Fifteen Years in Hell
Luther Benson

Part 3 out of 3

of the opinion that they had no right to detain me under the circumstances,
and who, therefore, felt it incumbent upon them to discharge me,
particularly if my friends were willing, it was by all parties decided that
I should go. I felt glad in my heart that the institution was relieved of
all responsibility in my case, for I did not wish to bring reproach upon
anyone, and I feared if I remained longer I might take some rash step
(abusing the generous kindness of my officers) that would do so. They had
done their whole duty by me, and it remained for me now to do my duty to
myself and friends. But as soon as I got to Indianapolis the pent-up fires
of appetite blazed forth, and while on the way to the Union Depot to take
the train to Rushville, I gave my friends the slip, and, sneaking like a
thief through the alleys, I sought and found an obscure saloon in which I
secreted myself and began to drink. I was once more on the road which leads
to perdition. The old enemy, who had crawled up the walls of the asylum and
slimed himself through my grated windows, and coiled around my heart in
frightful dreams, again had me in his possession. Thus began one of the
most maniacal and terrible drunks of my life. I became possessed of the
wildest and most unreal thoughts that ever entered a crazed brain. I abused
and misrepresented my best friends, and cursed everything but the thrice
cursed liquor which was burning up my body and soul. I told absurd and
terrible stories about the places where I had been, and about the friends
who had done most for me. I was insane--as utterly so for the time as the
worst case in the asylum. I knew not what I did or said, and yet my actions
and words were cunningly contrived to deceive.

For the greater part of the fifteen days which followed I was as
unconscious of what I did or said as if I had been dead and buried in the
bottom of the sea. What I know of the time I have learned since from the
lips of others. The hideous, fiendish serpent of drunkenness possessed my
whole being. I felt him in every nerve, bone, sinew, fiber, and drop of
blood in my body. There were moments when a glimmer of reason came to me,
and with it a pang that shriveled my soul. During the period that I was
drinking I was in Rushville, after leaving Indianapolis, Falmouth and
Cambridge City. Of course, for the most part of the time, I knew not where
I was. As I think of it now, I know that I was in hell. My thirst for
whisky was positively maddening. I tried every means to quit, when
conscious of my existence: I voluntarily entered the calaboose more than
once, and was locked up, but the instant I got out, the madness caused me
to fly where liquor was. I drank it in enormous quantities, and smothered
without quenching the scorching, blazing fires of hell which were making
cinders and ashes of every hope and energy of my being. I made my bed among
serpents; I fed on flames and poison; I walked with demons and ghouls; all
unutterable and slimy monsters crawled around and over me; every breath
that I drew reeked with the odor of death; every beat of my fast-throbbing
heart sent the hissing, boiling blood through my veins, which returned and
froze about it. I have neither words nor images sufficiently horrible to
typify my condition. I became, for the time an abhorred object; the sex of
my sainted mother made a wide sweep to pass me by, and dear, little,
innocent children fled from me as from a monster. My soul was no longer my
own. The fiend Appetite had given it over, bound and helpless, to the fiend
Alcohol. I turned by bleared vision towards the vaulted skies, and cursed
them because they did not rain fire and brimstone down upon me and destroy
me. And yet, oh! how I dreaded to die! The grave opened before me, and a
million horrors were in its hollow and black chasm. The scalding tears I
shed gave me no relief; the cries I uttered were unheard; and every ear was
deaf to my pleadings. At times I thought of the asylum, and I would have
given worlds could I have retraced my steps, and slept once more securely
within its merciful and protecting walls. O, God! I screamed, why did I
leave it? As day after day dragged its endless length along, and no relief
came, my despair was a delirium of wretchedness. The sun appeared to be
extinguished, and the universe was a void of black, impenetrable darkness,
out of which, before and after me, rose the hideous specters, Death and
Annihilation. The unimaginable horrors of the tremens were upon me.

Once more hear my voice, you who read! Lose no opportunity to strike a blow
at intemperance. It may smile in the rosy face of youth, but do not be
deceived; there are agonies unspeakable hidden beneath that smile. Look not
on the wine cup when it is red, no matter if the jeweled hand of a princess
hold it between you and the light. It is the beginning whose end is
degradation, remorse, misery and death! Turn from a glass of beer as from a
goblet of reeking and poisoned blood. It is a danger to be shunned. Beware
that you do not learn this too late.

Alcohol, ruin, and death go hand in hand. The region over which Alcohol is
king is one of decay. It is full of graves. The ghosts of the million joys,
he has slain wail amid its ghastly desolations; there are sounds of sobbing
orphans there; echoes of widows' shrieks; and the lamentations of fond
mothers and wives, heart-broken, vex the realm; youth and age lie here
dishonored together; in vain the sweetheart begs her lover to return from
its fatal mists; in vain the pure sister calls with trembling tongue for
her erring brother. He will not come back. He is the slave of a tyrant who
has no compassion and knows no mercy. Oppose this tyrant, all ye who love
the home circle better than the bawdy house; fight him all ye who set honor
above dishonor; curse him all ye who prefer peace to discord, and law to
anarchy; war against him in all ways unceasingly all ye to whom the thought
of liberty and safety is dear, to whom happiness and truth are more
desirable than misery and falsehood.

What, let me ask, is to be gained by drinking? What blessing comes from
forming or indulging the habit? Pause here and think well before you
answer. You could not afford to drink if the wealth of a nation were yours,
because no man can afford to lose health and happiness if he hopes
enjoyment in life. If you are strong, alcohol will destroy your nerves and
sap your vigor. If you are weak, it will enfeeble you the more. If you are
unhappy, it will only add to your unhappiness. Look at the subject as you
will, you can not afford to drink intoxicating liquors. The moment you
begin to form the habit of drinking that moment you begin to endanger your
reputation, health and happiness, and that of your family and friends also.
And let me say right now that you begin to form the habit when you touch
your lips to any sort of intoxicating drink the first time. I have drank
the sparkle and foam, and the gall and wormwood of all liquors. Do you envy
me the horrors through which I have passed? You know how to avoid them.
Never touch liquor. If you are bent on going to hell and destruction,
choose a nearer and more honorable way by blowing your brains out at once.

A few words more, dear readers, and I will bid you good by. Many of you
have no doubt heard of my restored peace and lasting favor with God at
Fowler, Indiana. With regard to it and my condition at the present time, I
will incorporate in substance the letter which I recently published in
reply to inquiries addressed to me from all parts of the country, shortly
after that event. I will give the letter with but little change, even at
the risk of repeating what is elsewhere recorded. It is as follows:

On the evening of January twenty-first, 1877, at Jeffersonville, Indiana,
God pardoned my sins and made me a new creature. For weeks happiness and
joy were mine. The appetite--rather my passion--for liquor, which made the
present a misery and the future a darkness, was no longer present. Its
heavy burdens had fallen from me. Of this there could be no doubt; but I
had been educated to believe that "once in grace always in grace," and this
led to a fatal deception, a belief that I could not fall; that after God
had once pardoned my sins I was as surely saved as if already in Paradise.
That they were pardoned I had not a doubt, for the manifestations were as
clear as light. Falsely thinking that I was pardoned for all time, my soul
grew self-reliant: I became at the same time careless of my religious
duties. I neglected to pray, to beware of temptation, and, naturally
enough, soon found myself drifting into the society of those who neither
loved nor feared God. Had I trusted alone in God and permitted the Savior
to lead and keep me, I should not have fallen. Instead, I went back to the
world, gave no thanks to God for his mercy and love, and thus dishonoring
him, his face was hidden from me.

I went to Boston to speak in Moody and Sankey's meeting. I never once hoped
by so doing to be the means of others' salvation; my sole thought was self
and selfish ambition. Instead of talking at the Moody meeting, I took a
drink of liquor, soon got drunk, and so remained for days. When I came out
of the oblivion of that debauch, the agony experienced was terrible. All
the shames, all the burning regrets, all the stinging compunctions of
conscience I had known on coming out of such debauches before my conversion
were almost as joy compared with the misery which preyed upon my heart
then. I can not describe the hopeless feeling of remorse which came over
me. I lived and moved in a night of misery and no star was in its sky. In
the course of a few days I recovered physically so far as to be able to
lecture. I prayed in secret, long and often, for a return of that peace
which comes from God alone, but in vain. I was justly self-punished. At the
end of four or five weeks I fell again, and this time my degradation was
deeper than before. I would at times console myself with the thought that
my suffering had reached the limit of endurance, and at such times new and
still keener agonies would rise in my heart, like harpies, to tear me to

It was at this time that I was committed to the Hospital for the Insane at
Indianapolis. The reader is aware of what took place on my arrival at
Indianapolis, after leaving the hospital. I felt somehow that it was my
last spree. I kept it up until nature could endure no more. I felt that my
stomach was burned up, and that my brain was scalded. I was crucified from
my head to the soles of my feet. I began to feel sure that this time I
would die, and, when dead, go to the hell which seemed to be open to
receive me. July twenty-first I left Indianapolis, and went to Fowler,
Indiana, at which place, for five days and nights, I suffered every mental
and physical pang that can afflict mortal man. Day and night I prayed God
to be merciful, but no relief came. The dark hopelessness in which I lay I
can not describe. I felt that I was undeserving of God's pardon or mercy. I
had wronged myself, and my friends more than myself; I had trampled upon
the love of Christ; I had loved myself amiss and lost myself. The Christian
people of Fowler prayed for me; they called a prayer-meeting especially for
me, to ask God to have mercy on and save me. On Wednesday night I went to
the regular prayer-meeting, and, with a breaking heart, begged, on
bended knee, that God would take compassion on me. The next day, July
twenty-sixth, was the most wretched day I ever passed on earth. It seemed
that whichsoever way I turned, hell's fiercest fires lapped up around my
feet. There seemed no escape for me. Like that scorpion girt with flames,
flee in any direction I would, I found the misery and suffering increasing.
I resolved to commit suicide, but when just in the act of taking my life
the Spirit of God restrained me. I met the Rev. Frank Taylor, the pastor at
Fowler. I told him my hopeless condition. He cheered me in every way
possible. In the evening we took a walk, and it was during this walk, while
in the act of reaching my hand down to my pocket to get a chew of tobacco,
that I felt a power hold back my hand, and, plainer than any spoken words,
this same power told me not to touch it. I obeyed, withdrew my hand, and at
that instant the glory of God filled my heart, suffering fled from me, and
in its stead came sweet peace.

I had been using enormous quantities of tobacco, and the use of this
narcotic increased, if it did not aid in bringing on my appetite for
liquor. I have at times suffered keenly from suddenly renouncing its use,
but from the time God fully restored me I have not tasted nor touched
tobacco and whisky or any other stimulants. Do not understand me as saying
that the appetite for them is dead, or that I have had no hours of
depression and struggle in which the old Satan tempted me. I expect all my
life to wage a battle against him, and to know what sorrow is and pain. But
by the grace of God I will dare to do right, and with his help I mean to be
victorious in every fight against sin. I will abase myself with a trusting
heart, and shrink from all self-esteem at war with the true principles to
which a follower of Christ should cling. I will grind myself to dust if by
so doing I may have God's grace. I fully realize that left to myself I am
nothing. Jesus is not only my Savior; he shall be my guide in all things.
His precious blood has redeemed me, and I am at rest in the shadow of the
Rifted Rock. Peace dwells within me, and joy and praise to the Father of
all mercies fill my soul. To that Father Almighty be the praise. I
earnestly desire the prayers of all Christian men and women. Every time you
pray ask God to keep and save me with a salvation which shall be



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