Tracts for the Times
(Against Romanism.No. 3.)
THE extract from Archbishop Usshers Answer to a Jesuit, contained in Tract 72, on the subject of the ancient Commemorations for the Dead in Christ, may fitly be succeeded by an inquiry as to what degree and sort of proof remains for the Roman tenet of Purgatory, after deducting from the evidence those usages or statements of the early Church, which are commonly supposed, but, as Ussher shows, improperly, to countenance it. Usshers explanations have had the effect, it is presumed, of cutting away the prima facie evidence, on which the doctrine is usually rested; and it now remains to see what is left when it is withdrawn. With this view it is proposed in the following pages to draw out in detail the evidence alleged by the Romanists in behalf of their belief, with such remarks as may be necessary, in order to form a fair estimate of it. A plain statement of the doctrine itself; and of its rise, shall be also attempted, as not unseasonable at a time when the strength of Romanism rests in no small degree in its opponents mistaking the points in debate, and making or refuting propositions which but indirectly or partially bear upon the errors which they desire to combat.
Before commencing, it is necessary to warn the reader against estimating the magnitude or quality of any of those errors by its apparent dimensions in the theory. What seems to be a small deviation from correctness in the abstract system, becomes considerable and serious when it assumes a substantive form. This is especially the case with all doctrinal discussions, in which the undeveloped germs of many diversities of practice and moral character, lie thick together in small compass, and as if promiscuously and without essential differences. The highest truths differ from the most miserable delusions by what appears to be a few words or letters. The discriminating mark of orthodoxy, the Homoousion, has before now been ridiculed, however irrationally, as being identical, all but the letter i, with the heretical symbol of the Homoiousion. What is acknowledged in the Arian controversy, must be endured without surprise in the Roman, in whatever degree it occurs. We may be taunted as differing from the Romanists only in phrases and modes of expression; and we may be taunted, or despised, according to the fate of our Divines for three centuries past, as taking a middle, timid, unsatisfactory ground, neither quite agreeing nor quite disagreeing with our opponents. We may be charged with dwelling on trifles and niceties, in a way inconsistent with plain, manly good sense; but in truth it is not we who are the speculatists, and unpractical controversialists, but they who forget that hae nugae seria ducunt in mala.
But again there is another reason, peculiar to the Roman controversy, which occasions a want of correspondence between the appearance presented by the Roman theology in theory, and its appearance in practice. The separate doctrines of Romanism are very different, in position, importance, and mutual relation, in the abstract, and when developed, applied, and practised. Anatomists tell us that the skeletons of the most various animals are formed on the same type; yet the animals are dissimilar and distinct, in consequence of the respective differences of their developed proportions. No one would confuse between a lion and a bear; yet many of us at first sight would be unable to discriminate between their respective skeletons. Romanism in the theory may differ little from our own creed; nay, in the abstract type, it might even be identical, and yet in the actual framework, and still further in the living and breathing form, it might differ essentially. For instance, the doctrine of Indulgences is, in the theory, entirely connected with the doctrine of Penance; that is, it has relation solely to this world, so much so that Roman apologists sometimes speak of it without even an allusion to its bearings elsewhere: but we know that in practice it is mainly, if not altogether, concerned with the next world,with the alleviation of sufferings in Purgatory.
And further still, as regards the doctrine of Purgatorial suffering, there have been for many ages in the Roman Church gross corruptions of its own doctrine, untenable as that doctrine is even by itself. The decree of the Council of Trent, which will presently be introduced, acknowledges the fact. Now we believe that those corruptions still continue; that Rome has never really set herself in earnest to eradicate them. The pictures of Purgatory so commonly seen in countries in communion with Rome, the existence of Purgatorian societies, the means of subsistence accruing to the clergy from belief in it, afford a strange contrast to the simple wording and apparent innocence of the decree by which it is made an article of faith. It is the contrast between poison in its lifeless seed, and the same developed, thriving, and rankly luxuriant in the actual plant.
And lastly, since we are in no danger of becoming Romanists, and may bear to be dispassionate and (I may say) philosophical in our treatment of their errors, some passages in the following account of Purgatory are more calmly written than would satisfy those who were engaged with a victorious enemy at their doors. Yet, whoever be our opponent, Papist or Latitudinarian, it does not seem to be wrong to be as candid and conceding as justice and charity allow us. Nor is it unprofitable to weigh accurately how much the Romanists have committed themselves in their formal determinations of doctrine, and how far by GODS merciful providence they had been restrained and overruled; and again how far they must retract, in order to make amends to Catholic truth and unity.
ß 1. STATEMENT OF THE ROMAN DOCTRINE CONCERNING PURGATORY
ß 2. PROOF OF THE ROMAN DOCTRINE CONCERNING PURGATORY.
ß 3. HISTORY OF THE RISE OF THE DOCTRINE OF PURGATORY, AND OPINIONS IN THE EARLY CHURCH CONCERNING IT.
ß 4. THE COUNCIL OF FLORENCE.
ß 1. STATEMENT OF THE ROMAN DOCTRINE CONCERNING PURGATORY.
THE Roman doctrine is thus expressed in the Creed of Pope Pius IV.
Constanter teneo Purgatorium esse, animasque ibi detentas fidelium suffragiis juvari.
"I hold without wavering that there is a Purgatory, and that souls there detained are aided by the suffrages of the faithful."
The words of this article are taken from the degree of the Council of Trent on the subject, (Sess. 25,) which runs as follows:
"Whereas the Church Catholic, fully instructed by the Holy Ghost, hath from the sacred Scriptures and ancient tradition of the Fathers, in sacred Councils, and last of all in this present Oecumenical Synod, taught that there is a Purgatory, and that souls there detained are aided by the suffrages of the living, and above all by the acceptable sacrifice of the Altar, this holy Synod enjoins on Bishops, to make diligent efforts that the sound doctrine concerning Purgatory, handed down from the holy Fathers and sacred Councils, be believed, maintained, taught, and everywhere proclaimed by the disciples of Christ. At the same time, as regards the uneducated multitude, let the more difficult and subtle questions, such as tend not to edification nor commonly increase piety, be excluded from popular discourses. Moreover let them disallow the publication and discussion of whatever is uncertain or suspicious; and prohibit whatever is of a curious or superstitious nature, or savours of filthy lucre, as the scandals and stumbling-blocks of believers. And let them provide, that the suffrages of believers living, that is, the sacrifices of masses, prayers, alms, and other works of piety, which believers living are wont to perform for other believers dead, be performed according to the rules of the Church, piously and religiously; and whatever are due for them from the endowments of testators, or in other way, be fulfilled, not in a perfunctory way, but diligently and accurately by the Priests and Ministers of the Church, and others who are bound to do this service."
Such is the Roman doctrine; and taken in the mere letter there is little in it against which we shall be able to sustain formal objections. Purgatory is not spoken of at all as a place of pain; it need only mean, what its name implies, a place of purification. There is indeed much presumption in asserting definitively that there is such a place, and assuredly there is not only presumption, but very great daring and uncharitableness in including belief in it, as Pope Pius Creed goes on to do, among the conditions of salvation; but if we could consider it as confined to the mere opinion that that good which is begun on earth is perfected in the next world, the tenet would be tolerable. The word "detentas" indeed expresses a somewhat stronger idea; yet after all hardly more than that the souls in Purgatory would be happier out of it than in it, and that they cannot of their own will leave it; which is not much to grant. Further, that the prayers of the living benefit the dead in Christ, is, to say the least, not inconsistent, as Ussher shows us, with the primitive belief. So much as to the letter of the decree; but it is not safe to go by the letter: on the contrary, we are bound to take the universal and uniform doctrine taught and received in the Roman Communion, as the real and true interpreter of words which are in themselves comparatively innocent. What that doctrine is, may be gathered from the words of the Catechism of Trent, in which the spirit of Romanism, not being bound by the rules which shackle it in the Council, speaks out. The account of Purgatory which that formulary supplies, shall here be taken as our text, and Cardinal Bellarmines Defence shall be used as a comment upon it.The Catechism then speaks as follows:
"Est Purgatorius ignis, quo piorum animae ad definitum tempus cruciataeexpiantur, ut eis in aeternam patriam ingressus patere possit, in quam nillil coiquinatum ingreditur."Part i. De Symb. 5.
"There is a Purgatorial fire, in which the souls of the pious are tormented for a certain time, and cleansed, in order that an entrance may lie open to them into their eternal home, into which nothing defiled enters."
In like manner Bellarmine says,
"Purgatory is a certain place in which, as if in a prison, souls are purged after this life, which have not been fully purged in it, in order, (that is,) that thus purged they may be enabled to enter heaven, which nothing defiled shall enter."
A painful light is at once cast by these comments on the Synodal Decree. "There is a Purgatory" in the Decree, is interpreted by Bellarmine "there is a sort of prison;" and by the Catechism, "there is a Purgatorial fire." And whereas the Decree merely declares that souls are "detained there," the Catechism says they are "tormented and cleansed." Moreover, both the Catechism and Bellarmine imply that this is the ordinary mode of attaining heaven, inasmuch as no one scarcely can be considered, and no one can be surely known, to leave this world "fully purged;" whereas the Decree speaks vaguely of "the souls there." So much at first sight; now to consider the persons with which Purgatory is concerned, the sins, condition of souls, place, time, punishment, and remedies; Bellarmine likening it to a carcer, the Catechism saying that the "animae piorum ad definitum tempus cruciatae expiantur purgatorio igne."
1. The Persons who are reserved for Purgatory.
THE Roman Church holds that Christians or believers only are tenants of Purgatory, as for Christians only are offered their prayers, alms, and masses. The question follows whether all Christians ? not all Christians, but such as die in GOD'S favour, yet with certain sins unforgiven. Some Christians die simply in GOD'S favour with all their sins forgiven; others die out of His favour. as the impenitent, whether Christians or not; but others, and that the great majority, die, according to the Romanists, in GOD'S favour, yet more or less under the bond of their sins. And so far we may unhesitatingly allow to them, or rather we ourselves hold the same, if we hold that after Baptism there is no plenary pardon of sins in this life to the sinner, however penitent, such as in Baptism was once vouchsafed to him. If for sins committed after Baptism we have not yet received a simple and unconditional absolution, surely penitents from this time up to the day of judgment may be considered in that double state of which the Romanists speak, their persons accepted, but certain sins uncancelled. Such a state is plainly revealed to us in Scripture as a real one, in various passages, to which we appeal as well as the Romanists. Let the case of David suffice. On his repentance Nathan said to him, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die; howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die." 2 Sam. xii 13, 14. Here is a perspicuous instance of a penitent restored to GOD'S favour at once, yet his sin afterwards visited; and it needs very little experience in life to be aware that such punishments occur continually, though no one takes them to be an evidence that the sufferer himself is under GOD'S displeasure, but rather accounts them punishments even when we have abundant proofs of his faith, love, holiness, and fruitfulness in good works. So far then we can not be said materially to oppose the Romanists. They on the other hand agree with us in maintaining that CHRIST'S death might, if GOD so willed, be applied for the removal even of these specific punishments of sins which they call temporal punishments, as fully as it really is for the acceptance of the soul of the person punished, or the removal of eternal punishment. Further both parties agree, that in matter of fact it is not so applied; the experience of life shows it; else every judgment might be taken as evidence of the person suffering it being under GOD'S wrath. The death of the disobedient prophet from Judah would, in that case, prove that he perished eternally, which surely would be utterly presumptuous and uncharitable. As far as this then we have no violent difference of principle with the Romanists; but at this point we separate from them; they say these temporal punishments on sin are inflicted on the faults incurring them, in a certain fixed proportion; that every sin of a certain kind bas a definite penalty or price; in consequence, that if it is not fully discharged in this life, it must be hereafter; and that Purgatory is the place of discharging it.
2. The sins for which persons are confined in Purgatory.
The next question is, what are the sins which are thus punished? not all sins of Christians, for some incur an eternal punishment. There are sins, it is maintained, which in themselves merit eternal damnation, are directly opposed to love or charity, quench grace, and throw the doer of them out of GOD'S favour. These in consequence are called mortal; such as murder, adultery, or blasphemy. Such sins do not lead to Purgatory; hell is their portion if unrepented of. But all but these, all but unrepented mortal sins are in the case of Christians punished in Purgatory. Of these it follows there are two kinds, sins though repented of, and sins though not mortal; concerning which a few words shall be said.
1. Mortal sins, though repented of, and though the offender cease to be under GOD'S displeasure, yet have visibly their own punishment in many cases, as in the instance of David. But the Romanists consider that these sins have their penalty assigned to them as if by weight and measure; moreover, that we can ourselves take part in discharging it, and by our own act anticipate and supersede GOD'S judgment, according to the text: "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." This voluntary act on our part is called Penance, and is said to expiate the sin, that is, to wash away its temporal effects. Should we die before the full temporal punishment, or satisfaction, has been paid for all our mortal sins, we must pay the rest hereafter, i. e. in Purgatory.
2. Sins which are not mortal, are called venial, and are such as do not quench grace, or run counter to love. Bellarmine thus contrasts them:
"Mortal sins are they which absolutely turn us from GOD, and merit eternal punishment; Venial those which somewhat impede our course to Him, but do not turn it, and are with little pains blotted out. The former are crimes, the latter sins....Mortal sin is like a deadly wound, which suddenly kills; Venial is a slight stroke, which does not endanger life, and is easily healed. The former fights with love, which is the soul's life; the latter is rather beside than against love."De Amiss. Grat. i. 2.
Venial sin differs from Mortal in two ways, in kind and degree. An idle word, excessive laughter, and the like, are sins in kind distinct from perjury or adultery. Again, anger is a venial sin when slight and undesigned, but when indulged interferes with love and is mortal; a theft of a large sum may be mortal, of a small venial.
Venial sins, being such, are considered by Romanists not to deserve so much as eternal punishment,to be pardonable not merely by an express and immediate act of GODS mercy, or again through the virtue of our state of regeneration, but to be intrinsically venial, to offend GOD, but not so as to alienate Him. They rest this doctrine upon such passages as the following: "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death," James i. 15.; therefore, before it is finished or perfected, it has no such fearful power. Still they say it requires some punishment; which it receives in the next world, should it not receive it in this, that is, in Purgatory.
Such then are the sins of GOD'S true servants, penitent believers, for which, according to the Romanists, they suffer in Purgatory; mortal sins repented of, and those sins of infirmity which befall them so continually and so secretly, that they cannot repent of them specifically if they would, and which do not deserve eternal punishment, though they do not. They consider the Purgatorial punishment of venial sins to be meant by the Apostle, when he speaks of those who, building on the true foundation "wood, bay, and stubble," are "saved so as by fire;" and the punishment for mortal sins, in our SAVIOUR'S declaration that certain prisoners shall not go out till they have "paid the very last mite." Luke xii. 59. It may be added, that Martyrdom is supposed to be a full expiation of whatever guilt of sin still rests on the Christian undergoing it; and therefore to stand instead of Purgatory. Martyrs then are at once admitted to the Beatific Vision, which is the privilege in which Purgatory terminates.
From this account of the inmates of Purgatory, and the causes why they are there detained, we gather what has already been hinted, that the one main or rather sole reason of the appointment, is a satisfaction to GODS justice. The persons concerned are believers destined for bliss eternal; but before they pass on from earth to heaven, the course of their existence is, as it were, suspended, and they are turned aside to discharge a debt; how they effect it, or in what length of time, or with what effect on themselves, being questions as beside the mark, as if they were used with reference to the payment of a charge in worldly matters. It is an appointment altogether without bearing upon their moral character or eternal prospects; and after it is over, is wiped out as though it had never been.
3. The moral condition of souls in Purgatory.
Bellarmine well illustrates the supposed mental state of believers while in Purgatory by comparing them to travellers who come up to a fortified town after nightfall, and have to wait at the gates till the morning. Such persons have come to the end of their journey; they are not on the way, they have attained; they are sure of admittance, which is a matter of time only. Accordingly the Romanists hold that souls in Purgatory be come neither better or worse, neither sin nor add to their good works; they are one and all perfect in love, and ready for heaven, were it not for this debt, which hangs about them as so much rust or dross, and cannot be purged away except by certain appointed external remedies. They support this view of the stationary condition of the soul in Purgatory by such texts as, the following: "The night cometh, when no man can work." "Where the tree falls, there it shall be." "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body." John ix. 4. Eccles. xi. 3. 2 Cor. v. 10.
Next, with the exception of some few theologians, they consider that souls in Purgatory are comforted with the assurance that their eternal happiness is secured to them. Their state in consequence is thus described by Bellarmine (ii. 4.).
"You will object that they may be in doubt whether they are in hell or in purgatory. Not so; for in hell GOD is blasphemed, in Purgatory He is praised; in hell there is neither habit of faith, nor hope, nor love of GOD, in Purgatory all of these. A soul then which shall understand that it hopes in GOD, praises and loves GOD, will clearly know it is not in hell. But perhaps it will fear it is to be sent to hell, though not there yet; neither can this be, for the same faith remains in it, which it had here. Here it believed according to the plain word of Scripture, that after death none can become of good bad, or of bad good, and none but the bad are to be sent into hell. When then it perceives that it loves God, and is therefore good, it will not fear damnation."
4. The place and tame of Purgatory.
On this subject the Church has not formally determined any thing; but the common opinion of the Schoolmen is that it is one of four prisons or receptacles, which are situated in the heart of the earth, Hell for the damned, the Limbus Puerorum for children dying without Baptism, the Limbus Patrum for the just who died before the passion of CHRIST, and who since that time have all been transferred from it to heaven, and Purgatory for believers under punishment. In other words, whereas all punishment is either for a time or eternal, either positive (poena sensus), or negative (poena damni), that of good men before CHRISTS coming, was the poena damna, or absence of GODS light and joy for a time, that of unbaptized infants is the poena damni for ever, that of Purgatory the poena sensus for a time, that of Hell the poena sensus for ever. To these some Romanists have added a fifth, that is, of faithful souls, who without being yet admitted into heaven, are yet secured against all pain; but these according to Bellarmine, as at least enduring the poena damni, are to be considered in Purgatory, though in the most tolerable place in it, as being but in the condition of the old Fathers before CHRIST came.
The time of Purgatory depends of course upon the state of the debt which is to be liquidated in each case, and varies consequently with the individual. Martyrs, as has been above stated, are supposed to satisfy it in the very act of Martyrdom, others will not be released till the day of judgment. Again, the period of suffering depends upon the exertions of survivors, by prayers, alms, and masses, which have power not only to relieve but to shorten the pain.
5. The nature of the Punishment.
Here the Roman Church has defined nothing; its catechism, as we have seen, and its theologians in accordance, consider it to be material fire, but in the Council of Florence, the Greeks would not do more than subscribe to the existence of Purgatory; they denied that the punishment was fire; the question accordingly remains open, that is, it is not determined either way de fide. The difficulty, how elementary fire or any thing of a similar nature can affect the disembodied soul, is paralleled by St. Austin by the mystery of the union of soul and body.
The pains of Purgatory are considered to be horrible and far exceeding any in this life; "Poenas Purgatorii esse atrocissimas; et cum illis nullas poenas hujus vitae comparandas, docent constanter Patres," says Bellarmine (ii. 14.), and proceeds to refer to Austin, Pope Gregory, Bede, Anselm, and Bernard. Yet on this point theologians differ. Some consider the chief misery to consist in the poena damni, or absence of GODS presence, which to holy souls, understanding and desiring it, would be as intolerable as extreme thirst or hunger to the body; and in this way seem to put all purgatorial pain on a level, or rather assign the greater pain to the more spiritually minded. Others consider the poena damni to be alleviated by the certainty of heaven and of the continually lessening term of their punishment. With them then the poena sensus, or the fire, is the chief source of torment, which admits of degrees according to the will of GOD.
6. The efficacy of the suffrages of the Church.
By suffrages are meant, co-operations of the living with the dead; prayers, masses, and works, such as alms, pilgrimages, fastings, &c. These aids which individuals can supply, alms, prayers, &c., only avail when offered by good persons; for he who is not accepted himself, cannot do acceptable service for another. Moreover these aids may be directed either to the benefit of all souls in Purgatory indiscriminately, or specially to the benefit of a certain soul in particular. There is one other means of escaping the penalties due to sin in Purgatory, which may briefly be mentioned, viz. by the grant of indulgences; these are dispensed on the following theory. Granting that a certain fixed temporal penalty attached to every act of sin, in such case, it would be conceivable that, as the multitude of Christians did not discharge their total debt in this life, so some extraordinarily holy men might more than discharge it. Such are the Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, Ascetics, and the like, who have committed few sins, and have undergone extreme labours and sufferings, voluntary or involuntary. This being supposed, the question rises, what becomes of the overplus; and then there seems a fitness that what is not needed for themselves, should avail for their brethren who are still debtors. It is accordingly stored, together with CHRISTS merits, in a kind of treasure house, to be dispensed according to the occasion, and that at the discretion of the Church. The application of this treasure is called an Indulgence, which stands instead of a certain time of penance in this life, or for the period, whatever it be, to which that time is commuted in Purgatory. In this way, the supererogatory works of the Saints are supposed to go in payment of the debts of ordinary Christians.
ß 2. PROOF OF THE ROMAN DOCTRINE CONCERNING PURGATORY.
1. Proofs from supernatural appearances.
THE argumentative ground, on which the belief in Purgatory was actually introduced, would seem to lie in the popular stories of apparitions witnessing to it. Not that it rose in consequence of them historically, or that morally it was founded on them; only that when persons came to ask themselves why they received it, this was the ultimate ground of evidence on which the mind fell back; viz. the evidence of miracles, not of Scripture, or of the Fathers.
Bellarmine enumerates it as one of the confirmatory arguments. With this view he refers in particular to some relations of Gregory of Tours, A.D. 573; of Pope Gregory, A.D. 600; of Bede, A.D. 700; of Peter Damiani, A.D. 1057; of St. Bernard, A.D. 1100, and of St. Anselm, A.D. 1100. The dates are worth noticing, if it be true, as is here assumed, that such supernatural accounts as then were put forth, are really the argument on which the doctrine was and is received; for it would thence appear, first that the doctrine was not taught as divine before the end of the sixth century, next that when it was propagated, it was so on an (alleged) new revelation. The following miraculous narratives are found in a Protestant Selection from Roman writers, published in 1688, and entitled "Purgatory proved by Miracles."
"St. Gregory, the great, writes that the soul of Paschasius appeared to St. Germanus, and testified to him, that he was freed from the pains of Purgatory for his prayers.
"When the same St. Gregory was abbot of his Monastery, a monk of his, called Justus, now dead, appeared to another monk, called Copiosus, and advertized him, that he had been freed from the torments of Purgatory, by thirty Masses, which Pretiosus, Prefect of the Monastery by the order of St. Gregory, had said for his soul, as is recounted in his life.
"St. Gregory of Tours writes of a holy damsel, called Vitaliana, that she appeared to St. Martin, and told him she had been in Purgatory for a venial sin which she had committed, and that she had been delivered by the prayers of the Saint.
"Peter Damiani writes, that St. Severin appeared to a clergyman, and told him, that he had been in Purgatory, for not having said the Divine Service at due hours, and that afterwards GOD had delivered him, and carried him to the company of the blessed.
"St. Bernard writes, that St. Malachy freed his sister from the pains of Purgatory by his prayers; and that the same sister had appeared unto him, begging of him that relief and favour.
"And St. Bernard himself by his intercession freed another, who had suffered a whole year the pains of Purgatory; as William, Abbot, writes in his life."Flowers Of the Lives of the Saints, p. 830.
These instances among others are adduced by Bellarmine; and he adds, "plura similia legi possunt apud, &c..........sed quae attulimus, sunt magis authentica."i. 11.
2. Proofs from the Old and New Testaments.
Bellarmine adduces the following texts from the Old and New Testaments; in doing which he must not be supposed to mean, that each of them contains in itself the evidence of its relevancy and availableness, or could be understood without some authoritative interpretation; only, if it is asked, "is Purgatory the doctrine of Holy Scripture, and where?" he would answer, that in matter of fact it as taught in the following passages, according to the explanations of them found in various writers of consideration.
1. 2 Macc. xii. 4245. "Besides that noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forsomuch as they saw before their eyes the things that came to pass for the sins of those that were slain. And when he had made a gathering throughout the company to the sum of two thousand drachms of silver, he sent it to Jerusalem, to offer a sin offering, doing therein very well and honestly, in that he was mindful of the Resurrection; for if he had not hoped that they that were slain should have risen again, it had been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. And also, in that he perceived that there was great favour laid up for those that died godly, it was an holy and good thought. Whereupon he made a reconciliation for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin."
2. Tob. iv. 17. "Pour out thy bread on the burial of the just, but give nothing to the wicked;" that is, at the burial of the just, give alms; which were given to gain for them the prayers of the poor.
3. 1 Sam. xxxi. 13. "And they took their bones," [of Saul and his sons,] "and buried them under a tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days." Vid. also 2 Sam. i. 12. iii. 35. This fasting was an offering for their souls.
4. Ps. xxxviii. 1. "O Lord, rebuke me not in Thy wrath; neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure." By wrath is meant Hell; by hot displeasure, Purgatory.
5. Ps. lxvi. 12. "We went through fire and through water, but Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place," (refrigerium.) Water is Baptism; fire is Purgatory.
6. Is. iv. 4. "When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning."
7. Is. ix. 18. "Wickedness burneth as the fire; it shall devour the briars and thorns."
8. Mic.vii. 8,9. "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him, until He plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold His righteousness."
9. Zech. ix. 11. "As for Thee also, by the blood of Thy covenant, I have sent forth Thy prisoners out of the pit, wherein is no water." This text is otherwise taken to refer to the Limbus Patrum.
10. Mal. iii. 3. "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver," &c.
From the New Testament he adduces the following texts:
1. Matt. xii. 32. "Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come:" that means, "neither in Purgatory," for in hell the very supposition of forgiveness is excluded.
2. 1 Cor. iii. 15. "He himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
3. l Cor. xv. 29. "Else what shall they do, which are baptized" i.e. who undergo the baptism of tears and humiliation, who pray, fast, give alms, &c. "for the dead, if the dead rise not at all?"
4. Matt. v. 25, 26.Luke xii. 58, 59. "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily, I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing." By the way, is meant this present life; by the adversary, the Law; by the Judge, our Saviour; by the officer, or executioner, the Angels; by the prison, Purgatory.
5. Matt. v. 22. "Whosoever is angry with his brother with out a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the Council; but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." Here are three kinds of punishments spoken of Hell belongs to the next world; therefore also do the other two. Hence there are in the next world, besides eternal punishment, punishments short of eternal.
6. Luke xvi. 9. "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations." To fail, is to die; the friends are the Saints in glory, and they receive us, i.e. from Purgatory, in consequence of their prayers.
7. Luke xxiii. 42. "Lord, remember me, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom." That is, there is a remembrance and a remission of sin, not only in this life, but after it, in Christs future kingdom.
8. Acts ii. 24. "Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death (inferi); because it was not possible that He should be-holden of it." Christ Himself was released from no pains on being raised, nor were the ancient Fathers in the Limbus, nor were lost souls released at all. Therefore the pains which God loosed, were those of souls in Purgatory.
9. Phil. ii. 10. "That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth." Vid. also Rev. v. 3. "And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon."
Now as to many of these texts, we who have not been educated in the belief of Purgatory, may well wonder how they come to be enlisted in support of Purgatory at all. This may be explained in some such way as the following,which may be of use in helping us to understand the state of mind under which the Romanists view them. It is obvious, as indeed has been already remarked, that they do not of themselves prove the doctrine, nor are they chosen by Bellarmine himself, but given on the authority of writers of various times. Could indeed competent evidence be brought from other quarters, that the doctrine really was true and Apostolical, we should not unreasonably have believed that some of them did allude to it; especially if writers of name, who might speak from tradition, so considered. We could not have taken upon ourselves to say at first sight that it certainly was not contained in them, only we should have waited for evidence that it was. Some of the texts in question are obscure, and seem to desiderate a meaning; and so far it is a sort of gain when they have any meaning assigned them, as though they were unappropriated territory which the first comer might seize. Again, the coincidence of several of them in one and the same mode of expression, implies that they have a common drift, whatever that drift is,that there is something about them which seems to have reference to secrets untold to man. Amid these dim and broken lights, the text in the Apocrypha first quoted, comes as if to combine and steady them. All this is said by way of analysing how it is that such a class of texts, though of so little cogency critically, has that influence with individuals, which it certainly sometimes has. The reason seems to be that the doctrine of Purgatory professes to interpret texts which Gods word has left in obscurity. Yet, whatever be the joint force of such arguments from Scripture, in favor of the doctrine, it vanishes surely, at once and altogether, before one single clear text, such as the following: "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours." Or again, if any one is destined to endure Purgatory for the temporal punishment of sins, one should think it would be persons circumstanced as the thief on the cross,a dying penitent; yet to him it is expressly said, "Verily I say unto thee, to day shalt thou be with me in Paradise."
3. Proofs from Antiquity.
After Scripture, Bellarmine brings the testimony of early Churches in Council, as follows:
1. The African Church: "Let the Altar Sacrament be celebrated fasting; if, however, there be any Commendation of the Dead made in the afternoon, let prayers only be used."Conc. Carth. IV. c. 79.
2. The Spanish enjoins that suicides should not be prayed for, &c.Conc. Bracar. I. c. 39.
3. The Gallic: "It has seemed fit, that in all celebrations of the Eucharist, the Lord should be interceded with in a suitable place in Church, for the spirits of the dead."Conc. Cabilon.
4. The German defines, (Conc. Wormat. c. 10.) that prayers and offerings should be made even for those who are executed.
5. The Italic declares (Conc. VI. under Symmachus) that it is sacrilege to defraud the souls of the dead of prayer, &c.
6. The Greek in like manner.
Moreover, the Liturgies of St. James, St. Basil, &c. all contain prayers for the dead. Now these professed instances are here enumerated in order to show how plainly and entirely they fall short of the point to be proved. Not one of them implies the doctrine of Purgatory; or goes beyond the doctrine which Archbishop Ussher (vide Tract 72.) has shown to have existed in the early Church, that the Saints departed were not at once in their full happiness, and that prayers benefited them. One of these instances indeed is somewhat remarkable, the allowing prayers for malefactors executed; but all were the subject of prayer who were not excluded from hope, and malefactors are, even by us, admitted to Holy Communion, and are allowed the Burial Service. To pray for them was merely the expression of hope.
Next, Bellarmine appeals to the Fathers, of whom I shall only cite those within the first five hundred years; viz. Tertullian, Cyprian, Eusebius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzen, Ambrose, Jerome, Chrysostom, Paulinus, Augustine, Theodoret, and one or two others. Now in order to keep the point in controversy clearly in view, let it be recollected that we are not disputing the existence in the Ritual of the Church, of the custom of praying for the dead in Christ; but why prayer was offered was a question in dispute, a point unsettled by any Catholic tradition, but variously treated by various Doctors at various times. There is no thing contrary to the genius of religion, natural and revealed, that duties should be prescribed, yet the reasons for them not told us, as Bishop Butler has abundantly showed; and the circumstance that the ancients do agree in the usage, but differ as to the reasons, shows that the reasons were built upon the usage, not the usage on the reasons. And while this variety of opinions in the early Church, as to the meaning of the usage, forfeits for any one of these any claim to be considered apostolical, of course it deprives the doctrine of Purgatory of authority inclusively, even supposing for arguments sake it was received by some early writers as true. Purgatory is but a violent hypothesis to give meaning to a usage, for which other hypotheses short of it and very different from it, and equally conjectural with it, may be assigned, nay, and were assigned before it, and far more extensively. Let it be remembered then, when the following list of passages, professedly in behalf of Purgatory, is read, that, what we have to look for, is, not evidence of a certain usage, which we grant did exist, but of an opinion, of a particular opinion explaining it; not of Prayer for the dead simply, nor of the opinion that Prayer for the dead profits, but that such Prayer is intended and tends to rescue them from a state of suffering. Further what we look for is not the testimony of one or two writers to the truth of this opinion, even if one or two could be brought, but an agreement of all in its favour. If however it be said that the usage of Prayer in itself tends to the doctrine of Purgatory, I answer, that so far from it, in its primitive form it included prayers for the Virgin Mary and Apostles, which while retained were an indirect but forcible standing witness against the doctrine.
Tertullian, in his de Corona, ß 3. speaks of "oblationes pro defunctis," offerings for the dead.
Again, "Let her" [the widow] "pray for the soul of" [her deceased husband] "and ask for him a place of refreshment in the interval before the judgment, and a fellowship in the first resurrection, and let her offer on the anniversary of his falling to sleep."De Monogam. ß 10. Vid. also de Pudicit.
Cyprian. "The Bishops our predecessors . . . decreed that no one dying should nominate clerics as guardians or executors, and if any one had done this, no offering should be made for him, or sacrifice celebrated for his sleeping well."Epist. i. 9. et infra.
Eusebius (vid. Constant. iv.) says that Constantine had wished to be buried in a frequented Church, in order to have the benefit of many prayers. On his death they offered the Holy Eucharist over his remains.
Cyril of Jerusalem. "We pray for all our community who are dead, believing that this is the greatest benefit to those souls for whom the offering is made."Mystagog. 5.
Gregory Nazianzen. "Let us commend to GOD our own souls, and the souls of those who, as men more advanced on the same road, have arrived before us at their resting place."Orat. in Caesar. fin.
Ambrose. "Therefore she is, I think, not so much to be lamented as to be followed with your prayers; she is not to be mourned over with your tears, but rather her soul is to be commended to God by your oblations."Ep. ii. 8. ad Faustinum. Vid. also de ob. Theod., &c. &c.
Jerome. "Other husbands scatter on their wives' graves violets, roses, lilies, and purple flowers; but our Pammachius waters her holy ashes and reverend relics with the balsams of almsgiving; with such embellishments and perfumes he honours the sleeping remains, knowing what is written, ' As water quenches fire, so doth alms sin.'"Ad Pammach.
Chrysostom. "The dead is aided not by tears, but by prayers, by supplications, by alms ..Let us not weary in giving aid to the dead, offering prayers for them."Hom. 41. in 1. ad Cor.
Again. "Not without purpose has it been ordained by the Apostles, that in the awful Mysteries a commemoration should be made of the dead; for they know that thence much gain accrues to them; much advantage."Hom. 69. ad pop. Vid. also Hom. 32. in Matt. In Joan. Hom. 84. In Philipp. 3. In Act Apost. 21.
Paulinus, writing to Delphinus, Bishop of Bordeaux: "Do thy diligence that he may be granted to thee, and that from the least of thy sacred fingers the dews of refreshment may sprinkle his soul."
Augustine. "We read in the book of Maccabees that sacrifice was offered for the dead; but, though it were not even found in the old Scriptures, the authority of the universal Church is not slight, which is explicit as to this custom viz. that in the Priests' prayers which are offered to the LORD GOD at His altar, the commendation of the dead is included."De Cur. pro mortuis. c. ii. et alibi.
Theodoret (Hist. v. 26.) mentions that Theodosius the younger fell down at the tomb of St. John Chrysostom, and prayed for 1he souls of his parents, then dead, Arcadius and Eudoxia.
Isidore. "Unless the Church Catholic believed that sins are remitted to the dead in Christ, she would not do alms or offer sacrifice to GOD for their spirits."De off. div. i. 18.
Gregory the Great. "Much profiteth souls even after death the sacred oblation of the lifegiving Sacrifice, so that the souls of the dead themselves sometimes seem to ask for it."Dial. iv. 55.
Again: "They who are not weighed down by grievous sins, are profited after death by burial in the Church, because that their relatives, whenever they come to the same sacred places, remember their own kin whose tombs they behold, and pray to the LORD for them."
It is evident that the above passages go no way to prove the point in debate, being nothing more in fact than Ussher allows to be found in the early Fathers. They contain the musings of serious minds feeling a mystery, and attempting to solve it, at least by conjecture. They state that prayers benefit the dead in Christ, but how is either not mentioned, or vaguely, or hesitatingly, or discordantly. Accordingly, Bellarmine begins anew, and draws out a series of authorities for the doctrine of Purgatory expressly; and this certainly demands our attention more than the former. It contains such as the following:
For instance, Origen says that "he who is saved, is saved by fire, that if he has any alloy of lead, the fire may melt and separate it, that all may become pure gold."Hom. 6. in Exod.
Tertullian speaks of our being "committed into the prison beneath, which will detain us till every small offence is expiated, during the delay of the resurrection."De Anim. 17.
Cyprian contrasts the being purged by torment in fire, and by martyrdom.Epist. iv. 2.
Gregory Nazianzen speaks of the last Baptism being "one of fire, not only more bitter, but longer than the first Baptism." In Sancta lum. circ. fin.
Ambrose speaks of our being "saved through faith, as if through fire," which will be a trial under which grievous sinners will fall, while others will pass safe through it.In Ps. xxxvi.
Basil speaks of the "Purgatorial fire," in cap. ix. Isa.
Gregory Nyssen, of "our recovering our lost happiness by prayer and religiousness in this life, or after death by the purgatorial fire."Orat. pro Mort. Elsewhere too he speaks of the Purgatorial fire.
Eusebius Emissenus uses such determined words, as to require quoting. "This punishment under the earth will await those, who, having lost instead of preserving their Baptism, will perish for ever; whereas those who have done deeds calling for temporal punishments, shall pass over the fiery river and that fearful water the drops of which are fire."
Hilary declares that we have to undergo "that ever-living fire, which is a punishment of the soul in cleansing of sin."In Ps. cxviii. Lactantius speaks to the same effect.Div. Inst. vii. 21.
Jerome contrasts the eternal torments of the devil, and of atheists and infidels, with "the judgment tempered with mercy, of sinners and ungodly men, yet Christian, whose works are to be tried purified in the fire."In fin. comment. in Is. In another place in a like contrast he speaks of Christians, if overtaken in a fault, being saved after punishment.Lib. i. in Pelag.
Augustine has various passages in point, such as Civ. Dei xxi. 24, where speaking of believers who die with lighter sins, he says, "It is certain that these being purified before the day of judgment by means of temporal punishment, which their souls suffer, are not to be given over to eternal fire." Pope Gregory the first expresses the same doctrine, as do some others.
These instances are at first sight to the point, and demand serious consideration. Yet there is nothing in them really to alarm the inquirer whither he is being carried. I say this, that no one may be surprised at the deliberateness and over-patience with which I may seem to loiter over the explanation of them. First, then, let it be observed, were they ever so strong in favour of something more than we believe, it does not therefore follow that they take that very view which the Romanists take, nay, it does not necessarily follow that they take any one view at all, or agree with each other. Now it so happens neither the one or the other of these suppositions is true as regards those passages, though they ought both to hold, if the Roman doctrine is to be satisfactorily maintained. These Fathers, whatever they teach, do not teach Purgatory, they do not teach any one view at all on the subject. Romanists consider Purgatory to be an article of faith, necessary to be believed in order to salvation; or in Bellarmine's words, "Purgatory is an article of faith, so that he who disbelieves its existence, will never have experience of it, but will be tormented in hell with everlasting fire." Now it can only be an article of faith, supposing it is held by Antiquity, and that unanimously. For such things only are we allowed to maintain, as come to us from the Apostles; and that only (ordinarily speaking) has evidence of so originating, which is witnessed by a number of independent witnesses in the early Church. We must have the unanimous "consent of Doctors," as an assurance that the Apostles have spoken; and much less can we tolerate their actual disagreement, in a case where unanimity was promised us. Now as regards Purgatory, not only are early writers silent as to the modern view of Rome, but they do not agree with each other; which proves they knew little more about the matter than ourselves, whatever they might conjecture; that they possessed no Apostolic Tradition, only at most entertained floating opinions on the subject. Nay, it is obvious, if we wished to believe them, we could not; for what is it we are to believe? If, as I shall show, various writers speak various things, which of their statements is to be taken? If this or that, it is but the language of an individual: if all of them at once, a doctrine results, discordant in its details, and in general outline, if it have any, vague and imperfect at the best.
Now as to the passages quoted by Bellarmine, it will be observed that in the number are extracts from the works of Origen, St. Ambrose, St. Hilary, St. Jerome, and Lactantius. He introduces the list with these words, "Sunt apertassima loca in Patribus, ubi asserunt Purgatorium, quorum pauca quaedam afferam," i. 10. "There are most perspicuous passages in the Fathers, in which they assert Purgatory, of which I will adduce some few." Will it be believed that in his second book these Fathers, nay, for the most part the very extracts, which he has given in proof of the doctrine, are enumerated as at variance with it, and mistaken in their notion of it? He quotes a passage of Origen, (not the same) the very same two passages from St. Ambrose, the very same passage from St. Hilary, the very same from Lactantius, and a passage (not the same) from St. Jerome. Then he says, "Haec sententia, accepta ut sonat, manifestum errorem continet; for" (he proceeds) "it is defined in the Council of Florence, &c." ii. 1. Next he observes, "Adde, quod Patres adducti, Origene excepto videntur sano modo intelligi posse." At length, after he has given the two most favourable explanations assignable to their words, he adds of one of the two, "Sane hanc sententiam [quae docet omnes transituros per ignem, licet non omnes laedendi sint ab igne] nec auderem pro vera asserere, nec ut errorem improbare." "The only alleviation of this strange inconsistency," says a work which has recently appeared, "is that he quotes not the very same sentences both for and against his Church, but adjoining ones." The work referred to, thus comments on Bellarmine's conduct, as throwing light upon the state of feeling under which Romanists engage in controversy. "A Romanist," the writer says, "cannot really argue in defence of his doctrines. He has too firm a confidence in their truth, if he is sincere in his profession, to enable him critically to adjust the due weight to be given to this or that evidence. He assumes his Church's conclusion as true; and the facts or witnesses he adduces, are rather brought to receive an interpretation than to furnish a proof. His highest aim is to show the mere consistency of his theory, its possible adjustment, with the records of antiquity. I am not here inquiring how much of high but misdirected moral feeling is implied in this state of mind; certainly as we advance in perception of the truth, we all of us become less fitted to be controversialists. If this, however, be a true explanation of Bellarmine's strange error, the more it tends to exculpate him, the deeper it criminates his system. He ceases to be chargeable with unfairness, only in proportion as the notion of the infallibility of Rome is admitted to be the sovereign and engrossing tenet of his communion, the foundation stone, or (as it may be called) the fulcrum of its theology. I consider then, that when he first adduces the aforementioned Fathers in proof of Purgatory, he was really but interpreting them; he was teaching what they ought to mean, what in charity they must be supposed to mean, what they might mean as far as the very words went, probably meant considering the Church so meant, and might be taken to mean, even if their authors did not so mean, from the notion that they spoke vaguely, and, as children, really meant something besides what they formally said, and that after all, they were but the spokesmen of the then existing Church, which, though silent, held the same doctrine which Rome has since defined and published. This is to treat Bellarmine with the same charity with which he has on this supposition treated the Fathers, and it is to be hoped, with a nearer approach to the matter of fact. So much as to his first use of them; but afterwards, in noticing what he considers erroneous opinions on this subject, he treats them, not as organs of the Church infallible, but as individuals, and interprets their language by its literal sense or by the context....How hopeless then is it to contend with Romanists, as if they practically agreed to our foundation, however much they pretend to it! Ours is antiquity: theirs the existing Church. Its infallibility is their first principle; belief in it is a deep prejudice, quite beyond the reach of any thing external. It is quite clear that the combined testimonies of all the Fathers, supposing such a case, would not have a feather's weight against a decision of the Pope in Council, nor would matter at all, except for their sakes who had by anticipation opposed it. They consider that the Fathers ought to mean what Rome has since decreed, and that Rome knows their meaning better than they themselves did. That venturesome Church has usurped their place, and thinks it merciful, only not to banish outright the rivals she has dethroned. By an act, as it were, of grace she has determined, that, when they contradict her, though of no authority yet, as living in times of ignorance, they are not guilty of heresy but are only heterodox; and she keeps them around her, to ask their advice when it happens to agree with her own.
"Let us then understand the position of the Romanists towards us; they do not really argue from the Fathers, though they seem to do so. They may affect to do so on our behalf, happy if by an innocent stratagem they are able to convert us; but all the while in their own feelings, they are taking a far higher position. They are teaching, not disputing or proving. They are interpreting what is obscure in antiquity, purifying what is alloyed, correcting what is amiss, perfecting what is incomplete, harmonizing what is various. They claim and use all its documents as ministers and organs of that one infallible Church, which once forsooth kept silence, but since has spoken, which by a divine gift must ever be consistent with itself, and which bears with it its own evidence of divinity."
Leaving Bellarmine then, let us proceed to inquire what the opinion of the Fathers in the foregoing passages really is.
ß 3. HISTORY OF THE RISE OF THE DOCTRINE OF PURGATORY,
AND OPINIONS IN THE EARLY CHURCH CONCERNING IT.
The argumentative ground of the doctrine of Purgatory as far as the Infallibility of the Church has not superseded any, has ever been, I conceive, the report of miracles and visions attesting it; but the historical origin is to be sought elsewhere, viz. in the anxious conjectures of the human mind about its future destinies, and the apparent coincidences of these with certain obscure texts of Scripture
These may be supposed to have operated as follows; as described in the work already cited. "HOW ALMIGHTY GOD will deal with the mass of Christians, who are neither very good nor very bad, is a problem with which we are not concerned, and which it is our wisdom and may be our duty, to put from our thoughts. But, when it has once forced itself upon the mind, we are led in self-defence, with a view of keeping ourselves from dwelling, unhealthily on particular cases, which come under our experience and perplex us, to imagine modes, not by which GOD does, (for that would be presumptuous to conjecture,) but by which he may solve the difficulty. Most men to our apprehensions, are too unformed in religious habits either for heaven or for hell, yet there is no middle state when CHRIST comes to judgment. In consequence it is obvious to have recourse to the interval before His coming, as a time during which this incompleteness might be remedied; a season, not of changing the spiritual bent and character of the soul departed, whatever that be, for probation ends with mortal life, but of developing it in a more determinate form, whether of good or of evil. Again, when the mind once allows itself to speculate, it will discern in such a provision a means, whereby those, who not without true faith at bottom yet have committed great crimes, or those who have been carried off in youth while still undecided, or who die after a barren though not an immoral or scandalous life, may receive such chastisement as may prepare them for heaven, and render it consistent with GOD'S justice to admit them thither. Again, the inequality of the sufferings of Christians in this life, compared one with another, leads the unguarded mind to the same speculations, the intense suffering, e. g. which some men undergo on their death-bed, seeming as if but an anticipation in their case of what comes after death upon others, who without greater claim on GOD'S forbearance, live without chastisement and die easily. I say, the mind will inevitably dwell upon such thoughts, unless it has been taught to subdue them by education or by the experience of their dangerousness.
"Various suppositions have, accordingly, been made, as pure suppositions, as mere specimens of the capabilities, (if one may so speak) of the Divine Dispensation, as efforts of the mind reaching forward and venturing beyond its depth into the abyss of the divine counsels. If one supposition could be produced, sufficient to solve the problem, ten thousand others are conceivable, unless indeed the resources of GOD'S Providence are exactly commensurate with man's discernment of them. Religious men, amid these searchings of heart, have naturally gone to Scripture for relief, to see if the inspired word anywhere gave them any clue for their inquiries. And hence, and from the speculations of reason upon what was there found, various notions have been hazarded at different times; for instance, that there is a certain momentary ordeal to be undergone by all men after this life, more or less severe according to their spiritual state; or that certain gross sins in good men will be thus visited, or their lighter failings and habitual imperfections; or that the very sight of divine perfection in the invisible world will be in itself a pain, while it constitutes the purification of the imperfect but believing soul; or that, happiness admitting of various degrees of intensity, penitents late in life may sink for ever into a state, blissful as far as it goes, but more or less approaching to unconsciousness; infants dying after baptism may be as gems paving the courts of heaven, or as the living wheels of the Prophet's vision; while matured Saints may excel in capacity of bliss, as well as in dignity, the highest Archangels. Such speculations are dangerous when indulged; the event proves it; from some of these in fact seems to have resulted the doctrine of Purgatory.
"Now the texts to which the minds of the early Christians seem to have been principally drawn, and from which they ventured to argue, were these two: 'The fire shall try every mans work,' &c.; and ' He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.' These texts, with which many more were found to accord, directed their thoughts one way, as making mention of 'fire,' whatever was meant by the word, as the instrument of trial and purification; and that, at some time between the present time and the judgment, or at the judgment. And accordingly without perhaps having any definite or consistent meaning in what they said, or being able to say whether they spoke literally or figuratively and with an indefinite reference to this life, as well as to the intermediate state, they sometimes named fire as the instrument' of recovering those who had sinned after their baptism. That this is the origin of the notion of a Purgatorial fire, I gather from these circumstances, first that they do frequently insist on the texts in question, next, that they do not agree in the particular sense they put upon them. That they quote them shows they rest upon them; that they vary in explaining them, that they had no Catholic sense to guide them. Nothing can be clearer, if these facts be so, than that the doctrine of the Purgatorial fire in all its senses, as far as it was more than a surmise, and was rested on argument, was the result of private judgment exerted in defect of Tradition, upon the text of Scripture
"As the doctrine, thus suggested by certain striking texts, grew in popularity and definiteness, and verged towards its present Roman form, it seemed a key to many others. Great portions of the books of Psalms, Job, and the Lamentations, which express the feelings of religious men under suffering, would powerfully recommend it by the forcible and most affecting and awful meaning which they received from it. When this was once suggested, all other meanings would seem tame and inadequate.
"To these must be added various passages from the Prophets, as that in the beginning of the 3rd chapter of Malachi, which speaks of fire as the instrument of judgment and purification when CHRIST comes to visit His Church.
"Moreover there were other texts of obscure and indeterminate bearing, which seemed on this hypothesis to receive a profitable meaning; such as our LORD'S words in the Sermon on the Mount, "Verily, I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing;" and St. John's expression in the apocalypse, that "no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book."
"Further, the very circumstance that no second instrument of a plenary and entire cleansing from sin was given after Baptism, such as Baptism, led Christians to expect that that unknown means, when accorded, would be of a more painful nature than
that which they had received so freely and instantaneously in infancy, and confirmed, not only the text already cited, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire," but also St. Paul's announcement of the "judgment and fiery indignation" which awaits those who sinned [sin] after having been once "enlightened," and by CHRIST'S warning to the impotent man to sin no more lest a worse thing come unto him.
"Lastly, the universal and apparently apostolical custom of praying for the dead in CHRIST, called for some explanation, the reason for it not having come down to posterity with it. Various reasons may be supposed quite clear of this distressing doctrine, but it supplied an adequate and a most constraining motive for its observance to those who were not content to practice it in ignorance."
Should any one for a moment be startled by any thing that is here said, as if investing the doctrine with some approach to plausibility, I would have him give GOD thanks for the safeguard of Catholic Tradition, which keeps us from immoderate speculation upon Scripture or a vain indulgence of the imagination, by authoritatively declaring the contents and the limits of the Creed necessary to salvation and profitable to ourselves.
There seem, on the whole, to be two chief opinions on the subject, embraced in the early Church. One of these is Origen's, which I shall first exhibit in the language of St. Ambrose, being the very passage referred to by Bellarmine. The notion is this, that the fire at the day of Judgment will burn or scorch every one in proportion to his remaining imperfections. St. Ambrose then thus comments on Psalm xxxvii. (38) 14.
"'Thou hast proved us by fire,' says David; therefore we shall all be proved by fire, and Ezeklel (Malachi) says, 'Behold the LORD ALMIGHTY cometh, and who may abide the day of His coming? &c.......for He is like a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap; and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver and He shall purify the Sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, &c.' Therefore the Sons of Levi will be purged by fire; by fire Ezekiel, by fire Daniel. But these, though proved by fire, yet shall say, 'We passed through fire and water,' (Ps. lxvi. 12.) Others shall remain in the fire; and the fire shall be as dew to them, (Song of Three Children, 27.) as to the Hebrew Children who were exposed to the fire of the burning furnace. But the Ministers of impiety shall be consumed in the avenging flame. Woe is me should my work be burned, and I suffer this worsting of my labour! Although the Lord will save His servants, we shall be saved by faith, but so saved as by fire. Although we shall not be consumed, yet we shall be burned. But how some remain in the fire, others escape through it, learn from another Scripture. The Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea, the Israelites passed over; Moses escaped to land, Pharaoh sank, for his heavy sins drowned him. In like manner the irreligious will sink in the lake of burning fire."
It is plain that St. Ambrose, so far from imagining a Roman Purgatory, definite in period, place, and subjects, speaks of an ordeal by fire which all Christians must undergo at the last day, and grounds it on the solemn text already referred to, 1 Cor. iii 1215. which whether rightly so interpreted or not, a point we cannot determine, since it is an [hapax legomenon] in Scripture, yet at least may be so understood without violence to the wording. "If any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, every man's work shall be made manifest; for the Day shall declare it, because it (the Day) shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." Now it would seem plain that in this passage the searching process of final Judgment, essaying our works oft righteousness, is described by the word fire. Not that we may presume to limit the word fire to that meaning, or on the other hand to say it is a merely figurative expression denoting judgment; which seems a stretching somewhat beyond our measure. Doubtless there is a mystery in the word fire, as there is a mystery in the words day of judgment. Yet it any how has reference to the instrument or process of judgment. And in this way the Fathers seem to have understood the passage; referring it to the last Judgment, as Scripture does, but at the same time religiously retaining the use of the word, fire, as not affecting to interpret and dispense with what seems some mysterious economy, lest they should be wiser than what is written.
Next let us turn to the same Father's 20th Sermon on Ps. cxix. which is also referred to by Bellarmine.
"As long as the Israelites were in Egypt, they were in the iron furnace, that is, in the furnace of temptation, in the furnace of affliction, when they were afflicted by cruel tyranny. Whence also it is written, 'I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace.' The furnace was iron, because, while the people was yet in Egypt, no one's works were illuminated by holiness, no one's gold had been there assayed, no one's lead of iniquity burned away. It was a cruel furnace, a furnace of perpetual death, which none could escape, which consumed every one, in which pain and sorrow dwell only. But the furnace, in which Ananias, Azarias, and Misael sang their hymn to the Lord, was a golden furnace, not an iron; by means of which wisdom hath shown forth in the faith of true obedience all over the world. It was indeed in Babylon, where spiritual gold was not, unless perchance in captivity, for 'the Lord led captivity captive.' This is the gold in God's saints who were captives among the Babylonians in body, but in spirit were freemen with God, delivered from the chains of human captivity, and bearing the yoke of spiritual grace. And perchance the same furnace would be iron to the unstable, and gold to those who persevere.
"All must be proved through fire, as many as desire to return to paradise; for it is not said for nothing, that, when Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise, God placed at the outlet a fiery sword which turned every way. All must pass through the flames, whether he be John the Evangelist, whom the Lord so loved as to say to Peter of him, 'If I wish him to tarry, what is that to thee? Follow thou me.' Some have doubted of his death; of his passage through the fire we cannot doubt, for he is in Paradise, not separated from Christ. Or whether he be Peter; he who received the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, who walked upon the sea, must still say, 'We passed through fire and water, and Thou broughtest us out into a place of refreshment.' But the fiery sword will soon be turned by St. John, for iniquity is not found in him, whom righteousness itself loved. Whatever human defect was in him, Divine Love melted it away; for her wings are as the wings of fire. (Cant. viii. 6.)
"He who possesses this fire of love, will have no cause to fear there the fiery sword. To Peter, who so often exposed his life for Christ, He will say, 'Go and sit down to meat.' But he shall say, 'Thou hast tried us with fire, as silver is tried; for, when many waters do not drown love, how can fire consume then?' But he shall be tried as silver, I as lead; I shall burn till the lead melts away. If no silver be found in me, ah me! I shall be plunged down into the Iowest pit, or consume entire as the stubble. Should ought of gold or silver be found in me, not for my works, but through the mercy and grace of Christ, by the ministry of the priesthood, I shall peradventure say, 'They that hope in Thee, shall not be ashamed.'
"The fiery sword then shall consume iniquity, which is placed on the leaden scale. One only could not feel that fire, Christ the Righteousness of God, who did no sin; for the fire found nought in Him which it might consume."
It is now sufficiently clear what St. Ambrose's belief was. The only point of approximation between it and the doctrine of Purgatory is this; that he conceived that for all but the highest saints, in whom love dissolved all remaining dross whatever, some transient suffering, more or less in duration, was in store in the day of judgment. And hence the force of the ordinary prayers of the early Church, as based on Scripture, (and described at length by Archbishop Ussher, in Tract, No. 72,) that departed believers might have "a merciful trial at the last day."
St. Hilary is another witness, whom Bellarmine, in his former book quotes, in his latter surrenders. He, too, will be found to hold this same view of the purgatorial nature of the fire of the fast judgment.
"The prophet [the Psalmist] observes, that it is difficult and most perilous to human nature, to desire God's judgments: For, since no one is clean in His sight, how can His judgment be desirable? Considering we shall have to give account for every idle word, shall we long for the day of judgment, in which we must undergo that ever-living fire, and those heavy penalties for cleansing the soul from its sins? Then will a sword pierce through the soul of Mary, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. If that Virgin which could compass God is to come into the severity of the judgment, who shall dare desire to be judged of God? Job, when he had finished his warfare with all calamities of man and had triumphed, who,.when tempted, said, 'The Lord gave,' and confessed himself but dust and ashes when he heard God's voice from the cloud, and determined that he ought not to speak another word. And who shall venture to desire God's judgmnents, whose voice from heaven neither so great a Prophet endured, nor the Apostles again, when they were with the Lord in the Mount ?"Tract, in Ps. cxviii. (cxix.) lit. 3. ß 12. vid. also ß 5.
"He [John the Baptist] marks the season of our salvation and judgment in the Lord, saying, 'He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire; for to those who are baptized in the Holy Ghost, it remains to be perfected in the fire of judgment."Comm. in Matt. ii. ß 4.
Let us now proceed to Origen, who is historically the first who has put forward the theory under review. Even Origen, be it remembered, is at first alleged by Bellarmine, though afterwards absolutely relinquished. His words, as quoted by that author himself, are as follows:
"I consider that even after the resurrection from the dead, we need a sacrament to wash us throughly and cleanse us; for no one will rise without dross upon him, nor can the soul be found which at once is free from all defects." Hom. 14 in Luc.
"We must all come to that fire, be we Paul or Peter," in Ps. xxxvii.
Lactantius expresses the same, or almost the same doctrine in the following passage, as referred to by Bellarmine.
"Moreover, when He shall have judged the just, He will also try them in the fire. Then they whose sins prevail in weight or number, will be tortured in the fire and partially burned; but they, who are mature in righteousness and ripeness of virtue, shall not feel that flame; for they have somewhat of God within them, to repel and throw of the force of the flame. Such is the force: of innocence, that from it that fire recoils without mischief, as having received this property from God to burn the irreligious, to recede from the righteous." Div. Inst. vii. 21.
Two more writers may be mentioned, as holding the same view, both of whom are quoted by Bellarmine in his favour. St. Jerome, as referred to by him, speaks as follows:
"The fire," he says, commenting on Amos vii. 4, "being called for judgment, devours first the deep; that is, all kinds of sins, wood, hay, stubble, and afterwards consumes also a part, that is, reaches to his saints, who are accounted the Lord's portion."
St. Paulinus of Nola is the other, who thus writes to Severus:
"If we attain by these works to be citizens with the saints, our work shall not be burned; and that sagacious fire will, on our passing its ordeal, surround us with no severe heat of punishment; but as if we were commended to its care it will play around us with a kind caress, so that we may say, 'We have passed through fire and water,' &c."Ep. 28. (9.)
To these passages, others similar might be added from St. Basil and St.Gregory Nazianzen.
So much on this speculation or foreboding, concerning the fire of the last judgment. Before proceeding to consider the second notion of a Purgatory, which existed in the early Church, I stop to make a remark. What has been said will illustrate what is meant by Catholic Tradition, and how it may be received without binding us to accept every thing which the Fathers say. It must be Catholic to be of authority; that is, all the writers who mention the subject, must agree together in their view of it, or the exceptions, if there be any, must be such as probare regulam. And again, they must profess it is Traditionary teaching. For instance, supposing all the Fathers agreed together in their interpretation of a certain text, I consider that agreement would invest that interpretation with such a degree of authority, as to make it at first sight most rash (to say the very least) to differ from them; yet it is conceivable that on some points, as the interpretation of unfulfilled prophecy, they might be mistaken. It is abstractedly conceivable, that a modern commentator might on certain occasions plausibly justify his dissent from them:this is conceivable, I say, unless they were explaining a doctrine of the creed, which is otherwise known to come from the Apostles,or professed, (which would be equivalent) that such an interpretation had ever been received in their respective Churches as coming from the Apostles. Catholic Tradition is something more than Catholic teaching. Great as is the authority of the latter, (and we cannot well put it too high,) Tradition is something beyond it. This remark is in point here, for it might be objected that so many Fathers agree together in the notion of a last-day Purgatory, that, were it not for the accident of others speaking differently, we should certainly have received it as Catholic Tradition. I answer, no; whatever the worth of so many witnesses would have been,and it certainly for safety's sake ought to have been taken for very much,still, Origen, Hilary, Ambrose, and the rest, do not approximate in their remarks to the authoritative language in which they would speak of the Trinity or the benefits of Baptism. They do not profess to be delivering an article of the Faith once delivered to the saints.Now, to consider the second theory in the early Church on the subject of Purgatory.
While the Greek Churches, and thence the Italian held the doctrine of a judgment Purgatory, a doctrine far more like the Roman is found from an early age in the African Church; at the same time, it was so far from being considered as a necessary article of faith, that even St. Austin, who brings it out most fully, expresses his doubt about its truth. It was in fact only an opinion or conjecture.
Tertullian speaks thus, when discussing the question, whether souls suffer in the intermediate state, or wait till the resurrection of the body:
"In short, considering we understand that prison, which the gospel discloses, to be the places under the earth (inferos), and explain the very last farthing to mean, that every slightest fault is then to be washed away in the interval before the resurrection, no one will doubt that the soul pays something in those nether places without intrenching on the fulness of the resurrection also through the flesh."De Anim. fin.
Next comes St. Cyprian. Cyprian is arguing in favor of readmitting the lapsed, when penitent, and his argument seems to be, that, it does not follow we absolve them simply, by restoring them to the Church; we do but admit them to present privileges, the judgment being reserved in God's hands. He thus writes to Antonianus.
"Neither suppose, dearest brother, that the virtue of the brethren will be impaired, or martyrdoms fail, though penitence be indulged to the lapsed, and hope of reconciliation set before the penitent. Strength unmoveable abides with those who have true faith; and to those who fear and love God with their whole heart, integrity endures in firmness and in courage. Even to adulterers a period of penitence is granted by us, and reconciliation allowed; yet not on that account does virginity decline in the Church, or the glorious resolve of continence languish through the sins of others. The Church is still embellished by the crown of so many virgins, and chastity and purity are as glorious as before; nor, though the adulterer is indulged with penitence and pardon, is the vigour of continence relaxed. It is one thing to stand for pardon, another to arrive safe at glory; one to be sent to prison, there to remain till the last farthing be paid; another to receive at once the reward of faith and virtue; one thing to be tormented for sin in long pain and so to be cleansed, and to be purged a long while in the fire, another to have washed away all sin in martyrdom; one thing in short, to wait for the Lord's sentence in the day of judgment, another at once to be crowned by Him."Ep. 65. ad Antonian.
Rigaltius, Faber, and some others understand this passage to refer to the penitential discipline of the Church which was imposed on the penitent; and, as far as the context goes, certainly no sense could be more apposite. Yet, if I may venture on an opinion apart from such high authorities, the words in themselves seem to go beyond any mere ecclesiastical, though virtually divine censure, especially "missum in carcerem," and "purgari diu igne."
Further, the passage in Tertullian, weak in itself, for it was perhaps written after he was a Montanist, fixes a sense, though it rests for authority, on Cyprian's language. Tertullian explains Cyprian, Cyprian sanctions Tertullian. It should be recollected, moreover, that Cyprian used to call Tertullian his Master; and the inference deducible from all this is greatly strengthened, when we come to consider the views of St. Austin, another African. At the same time it is worth noticing, the occasion and manner of St. Cyprian's statement, whatever it means. He will be found to speak conjecturally, and as if in disputation. He is accounting for a difficulty; as if he said,"You suppose that, should the lapsed be received, this makes it all one as if they had never fallen. Far from it; they do not receive an absolute pardon; they are reserved to the judgment of the great day. Had they endured and suffered martyrdom, they would have had their pardon sealed at once; as it is, it is uncertain, and who knows but in God's judgments such a recompense is in store for them as will allow the Church to be merciful to them without God's ceasing to be just?"
St. Austin is lastly to be mentioned; who speaks neither in one uniform way, nor with one and the same degree of certainty. Sometimes he seems to hold the Greek opinion of the final purgatorial conflagration. In the following passage, after alluding to Abraham's sacrifice, (Gen. xv.) in which the beasts were divided but not the birds, and "when the sun went down,'' "a smoking furnace and a burning lamp passed between those pieces," and interpreting the birds of the spiritual members of the Church, and the beasts of carnal men, some of whom are within, some outside the Church, he says,
"The smoking furnace will come; for Abraham sat there till the evening, and then comes the great terror of the day of judgment. For the evening is the end of the world, and the furnace is the coming day of judgment. It went between those things, which were already divided, separating them to the right and left. Thus there are certain carnal men who are yet in the Church's bosom, living according to their own way, who are in danger of seduction from heretics. While they remain carnal, they are divisible; He did not divide the birds, but the carnal are divided. ' I could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal.....Whoso shall remain such, and in a way of life suitable to the carnal, and yet has not receded from the bosom of the Church, not been seduced by heretics, so as to be divided off the other way, the furnace will come, nor will he be able to stand on the right without undergoing it. If then he would escape that furnace, let him be changed now into the turtle-dove and pigeon. Let him receive it who can. But if not, but he shall have built on the foundation wood, hay, stubble; that is, if he has heaped over the foundation of his faith worldly likings,yet if Christ be there, so as to have the first place in his heart, above all other objects, such are endured, are suffered. The furnace shall come, and shall burn the wood, hay, and stubble; and 'he shall be saved, yet so as by fire.' This will the furnace do; separating off some to the left,others it will in a manner strain off unto the right: but it did not divide the birds."In Ps. civ. Serm. iii. and de Civ. Dei. xvi. 24. vid. also, in Ps. vi de Civ. Dei. xx. 2S; xxi. 16, and in Gen. contr. Man. ii. 20. fin.
This is one notion St. Austin had of Purgatory; another was, that it would be of a certain duration, in proportion to the sins of each individual. Without asserting that this view is plainly inconsistent with the former, it fairly may be called a distinct one. The following passage will be found to contain it:
"Some suppose that those who do not renounce the name of Christ, and are baptized in his font in the Church, nor are cut off therefrom by any schism or heresy, whatever be their crimes, though neither washed away by penitence nor ransomed by alms, but persevered in obstinately to the last day of life, will yet be saved by fire, punished indeed according to the greatest of their excesses and wickednesses, but not with eternal fire .. But since those clear and positive apostolical testimonies to the contrary (James ii. 14. 17. 1 Cor. vi. 9, &c.) cannot be false, the former obscure text concerning those who build on this foundation, which is Christ, not gold, silver, precious stones, but wood, hay, stubble, .... must be so explained as not to contradict passages which are clear. Wood, then, hay, stubble, may naturally mean such desires of lawful things of this world as cannot be forgone without some pain of mind. But when that pain burns, if Christ abides in the heart as a foundation, so that nothing is preferred to him, and the man who feels the fire of that pain, had rather lose the things which he so loves than Christ, he is saved through fire. . . . The trial of tribulation is a certain fire, of which Scripture speaks plainly in another place. ' Earthen vessels are proved by the furnace, and righteous men by the trial of tribulation.' That fire fulfils the Apostle's words in this life; for instance, should it befall two Christians, one caring for the things of God, how he may please God; that is, building upon the foundation of Christ, gold, silver, precious stones; the other caring for the things of the world, how he may please his wife, that is, building on the same foundation wood, hay, stubble; the work of the former is not burned away, for he has not loved things, the loss of which would distress him; but the others work is burned away, since those things are not lost without suffering which are possessed with enjoyment. But since, when an alternative comes, he had rather lose them than Christ, nor from apprehension of losing such things renounces Christ, though he may feel a pain during the loss, yet he is 'saved so as by fire;' for, though the loss of what he loved is a burning pain, yet it does not subvert or consume one who is secured by the firmness and indestructibility of his foundation. Such a suffering too, it is not impossible may happen after this life; and it is a fair question, whether it can be settled or not; viz. that some Christians, according to their love of the perishing goods of this world, attain salvation more slowly or speedily through a certain purgatorial fire; not such, however, of whom it is said, 'that they shall not inherit the kingdom of God,' unless they repent suitably, and gain remission of their crimes."Enchirid. 68. 69. vid. also ad Dulcitium, ß 613. de Fide et Operib. ß 16.
In his de Civatate Dei, after speaking (as above noticed) of the fire at the judgment, he goes on to change its position in the course of the Divine Economy, and places it between death and the resurrection; yet, still he observes his hesitating and conjectural tone.
"After the death of the body, until the arrival of that last day of condemnation and reward after the resurrection [of the body], should it be said that in this interval the spirits of the dead suffer a fire, such as they do not feel who had not habits and likings in the life of this body, which requires their wood, hay, and stubble to be burned up, but they feel who have not carried with them the like worldly tabernacles, whether these only, or how and then, or not then because here, though they experience the fire of transitory tribulation rescuing venial offences from damnation by consuming them, I do not oppose, for perchance it is true."
He then proceeds to speak, as before, of the other senses of the word fire, as used in the text, which affords matter for his inquiry.
And now the reader has before him the whole extent of Augustine's much-talked of admissions in behalf of Purgatory; and he may see how hesitating and incomplete they are. It is remarkable that the passages on which Bellarmine chiefly relies, are rejected by the Benedictines as not Augustine's; so that Romanists, if they would use this celebrated Father in the controversy, must betake themselves to such as the two extracts last quoted, in which Augustine speaks but doubtfully, and which (it is remarkable) Bellarmine introduces, not in his own favour, but on an opponent's challenge, to explain, as if from their conjectural tone rather making against him. It really would appear, as if in the African Church, there had been no advance in definiteness of doctrine in this matter since the days of Cyprian; but that what was a speculation then, remained as little insisted on or settled when St. Austin wrote.
If it were necessary to add any other evidence, how little the Fathers knew on this mysterious subject, I might mention, that in one place St. Austin implies that the impenitent are in Purgatory; and that St. Jerome seems to say, all baptized persons, however they suffer in Purgatory, are eventually saved.
I have now finished my account of what the early Fathers said about Purgatory; but very
imperfect justice is done to the subject, till the reader is put into possession of those
decisive testimonies of the Fathers the other way, (that is, in favour of the peace and
rest of the intermediate state to true believers,) which will reduce the opinions already
described to a mere conjecture, pious indeed and solemnly made, yet received one moment,
and abandoned the next. Without determining whether the strict wording of the following
passages be such as necessarily to exclude the doctrine of Purgatory, which is a poor way
of seeking after what the fact really was, simply consider whether persons who practically
held that doctrine, who kept it simply before them as the whole truth and acted upon
it, could possibly have written them.
Cyprian, on occasion of the famous plague of A. D. 252,
"Let him fear death, who has never been born anew of water and the Spirit, and is sold over to the flames of hell; him, who has not been given an interest in the cross and passion of Christ; who is to pass from temporal to the second death; whose departure from the world will be followed by the torments of eternal dame of punishment; who by a longer delay gains but a longer respite from pangs and groans. Many of our people are dying in this pestilence, that is, are delivered from the world; and what is truly a plague to Jews, heathen and enemies of Christ, is to God's servants an end bringing salvation. That you witness righteous and wicked dying together without any distinction of man from man, is no reason for your supposing that destruction is common to good and evil; the righteous are called to a place of refreshment, the wicked are hurried to punishment, shelter is promptly afforded to the believing, punishment to infidels. We are undiscerning and ungrateful, well beloved brethren, in return for God's benefits, nor do we recognize the mercy vouchsafed us. Lo the virgins depart in peace safe, and with their glory secured, without the dread of the threats, the seductions, and the impurities of approaching Anti-Christ; youths escape the perils of their anxious age, and happily receive the prize of continence and chastity; the delicate matron no more fears the tortures, the fury of persecution, the violent hands and the cruelties of the executioner, receiving the gain of a speedy death. By fear of the pestilence the lukewarm are kindled, the languid are braced, the slothful are roused, deserters are driven back, the heathen are constrained to believe; the multitude of those who are already believers is called to peace; recruits are collected in abundance and with increased strength, prepared to fight without fear of death, when the action comes on, as having joined in a season when death was busy."De Mortal. 9.
"Our brethren should not cause us sorrow, whom the Lord's call has delivered from the world, knowing as we do that they are not lost to us but sent before us, they do not recede, but precede: we should behave as towards men going a journey or a voyage, regret but not deplore them, nor go into mourning for those who have already put on white raiment," &cIbid. 14.
"It is not an exit, but a passage, a travelling to things eternal, when time has been journeyed through. Who would not hasten to what is better?"Ibid. 15.
That in this last passage St. Cyprian is speaking of heavenly felicity after the resurrection, is certain from the context; but it is as plain that he looks upon the intermediate state as the beginning of it, or the out-post, which he could not do, unless he thought that at least, on the whole, and to the generality, it was a state of rest and peace.
"Death is in every way a good; because it puts away those principles in us which war against each other, and because it is a sort of harbour for those who, after tossing on the wide sea of this life, seek for an anchorage of secure peace; and because it puts an end to the chance of deterioration, but, as it finds a man, in that condition it consigns him to the future judgment, and comforts him with the rest itself, and withdraws him from such present goods as raise envy, and quiets him with the expectation of the future."De Bono Mortis. 4.
"Unwise persons fear death as the greatest of ills; but the wise desire it, as if a rest after toil, and the end of ills."Ibid. 8.
"Relying on these considerations, let us betake ourselves courageously to our Redeemer Jesus; courageously to the council of Patriarchs, to our father Abraham, when our day shall arrive; courageously to that holy assembly and congregation of the just. We shall go to our fathers, to our preceptors in the faith, so that, though our works fail us, our faith may succour us, our birthright plead for us. We shall go where holy Abraham opens his arms to receive the poor, as he received Lazarus; where they rest who in this life have endured heavy and sharp inflictions ..... We shall go to those, who sit down in the kingdom of God with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, because when asked to supper they did not excuse themselves. We shall go thither, where there is a paradise of delight, where Adam, who fell among thieves, has forgotten to lament his wounds, where too the thief himself rejoices in the fellowship of the kingdom of heaven; where are no clouds, where no thunder, no lightning, no storm of wind, no darkness, no evening, no summer, no winter will vary the seasons. There will be no cold, hail, rain, nor the presence of this sun, moon, or stars; but the brightness of Light will alone shine forth."Ibid. 12.
"The vengeance of hell overtakes us at once; and immediately we depart from the body, if we have so lived, we 'perish from the right way.' The rich and poor man in the gospel show us this: the one placed by angels in the abode of the blessed and in Abraham's bosom, the other at once received into the place of punishment. So quickly did punishment come upon the dead, that even his brothers were still alive. There is no deferring or delaying there. For, as the day of judgment is the eternal award either of bliss or punishment, so the time of death orders the interval for every man by its own laws, committing every one to Abraham or to punishment till the judgment."In Psalm ii. ß48.
Nazianzen thus speaks on the death of his father:
"There is but one life, to look forward towards life; and one death, even sin, which is the destruction of the soul. Whatever else men exult in, is but a vision in sleep in mockery of realities, and a phantom seducing the soul. If these be our feelings, O my Mother, we shall neither exult in life, nor be much distressed at death. What heavy misfortune has befallen us, if we have passed hence to the true life, released from meat and drink, from dizzinesses, from surfeiting, from base money-getting, and placed amid stable not transitory possessions, as lesser flights, circling in festive dance round the Great Luminary ?"Orat. 19 fin.
Macarius, in answer to the question what shall become of those who have two principles, of sin and grace, within them, answers that they will go to that place on which their heart is stayed: for
"The Lord, beholding thy mind, that thou fightest and lovest Him with thy whole soul, separateth death from thy soul in one hour, (for it is not for him to do so,) and receiveth thee unto His bosom and to light. For He snatcheth thee in an hours turn from the mouth of darkness, and forthwith translates thee into His kingdom. For to God all things are easy to do in an hour's turn, so that thou hast the love of Him."Hom. 26.
The hour's space spoken of seems to imply that the hour of death would supply the necessary purification of the soul from sin; but, whatever it means, the passage is quite irreconcilable with the Roman tenet, for the state of the dead is made one of bliss, and that "forthwith" upon death. The following passage is to the same effect; after saying that the guilty soul is upon death carried away by the devil, he proceeds,
"When they" (the righteous) "depart from the body, the choirs of angels receive their souls to their own place, to the pure world, and so bring them to the Lord."Hom. 22.
"Let the dead be bewailed, but it must be he whom hell receives, whom the pit swallows up, for whose punishment the everlasting fire is in motion. We, whose departure a crowd of angels accompanies, whom Christ goes out to meet, let us rather feel distress, if we have longer to dwell in this tabernacle of death, for as long as we delay here, we are pilgrims from the Lord."Ep. 25.
So much on the theology of the first five hundred years. But it may be shown that not even Pope Gregory at the end of that period, held the doctrine of Purgatory in the modern Roman form of it. He seems to have gone little further than maintain the Greek notion of the fire of judgment, as above explained, but, from the circumstance of his considering the end of the world close at hand he so expressed himself as to give it a different character. Nothing has been more common in every age than to think the day of judgment approaching; and perhaps it was intended that the Church should ever so suppose. Perhaps so to suppose is even a mark of a Christian mind; which at least will ever be on its watch-tower to see whether it be coming or no, from desire of its Saviour's return. But any how, as at other times, so in St. Gregory's case, this expectation prevailed; and, as thinking that the end was all but arrived' he seems to have fancied that "fire upon earth" was almost "kindled," that last judicial and purgatorial trial, which the Greeks and some of the Latins had made attendant upon it. If then he speaks of Purgatory in language since adopted by Romanism, it was not as intending thereby to sanction the idea to which it is appropriated in that theology, viz. that of a regular and ordinary system of fiery cleansing in the intermediate state; but, because he imagined the world was on the eve and under the incipient symptoms of an extraordinary crisis, when the sun was to be darkened, and the earth dissolved, and the graves opened, and all souls to be judged which were in earth and under the earth. He says
"As, when night is ending and day beginning, before the sun rises there is a sort of twilight, while the remains of the departing darkness are changing perfectly into the radiance of the day which succeeds, so the end of this world is already mingling with the commencement of the next, and the very gloom of what remains has begun to be illuminated with the incoming of things spiritual." Dial. iv. 41.
To the same effect he says:
"Why is it, I ask, that in these last times so many things begin to be clear about souls which before were hidden; so that by open revelations and disclosures the age to come seems forcing itself on us and to be dawning?"Ibid. 40.
Conformably with this view, he considered the pains of Purgatory to be diverse and various in their modes and circumstances, in this earth as well as under the earth, and consisting in other torments as well as those of fire, being but the pangs and shudderings of intellectual natures, when their judge was approaching, and disclosing themselves in a supernatural agony parallel to that trembling of the earth or the failing of the sun, which will precede the dissolution of the physical world. Occasion has already been taken to speak of the belief in visions and miracles, as occurring in attestation of the doctrine, and of the predispositions of the popular mind to receive it. The state of the evidence, of the popular feeling, and of the doctrine itself, is strikingly set before the reader in the following passage of Bishop Jeremy Taylor, though perhaps with somewhat less of considerateness in the wording of it, than such a subject might bear.
"The people of the Roman Communion have been principally led into belief of Purgatory by their fear, and by their credulity; they have been softened and enticed into this belief, by perpetual tales and legends, by which they loved to be abused. To this purpose, their priests and friars have made great use of the apparition of St. Jerome, after death, to Eusebius, commanding him to lay his sack upon the corpse of three dead men, that they, arising from death, might confess Purgatory, which formerly they had denied. The story is written in an epistle imputed to St. Cyril; but the ill luck of it was, that St. Jerome outlived St. Cyril, and wrote his life, and so confuted that story; but all is one for that, they believe it nevertheless; but these are enough to help it out; and if they be not firmly true, yet, if they be firmly believed, all is well enough. In the Speculum Exemplorum it is said, that a certain priest, in an ecstacy, saw the soul of Constantinus Turritanus in the eaves of his house, tormented with frosts and cold rains, and afterwards climbing up to heaven upon a shining pillar. And a certain monk saw some souls roasted upon spits, like pigs, and some devils basting them with scalding lard; but a while after, they were carried to a cool place, and so proved Purgatory. But Bishop Theobald standing upon a piece of ice to cool his feet, was nearer Purgatory than he was aware, and was convinced of it, when he heard a poor soul telling him, that under that ice he was tormented: and that he should be delivered if for thirty days continual he would say for him thirty masses. And some such thing was seen by Conrade and Udelric in a pool of water; for the place of Purgatory was not yet resolved on, till St. Patrick had the key of it delivered to him; which, when one Nicholas borrowed of him, he saw as strange and true things there, as ever Virgil dreamed of in his Purgatory, or Cicero in his dream of Scipio, or Plato in his Gorgias, or Phaedo, who indeed are the surest authors to prove Purgatory. But, because to preach false stories was forbidden by the Council of Trent, there are yet remaining more certain arguments, even revelations made by angels, and the testimony of St. Odilio himself, who heard the devil complain .... that the souls of dead men were daily snatched out of his hands, by the alms and prayers of the living; and the sister of St. Damianus being too much pleased with hearing of a piper, told her brother, that she was to be tormented for fifteen days in Purgatory.
"We do not think that the wise men in the Church of Rome believe these narratives; for, if they did, they were not wise; but this we know, that by such stories the people were brought into a belief of it, and having served their turn of them, the master builders used them as false arches and centries, taking them away when the parts of the building were made firm and stable by authority. But even the better sort of them do believe them; or else they do worse, for they urge and cite the Dialogues of St. Gregory, &c."Dissuasive from Popery, part i. ch. i. ß 4.
Yet not even after Pope Gregory's times was the doctrine unhesitatingly received. Ussher (Answer ch. vi.) quotes the words of the Council of Aix la Chapelle in Charlemagne's time, near 250 years after Gregory, to the effect that there are "three ways in which sins are punished; two in this life, and the third in the life to come; that of the former one is the punishment with which the sinner, God inspiring, by penitence, takes vengeance on himself, the other the punishment which ALMIGHTY GOD indicts; and that the third is that of everlasting fire. He also quotes the author of the tracts de Vanitate Saeculi, and de Rectitudine Catholicae Conversationis, wrongly ascribed to St Austin; the former of which says, "Know that when the soul is separated from the body, presently it is either placed in paradise for its good works, or plunged into the bottom of hell for its sins;" and the latter, "The departing soul, which is invisible to eyes of flesh, is received by the angels, and placed either in Abraham's bosom, if it be faithful, or, if a sinner, in the keeping of the prison beneath, till the appointed day arrive for it to receive its own body again and give account of its works before the judgment seat of CHRIST, the true Judge."Even in the days of Otto Frisingensis, A. D. 1146, the doctrine of Purgatory was considered but a private opinion, not an article of faith universally received; for he writes, "Some affirm there is in the unseen state a place of Purgatory, in which those who are to be saved are either troubled with darkness only, or are refined by the fire of expiation."
However, without entering further into the history of the gradual reception of the doctrine, which, if the circumstances of its rise be clear, is unnecessary, even could it be given, I conclude this head of the subject with one or two 'avowals on the part of Romanists confirmatory of what has been said. As to the text of Scripture, we have the candid admission of the celebrated M. Trevern, present Bishop of Strasburgh, that it is silent as regards this doctrine, at least so Mr. Faber understands him.
"Instead of vainly labouring to establish the doctrine on some one or two misinterpreted texts of the New Testament, he fairly and honestly confesses, that we have received no revelation concerning it from JESUS CHRIST. Hence he judiciously wastes not his time in adducing passages of Holy Writ, which are altogether irrelevant. ' Had it been necessary for us, says he, 'to be instructed in such questions, JESUS would doubtless have revealed the knowledge of them. He has not done so. We can, therefore, only form conjectures on the subject more or less probable."'
It seems then the doctrine is not taught in Scripture. The silence of Antiquity concerning it is avowed by Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, Alphonsus a de Castro, and Polydore Virgil.
Of these the celebrated Cardinal Fisher speaks as follows:
"It weighs perhaps with many, that we lay such stress upon indulgences, which are apparently of but recent usage in the Church, not being found among Christians till a very late date. I answer, that it is not clear from whom the tradition of them originated. They are said not to be without precedent among the Romans from the most ancient times; as may be understood from the numerous stations in that city. Moreover Gregory the First is said to have granted some in his own time. We all indeed are aware, that by means of the acumen of later times many things both from the Gospels and the other Scriptures are now more clearly developed and more exactly understood than they once were; whether it was that the ice was not yet broken by the ancients, and their times were unequal to the task of accurately sounding the open sea of Scripture, or that it will ever be possible in so extensive a field, let the reapers be ever so skilful, to glean somewhat after them. For there are even now a great number of obscure passages in the Gospel, which I doubt not posterity will understand much better. Why should we despair of it when the Gospel is given for this very purpose) to be understood thoroughly and exactly? Seeing then that the love of CHRIST towards His Church continues not less strong now than before, nor His power less, and that the Holy Ghost is her perpetual guardian and restorer, whose gifts flow into her as unceasingly and abundantly as from the beginning, who can question that the minds of posterity will be enlightened unto the clear knowledge of those things which remain still unknown in the Gospel?"
After a sentence or two he adds:
"Whoever reads the commentaries of the ancient Greeks, will find no mention, as far as I see, or the slightest possible concerning Purgatory. Nay, even the Latins did not all at once, but only gradually enter into the truth of this matter ..... For a while it was unknown, at a late date it was known, to the Church Universal. Then it was believed by some, by little and little, partly from Scripture, partly from revelations."Assert. Luther Confutat. 18.
It will be observed how accurately Bishop Fisher's words bear out, as far as they go, our foregoing account. First, he candidly gives up the Greek Church, and almost gives up the Latin. He says it was gradually introduced, that at length it became universal. What can we desire more in disproof of the Roman doctrine? He implies too, that the doctrine, though not suggested by the plain text of Scripture, was recommended by it, when once suggested in whatever way; as if what it did,was just what has been above supposed, viz. bring out; in a touching way a certain possible deep sense which the sacred text could not be said to teach but might contain; else why should it be understood only after a long delay? Further, he illustrates and confirms what has above been observed, that the Church of Rome, relying on its supposed gift of enunciating the truth, cares not to prove its doctrines ancient, and rather interprets the Fathers by its present teaching than thinks it necessary to depend upon them. And lastly, he is a witness that, as far as Rome has cared to argue in this matter, she has rested the doctrine on revelations;a true and honest account of the matter of fact, but decidedly opposed to the more accurate, though inapplicable, theory established after his death at Trent, which is this, that the revelation was concluded once for all in the Apostles, that all that the Church does is to discriminate and define their doctrine, and that he is Anathema, though an angel from heaven, who adds to it. "That alone is matter of faith," says Bellarmine, "which is revealed by GOD either mediately or immediately; but divine revelations are partly written, partly unwritten. The decrees of Councils, and Popes, and the consent of Doctors, . . . then only make a doctrine an article of faith, when they explain the Word of God or deduce any thing from it."
Polydore Virgil appeals to Fisher's statement as above given, and adds, "Moreover by the Greeks, even to this day, the doctrine is not believed." Alphonsus de Castro says, "Concerning Purgatory there is scarcely any mention, especially among the Greek writers; for which reason, even to this day, it is not believed by the Greeks."
Lastly, the following is the avowal of the Benedictine Editor of St. Ambrose's Works in his preface to the de Bono Mortis, on certain passages concerning the state of the dead, some of which have been above extracted in the course of these remarks.
"If we interpret the words of our author strictly and literally, we must plainly confess that in his judgm'ent souls are kept shut up in certain dwellings, till the general resurrection:, and there wait the award due to their deeds, which will not however be paid them before the last day; meanwhile that they are visited with some good or punishment, according as each of them has deserved. Lastly, the joy of the righteous is dispensed according to certain ranks.
"It is not surprising that Ambrose should have written in this way concerning the state of souls; but what might seem almost incredible, is, the uncertainty and inconsistency of the Holy Fathers on the subject from the very times of the Apostles down to the Pontificate of Gregory XI., and the Council of Florence, that is, for nearly the whole of fourteen centuries. For, not only do they differ one from the other, as commonly happens in such questions not yet defined by the Church, but they are not even consistent with themselves, sometimes appearing to grant that those souls enjoy the clear sight of the divine nature, of which at other times they deprive them."
ß 4. THE COUNCIL OF FLORENCE.
It remains to give a brief notice of the Council of Florence by which the doctrine of Purgatory was first made an article of faith. With it I shall bring this paper to an end.
The Council of Constance, which had been summoned principally with a view to the reformation of the clergy, terminated in April 1418, without having taken any effectual measures for their object. Five years afterwards the remonstrance which the existing state of things occasioned, obliged the then Pope Martin V. to summon another, which, in consequence of his sudden death, eventually opened at Basle, 23d of July, 1431, in the pontificate of Eugenius, under the presidency of Cardinal Julian Caesarini. Basle, as being across the Alps, was removed from the influence of the Roman see; and the Fathers assembled at once applied themselves to determine a. question, which had already been agitated at Constance, the superiority, viz. of a General Council to the Pope. They passed a decree that the jurisdiction of the representatives of the Church Catholic in Council Assembled was supreme and universal, and that they could not be dissolved, prorogued or transferred without their own consent. They proceeded to summon, threaten and censure Eugenius; and at length when he. resisted their proceedings, they suspended him from all his powers unless he submitted to them within 60 days. In these acts they were supported by the Emperor and other chief powers of Europe, as well as by the clergy; and the Pope was forced to submit.
They next attempted to reconcile the Greeks to the Latin Church. At this time Constantinople was much pressed by the Turkish arms; and the Emperor John Palaeologus, the second of that name, after the example of his father, hoped by holding out the prospect of a union of the Churches to gain succours from the West. The Fathers of Basle invited: him to attend their meeting with the Patriarch and other chief ecclesiastics of his division of Christendom; but, on his objecting to a journey across the Alps, an opening was afforded to Eugenius, who was not slow to avail himself of it, to propose to the Greeks to transfer the seat of the Council from the Rhine to Italy. In spite of the opposition of the Fathers at Basle, Eugenius was successful in his overtures. The Greek Emperor and ecclesiastics accepted the place of meeting which he proposed, which was Ferrara, and proceeded thither, that is, besides Palaeologus himself, the Patriarch, and twenty chief bishops, among whom were the metropolitans of Heraclea, Cyzicus, Nice, Nicomedia, Ephesus, and Trebizond; representatives also attended from Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem; and the Primate of Russia. Such were the members of the Greek Church present at this Council, who, however, high in station as they were, evidently were too few to express the voice of the East. It is well known that on the ancient principle of Councils, decisions were made not by authority, but by the independent and concordant testimony of all the Bishops of Christendom, or what was virtually all, to the doctrines declared. On the side of the Latins there were but five archbishops, eighteen bishops, and ten abbots, the greater part of whom were subjects or countrymen of the Pope. This scanty representation however of the Latin Church received, as it happened, a considerable reinforcement from Basle; for a reaction taking place there in the Pope's favour, some chief members of the rival Council coming over to him, the whole number of subscribers which he at last obtained to the synodical decree amounted to eight cardinals, two patriarchs, eight archbishops, fifty-two bishops, and forty-five abbots. After all, however, these are at first sight scarcely to be considered representatives of the whole of Christendom; yet such was the composition of the assembly, known in history as the Council of Florence, (whither a plague had driven it from Ferrara) which established the doctrine of Purgatory.
This is a sketch of its external history: but the point to be considered is the part taken by the Greeks in its proceedings. At the first glance here is this circumstance, almost in itself decisive against its authority, that the Greeks were actuated by motives of interest and at least by the influence and the presence of a Sovereign. Were they in number fifty times as many, they would not have appeared in Italy at all, had not the Ottomans been at the gates of Constantinople. Next they were unprotected in a strange country, depending even for their daily food on the bounty of those who were bent upon the reconciliation of the Churches; and they were detained by delays which, whether necessary or not, were sufficient to alarm them, and to make them impatient to bring their dispute to a termination. After the first session of the Council at Ferrara, the public proceedings were adjourned about six months. The Greek ecclesiastics were allowed each three or four gold florins a month; at one time there was an arrear of four months in the payment, at another of three, and at the time of their agreeing to unite with the Latins of five and a half. Besides, even had they the means, their withdrawal from the Council was absolutely forbidden: passports were required at the gates of Ferrara, the Venetian Government had engaged to intercept all fugitives, and civil punishment awaited them at Constantinople. Their condition is vividly described by Syropulus or Sguropulus, the ecclesiarch or preacher, who was present at the Council as one of the Patriarch's five attendants, and whose history of its proceedings is extant. Some extracts shall be introduced from his work; which, besides proving what I have said about the position of the Greeks, will introduce us in particular to the course taken in their discussions on the subject of Purgatory. There were four points of difference between the Churches: the use of leaven in the Eucharistic bread, the supremacy of the Pope, the nature of Purgatory, and the double procession of the Holy Ghost. Concerning the subject which alone here concerns us, Syropulus says,
"At our fourth meeting the bishop of Ephesus said, 'In our last meeting, venerable Fathers, you laid before us four heads for discussion, out of which we might take our choice .... Julian (the legate of Eugenius at Basle) said .... it seems to us best, to treat first of the purgatorial fire, that our own minds may be cleared by the discussion. Let us then now dispute upon this subject. The Bishop of Ephesus answered, Be it so as you have decided; but tell us first whence has your Church her traditions about it, and when did she receive and profess it, and what is her exact doctrine on the subject. These inquiries will help us forward. This was agreed to and we separated.
"'Meanwhile our allowance of provisions was demanded but not given us. Though we made frequent demands on account of our need, it was not given, until we came into the proposed conditions. When we had come round, we received the second monthly allowance on the 12th of May.
"'While we were so circumstanced, serious news kept coming that Amurath was preparing an attack upon Constantinople. The Venetians sent the despatches to our Emperor and the Patriarch; afterwards came letters from the City itself, intimating the same, and begging them to do their utmost to gain succours. On hearing this we were sadly afflicted, were sick of life, prayed to God for help, took it to heart, and with groans and tears begged for some escape from so great a calamity .... The Emperor had much talk with the Cardinals on this subject, and made representations through them to the Pope. We, indignant at their unbecoming conduct, betook ourselves to such private friends as we might have among them. When some of us had intreated in this way brother Ambrose, he said to them, 'Be not out of heart, hut do your utmost to bring about a union, and then we shall make great preparations, and will send a formidable force to Constantinople.'
"'Meanwhile some of our company said, that if a subscription for raising forces was proposed to our Archbishops, they would be ready according to their power. The Emperor catching at this, immediately went to the Patriarch, and called us all together, and made us a speech concerning contribution, saying that he himself had set the pattern by borrowing money to fit out a vessel of his own, that he felt Confident the Pope would send some also, and that it was a duty in the case of those who had the means to be liberal in the service of their country. To this the principal Archbishops made answer, that were they in Constantinople, they would contribute even more than they could well afford; but, being at present in a foreign land, and not knowing what was coming upon them, they felt it necessary to keep what they had, even supposing some among them had any thing left;.....however, under the necessity, they would each give something. Accordingly four of them promised 50 aspers apiece.
"'The Bishop of Nicea (the celebrated Bessarion) said, 'I have no ducats, but I have three urns, of which I will contribute two.' The Bishop also who came next said, 'I have no ducats, but I have two woollen cloaks, and I give one of them.' The Emperor on hearing as far as this, gave up the attempt as vain, for he had reckoned that the Archbishops together might have almost fitted out one vessel ....'
"In the fifth meeting, Julian began to discuss the subject of Purgatory, and said that the Roman Church, even from the very first had received and held this doctrine, from the time of the Holy Apostles, receiving it from St. Peter and St. Paul, ..... and then from the Doctors of the Church who succeeded them."
To complete the imbecility of the Greek party, they were at variance with each other, Bessarion of Nicea inclining to the Latins, Gregory the Penitentiary taking either side as it happened, and both opposing Mark of Ephesus, the resolute defender of the Greek doctrines. The Latins having put their argument on paper, the Greeks had to do the same, and the Emperor commanded Mark to draw it up, who declined the office, unless it was understood that what he should present would be accepted. The following childlish scene ensued, which is here introduced merely to show that the Greek cause was not fairly represented in that Council, since it was in the hands, as will be seen, of two rival Bishops and an Emperor as umpire, and not as if to imply that a Council must be composed of none but superior men in order to come to a right conclusion.
"It appeared proper that some among ourselves should stay with the Bishop of Ephesus, and that the paper should be drawn in our presence and hearing, and with our assistance, if it happened to be needed. Accordingly the Bishop of Nicea, the great Ecclesiarch" (the writer) "Gregory the Penitentiary, the Secretary of the Holy Consistory, met him. The Bishop of Nicea began to converse carelessly, and to digress into a variety of subjects. The Penitentiary followed, and rivalled him in the irrelevancy of his discourse. They took up each other, and emulated each other in wasting time on trifles and impertinences.I at intervals begged them to spare words and attend to the writing, but they persisted; when good part of the day was thus wasted, the Bishop of Ephesus said, 'At this rate I shall not be able to write a word: leave me with the Secretary of the Consistory and I will draw up something. Afterwards you shall look over it, and correct any thing that is amiss?' On this we left the room. Then the Bishop of Ephesus began to write; but the Bishop of Nicea did the same, at the suggestion of the Penitentiary, who praised what he drew up to the Emperor, and wished him to send it to the Latins, as more striking in style, and more eloquent. At his command both compositions were brought to him and read in the presence of select judges. Then the Emperor said to the Bishop of Ephesus, 'Your composition is good; it has many strong points. But it has some things too which will give advantage to the Latins, such as the story of St. Macarius asking the skull (of an idolator) and receiving an answer; for you can bring no unexceptionable testimony to this, and they will at once put it aside, and some other arguments also. Better let alone what can be easily met, and urge a little and strong than a parade of arguments, some of which may be easily overset, for your opponent will fix on your weak points, and if he masters you on one or two, he will appear to the many, or rather he will be heralded forth as having defeated you altogether. Therefore put out these passages.' ....Then turning to the Bishop of Nicea, he remarked, 'You too have your own faults, you begin by saying, 'O men of Latium;' this is unsuitable. It is more becoming to say, 'Venerable Fathers,' or something of the same respectful and acceptable nature; you have other mistakes too.' He ended by saying that the proem and previous statements of the Bishop of Nicea were the better, but the course of the argument, the proofs, and collateral remarks stronger in the paper of the Bishop of Ephesus; and that it seemed advisable to take the commencement of the former, and any other serviceable passages, and the body of the latter." . . . .
The reply thus compounded by two men of discordant sentiments was submitted to the Latins, and an answer drawn up to it in due form. A reply followed, and the discussion became animated.
"Meanwhile in private conversations the Latins begged the Bishop of Ephesus to propound plainly the doctrine which our Church holds concerning souls departed hence. But he did not state it, being hindered by the Emperor. And in proportion as they perceived him resisting, and not wishing to set forth our Church doctrine on the matter, so much the more did they press him, and intreat him, and remonstrate with him, and asked what he meant by his reserve, saying that every regular member of any Church was bound, when asked what was the Church's view on any question, at once to give it without hesitation or ambiguity. But the Bishop had his mouth stopped by the royal command."
John, a Spanish Bishop, then entered into a discussion with the Bishop of Ephesus with great dialectic skill, and Bessarion deserted to the Latins; at length, however the Emperor consented to Mark's speaking out' and he put the Latins into full possession of the Greek notions on the subject of Purgatory. The next sentences run as follows:
"Our allowance was expended, and nothing more was given us in spite of our frequent demands: but, when we yielded to their demand and told them our Church's opinion on the question in discussion, then they gave us three months' allowance on the 30th of June, 689 florins." 5. ß. 18.
This was all that passed on the subject of Purgatory, before the final decree, which, as in other points, so in this, was overruled by the determination of the Latins and the need of the Emperor. But here let me instance another hardship inflicted on the Greeks, for which I have already prepared the reader.
"We sat down in sorrow, not only because of existing and expected perils, but for the loss of our liberty, for we were shut up as slaves. And when three months and more were passed, and all were indignant at our dependence upon strangers, the straits we were in, and our want of provision, ..... three clerics, under the spur of necessity, found an escape....... But the Patriarch learning it, and being indignant at it, wrote at once to the Doge of Venice, who found out the men and sent them to him."
After many months discomfort from the causes that have been enumerated, the Greeks came to an understanding with the Latins: indeed, from the first, they had very little trust or attachment to their view. Their doctrine is said to have been, that the souls of imperfect Christians went to a place of darkness and sadness, where they were for some time in affliction and deprived of the light of God's countenance, in which state they were benefited by Eucharistic offerings and by alms; to this the Latins wished to add, that souls without stain enter at once into heavenly glory, while those who have repented of sin but have not had time to complete the necessary penance, are consigned for a longer or shorter time to purgatorial fire. This was the difference between the Churches, and they compromised the matter thus: the Latins did not press the doctrine of fire, and the Greeks gave upnot a word, but a truth,they allowed, contrary to the belief with which they had come to the Council, that those who are not in Purgatory are immediately beatified, and enjoy the sight of God.
It may be objected, and readily admitted, that the narrative of which the above are extracts, is drawn up by a writer unfriendly and unfair to the Latins. But it would seem to prove as much as this, viz. what was the popular view in Greece on the subject of these discussions and their termination, immediately upon it
A high ecclesiastic, as Syropulus was, would hardly have ventured to have set himself against a recent and solemn act of his own Church sanctioned by the Court, unless he had had a strong feeling with him. The very fact of his opposition proves that the conduct of the Greeks at Florence was but the act of a party at most in the Church; while the line of the history, their sufferings and compelled decision, is too clearly guaranteed to us as true by the known circumstances of the case. But we need not thus painfully deduce the real dissatisfaction of the Greek Church with the articles imposed upon its delegates at Florence. On their return home, they had to encounter so general an indignation and resentment at their conduct, that they were obliged at once to recant and confess their weakness, and throw themselves on the mercy of their brethren. Mark of Ephesus had not signed the decree, and became a rallying point for all who held by the popular religion; while the successor of the Patriarch was deserted even by his cross-bearers, and presided in an empty Cathedral. The feeling spread north and south; the patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem assembled a numerous Council, and disowned the acts of their representatives in Italy; and Isidore, the Primate of Russia, on returning to his country, was synodically condemned and imprisoned in a monastery.
Again, it may be objected that the great article of difference between Greeks and Latins was the question of the procession, not that of Purgatory, and after all, that the real point of repulsion between them lay in national jealousies; whereas they agreed together, as the Council shows, or at least with the slightest difference, on the question in which we are concerned, while the subsequent resentment of the Greeks at home had little or no reference to it; and that their agreement under such circumstances was only the more remarkable. It may be replied, that the object of the foregoing account has been to shew that the Greeks at Florence were not trustworthy, that they had neither the ease of circumstances, the learning, or the composure of mind to be witnesses of the traditionary and universal doctrine of their Churches. If this is proved by after circumstances, by the popular indignation as regards one doctrine, it takes all credit from their testimony as regards another. Moreover as regards the doctrine of Purgatory, they did not agree with the Latins in an important point, yet that point they gave up to them; most unfaithfully, considering them as stewards of Gospel truth; and, had they discerned the bearings of the Latin doctrine, which doubtless they did not, most treacherously. They admitted, against the national belief, the beatification of souls under specific circumstances, before the judgment, and in so doing they admitted practically almost as: much, as if they had subscribed to the doctrine of purgatorial fire. For, as the mention of fire on the; one hand is definite, and ascertains Purgatory to be strictly a place of punishment, which the general expressions of the Greeks did not strictly imply, so in like manner to separate off from it all the perfected saints, and transfer them to a better and heavenly state, does in effect sink it, by the contrast, to a place of privation and suffering. The presence of the souls of all saints, (to speak in general terms, that is, not to include the Martyrs whom the early Church has excepted) in Hades, Paradise, or Abraham's bosom, or by whatever other name we designate the Intermediate State, is our guarantee for the substantial blessedness of that State. We cannot spare the higher Saints from Paradise, in that they are our pledges for its heavenly character in the case of all believers. Thus as regards their own doctrine, the Greeks made most important admissions to the Latins, for making which they had no warrant, and therefore cannot be considered of authority in witnessing a Purgatory at all, any more than in the account they gave of it.
And with these remarks shall terminate a discussion, which has extended far beyond the limits which were originally proposed by the writer.
The Feast of the Annunciation.
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