THE FOUR LAST THINGS ---- DEATH, JUDGMENT, HELL and HEAVEN
FATHER MARTIN VON COCHEM, O.S.F.C.
Father Martin von Cochem was born at Cochem, on the Moselle,
in the year 1625, and died at Waghausel in 1712.
“Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.”
HOLY REDEEMER LIBRARY
Nihil Obstat: Thomas L Kinkead, Censor Liborium
Imprimatur: Michael Augustine --- Archbishop of New York (New York October 5, 1899)
Copyright, 1899, by Benziger Brothers
PART III. ON HELL.
II. On the Hunger and Thirst Suffered in Hell.
JUST as the crimes whereby the sinner in this life provokes the anger of God are of various kinds, so the pains of Hell whereby those crimes will be punished also vary in their nature. We know that men often sin through intemperance, greedily indulging themselves in food and drink. Consequently God has appointed a severe penalty for this sin in the next world. Christ foretells it, indeed, in the words: "Woe to you that are filled, for you shall hunger" (Luke vi. 25).
When Our Lord utters the word "Woe," He always intends to threaten or predict some great calamity. Let us consider for a moment what it really is in this case. It is impossible for us to form a true idea of the pangs of hunger, because we have never felt them. If for a whole day one has nothing to eat, the time seems very long, and one wants some food very much. And if one were deprived of any nourishment for two or three days, what misery it would be! But if a man had nothing whatever to eat for a whole week, and were left a prey to hunger, what would become of him?
In times of dearth and famine one is horrified to see what are the effects produced by hunger, and what a terrible visitation the scarcity of food is. For to still the intolerable pangs of hunger people will devour whatever they can lay their hands on; grass, leaves, unclean and disgusting animals, nay, men have even been driven to feed on the flesh of their fellow-men, mothers to sacrificing their children, and some have been known to gnaw their own flesh. And when the poor famished wretches have nothing more, they wander about like shadows of their former selves, pale and emaciated as death itself.
They drag on a lingering existence, until all their strength is consumed; finally, through the torture of starvation, they lose their senses; they rave and cry and howl, and die the most miserable of deaths.
If such are the effects of hunger upon earth, what will the hunger be which shall be experienced in Hell?
If want of food for a few days only causes such torture, what will a continual, never-ending hunger be? Who can think without horror of the hunger suffered in Hell! Woe betide those who have to endure it. The prophet Isaias testifies to the existence of real, actual hunger in Hell, in this passage of Holy Scripture: God thus speaks by the mouth of the prophet: "Because I called and you did not answer, I spoke and you did not hear; behold, My servants shall eat and you shall be hungry; behold, My servants shall drink and you shall be thirsty.
My servants shall rejoice and you shall be confounded; My servants shall praise for joyfulness of heart and you shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for grief of spirit" (Is. Ixv. 12, 13, 14). Who can tell how awful will be this hunger in Hell? The Psalmist says of the enemies of God that they shall suffer hunger like dogs (Ps. Iviii. 7). The reprobate shall then be constantly tormented by the most ravenous hunger, by a hunger so great as to exceed beyond measure the hunger endured in times of famine, by a hunger which will torment them forever.
What have you done, O unhappy sinners! You have brought upon yourselves this everlasting pain. Had you but done penance in this life, you would not have become the prey of this eternal hunger. But you desired to eat and be filled in your lifetime, consequently you must now endure what Christ foretold would be your fate:
"Woe to you that are filled, for you shall hunger."
Let those especially lay this to heart who are accustomed wilfully to neglect the observance of the prescribed fasts, and to eat meat on abstinence days. For whosoever eats meat on the fasts of the Church without necessity and without being dispensed, commits a grievous sin. To do so is tantamount to defying the Church and voluntarily excluding one’s self from her blessing. And he who persists in this sin, and does not heartily repent of it, cannot hope for eternal felicity. What could be more rash and foolish than for so despicable a satisfaction to expose one s self to the danger of eternal perdition!
O, hardened sinner, whither art thou going ! Think of the unending hunger to be endured in Hell, and have pity on thine own soul!
Besides hunger the damned suffer the most burning thirst, which it is beyond the power of words to describe. Every one knows how terrible are the sufferings caused by thirst: they are simply unbearable.
Those who are plagued by thirst will drink from the most impure sources, and if nothing at all can be obtained to quench their thirst, a lingering and painful death is the result. The thirst suffered by lost souls is infinitely greater, more intense, more painful than any thirst experienced on earth, however great that may be. If a mortal man could feel it even for a brief period, he would faint away and die immediately.
There is never any rest or respite for the damned; they are driven from one torment to another unceasingly. This occasions thirst. But the heat of Hell-fire, wherein they burn day and night, forever and ever, is the principal cause of the intolerable thirst that consumes them. They are immersed in flames, and never do they obtain the refreshment of a draught of water. My God, how great their thirst must be! It is unbearable, and yet they must needs endure it. Listen to the piteous appeal of a lost soul earnestly imploring the boon of a single drop of water: "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame" (Luke xvi. 24). "Most merciful God, I ask only for water; I crave only one drop of water to give momentary relief to my burning tongue. Thou wilt not refuse so moderate a request, Thou who art praised by all Thy creatures as goodness itself."
But this supplication is in vain. God turns a deaf ear to the voice of their entreaty. Not a single drop of water is given to mitigate their sufferings.
Is it possible, O my God, that Thou canst be so stern? Father of compassion, why wilt Thou not hear their prayer? Thy justice and Thy hatred of sin will not allow Thee to yield; they oblige Thee to punish sin eternally and in the most terrible manner.
But we are told that not only are the damned tormented with excessive hunger and thirst, they are also fed with flames and given to drink of the chalice of Divine wrath. "If any man shall adore the beast, he shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mingled with pure wine in the cup of His wrath, and shall be tormented with fire and brimstone. And the smoke of their torments shall ascend up forever and ever" (Apoc. xiv. 10). In the book of Moses we also read: "Their wine is the gall of dragons, and the venom of asps, which is incurable" (Deut. xxxii. 33).
Reflect, O sinner, upon this indescribable agony. Fire and brimstone will be the food of the damned, their drink the wine of God s anger. What can exceed such torture? My God, how rigorous Thou art ! How severe are Thy chastisements!
Think, you sinners, who now drink to excess, think what is the wine prepared for you hereafter, think of the fearful thirst that will consume you to all eternity. If you cannot bear to be thirsty for one day, how will you bear the burning thirst from which you shall never obtain relief? Reflect upon this in your heart, and indulge no longer in your intemperance. Give up this vice, which will infallibly drag you down to perdition.
St. Paul expressly closes the door of Heaven against you, when he says: "Drunkards shall not possess the kingdom of God" (i Cor. vi. 10).
There you have your sentence, pronounced upon you beforehand. If you continue to pursue your evil way, you cannot plead ignorance as to where it will finally condemn you.