William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America


by Francis Turretin

Seventh question: Hell and Eternal Death
Is there a hell? And what are its punishmentswhether only of loss
or also of sense. We affirm the latter.

I. The execution of the sentence of the Judge will follow its
promulgation. This will be carried out with respect to the wicked by
casting them down into hell, where they must be tormented for ever
with the devils; but with respect to the pious, by their
introduction into heaven, to the joys of eternal life. Concerning
this twofold end of men, of eternal life as well as of eternal
death, something must also be said. And in the first place of hell
or eternal death:

II. Hell is called in Hebrew sh'vl, in Greek Hades, of the multiple
signification of which word we have spoken in Volume II, Topic XIII,
Question XVI, Section 3. Here we take it for the place of the
damned, as it is taken in Lk. 16:23. Various synonyms of it occur in
the Scriptures: bhdhvn (Prov. 15:11) or perdition (cf. also Prov.
27:20); Gehenna (Mt. 5:22, 29), a word derived from the valley of
the children of Hinnom, in which the wicked Israelites were
accustomed to practice horrible idolatries to Moloch, the idol of
the Ammonites, from a false zeal (kakozelia) (as is believed) of the
sacrifice of Abraham, or in imitation of the cruel superstition of
the Phoenicians. They either drew miserable infants through the fire
or burnt them resting upon the glowing arms of the statue of Moloch,
in the midst of the sounds of flutes and drums that the cries
extorted by pain might not be heard. Hence the name typhth given to
it from typh, "a drum." Hence King Josiah in detestation of that
dreadful idol-mania began to pollute the place with carcasses and
human offal, to bum which a continual fire was kept up (2 K. 23:10),
Hence it is not surprising that such a foul place employed both for
the torment of fire and infamous on account of its various
abominations was used to designate the torments of hell. "The
gnawing worm" and "unquenchable [asbestos] fire" (Mk. 9:44). "Outer
darkness, where is weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Mt. 22:13).
"Everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Mt.
25:41). "The lake of fire and brimstone" (Rev. 19:20). "Eternal
judgment" (Heb. 6:2). "The lake and winepress of wrath" (Rev.
14:19). "The wrath to come" (Mt. 3:7). "The second and eternal
death" and other appellations.

III. We think it superfluous to inquire whether there is a hell,
whatever Epicureans and atheists (who consider it as a mere figment
and empty scarecrow of the simple)

may say. For it is asserted in so many passages of the Scriptures,
and is confirmed by so many arguments (whether from the justice of
God, or from the curse of the law, or from the heinousness and
demerit of sin, or from the tenors and torments of conscience) that
it is a proof not only of the highest impiety, but also madness to
question or deny it. Those deriders will too well feel its truth and
terribleness to their own great hurt.

IV. But what it is or in what infernal punishments consist, it is
not easy to define. It ought to be certain and constant that it is
not a mere annihilation (as the Socinians wish) or the punishment of
loss, as if it consisted in a simple privation of good without any
sense of evil. For undoubtedly both concur here to increase the
torments of the wicked. Hence the Scriptures describe these
punishments now privatively and negatively (steretikos) by the
removal of all good, then positively and affirmatively (thetikos).
The negative (steretika) evils are separation from God and Christ
and privation of the divine vision: in which is placed the happiness
of the saints; separation from the angels and saints (between whom
and the damned a great gulf [mega chasma] is said to intervene); a
privation of light, joy, glory, felicity and life, and of all good
things of whatsoever kind they may be. On the other hand, the
positive evils are manifold. These are adumbrated by pains and
tortures, by torments, by groans and grief, by cries and wailings,
by weeping and gnashing of teeth, by the gnawing worm, by the
unquenchable fire and other things of like nature, which are
accustomed to imply evils of all kinds in the soul as well as in the

V. Whether the fire in which the wicked are to be tormented in soul
as well as in body will be material and corporeal is controverted.
The Romanists, to prop up their fictitious purgatorial fire (which
they hold to be the same with the infernal as to species, but
differing only in degree and duration), do not hesitate to assert
this and think the soul will be tortured by it. But others far more
truly deny it and wish it to be explained metaphorically or
allegorically of the most severe tortures of conscience and
desperation. (1) Because it is treated of the fire prepared for the
Devil and his angels. And yet body cannot act upon a spirit, since
it cannot act without contact either mediate or immediate, which
does not fall upon a spirit. Nor is it to be said, if the soul
cannot by itself and in its own nature be affected by fire, still it
can by consent and sympathy with the body. For the soul, as the
principal cause of wickedness, ought to be punished immediately and
by itself, not sympathetically only. Nor if a corporeal object acts
upon the soul objectively and virtually, does it follow that it can
do so physically and formally.

VI. (2) The various other phrases by which infernal punishments are
described are to be understood not so much properly as
allegorically, when they are expressed by "outer darkness," "the
worm," "gnashing of teeth," "chains of darkness," "lake of
brimstone," "prison" and "gulf" and by other things of the same
kind. Future punishments are represented by these which in other
respects agree neither with the condition of our souls, nor with
each other; but all of them set forth the most sad and painful
condition of the wicked. For the same reason a metaphorical, not a
proper fire is to be understood.

VII. (3) If heavenly goods are depicted under symbols of the most
delightful things (which are to be understood not properly, but
mystically and figuratively;

as when mention is made of Abraham's bosom, lying down in the
kingdom of heaven with the patriarchs, of paradise, the tree of
life, treasures, crowns and the like), why should we not think that
the Holy Spirit employed equally figurative terms in the description
of the opposite evils, so that the most direful torments are
adumbrated by fire, which is wont to create the most intense pain?
VIII. Now although we do not think the souls of the damned will be
tortured by any material fire; still we are unwilling to say that
their bodies will not be cast into some physical fire and be
scorched and tormented for ever (the Scriptures asserting it so
often, although we do not know what kind of fire it will be, or what
its nature and condition will be). "Of what kind that infernal fire
is," says Augustine, "I think no man knows" (CG 20.16 [FC 24:291; PL
41.682]). Therefore, we should strive with all care, with the
desire of real conversion for this that we may escape that fire,
nor ever experience to our most bitter pain what it is; rather than
that by idly disputing concerning its nature, we may with the
Scholastics stir up this fire by the sword of contention beyond what
is right.

IX. Various adjuncts of those infernal punishments can be noticed.
In the first place, inequality according to the various relations of
the sins, which is supported by various passages of Scripture. "I
say unto you, It shall be more (1) tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at
the day of judgment, than for you" (Mt. 11:22). "That servant, which
knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did
according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he
that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be
beaten with few stripes" (Lk. 12:47, 48). "On account of this ye
shall receive a greater condemnation" (krima perissoteron, Mt.
23:14). Reason also persuades us of this because a punishment ought
to answer to the guilt, according to the order of distributive
justice. Now the guilt is unequal, for some sins are more heinous
than others. Therefore the punishments also ought to be unequal,
that God may render to each one his due and according to his works.
However, the inequality is not to be examined with regard to
extension or duration, because to both will be assigned an eternity
of punishments (as we will presently show); not with regard to
species, but with regard to degrees.

X. (2) The magnitude and intensity of the punishments are so great
as can be neither conceived by the mind, nor expressed in words; as
to both multitude and universality (inasmuch as they will be
tortured not only in the body, but in the soul), nor in one part
alone of the former or faculty of the latter, but in all (as they
have sinned in all). Nor with only one species of pain and torment,
but with all that can be imagined. And indeed with the greatest
intensity and degree that the state of the damned will admit. On
this account, they are wont to be set forth by the most sad and
bitter things, the "gnawing worm," "fire" perpetually "burning,"
"weeping" and "gnashing of teeth," the "pangs" and "pains of
childbirth"; by "disgrace," confusion and ignominy; by perplexity
and the most dreadful torment; and by other similar expressions
which exhibit some idea (but altogether imperfect) of the
unspeakable tortures they will suffer in the soul as well as in the
body. All these sufficiently and more than sufficiently evince the
falsity of the figment of those who make the punishments of the
wicked to consist in annihilation and nonexistence (anyparxia). For
to what end would they be described by the most dreadful pains and
torments if it is to be a mere punishment of loss or annihilation?
Why should Christ say of a man doomed to the punishment of hell, "It
had been good for that man if he had not been bom" (Mt. 26:24)? Nor
can it be said that it is called everlasting death and fire not with
regard to itself, but with regard to its effects because it reduces
him to that state whence they say no one can return. For thus
eternal death would overhang and ought to be denounced not only
against men, but also against brutes.

2. The greatness and intensity of punishments.

XI. (3) Duration and extension belong to the punishments, not only
in their uninterrupted continuity (in as much as the damned will
have no interval of rest and
relaxation from these most direful torments, but will be tortured
day and night, Rev. 14:11; 20:10), but also in their perpetuity and
eternity, which will be an immortality as it were of death itself.
Hence it is said to be "everlasting shame," "eternal and
inextinguishable fire," "never ending death." Thus the infinite
demerit of sin is visited as it were with a punishment infinite in
duration. And on this account the more justly, that as he will never
cease to sin against God, so neither to be punished by him. The
guilt of fault will always remain and not be extinguished by any
expiation because no place will be given for repentance, but sinners
will always be inflamed with madness and hatred against the Judge
and will curse him in the midst of the flames. Thus the wrath of
God, the most just avenger of crimes, will rest upon them for ever.
Hence will arise despair and raging as the inevitable consequence
because no way of escape will be found out of that most horrible

XII. Hence is evident the worthlessness of the comment of Origen and
his followers, who, being preposterously merciful, maintain a
certain end of the punishments of the Devil and the wicked; and
when they have fulfilled it, they will at length be delivered from
them. For since the Scriptures so often assert the eternity of those
punishments and compare it with the absolute eternity of the joys of
the blessed, who can dream of a limited eternity here? Nor are the
greatness and infinity of mercy to be opposed here. For this
belongs to the vessels of mercy, not of wrath; to the blessed, not
to the damned; for judgment without mercy will belong to them who
did not exercise mercy. Nor will the future age be a time of mercy,
but only the present because then the gate will be shut, nor will
there be any place for pardon.


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