What Is Hell?

Cardinal Manning cautions: “Let no impostors, who pretend to philosophy and to criticism, lead you for one moment to believe that the existence of hell and eternal punishment is by an arbitrary law, by a mere act of Divine legislation, like a statute made by despotic power. Eternal death is an intrinsic necessity of the perfection of God, and of the wilful apostasy of man. If there be a God who is holy, just, pure, true, and unchangeable; then, if man is impure, unjust, unholy, and false, and will not change by repentance, as light and darkness cannot exist together, God and that soul cannot unite in eternity. It is not a statute law. It is an intrinsic necessity of the Divine perfection on the one hand, and of the sinfulness of the human soul upon the other.”

“What is hell but to be separated from God eternally? . . . After death, the eyes of the soul will be opened, the scales will fall from its sight, it will see itself for the first time, as it will for the first time see God in judgment. And when it shall see God in judgment, all that instinct of the soul in which it was from the beginning created for God—an instinct like the needle of the compass, which points by its own law always to the north, as in the blaze of the noonday, so in the darkness of the midnight, will return to its direction. The lost soul that was created in the image of God, of which the beatific end is God, and to be united with God is life, will then begin to hunger and thirst after God, when to be united with God is impossible for ever. Just as breathing is a vital necessity to the body, so union with God is a vital necessity to the soul.”

“There will be a torment in the soul which is the undying worm that will gnaw to all eternity. What is that torment? Remorse. The consciousness that the soul has committed self-murder, that it died because it sinned unto death, and that it sinned unto death of its own free will. . . . There is no need of fire to torment; this alone is torment enough, to lose God eternally.”

Quotations from Henry Edward Manning, Sin and Its Consequences, 2d ed. (London: Burns and Oates, 1874).

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