ON THE PAIN OF LOSS IN HELL
Consider first, that though the fire of hell, with all the rest of the exterior torments which the damned must for ever endure in that woful place be terrible beyond all that an be expressed or conceived, yet it is no ways comparable, in the judgment of divines, to the interior pangs and agonies of the soul, caused by the paena damni, or the eternal loss of God and of all that is good, and the perpetual sense they shall ever have of the greatness of this their loss and all its dreadful consequences. Alas! eternally they have lost their God for ever. They are divorced eternally from him; they are stripped of all his gifts and all his graces; no light is left in their soul; no glimpse of hope; no sense of good, no power of love either for God or their neighbours. Ah! unhappy wretches that cannot love! They are excommunicated from God; they are sent into an eternal banishment far from him; far from his glorious kingdom and the happy society of his children; far from their true country and all its blissful joys, which were once purchased for them by the blood of the Son of God. They are eternally separated from the ocean of all good.
Consider 2ndly, how much the damned will regret this most dreadful of all evils – this eternal separation from God. Alas! poor sinners, here, while they lie grovelling in the mire of the earth, diverted from the thought of God by a thousand impertinences, and yet continually partaking many ways of his sweetness and goodness in some or other of his creatures, have little or no idea of what it is absolutely to lose God for evermore. But the damned, by their own woful experience, will be fully convinced, when it is too late, that none of all the rest of the torments of hell can be compared to this loss. God is an infinite good in himself; and he is the inexhaustible source of all our good, and of everything that is any ways good in his creatures: he is our universal good. In losing him, then the damned have lost an infinite good – form their first beginning and their last end, by whom and for whom they were created: they have lost their sovereign good, their universal good, their immense eternal good, the overflowing fountain, the very ocean of all good, their true and only happiness. They have lost him totally; they have lost him irrevocable; they have lost him eternally; they have lost him in himself; they have lost him in themselves; they have lost him in all his creatures. There is an immense gulf between him and them, never, never to be passed.
Consider 3rdly, still further, how dreadfully the damned will be tormented with the perpetual thinking on this most rueful of all losses. Ah! their lively sense of this most dismal and irreparable loss, and of all the sad consequences of it, will continually rack their despairing souls; they will not be able so much as to turn away their thought one moment from it. For whichever way they shall turn to seek any one jot of ease or comfort in him, or from him, they shall meet with none: all things shall seem to conspire against them – all things shall tell them they have lost their God. They shall always find themselves bound down fast in eternal chains, which will keep them in a state of violence far away from him; and all the efforts of their vehement longing after him will only serve to redouble their misery. Hence there flow a thousand other evils that make their whole soul a hell to itself. Hence black despair, sadness, rage, hatred, and blasphemy.
Conclude never to turn away from God in this life nor to lose him by wilful sin, and then thou shalt effectually prevent this last and worst of all evils, of being eternally separated from him.