"The Dogma of Hell, Illustrated by Facts Taken from Profane and Sacred History."
by Rev. Father Francois Xavier Schouppe, S.J.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Dogma of Hell...............Chapter I.
Manifestations of Hell........St. Francis of Jerome -- The Damned Woman of Naples -- King Ratbod and Saint Willibrord -- The Young Pagan Girl Brought to Life -- Fr. Bernard Colnago. Dread of Hell -- Damnation of a Young Debauche -- Brother Anthony Pereyra............Chapter II.
Apparitions of Damned Souls.........St. Antonius; the Damned Religious -- Mgr. de Segur. Count Orloff's Friend -- The Lady With the Gold Bracelet -- The Abandoned Girl of Rome..................Chapter III.
The Denial of Hell is Only Foolish Bravado..........The Atheist Lies to his Conscience. Collat d'Herbois -- The Atheist, in the Bottom of his Heart, Dreads Hell -- The Atheist Usually Laughs at Hell Only From the TIp of His Lips. Juliette -- The Atheist will be Forced one Day to Acknowledge what he Denies Now.........Chapter IV.
Awaking of the Ungodly Soul in Hell..........Catastrophe of the Kivoto -- Shipwreck of the Steamer Atlantic -- Catastrophe of the Tay Bridge.............Chapter V.
Truth of Hell........Dogma of Hell Proclaimed in the Gospel -- Assertion of the Libertine Compared with the Testimony of the Church. Emilius Scaurus -- Dogma of Hell Confirmed by Reason. There Must be a Prison -- The Foolish Thief -- The Voluntary Blind Man. The Heron -- Dogma of Hell Never Denied by Heresy -- Folly of the Atheist who Denies Hell. The Anchorite -- To Risk Hell the Height of Extravagance. The Smoker -- Punishment of Leontius -- Eugene and Alexander.........Chapter VI.
I.--THE DOGMA OF HELL
The Dogma of Hell is the most terrible truth of our faith.
There is a hell.
We are sure of it as of the existence of God, the existence of the sun. Nothing, in fact, is more clearly revealed than the dogma of hell, and Jesus Christ proclaims it as many as fifteen times in the Gospel.
Reason comes to the support of revelation; the existence of a hell is in harmony with the immutable notions of justice engraved in the human heart. Revealed to men from the beginning, and conformable to natural reason, this dreadful truth has always been, and is still known, by all nations not plunged by barbarism in complete ignorance.
Hell never has been denied by heretics, Jews or Mohammedan. The pagans themselves have retained their belief in it, although the errors of paganism may have impaired in their minds the sound notion.
It has been reserved for modern and contemporaneous atheism, carried to the pitch of delirium, to outdo the impiety of all ages by denying the existence of hell.
There are, in our day, men who laugh at, question, or openly deny the reality of hell.
They laugh at hell; but the universal belief of nations should not be laughed at; a matter affecting the everlasting destiny of man is not laughable; there is no fun, when the question is of enduring for eternity the punishment of fire.
They question, or even deny the dogma of hell; but on a mater of religious dogma, they cannot decide without being competent; they cannot call in doubt, still less deny, a belief so solidly established, without bringing forward irrefutable reasons.
Now, are they who deny the dogma of hell competent in matters of religion? Are they not strangers to that branch of the sciences, which is called theology? Are they not oftenest ignorant of the very elements of religion, taught in the Catechism?
Whence, then, proceeds the mania, of grappling with a religious question which is not within their province? Why such warmth in combating the belief in hell? Ah! It is interest that prompts them; they are concerned about the non-existence of hell, knowing that if there is a hell, it shall be their portion; these unhappy men wish that there might not be one, and they try to persuade themselves that there is none. In fact, these efforts usually end in a sort of incredulity. At bottom, this disbelief is only a doubt, but a doubt which unbelievers formulate by a negation.
Accordingly, they say there is no hell.
And upon what reasons do they rest so bold a denial?
All their reasons and arguments may be summed up in the following assertions:
"I do not believe in hell.
"They who affirm this dogma know nothing about it; the future life is an insoluble problem, and invincible, perhaps.
"No one has returned from beyond the grave to testify that there is a hell."
These are all the proofs, all the theology of the teachers of impiety. Let us examine.
1st. I do not believe in it. You do not believe in hell? And there is no hell, because you do not believe in it? Will hell exist any the less, because you do not please to believe in it? Should a thief be so foolish as to deny that there is a prison, would the prison cease to exist, and should the thief not enter it?
2d. You say that the future life is a problem, and hell a perhaps. You are deceived; this problem is fully solved by revelation, and left in no uncertainty.
But suppose for a moment, that there was an uncertainty, that the existence of eternal torments is only probable, and that it may be said: perhaps there is no hell; I ask any man of sound reason, would he not be the silliest of men who, upon such a perhaps, should expose himself to the punishment of an everlasting fire?
3d. They say that no one returned from beyond the grave o tell us about hell. If it were true that no one has returned, would hell exist the less? Is it the dammed who ought to teach us that there is a hell? It might as well be said that it is prisoners who ought to inform us that there are prisons. To know that there is a hell it is not necessary that the damned should come to tell us; God's word is sufficient for us; God it is who publishes it, and informs the world concerning it.
But are you, who claim that no dead person has returned to speak of hell, quite sure of it? You say it, you declare it; but you have against you historical, proved, unexceptionable facts. I do not speak here of Jesus Christ, who descended into hell, and rose again from the dead; there are other dead persons who returned to life, and damned souls who have revealed their everlasting reprobation. Still, whatever may be the historical certainty of this sort of facts, I repeat, it is not upon this ground that we claim to establish the dogma of hell; that truth is known to us by the infallible word of God; the facts which we adduce serve but to confirm, and place it in a clearer light.
II.-- MANIFESTATIONS OF HELL.
As we have just said, the dogma of hell stands on the infallible word of God; but in his mercy, God, to aid our faith, permits at intervals, the truth of hell to be manifested in a sensible manner. These manifestations are more frequent than is thought; and when supported by sufficient proofs, they are unexceptionable facts, which must be admitted like all the other facts of history.
Here is one of these facts. It was juridically proved in the process of canonization of St. Francis of Jerome, and under oath attested by a large number of eye-witnesses. In the year 1707, St. Francis of Jerome was preaching, as was his wont, in the neighborhood of the city of Naples. He was speaking of hell and the awful chastisements that await obstinate sinners. A brazen courtesan who lived there, troubled by a discourse which aroused her remorse, sought to hinder it by jests and shouts, accompanied by noisy instruments. As she was standing close to the window, the Saint cried out: "Beware, my daughter, of resisting grace; before eight days God will punish you." The unhappy creature grew only more boisterous. Eight days elapsed, and the holy preacher happened to be again before the same house. This time she was silent, the windows were shut. The hearers, with dismay on their faces, told the Saint that Catherine -- that was the name of the bad woman -- had a few hours before died suddenly. "Died!" he repeated, "well, let her tell us now what she has gained by laughing at hell. Let us ask her." He uttered these words in an inspired tone, and every one expected a miracle. Followed by an immense crowd, he went up to the death chamber, and there, after having prayed for an instant, he uncovers the face of the corpse, and says in a loud voice, "Catherine, tell us where art thou now." At this summons, the dead woman lifts her head, while opening her wild eyes, her face borrows color, her features assume an expression of horrible despair, and in a mournful voice, she pronounces these words: "In hell; I am in hell." And immediately, she falls back again into the condition of a corpse.
"I was present at that event," says one of the witnesses who deposed before the Apostolic tribunal, "but I never could convey the impression it produced on me and the bystanders, nor that which I still feel everytime I pass that house and look at that window. At the sight of that ill-fated abode, I still hear the pitiful cry resounding: "In hell; I am in hell." (Father Bach, Life of St. Francis of Jerome.)
Ratbod, King of the Frisons, who is mentioned in ecclesiastical history in the eighth century, had said to St. Wolfrand that he was not afraid of hell; that he wished to be there with the kings, his ancestors, and most illustrious personages. "Moreover," he added, "later on, I shall be always able to receive baptism." "Lord," answered the Saint, "do not neglect the grace that is offered to thee. The God who offers the sinner pardon, does not promise him to-morrow." The King did not heed this advice, and put off his conversion. A year after, learning the arrival of St. Willibrord, he dispatched an officer to him, to invite him to come to the court and confer baptism on him. The Saint answered that it was too late. "Your master," he said, "died after your departure. He braved eternal fire; he has fallen into it. I have seen him this night, loaded with fiery chains, in the bottom of the abyss."
Here is another witness from beyond the grave. History avers that when St. Francis Xavier was at Cangoxima, in Japan, he performed a great number of miracles, of which the most celebrated was the resurrection of a maiden of noble birth. This young damsel died in the flower of her age, and her father, who loved her dearly, believed he would become crazy. Being an idolator, he had no resources in his affliction, and his friends, who came to console him, rendered his grief only the more poignant. Two neophytes, who came to see him before the funeral of her whom he mourned day and night, advised him to seek help from the holy man who was doing such great things, and demand from him with confidence, the life of his daughter. The pagan -- persuaded by the neophytes that nothing was impossible to the European bonze, and beginning to hope against all human appearances, as is usual with the afflicted, who readily believe whatever comforts them -- goes to Father Francis, falls at his feet, and, with tears in his eyes, entreats him to bring to life again his only daughter whom he has just lost, adding that it would be to give life to himself.
Xavier, touched by the faith and sorrow of the pagan, went aside with his companion, Fernando, to pray to God. Having come back again after a short time, "Go," he said to the afflicted father, "your daughter is alive!"
The idolator, who expected that the Saint would come with him to his house and invoke the name of the God of the Christians over his daughter's body, took this speech as a jest and withdrew, dissatisfied. But scarcely had he gone a few steps when he saw one of his servants, who, all beside himself with joy, shouted from a distance that his daughter was alive. Presently, he beheld her approaching. After the first embraces the daughter related to her father that, as soon as she had expired, two horrible demons pounced upon her, and sought to hurl her into a fiery abyss; but that two men, of a venerable and modest appearance, snatched her from the hands of these executioners and restored her life, she being unable to tell how it happened.
The Japanese understood who were these two men of whom his daughter spoke, and he led her directly to Xavier to return him such thanks as so great a favour deserved. She no sooner saw the Saint with his companion, Fernando, than she exclaimed: "There are my two deliverers!" and, at the same time, the daughter and the father demanded baptism.
The servant of God, Bernard Colnago, a religious of the Comparny of Jesus, died at Catana in the odor of sanctity, in they year 1611. We read in his biography that he prepared for the passage by a life full of good works and the constant remembrance of death, so apt to engender a holy life. To keep in mind this salutary remembrance, he preserved in his little cell a skull, which he had placed upon a stand to have it always before his eyes. One day it struck him that, perhaps, that head had been the abode of a mind rebellious to God, and now the object of His wrath. Accordingly, he begged the Sovereign Judge to enlighten him, and to cause the skull to shake if the spirit that had animated it was burning in hell. No sooner had he finished his prayer than it shook with a horrible trembling, a palpable sign that it was the skull of a damned soul.
This saintly religious, favored with singular gifts, knew the secret of consciences, and, sometimes, the decrees of God's justice. One day God revealed to him the eternal perdition of a young libertine, who was his parents' heart-scald. The unfortunate young man, after having rushed into all sorts of dissipation, was slain by an enemy. His mother, at the sight of so sad an end, conceived the liveliest terrors for her son's everlasting salvation, and besought Father Bernard to tell her in what state his soul was. Despite her entreaties Father Bernard did not answer by a single word, sufficiently showing by his silence that he had nothing consoling to say. He was more explicit to one of her friends. This person inquiring why he did not give an answer to an afflicted mother, the religious openly said to him that he was unwilling to increase her affliction; that this young libertine was damned, and that, during his prayer, God had shown him the youth under a hideous and frightful aspect.
On the 1st of August, 1645, there died in the odor of sanctity, at the College of Evora, in Portugal, Anthony Pereyra, Coadjutor Brother of the Company of Jesus. His history is, perhaps the strangest furnished by the annals of this Society. In 1599, five years after his entrance into the novitiate, he was seized by a mortal malady in the Isle of St. Michael, one of the Azores; and a few moments after he had received the last sacraments, beneath the eyes of the whole community, who were present at his agony, he seemed to expire, and became cold like a corpse. The appearance -- almost imperceptible -- of a slight throbbing of the heart alone, prevented his immediate burial. Accordingly, he was left three whole days on his death-bed, and there were already plain signs of decomposition in the body, when all of a sudden, on the fourth day, he opened his eyes, breathed and spoke. He was obliged by obedience to account to his superior, Father Louis Pinheyro, all that had passed in him after the last pangs of his agony; and here is the summary of the relation which he wrote with his own hand: "First, I saw from my death-bed,' he says, "my Father, St. Ignatius, accompanied by some of our Fathers in heaven, who was coming to visit his sick children, seeking those who seemed worthy to be presented to our Lord. When he was near me I thought for an instant that he might take me, and my heart leaped with joy; but he soon described to me what I must correct before obtaining so great a favor."
Then, however, by a mysterious dispensation of Providence, the soul of Brother Pereyra was momentarily released from his body, and immediately the sight of the hideous troop of demons, rushing headlong upon him, filled him with dread. But, at the same time, his angel-guardian and St. Anthony of Padua, his countryman and patron, put his enemies to flight, and invited him in their company to take a momentary glimpse and taste of something of the joys and pains of eternity. "They then, by turns, led me to a place of delights, where they showed mean incomparable crown of glory, but one which I had not yet merited; then, to the brink of the abysmal pit, where I beheld souls accursed falling into the everlasting fire, as thick as grains of corn, cast beneath an ever-turning millstone. The infernal pit was like one of these limekilns, in which the flame is smothered for an instant beneath the heap of materials thrown into it, only to fire up again by the fuel with a more frightful violence."
Led thence to the tribunal of the Sovereign Judge, Antony Pereyra heard his sentence to the fire of purgatory, and nothing here below, he declares, could give an idea of what is suffered there, or of the state of anguish to which the soul is reduced by the desire and postponement of the enjoyment of God and of His blessed presence.
So when, by our Lord's command, his soul was united again to his body, neither the new tortures of sickness, which, for six entire months, combined with the daily help of iron and fire, caused his flesh, irremediably attacked by the corruption of this first death to waste away; nor the frightful penances to which, so far as obedience allowed him, he never ceased to subject himself for the forty-six years of his new life, were able to quench his thirst for sufferings and expiation. "All this," he used to say, "is nothing to what the justice and mercy of God have caused me, not only to see, but to endure." Finally, as an authentic seal of so many wonders, Brother Pereyra detailed to his Superior the hidden designs of Providence on the future restoration of the Kingdom of Portugal, at that time still distant nearly half a century. But it may be fearlessly added that the most unexceptionable avouchment of all these prodigies was the surprising sanctity to which Antony Pereyra never ceased for a single day to rise.
III.--APPARITIONS OF THE DAMNED.
St. Antoninus, Archbishop of Florence, relates, in his writings, a terrible fact which, about the middle of the fifteenth century, spread fright over the whole North of Italy. A young man of good stock, who, at the age of 16 or 17, had had the misfortune of concealing a mortal sin in confession, and, in that state, of receiving Communion, had put off from week to week, month to month, the painful disclosure of his sacrileges. Tortured by remorse, instead of discovering with simplicity his misfortune, he sought to gain quiet by great penances, but to no purpose. Unable to bear the strain any longer, he entered a monastery; there, at least, he said to himself, I will tell all, and expiate my frighthful sins. Unhappily, he was most welcomed as a holy young man by his superiors, who knew him by reputation, and his shame again got the better of him. Accordingly, he deferred his confession of this sin to a later period; and a year, two years, three years, passed in this deplorable state; he never dared to reveal his misfortune. Finally, sickness seemed to him to afford an easy means of doing it. "Now is the time," he says to himself; "I am going to tell all; I will make a general confession before I die." But this time, instead of frankly and fairly declaring his faults, he twisted them so artfully that his confessor was unable to understand him. He hope to come back again the next day: an attack of delirium came on, and the unfortunate man died.
The community, who were ignorant of the frightful reality, were full of veneration for the deceased. His body was borne with a certain degree of solemnity into the church of the monastery, and lay exposed in the choir until the next morning when the funeral was to be celebrated.
A few moments before the time fixed for the ceremony, one of the Brothers, sent to toll the bell, saw before him, all of a sudden, the deceased, encompassed by chains, that seemed aglow with fire, while something blazing appeared all over his person. Frightened, the poor Brother fell on his knees, with his eyes riveted on the terrifying apparition. Then the damned soul said to him: "Do not pray for me, I am in here for all eternity;" and he related the sad story of his false shame and sacrileges. Thereupon, he vanished, leaving in the church a disgusting odor, which spread all over the monastery, as if to prove the truth of all the Brother just saw and heard. Notified at once, the Superiors had the corpse taken away, deeming it unworthy of ecclesiastical burial.
After having cited the preceding example, Monsignor de Segur adds what follows [Opuscule on Hell]:
"In our century, three facts of the same kind, more authentic than some others have come to my knowledge. The first happened almost in my family.
"It was in Russia, at Moscow, a short while before the horrible campaign of 1812. My maternal grandfather, Count Rostopchine, the Military Governor of Moscow, was very intimate with General Count Orloff, celebrated for his bravery, but as godless as he was brave.
"One day, at the close of a supper, Count Orloff and one of his friends, General V., also a disciple of Voltaire, had set to horribly ridiculing religion, especially hell. 'Yet,' said Orloff; 'yet if, by chance, there should be anything the other side of the curtain?' 'Well,' took up General V., 'whichever of us shall depart first, will come to inform the other of it. Is it agreed?' 'An excellent idea,' replied Count Orloff; and both interchanged very seriously their word of honor not to miss the engagement.
"A few weeks later, one of those great wars which Napoleon had the gift of creating at that time, burst forth. The Russian army began the campaign, and General V. received orders to start out forthwith to take an important command.
"He had left Moscow about two or three weeks, when one morning, at a very early hour, while my grandfather was dressing, his chamber door is rudely pushed open. It was Count Orloff, in dressing-gown and slippers, his hair on end, his eye wild, and pale like a dead man. 'What, Orloff, you? at this hour? and in such a costume? What ails you? what has happened?' 'My dear,' replies Count Orloff, 'I believe I am beside myself. I have just seen General V.' 'Has General V., then, come back?' 'Wel, no,' rejoins Orloff, throwing himself on a sofa, and holding his head between his hands; 'no, he has not come back, and that is what frightens me!'
My grandfather did not understand him. He tried to soothe him. "Relate to me," he says to Orloff, "what has happened you, and what all this means." Then, striving to stifle his emotion, the Count related the following: "My dear Rostopchine, some time ago, V. and I mutually swore that the first of us who died should come and tell the other if there is anything on the other side of the curtain. Now, this morning, scarcely half an hour since, I was calmly lying awake in my bed, not thinking at all of my friend, when, all of a sudden, the curtains of my bed were rudely parted, and at two steps from me I see General V. standing up, pale, with his right hand on his breast, and saying to me: 'There is a hell, and I am there!' and he disappeared. I came at once to you. My head is splitting! What a strange thing! I do not know what to think about it."
My grandfather calmed him as well as he could. It was no easy matter. He spoke of hallucinations, nightmares; perhaps he was asleep... There are many extraordinary unaccountable things... and other common-places, which constitute the comfort of freethinkers. Then he ordered his carriage, and took Count Orloff back to his hotel.
Now, ten or twelve days after this strange incident, an army messenger brought my grandfather among other news, that of the death of General V. The very morning of the day, Count Orloff had seen and heard him, the same hour he appeared at Moscow, the unfortunate General, reconnoitring the enemy's position, had been shot through the breast by a bullet, and had fallen stark dead.
"There is a hell, and I am there!" these are the words of one who came back.
Mgr. de Segur relates a second fact, which he regards as alike free from doubt, He had learned it in 1859, of a most honorable priest, and Superior of an important community. This priest had the particulars of it from a near relation of the lady of whom it had happened. At that time, Christmas Day, 1859, this person was still living, and little over forty years.
She chanced to be in London in the winter of 1847-48. She was a widow, about twenty-nine years old, quite rich and worldly. Among the gallants who frequented her salon, there was noticed a young lord, whose attentions compromised her extremely, and whose conduct, besides, was anything but edifying!
One evening, or rather one night, for it was close upon midnight, she was reading in her bed some novel, coaxing sleep. One o'clock struck by the clock; she blew out her taper. She was about to fall asleep when, to her great astonishment, she noticed that a strange, wan glimmer of light, which seemed to come from the door of the drawing-room, spread by degrees into her chamber, and increased momentarily. Stupefied at first, and not knowing what this meant, she began to get alarmed, when she saw the drawing-room door slowly open and the young lord, the partner of her disorders, entered her room. Before she had time to say a single word, he seized her by the left wrist, and with a hissing voice, syllabled to her in English: "There is a hell!" The pain she felt in her arm was so great that she lost her senses.
When, half an hour after, she came to again, she rang for her chamber-maid. The latter, on entering felt a keen smell of burning. Approaching her mistress, who could hardly speak, she noticed on her wrist so deep a burn, that the bone was laid bare, and the flesh almost consumed; this burn was the size of a man's hand. Moreover, she remarked that, from the door of the saloon to the bed, and from the bed to that same door, the carpet bore the imprint of a man's steps, which had burned through the stuff. By the directions of her mistress, she opened the drawing-room door: there, more traces were seen on the carpet outside.
The following day, the unhappy lady learned with a terror easy to be divined that, on that very night, about one o'clock in the morning, her lord had been found dead drunk under the table, that his servants had carried him to his room, and that there he had died in their arms.
I do not know, added the Superior, whether that terrible lesson converted the unfortunate lady, but what I do know, is that she is still alive, and that to conceal from the sight the traces of her ominous burn, she wears on the left wrist, like a bracelet, a wide gold band, which she does not take off day or night. I repeat it, I have all these details from her near relation, a serious Christian, in whose word I repose the fullest belief. They are never spoken of, even in the family; and I only confide them to you, suppressing every proper name.
Notwithstanding the disguise beneath which this apparition has been, and must be enveloped, it seems to me impossible, adds Mgr. de Segur, to call in doubt the dreadful authenticity of the details.
Here is a third fact related by the same writer. In the year 1873, he writes, a few days before the Assumption, occurred again one of these apparitions from beyond the grave, which so efficaciously confirm the reality of hell. It was in Rome. A brothel, opened in that city after the Piedmontese invasion, stood near a police station. One of the bad girls who lived there had been wounded in the hand, and it was found necessary to take her to hospital of CONSOLATION. Whether her blood, vitiated by bad living, had brought on mortification of wound, or from an unexpected complication, she died suddenly during the night. At the same instant, one of her companions, who surely was ignorant of what had just happened at the hospital, began to utter shrieks of despair to point of awaking the inhabitants of the locality, creating a flurry among the wretched creatures of the house, and provoking the intervention of the police. The dead girl of the hospital, surrounded by flames, had appeared to her, and said: "I am damned! and if you do not wish to be like me, leave this place of infamy and return to God."
Nothing could quell the despair of this girl, who, at daybreak, departed, leaving the whole house plunged in a stupor, especially as soon as the death of her companion at the hospital was known.
Just at this period, the mistress of the place, an exalted Garribaldian, and known as such by brethren and friends, fell sick. She soon sent for a priest to receive the sacraments. The ecclesiastical authority deputed for thus task, a worthy prelate, Mgr. Sirolli, the pastor of the parish of Saint-Saviour in Laura. He, fortified by special instructions, presented himself, and exacted of the sick woman, before all, in the presence of many witnesses, the full and entire retractation of her blasphemies against the Sovereign Pontiff, and the discontinuance of the infamous trade she plied. The unhappy creature did so without hesitating, consented to purge her house, then made her confession and received the holy Viaticum with great sentiments of repentance and humility.
Feeling that she was dying, she besought, with tears, the good pastor not to leave her, frightened as she always was by the apparition of that damned girl. Mgr. Sirolli, unable to satisfy her on account of the proprieties which would not permit him to spend the night in such a place, sent to the police for two men, closed up the house, and remained until the dying woman had breathed her last.
Pretty soon, all Rome became acquainted with the details of these tragic occurrences. As ever, the ungodly and lewd ridiculed them, taking good care not to seek for any information about them; the good profited by them, to become still better and more faithful to their duties.
IV.-- THE DENIAL OF HELL IS FOOLISH BRAVADO.
There are some miserable men, let us rather say, fools, who, in the delirium of their iniquity, make bold to declare that they laugh at hell. They say so, but only with their lips; their consciences protest and give them the lie. Collot de Herbois, famous for his impiety as much as for is sanguinary ferocity, was the chief author of the masacres of Lyons, in 1793; he caused the destruction of 1,600 victims. Six years after, in 1799, he was banished to Cayenne, and used to give vent to his infernal rage by blaspheming the holiest things. The least act of religion, became the subject of his jests. Having seen a soldier make the sign of the cross, "Imbecile!" he said to him. "You still believe in superstition! Do you not know that God, the Holy Virgin, Paradise, Hell, are the inventions of the accursed tribe of priests?" Shortly after he fell sick and was seized by violent pains. In an access of fever he swallowed, at a single draught, a bottle of liquor. His disease increased; he felt as if burned by a fire that was devouring his bowels. He uttered frightful shrieks, called upon God, the Holy Virgin, a priest, to come to his relief. "Well, indeed," said the soldier to him, "you ask for a priest? You fear hell then? You used to curse the priests, make fun of hell! Alas!" He then answered: "My tongue was lying to my heart." Pretty soon, he expired, vomiting blood and foam.
The following incident happened in 1837. A young under-lieutenant, being in Paris, entered the Church of the Assumption, near the Toilers, and saw a priest kneeling near a confessional. As he made religion the habitual subject of his jokes, he wished to go to confession to while away the time, and went into the confessional. "Monsieur l'Abbe," he said, "would you be good enough to hear my confession?" "Willingly my son; confess unrestrained." "But I must first say that I am a rather unique kind of a sinner." "No matter; the sacrament of penance has been instituted for all sinners." "But I am not very much of a believer in religious matters." "You believe more than you think." "Believe? I? I am a regular scoffer." The confessor saw with whom he had to deal, and that there was some mystification. He replied, smiling: "You are a regular scoffer? Are you then making fun of me too?" The pretended penitent smiled in like manner. "Listen," the priest went on, "what you have just done here is not serious. Let us leave confession aside; and, if you please, have a little chat. I like military people greatly; and, then, you have the appearance of a good, amiable youth. Tell me, what is your rank?" "Under-lieutenant." "Will you remain an under-lieutenant long?" "Two, three, perhaps four years." "And after?" "I shall hope to become a lieutenant?" "And after?" "I hope to become a captain." "And after?" "Lieutenant-colonel?" "How old will you be then?" "Forty to forty-five years." "And after that?" "I shall become a brigadier general." "And after?" "If I rise higher, I shall be general of a division." "And after?" "After! there is nothing more except the Marshal's baton; but my pretensions do not reach so high." "Well and good. But do you intend to get married?" "Yes, when I shall be a superior officer." "Well! There you are married; a superior officer, a general, perhaps even a French marshal, who knows? And after?" "After? Upon my word, I do not know what will be after."
"See, how strange it is!" said the abbe. Then, in a tone of voice that grew more sober: "You know all that shall happen up to that point, and you do not know what will be after. Well, I know, and I am going to tell you, After, you shall die, be judged, and, if you continue to live as you do, you shall be damned, you shall go and burn in hell; that is what will be after."
As the under-lieutenant, dispirited at this conclusion, seemed anxious to steal away: "One moment, sir," said the abbe. "You are a man of honor. So am I. Agree that you have offended me, and owe me an apology. It will be simple. For eight days, before retiring to rest, you will say: 'One day I shall die; but I laugh at the idea. After my death I shall be judged; but I laugh at the idea. After my judgement, I shall be damned; but I laugh at the idea. I shall burn forever in hell; but I laugh at the idea!' That is all. But you are going to give me your word of honor not to neglect it, eh?"
More and more wearied, and wishing, at any price, to extricate himself from this false step, the under-lieutenant made the promise. In the evening, his word being given, he began to carry out his promise. "I shall die," he says. "I shall be judged." He had not the courage to add: "I laugh at the idea." The week had not passed before he returned to the Church of the Assumption, made his confession seriously, and came out of the confessional his face bathed with tears, and with joy in his heart.
A young person who had become an unbeliever in consequence of his dissipation, kept incessantly shooting sarcasm at religion, and making jests of its most awful truths. "Juliette," some one said to her one day, "this will end badly. God will be tired of your blasphemies, and you shall be punished." "Bah," she answered insolently. "It gives me very little trouble. Who has returned from the other world to relate what passes there?" Less than eight days after she was found in her room, giving no sign of life, and already cold. As there was no doubt that she was dead, she was put in a coffin and buried. The following day, the grave-digger, digging a new grave beside that of the unhappy Juliette, heard some noise, it seemed to him that there was a knocking in the adjoining coffin. At once, he puts his ear to the ground, and in fact hears a smothered voice, crying out: "Help! help!" The authorities were summoned; by their orders, the grave was opened, the coffin taken up and unnailed. The shroud is removed; there is no further doubt, Juliette was buried alive. Her hair, her shroud were in disorder, and her face was streaming with blood. While they are releasing her, and feeling her heart to be assured that it still beats, she heaves a sigh, like a person for a long time deprived of air; then she opens her eyes, makes an effort to lift herself up, and says: "My God, I thank thee." Afterward, when she had got her senses well back, and by the aid of some food, recovered her strength, she added: "When I regained consciousness in the grave and recognized the frightful reality of my burial, when after having uttered shrieks, I endeavored to break my coffin, and struck my forehead against the boards, I saw that all was useless; death appeared to me with all its horrors; it was less the bodily than the eternal death that frightened me. I saw I was going to be damned. My God, I had but too well deserved it! Then I prayed, I shouted for help, I lost consciousness again, until I awoke above ground. O, goodness of my God!" she said, again shedding tears, "I had despised the truths of faith; thou hast punished me, but in thy mercy, I am converted and repentant."
They who deny hell will be forced to admit it soon; but alas! it will be too late. Father Nieremberg, in his work Difference between Time and Eternity, speaks of an unfortunate sinner, who, as the result of his evil ways, had lost the faith. His virtuous wife exhorted him to return to God, and reminded him of hell, but he would answer, obstinately: "There is no hell." One day his wife found him dead, and, strange circumstance, he held in his hand a mysterious paper, on which, in large characters, was traced this terrifying avowal: "I now know that there is a hell!"
V. -- AWAKENING OF THE UNGODLY SOUL IN HELL.
Unhappy sinners, who are lulled to rest by the illusions of the world, and who live as if there was no hell, will be suddenly stripped of their illusions by the most frightful of catastrophes. From the midst of their pleasures they shall fall into the pit of torments.
The disaster of the Cafe Kivoto supplies an image of the catastrophe, still more terrible, which awaits them, soon or late.
The Kivoto was a theatrical cafe at Smyrna, built upon piles in the sea. The extremely stout stakes that kept the house above the waves, water and time-eaten, had lost their solid contents. It was on the 11th of February, 1873, at 10 o'clock P.M. Two hundred persons had assembled to witness a comic spectacle. They were amusing themselves, when, all at once, a frightful crash was heard. At the same moment everything gave way and was turned topsy-turvy; the house, with the theatre and spectators, was pitched forward and swallowed up in the sea. What an awful surprise for these amusement amateurs! A more tragical surprise awaits the worldling. A day will come when from the centre of his pleasure, he shall, all of a sudden, behold himself cast headlong into a sea of sulphur and fire.
On the night of the 31st of March--1st of April, 1873, a stately and magnificent steamship, the Atlantic, foundered on the Canadian banks, near Halifax. The number on board, passengers and crew, reached 950, of whom 700 were lost in this shipwreck. Most of them were wrapped in sleep, when the vessel, striking some rocks, sank almost instantaneously. Swallowed up by the sea in the middle of their repose, they awoke in the waters, and were suffocated before being able to account for the terrible accident which had just happened. Frightful awaking! But more frightful will be the awaking of the atheist when he shall see himself suddenly engulfed in hell.
On the 28th of December, 1879, occured the Tay bridge accident. The train from London to Edinburgh crosses the Tay, near Dundee, over an iron bridge half a league long. A dreadful storm, which had swelled the waves and broken the bridge during the day, ended by sweeping away several arches, despite the iron cross-bars piers. These arches, when falling, left an empty space, which was not perceived in the darkness. At 7:30 P.M. the express train out from Edinburgh thunders along, carrying a hundred travelers; it mounts the fatal bridge, and soon, coming on the empty space, is hurled into the waves. Not a cry was heard; in the twinkling of an eye the victims were in the depths below. What a surprise! what a sudden change! But what will it be when the sinner shall see himself, in the twinkling of an eye, in the pit of hell?
VI.-- TRUTH OF HELL
This is how the Son of God speaks to us of hell: "Woe to the world because of scandals; for it must needs be that scandals come; nevertheless, woe to that man by whom scandal cometh!
"If, then, thy hand or thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off and cast it from thee; it is better for thee to go into life maimed or lame, than, having two hands or two feet, be cast into everlasting fire.
"And if thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee; it is better for thee, having one eye, to enter into life, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire." -- (Matt. xviii, 7; compare v., 29.)
"Fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body into hell." -- (Matt. x. 28.)
"The rich man also died, and he was buried in hell.
"Now, lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
"And he said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame." -- (Luke xvi., 22.)
"Then the Judge will say to them that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels." -- (Matt xxv., 41.)
"Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down in the kingdom of heaven.
"But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." -- (Matt. viii., 11.)
"The King went in to see the guests, and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment.
"And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having on a wedding garment? But he was silent.
"Then the King said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall weeping , and gnashing of teeth." -- (Matt. v., 22.)
"The unprofitable servant cast ye out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping, and gnashing of teeth." -- (Matt xxv., 30.)
"But I say to you: Whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment, and whosoever shall say to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." (Matt. v., 22.)
"The Son of Man shall send His angels, and they shall gather out of His Kingdom all scandals and them that work iniquity;
"And shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." -- (Matt. xiii., 41.)
"If thy hand scandalize thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into unquenchable fire.
"There, the gnawing worm dies not and the fire is not extinguished.
"And if thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter lame into life everlasting than having two feet, to be cast into the hell of unquenchable fire.
"Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished.
"And if thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out; it is better for thee with one eye to enter into the Kingdom of God, than, having two eyes, to be cast into the hell of fire.
"Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished." -- (Mark ix., 42)
"Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down and shall be cast into the fire." -- (Matt. XII., 19.)
"I am the vine; you the branches; he that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit.
"If any one abide not in Me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth." -- (John xv., 5.)
"Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.
"For the days shall come, wherin they shall say to the mountains: Fall upon us; and to the hills: Cover us.
"For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry? -- that is to say, what will sinners be, destined, like the dry wood, to be burned." -- (Luke xxiii., 31)
"Already, the axe is laid to the root of the tree: and every tree that doth not yield good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire.
"He that shall come after Me is mightier than I, and he shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire.
"Whose fan is in his hand and he will thoroughly cleanse his floor; and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." Words of St. John the Baptist. -- (Matt. iii., 10.)
"The beast and the false prophet who had seduced them who had received the character of the beast, and who had admired his image, were cast alive into the pool of fire burning with brimstone." (Apoc., xix., 20.)
"Where they were tormented day and night, for ever and ever.
"And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the pool of fire." -- (Apoc. xx., 15.)
To doubt about hell, is to doubt the infallible word of God; it is to give ear to the speech of the libertines rather than to the infallible teaching of the Church. The Church teaches that there is a hell; a libertine tells you that there is not; and should you prefer to beleive a libertine? An honorable Roman, Emilius Scaurus, was accused by a certain Varus, a man without word or honor. Being obliged to prove his innocence, Scaurus addressed the people in this short speech: "Romans, you know Varus says I am guilty of the crime charged against me, and I protest that I am not guilty. Varus says yes, I say no; whom do you beleive?
The people applauded, and the accuser was confounded.
Natural reason confirms the dogma of hell. An atheist was boasting that he did not believe in hell. Among his hearers, there was a sensible young man, modest, but who thought that he ought to shut the silly speaker's mouth. He put him a single question: "Sir," he said, "the kings of the earth have prisons to punish their refractory subjects; how can God, the King of the Universe, be without a prison for those who outrage His majesty?" The sinner had not a word to answer. The appeal was presented to the light of his own reason, which proclaims that, if kings have prisons, God must have a hell.
The atheist who denies hell is like the thief who should deny the prison. A thief was threatened with sentence to prison. The foolish fellow replied: "There is no Court, there is no prison." He was speaking thus, when an officer of justice put his hand on his shoulder, and dragged him before the Judge. This is an image of the atheist who is foolish enough to deny hell. A day will come, when, taken unawares by divine justice, he shall see himself dashed headlong into the pit which he stubbornly denied, and he shall be forced to acknowledge the terrible reality.
The atheist who denies hell is like the African heron. That stupid bird, when chased by hunters, plunges its head into the sand, and keeping stirless, believes it is secure from danger, because it does not see the enemy. But soon the piercing arrow comes to undeceive it. Thus absorbed, sunk in earthly things, the sinner is persuaded that he has nothing to fear from hell until the day when death strikes him and shows him, by a sad experience, how deceive he has been.
The truth of hell is so clearly revealed that heresy has never denied it. Protestants, who have demolished almost all dogmas, have not dared to touch this dogma. This fact suggests to a Catholic lady this witty answer. Anxiously importuned by two Protestant ministers to pass over into the camp of the Reformation: "Gentlemen," she replied, "you have indeed achieved a fine reformation. You have suppressed fasting, confession, purgatory. Unfortunately, you have kept hell; put hell away, and I shall be one of you." Yes, Messrs. Freethinkers, remove hell, and then ask us to be yours. But know that an "I do not believe in it," is not sufficient to do away with it.
Is it not the most inconceivable folly to rely on a perhaps, at the risk of falling into hell? Two atheists went one day into an anchorite's cell. At the sight of his instruments of penance, they asked him why he was leading so mortified a life. "To deserve paradise," he replied. "Good Father," they said, smiling, "You would be nicely caught, if there is nothing after death!" "Gentlemen," rejoined the holy man, as he looked at them with compassion, "you will be quite otherwise, if there is any."
A young man belonging to a Catholic family in Holland, as a consequence of imprudent reading, had the misfortune to lose the treasure of faith and fall into a state of complete indifference. It was a subject of the bitterest grief for his parents, especially his pious mother. In vain did this other Monica give him the most solid lectures, in vain did she admonish him with tears to come back to God; her unhappy son was deaf and insensible. Yet, at last, to satisfy his mother, he was pleased to consent to spend a few days in a religious house, there to follow the exercises of a retreat, or rather, as he put it, to ret a few days and smoke tobacco, and enjoyment he loved. So, he listened with a distracted mind to the instructions given to those making the retreat, and speedily after began again to smoke without thinking further of what he had heard. The instruction on hell, to which he seemed to listen to like the rest, came on, but being back again in his little cell, while he was taking his smoke as usual, a reflection arose, in spite of him, in his mind. "If, however, it should be true," he says to himself, "that there is a hell! If there be one, clearly it shall be for me! And in reality, do I know, myself, that there is not a hell? I am obliged to acknowledge that I have no certainty in this behalf; the whole ground of my ideas is only a perhaps. Now, to run the risk of burning for eternity on a perhaps, frankly speaking, as a matter of extravagance, would be to go beyond the bounds. If there are some who have such courage, I have not sufficiently lost my senses to imitate them." Thereupon, he begins to pray, grace penetrates his soul, his doubts vanish, he rises up, converted.
A pious author relates the history of the tragic punishment that befell an ungodly scoffer of hell. This was a man of quality, whom the author, through respect for his family, does not name; he designates him by the fictitious name of Leontius. This unfortunate man made it a boast to brave heaven and hell, which he treated as chimerical superstitions. One day, when a feast was about to be celebrated at his castle, he took a walk, accompanied by a friend, and wished to go through the cemetery. Chancing to stumble against a skull lying on the ground, he kicked it aside with profane, blasphemous words: "Out of my way," he said, "rotten bones, worthless remains of what is not more." His companion, who did not share in his sentiments, ventured to say to him "that he did wrong to use this language. The remains of the dead," he added, "must be respected, on account of their souls, which are always alive, and which will assume their bodies again on the day of the resurrection." Leontius answered by this challenge spoken to the skull: "If the spirit that animated thee still exists, let it come and tell me some news about the other world. I invite it for this very evening to my banquet." Evening came, he was at table with numerous friends, and telling his adventure of the cemetery, while repeating his profanations, when, all at once, a great noise is made and almost at the same time a horrible ghost appears in the dining-room, and spreads fright among the guests, Leontius, especially, losing all audacity, is pale, trembling, out of his wits. he wants to flee; the spectre does not give him time, but springs on him with the swiftness of lightning, and smashed his head to pieces against the wainscot. I do not know how far this recital is authentic; but what is certain is that a day will come when the pride of the ungodly shall be dashed down, and their heads broken by the Judge of the living and the dead: "The Lord shall judge among nations, He shall fill ruins; He shall crush the heads in the land of many." -- (Ps. 109.)
Here is another fact almost contemporaneous and related by a trustworthy author: Two young men, whose names, through respect for their families, must remain secret, but whom I shall call Eugene and Alexander, old schoolmates and college friends, met again later in life after a long separation. Eugene, having stayed at home; used to occupy himself with the works of charity, according to the spirit of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, of which he was a member. Alexander had entered the army and obtained the rank of colonel; but, unhappily, there lost every spark of religion. Having procured a leave of absence of a few days, he had returned to his family, and wished to see Eugene. The interview happened on a Sunday. After they had chatted together for a time, "Friend," said Eugene, "it is time to leave you. Wither do you wish to go? It cannot be there is anything pressing?" "I am going first after the business of salvation; then I must attend a benevolent reunion." "Poor Eugene; I see it; you still believe in paradise and hell. 'Tis all a chimera, superstition, fanaticism." "Dear Alexander, do not speak so; you, like me, learned that the dogmas of faith rest on unexceptionable facts." "Chimeras, I tell you, which I believe no longer. If there be a hell, I am willing to go there today. Come with me to the theatre." "Dear friend, use your liberty, but do not brave God's justice." Eugene spoke to a deaf man, who was unwilling to heed salutary advice. He left him with a sore heart. That very day, in the evening, Eugene was already in bed, when he was awakened. "Quick," they said to him, "rise, go to Alexander's; he has been just brought back from the theatre, seized by a frightful pain." Eugene runs thither, and finds him tossed by violent convulsions, with foam in his mouth and rolling his wild eyes. As soon as he sees Eugene, "You say there is a hell," he shouts; "you say, truly, there is a hell, and I am going thither; I am there already; I fell its tortures and fury."
In van did Eugene try to calm him; the unhappy man answers only by yells and blasphemies. In the transports of his rage, he tore with his teeth the flesh off his arms, and cast the bleeding fragments at Eugene, his mother, and sisters. It was in this paroxysm of agony that he expired. His mother died of grief, his two sisters entered religion, and Eugene also quitted the world; owner of a brilliant fortune, he forsook all to consecrate himself to God, and avoid hell.
How, it will be necessary to dwell in it as in an everlasting habitation? "Which of you," demands the prophet, "can dwell with devouring fire? Which of you shall bear everlasting burnings?" -- Isaiah xxxiii., 54.
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