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dead; but then those persons only are benefited, who have so lived before death, that these may be useful to them after death.” Chrysostom says that the wicked when dead “are not so much to be lamented, as succored with prayers, and supplications, and alms, and oblations.” Still these sentiments were not universal ; and Jerome declares, that “when we shall come before the judgment-seat of Christ, neither Job, nor Daniel, nor Noah, can entreat for any one, but every one must bear his own burden.” Mr. Coleman, in his Christian Antiquities, thus sums up the doctrine of the early church respecting prayers for the dead. “When the prayers of the early church were offered on behalf of persons supposed to have died in the faith, who were regarded as about to enter into happiness, Christians were understood to beseech God that he would receive those persons to himself;they gave thanks for their deliverance out of this sinful world;—they petitioned for the divine forgiveness of all remains of sin and imperfection in the departed; they intended to offer a tribute of respect and as. fection to the deceased, and to testify their own belief of the immortality of the soul and a future life; and they sought to procure for their departed friends the blessings of an early share in the millennial reign of Christ upon earth, (which was confidently expected by the early Chris
* August. Serm. de Verb. Apost. xxxii, Oper. Vol. X, p. 138.-Faber,209.
tians,) as well as favor at the day of judgment, (when they supposed that all men would pass through a fire of purgation,) and an augmentation of their reward and glory in the state of final blessedness. It is certain, also, that prayers were offered for those who had died in sin, in the hope of mitigating their sufferings, or rendering their condemnation more tolerable.” Now there is little here in common with the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory. There is no allusion to a fire of purgation for the “faithful” alone in the intermediate state, but to a fire through which all men are to pass at the judgment. And it is a public and formal pardon at the day of judgment for which prayer is offered in behalf of the dead, and not a release from purgatory. So much for the early fathers. Toward the close of the sixth century, Pope Gregory, sometimes called the Great, officially countenanced the idea of purgatory. The flames of Etna and Vesuvius are said to have convinced many of the reality of such a place, and the superstitious multitude could even see the spirits of the departed undergoing torment in the craters of these volcanoes. Still purgatory had not yet become an article of faith. According to Mosheim, in the tenth century, the clergy, finding that the fears of the multitude respecting purgatory contributed greatly to increase their own authority, “used every method to augment them, and by the most pathetic discourses, accompanied by monstrous fables and fictitious miracles, they labored to establish the doctrine of purgatory, and also to make it appear that they had a mighty influence in that formidable region.” Still it was not till the session of the Council of Florence in the fifteenth century, that purgatory was fully recognized as an article of faith, to be re-asfirmed in the following century by cut authorityf in such matters, is entitled to any weight. The doctrine of purgatory grew with the growth of superstition and corruption. Leaving tradition, we turn to see what show of scriptural authority the Romanists adduce in favor of purgatory. Their main reliance is upon 2 Maccabees, xii, 43–46, where it is said that Judas sent money to Jerusalem for sacrifices to be offered for the sins of the dead. We should not notice this apocryphal testimony were it not for the peculiar turn which is given to the argument from it. It is said that the passage at least proves that the practice of praying for the dead prevailed among the Jews, and as Christ never censured this practice, he tacitly sanctioned it. This is at best a slender basis for an article of faith. True in some cases silence is as instructive as express teaching, But to draw an argument for the doctrine of purgatory from the silence of Christ respecting it, it must be shown that the custom of praying for the dead was prevalent among the Jews to such an extent as to demand his notice; and further, that he never did censure the practice in his unrecorded conversations or discourses. But even this would weigh little against the plain implication from his teachings on the other side. An epistle of Pliny gives us a minute account of an eruption of Vesuvius which occurred in his day, yet does not make the least allusion to the most impressive circumstance connected with it, the destruction of Herculaneum and Pompeii. This omission on his part might have weighed against the vague allusions to this event by other writers, had not the discovery of the buried cities verified the awful tale. But there is an argument from the silence of Christ upon this subject, which we think worthy of consideration. If there is a purgatory, ithy did Christ never speak of it ! It has been well observed that “from the few and indistinct notices of a future state, which occur in the Hebrew Scriptures, we might not have much reason to be surprised at their silence on this topic: but when we recollect that it was a special office of Christ to illuminate life and immortality through the Gospel, it is utterly incredible, that the life-giving Savior should have vouchsafed us no sort of revelation concerning Purgatory and prayers for the dead, had the former really existed, and had the latter been a pious and profiable duty. On the awful truths of the next world, our Lord is copious and distinct, alarming and consolatory. We have the whole fearful machinery of the last day placed, as it were, visibly before our very eyes: the sheep on the right hand of the Judge; the goats on the left hand. We hear as it were with our very ears, the irreversible doom of weal or woe. The doors of the adytum are thrown open; the mystery, hidden or but dimly perceived through a long succession of ages, is unreservedly declared to the whole Wol. III. 23
the Council of Trent.* Where then is the boasted antiquity of this doctrine * We have met the Romanist on his own ground, and shown that he has not even tradition in his favor; at least not that tradition which, according to Connecti
* The Council of Trent expresses itself upon this subject with brevity and ambiguity. It was disposed of at the last session, when business was pressing, and the dangerous illness of the pope urged the holy fathers to a speedy termination of their labors. The decree contains no formal exposition of the doctrine, but declares briefly that “there is a purgatory, and that the souls detained there are assisted by the suffrages of the faithful, but ..., by the acceptable sacrifice of the mass,” and enjoins that this wholesome doctrine of purgatory, delivered by venerable fathers and holy councils, should be believed and held by Christ's faithful, and every where taught and preached. To show in what estimation this doctrine was held in the sixteenth century, we will mention an incident which occurred in England in the reign of Henry VIII. John Frith, an eminent scholar, and an associate of Tindal, was accused before the Bishop of London of heresy in respect to transubstantiation and purgatory. “As to purgatory, he said a man consisted of two parts, his body and soul; his body was purged by sickness and other ains, and at last by death, and was not y their own doctrine sent to purgatory. And for the soul, it was purged through the word of God received by faith. So his confession was written down in these words. Item, ‘I'rith thinketh and judgeth that there is no purgatory for the soul, after that it is departed from the body, and as he thinketh herein, so hath he said, written and defended ; howbeit he thinketh neither part to be an article of faith, necessarily to be believed *:::: pain of damnation.” He was judged an obstinate heretic, and was delivered to the secular }...". He was burnt in Smithfield, uly 4, 1533–Burnet's Hist. of Ref. It is well known how shamelessly Tetzel proclaimed this doctrine “The very moment,” said he, “that the money clinks against the bottom of the chest, the soul escapes from purgatory, and flies free to heaven. " " ' " Duls and heedless man, with ten groschen you can deliver four father from purgatory,” &c. &c. hese appeals were enforced by rude paintings of souls enduring various kinds of torment.— D'.1ubigné. Sir Walter Scott thus wittily illustrates the popular belief in this doctrine in the
15th century, in Quentin Durward. The brave Le Balafre, boasting of his exploits, is reminded of his duty to the church. Breaking off a gold chain from his neck, he bids his attendants carry it to his gos. sip, }} Father Boniface, the monk of St. Martin’s. “Tell my gossip that my brother and sister, and some others of my house, are all dead and gone, and I pray him to say masses for their souls, as far as the value of these links will carry him, and to do on trust what else may be ne: cessary to free them from purgatory. And hark-ye, as they were just living people, and free from . heresy, it may be that they are well nigh out of limbo already, so that a little matter may have them flee of the fetlocks; and in that case, look ye, ye will say I desire to take out the balance of the gold in curses upon a generation called the Ogul-vies of Angus-shire, in which way soever the church may best come at them.”
There can be no question that the credulity of the multitude in respect to purgatory has been a rich source of income to the clergy.
f “The first two centuries,”—Brownell's Charge.
universe. Yet, respecting purgatory and prayers for the dead, the great and all-knowing hierophant is profoundly silent.” Does not the silence of Christ in such circumstances go farther to prove that there is no purgatory, than his silence upon a supposed custom of praying for the dead to prove that he sanctioned it? Besides, the “voice from hearen” has declared, “blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth. Yea, saith the spirit, that they may rest from their labors.” A bed of coals in purgatory would be a strange resting-place for one wearied with the cares and toils of this life; and the standard of bliss must be anomalous, by which such repose is pronounced “blessed.” We can not examine minutely all the texts which are quoted as teaching the doctrine of purgatory by implication. Yet it is necessary to a complete exhibition of the subject, briefly to consider some of the more important. These are the following. 1 Pet. iii, 19, 20. By which (Spirit) also, he (Christ) went and preached to the spirits in prison; which sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah. The Rhemish version here reads—“In which also coming he preached to those spirits that were in prison, which had been sometime incredulcus, when they waited for the patience of God in the days of Noe.” It is argued from this, that there is a middle state in which the spirits of the departed are confined. But it is not said that Christ entered the present abode of the spirits of the rebellious antediluvians and there preached to them the Gospel; but simply that by his Spirit (speaking probably through Noah, who was “a preacher of righteousness,”) he preached to the antediluvians, exhorting them to repent while God delayed his judgments, and offering salvation to the very individuals who through their disobedience are now in prison—held in chains and darkness like the rebel angels, against the judgment of the great day. Just so we might say that Whitefield came to America and preached to souls in perdition; i. e. to some who are now among the lost. Or we might go among the graves of the first settlers of New Haven and say, “Mr. Davenport came from England to preach to the dead men around us ;” i.e. to those who now are in these graves. Christ by his Spirit, in the days of Noah, preached to those who now are in the prison of despair. 1 Cor. iii, 13–16. The fire shall try every man's work, of what sort it is. . . . . If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. It is supposed by some that the fire here spoken of is the fire of purgatory.” But the Apostle is speaking of teachers who build their systems of doctrine upon the fundamental truth, that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. Their labors will be thoroughly scanned in the last day, and if they have inculcated error they shall receive no fruit, though they may have so much of the true faith as to be barely saved themselves. The fire is to try their works, not them; and they are to be saved not by the fire of purgatory, but as if by fire—with difficulty—like one escaping from a burning house with his bare life. Matt. xii, 32. Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this
* This notion originated with Augustine, who held that this transitory fire would purge away minute, but not deadly sins. e seems, however, to have referred it to the fire which is to consume the world at the day of judgment, probably borrowing the idea of purification from those, “purgatorial catastrophes of the world”—deluges of water or of fire —which are made conspicuous in oriental theology. (See his views discussed at large in Faber.)
world, nor in the world to come. Upon this passage Dr. Wiseman remarks, “here is a species of sin, the aggravated nature of which is expressed by its not being forgiven in the next world. Should we not thence conclude that some other sins may be forgiven there * Why give this peculiar characteristic to one, if no sin is ever pardoned in the next world 2’” This seems plausible at first view ; but the design of Christ was not to specify the sin which would not be forgiven hereaf. ter, in distinction from others which might be forgiven. That was not the point before him. His object was to declare in the strongest terms, that this sin would never in any circumstances be forgiven; i.e. as Mark expresses it, hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation. To those who attempt to derive the doctrine of the restoration of the wicked from this passage, we would simply suggest that world may mean “ dispensation” here, just as easily as in Matt. 24. Neither purgatory nor restoration can be extracted by any fair principles of interpretation from these words of Christ. This is the only show of scriptural authority in behalf of purgatory, except the inferences drawn from that class of passages which teach that none shall enter heaven who are in the least defiled with sin. But the argument from these is philosophical rather than exegetical. Says Dr. Challoner, “the Scripture assures us that there shall in no wise enter into the heavenly Jerusalem any thing that defileth, or that is defiled. So that if the soul is found to have the least spot or stain at the time of her departure out of this life, she can not in that condition go strait to heaven. Now how few are there that depart this life perfectly pure from the dregs and stains to which we are ever subject in this state of mortality ? And yet God forbid that every little spot or stain should condemn the soul to the everlasting torments of hell. Therefore there must be a middle place for souls that die under these lesser stains.”
Again he says, “no one can think that God will condemn a soul to hell for every idle word, therefore there must be another place of punishment for those that die guilty of these little transgressions.”
Dr. Wiseman resorts to similar casuistry. “No one,” he says, “will venture to assert that all sins are equal before God—that there is no difference between those cold-blooded and deliberate acts of crime which the hardened villain perpetrates, and those smaller and daily transgressions into which we habitually and almost inadvertently fall. At the same time we know that God can not bear to look upon iniquity, however small ; that he requires whatever comes into his presence to be perfectly pure and worthy of him; and we might rationally conclude that there should be some means whereby those who are in the middle state of offense, between deep and deadly transgressions on the one hand, and a state of perfect purity and holiness on the other, may be dealt with according to the just measure of his justice.”
Now there is the same fallacy in this reasoning as in the common reasoning against the doctrine of future punishment; viz. that the demerit of sin is estimated by the specific form or number of offenses, and not from its inherent nature. It is a common saying that no man can commit sins enough in this short life to deserve eternal punishment. But the degree of punishment due to the sinner is not to be measured by the number of his overt acts of transgression, but by the nature of transgression itself. Adam could not have received a more dreadful sentence for a thousand sins, than was pronounced upon him for one act of disobedience.
What is sin 2 It is “ the transgression of the law ;” opposition to the known will of God ; resistance to his authority; the preference of self-interest to the welfare of the universe ; a spirit which if carried out to its legitimate results, would destroy every thing good, and throw the gloom of a despotic selfishness around the throne now radiant with love. Now what matters it in what or how many forms this spirit may develope itself in action ? The spirit is that which is to be condemned and feared. What matters it whether a child begins to disobey his father in this particular or in that, in great things or in small 2 That which needs correction is the spirit of disobedience; a spirit which excites just alarm when manifested in the most trivial thing, and calls for decisive marks of disapprobation from a parent who would maintain his authority. How idle then to talk of sins as being too few or insignificant to deserve eternal punishment l No sin can be a less thing than opposition to that law of love which God has enacted for the welfare of the moral universe. And is that a light matter 2 Can we conceive of any thing worse 2 Does such a spirit need to be exhibited through a long course of years, or in certain aggravated forms, before it can deserve the sternest rebuke of the lawgiver ? It is no more inconsistent with the benevolence of God to punish men eternally, if the case require it, than to punish them at all.
There enters also into the reasoning which we now oppose, the false supposition, that the sinner can expiate his guilt by penance—that his “little sins” can be atoned for by limited sufferings. But this error falls to the ground with the preceding. Besides, we have already shown that the Scriptures recognize no scheme of penance or selfexpiation. Man in his ruin must trust wholly to Christ, or sink to woe. There is no other alternative.