Christopher Love on the Terrors of Hell (2)
February 10, 2017
In our previous post, we considered the Puritan Christopher Love’s defense of hell-fire preaching from his sermons in Heaven’s Glory, Hell’s Terror (1653). In the next two posts we will consider key questions that he asks on hell before considering his position on the controversial doctrine of Christ’s descent into hell. I will proceed by posing Love’s questions then answering them in his words summarized, paraphrased, or quoted. In this manner, this and the next post will take the form almost of a “Love’s catechism on hell.”
Is there a hell? Yes, with the mortality of the soul or annihilation of it denied. This affirms the reality of an immortal soul either in a state of bliss or torment. Regarding hell, there are crucial passages affirming its reality such as Matthew 23:33, which speaks of the “damnation of hell” and 2 Peter 2:3,4, which refers to the damned “cast down to hell.”
Why must there be a hell? Most importantly, because of man’s sin and God’s justice. First, “because of the filthy nature of sin” against an infinite God deserves punishment. Second, Christ did not satisfy justice for the wicked who must come under wrath. Third, the terrors of conscience afflicting sinners at death anticipate the “torments” soon to be encountered.
What is hell? “Hell is a place of torment, ordained by God for Devils and reprobate sinners, wherein by his Justice he confines them to everlasting punishment; tormenting them both in Body and Soul, being deprived of Gods’ favour, objects of his wrath, under which they must lie to all eternity.”
Where is hell? Scripture does not tell us the exact location of hell, which God did not reveal for his own reasons. Still, he made clear that such a place as hell does exist and it is distinct from and below heaven (Prov. 15:24; Luke 8:13).
Is there any other place of torment after this life than that of hell? No, specifically, there is no purgatory purifying and preparing those in Christ for heaven. This gives comfort to Christians as they die and warns the wicked who go straight to hell.
Is God just in damning men eternally who sin temporarily in this life? Yes, for: (1) For our punishment is not based on the amount of time that we sin but that we sin; (2) We commit our sin, even if for a moment against an infinite God and so deserve infinite punishment; (3) If we lived forever we would sin forever as we will in hell.
Will most men and women in the world be tormented in hell? Yes, and such a “broad” way of destruction (Matt. 7:14) remains “one of the most dismal Doctrines” that a pastor can preach whether to those living in sin without repentance while rejecting Christ or as hypocritical professors of faith.
How can it be that God would damn the majority of the men and women that he created? Such “questioning” comes from universalists (e.g. Origen) and the Arminians wanting to protect the mercy of God. Love wants to defend God’s mercy in connection with the following ideas: God’s sovereign right as creator over his creatures; God sending no man to hell not already regarded as fit for destruction; Whatever “stands with Gods decree doth well stand with his mercy,” for the two cannot clash; That God chooses to save any at all, makes his mercy shine in the “vessels of mercy”; and God shows more mercy saving one man than justice in “damning all the world.”
Consider these questions and answers well both for your soul and your responses to others who question this clear yet unpalatable doctrine.