The State of People in Hell
In preceding chapters we have endeavored to follow a personís path from their resurrection into the spiritual world, through their intermediate state, the world of spirits, and to present the fundamental principles which determine their course, and the methods by which they are conducted to their final home. We have seen that their freedom is never violated; that they are led by infinite mercy and wisdom; and that the Lord always does all that He can for them, whether they be evil or good. As we advance to the consideration of their state in their eternal home, we shall find the same laws operating, and the same love and wisdom caring for them, whether that home be hell or heaven.
It seems to be a rational and even a necessary conclusion that the Lord's method of providing for the punishment of violated law should partake of His infinite mercy and wisdom, and should surpass all human methods, as His wisdom and power surpass ours. But people have always found it difficult to believe that the Lord administers His government in a different manner and by infinitely wiser methods than people do. Consequently, they have attributed to Him all the vindictive motives and the external and arbitrary methods of human governments. The idea has generally prevailed that the Lord can forgive, or remit the penalty of sin, as a civil magistrate remits the punishment for a crime committed against civil laws. It has been inferred, therefore, that the pardon of sin depends upon the arbitrary will or good pleasure of the Lord. Those who look more to the stern justice of the Lord, and by justice understand the punishment of the sinner according to his or her deserts, hold that the Lord cannot remit the penalty of sin consistently with His own character and the safety of His government, without some compensation or satisfaction for His violated law. Others, on the contrary, who look more to the Lord's love and mercy, believe that He will save all men from mere mercy, if not immediately, then at some future time, when their sins have been sufficiently punished. Each party goes to the Bible and seizes upon those passages which appear to confirm its views, and brings all its ingenuity and force to explain away the meaning of those which appear to oppose them.
But the question can never be settled in this way. It cannot be rationally and conclusively answered without some certain knowledge of the nature of man, and of his relations to the Lord. Human governments are not the true types and examples of the Lord's government. We must learn of the Lord Himself. If we can discover how He rewards good and how evil is punished in one province of His government, we may safely conclude that we have found the principles and methods according to which He administers His government in every department of His kingdom. We shall have no difficulty in this for there is one province in His government with which we are all more or less familiar from experience and observation. We all know something of the nature and methods by which we are rewarded for obedience to the laws of physical life, and punished for disobedience to them. And here we may find a key that will unlock all the secrets of the Divine government in every kingdom of life.
The Lord has so formed human beings so that they are capable of receiving delight from everything around them. Their whole form is a combination of organs or senses through which the material world comes to him and brings him delight. But in order to accomplish this end, the nicest order and adjustment of human physical organism to the world without and to the world within is necessary and must be constantly maintained. Any derangements of that order must necessarily defeat the end for which it was instituted. So long as the true order and exact relations are maintained we are rewarded for every activity with delight. Everything we hear, or see, or smell, or taste, or touch, gives us pleasure. Everyone who is in perfect physical health is physically happy. They have no sense of pain, and can have none. So long as they obey the laws of physical life there is no way in which pain can possibly reach them. All their delights are the rewards they receives for their works - for obedience to the laws of life. The reward flows from the obedience. It is not so much for doing right, as in doing right.
But if we violate this order, and disobey the laws of his life, we suffer. We are punished. If we eat or drink too much or too little, or of unwholesome substances; if we exercise any organ too much or too little, we violate a law of life, and the penalty grows out of, or flows from the violation of, the law, in the same manner that the reward is the effect of our obedience. The pleasure and the pain are inseparably linked with the action itself. There is nothing arbitrary or uncertain in either case. The results in both arise from the same principle, and in their origin, intention, and effect, are both good. We are drawn to orderly action by the pleasure, and deterred from evil by the punishment; and both the reward and the punishment are administered according to the work, whether it be good or bad. The pain which is the punishment for violating a physical law does not come from without any more than the pleasure. It is not annexed to it, but flows from it; it is inherent in it. And the punishment consists in pain, in feebleness; in being deprived of all the delights of health.
Now, people viewed as spiritual beings are as really a man, an organized human form, as they are material beings, and all their enjoyments and sufferings flow from the orderly or disorderly action of these forms, in the same way, relatively, that their bodily sufferings and delights flow from the abuse or orderly use of that physical body. This spiritual body, as we have shown in previous chapters, is as variously and nicely related to all spiritual objects and forces as their material body is to this world; and its modes or order of action are laws of spiritual life. When these spiritual laws are obeyed, or we act in conformity to the order and constitution given to us by the Lord, happiness, and happiness only, flows from the obedience. When they are violated, pain follows, and the duration and degree of the pain are exactly according to the extent and degree of the violation of the spiritual law. The pleasure and pain are not affixed arbitrarily; they both flow from the action of law, under different circumstances, and one is as inevitable as the other.
But we are not left to mere assumption or analogy on this subject. We know from experience that it is so, even in this world. Everyone knows that he ore she is always happy when they feel kindly and thinks truly and endeavors to act right towards all others. The love of others as surely brings happiness with it, as heat brings a sense of warmth. In the same manner hatred, or the indulgence of any evil passion, just as inevitably brings pain. No one can do a wrong action and escape the punishment. They may, indeed, escape the punishment which people in this world have annexed to it; but they cannot escape the penalty of the spiritual law. A person may commit murder and never be detected. But can they avoid the consciousness of his crime? They may wash the stains of blood from his hands, but can they wash it from their soul? Can they forget? Whither can a person flee from themselves? What darkness can hide them? What hand can shield them from the fiery stings and biting strokes of guilt? The real penalty, as you see, cannot be avoided. The laws of natural and spiritual life are the same in principle, and the rewards and punishments are administered in the same way. The penalty is inherent in, and flows from, the act. And it cannot in any way be separated from it.
But this is not only true of that which is felt as punishment immediately, but of all the consequences which flow from it. Everything we do, whether evil or good, reacts upon us. Good causes a greater good, and evil results in some form of punishment. Kindness towards others begets kindness in others towards us. A thoroughly. honest and good person soon finds themselves surrounded with friends. The principle is seen in the great outward changes and facilities for business and pleasure that we possess at the present time. As soon as people began to turn their thoughts and affections to something useful - to mechanical inventions - what a change it soon wrought in all our relations to outward things! How soon they began to react upon us for our good in a thousand different ways! In the same manner the evil passions and deeds of men have reacted upon them in some form of punishment. The thief and robber build their own prison, and shut themselves up in it. The outrages of evil people upon others render their confinement necessary to the general welfare, and thus the whole community stands arrayed against the evil. When a person of violent and vindictive passions gives vent to them in words and deeds of violence against other people, that person soon calls down upon themselves curses and blows, or even death. These are illustrations of the general principle that the life of everyone reacts upon them either as reward or punishment, according to their deeds, so that it is strictly true that punishment flows from the evil, even when it seems to come from others.
But will it not be different when we come into the spiritual world? How can it be, if people are human, if their happiness flows from their activities, from the exercise of their affections? It is evident that it cannot, for, so far as we know, there is but one way of being happy, and that is by the exercise of some affection. If a person has no good affections, how can they exercise them? They could as easily enjoy all the delights of seeing without eyes. If the indulgence of evil affections must, in the nature of things, cause pain, how can the evil escape suffering? Passing into the spiritual world does not change a personís nature; consequently the laws of life must be the same there that they are here. We are spirits now.
Suppose the Lord should say to every one when he or she comes into the spiritual world, " I withdraw all charges against you. I will not punish you for anything you have done. Enter heaven. Do as you please. Enjoy yourself as you best can." Do you suppose that would make the evil person good? That person is the embodiment of selfish and worldly loves. Do you suppose they would now immediately reverse their whole nature and begin to love the Lord and the neighbor supremely,? No; no more than thieves and murderers are changed to saints by receiving a free pardon for their crimes. Suppose the prison doors of all the penitentiaries in the land were opened tomorrow, and there was a general jail delivery throughout the country, do you think the malefactors now confined in prison would feel grateful for the clemency of the governments and return to virtue? No; they would rush into worse crimes as the fear of punishment was removed.
We may safely conclude, therefore, that punishment is good for the wicked, and that it must inevitably flow from evil,, and that the Lord's government is everywhere the same in principle. The origin of punishment, then, is in the evil. Nor does it come from any other source, however many channels it may pass through, and however various the forms it may assume before it reaches the doer of the evil. Consequently, the doctrines of the New Church accord with universal laws, in teaching that the Lord punishes no one. He is love and mercy itself, and no evil or pain can come from Him. No one thinks of attributing their physical sufferings to the Lord. When we expose ourselves to a greater degree of heat or cold than the nature of our material bodies can sustain, we are punished for it, more or less severely, according to the degree of our exposure - sometimes with the entire loss of limbs or life. But no one would think of saying that the Lord sent that suffering and mutilation because we had violated His laws. Our punishment had its origin in our disobedience, in the violation of a good law. So it is with every pain human beings suffer. No suffering does or can come from the Lord. He is not the author of evil or of its punishment.
It follows, as a necessary consequence from this fundamental principle that no one is, or can be, punished for an evil after it has been removed. The Lord does not lay up charges and penalties against us. He does not give us license in this world, and punish us in the next for it. That is a most horrible doctrine. We are not punished in the spiritual world for what we do in this, but for what we do there. It is true that the evil life and habits which people confirm here become their life there, and lead them to do evil and thus to be punished. But when they cease to do evil, they cease to suffer for it. People often jump to conclusions from the truth that neither facts nor experience warrant. They say, " If I shall not be punished in the spiritual world for what I do in this, when I get there I will stop sinning and thus I will escape all punishment." But why not stop now? If you should express the answer that is in your heart, you would say, "Because I wish to indulge in selfish and worldly delights a while longer." Should we not have the same desires and the same delights there? We must not forget that we shall be ourselves, and not beings of another nature, when we rise in the spiritual world. It does not change our characters to throw off the material body, but rather makes us more completely ourselves. Difficult as we find it to change now, it will be impossible then, for the understanding and will will be one there, and we can think only of what we love. We cannot be outwardly good and inwardly evil. There are two consequences which follow every evil: one is the immediate pain it causes, and the other the habit of evil which it confirms. The truth, then, that no one is punished in the spiritual world for what they do in this gives no license to sin, but makes its consequences more severe and terrible.
But I proceed, in the second place, to state how the wicked are punished in the spiritual world. In a previous chapter I showed that those who are inherently wicked remain in the world of spirits until they have put off all that is not homogeneous to their ruling love, so that every evil affection has its corresponding falsity, and the spirits finds nothing in themselves that opposes or in any way prevents them from acting out their essential nature. They throw off all appearances of good; for in the spiritual world those who are in good have a perception of everything that is opposite to their love, so that no disguises or subterfuges avail anyone. Everyone is known for what they are, and are drawn by an irresistible attraction to those of similar affection. "A personís external form corresponds to their internal, and is its exact type and effigy; consequently, it is then known as soon as seen, what sort of a spirit that person is, not only by their countenance but by their person, and also by their speech and gestures; and as, likewise, they are now in their intrinsic identity, they cannot abide anywhere but where those like themselves dwell. For in the spiritual world there is a complete communication of affections and of the thoughts thence originating, on which account a spirit is conducted as if of themselves, because from their own affection and its delights, to those who are like them." (Heaven and Hell, no. 552)
Being thus openly introduced into the society of those of a similar character, it is not difficult to determine what would be the inevitable result. We must keep in mind that the same principles operate in the spiritual world that operate here, only they are more clearly and freely developed. The life of spirits is as real, and the ends they seek to obtain are as real and seem to them much more desirable, than the ends people seek in this world. And they pursue them through various instrumentalities; they use each other to accomplish their purposes, and to do that they must present motives; they must offer some good, or create some fear.
Under these circumstances, imagine a company of human beings, in which each one was fired with the lust of dominion, claimed homage for themselves, and desired to make every one serve them. You see at once that there could be no bond of union among them but fear. The interests of each one are hostile to all the others. There would be jealousies, envyings, hatreds, fears; the exercise of tyrannical powers, the most cruel punishments, and the most abject servitude. No one could act out their nature freely without coming in contact with all the others, and calling down their vengeance upon themselves. Each one would be kept in torment, either from the fear of injury, or from the desire to act out their evil love, or from the inevitable punishment that would follow from acting according to it. It would be impossible for them to escape punishment in any other way than by submission, and quietly surrendering themselves to be a slave.
There have been, and there are still, such hells in this world. History furnishes us with the most mournful and shocking accounts of the tyrannies and cruelties inflicted upon each other by those who had the power or desired to obtain it. How many millions of human beings have been slaughtered, how many have been immured in dungeons, and subjected to the most terrible tortures! All tyrannical governments could furnish us with abundant examples to illustrate this principle. All the societies of the hells are governed by someone who seeks the position from their indomitable love of rule, and by their power to subdue and command others. The ruler would obtain his or her position in the same manner that they would in a band of pirates and robbers. The person who had the greatest cunning and strength, the most daring and energy, and the greatest skill and power in command, would seize the chief power and rule. But every such government must be a tyranny, and the only motive to obedience, fear. The lust for dominion in each one would lead to perpetual plotting and counterplotting, to commotions, insurrections, and consequent punishments.
Suppose, again, a society in which everyone's ruling love was cruelty, or the delight of inflicting pain upon others (and such dispositions are not unknown in this world), the consequence must inevitably be the misery of everyone. For no one could act out their nature without inflicting pain upon someone else, and this would bring down vengeance upon their own head. The happiness of every member of such a community would consist in disturbing, annoying, fretting, exciting fears, opposing the delights of others, and by a cunning, deceit, and craftiness, known only to spirits, inflicting pain. Would not such a condition of things keep every one in torment?
In the same manner we may take any other evil and carry it out to its legitimate consequences. Collect together a number of persons who are the embodiments of it, and every one who knows anything of the nature of evil must know, that nothing but punishment, or suffering in some form, could flow from such a society. We see that it is so here.; it must be so in the nature of things. We see, also, that the punishment does not come from the good; but from the evil. They delight to inflict it upon one another, and if they were not restrained by fear, they would, if it were possible, destroy one another. Their ruling loves all impel them to act in opposition to others. As they love nothing but themselves, they can act from no other motives, and as their understanding and will have become one, they can think nothing but what they love; the only restraint that can have any weight with them is fear. Their fears, also, can be excited only by their sufferings. The state of the wicked is such then that they never can act from affection without rousing up opposition and bringing back upon themselves some form of suffering. If they refrain from evil, they must do so from compulsion or fear. All that keeps them within bounds is restraint of some kind. They are all, literally, the vilest slaves. And the punishment of each one is exactly adapted to their state, and never passes beyond the severity necessary to keep them in their proper place, and to prevent them from injuring others. The kinds of punishment the wicked inflict upon one another are as numerous as the varieties of evils in which they are principled.
It is a law of the spiritual world that everything that surrounds its inhabitants is in exact correspondence with their state or character. The scenery of the hells, then, must be composed of all that is essentially repulsive and horrible. Its inhabitants dwell in darkness, or what is darkness compared with the light of heaven, because, like owls and bats, they can not bear the light. They are themselves horribly deformed monsters because everyone is the form of their own evil, and they dwell in dens and holes, in filthy and dilapidated hovels, surrounded with stagnant marshes, in whose slime every hideous and deformed thing that represents their own evils is bred. Some dwell in deserts of sand, or wildernesses filled with savage beasts, and still more savage spirits. The evil of every one begets its corresponding fantasies, which people his world, and haunt and terrify them.
When we consider that the senses of spirits are much more acute than they were when clothed with flesh in this world; that their power is vastly increased, and their cunning and malignant arts are so great that they cannot be described in human language, and that many of them are unknown even to the most malicious in this world; that there are no restraints but fear, and no love for anything but evil, and no thought but how to accomplish it, we can well imagine that their condition is so miserable that it may well fill our minds with horror to think of it. And yet, perhaps, we love the same evils, and if we were left in freedom to seek our like we should, of our own accord, join some of these miserable societies, and become slaves like them.
It may be proper here to remark that none of the punishments of the wicked consist in remorse, or in the stings of conscience. They have no conscience, and they are, therefore, incapable of remorse. Every person who has a conscience goes to heaven. The possession of a conscience shows that the Lord has some hold upon them. The wicked do not care for heaven. Their only desire is to indulge in their own lusts, and their only grief consists in the restraints that are imposed upon them, and the punishments which flow from their evils.
It is sometimes supposed that the wicked will mourn over their past folly, and repent, though their repentance will not avail them, because their day of probation is over. But their evils cause them no regret. They rather glory in their shame. They do not mourn over the past; they only mourn that they cannot gratify their lusts in the present. One sincere and earnest desire to know the truth and to live it would fling the gates of hell wide open, and release its possessor from the eternal prison-house. But no such desire is ever breathed in those gloomy and terrible abodes for no one who is capable of such an affection ever goes there. No. The life of the hells, which is essential death, is a life of purely selfish and worldly lusts.
But is there no escape from hell? Will not its inhabitants finally see the folly of evil, and cease to do it? Will they not become instructed in the truth and raised to heaven? Some believe that they will; but their belief is not founded upon revelation, or reason, or a true knowledge of the nature of man. There are many reasons why it is impossible in the nature and constitution of things, that such a change should take place.
1. A spirit, who is essentially evil cannot be taught what is true. They cannot think what is true, or have any desire to live a good life. The only ground for teaching any one the truth in this world is because the will and the understanding are separated, and we can see and speak the truth even when we have no will to do it. If a person could think only about what they loved; that is, if their thoughts flowed only from their affections, and were the form and expression of them as they are in the spirit world, they could not be reformed here. There would be no possibility of saving him.
2. Again, a spirit is an organized human form, entirely inverted by evil. A direct influx of the Divine life into such a form would rend it to pieces because its currents would flow in a direction entirely contrary to the currents of the evil life. An evil spirit could not breathe the air of heaven. If it were possible for him or her to attempt it, they would gasp like a fish out of water, or would be so tormented that the deepest hell would be a comfortable place compared with it.
3. There is a proper time in the order of the creation of every being and thing when the different parts that compose it must be inserted, and commence their growth; and if they are not inserted in their proper time, they never an be. Suppose a child is born into this world without eyes; is there any possibility that it can ever see? We know there is none. The Lord cannot, from immediate mercy, or the exercise of arbitrary, omnipotent power, give eyes to the child or the man; for He can do it only in its own orderly time and way. He cannot go back. As the first steps in the organization of our material bodies were taken before we were born into the world, so the first steps in our spiritual organization must be taken before we are born into the spiritual world. And by spiritual organization I mean the formation of that interior plane of the mind which can receive the Divine love and wisdom in true order. In other words, a person must be " born again," or he cannot see the kingdom of God. But there is no chance for them to be born again in the spiritual world. They have passed that state in his existence when such a work could be begun. There is no basis for the new spiritual organism to rest upon. We might as well begin at the top of an arch to construct it, or plant our seeds in the air, or hope to obtain fruit before we have blossoms. A spirit is not part memory, part understanding, part reason, and part will, but is all will. The only hold they have upon anything is their affection for it. Nor does he or she desire anything else, or think of anything else. I repeat, that plane in their nature, in which goodness and truth can be implanted, is wanting, and can never be supplied.
Some think this doctrine militates against the Divine benevolence. If they can believe that all will be restored to happiness and heaven some time in the vast futurity, no matter how remote, they are content. It saves the Divine character, they think, and saves human beings. But they cannot endure the thought that any one will suffer eternally; eternity is too long, they say. But it is not; eternity is neither long nor short. It has no reference to time whatever; it is a state of the soul. Spirits do not think how long they have been in hell or heaven, and how long they will have to remain there. Eternity is now. They do not think or care for tomorrow or yesterday; they are absorbed in the present. They are seeking to gratify their lusts or to escape punishment, and they have no thought for anything else. The fact, therefore, that they will never be delivered from this state does not militate against the Divine mercy. Never is a thought that is impossible to beings who are entirely removed from the laws of time and space. The existence of evil for thousands of years, or even for a moment, is just as strong an argument against the Divine benevolence as is its existence to eternity. Nor is it to be supposed that the wicked think their condition one of continual suffering. They have their infernal delights, and they can conceive of no other. They are not always undergoing punishment. Do you not suppose the thief and the robber are delighted when they succeed in a skilful theft or a bold robbery? Does not the person who loves money more than honesty feel a delight when they have defrauded their neighbors? Is not revenge sweet to the revengeful? Do no people voluntarily dwell in caves and dens, or in hovels, where they are surrounded by all forms of foul and hateful things? Are there not hells in every city, where the darkest crimes are committed, where evil passions rage; hells in which men and women voluntarily immerse themselves? Why do not those miserable beings leave those passions if they take no delight in them? Why do we not find them engaging in some useful employment, frequenting churches and commencing the life of heaven? They are not held in these hells by any external force. Is it not because they take delight in the society and practices they find there, and find no pleasure in the society and employments of the pure and good? The same principle applies to the inhabitants of the hells. They have no desire to change. They cannot conceive of any other happiness than what they enjoy. They do not consider existence a curse to them. They do not pray for extinction. There is no one who does not, on the whole, regard their life as a blessing. I cannot conceive that the Lord ever created a human being who does not, or who would voluntarily resign it. That all do not go to heaven, then, no more militates against the Divine goodness than it does that all are not equally happy in this life or in heaven.
But every one does go - I will not say where they can be the happiest - but where they will be the least miserable. A wicked person has their delights, but only a good person can be happy, for happiness is not a proper term for the delights of the wicked. The hells are just as clear an evidence of the Lord's goodness as the heavens; as in this world, the jail and the penitentiary are as clear an evidence of the benevolence of the state as asylums for the blind or orphans. It is better both for him or herself and for others that a person who will not voluntarily refrain from inflicting injury upon others should be imprisoned. In the penitentiary they can be of some use to others and do not have the same opportunity to injure their own nature. So it is with the hells. They are provided by the Lord's mercy and love as truly as the heavens are, and exist according to the same law. They are the best that can be done for those in that state. And what the Lord can do for any human being depends upon his or her state and capacity to be affected by the Divine life.
Evil is considered by some as an imperfect state of goodness, and the idea is entertained that the worst people may develop into angels. But evil is not imperfect good, and falsity is not imperfect truth; and the one cannot be developed into the other. Could a falsehood become a truth by development? Can you cure a person by developing their disease? Can sour be changed to sweet, and cold to heat, by developing them? How many degrees of cold would it take to make one warm and comfortable? Good and evil, truth and falsity, are the opposites of each other, and the more you develop either the more remote they become.
A person may be internally good and have many external imperfections. Then there is ground for development. Their essential goodness will finally cast off all their imperfections, and their whole nature will become homogeneous. Their development does not consist in changing the evil into good, but in destroying the evil and substituting good in its place. On the other hand, a person may be internally and essentially evil, and externally good; they may know many truths and assume many virtues; then, according to the same law as that which operates in the good man, their progress will consist in casting off all that is apparently good in them, and in making their external conduct agree with their internal life. The only real progress that is possible for a bad person is to cease to do evil - to let their essential nature become quiescent. But this would be retrograding, according to their idea, because it would be restraining them from the ends they desire to attain. It would be withholding them from what they love. And this process, without any doubt, does go on in the hells. Its inhabitants improve in one respect. Their ruling loves, being constantly repressed and inevitably punished, they become, in a degree, quiescent. Their natures are not changed. They do not become good, but they cease to be so violently and actively evil. They do not become more happy, but less miserable. The change is not from a lower to a higher life, but rather to a less active state of evil. To remove all the evils of an essentially bad person would annihilate them, for it would take away all their life. Thus, while the wicked in the hells become less actively evil, they never become radically better. Their love is not changed. They do not turn towards the Lord, but ever look away from Him towards their own loves. Those who are essentially evil cannot pass out of the state they are essentially in when they leave this world, for there is nothing in them to develop into goodness. This truth is illustrated and confirmed by all true knowledge of man's nature, and all the analogies of the Divine order.
But the Lord never permits any suffering to come upon us, either in this world or in any other, that is not for our, good. The end of punishment is not the satisfaction of Divine justice. It is a permission of the Divine love, and its sole end is to keep human beings and spirits from plunging into deeper evils, and consequently from bringing upon themselves greater sufferings. This must be so from the fact that all pain grows out of the violation of law, or of the order and constitution of our nature. It is, therefore, as impossible for people to do wrong, and not suffer spiritually, as it is for them to violate the laws of health and not suffer physical pain. The end of the punishment of the wicked, therefore, is to save them from greater suffering. It is one way in which the Lord protects the evil, and withholds them from greater evils. All punishment is reformatory. The Lord always gives all the good He can to every one. If He cannot give a positive good, because a person will not receive it, He will at least restrain that person as far as possible from greater evils. And so far as an evil becomes quiescent, to that degree one is saved from the consequences of it.
The conclusions to which we must come, then, concerning the nature and punishment of the wicked in the spiritual world are these:
1. All punishment flows from evil, and is so inseparably connected with it that one cannot exist without the other. No punishment comes from the Lord or the angels. Even when evil spirits inflict it upon one another, it still flows from their wickedness.
2. The punishments or sufferings which the wicked endure, must, from the very nature of their condition and state, surpass all the powers of language to describe. They are more various than the pains of body and mind which men suffer in this world. All are not punished alike, but in every case, as the suffering flows from the evil, it is exactly proportioned to it.
3. As the lusts of the infernals become quiescent, as they must do when they find that every attempt to act from them inevitably produces pain, their sufferings will become less. But it will be rather from the loss of life than from any positive improvement in character. It will be more like the mitigation of suffering from the torpor of cold when one is freezing than from any increase of goodness. But, however great the changes of this evil nature may be, there is no possibility that the wicked can be elevated out of it, and pass into heaven, for they have nothing within them that is capable of receiving the life of heaven, and no grounds or basis for forming that life. That point in their creation, when the germs of a true spiritual organization could have been formed, has been passed, and they can never return to it.
4. The purpose of all punishment or pain in every form is to prevent evil, and consequently greater suffering. It is in no sense or form vindictive. No one is punished because they were once guilty of an evil, which no longer exists in their nature. But punishment is permitted only, and just to that degree which is necessary to keep his evil desires within bounds, and thus prevent a greater evil.
In general, the hells are governed by fear, for there are no other motives which have weight with their inhabitants. They have no conscience, no sense of shame, no remorse, no love for anything good, no desire for improvement. They are the embodiment and forms of their own evils. Their whole nature is homogeneous. There is no ground for any conflict within themselves, for there are no opposing principles in their minds. They love evil, and they believe nothing but the falsities that correspond to their evils. There is no ground for development, for there are no germs of goodness in them to develop. The best and only thing that can be done for them is to restrain them from without. This is accomplished by a principle of universal order, according to the same law that rewards the good; according to laws that operate in this life in the same manner, and which are inherent in the very nature of man. The wicked are not wholly miserable. They have their satisfactions and delights as the wicked do in this world. The Lord does all He can for them. They could not be happy in heaven. They would writhe in perfect agony if they were admitted into its pure atmosphere. The Lord's mercy is as fully shown in the condition of the lowest devil as in the highest angel. He gives all the good to every human being He has created that that person can be made to receive.
Thus we finds our home according to our state. Our state, whether good or evil, determines it and forms it. The same law that makes the water the most suitable and delightful home for the fish, and the air for the bird, and determines the specific relations of every species of animal life to those substances which supply its food, which forms its instincts and habits, and leads it to its home, operates in the final disposition of every human being. There is no possibility of escape from it, without reversing all the laws of the Divine order. And that would be no escape from it. Instead of relieving the Divine character from any apparent want of mercy and wisdom, and any human being from comparative misery, it would cause universal ruin, and either destroy the universe, or bring upon all created beings, the good as well as the evil, a thousand-fold more misery than is now suffered by the evil alone. There is, therefore, nothing in the doctrine that the wicked must suffer, and that they can never entirely escape from suffering, that is contrary to the eternal truth that "The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works."