Thursday, September 20, 2012
Volume 23, number 264

The Hell There Is
Part Two
St. Matthew 25: Verses 13-30

    Each man is blessed with God-given talents, some more than others, but it is not so much as to what talents have been received, but to how they are used. Christ made it clear about those who have been given much, much more will be expected of them and to those who have been given talents God expects each to use these talents to further His holy Will and to store up graces. Those who waste their talents and do not invest in storing up dividends for their eternal welfare, will find their account empty and not only out on the street, but in the worst prison ever possible to imagine: Hell - where there is no way of making good no matter how much one regrets or claims they would do better. They had their chance and blew it. Think about the talents God has given you. Is it worth taking that risk that you would waste those on things that would lead to eternal damnation?

    In this second part of the work of God from the Gospel of St. Matthew I continue to employ not only the well-known Haydock Commentary, but also the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Please note, while I attribute to Aquinas what is shown below, it should be acknowledged that it comes from the part of the Summa that was completed after his death by a Dominican theologian and friend of Saint Thomas (Supplement) using Saint Thomas' commentary on the "Fourth Book of the Sentences" or "Sentences" (Quatuor libri Sententiarum)].

    Again, I remind the reader that I am using this to emphasize the undeniable reality of Hell and the possibility that each and every one of us can go there. In the texts of the Summa what is in parenthesis has been put there by Thomas himself, that which is in brackets by the editor of New Advent's online version of the Summa on Hell unless "J.G." would be added at the end which would be something I insert. The only things I would insert would be a brief definition of a word that may not be readily known. In most cases I only do this if it was a word I didn't understand or was not 100% sure I knew the exact meaning. My inserts should not be looked at as being definitive as the desired meaning of the word as intended by Aquinas could be quite different. You will note in this first installment St. Thomas' words are in black, mine in blue, Haydock Commentary in green and Christ's words from Sacred Scripture always in red.

    Again, for brevity and easy reading I sometimes gave St. Thomas Aquinas' answers to objections without giving the objections so when you see a sentence that seems to be obscure it is a response to a particular objection. I suggest checking the source itself at the following link Summa for clarification.

    Some may think that the talents they have are their own and they can do whatever they want with them and the hell with the rest of their brothers or sisters. That attitude can easily lead to the slippery slope to the abyss of eternal damnation. We are, as Christ says, our brothers' keepers, and what we do with the talents we are blessed with or have developed could very well determine how we spend eternity. As we see in verses 13 through 30 the parable of the two servants, one who invested wisely and the other who hid his talents out of selfishness or fear. Often those who don the victim excuse are like the steward who was not wise and thought only of himself, whereas the good servant preferred the spiritual free enterprise path where he turned his talents to profit as the Prophet relays. St. Thomas answers objections to those who would make excuses or rationalize that God would not be so "cruel as to condemn man." As we see what those objectors fail to realize is that is not the case for man has a free will and chose freely to sin as we see below in the verses and commentary of St. Matthew 25: 13-30.

13 [about the year A.D. 33] Watch ye, therefore, because ye know not the day nor the hour.
    Verse 13. Watch ye. St. Augustine asks, how can we be always watching, it being necessary for each one to give himself sufficient time to sleep and rest from his many labors? He answers the question in these words: We may always keep watching to our hearts by faith, hope, charity, and all other good works. But when we awake, like the five wise virgins, we must arise and trim our lamps, by supplying them with the oil of good works. Then they will not go out, nor will the soothing oil of a good conscience be wanting to us. Then will the bridegroom come and introduce us to his house, where we shall never need sleep or rest; nor will our lamps ever be in danger of going out. Whilst we are in this life, we labour; and our lamps, blown about by the winds of innumerable temptations, are always in danger of being extinguished; but soon their flame shall become more brilliant, and the temptations we have suffered here shall not diminish, but increase its lustre. (St. Augustine, serm. xxiv.)

14 For even as a man going into a far country, called his servants, and delivered to them his goods;

    Verse 14. But that the apostles and all men might learn how they ought to watch, and to prepare for the last day, he subjoins another instructive parable of the ten talents. It has a great affinity with that mentioned in St. Luke, xix. 11. But this last was spoken at a different time, place, and occasion. It differs also in some points. --- For even as a man, &c. This passage is to be understood of our divine Redeemer, who ascended to heaven encompassed by his human nature. The proper abode for the flesh is the earth; when, therefore, it is placed in the kingdom of God, it may be said to be gone into a far country. (St. Gregory) --- But when we speak of his divine nature, we cannot say that he is gone into a far country, but only when we speak of his humanity. (Origen)

15 And to one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one, to every one according to his proper ability: and immediately he took his journey.

    Verse 15. In the parable of the talents, the master is God, talents, graces, &c. (Witham) --- From this, it appears, we can do no good of ourselves, but only by means of God's grace, though he requires our co-operation; since the servants could only make use of the talents given them to gain others. (A talent is £187 10s.) It is also worthy of remark, that both he who received five and he who received only two talents, received an equal reward of entering into the joy of our Lord; which shews, that only an account will be taken according to what we have received, and that however mean and despicable our abilities may be, we still have an equal facility with the most learned of entering heaven. (Jansenius) --- The servant to whom this treasure was delivered, is allegorically explained of the faithful adorers of God, in the Jewish law, who departing from it, became followers of Christ, and therefore deserving of a double recompense. ... The servant to whom the two talents were delivered, is understood of the Gentiles, who were justified in the faith and confession of the Father and the Son, and confessed our Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, composed of body and soul; and as the people of the Jews doubled the five talents they received, so the Gentiles, by the duplication of their two talents, merited a double recompense also. ... But the servant who received only one talent, and hid it in the ground, represented such of the Jews as persisted in the observation of the old law, and thus kept their talent buried in the ground, for fear the Gentiles should be converted. (St. Hilary)

16 And he that had received the five talents, went his way, and traded with the same, and gained other five.

17 And in like manner he that had received the two, gained other two.

18 But he that had received the one, going his way, digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.

    Verse 18. He that had received the one. The man who hid this one talent, represents all those who, having received any good quality, whether mental or corporal, employ it only on earthly things. (St. Gregory) --- Origen is also of the same sentiment: if you see any one, says he, who has received from God the gift of teaching and instructing others to salvation, yet will not exercise himself in this function, he buries his talent in the ground, like this unworthy servant, and must expect to receive the like reward.

19 But after a long time, the lord of those servants came, and reckoned with them.

    Verse 19. After a long time. This represents the time that is to intervene between our Savior's ascension and His last coming. For, as He is the Master, Who went into a far country, i.e. to Heaven, after He had inculcated the relative duties of each man in his respective state of life; so shall He come at the last day, and reckon with all men, commending those who have employed their talents well, and punishing such as have made a bad use of them. (St. Jerome)

20 And he that had received the five talents, coming, brought other five talents, saying: Lord, thou deliveredst to me five talents; behold I have gained other five over and above.

    Verse 20. I have gained other five. Free-will, aided by the grace of God, doth evidently merit as we see here. 21 His lord said to him: Well done, thou good and faithful servant: because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

22 And he also that had received the two talents came and said: Lord, thou deliveredst two talents to me: behold I have gained other two.

23 His lord said to him: Well done, good and faithful servant: because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

24 But he that had received the one talent, came, and said: Lord, I know that thou art a hard man; thou reapest where thou hast not sown, and gatherest where thou hast not strewed:

    Verse 24. I know that thou art a hard man. This is an insignificant part, that is, an ornament of the parable only; as also when it is said: I should have received mine with usury. ver. 27. (Witham) --- This seems to have been an adage leveled at avaricious men, who are never pleased but with what increases their hoards. Under this symbol is also depicted the excuse of many, who accuse God of being the cause of their idleness, both here and in the judgment to come; as that God is too severe and unbending, whose service is extremely hard, and who adopts, rejects, and reprobates whom he pleases; who deals out heavier burdens than the weak nature of man is made to support; who denies the grace of obedience, and thus wishes to reap where he has not sown. (Jansenius)

25 And being afraid, I went and hid thy talent in the earth: behold here thou hast that which is thine.

26 And his lord answering, said to him: Wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sow not, and gather where I have not strewed.

    Verse 26. Thou evil and slothful servant, for thus calumniating thy master; if I wish to reap where I have not sown, how ought you to fear my just indignation, if were I have sown I find nothing by your neglect to reap. Thus our Lord retorts the accusation upon the servant, as in Luke xix. 22. Out of thy own mouth I judge thee, thou wicked servant.

27 Thou oughtest, therefore, to have committed my money to the bankers, and at my coming I should have received my own with usury.

28 Take ye away, therefore, the talent from him, and give it to him that hath ten talents.

29 For to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall abound: but from him that hath not, that also which he seemeth to have shall be taken away.

    Verse 29. To every one that hath, &c. That is, who hath, so as to have made good use of, or to have improved, what was committed to his trust and management. See the notes Matthew xiii, ver. 12. (Witham) --- When those who are gifted with the grace of understanding for the benefit of others, refuse to make a proper use of the gift, that grace is of consequence withdrawn; whereas had they employed it with zeal and diligence, they would have received additional graces. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxxix.) --- This, moreover, shews that God never requires of men more than he has enabled them to perform.

30 And the unprofitable servant, cast ye out into the exterior darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    Verse 30. And the unprofitable servant. Thus not only the rapacious, the unjust, and evil doers, but also all those who neglect to do good, are punished with the greatest severity. Let Christians listen to these words, and while time will permit them, embrace the means of salvation. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lxxix.) --- Let no one suffer his talent to lie uncultivated, and, as it were, hidden and buried in this unhappy earth of the world and the flesh, which engages all their thoughts and affections more than the honor and glory of God, or the eternal welfare of their own or their neighbor's souls. --- The foregoing parables manifestly tend to excite in us great watchfulness, under the just apprehension of the strict account which hereafter we must give of our respective talents. Jesus, therefore, naturally concludes these parables with a description of that awful day which is to succeed the final reckoning, and which will unalterably fix our abode either in eternal happiness, or in eternal misery. In this description we are to remark, 1. the preparations for this awful scene; 2. the sentence pronounced by the judge; 3. the execution of this sentence.

St. Thomas on whether the damned repent of the evil they have done?

    It is said of the damned (Wisdom 5:3): "Repenting within themselves" [Vulgate: 'Saying within themselves, repenting'].

    Further, the Philosopher says that "the wicked are full of repentance; for afterwards they are sorry for that in which previously they took pleasure." Therefore the damned, being most wicked, repent all the more.

    A person may repent of sin in two ways: in one way directly, in another way indirectly. He repents of a sin directly who hates sin as such: and he repents indirectly who hates it on account of something connected with it, for instance punishment or something of that kind. Accordingly the wicked will not repent of their sins directly, because consent in the malice of sin will remain in them; but they will repent indirectly, inasmuch as they will suffer from the punishment inflicted on them for sin.

    The damned will wickedness, but shun punishment: and thus indirectly they repent of wickedness committed.

    To wish one had not sinned on account of the shamefulness of vice is a good will: but this will not be in the wicked.

    It will be possible for the damned to repent of their sins without turning their will away from sin, because in their sins they will shun, not what they heretofore desired, but something else, namely the punishment.

    However obstinate men may be in this world, they repent of the sins indirectly, if they be punished for them. Thus Augustine says (Q83, qu. 36): "We see the most savage beasts are deterred from the greatest pleasures by fear of pain."

St. Thomas on whether the damned by right and deliberate reason would wish not to be?

Objection 1. It would seem impossible for the damned, by right and deliberate reason, to wish not to be. For Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. iii, 7): "Consider how great a good it is to be; since both the happy and the unhappy will it; for to be and yet to be unhappy is a greater thing than not to be at all."

Objection 2. Further, Augustine argues thus (De Lib. Arb. iii, 8): "Preference supposes election." But "not to be" is not eligible; since it has not the appearance of good, for it is nothing. Therefore not to be cannot be more desirable to the damned than "to be."

Objection 3. Further, the greater evil is the more to be shunned. Now "not to be" is the greatest evil, since it removes good altogether, so as to leave nothing. Therefore "not to be" is more to be shunned than to be unhappy: and thus the same conclusion follows as above.

On the contrary, It is written (Apocalypse 9:6): "In those days men . . . shall desire to die, and death shall fly from them."

    Further, the unhappiness of the damned surpasses all unhappiness of this world. Now in order to escape the unhappiness of this world, it is desirable to some to die, wherefore it is written (Sirach 41:3-4): "O death, thy sentence is welcome to the man that is in need and to him whose strength faileth; who is in a decrepit age, and that is in care about all things, and to the distrustful that loseth wisdom" [Vulgate: 'patience']. Much more, therefore, is "not to be" desirable to the damned according to their deliberate reason.

I answer that, Not to be may be considered in two ways. First, in itself, and thus it can nowise be desirable, since it has no aspect of good, but is pure privation of good. Secondly, it may be considered as a relief from a painful life or from some unhappiness: and thus "not to be" takes on the aspect of good, since "to lack an evil is a kind of good" as the Philosopher says (Ethic. v, 1). In this way it is better for the damned not to be than to be unhappy. Hence it is said (Matthew 26:24):It were better for him, if that man had not been born," and (Jeremiah 20:14): "Cursed be the day wherein I was born," where a gloss of Jerome observes: "It is better not to be than to be evilly." In this sense the damned can prefer "not to be" according to their deliberate reason [Cf. I, 5, 2, ad 3].

Reply to Objection 1. The saying of Augustine is to be understood in the sense that "not to be" is eligible, not in itself but accidentally, as putting an end to unhappiness. For when it is stated that "to be" and "to live" are desired by all naturally, we are not to take this as referable to an evil and corrupt life, and a life of unhappiness, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. ix, 4), but absolutely.

Reply to Objection 2. Non-existence is eligible, not in itself, but only accidentally, as stated already.

Reply to Objection 3. Although "not to be" is very evil, in so far as it removes being, it is very good, in so far as it removes unhappiness, which is the greatest of evils, and thus it is preferred "not to be."

St. Thomas on whether in hell the damned would wish others were damned who are not damned?

    A gloss on Isaiah 14:9, "are risen up from their thrones," says: "The wicked are comforted by having many companions in their punishment."

    Further, envy reigns supreme in the damned. Therefore they grieve for the happiness of the blessed, and desire their damnation.

    Even as in the blessed in heaven there will be most perfect charity, so in the damned there will be the most perfect hate. Wherefore as the saints will rejoice in all goods, so will the damned grieve for all goods. Consequently the sight of the happiness of the saints will give them very great pain; hence it is written (Isaiah 26:11): "Let the envious people see and be confounded, and let fire devour Thy enemies." Therefore they will wish all the good were damned.

    So great will be the envy of the damned that they will envy the glory even of their kindred, since they themselves are supremely unhappy, for this happens even in this life, when envy increases. Nevertheless they will envy their kindred less than others, and their punishment would be greater if all their kindred were damned, and others saved, than if some of their kindred were saved. For this reason the rich man prayed that his brethren might be warded from damnation: for he knew that some are guarded therefrom. Yet he would rather that his brethren were damned as well as all the rest.

    Love that is not based on virtue is easily voided, especially in evil men as the Philosopher says. Hence the damned will not preserve their friendship for those whom they loved inordinately. Yet the will of them will remain perverse, because they will continue to love the cause of their inordinate loving.

    Although an increase in the number of the damned results in an increase of each one's punishment, so much the more will their hatred and envy increase that they will prefer to be more tormented with many rather than less tormented alone.

St. Thomas on whether the damned hate God?

    It is written (Psalm 73:23): "The pride of them that hate Thee ascendeth continually."

    The appetite is moved by good or evil apprehended. Now God is apprehended in two ways, namely in Himself, as by the blessed, who see Him in His essence; and in His effects, as by us and by the damned. Since, then, He is goodness by His essence, He cannot in Himself be displeasing to any will; wherefore whoever sees Him in His essence cannot hate Him. On the other hand, some of His effects are displeasing to the will in so far as they are opposed to any one: and accordingly a person may hate God not in Himself, but by reason of His effects. Therefore the damned, perceiving God in His punishment, which is the effect of His justice, hate Him, even as they hate the punishment inflicted on them [Cf. 90, 3, ad 2; II-II, 34, 1].

St. Thomas on whether the damned demerit?

    Punishment is contradistinguished from fault [Cf. I, 48, 5]. Now the perverse will of the damned proceeds from their obstinacy which is their punishment. Therefore the perverse will of the damned is not a fault whereby they may demerit.

    Further, after reaching the last term there is no further movement, or advancement in good or evil. Now the damned, especially after the judgment day, will have reached the last term of their damnation, since then there "will cease to be two cities," according to Augustine. Therefore after the judgment day the damned will not demerit by their perverse will, for if they did their damnation would be augmented.

    We must draw a distinction between the damned before the judgment day and after. For all are agreed that after the judgment day there will be neither merit nor demerit. The reason for this is because merit or demerit is directed to the attainment of some further good or evil: and after the day of judgment good and evil will have reached their ultimate consummation, so that there will be no further addition to good or evil. Consequently, good will in the blessed will not be a merit but a reward, and evil will in the damned will be not a demerit but a punishment only. For works of virtue belong especially to the state of happiness and their contraries to the state of unhappiness.

    On the other hand, some say that, before the judgment day, both the good merit and the damned demerit. But this cannot apply to the essential reward or to the principal punishment, since in this respect both have reached the term. Possibly, however, this may apply to the accidental reward, or secondary punishment, which are subject to increase until the day of judgment. Especially may this apply to the demons, or to the good angels, by whose activities some are drawn to salvation, whereby the joy of the blessed angels is increased, and some to damnation, whereby the punishment of the demons is augmented [Cf. I, 62, 9, ad 3; II-II, 13, 4, ad 2; where St. Thomas tacitly retracts the opinion expressed here as to merit or demerit.].

    It is in the highest degree unprofitable to have reached the highest degree of evil, the result being that the damned are incapable of demerit. Hence it is clear that they gain no advantage from their sin.

    Men who are damned are not occupied in drawing others to damnation, as the demons are, for which reason the latter demerit as regards their secondary punishment [Cf. I, 62, 9, ad 3; II-II, 13 , 4, ad 2; where St. Thomas tacitly retracts the opinion expressed here as to merit or demerit].

    The reason why they are not excused from demerit is not because they are under the necessity of sinning, but because they have reached the highest of evils. However, the necessity of sinning whereof we are ourselves the cause, in so far as it is a necessity, excuses from sin, because every sin needs to be voluntary: but it does not excuse, in so far as it proceeds from a previous act of the will: and consequently the whole demerit of the subsequent sin would seem to belong to the previous sin.

St. Thomas on whether the damned can make use of the knowledge they had in this world?

Objection 1. It would seem that the damned are unable to make use of the knowledge they had in this world. For there is very great pleasure in the consideration of knowledge. But we must not admit that they have any pleasure. Therefore they cannot make use of the knowledge they had heretofore, by applying their consideration thereto.

Objection 2. Further, the damned suffer greater pains than any pains of this world. Now in this world, when one is in very great pain, it is impossible to consider any intelligible conclusions, through being distracted by the pains that one suffers. Much less therefore can one do so in hell.

Objection 3. Further, the damned are subject to time. But "length of time is the cause of forgetfulness" (Phys. lib. iv, 13). Therefore the damned will forget what they knew here.

On the contrary, It is said to the rich man who was damned (Luke 16:25): "Remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime," etc. Therefore they will consider about the things they knew here.

    Further, the intelligible species remain in the separated soul, as stated above (70, 2, ad 3; I, 89, 5,6). Therefore, if they could not use them, these would remain in them to no purpose.

I answer that, Even as in the saints on account of the perfection of their glory, there will be nothing but what is a matter of joy so there will be nothing in the damned but what is a matter and cause of sorrow; nor will anything that can pertain to sorrow be lacking, so that their unhappiness is consummate. Now the consideration of certain things known brings us joy, in some respect, either on the part of the things known, because we love them, or on the part of the knowledge, because it is fitting and perfect. There may also be a reason for sorrow both on the part of the things known, because they are of a grievous nature, and on the part of the knowledge, if we consider its imperfection; for instance a person may consider his defective knowledge about a certain thing, which he would desire to know perfectly. Accordingly, in the damned there will be actual consideration of the things they knew heretofore as matters of sorrow, but not as a cause of pleasure. For they will consider both the evil they have done, and for which they were damned, and the delightful goods they have lost, and on both counts they will suffer torments. Likewise they will be tormented with the thought that the knowledge they had of speculative matters was imperfect, and that they missed its highest degree of perfection which they might have acquired.

Reply to Objection 1. Although the consideration of knowledge is delightful in itself, it may accidentally be the cause of sorrow, as explained above.

Reply to Objection 2. In this world the soul is united to a corruptible body, wherefore the soul's consideration is hindered by the suffering of the body. On the other hand, in the future life the soul will not be so drawn by the body, but however much the body may suffer, the soul will have a most clear view of those things that can be a cause of anguish to it.

Reply to Objection 3. Time causes forgetfulness accidentally, in so far as the movement whereof it is the measure is the cause of change. But after the judgment day there will be no movement of the heavens; wherefore neither will it be possible for forgetfulness to result from any lapse of time however long. Before the judgment day, however, the separated soul is not changed from its disposition by the heavenly movement.

    In the third installment I will treat verses 31 through 40 on Christ's words of when the King shall come and sit in judgment and the consequences of those who do not heed God's will in obeying His commandments and having mercy on our fellow man who is made in the image and likeness of God for, as Jesus says "as long as you did it to one of these, My least brethren, you did it to Me."

John Gregory

For this current series on Hell, see

For the recent series on Purgatory, see

For the past completed series on "The Sermon on the Mount" see:

        "Catholics who remain faithful to Tradition, even if they are reduced to but a handful, they are THE TRUE CHURCH"
        Saint Athanasius, "Apostle of Tradition" AD 373

Thursday, September 20, 2012
Volume 23, number 264