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from henceforth, from the hour of their death, for they rest from their labours*. But miserable, says the Church of Rome, are many of the dead that die in the Lord, for a long time after, for they rest not from their labours, but labour under most grievous sufferings. But indeed, even their own apocryphal Scriptures might have taught them better than this. The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch themt. Nor is their plea from antiquity better than that from Scripture. For though many had adopted strange notions of these things, out of heathen fable and philosophy, into the Christian religion, yet purgatory, in the present Popish sense, was not heard of for 400 years after Christ; nor universally received even in the Western churches for 1000 years; nor almost in any other church than that of Rome to this day. But supposing there were such a place, how do they know concerning any particular person that he ever comes into it, or how long he stays in it? And if not, what is it but offering the sacrifice of fools I, to make thousands of prayers for one, who may be quite out of the reach of them, either in Heaven, or perhaps in Hell ? Though indeed, by praying for the very wickedest of men, as only in purgatory, they strongly tempt other wicked men to conclude, that none of their communion ever go to Hell. And thus is this invention at once so great a terror to good persons, and so great a comfort to bad ones, that one cannot help applying to it the Prophet's words: With lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad: and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked * Rev. xiv. 13.
+ Wisd, üi, 1. Eccles. v. 1.
way, by promising him life*. But were they to pray not for particular persons, as they do, but only in general for all that are there; where is the command, where is even the permission for it? Our brethren on earth we pray for, because the time of their trial is not yet over. But the state of the dead is fixed, and they shall receive, every man, not according to our prayer, but their own past works. Purgatory, they tell us, is that prison whence men shall not come out till they have paid the last farthing: and what room is there then for our prayers for them there? We own indeed, some sort of prayers for the dead were used by the church (though without any warrant for them that appears) very early, within 200 years after Christ. But then originally these were made, not for souls in purgatory, for.whom the Papists pray, but for saints in Paradise, for whom they do not pray; for all righteous persons deceased, prophets, apostles, martyrs, even for the blessed Virgin herself: and hence it appears by the way, that they did not pray to these since they prayed for them. And the subject-matter of their prayers was, that God would grant them his promised mercy in the Day of Judgment, and speedily complete their happiness in body and soul. In process of time, it must be owned, men fell into a variety of groundless suppositions, concerning the state of Christians between death and the resurrection; and upon these suppositions they formed their prayers, which many persons went so far as to imagine could benefit even sinners in Hell. But as all these suppositions, for a long time, were different from, and inconsistent with, the Romish notions of purgatory, so the prayers, which the ancients used for the dead, even were they of authority,
Ezek. xiii. 22.
(which they are not, for nothing is so but what appears to come from God,) would condemn, and not justify those prayers which the Papists use.
Another Popish method of relieving sinners is by indulgences. Originally this word meant a very right thing, the mitigation of the severity or length of ecclesiastical censures towards such, as, by an exemplary repentance, had deserved it. Nor was any other sort of indulgences known for at least 600 years, perhaps much longer. But the present notion of the Church of Rome about them, (though in their disputes with us they would fain disguise it if they could,) is this. Many of the Saints, it seems, having not only done enough to merit immediate entrance into Heaven, but more than was necessary for that purpose, this overplus of their goodness, called usually works of supererogation, joined with the infinite merits of Christ, makes a treasure of inestimable value, which the church hath the disposal of, and the Pope, as head of the church, applies towards the remission of their sins, who either fulfil in their lifetime certain conditions appointed by him, or whose friends will fulfil them after their deaths. Now we, on the contrary, have learnt from Scripture, that in many things the best of us all offend ; that, were our obedience perfect, it were no more than our duty; and that, to the grace of God, not to the merit of our works, the salvation of our souls is owing. In some respects indeed, in useless mortifications and observances of no value, we acknowledge many saints of their church have done much more than God requires, much more than he approves or will reward. But even had they done more really good things than they were obliged to, this might indeed increase their own happiness in another world: but what pretence is there for affirming, that instead of that it shall be transferred away to the benefit of others; and those others, just whomsoever the Pope shall please? This sure is very hard. But after all, what is the benefit conferred by these indulgences? If it be only deliverance, either wholly, or in part, from purgatory; there is no such place to be delivered from. And that it is from Hell, they dare not say indeed, but they do every thing that can make the ignorant think it. Why else are Christ's merits mentioned as one ground of indulgences ? For he hath not merited, they tell us, deliverance from temporary punishments, as purgatory is, but from eternal ones only. Why also do their indulgences declare themselves to bestow the most full remission and forgiveness of all sins, if they mean only the smallest part of forgiveness? These things are too plainly calculated to deceive poor wretches into a fatal belief, that, by such methods, wickedness here may become consistent with happiness hereafter. Repentance indeed is, in words, made one condition of obtaining these indulgences : but this is easily explained away, or overlooked amongst the others joined with it, of saying so many prayers, going to so many processions, and paying so much money. Nay, if their own historians are to be credited, the inhabitants of whole cities at once, upon visiting certain churches, and paying a certain sum, have before now been absolved of all their sins by the Pope, with these very words added; Even though they had not been contrite for them, nor confessed them. But, as the Reformation was first brought on by the enormities of indulgences, so, since the Reformation, they have in many places, both in this and other respects, greatly moderated their practices, though they have never effectually
disclaimed their principles. And indeed, as angry as they are with that happy event, they have great reason to be thankful for it, on account of several changes for the better, which it has produced amongst them, especially where part of any country have been Protestants. For elsewhere all their abuses are kept up. And for one proof of it, I have now in my custody a plenary indulgence granted for a small piece of gold at Rome this very year* to an absolute stranger, for himself, for his kindred to the third degree, and to thirty persons more for whose names a proper blank is left in the instrument. So that had not the Reformation given them some check, God knows whether by this time Christianity had been discoverable under the changes and disguises which the prevailing part of them would have deformed it with. Consider but to what lengths matters had already gone, in this one article of the remission of sins. The necessity of confession put the secrets of every man's heart and life into the breast of the priest, and the power of admitting into Heaven, or excluding from it, forced the bigotted sinner to do whatever should be enjoined him. In how monstrous a manner this power was used, the histories of all nations dreadfully show. And then to preserve it from growing quite intolerable, an artifice was added that made it still more fatal. It is too well known that mankind will do any thing rather than their duty, and part with any thing sooner than their vices. On the terms therefore of submitting in other points, they were made easy in this favourite one. The strictest rules of life indeed were laid down for such as thought themselves bound to be strict: but for those, who desired to be otherwise, superstitious observances