On the Eternity and Extremity of Hell


It is to be considered that the wicked in hell will forever continue sinning, exercising malice, and blaspheming, etc.; and ’tis surely therefore no wonder, that God should forever continue punishing. And if any think that ’tis incredible, that God should leave any to continue forever sinning as a punishment of their sins here, as a judicial consequence of their sins, let it be considered what have been the judicial consequences of that one sin of our first parents, their eating of the forbidden fruit: the corruption of the nature of all mankind, and all the actual sins that ever have been committed in the world of mankind, and all the temporal calamities that the world has suffered, the corruption and ruin the world has suffered, and all the punishments of sin in another world, whether they be eternal or no. If it be credible, that all these things should be the judicial consequences of that one sin, I don’t see why it should seem incredible, that God should eternally give a man up to sin for his own sin.


If it be just in God, in judgment for one sin to lead to another, and yet just for him to punish both, then is it just with him to leave men to continue in sin to all eternity? For as long as they continue sinning, they continue deserving to be punished; and therefore, by the hypothesis, it still continues to be just to leave ’em to commit other sins, and so in infinitum.


The wicked, when they are cast into hell, will continue sinning still. Yea, they will sin more than ever; their wickedness will be unrestrained. Such torments must needs be, to an unsanctified [mind], an occasion of a fearful exercise of enmity and rage against God. Therefore if it ben’t incredible that God should cast men into hell at all for the sins they have been guilty of in this life, then, seeing they continue sinning, ’tis not incredible that their misery there should be continued. For if we should suppose that the punishment that the sins of this life deserve is but finite, that it deserves only a temporary misery, yet while they are suffering that, they continue sinning still, and so contract a new debt; and again, while they are paying that, they contract another, and so on in infinitum.


This confirms it with me, that the misery is exceeding great, that God hath so every way contrived to glorify his Son as Savior, or hath so ordered in all respects that his salvation should be exceeding. Now a part of the gloriousness of his salvation consists in this, that ’tis salvation from so great misery; and the greater the misery, still the more glorious the salvation. Therefore I believe that God would so order it, that that misery should be very exceeding great.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), The Miscellanies: 501-832 or here.


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Filed under Church History, Death, God, Hell, Sin, Theology

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