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the assemblies of the faithful by excommunication, and placed under a tremendous course of penance; he gives unequivocal signs of repentance, and his sufferings are abridged by an indulgence, pronounced in the name of Christ'. This is precisely the conduct and discipline followed by the church at various periods. To satisfy the divine justice, to devise a salutary check on the sinner, and to obviate the facility of a relapse into great crimes, temporal chastisements are inflicted, which must either be endured in this life, or the debt will remain to be cancelled in another. The penitent shows extraordinary signs of repentance; and the church, in imitation of St. Paul, and by virtue of the power left by Christ, for grave reasons interposes, and grants either a partial or a plenary indul· gence, according to the circumstances of the
Of the exercise of this power, innumerable examples occur in the faithful records of Christian antiquity : the earliest fathers are witnesses of the practice of the church in this particular; and from the twelfth century even the catechist entertains no doubt on the subject. Tertullian, in his celebrated address to the Martyrs, evidently refers to it as a practice established in the church”: and St. Cyprian describes the effects of
i See and
compare 1 Cor. v. 4, 5, with 2 Cor. ii. 6, et seq. ? Vide Tertull. ad Martyr. circ. init.
such an indulgence, not only as operating on the immediate release of the sinner from the canonical penance, but as removing the debt due to the divine justice'. This, with various other evidence to be found in the works of St. Cyprian, is of so satisfactory a nature, as to the practice of the church in the purest ages, that we forbear farther quotations.—But let us hear the catechist.
I. He is pleased to say, that this doctrine of indulgences is built on false foundations, namely, on purgatory, the supererogation of the saints, imperfect forgiveness, and the necessity of satisfaction to the divine justice. As to the doctrine of purgatory, we have already given full information on that subject. With respect to what is alleged, concerning the share borne by the saints in this concern, we have to state with the utmost certainty, that independently of the grace and merit of our Redeemer, nothing can be achieved ; for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved”. If, therefore, we connect the merit and suffrages of the saints with the satisfaction of our Redeemer, we barely consider them as his friends, owing every thing to his merits, acting under the influence of his grace, and co-operating with his designs. As to the imperfect remission of sin,
See this celebrated and satisfactory testimony, St. Cypr. Epist. 13, 14, edit. Pamel., Epist. 18, 19, edit. Oxon.
? Acts, iv. 12.
let me again correct that notorious error, which makes an indulgence consist in the remission of sin, and not in the release of the temporal punishment due after the sin has been actually forgiven. With regard to the necessity of satisfying the divine justice, no man that has the slightest acquaintance with the divine oracles, can call it in question. Does not St. Paul declare that he rejoices in his sufferings, and that he fills up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ, and that not for himself only, but for the whole church”? He unquestionably does not mean to assert, that the ransom of our Redeemer was insufficient as to its value ; but he positively requires, that we should co-operate with it on our part, in order that, agreeably to the idea of St. Bernard, the members may retain some resemblance to their head.
II. That these indulgences were not heard of in the primitive church, that they are wholly engrossed by the pope, and that they are sold for money, are three notorious falsehoods. Of the antiquity of the practice, we have already afforded the most unexceptionable evidence: as to the pope's authority on the subject, it is true, that he alone can confer an indulgence on all members of the Catholic church, as his jurisdiction extends to the limits of the Catholic world; but it is untrue to assert, that he engrosses the whole concern; for each bishop in his diocess has a right not only to grant an indulgence, but to prohibit the publication of any such grant among his flock, without his express leave'. As to the sale of indulgences, it is a vulgar and coarse slander, disreputable to the dignity of a gentleman who countenances it, and fatal to the credit of a writer who publishes it to the world. Indulgences are usually granted on the performances of certain good works, which are reduci-, ble to prayer, fasting, and alms deeds; and the money bestowed on charitable objects, instead of passing into the coffers of the pope, is given at the discretion of the penitent.
1 Coloss. i. 24.
III. The ideas of the catechist concerning the relaxation of canonical penances, in the first ages, are proved to be perfectly erroneous, by the authority of St. Cyprian, to which we before referred. For this father distinctly states, that those who had received the benefit of an indulgence at the request of the martyrs, might be assisted before God by their interposition ; and in the event of infirmity and danger, might, after making their confession, and receiving the imposition, be sent to the Lord with the peace promised to them by the martyrs. This passage invincibly proves, that the effect of the cele
Vide Collet. Append, de Indulg. cap. ii. conclus. 3, ad. calcem Tract, de Matrimon.
• Vid. St. Cypr. loc. cit.
brated indulgences granted at the request of the martyrs, not only procured the relaxation of the canonical penances, but were available in the sight of God to cancel the entire debt.
IV. The calumnies contained in this corresponding number, have been amply refuted in our preceding pages. As to the vulgar charge before noticed, of accumulating money by these grants, let it be farther known, that if the church, by her ministers, point out any good works, towards which any contributions may be solicited, she guards against all mean desires of gain, and the low feelings of avarice, with the most delicate circumspection; and surely she cannot be chargeable with such abuses as she strictly prohibits?
V. The apprehensions of the catechist, that indulgences may prevent true repentance, arise solely from his want of information on the subject. The use of indulgences cannot prevent that, the previous existence of which is absolutely necessary that they be brought into operation. By true repentance, and the use of the sacramentof penance, sin must first be remitted before an indulgence can be obtained: then the good works prescribed are to be performed by the penitent in a state of grace, unstained by mortal sin, and without affection to sin. The good
1 Vid. Conc. Trid. Decrét. de Indulg.