English author, John Bunyan (1628-1688), is best known for his fictional work, The Pilgrim's Progress. However, in a non-fictional work that has been attributed to Bunyan, Bunyan appears to have seen (and even talked to) Thomas Hobbes, the great English philosopher, in hell.
The account of their meeting is detailed below:
We had not gone much farther on before we heard another tormenting himself and increasing his own misery by thinking of the happiness of blessed souls.We were diverted from giving any further ear unto these stinging self-reflections of this poor lost creature by seeing a vast number of tormenting fiends lashing incessantly a numerous company of wretched souls with knotted whips of ever burning steel while they roared out with cries so very piercing and so lamentable I thought it might have melted even cruelty itself into some pity, which made me say to one of the tormentors, “Oh, stay your hand, and do not use such cruelty as this is to them who are your fellow creatures, and whom perhaps you have yourselves betrayed to all this misery.”“No,” answered the tormentor very smoothly, “though we are bad enough, no devil ever was a bad as they, nor guilty of such crimes as they have been. For we all know there is a God, although we hate Him! but these are such as never could be brought to own (till they came hither) that there was such a Being.”“Then these,” said I, “are atheists, a wretched sort of men indeed, and who once wanted to ruin me, had not eternal grace prevented it.”I had no sooner spoken, when one of the tormented wretches cried out with a sad mournful accent, “Sure, I should know that voice. It must be Epenetus.”I was amazed to hear my name mentioned by one of the infernal crew; and therefore being desirous to know what it was, I answered, “Yes, I am Epenetus. But who are you in that sad lost condition that knows me?”To this the lost unknown replied, “I was once well acquainted with you upon earth and had almost persuaded you to be of my opinion. I am the author of the celebrated book so well known by the title of ‘Leviathan.’”“What! the great
?” I said. “Are you come hither? Your voice is so much changed I did not know it.” Hobbs“Alas,” replied he, “I am that unhappy man indeed. But so far from being great that I am one of the most wretched persons in all these sooty territories. Nor is it any wonder that my voice is changed; for I am now changed in my principles, though changed too late to do me any good. For now I know there is a God. But oh! I wish that there were not, for I am sure He will have no mercy on me. Nor is there any reason that He should. I do confess I was His foe on earth, but now He is mine in hell. It is that wretched confidence I had in my own wisdom that has thus betrayed me.”“Your case is miserable, and yet you needs must own you suffer justly. For how industrious were you to persuade others, and so involve them in the same damnation. None has more reason to know this than I, who had almost been taken in the snare and perished forever.”“It is that,” said he, “that stings me to the heart to think how many perish by my means. I was afraid when first I heard your voice that you had likewise been consigned to punishment. Not that I can wish any person happy, for it is my plague to think that many are so while I am miserable; but because every soul that is brought hither through by seduction while I was on earth, doubles my pain in hell.”“But tell me, for I fain would be informed and you can do it. Did you indeed believe when upon earth, there was no God? Could you imagine that the world could make itself? And that the creatures were the causes of their own production? Had you no secret whispers in your soul that told you it was another made you and not you yourself? And had you never any doubts about this matter? I have often heard it said that though there are many who profess there is no God, there is not one that thinks so; and it would be strange there should, because there is none but carry in their bosom a witness for that God whom they deny. Now you can tell whether it is so or no, for you have now no reason to conceal you sentiments.”“Nor will I, Epenetus,” answered he. “Although the thoughts thereof sting me afresh, I did at first believe there was a God, but falling afterwards to vicious courses, which rendered me open to His wrath, I had some secret wishes there was none. For it is impossible to think there is a God, and not withal to think Him just and righteous, and consequently that He is obliged to punish the transgressors of His law. And being I was conscious of myself as obnoxious to His justice, it made me hate Him, and wish that there was no such Being. But still pursing the same vicious courses, and finding justice did not overtake me, I then began to hope there was no God; and from those hopes began to frame in my own breast ideas suitable to what I hoped. And having thus in my own thoughts framed a new system of the world's origin, excluding thence the being of a Deity, I found myself so fond of these new notions that I at last prevailed upon myself to give them credit, and then endeavored to fasten the belief of them on others. But before I came to such a height as this, I do acknowledge that I found several checks in my own conscience for what I did, and all along was now and then troubled with some strange uneasy thoughts, as if I should not find all right at last; which I endeavored to put off, as much as in me lay. And now I find those checking thoughts that might have been of service to me then are here the things that most of all torment me. And I must own the love of sin hardened my heart against the Maker, and made me hate Him first, and then deny His being. Sin, that I hugged so close within my bosom, has been the cursed cause of all this woe; the serpent that has stung my soul to death. For now I find, in spite of my vain philosophy, there is a God. I find, too, now that God will not be mocked, although it was my daily practice in the world to mock at heaven and ridicule whatever things are sacred, which were the means I used to spread abroad my cursed notions, which I always found very successful. For those I could but get to ridicule oracles I always looked upon to be in a fair way to become disciples. But now the thoughts thereof are more tormenting to me than all the torments I sustain by whips of burning steel.”“I would ask another question. I heard yourself and others cry out of burning steel and fire and flames; and yet I cannot discern it. Where there is fire there just be some degree of light; and yet from what appears to me you are still in utter darkness.”“O that I could but say I felt no fire! How easy would my torments be to that which I now find them! But alas, the fire that we endure ten thousand times exceeds all culinary fire in fierceness; and is of quite a different nature from it. There is no light at all attends it, as goes upon such fire as burns upon earth. But not withstanding all the fire in hell, we are in utter darkness. But then the fire you burn on earth is of a preying and devouring nature; for whatsoever it takes hold of it consumes to ashes; and when it meets with no more fuel it goes out. But here it is not so. For though it burns with that tremendous fierceness, which none but those that feel it know, yet does it not consume, not never will. We shall ever be burning, yet not burned. It is a tormenting, but not a consuming fire. Here the fire seizes upon our souls and puts them into pain so tormenting as cannot be expressed. It was my ignorance of this when upon earth that made me ridicule the notion of immaterial substances being burned by fire; which here, to my own cost, I find too true. And then another difference betwixt the fire that burns us here and that which burns on the earth is this, that you can kindle that whenever you please and quench it when you will. But here it is otherwise; this fire is like to a stream of brimstone and it burns for ever. And this is what I have to answer to the last sad question that you asked me.”“Sad indeed,” said I.“See what Almighty Power can inflict on those that violate His righteous law.” I was making some further observation on what I heard, when the relentless fiend who was before tormenting them, thus interrupted me.“You see by him what sort of men they were when in the world; and do you not think that they deserve the punishment they undergo?”To which I answered. “Doubtless it is the just reward of sin which now they suffer, and which hereafter you shall suffer too; for you, as well as they, have sinned against the ever blessed God, and for your sin shall suffer the just vengeance of eternal fire. Nor is it in the least any excuse to say you never doubted the being of a God; for though you knew there was a God, yet you rebelled against Him, and therefore shall be justly punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
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