of unjust dealing are anxiously trying to right the wrong, the unmerciful to do deeds of charity, the unnatural parent to live for her children, the suicide to prolong his days.

But whatever we suffer, our torment is not to be viewed in the light of final punishment—that is coming—we await the day of doom; no, it is merely the natural consequence of our life on earth. Oh, men and women, yet walking on earth, consider this! that all sin, great or small, has its own irretrievable consequence, which—ay, think of it—extends far beyond the limits of life, even into hell. And if mere consequence may be so terrible, what must be the punishment to come?

Letters from Hell, L. W. J. S., Richard Bentley & Son, London, 1889