From: Trevor J.
To: Ed Babinski
Sent: Sunday, January 25, 2004
Hello…looking for your primary source for the Isaac Watts hymn
Could you give my the primary source for your Isaac Watts hymn that goes:
What bliss will fill the ransomed souls,
When they in glory dwell,
To see the sinner as he rolls,
In quenchless flames of hell.
This was used on your website
From: Ed Babinski
Sent: Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Subject: Gimme That Olde Tyme Religion, Isaac Watts, Hymn-meister
In his day Watts was a prolific writer of hymns and prose, page 279, some other titles of his works are mentioned at the following site.
Two fairly complete collections of his works:
The works of the reverend and learned Isaac Watts, D.D.: containing, besides his sermons, and essays on miscellaneous subjects, several additional pieces | selected from his manuscripts by Dr. Jennings and Dr. Doddridge, in 1753 ; to which are prefixed, Memoirs of the life of the author, compiled by George Burder. London : J. Barfield, 1810-1811
Horae lyricae : to which are added the divine songs and moral songs, for children / by Isaac Watts ; with a life of the author by Robert Southey Boston :| Little, Brown,1864
Like you, I wish someone would make a thorough go at tracing the exact origin of that stanza. I found it mentioned unreferenced in a slim paperback, Hell: A Christian Doctrine (published by American Atheists), along with unreferenced quotations by other Christians in that book. I was able to trace the exact sources of the quotations by Tertullian, Aquinas and Edwards, that were mentioned in that book. But I have been lax in applying myself to tracing the Watts quotation since its time period and use of the “abominable fancy” is so obviously similar to those of Jonathan Edwards for which I was able to obtain further quotations and references. Your letter has reminded me that like the rest, the Watts quotation requires an exact citation. I toured the web last night to find that stanza, and found some similar stanzas in Watts works on the web, stanzas with a similar metre, that display the same focus he had on “imagining hell” as a spiritual exercise, and show similar ideas to those of Jonathan Edwards (that I have fully referenced in Leaving the Fold). I am unsure when I will have time to direct toward finding the exact stanza, perhaps you can devote some time and energy to the search? For now, the other quotations from Watts that I have assembled below will have to do.
Hymnody And Prose Quotations
From The Famed Christian Author And Hymn Writer Isaac Watts
Assorted Stanzas From The Hymns Of Isaac Watts
[This first excerpt from one of Wattsʼ hymns seems to resemble the above mentioned stanza in meaning, i.e., “Thy just revenge adore.” - E.T.B.]
Thy hand shall on rebellious kings
A fiery tempest pour,
While we beneath thy sheltʼring wings
Thy just revenge adore.
May I with those for ever dwell
Who here were my delight!
While sinners, banished down to hell,
No more offend my sight.
Let atheists scoff, and Jews blaspheme
Thʼ eternal life and Jesusʼ name;
A word of thy almighty breath
Dooms the rebellious world to death.
But vengeance and damnation lies
On rebels who refuse the grace;
Who Godʼs eternal Son despise,
The hottest hell shall be their place.
There endless crowds of sinners lie,
And darkness makes their chains;
Tortured with keen despair they cry,
Yet wait for fiercer pains.
Not all their anguish and their blood
For their old guilt atones,
Nor the compassion of a God
Shall hearken to their groans.
With holy fear and humble song,
The dreadful God our souls adore;
Justice has built a dismal hell,
And laid her stores of vengeance there.
[Eternal plagues, and heavy chains,
Tormenting racks, and fiery coals,
And darts tʼ inflict immortal pains,
Dyed in the blood of damned souls.]
[There Satan, the first sinner, lies,
And roars, and bites his iron bands;
In vain the rebel strives to rise,
Crushed with the weight of both Thy hands.]
There guilty ghosts of Adamʼs race
Shriek out, and howl beneath thy rod
Once they could scorn a Saviorʼs grace,
But they incensed a dreadful God.
Tremble, my soul, and kiss the Son;
God the thunderer; or, The last judgment and hell.
[Made in a great sudden storm of thunder, August 20, 1697.]
His sounding chariot shakes the sky,
He makes the clouds his throne;
There all his stores of lightning lie,
Till vengeance darts them down.
His nostrils breathe out fiery streams
And from his awful tongue
A sovereign voice divides the flames,
And thunder roars along.
Think, O my soul! the dreadful day,
When this incensed God
Shall rend the sky, and burn the sea,
And fling his wrath abroad.
What shall the wretch the sinner do?
He once defied the Lord;
But he shall dread the Thundʼrer now,
And sink beneath his word.
Tempests of angry fire shall roll
To blast the rebel worm,
And beat upon his naked soul
In one eternal storm.
The unbelieving world shall wail,
While we rejoice to see the day:
Thy sword shall give my foes to death,
And send them down to dwell
In the dark caverns of the earth,
Or to the deeps of hell.
Till I retired to search thy word,
And learn thy secrets there.
There, as in some prophetic glass,
I saw the sinnerʼs feet
High mounted on a slippʼry place,
Beside a fiery pit.
I heard the wretch profanely boast,
Till at thy frown he fell;
His honors in a dream were lost,
And he awakes in hell.
On impious wretches he shall rain
Tempests of brimstone, fire, and death;
Such as he kindled on the plain
Of Sodom, with his angry breath.
He loves his saints, he knows them well,
But turns the wicked down to hell:
Thy God, O Zion! ever reigns;
Praise him in everlasting strains.
The terrors of thy frown
Shall beat their madness down:
Thy saints with holy fear
Shall in thy courts appear,
See His own sons, when they appear before Him,
Bow at His footstool, and with fear adore Him.
No more shall atheists mock his long delay;
His vengeance sleeps no more: behold the day!
Lest, like a lion, his last vengeance tear
“How awful is thy chastʼning rod!”
May thy own children say:
“The great, the wise, the dreadful God!
How holy is his way !”
For God shall raise the dead.
Then his high praise shall fill their tongues
Their hands shall wield the sword;
And vengeance shall attend their songs,
The vengeance of the Lord.
Then shall they rule with iron rod
Nations that dared rebel;
And join the sentence of their God
On tyrants doomed to hell.
The royal sinners bound in chains
New triumphs shall afford:
Such honor for the saints remains;
Praise ye, and love the Lord!
Excerpts from “The World To Come Or Discources On The Joys Or Sorrows Of Departed Souls” by Isaac Watts
[In the firey little “hell discourse” below, Watts even indulges in blaming the Jews for “the cruel barbarous murder of his Son Jesus.” — E.T.B.]
However there may seem to be three sorts of persons in our esteem, namely, the good, the bad, and the indifferent, yet the word of God seems to acknowledge but two sorts, Those who fear God and serve him, and those who fear him not;
Mal. iii. 18. …
Consider the description of hell… as it is represented by our Savior, that is, the fire is never quenched… Fire, applied to the sensible and tender parts of the flesh, gives the sharpest pain of any thing that comes within our common notice, and it is used in scripture to signify the punishments of damned sinners, and the wrath of God in the world to come… It is not improbable, though it is very hard to say with full assurance: since the bodies of the wicked are to be raised again, it is not at all unlikely that their habitation shall be a place of fire, and their bodies may be made immortal to endure the smart and torture without consuming… It is certain, that God has been pleased in his word frequently to make use of fire, brimstone, burning, smoke, darkness, and chains, and every thing that is painful and noisome to nature on earth, in order to represent the miseries that he has prepared for sinners in hell… But what particular instruments and methods of punishment, what other elements or means of torture the great God will make use of to execute his sentence in this tremendous work, is more than we can now declare, because God has not fully declared it: and I pray God none of us may be ever doomed to learn it by terrible experience. But if there be nothing but fire, the anguish will be intolerable… Or what if the Almighty, who has all nature, with all its powers, at his command, should employ other material instruments for the execution of his desired wrath! What if he should choose the alternate extremes of fire and frost, as some have imagined, to torment those impenitent criminals!… Who knows the power of thine anger? For according to thy fear so is thy wrath, says Moses, Psal. Xc. 11… Oh, could we turn aside the veil of the invisible world, and hold the bottomless pit open before you, what bitter groans of ghosts would you hear, not only oppressed and agonizing under the wrath of a righteous God, but also under the insults of cruel devils?… There is an objection rises here, which it is necessary to give some answer to, namely, If the punishments of hell are so intense and terrible, between the worm of conscience, the fire of Godʼs anger, and the malice of evil spirits, surely, it will work up human nature into ecstasy and madness; it will take away all the regular exercise of our natural powers; it will render us, perhaps, mere passive miserable beings, of keen sensations without reasoning. This is certain, that such and so various tortures would have that influence upon our natures at present, and why should it not hereafter? And will the blessed God continue to punish creatures when their reason is lost? What can such punishments avail? I answer, surely god will not continue to punish madmen; therefore none of these torments shall extinguish our reason, or destroy our intellectual powers; for it is as creatures of reason and free will that sinners are thus punished, and therefore these powers must remain in their proper exercise; besides, the very operation of these powers in self condemnation, and self-upbraiding, are part of their punishment. But whether God will so fortify the natures of the damned, which probably shall not be made of flesh and blood, and enable them to bear such intense pain without distraction, or whether the highest extremes of their torment shall only be inflicted at some certain periods or intervals, so that they shall soon return to their reasoning powers again, with bitter remembrance of what passed, this matter is hard to determine; and because it is unwritten and unrevealed, I am silent. But it still remains that punishment shall be so intense and severe, as becomes a God of holiness and justice to inflict on rebellious and obstinate creatures… How reasonable is it for us to believe that such a hell as I have described is prepared for impenitent sinners?… Survey the remarkable executions of Godʼs judgments… look back to our first parents, who were thrust out of paradise, the garden of pleasure, and banished from the gates of it for ever, upon the account of the first sin, and the entrance of it was guarded by a flaming sword to forbid their return. Behold the flood of watery vengeance in the days of Noah breaking up from the vast caverns of the earth, and pouring down from the windows of heaven to punish sin: deep calls unto deep, in the tremendous noise of these water-spouts, which spread death and desolation over the face of the whole earth, because all flesh had sinned against God their Creator. Turn your eyes to Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities of the plain, suffering the vengeance of heaven, with lightning and devouring fire bursting from the clouds to punish the unnatural crimes of that country. See the fiery flying serpents, as the messengers of divine anger, to punish the rebellion of the Israelites in the wilderness: mark what multitudes in the camp of Israel received their mortal sting, and were given up to destruction and death… See Jerusalem, the city of God, all in flames [in 70 A.D., destroyed by the Romans], and the whole land of Judea laid desolate, with deepest distress diffused and reigning among all the inhabitants of it: above a million of them were actually slaughtered and consumed by famine and sword, as a sacrifice to the anger of God, for their long provocations, and the cruel barbarous murder of his Son Jesus… Go to the hospitals, where the gout, and stone, and rheumatism, and a thousand maladies torture the nerves and the joints of men with intolerable smart; and infer thence what God will inflict both on the flesh and spirit, or the soul and body of sinners, in the day of his complete vengeance… It is matter of surprise, and great astonishment, that thousands and ten thousands of the sinful children of men, from day to day, and from year to year, are walking on the borders of all this misery, and yet are so thoughtless and unconcerned about it… All the heavy artillery of divine vengeance is ready to be discharged upon them, as soon as the door of death opens and lets them into the invisible world… O ye obstinate transgressors against God, ye obstinate rejecters of his grace and gospel?… The wrath of God abides upon every man who is unregenerate in this life, and who has not trusted in the name of the son of God;
What are all the sublime reasonings of philosophers upon the abstruse and most difficult subjects? What is the whole circle of sciences, which human wit and thought can trace out and comprehend?… Can they free us from one of the terrors of the Almighty? Can they… guard us from the impressions of divine indignation? Alas! They are all but trifles, in comparison of this blessed gospel… It is the gospel that… clearly discovers to us how we may guard against the fire of wrath… It is this book that teaches us to sprinkle the blood of Christ on a guilty conscience by faith… and thereby defends us from the angel of death and destruction… A serious meditation of hell in its exquisite pain and sorrow, will enhance our value of the salvation of Christ… If we will but appoint our thoughts to dwell a little on the terrors and vengeance… and survey the lengths, and the breadths, and the depths of this distress and misery which we have deserved… Oh, what immense and endless debts of gratitude and love are due from every ransomed sinner.
More Information On Isaac Watts
This website features many hymns by Watts (I am uncertain whether their collection is complete or not.
See also “Isaac Watts, English hymn writer”
From: Ed Babinski
Sent: Friday, January 30, 2004 7:13 PM
Subject: Trevorʼs Thesis (Does anyone have anything else to add?)
Trevor: Dear Mr. Babinski:
I thank you for your lengthy and careful reply. I do appreciate your research of this matter.
Please also appreciate the irony of this situation: I have researched the same topic as you…the belief that the saints in heaven will look upon hell and that they even rejoice. This appears very cruel.
Well, ironic as it sounds, I am writing a thesis (which I hope to turn into a book) which DEFENDs just that thesis. I must sound horrible, huh?
I am intrigued by your writings and I am glad that you mostly use documented primary sources. Even if Isaacs didnʼt write the poem quotes above, it is apparent that he wrote in that same “mood”, if you will. I have found plentous other quotes as well that put forth this same view. I am sure that you find all this troubling to a religion of the “love of God”.
What do you find to be the main objections to this thesis I am proposing? I know, and feel, the emotional side of shock to think that Christians will gaze upon the wicked in hell…and even rejoice. What are the logical problems that may derail my thesis.
I enjoy your writing and am appreciative of your correspondence.
Ed: As you say above, it is an ironic situation, but interesting. Are you writing your thesis for a Masterʼs or Ph.D. in religion? At what university? I have studied modern day Christian Theonomists, like those of the Chalcedon Foundation who agree with the abominable fancy. Is your university affiliated with them? I have also exchanged a few emails with a daughter of Rev. Phelps — The Rev. used to be in the national news, he runs GodHatesFags.com and pickets the funerals of gays, especially if they have died young and tragically (those are the types of funerals that provide the greatest possible media coverage, though Iʼm sure heʼll be out at Gore Vidalʼs funeral as well, when he dies at around 90 or so. *smile*) Rev. Phelps and his children (rather a large family, each of his daughters having about ten kids each) are big fans of Jonathan Edwards. As I said, I exchanged emails with one of the Rev.ʼs daughters (she has ten children yet also found time to obtain law degree since they often need to defend their churchʼs right to protest at funerals, etc.), and she confided to me that she was concered about the fate of a child whom she had lost in pregnancy. She dreaded the thought of it being in hell, since Edwards and her Dadʼs church taught the damnation of unbaptized infants. I sent her a quotation from Jonathan Edwards that I found in a biography in which he assuaged the fears of his parisioners who had lost unbaptized children. Edwards told them that he had a personal intuition that the children of the righteous shall be in heaven, and thus Edwards made an exception of the heart to the ineluctible head-logic of the doctrine of infant damnation.
Trevor: I must sound horrible, huh?
Ed: No you donʼt sound horrible. What a person “believes” does not necessarily make them “horrible.” Besides, most people are a multitude of different things, not all of those things being “horrible.” But then, if you agreed with me that religious beliefs were not as important as oneʼs actions and character… then youʼd probably not be defending the importance of the particular belief you are writing your thesis on. *smile*
I assume that you have run across a book titled, The Decline Of Hell: Seventeenth-Century Discussions Of Eternal Torment by D. P. Walker (Daniel Pickering)? Calvin and Luther as you know, formulated their views in the sixteenth century. At that time the doctrine of predestination (as defended by both Luther and Calvin) spread along with Protestantism. After Europeʼs horrendous Thirty Years War and horrendous witch hunts during the sixteenth and earlier part of the seventeenth century (which were worse than any witch hunts in prior or post Christian centuries), doubt and opposition grew among some Protestants concerning the doctrines of predestination and infant damnation (opposition to the abominable fancy also grew). Arminianism and Methodism arose as you know in reaction to Calvin and Lutherʼs views of predestination. By the time the eighteenth century rolled around (i.e., two hundred years after Calvin had founded his Academy in Geneva) there were Unitarians at Calvinʼs Academy who even lacked a firm belief in the devil and damnation. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw an increasing number of Protestants turning toward Unitarianism and Universalism.
Some great humanitarians came out of those eighteenth and nineteenth century Unitarian/Universalist freethinking Christian movements, like Florence Nightingale (who made nursing a legitimate profession and who made it a rule that hospitals should serve people regardless of the patientʼs religion, and should not evangelize patients, but let them see whichever minister or priest they preferred), and Clara Barton (founder of the American Red Cross). After the fundamentalist revival in America in the early twentieth century, the doctrine of hell grew in prominence once again, and a modern day Evangelical publishing house even deleted the universalist chapters in one book by a nineteenth century inspirational writer since her works continue to be popular today, but universalism is far less popular. One modern day Evangelical universalist, Tom Tallbot, could not even get his pro-universalist manuscript reviewed in a newsletter that merely reviews (but does not publish) evangelical manscripts, because the newsletter editor feared that Christian book publishers would cease subscribing to his newsletter if it mentioned universalism. Neither are famous universalist works by those evangelicals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries being reprinted today, except for the writings of George MacDonald, whom C. S. Lewis idolized as “my spiritual mentor.”
As far as the doctrine of eternal torment goes, I can see how “imaging hell” can form an integral part of a Christianʼs devotions. I mean, unless you believe you are completely “lost” in the most hellish sense imaginable, then you canʼt also fully imagine and appreciate how much you need to be “saved” (by believing or following all of the teachings that a particular church says you must believe in order to be saved).
So far as personal devotions go, I think “meditating on hell” can increase oneʼs personal sense of humility. Thereʼs an early Christian version of the kind of humility that I am talking about. The story dates back to 300 A.D., and involves a Christian saint who was trying to cast out a demon from a possessed man. The saint tried fasting and prayer, but the demon would not leave. Instead, the demon posed a question to the saint, “According to the Gospel parable, who are the “sheep’ that shall enter eternal bliss, and who are the ‘goats’ who are worthy of eternal perdition?” The saint replied, “The goats? Thatʼs me! The sheep? God alone knows who they are.” At which point the demon replied, “Because of your humility, I will come out.”
Speaking of “meditating on hell,” you should read the stories of members of a particular school of Zen Buddhism who meditate on the numerous Buddhist hells, and only after such agonizing meditations do they realize how “lost” they are, and how they can do nothing about it. The descriptions of the meditations and inner angst and transformation that the Buddhists in that school undergo are like those that Luther underwent or like those of “born again” Christians today. (See the slim little vol. by Conrad Hyers, Once-Born, Twice-Born Zen.)
So, as personal meditation, “meditating on hell” can produce good effects. Itʼs when hell is being preached to others that the effects can lead to such a height of suspicion, fear and aggression as say, the Reformationʼs “Thirty Yearsʼ War.”
Of course meditating on hell is not the only way to gain humility and love of your fellow man. Meditating on Godʼs incredible compassion and universal forgiveness can also produce noble effects in people, like Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton (founder of the American Red Cross), not to mention the positive effects that Universalism had on a host of eighteenth and nineteenth century Evangelicals.
So, there appears to be a variety of “meditations” that can aid people spiritually, morally, etc. Though the doctrine of “eternal hell” can also lead to the utmost sorrow, fear, and anger in individuals and in society as a whole (especially toward other individuals and societies whose beliefs differ).
Which reminds me, I am currently culling together an enormous number of quotations related to the history of religious intolerance amongst the Reformers (Luther, Calvin, et al). I already have many pages typed out, with full references, and can share them with you. They mention aspects of Reformation history of which many Christians remain unaware. Neither are these quotations on the internet.
Trevor: I am intrigued by your writings and I am glad that you mostly use documented primary sources. Even if Isaacs didnʼt write the poem quotes above, it is apparent that he wrote in that same “mood”, if you will.
I have found plentous other quotes as well that put forth this same view.
Ed: I would be interested in seeing your thesis when completed, or the list of quotations that you presently have compiled.
Trevor: I am sure that you find all this troubling to a religion of the “love of God”.
Ed: Not as troubling as you may perhaps imagine. As I said above, when an individual “meditates on hell” it can have a humbling effect. (As can other sorts of non-hellish meditations as well.) Though when you get out of the realm of personal meditations and begin preaching “hell” to others, that can be troubling for individuals and societies as a whole, troubling in a divisive way, and a way that not merely aims to humble people but to make them subject to a preacherʼs will and doctrines, or to the will of whatever religio-political ruler is leading that particular society.
Some other views I presently hold are that the “Great Awakening” changed little. The people went right back to being “drowsy.” Revivals are spectacles to strike up the band, but soon after the instruments stop playing, and the spectacle is over, not very much has changed. The “Great Awakening” certainly did not wipe out slavery. The Quakers were the only Christian denomination to early on seek the abolition of slavery and stick with it. The Quakers believed in the “inner light,” and even befriended heathen Indians. On the other hand, the hell-fire pumped Puritans treated the Quakers thusly: “So far (to 1660), in the Puritan colonies, mainly in Massachusetts, over forty Quakers had been whipped, sixty-four imprisoned, over forty banished, one branded, three had had their ears cut off, five had had the right of appeal to England denied them, four had been put to death, while many other had suffered in diverse ways.” [James Truslow Adams, The Founding of New England, p. 272]
Trevor: What do you find to be the main objections to this thesis I am proposing? I know, and feel, the emotional side of shock to think that Christians will gaze upon the wicked in hell…and even rejoice. What are the logical problems that may derail my thesis.
Ed: I donʼt know of any logical problems with any particular thesis. I say this after having tried to argue logically to the best of my ability with people who entertain an extremely wide variety of beliefs. (And speaking of logic in the strictest sense, even philosophers agree that itʼs difficult if not impossible to logically disprove that you might be a “brain in a vat” and everything throughout your life has been caused by some experimenter fiddling directly with your brain. Philosophers have also debated whether everything was matter, or only Mind existed (Bishop Berkeley was of the latter opinion, and when he died by falling off a horse and having his head broken open by a rock, somebody quipped that Berkeleyʼs mind had finally hit upon the existence of matter). Another strictly logical question that no one can disprove is whether everything including the fossils in the rocks and our memories might have been created a second ago. Or just flip through any introductory college textbook on philosophy, or roam the philosophy section at Barnes and Noble, to see how difficult it is to get even the most knowledgable philosophers to agree, especially concerning philosophyʼs biggest and broadest questions.
I think the essence of “logic and reasoning” does not involve the “strictness” with which logic and reasoning is employed (though that is a bare minimum of course for an argument being logical and rational) so much as the widening breadth and depth of a personʼs knowledge throughout their lives, a lifetime built up of personal experiences and building on oneʼs capacity to judge complex issues as well as interacting with others from a broad range of beliefs and experiences.
Also keep in mind that there are geniuses and also saints throughout history, not all of them being Christians.
And there are ignorant and also devilish people throughout history, not all of them being non-Christians.
Which reminds me of a statement in a letter that C. S. Lewis wrote toward the end of his life: “Even more disturbing as you say, is the ghastly record of Christian persecution. It had begun in Our Lordʼs time - ‘Ye know not what spirit ye are of’ (John of all people!) I think we must fully face the fact that when Christianity does not make a man very much better, it makes him very much worse… Conversion may make of one who was, if no better, no worse than an animal, something like a devil.” [C. S. Lewis in a letter to Bede Griffiths, dated Dec. 20, 1961, not long before Lewisʼ death, The Letters of C. S. Lewis, ed., W. H. Lewis, (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1966), p. 301]
Regarding your thesis, I have collected quite a lot of quotations regarding hell, heaven, and even universalism that I can share with you. Make of them what you will. Just let me know if youʼd like to see them. (You would of course be free to send me your comments on them as well).
Trevor: I enjoy your writing and am appreciative of your correspondence.
Ed: Thank you very much. I appreciate your inquiry, curiousity, and kind tone. Please keep in touch and also share your quotations and thesis with me when you have a chance! P.S., I hope you do not mind that I have shared our correspondence with a little email group of friends? There are a few “inerrantists” in the group, including the apologist Bob Holding of Tekton apologetics (google “Tekton” and Christian to easily find his website).