Dialogue on the Threshold

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Friday, 9 April 2010

A streame of brimstone

That then there is damnation, and why it is, and when it is, is cleare enough; but what this damnation is, neither the tongue of good Angels that know damnation by the contrary, by fruition of salvation, nor the tongue of bad Angels who know damnation by a lamentable experience, is able to expresse it; A man may saile so at sea, as that he shall have laid the North Pole flat, that shall be fallen out of sight, and yet he shall not have raised the South Pole, he shall not see that; So there are things, in which a man may goe beyond his reason, and yet not meet with faith neither: of such a kinde are those things which concerne the locality of hell, and the materiality of the torments thereof; for that hell is a certaine and limited place, beginning here and ending there, and extending no farther, or that the torments of hell be materiall, or elementary torments, which in naturall consideration can have no proportion, no affection, nor appliablenesse to the tormenting of a sprit, these things neither settle my reason, nor binde my faith; neither opinion, that it is, or is not so, doth command our reason so, but that probable reasons may be brought on the other side; neither opinion doth so command our faith, but that a man may be saved, though hee thinke the contrary; for in such points, it is alwaies lawfull to thinke so, as we finde does most advance and exalt our owne devotion, and Gods glory in our estimation; but when we shall have given to those words, by which hell is expressed in the Scriptures, the heaviest significations, that either the nature of those words can admit, or as they are types and representations of hell, as fire, and brimstone, and weeping, and gnashing, and darknesse, and the worme, and as they are laid together in the Prophet, Tophet, (that is, hell) is deepe and large, (there is the capacity and content, roome enough) It is a pile of fire and much wood, (there is the durablenesse of it) and the breath of the Lord to kindle it, like a streame of Brimstone, (there is the vehemence of it:) when all is done, the hell of hels, the torment of torments is the everlasting absence of God, and the everlasting impossibility of returning to his presence.

John Donne, sermon Preached to the Earle of Carlile and his company, at Sion [? 1622], Mark 16:16 "He that beleeveth not, shall be damned"

Fresco in the porch of the Church of St. Nicholas - Udricani (1735), Bucharest

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