« AnteriorContinuar »
is, thou shalt not go out of prison till thou hast atoned for thy smaller sins.”—“ Hoc est, quod dicit, non egredieris de carcere, donec etiam minuta peccata persolvas"."
Our Redeemer, speaking of the sin against the Holy Ghost, makes a declaration which places the existence of a middle state, or a state of temporary purgation, beyond the smallest doubt For he says of this enormous crime, that it shall not be forgiven, neither in this world nor in the world to come?. From these words we justly and inevitably infer, that some sins are forgiven in the next world; for it is clearly impossible that the eternal wisdom of the Father should have uttered any unmeaning declaration, or have added a significant clause to a sentence, without designing to convey any notion whatever. Hence St. Augustine justly remarks on this passage: “ It could not be asserted with truth, that some sins would not be pardoned neither in this world nor in the world to come, unless there were some to which pardon would be granted, if not in this world, at least in the world to come.” Pardon of sin is therefore granted in the next life; but to whom?-to those confined to the prison of hell? Out of hell there can be no redemption, To those who are before the throne of God? that is surely unnecessary. The pardon bestowed
1 St. Hier. ad 5 Matt.
hunc loc. 2 Matt. xi. 32. 3 St. Aug. de Civitat. Dei, lib. xxi. 24.
in another world can therefore reach those souls only, whose smaller stains, sins and imperfections, are to be obliterated, and whose debts are to be cancelled, before they can be admitted to the pure sight and possession of God.
But that not a shadow of doubt may remain on the mind of the reader, on the subject of purgatory, I beg him to direct his attention to the practice of praying for the dead, which, at every period of time, has prevailed in the church. If the dead are to be prayed for, they must be in a situation in which benefit can be extended to them, and that cannot be in heaven, where such a resource would be unnecessary; nor can it be in hell, where it would be of no avail. The direct, the inevitable, and the only consequence of this practice, therefore, is, that a place of purgation, or a middle state, called purgatory, was always admitted, in which the souls of those confined in that prison could derive assistance from the suffrages of their surviving friends.
If the catechist doubts, for one moment, of the existence of this practice of praying for the dead, he, on examination, will be overpowered with authorities of every description, which ascertain the custom. The fact of Judas Maccabeus ordering prayers for the dead, and the marked commendation bestowed on the practice, stand on record'. If it be objected, that this
1 2 Maccab. xii. 43 et seq.
work is not genuine Scripture, the reply is obvious, that the Catholic church throughout the world regards it as such ; and that no Protestant can deem it otherwise than a grave and authentic portion of history, where the facts related are to be received with implicit credit. Let the reader hear what St. Augustine says on this subject': “In the books of the Maccabees, we read that sacrifice was offered for the dead; but if no traces were found in the ancient Scriptures, the practice of the universal church ought to possess no inconsiderable weight on the subject; where, among the prayers of the priest, which are poured forth to the Lord God at his altar, the recommendation of the dead holds a place.” The authority of the great St. Augustine, on the prevalence of any practice in the church, ought to be deemed decisive by any rational inquirer». St. Cyril, of Jerusalem, who flourished in the bright period of Christianity, bears ample testimony to the same observance, and to the benefit derived from it by the faithful departed'. To adduce farther authorities would be an necessary attempt to prove what cannot be denied; and what Protestant writers have ad
· De Curâ pro Mort. c. 1. · See also the same holy father, Serm. de verbis Apost. 172, olim 32.
* Catec. Myst. v. p. 328, edit. Don Touttée.
mitted'. If, therefore, prayers are offered for the dead, they must be in a situation to be benefited by the supplication; and that can neither be in heaven nor in hell; the practice, consequently, is an invincible proof of a middle state.-But it is now time to hear the catechist.
1. He says, that the Scripture mentions only heaven and hell, and takes no notice of purgatory. The answer to this is most simple and obvious. The Scriptures name not in express terms the Trinity, the consubstantiality of the Son, and many other essential points, which, however, in the estimation of the Protestant, are clearly proved from the sacred oracles. On the subject of purgatory, we are not contending for the name, but the substance of the thing; and this we deem sufficiently proved by the arguments adduced.
2. It is affirmed that we send to purgatory good men, of whom the apostle says, there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus”. To this we simply observe, that the souls confined in purgatory are those of good men indeed, but imperfect, whose stains and venial offences disqualify them from seeing God till they are
See Mr. Thorndike's Just Weights and Measures, c. xvi. p. 106; Lightfoot in Erub. xxxix.; Forbes on Purgatory; Taylor on Prophesy, p. 345, besides innumerable others.
Rom. viii. 1.
fully prepared. The text from St. Paul is nothing to the purpose ; for it merely declares, that there is no ground of condemnation for such as feel what he calls the law of the members, provided they withhold their consent from the motions of concupiscence, and walk not according to the flesh'.
3. Good men are said to rest from their labours'; and how can this be compatible with a place of torment? The answer is perfectly clear, that this description regards those persons there mentioned, who are perfect, and have nothing to atone fors; but that it cannot be applied to a countless multitude of Christians, who die in an imperfect state, though they may have preserved their faith, and may, at the hour of their departure, have had the fear and love of God before their eyes. These stains must be blotted out, before such souls can enjoy the God of all purity.
4. Then it is said, that the doctrine of purgatory is injurious to the merits of Christ, who has fully satisfied for us. That the merits of Christ are infinite, and that our Redeemer has fully paid our ransom, no doubt can be entertained. But this does not exempt us from doing what is necessary on our part, from bearing a resemblance to our crucified Lord, from taking
See the context, Rom. vii. 14—25. viii. 1-6.