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works of Christians differ in their acceptableness with God; that their good works, done to please God, shall not be touched by this fire, but their works which are more or less spoiled by sin must be purified if not altogether consumed by it, the soul of the sinner nevertheless being saved. What is this fire which burns some works of Christians, but not others, the soul still being saved, if not that of purgatory?
But do not for a moment iniagine that the Church teaches, or that any Catholic imagines, that unrepented mortal sin can be burnt out in this way. By no means; as has been said, there is no salvation for any one dying with such sin on his head.
As to the suffering in purgatory, the Church has never defined precisely what it is; and it is probable that in this life we cannot fully understand it. The soul in purgatory is separated from the body by death, and not yet reunited with it by the resurrection, so that bodily pains,
understand them, seem impossible. Nevertheless, all suffering really is in the soul; and it is possible that the disembodied soul may suffer pains similar to that which in this life come to it through the body. But the principal suffering would seem to be that which comes from the temporary separation of the soul from God, whom it desires and longs to be united with most ardently.
Instinctively, I think, almost every one recognizes or wishes to recognize the truth of the Catholic faith in this respect. Of course when one dear to us dies in the faith of Christ after a saintly, or even an ordinarily good life, there is not much difficulty in representing them to ourselves as being now in heaven; but when the life of such an one has been quite worldly and imperfect, we all feel that he is hardly fit for heaven, and yet we cannot bring ourselves really to believe that his portion is with the lost. We feel that God will yet be merciful to him, and admit him to the heaven for which he has hoped, and to which, though weakly and imperfectly, and with many falls by the way, he has endeavored to direct his steps. And we want, if we love such an one, to do something to help him, and to hasten the hour of his arrival at that eternal home.
And even though we may have been taught that prayers for the dead are useless, they will rise unbidden to our lips. It is human nature's tribute to the Catholic teaching, which is also that of the Greek Church, and of all the churches of the East as well ; and is not only consoling to our feelings and hopes, but also in accordance with reason and common sense.
THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD; EVERLAST.
HAVE said that purgatory, as understood
and believed by Catholics, is a teniporary state; with regard to its duration in any particular case, of course we can know nothing, unless by some special revelation. However, it is evident that it cannot extend after what is commonly known as the day of judgment.
With regard to this day of judgment it is a matter of faith that there will be such a day, in which all mankind will be judged together, and the place or state of every human being definitely assigned for all eternity. No doctrine is more plainly taught in Holy Scripture than this.
We have in the book of Daniel (xii. 2) the following words : “And many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake: some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach, to see it always."
From this, as it stands in English, we should plainly gather that only some of the dead were to arise to judgment; and it is a good instance of the impossibility of arriving at certain con
clusions of faith by simply taking the translated Bible as we have it in our vernacular, and the futility of attempting to do so. Taking this as we should naturally understand it, it is in contradiction to the words of our Lord himself (John v. 28–29): Wonder not at this, for the hour cometh, wherein all that are in the graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God. And - they that have done good things, shall come forth unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment." For you notice that Daniel says, many of those,” whereas Christ says “ all.”
It is plain that unless Daniel is to contradict our Lord Himself, we must understand by the words 'many” in his text, that the number will be great; and we must look at the idiom of the language in which his words were originally written. Hence the need of some interpreters of the Bible must, it seems to me, be quite clear, unless every Christian is expected to be a learned man and a profound student.
We also find in St. Matthew's gospel (xxv. 31-46) a very explicit and full description of the day of judgment, given by Christ Himself: “ And when the Son of Man shall come in His Majesty, and all the angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the seat of His Majesty ; and all nations shall be gathered together before
Him, and He shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats” (verses 31, 32).
St. Peter is very full also in his description of the day of judgment; telling us distinctly that the world shall at that time be destroyed by fire. He says (I. Pet. iii. 10): “The day of the Lord shall come as a thief, in which the heavens shall pass away with great violence, and the elements shall be melted with heat, and the earth and the works which are in it shall be burnt up."
Science, I need hardly say, cannot contradict this prophecy; for no one who believes in God can deny His power to dispose of what He has made, by special exertions of His power; but it may be added that such a destruction of the earth may easily come from causes now in operation. To produce such an effect, a collision of some large external body with the earth or the sun, or even a serious derangement of the orbit of the earth by the influence of such a body, would be amply sufficient.
The doctrine of the general judgment is taught clearly in other parts of Scripture, but it is hardly necessary to dwell longer on the matter. It is generally accepted by Christians who believe in revelation, and is embodied in what is called the Apostles' Creed, which Christians generally recite. “From thence" (that is, from