Embark on a transformative journey as you explore the remarkable story of salvation, recounted by the venerable Bishop Pechthelm. Experience the power of this narrative for yourself.

St. Bede’s Account: The Black Book Of Crimes

Excerpted from Saints Who Saw Hell, this account from St. Bede follows the vision of a young man who was given foresight of his judgment. In this vision, he saw his good deeds and sins laid before him in two books, one from the heavenly hosts and the other from demons. 


“Only a while ago,” he replied, “there came into this room two handsome young men. They sat down by me, one at my head, and the other at my feet. One of them took out a most beautiful book, but a very small one, and gave it me to read. 

“When I looked into it, I found there all the good actions I had ever done in my life written down. But they were very few and insignificant. They took back the book and said nothing to me.

“Then, all of a sudden, there appeared an army of evil spirits with hideous faces. They surrounded this house outside and, sitting down, filled the greater part of the house inside. One of them, by the blackness of his gloomy face, and his position sitting above the rest, seemed to be their leader.

“He took out a book that was terrifying to behold, so monstrous in size that it could hardly be lifted. Then he commanded one of his followers to bring it to me to read. Having read it, I found there most plainly written in hideous characters all the crimes I ever committed—not only in word and deed, but even in the least thought.

“Then he said to those glorious men in white raiment who sat beside me, ‘Why are you sitting here, since you know for certain that this man is ours?’

“They answered, ‘You speak truly. Take him and lead him away to fill up the measure of your damnation.’

“Once this was said, they vanished, and two wicked spirits arose, having in their hands ploughshares. One of them struck me on the head, and the other on the foot. These blades are now with great torment creeping into the inward parts of my body. As soon as they meet I will die, and since the devils are ready to snatch me away, I will be dragged into the dungeons of hell.”

In this way, the wretch spoke in his despair. Soon afterward he died, and now he suffers in eternal torments the penance that he failed to suffer for a short time to bear the fruits of forgiveness. It is clear (as the blessed Pope Gregory writes of certain persons) that he did not see these things for his own sake, since they were of no benefit to him. Instead, he saw all this for the sake of others who, knowing his fate, should be afraid to postpone the time of repentance, while they have the opportunity. Otherwise, they might be prevented by sudden death, and perish without having repented. This man saw various books laid there before him by the good and evil spirits; by God’s arrangement, this was done by Divine dispensation, so that we may keep in mind that our deeds and thoughts are not scattered to the winds, but are all preserved to be examined by the Supreme Judge. In the end, they will be shown to us either by friendly angels or by the enemy.

The angels first took out a white book, and then the devils a black one. The former was a very small one, and the latter one quite large. So we should observe that in his early years, he did some good deeds, all which he nevertheless obscured by the evil actions of his youth. If, on the other hand, he had taken care in his youth to correct the errors of his boyhood, and by well-doing to put them away from the sight of God, he might have been admitted to the fellowship of those of whom the Psalm says, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Ps 32:1).

This story, as I learned it from the venerable Bishop Pechthelm, I have thought worthy to set forth plainly, for the salvation of those who may read or hear it.

This article is taken from a chapter in Saints Who Saw Hell by Paul Thigpen, PhD which is available from TAN Books

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