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understanding of much that is connected with the practice of indulgences. For instance, they explain the terms employed.
First, the periods for which indulgences are usually granted, are apparently arbitrary, such as in an indulgence for forty days, of seven, thirty, or forty years, or plenary. Now, these were precisely the usual periods allotted to public penance, so that the signification of these terms is, that the indulgence granted is accepted by the Church as a substitution for a penance of that duration; a plenary indulgence being a substitute for
any entire term of awarded penitential inflictions. Secondly, the phrase, forgiveness of sin, which occurs in the ordinary forms of granting an indulgence, applies in the
There was in ancient times a twofold forgiveness; one sacramental, which generally preceded or interrupted the course of public penance, as I have shown you was the case in the Roman Church ; this was the absolution from the interior guilt, in the secret tribunal of penance.
But absolution or forgiveness, in the face of the Church, did not take place till the completion of the public satisfaction, for it was the act whereby an end was put to its duration. Now, in indulgences, as we have all along seen, the Church has no reference to the inward guilt or to the weight of eternal punishment incurred by sin, but only to the temporal chastisement and its necessary expiation. When, therefore, an indulgence is said to be a remission or forgiveness of sin, the phrase applies only to the outward guilt, or that portion of the evil whereof the ancient penitential canons took cognizance. This is still further evinced by the practice of the Church, which always makes, and has made, confession and communion, and consequently exemption from the guilt of sin, an indispensable condition for receiving an indulgence. So that forgiveness of sin must precede the participation of any such favour.
Thirdly, the very name Indulgence becomes clear and ap propriate. More errors are committed in judging of our doc trines from a misunderstanding of our terms, than from any other cause.
The word indulgence is supposed to refer to
something now existing; and as there is nothing visible of which it is a relaxation, it is assumed to mean an indulgence in reference to the commission of sin. But when considered in connection with its origin, when viewed as a mitigation of that rigour with which the Church of God, in its days of primitive fervour, visited sin, it becomes a name full of awful warning, and powerful encouragement; it brings back to our recollection, how much we fall short of that severe judgment which the saints passed on transgressions of the divine law; it acts as a protest on the part of the Church against the degeneracy of our modern virtue, and animates us to comply with the substitution conceded to us, up to the spirit of the original institution, and to supply its imperfection by private charity, mortification, and prayer.
It is argued, that the works enjoined for the acquisition of an indulgence, have been sometimes even irreligious or profane: at others, have had no object save to fill the coffers of the clergy; and in modern times, are habitually light and frivolous.
I. Such charges, my brethren, proceed from ignorance; they arise from what I have just adverted to, a misunderstanding of the name. In the middle ages, Europe saw its princes and emperors, its knights and nobles, abandon country and home, and devote themselves to the cruel task of war in a distant clime, to regain the sepulchre of Christ from the hands of infidels. And what reward did the Church propose ? Nothing more than an indulgence! But the form wherein it was granted proves all that I have said, that such a commutation was considered to stand in place of canonical penance, and that far from its being compatible with sin and vice, it required a devotedness of purpose, and a purity of motive, which show how completely the Church only bestowed it for the sanctification of her children, through a work deemed most honourable and glorious. Whoever," decrees the celebrated Council of Clermont, “shall go to Jerusalem to liberate the Church of God, out of pure devotion, and not for
the purpose of obtaining honour or money, let the journey be counted in lieu of all penance.”
be said that many took the cross from sordid or profligate motives. Be it so: but they did not partake in the spiritual benefit of this indulgence. They were men like Godfrey and St Lewis, whom the Church wished to encourage to the battle of Christ; and had none gone save those, who, with them, valued her gifts beyond their earthly diadems, or the repose of home, they would indeed have been in numbers few, like Gideon's host, but like it, they would have conquered in the strength of the Most High. And who will say that this earliest public substitution or commutation was a relaxation from former inflictions? It was true that the iron minds and frames of the northmen could not easily be bent to the prostrations, and tears, and fasts of the canonical penance, and that their restless passions could not easily be subdued into a long unvaried course of such severe virtue; but well and wisely did the Church, conscious of this, and called upon to repress aggression that had snatched from her very bosom a treasure by her dearly loved, and exterminated religion in one of her choicest provinces,—dreading too with reason, the persevering determination of the foe to push his conquest to her very heart and centre;-well did she to arouse the courage of her children, and to arm them with the badge of salvation, and to send them forth unto conquest; turning that very rudeness of character, which refused humiliation, into the instrument of a penance which required energy, strength, and ardour. And who that contemplates the strength of mind, and the patience with which every human evil was endured,-perils on land, and perils at sea, and perils from false brethren, war, famine, captivity, and pestilence, from an enthusiastic devotion to a religious cause, from a chivalrous affection for the records of redemption, will venture to say that the indulgence deserved
*“ Quicunque pro sola devotione, non pro honoris vel pecuniæ adeptione ad liberandam ecclesiam Dei Jerusalem profectus fuerit, iter illud pro omni pænitentia reputetur.” Can. ii. This was A. D. 1095.
that name, or imposed but a light and pleasant task?' Whether the object justified the grant, some men wiii, perhaps, permit themselves to doubt; for there are always some cold hearts that measure others' ardour by their own frozen temperament; and refer the feelings of distant ages, and of men whose minds were cast in a nobler mould, to the conventional codes of modern theories. To such the enthusiasm of the crusader will appear a phrenzy, and the soil which was watered by our Saviour's blood, no possession worth reconquering. But for our purpose it is sufficient to know, that they who imparted spiritual blessings to the warriors that placed the cross upon their shoulders, judged otherwise, and believed it an undertaking of value and glory for every Christian.
II. Such is the charge of indulgences granted for profane or evil purposes; what shall we say of the avarice which has so multiplied them? For what other object was the Jubilee instituted, save to fill the coffers of the sovereign Pontiff with the contributions of thousands of pilgrims, eager to gain its special indulgences ? Aye, my brethren, I have witnessed one of these lucrative institutions; for I was in Rome, when the venerable Pontiff, Leo XII., opened and closed the Jubilee, or Holy Year. I saw the myriads of pilgrims who crowded every portion of the city. I noted their tattered raiment, and wearied frames; I saw the convents and hospitals filled with them at night, reposing on beds furnished by the charity of the citizens: I saw them at their meals served by princes and prelates, and by the sovereign Pontiff himself;—but wealth poured into the Roman coffers, I saw not. I heard of blessings abundant, and tears of gratitude, which they poured upon our charity as they departed;—but of jewels offered by them to shrines, or gold cast into the bosoms of priests, I heard not. I learnt that the funds of charitable institutions had been exhausted, and heavy debts incurred by giving them hospitality; and if, after all this, the gain and profit was in favour of our city, it is, that she must have a large treasure of benediction to her account in Heav · for there alone hath she wished her deeds
on that occasion, to be recorded. Will
you say that the undertaking, anä the hopes of these men, were fond and vain? Or that they thought to gain forgiveness by a pleasant excursion to the Holy City, and by the neglect of their domestic duties? Then I wish you could have seen not merely the churches filled, but the public places and squares crowded, to hear the word of God-for Churches would not contain the audience: I wish you could have seen the throng at every confessional, and the multitudes that pressed round the altar of God, to partake of its heavenly gift. I wish you could know the restitution of ill-gotten property which was made, the destruction of immoral and irreligious books which took place, the amendments of hardened sinners which date from that time; and then you would understand why men and women undertook the toilsome pilgrimage, and judge whether it was indulgence in crime, and facility to commit sin, that is proffered and accepted in such an institution.
And what I have feebly sketched of the last Jubilee, is the description of all. So far was the very first of these holy seasons, in 1300, from bringing crowds of wealthy people to lavish their riches in the purchase of pardon, as it is generally expressed, that I have evidence, in whieh I am particularly interested, to the contrary. The number of English who flocked to Rome on that occasion was very great. But such was the state of destitution in which they appeared, and so unable were they even to obtain a shelter, that thcir condition moved the compassion of a respectable couple who had no children ; * and they resolved to settle in the Eternal City, and devote their property to the entertainment of English pilgrims. They accordingly bought a house for that purpose, and spent the remainder of their lives in the exercise of that virtue which St Paul so much commends, “harbouring strangers, and washing the feet of the saints.”+ To this humble beginning additions were soon made; the establishment for the reception of English pilgrims became an object of national charity; a church, dedi
Their names were John and Alice Shepherd. f 1 Tim. v. 10.