Jeremy Taylor was a pastor who'd been born two years after the KJV. In our circles, he's the author of the oft-misquoted and seldom-sourced statement, God "threatens terrible things to us if we would not be happy." Actually, it's "He threatened horrible things to us if we would not be happy," and the source is this sermon.
Though that is the quotation that brought me to read the sermon, it isn't what I'm bringing to you. In the sermon, Taylor takes a clear-eyed, sober, terrifying read of judgment to come. He's at great pains to see to it that no man take lightly the stroke that is about to fall, at any moment, on God's enemies.
In imagining the miseries of Hell, he does a brilliant and fearful thing. He slows time down. Taylor brings us to seize on that moment — those seconds, that split-second — after someone has been caught in a sin, and before he has invented a pretext falsely to shield and comfort himself.
Hear how Taylor does this, and what use he makes of it:
We may guess at the severity of the Judge by the lesser strokes of that judgment which He is pleased to send upon sinners in this world, to make them afraid of the horrible pains of doomsday–I mean the torments of an unquiet conscience, the amazement and confusions of some sins and some persons. For I have sometimes seen persons surprised in a base action, and taken in the circumstances of crafty theft and secret injustices, before their excuse was ready. They have changed their color, their speech hath faltered, their tongue stammered, their eyes did wander and fix nowhere, till shame made them sink into their hollow eye-pits to retreat from the images and circumstances of discovery; their wits are lost, their reason useless, the whole order of their soul is decomposed, and they neither see, nor feel, nor think, as they used to do, but they are broken into disorder by a stroke of damnation and a lesser stripe of hell; but then if you come to observe a guilty and a base murderer, a condemned traitor, and see him harassed first by an evil conscience, and then pulled in pieces by the hangman’s hooks, or broken upon sorrows and the wheel, we may then guess (as well as we can in this life) what the pains of that day shall be to accurst souls. But those we shall consider afterward in their properYou see? Taylor takes that sickening moment of fear and guilt, and freeze-frames it long before the invention of the freeze-frame. He says, "Imagine existing like that forever. Imagine that sense of guilt and shame, of panic and nakedness — forever."
For will that not be Hell? Not The Great Divorce's image of sophisticated reprobates lost in self-deception, but of a mass of humanity whose "secrets" have been exposed, stripped naked, and judged, whose every rationalization has been blown away like the faintest wisp of steam, who now find themselves before the Judge's pitiless eye and under His condemnation for an hour, then another, then another, in endless succession, never nearer the end than at the start.
Brilliant picture, and all the more so if it sent (and sends!) one sinner flying to Christ and the Gospel for grace and refuge while it may still be had.