Is it harsh to speak of hell?

With the recent controversy over Rob Bell’s forthcoming book, Love Wins, and his apparent attempt to redefine hell (read Tim Challies’ review) here’s a worthwhile quote from J.C. Ryle I came upon while studying John 8.

They are greatly mistaken who suppose that it is harsh and unkind to speak of hell and future punishment. How can such people get over such language as that which is before us? How can they account for many a like expression which our Lord used, and specially for such passages as those in which He speaks of the “worm that dies not, and the fire that is not quenched”? (Mark 9:46.) They cannot answer these questions. Misled by a false charity and a morbid amiability, they are condemning the plain teaching of the Scripture, and are wise above that which is written.

Let us settle it in our minds, as one of the great foundation truths of our faith, that there is a hell. Just as we believe firmly that there is an eternal heaven for the godly, so let us believe firmly that there is an eternal hell for the wicked. Let us never suppose that there is any lack of charity in speaking of hell. Let us rather maintain that it is the highest love to warn men plainly of danger, and to beseech them to “flee from the wrath to come.” It was Satan, the deceiver, murderer, and liar, who said to Eve in the beginning, “You shall not surely die.” (Gen. 3:4.) To shrink from telling men, that except they believe they will “die in their sins,” may please the devil, but surely it cannot please God.

We do no one favors by trying to soften the harshness of hell. Sinners need to understand the reality of hell’s eternal torment as much as the reality of eternal love for all who believe in the forgiving, grace giving, Savior.