From Sermon 112.
5. And in hell he lifted up his eyes.” — O, what a change! How is the mighty fallen! But the word which is here rendered hell does not always mean the place of the damned. It is, literally, the invisible world; and is of very wide extent, including the receptacle of separate spirits, whether good or bad. But here it evidently means, that region of hades where the souls of wicked men reside, as appears from the following words, “Being in torment;” — “in order,” say some, “to atone for the sins committed while in the body, as well as to purify the soul from all its inherent sin.” Just so, the eminent heathen poet, near two thousand years ago: —
Multa diu concreta modis inolescere miris,
Ergo exercentur poenis —
— Aliae panduntur inanes
Suspensae ad ventos: Aliis sub gurgite vasto
Infectum eluitur scelus, aut exuritur igni.
See the near resemblance between the ancient and the modern purgatory! Only in the ancient, the heathen purgatory, both fire, water, and air, were employed in expiating sin, and purifying the soul; whereas in the mystic purgatory, fire alone is supposed sufficient both to purge and expiate. Vain hope! No suffering, but that of Christ, has any power to expiate sin; and no fire, but that of love, can purify the soul, either in time or in eternity.
- Nouwen and Wesley (johnmeunier.wordpress.com)