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bear to look on 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 they who are in the middle state of offence, between deep and deadly transgressions on the one hand, and a state of perfect purity and holiness on the
be dealt with, according to the just measure of His justice. What then, in God's name, is there in this doctrine, viewed simply in itself, that can make it so popular a theme of declamation against the Catholics? The anti-scriptural doctrine, of Purgatory, as it is termed, is more frequently than almost any other of our less important dogmas, the theme of obloquy and misrepresentation! It seems to be fancied in some way or other, that it is an instrument either for benefiting the clergy, or for enabling them to work on the fears of the people; that the terror of Purgatory is somehow a means of strengthening the arm of the Church over its subjects; but in what way, it is impossible for any Catholic, who knows our practice and belief, possibly to conceive.
I have more than once commented on the incorrectness of that method of arguing, which demands that we prove every one of our doctrines individually from the Scriptures. I occupied myself, during my first course of lectures, in demonstrating the Catholic principle of faith, that the Church of Christ was constituted by Him the depositary of His truths, and that, although many were recorded in His Holy Word, still many were committed to traditional keeping, and that Christ himself has faithfully promised to teach in His Church, and has thus secured her from error. It is on this authority that the Catholic grounds his belief in the doctrine of Purgatory: yet, not so but that its principle is laid down, indirectly at least, in the word of God. To examine fully the proofs of this doctrine, it is necessary to connect it with another Catholic practice, that of praying for the dead. For this practice, as we shall see, is essentially based on the belief in purgatory; and consequently the principles of both are intimately connected together. Why does the Catholic pray
for his departed friend, but that he fears, lest not having died in so pure a state as to have been immediately admitted to the sight of God, he may be enduring that punishment which God has awarded after the forgiveness of his sins; and believes that through the intercession of his brethren, he may be released from that distressing situation? I have no hesitation in saying that the two doctrines go so completely together, that if we succeed in demonstrating the one, the other necessarily follows. For, if we prove that it has always been the belief in the Church of Christ, that they who are departed may be bene fited by our prayers, and brought to the sight of God, while at the same time it has no less been its universal belief that they who had incurred eternal punishment could not be released from it, assuredly we have the same system as ours,—that there was a middle state wherein the face of God was not enjoyed, and yet eternal punishment was not suffered. And, in fact, we shall see how the two are spoken of in common, in those passages
of the oldest writers, on praying for the departed, wherein reasons are given for the practice; for they assure us that, by such prayers, we are able to release them from a state of suffering.
But, to begin with the word of God,—there is a passage with which, probably, most who have looked into this subject are well acquainted. It is in the 2d Book of Maccabees, (chapter xii.) where we are told how Judas, the valiant commander, made a collection, and “sent 12,000 drachmas of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice, to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection. For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. It is, therefore, a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins." (vv. 43-46.) Many will say that the second Book of Maccabees is not part of the Scripture; that it is not included in its
I will waive that question for the present, although it would not be difficult to prove that it has the same right to be in the canon as many books in the Old, and still more in the New Testament: for it is quoted by the fathers as Scrip
ture, and enumerated in its canon by councils which have drawn up catalogues of its books. But let us abstract from this consideration, which would lead us into too long a discussion. It is allowed, at any rate, by all, to contain sound, edifying doctrine; for even the Church of England allows, and even directs it to be read for instruction; whence one may conclude that she does not suppose it to contain doctrines opposed to the religion of Christ. But, my brethren, no one will pretend to deny that this is an historical work of considerable value; that it represents faithfully what the Jews believed and practised at that time. It proves, therefore, that, at the time of the Maccabees, the conviction existed, that when prayers were offered for the dead, they were beneficial to them, and that it
a holy and wholesome thought to pray for them.” We have, therefore, the practice and belief of the Jewish Church in testimony of our doctrine. Does our Saviour ever once reprove this custom of the Jews? Does He place it among the false traditions of the Pharisees? Does He hint that this was one of the corruptions that had crept by time into the institutions of God? But you will ask, are there anyother testimonies for this practiceamong the Jews? Most undoubtedly, for the Jews have continued the practice upto this moment, although it will hardly be suspected that they have drawn anything from the Christian religion. In their prayer books, a form of daily prayer is appointed for the departed; and in their synagogues there is a tablet, whereon the names of the deceased are inscribed, that they may be prayed for in succession so many Sabbaths, according to a varying formula. Nor must these practices be reputed modern; for Lightfoot acknowledges that some of their oldest writers agree with us in opinion, so far as to charge them with having borrowed from us. But surely, it would have been only fair and honest to tell how and wheu this doctrine was received by the Jews from the Catholio Church. On the contrary, as we have found it held by Judas Maccabæus, before the time of our Saviour, we have a right to consider its existence among the Jews as anterior to His coming;
and as it was never once reproved or blamed by Him, and is a point which depends not upon merely legal institution, we may justly consider it as still unchanged. It is only on this principle that the Sabbath or Sunday is observed with suck rigour in this country; for we might ask those who are zealous for its observance with such solemn severity, whence they derive that practice, except from that prescribed by God in the Old Law for its Sabbath? On what ground do they continue it? Because it is not a mere legal institution, and its discontinuance not having been commanded, they think that not only itself, but the method of observing it must be kept as it formerly
And so it is here; if the doctrine was held by the Jews, and by the best and holiest among them-by the writer of this book, as well as by Judas Maccabæus, who sent the 12,000 drachmas for a sacrifice for the dead,—if by such men it was believed that they could assist the dead, by supplication, and loose them from their sins, and that, consequently, these were not necessarily in a state of final or eternal condemnation,—if there be nothing in the New Law to reprobate this belief, based on the consideration of common justice, and on the ordinary providence of God, we have a right to consider it a true belief at the present time, and we must expect it to be still continued, with its practical consequences, in the Church. For, if prayers would benefit the dead of old, and sacrifices too, they must continue to benefit them as much now. Nay, why not more? Is not the communion between the members of Christ's Church infinitely stronger than it was then? Are not the merits of Christ now more powerful to assist; and are they not more at the disposal of His servants than formerly, through their
and intercession? And what reason have we to believe, that this beautiful and consoling communion, whereby they who remain were able to relieve those who were departed, hath been weakened and broken, and no: rather strengthened and drawn closer?
But let us look for a moment into the New Testament, and see whether, so far from anything being taught that should seem
calculated to have undeceived the Jews, had they been mistaken in their notions concerning the dead, there be not much likely to have confirmed them. Our blessed Saviour, on one occasion, distinguishes two kinds of sin, and calls one a sin against the Holy Ghost, saying, “whosoever shall speak a word against.the Sonof man, it shall be forgiven him, but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this world! orin the next.
."* Here is a species of sin, the aggravated nature of which is described 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? Surely, we have a right to conclude, that there is some remission of siu there; and yet it cannot be either in Heaven, or in the place of eternal punishment. We must therefore admit some other state in which this
be. Thus, the Jews, so far from seeing their former opinions and belief rejected, must have thought them strongly confirmed by Christ's express words. Moreover, we are assured in the New Law, that “nothing defiled shall enter” into the heavenly Jerusalem.f Suppose, then, that a Christian dies, who had committed some slight transgression; he cannot enter Heaven in this state, and yet we cannot suppose that he is to be condemned for ever. What alternative, then, are we to admit? Why, that there is some place in which the soul will be purged of the sin, and qualified to enter into the glory of God. Will
you say that God forgives all sin at the moment of death? Where is the warrant for that assertion? This is an important point of doctrine; and if you maintain that God at once forgives sins, on any occasion, you must allege strong authority for it. If you find nothing of such a doctrine in His revelation, but if, on the contrary, you are told, first, that no defilement can enter the kingdom of Heaven, and secondly, that some sins are forgiven in the next world, you must admit some means of purgation, whereby the sin* Mat. xii. 32.
† Apoc. xxi. 27.