Monday, 1 May 2017

The gates of hell

I went for a walk lately, passing by the gates of hell. Understand me aright; I am not speaking of those awful gates of hell set up in defiance of the Lord of heaven Himself, though they cannot prevail. They are in the abyss I have spoken of, which is a far more dreadful place than this abode of death. I only mean that I passed near the entrance of Hades.

An entrance truly it is, for of your own free will you never get out, wide open though you find it. I cannot tell whether I contemplated anything like an escape—I only know that on approaching a certain boundary line an awful Stop! resounded, and I slunk back terrified.

No one, then, passes out, save under dread compulsion; but there is a flocking in continuously. I forget what they say of the death-rate in the world, is it every minute or every second that a human soul goes to eternity? Be it as it may, it is a terrible fact that the greater part of those who die present themselves at these gates of hopelessness. There is not a more appalling sight in all hell than watching this entrance! The space beyond is wrapt in a shadowy mist, out of which lost souls are constantly emerging, singly or in troops, dawning upon your vision. They are all equally naked, differing but in sex and in age. The beggar and the king are not to be known from one another, both arriving in like miserable nakedness. That abject misery is the common mark of unredeemed humanity, set upon all the children of Adam coming hither, no matter what station was theirs in life. They have all come by the same road, broad and pleasant at first, but terrible at its latter end. As they approach the gates they are seized with fear and trembling, and pass them in an agony of despair.

The love of amusement nowadays scarcely stops short of the harassing; men love to feast upon anything that excites their unhealthy fancy. But I assure you I have not sunk to that state of callousness which could look upon the dreadful scene unmoved. All these are coming to share my misery! I cried. Say not it was complacency clothed in pity; there was something not altogether mean in my sympathy. I could have wept for them, as I long to weep for myself.

Yet, after all, I felt fascinated by the sight, and tore myself away with difficulty; the picture, I knew, would pursue me into whatever solitude I might plunge.

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