“‘A Few Sighs from Hell’ by John Bunyan”

‘Verse 23.– ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.’

The former verse speaks only of the departure of the ungodly out of this life, together with the glorious conduct[12] that the godly have into the kingdom of their Father. Now our Lord doth show, in this verse, partly what doth and shall befal to the reprobate after this life is ended, where he saith, ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ That is, the ungodly, after they depart this life, do lift up their eyes in hell.

From these words may be observed these things, First. That there is a hell for souls to be tormented in, when this life is ended. Mark, after he was dead and buried, ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’ Second. That all that are ungodly, and do live and die in their sins, so soon as ever they die, they go into hell: he died and was buried; ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ Third. That some are so fast asleep, and secure in their sins, that they scarce know well where they are till they come into hell; and that I gather from these words, ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’ He was asleep before, but hell makes him lift up his eyes.

[First.] As I said before, it is evident that there is a hell for souls, yea, and bodies too, to be tormented in after they depart this life, as is clear, first, because the Lord Jesus Christ, that cannot lie, did say that after the sinner was dead and buried, ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’

Now if it be objected that by hell is here meant the grave, that I plainly deny: 1. Because there the body is not sensible of torment or ease; but in that hell into which the spirits of the damned depart, they are sensible of torment, and would very willingly be freed from it, to enjoy ease, which they are sensible of the want of; as is clearly discovered in this parable, ‘Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue.’ 2. It is not meant the grave, but some other place, because the bodies, so long as they lie there, are not capable of lifting up their eyes, to see the glorious condition of the children of God, as the souls of the damned do. ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’ 3. It cannot be the grave, for then it must follow that the soul was buried there with the body, which cannot stand with such a dead state as is here mentioned; for he saith, ‘The rich man died’; that is, his soul was separated from his body. ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’

If it be again objected that there is no hell but in this life; that I do also deny, as I said before: after he was dead and buried, ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’ And let me tell thee, O soul, whoever thou art, that if thou close not in savingly with the Lord Jesus Christ, and lay hold on what he hath done and is doing in his own person for sinners, thou wilt find such a hell after this life is ended, that thou wilt not get out of again for ever and ever. And thou that art wanton, and dost make but a mock at the servants of the Lord, when they tell thee of the torments of hell, thou wilt find that when thou departest out of this life, that hell, even the hell which is after this life, will meet thee in thy journey thither; and will, with its hellish crew, give thee such a sad salutation that thou wilt not forget it to all eternity. When that scripture comes to be fulfilled on thy soul, in Isaiah 14:9, 10, ‘Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they,’ that is, that are in hell, shall say, ‘Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?’ O sometimes when I have had but thoughts of going to hell, and consider the everlastingness of their ruin that fall in thither, it hath stirred me up rather to seek to the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver me from thence, than to slight it, and make a mock at it. ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’

[Second.] The second thing I told you was this, that all the ungodly that live and die in their sins, so soon as ever they depart this life, do descend into hell. This is also verified by the words in this parable, where Christ said, He ‘died and was buried, and in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ As the tree falls, so it shall be, whether it be to heaven or hell (Eccl 11:3). And as Christ said to the thief on the cross, ‘Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.’ Even so the devil in the like manner may say unto thy soul, To-morrow shalt thou be with me in hell. See then what a miserable case he that dies in an unregenerate state is in; he departs from a long sickness to a longer hell; from the gripings of death, to the everlasting torments of hell. ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ Ah friends! If you were but yourselves, you would have a care of your souls; if you did but regard, you would see how mad they are that slight the salvation of their souls. O what will it profit thy soul to have pleasure in this life, and torments in hell? (Mark 8:36). Thou hadst better part with all thy sins, and pleasures, and companions, or whatsoever thou delightest in, than to have soul and body to be cast into hell. O then do not now neglect our Lord Jesus Christ, lest thou drop down to hell (Heb 2:3). Consider, would it not wound thee to thine heart to come upon thy death-bed, and instead of having the comfort of a well spent life, and the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, together with the comforts of his glorious Spirit: to have, first, the sight of an ill-spent life, thy sins flying in thy face, thy conscience uttering itself with thunder-claps against thee, the thoughts of God terrifying of thee, death with his merciless paw seizing upon thee, the devils standing ready to scramble for thy soul, and hell enlarging herself, and ready to swallow thee up; and an eternity of misery and torment attending upon thee, from which there will be no release.

For mark, death doth not come alone to an unconverted soul, but with such company, as wast thou but sensible of it would make thee tremble. I pray consider that scripture (Rev 6:8), ‘And I looked and behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and hell followed with him.’ Mark, death doth not come alone to the ungodly, no, but hell goeth with him. O miserable comforters! O miserable society! Here comes death and hell unto thee. Death goeth into thy body, and separates body and soul asunder; hell stands without, as I may say, to embrace, or rather, to crush thy soul between its everlasting grinders. Then thy mirth, thy joy, thy sinful delights will be ended when this comes to pass. Lo it will come. Blessed are all those that through Christ Jesus his merits, by faith, do escape these soul-murdering companions. ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’

[Third.] The third thing you know that we did observe from these words was this, That some are so fast asleep, and secure in their sins, that they scarce know where they are, until they come into hell. And that I told you I gather by these words, ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes.’ Mark, it was in hell that he lift up his eyes. Now some do understand by these words that he came to himself, or began to consider with himself, or to think with himself in what an estate he was, and what he was deprived of; which is still a confirmation of the thing laid down by me. There it is that they come to themselves, that is, there they are sensible where they are indeed. Thus it fares with some men that they scarce know where they are, till they lift up their eyes in hell. It is with those people as with those that fall down in a swoon; you know if a man do fall down in a swoon in one room, though you take him up and carry him into another, yet he is not sensible where he is till he cometh unto himself, and lifteth up his eyes.

Truly thus, it is to be feared, it is with many poor souls, they are so senseless, so hard, so seared in their conscience (1 Tim 4:2), that they are very ignorant of their state; and when death comes it strikes them as it were into a swoon, especially if they die suddenly, and so they are hurried away, and scarce know where they are till in hell they lift up their eyes: this is he who ‘dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet’ (Job 21:23).

Of this sort are they spoken of in Psalm 73, where he saith, ‘There are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.’ ‘They are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men.’ And again, ‘they spend their days in wealth, and in a moment,’ mark, ‘in a moment,’ before they are aware, they ‘go down to the grave’ (Job 21:13).

Indeed this is too much known by woeful and daily experience; sometimes when we go to visit them that are sick in the towns and places where we live, O how senseless, how seared in their consciences are they! They are neither sensible of heaven nor of hell, of sin nor of a Saviour; speak to them of their condition, and the state of their souls, and you shall find them as ignorant as if they had no souls to regard. Others, though they lie ready to die, yet they are busying themselves about their outward affairs, as though they should certainly live here, even to live and enjoy the same for ever. Again, come to others, speak to them about the state of their souls, though they have no more experience of the new birth than a beast, yet will they speak as confidently of their eternal state, and the welfare of their souls, as if they had the most excellent experience of any man or woman in the world, saying, ‘I shall have peace’ (Deut 29:19). When, as I said even now, the Lord knows they are as ignorant of the new birth, of the nature and operation of faith, of the witness of the Spirit, as if there were no new birth, no faith, no witness of the Spirit of Christ in any of the saints in the world. Nay, thus many of them are, even an hour or less before their departure. Ah, poor souls! though they may go away here like a lamb, as the world says, yet, if you could but follow them a little, to stand and listen soon after their departure, it is to be feared, you should hear them roar like a lion at their first entrance into hell, far worse than even did Korah, &c., when they went down quick into the ground (Num 16:31-35).

Now, by this one thing doth the devil take great advantage on the hearts of the ignorant, suggesting unto them that because the party deceased departed so quietly, without all doubt they are gone to rest and joy; when, alas! it is to be feared the reason why they went away so quietly, was rather because they were senseless and hardened in their consciences; yea, dead before in sins and trespasses. For, had they had but some awakenings on their death-beds, as some have had, they would have made all the town to ring of their doleful condition; but because they are seared and ignorant, and so depart quietly, therefore the world takes heart at grass,[13] as we use to say, and make no great matter of living and dying they cannot tell how; ‘therefore pride compasseth them as a chain’ (Psa 75:6). But let them look to themselves, for if they have not an interest in the Lord Jesus now, while they live in the world, they will, whether they die raging or still, go unto the same place; ‘and lifted up their eyes in hell.’

O, my friends, did you but know what a miserable condition they are in that go out of this world without an interest in the Son of God, it would make you smite upon your thigh, and in the bitterness of your souls cry out, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?’ (Acts 16:29- 31). And not only so, but thou wouldst not be comforted until thou didst find a rest for thy soul in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 23. ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.’

Something, in brief, I have observed from the first part of this verse, namely, from these words, ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes.’ And, indeed, I have observed but something, for they are very full of matter, and many things might be taken notice of in them. There is one thing more that I might touch upon, as touched in this saying, and that is this:–Methinks the Lord Jesus Christ doth hereby signify that men are naturally unwilling to see or take notice of their sad state, I say by nature; but though now they are willingly ignorant, yet in hell they shall lift up their eyes. That is, in hell they shall see and understand their miserable condition; and, therefore, to these words: ‘In hell he lifted up his eyes,’ he adds, ‘being in torments.’ As if he had said, though once they shut their eyes, though once they were willingly ignorant (2 Peter 3:5), yet, when they depart into hell, they shall be so miserably handled and tormented, that they shall be forced to lift up their eyes. While men live in this world, and are in a natural state, they will have a good conceit of themselves, and of their condition–they will conclude that they are Christians, that Abraham is their father, and their state to be as good as the best (Matt 3:7-9). They will conclude they have faith, the Spirit, a good hope, and an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ; but then, when they drop into hell, and lift up their eyes there, and behold first their soul to be in extreme torments; their dwelling to be the bottomless pit; their company thousands of damned souls; also the innumerable company of devils; and the hot scalding vengeance of God, not only to drop, but to fall very violently upon them; then they will begin to be awakened, who all their lifetime where in a dead sleep. I say, when this comes to pass, lo it will; then in hell they shall lift up their eyes, in the midst of torments they shall lift up their eyes.

Again, you may observe in these words, ‘And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments,’ that the time of the ungodly men’s smarting for their sins will be in the torments of hell. Now here I am put to a stand, when I consider the torments of hell into which the damned do fall. O unspeakable torments! O endless torments! Now that thy soul might be made to flee from those intolerable torments into which the damned do go, I shall show you briefly what are the torments of hell. First. By the names of it. Second. by the sad state thou wilt be in, if thou comest there.

First. The names. It is called a never-dying worm (Mark 9). It is called an oven fire, hot (Mal 4:1). It is called a furnace, a fiery-furnace (Matt 13). It is called the bottomless pit, the unquenchable fire, fire and brimstone, hell fire, the lake of fire, devouring fire, everlasting fire, eternal fire, a stream of fire (Rev 21).

[Second. By the sad state thou wilt be in, if thou comest there.]

1. One part of thy torments will be this, thou shalt have a full sight of all thy ill spent life, from first to last; though here thou canst sin today and forget it by to-morrow, yet there thou shalt be made to remember how thou didst sin against God at such a time, and in such a place, for such a thing, and with such a one, which will be a hell unto thee. God will ‘set them in order before thine eyes’ (Psa 51:21).

2. Thou shalt have the guilt of them all lie heavy on thy soul, not only the guilt of one or two, but the guilt of them all together, and there they shall lie in thy soul, as if thy belly were full of pitch, and set on a light fire. Here men can sometimes think on their sins with delight, but there with unspeakable torment; for that I understand to be the fire that Christ speaketh of, which shall never be quenched (Mar 9:43-49). While men live here, O how doth the guilt of one sin sometimes crush the soul! It makes a man in such plight that he is weary of his life, so that he can neither rest at home nor abroad, neither up nor in bed.[14] Nay, I do know that they have been so tormented with the guilt of one sinful thought, that they have been even at their wits’ end, and have hanged themselves. But now when thou comest into hell, and hast not only one or two, or an hundred sins, with the guilt of them all on thy soul and body, but all the sins that ever thou didst commit since thou camest into the world, altogether clapped on thy conscience at one time, as one should clap a red hot iron to thy breasts, and there to continue to all eternity: this is miserable.

3. Again, then thou shalt have brought into thy remembrance the slighting of the gospel of Christ; here thou shalt consider how willing Christ was to come into the world to save sinners, and for what a trifle thou didst reject him. This is plainly held forth in Isaiah 28, where, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, the foundation of salvation, verse 16, he saith of them that reject the gospel, that, when the overflowing scourge doth pass through the earth, which I understand to be at the end of the world, then, saith he, it shall take you morning by morning, by day and by night shall it pass over you; that is, continually, without any intermission. ‘And it shall be a vexation only to understand the report.’ ‘A vexation,’ that is, a torment, or a great part of hell only to understand the report, to understand the good tidings that came into the world by Christ’s death for poor sinners. And you will find this verily to be the mind of the Spirit, if you compare it with Isaiah 53:1, where he speaks of men’s turning their backs upon the tenders of God’s grace in the gospel, he saith, ‘Who hath believed our report?’ or the gospel declared by us? Now this will be a mighty torment to the ungodly, when they shall understand the goodness of God was so great that he even sent his Son out of his bosom to die for sinners, and yet that they should be so foolish as to put him off from one time to another; that they should be so foolish as to lose heaven and Christ, and eternal life in glory, for the society of a company of drunkards; that they should lose their souls for a little sport, for this world, for a strumpet, for that which is lighter than vanity and nothing; I say this will be a very great torment unto thee.

4. Another part of thy torment will be this: Thou shalt see thy friends, thy acquaintance, they neighbours; nay, it may be thy father, thy mother, thy wife, thy husband, thy children, thy brother, thy sister, with others, in the kingdom of heaven, and thyself thrust out (Luke 13:28). ‘There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham (your father), and Isaac, and Jacob, (together with your brethren), and all the prophets in the kingdom of heaven, and you yourselves thrust out.’ Nay, saith he, ‘they shall come from the east, and from the west’–that is, those that thou didst never see in all thy life before, and they shall sit down with thy friends, and thy neighbours, thy wife and thy children, in the kingdom of heaven, and thou, for thy sins and disobedience, shall be shut, nay, thrust out. O wonderful torment!

5. Again, thou shalt have none but a company of damned souls, with an innumerable company of devils, to keep company with thee. While thou art in this world, the very thoughts of the devils appearing to thee makes thy flesh to tremble, and thine hair ready to stand upright on thy head. But O! what wilt thou do, when not only the supposition of the devils appearing, but the real society of all the devils in hell will be with thee howling and roaring, screeching and roaring in such a hideous manner, that thou wilt be even at thy wits’ end, and be ready to run stark mad again for anguish and torment?

6. Again, that thou mightest be tormented to purpose, the mighty God of heaven will lay as great wrath and vengeance upon thee as ever he can, by the might of his glorious power. As I said before, thou shalt have his wrath, not by drops, but by whole showers shall it come, thunder, thunder, upon thy body and soul so fast, and so thick, that thou shalt be tormented out of measure. And so saith the Scripture (2 Thess 1:9), speaking of the wicked, ‘Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power,’ when the saints shall be admiring his goodness and glory. Again, this thou shalt have, as I said before, without any intermission; thou shalt not have any ease so long as while a man may turn himself round; thou shalt have it always every hour, day and night; for their worm never dies, but always gnaws, and their fire is never quenched; as it is written in Mark 9.

7. Again, in this condition thou must be for ever, and that is as sad as all the rest. For if a man were to have all his sins laid to his charge, and communion with the devils, and as much wrath as the great God of heaven can inflict unto him; I say, if it were but for a time, even ten thousand years, and so end, there would be ground of comfort, and hopes of deliverance; but here is thy misery, this is thy state for ever, here thou must be for ever: when thou lookest about thee, and seest what an innumerable company of howling devils thou art amongst, thou shalt think this again, this is my portion for ever. When thou hast been in hell so many thousand years as there are stars in the firmament, or drops in the sea, or sands on the sea-shore, yet thou hast to lie there for ever. O this one word EVER, how will it torment thy soul!

Friends, I have only given a very short touch of the torments of hell. O! I am set, I am set, and am not able to utter what my mind conceives of the torments of hell. Yet this let me say to thee, accept of God’s mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ, lest thou feel THAT with thy conscience which I cannot express with my tongue, and say, I am sorely tormented in this flame.’

taken from http://truthinheart.com/EarlyOberlinCD/CD/Bunyan/text/A.Few.Sighs.From.Hell/Entire.Book.html