Faith Is In God And His Word, Not In The Church
N*. Well, James, I hear you have been visited by some Roman Catholics, and are in some perplexity.
James. I have, and they spoke very fair; and I cannot deny that I do not see clear. Christ surely left a church on earth, and some authority to guide us poor people, and instruct us in the right way. It is a great comfort to feel assured that one is of the true church that Christ founded. And, after I had been reflecting awhile on what they said, I began to feel that I have got no proof that the Bible is the word of God.
N*. And did you ever doubt it before, James?
James. No, I cannot say I did; I have always believed it to be the word of God; and, though I am afraid I have sadly neglected it many a year, still I, and my wife more than myself, used to find comfort in it; and the children too used to read a chapter when they came from school; and I think it used to do us all good, and bring God home to us somehow, and keep our consciences alive; and the children took wonderfully to beautiful histories that are in it, and so indeed did we, and it made our home happy. There was only Jem that paid no heed to it; and he was an unruly boy: I have had a deal of trouble with him. But, since I have got more serious and anxious in my mind, I have found the Bible bring trouble into my conscience. I hardly know where I am with God—it condemns me: I see there is goodness and wonderful grace in Jesus; but then I have no peace in myself, and now I see there is a deal I do not understand, and I should like to know the bottom of it.
Bill M. (my neighbour, who has turned Catholic), says he has never been so happy in his life, his soul never got rest till now. He never thought much about religion, it is true, and those ladies that visit were wonderfully kind when his lass was sick; but he says he knows some who never get a minute’s rest in their souls, that were always seeking it, till they found it in the true church. It was he that asked me how I knew it was the Bible; and if the true church had not kept the Bible and given it, who could say it was the word of God? and how did I, an ignorant man, know it was the word of God, as I called it? And that has dashed me uncommonly, because, though I never doubted it a moment before, and saw in infidels that there was no good nor godliness in their ways, yet I felt I had no proof to give, and what am I to do? I know it speaks of a church that Christ would build on the rock, and I think if that would give me certainty it would be a great rest to me. But my Mary says she could not think of such a thing; that she could no more doubt it to be the word of God than that the sun shines, and less, if that were possible: that there is more light and comfort to her soul in the Bible than there is light for her eyes and warmth in the sun. And she is a rare wife to me, and I see she has great sense in the things of God, and is a comfort in the house, and wonderful to the children— very civil to those black ladies that visit, but shy of them and of the way they try to get into the family.
I do not think that I doubt at bottom that it is the word of God; my conscience and my heart too, I think, make me feel it is. But since this talk with Bill M. my mind is all in perplexity, and I feel I have no proof it is the word of God: and just because I have begun to be anxious about it, and about my soul, I should like to have something certain to rest upon. You will forgive, I am sure, sir, my saying everything, and telling you all that is in my mind, because I have known you so long and your kindness, and I am in perplexity, and, to say the truth, glad to open my mind to some one I can trust, though I do not rightly know what to trust now. I thought I could entirely trust the word of God, and what am I to do now? You will excuse me.
N*. I am very much obliged to you, James, for telling me what was passing in your mind, and grateful for the confidence you have shewn me, and thankful to God that He disposed your heart to do so, and we could not do better than take up the subject: there cannot be a more important one. The faith, or, to speak more truly, Christ, is everything for us poor sinners, and we do want some sure ground on which to believe. Our faith must be a divine faith, in its nature and source, as well as in the things which it reveals; and for a divine faith we must have divine testimony. But there is, in what you say, one thing which strikes me much, namely, that your Roman Catholic friends have only led you to doubt of the authority of the scriptures, which yet they believe to be divine, or they are infidels themselves. They have not ventured to say the scriptures are not divine: that would be infidelity, and, as far as man went, straightforward infidelity; but they have sought to make you doubt of the certainty of their being divine. This may be all very well to bring you under their influence, and to make you believe that they only can give you this certainty; but I confess that I do not see the honesty of making you uncertain as to the authority of the scriptures, when they own that authority themselves.
James. That is true. If they do believe they are the word of God, I do not see why they should seek to make me doubt as to how I can be sure of it.
N*. Just so; and in respect of such a matter as the word of God, it is something approaching to blasphemy. It is saying, that when God has spoken to men, His word has no certain authority of itself over their consciences. They deprive your soul of certainty in the word of God on one side, and they deprive the word of God of its authority over your soul on the other. This, I must say, seems to me a wicked course, seeing they do not dare to say it is not the word of God. Now an upright heart can very often judge of a thing by the conscience, when it is quite unable to meet argument. These men seek, as to what they believe is the word of God, and which they believe ought to exercise authority over your conscience, to make you doubt whether you have any proof whereby you may know it to be such when you read it. Is not this the course your infidel acquaintance took with you? Only they took it openly.
James. Well, it is just the same.
N*. The word of God, James, carries its own authority in the heart of him in whom it has wrought. And, mark this, if it has not wrought in a man’s heart, though all the churches in the world should accredit him, that man is lost. If they believe it to be the word of God, why not take it and see what it says? They dare not: it is too plain, it condemns their whole system. For instance, you know that it is said, “Where remission of these (sins and iniquities) is, there is no more offering for sin” (Heb. 10:13). Now their whole system depends upon there being still offerings for sin. The very way a Roman Catholic is described is—he goes to Mass. Now the Mass is an offering for the sins of the living and the dead. And when the word says there is no more offering for sin, and the most important distinctive point in their doctrine, and the keystone of the system they belong to, is, that there is still an offering for sin3 it is easy to understand why they try to shake your confidence in the word, or to make you think that you cannot understand it. It is because it is very plain indeed, for the poorest, that they do not like it.
You are a poor man, but it does not require much learning to understand that the declaration that “there is no more offering for sin” upsets a system which is built upon offering one continually. They may quote Fathers of all names to prove that there ought to be one, or that there was one; but, if the word of God has authority, they cannot say there is one according to the authority of God. There is a kind of learning, James, learning such as your wife has, being taught of God—a learning from Him according to the promise of that word, the only learning that saves—which gives a weight and power to the truth I am referring to, which all the sophistry of Romanists or infidels cannot shake—I mean the knowledge of the unchangeable value of the one offering of Christ, offered once for all. A man taught of God knows that it is in force for ever, that it gives peace to the conscience, that Christ suffered agonies in accomplishing our salvation in that offering; and that, as is expressly said, if it had to be repeated, Christ must -suffer repeatedly j that if it be an offering wherein Christ does not suffer—an offering wherein He does not shed His blood—it is an utterly worthless sacrifice—a base pretension to be an offering—a mockery, really, of the solemn truth of the sufferings and agonies of the Son of God for us.
It is said (Heb. 9:25), “Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place with blood of others, for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once, in the end of the world, hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And, as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment, so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.” Mark the words “once” and “bear the sins.” Does Christ bear sins in the Roman Catholic Mass? If not, it is a new way of getting forgiveness, which sets aside the unspeakably gracious but heart-bowing way in which God has wrought salvation out for us, namely, the dreadful but infinitely precious sufferings of His own Son. If Christ does suffer in the Mass, He is not glorified at the right hand of God. True Christianity and the doctrine of the Mass cannot go together. And the more you examine chapters 9 and 10 of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the more you will see how the truth of God is set aside by the Mass. For the apostle is shewing the value of Christ’s offering because it was only once, in contrast with the Jewish offerings which were repeated. Those offerings, he says, were a remembrance of sins, brought them to mind; the sins were still there, or why would the offerings for sin not have ceased to be offered? But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down at the right hand of God. And then mark, he shews how we know it: “Whereof also the Holy Ghost is a witness to us … their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” And note, how blessedly this chapter presents it to us. First, the will of God giving His Son, instead of all these useless sacrifices which could never take away sins. Thus I see His thoughts and love. Then, again, the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Thus I see (not only Christ willing, in the same love, to come, but) the needed work actually accomplished. And lastly, the Holy Ghost bearing witness about it. I have the divine will and thoughts, the divine work; and, that I may have divine faith about it, and peace in my soul through it, I have a divine testimony about it.
And note, James, that this testimony is the written word of God; that is, he quotes a passage of scripture as the witness which the Holy Ghost has given. Now that is what as a poor sinner I want, and which I get only by this truth—the efficacy of this one offering testified of by the Holy Ghost Himself. And that is the reason I said that one taught of God knows it with a certainty and blessing which Romanists and infidels cannot shake. And no man that possessed this would, for a moment, think of giving up the divinely-witnessed and known efficacy of the sacrifice by Christ of Himself, once for all, for the vain profitless repetition of it [sacrifice] where Christ does not nor can offer Himself, for He is at the right hand of God, where He does not suffer or bear sin, for this He cannot do now He is in glory.
And note, this repetition of it, if I admit it, denies the lasting, perfect, efficacy of the offering He Himself made. For if it be lasting and perfect, why repeat it? My objection to the Roman Catholic system on this head is that it is built on a pretended offering which Christ does not offer, in which no blood is shed, in which Christ does not suffer, in which Christ does not bear sins, which is therefore utterly worthless; but which, by the pretension to offer Christ again, denies the abiding efficacy of Christ’s one real offering of Himself. What a fraud of Satan’s, to be sure, it is!
James. But then do we not commit sins (not only after Christ has died, but even) after we come to have part in the sacrifice of Christ?
N*. Surely we may; but scripture does not speak of the repetition of Christ’s sacrifice for that: this was once for all. His blood cannot be shed again, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. It was not our sins up to a certain day which Christ bore, if indeed we have part in that sacrifice. God knows all beforehand the same as at the time, and we had committed none of our sins when Christ died for them: so that it is not the time when they were committed that makes the difference, save that they are worse when we have Christian light and life. Do not think that I count them slight; but we must not confound the efficacious work done about our sins, which was done once for all, and that work of grace and of God’s Spirit in the heart which produces in us right thoughts and feelings about our sins and brings us into communion with God. The remedy practically, as to our hearts, if we do sin, is not a new sacrifice, for a new sacrifice to put them away is impossible; but, “if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins.” Christ is our righteousness, and this and the worth of His propitiation remain always before God; and when we fail, in which we never can excuse ourselves, Christ intercedes for us, and the Spirit of God makes us feel the sin, and we are humbled and contrite, and thus Christ restores our souls, and we are again in communion with God. It is beautifully pictured, let me add, by that blessed expression of the Saviour’s condescension and love in washing the disciples’ feet. He that is washed—truly born of God—needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit. God may use His written word, or a sermon, or the warning of a friend, as means—but it is the work of Christ’s grace in the soul.
James. Well, I feel greatly comforted by what you say, but all is not clear to my mind yet; still this grace of Jesus Christ does give rest to one’s spirit, and makes one think of Him and of God’s goodness and of His love to poor sinners like me; so that one likes to think of Him. Besides, I think it takes hardness and pride out of one’s heart, and puts away bad thoughts, and makes one love other people too, whoever they may be.
N*. It does, James. It gives rest, and does what you have spoken of—sheds the love of God abroad in the heart, and purifies the heart by faith. It is a blessed thing to think that God commends His love to us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
James. Yes, that is a comfort, and I like to think of it better than of my doubts. Still, sir, you will forgive me, but they come back like a chill on my heart; and, as I said, I am not clear yet, for if I might take a wrong meaning out of the scriptures, and I feel I am very ignorant, I mean no offence to you, sir, but one wants something sure for one’s soul.
N*. All right, James; I have not forgotten our subject. You only make me feel more keenly the wickedness of those who seek to cast a doubt into the mind of a poor man, poor or rich either, as to the purity and source of these blessed wells of salvation, so that he is half afraid there may be poison in them, or that at any rate they do not suit him, while they know, or (at any rate) profess all the time to believe, that they are divinely given, and divine well-springs of health. I will treat this point in a direct manner by and bye, but you will let me, I am sure, pursue the subject in my own manner. It is well, you know, when a person is disposed to take a step, say to go into a house or a farm, to know what the house or the farm is. He is warned at any rate. All well that he should inquire afterwards what authority there is for what he has heard, and take care there is a title.
James. Ay, that is true. Go on, sir, as you think best. I shall listen, and I have heard what you have said gladly.
N*. I shall say a few words more about the Mass. You are aware that the church, as they call it, does not permit the laity to partake of the cup.
James. Don’t they! Why not?
N*. Well, it is for them to say why they change Christ’s ordinance, but it exalts the priest who does take the cup. They allege the danger of a drop of what they declare to be really the blood of Christ falling to the ground; though it would be hard to tell why there is more danger of this with the layman than with the priest. However such is their rule; laymen do not partake of the cup. They allege, to prove that they lose nothing, that the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ are in each species, that is, in each part—in the bread by itself, and the wine by itself; they call this the doctrine of concomitancy. Never mind the hard words; the sense is that the bread is a complete Christ, no longer bread at all, and nothing else but Christ, save in appearance. But see how the enemy has mocked them, for if the blood be in the body now, there is no redemption at all. Christ shed His blood to redeem and save us. Hence they were to drink as well as to eat.
I will not dwell on this, but what a pretension this is, that the priest, on pronouncing the formula— “This is my body,” turns the bit of paste into God, or (as it is constantly expressed by themselves) the priest makes God; for this is the expression familiarly used among them when they have the courage to speak freely. Now I knew a very poor man in Ireland tell his neighbour, a staunch champion for his church, when he was arguing for this doctrine, that he was contending for what he did not believe; for if that was true, the priest could do what God could not do, for God could not make God. And this is true enough. A poor man, James, if taught of God, often hits right and wrong—truth and error—right on the head better than your learned men that make all kinds of fine distinctions. Nor would their distinctions serve here. They cannot say Christ comes into the bread as God was incarnate, because there the manhood was, and remained manhood; but, according to their doctrine, the bread does not remain at all. And therefore it is called transubstantiation; that is, the substance of the bread is changed into the substance of Christ, and the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ are all there. They make a Christ out of the bread—a whole Christ, divinity and all. It must indeed be a new Christ. You cannot change it into the Christ that is already.
James. But, dear me, can all this be true! Why, I knew nothing of all this. They did not speak of all this to me. The true church! well, it is well to know things. And yet, sure enough, the Mass is the great thing with them. But I did not know what the Mass was; I thought it was the sacrament with them.
N*. Well, so it is. I shall, as I said, come to the question of the church’s authority; but knowing what people teach is one very good way of knowing what authority they can have. They anxiously seek to puzzle you about the church, that, having fixed you on the ground of authority, you may receive everything they say without conscience, without personal responsibility, and without faith in God: for faith in a priest or in the church is not faith in God. You are to believe them, they say; yet if God has spoken by an apostle, you cannot believe that, nor understand it without them. I suppose they know better how to speak of divine things than the apostles and inspired writers did. But this is the point we have to speak of by and bye. Only remark this well, James, you are to believe them. You cannot understand what God has said, nor even believe He said it, without them. You must depend on them. Can they answer for you in the day of judgment?
James. No, of course they cannot. I should be sorry to trust them.
N*. Of course they cannot. Then do not depend on them now. You must answer for yourself without them before God. This is just as true now, though that day be not come, for it is for what you do now that you will have to answer. You are individually responsible. You must assure yourself that the ground you are standing on now will be a sure and solid one in that day. Another cannot do it for you: you are personally responsible. They cannot pretend to relieve you from this. They would have you trust them blindly now, but they must abandon you when the real need comes, when you have to answer for yourself, and they for themselves.
James. That is true though.
N*. Surely it is true; but, mark, if you believe in Christ, and rest your soul on Him, He never will abandon you. If He who of God is made unto us righteousness is your righteousness now, He will be your righteousness when sitting on the throne, before which you have to appear.
James. Is this in scripture—that He is our righteousness?
N*. It is, James, in 1 Corinthians 1:30: “Of him [God] are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.”
James. Well, that relieves my heart, however, more than all I have heard. Christ our righteousness! why that changes everything, and makes a man love Him too; and He bore our sins to be so! I think I do see it. I understand why Mary is happy now, though I am not like her; and I am afraid I may not keep it as she does. Is there more like that? I know the Bible but too little, and then one heeds it, after all, so little, till one finds one really wants it.
N*. Well, James, as we are on this subject, and a blessed one it is, before our going on with the question of the true church, or Romish doctrines, I will refer to some of the passages you inquire about. You will remark in the one I quoted to you that it says, “Of him are ye”; that is, that these blessings belong to one who is a Christian at heart, one who in his soul (as a sinner who has need of Christ) believes in Him, a man whose conscience has been before God, in whom (as scripture speaks) there is truth in the inward parts, who does not believe merely because he has been brought up in it, however sincerely, as far as that goes, he may have done so; but who has believed for himself, has come to Christ in his heart, because he wants Him. God will have realities, not notions, be they false or true. When the truth is really received, it is received in the heart and conscience. It convicts of sin, shews the heart to itself, and makes it know the need of the truths which, perhaps, it had learned before, perhaps had never heard of.
James. Yes, yes. I understand that. I have not, I am sure, felt my sins as I ought, but I know I am not right. I am uneasy, I know I am not right with God. That is what made me listen to what they said about the true church and the rest a man might get there; but I do not see, what I think ought to be, in those who go there either. I know I am a sinner. Whatever the Bible is, it has made me see that: sometimes angry with myself, sometimes (God forgive me!) almost angry with the Bible itself and Him that gave it; and yet I am ashamed of that, because it makes me see I am a sinner. I see I could not but be lost if I am judged as I am; yet I hope too it won’t be so.
N*. A word about this rest, James. I do not deny that the Roman Catholic system gives rest to some persons. Suppose a child had been at mischief, and was uneasy, and some one was to appease its parent, or its master, and it was let off, or its schoolmaster was to pardon repeated faults which shewed a bad disposition, and not tell the parent: the child would be at ease, and have its conscience quiet, and think no more about it; but it would not have a purified conscience. A little penitence might be added to keep up appearances, but the evil would be unhealed. That is the church’s absolution as contrasted with God’s pardon. It quiets the conscience, but it does not purge it. This will not do for God, nor for a soul in which true desires after Himself are awakened. The doctrine of absolution and the sacrament of penance is an unholy doctrine. It is professedly a means of having forgiveness where the heart has not attained to true contrition. This is the express doctrine of the Catechism of the Council of Trent, a work of absolute authority for all Roman Catholics. According to that the sacrament of penance is a less precarious and less difficult means of reconciliation and salvation than contrition, afforded by the Almighty by giving to the church the keys of the kingdom of heaven.86 Thus the conscience gets tranquillity without that true contrition which alone restores the soul to true communion with God. It is, in my judgment, a horribly wicked doctrine, to say nothing of its accompaniments connected with confession. The practical result is that thousands and thousands sin all the year, get cleared off by absolution for communion at Easter, and begin to sin again as soon as Easter is over.
James. But it is impossible an awakened soul, one that wanted really to be in communion with God, could be contented with such rest for his conscience as that; nay, he could not get any rest that way, because he knows he has to say to God, and God’s presence awakens the sense of sin when he comes to it, and he cannot rest in his soul till his conscience is purged.
N*. Impossible, James, as you say: but many a natural conscience is uneasy that has never got into the presence of God, and such a fear may be quieted without God, as it was felt without Him. But what has made you feel that it is impossible for an awakened soul which desires to be at peace with God to content itself with such rest as that?
James. Well, it is the word of God, I suppose, by His goodness, because it has made me see my sinfulness and want to have peace with God Himself.
N*. Then the word of God is true, James, and has power. It has proved itself true to your conscience, told you what you have done, and revealed God to you. It is God’s word. It has shewn you to yourself in His sight, and revealed Him. And none could do that but God. You do not want it proved, you do not want it judged. It has judged you in revealing God to you, by His grace surely, but as His word.
James. That is true, I see it now. It has, by grace, power in itself.
N*. Just so. “The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” But a word more. There is another kind of rest a man may get. When he is not clear as to truth, and is harassed about it, when the truth has not power in his soul as known to himself, he would like to find it out, and be satisfied about it. And he cannot get clear, he is uneasy, and (instead of waiting humbly in the exercise of his own soul to be taught of God, so that his own heart, and soul, and conscience get established in the present truth), he rests through weariness upon authority; he does not know the truth himself in his inward parts, but takes whatever he is told as true. It is rest from the fatigue of his mind, but his soul has not the truth for itself at all. He does not believe for himself. Another (whom, out of weariness, he trusts to) has told him it is true, and he believes him.87
James. That I see. That is just where I was in danger of coming, sure enough. But that is not having the truth from God at all; it is not having it. I feel I must have it for myself and in myself to have it really at all; but I was almost tired of the conflict, and, as I said to you, sir, they spoke fair, and I saw Bill M. had rest, and I had not, and I wanted to get sure ground for my soul, something certain. I can’t say I have rest in my heart yet, but I am a deal lighter, and I see God is good, and I see that His word is the truth, and sure it must be so if it is His, and they don’t deny that. So I have something I can surely trust in, and I can understand some of it plain enough. Not all, it is true; but maybe I will more in time. Mary herself does, a deal more than I do, but everything is clearer to me than it was.
N*. You cannot have real rest and peace of soul, James, till you really know Christ as your righteousness before God. The goodness of God makes light and hope shine in, by grace, on the soul; and confidence in Him and His goodness springs up in the heart, which is an immense matter. Still God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and cannot look at sin; and hence the conscience once in His presence feels it must be cleansed and forgiven, and find a righteousness which our sinful lives surely have not given us.
James. I know it is said the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin; and that, if a man’s sins were as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. That comforts and encourages me, but I have not rightly peace by it. I am not quite sure it is for me: for I am a poor sinner after all. I find sin in myself still, and I think that troubles me more than my past sins.
N*. It always does when grace has wrought in the soul. You do quite right to judge it, and yourself for it. Sin becomes hateful to us if we are really born of God, and we are ashamed of ourselves for it. Nor can we ever excuse ourselves, and especially the true Christian, because the grace of Christ is sufficient for him to make him walk aright. But you will find, James, that power against sin will come when you know what it is to be cleansed from it. Not that it will not always require vigilance and prayer for grace; but, when your soul is in communion with the Lord through the peace He gives, you will find there the strength for victory, and for holding your evil nature in subjection. That communion gives happiness and strength. Hitherto you have been more learning your need of cleansing than the efficacy of Christ’s blood for it: and that is all right, because, as we were seeing already, God will have realities, and have inward purification and judgment of sin along with peace with Himself, and so shews us the sin we have to be cleansed from. But now remember what we were referring to in Hebrews 9 and 10, how the blood of Christ purges the conscience.
James. Yes, yes, I see that more and more, and that it is done once for all on the cross, and cannot be repeated; I see, too, more how it applies; yet I cannot apply it entirely to myself.
N*. Well now, as God has brought you to see and judge your sin—though I am sure, as you know Christ better, this feeling will even deepen; but as He has brought you to repentance, I do fully trust—let me ask you, Is it from your righteousness or good deeds that you have to be cleansed?
James. Well, no; nor have I any either.
N*. Well, it is from your sins, then?
N*. From those you have, or those you have not?
James. Why, from those I have, of course.
N*. What are those you are feeling, I trust hating too; are they not those you have?
James. To be sure, and I can say I hate them, any way. But they overcome me still, and sometimes I think I am worse than ever.
N*. All right, as I said, James, to judge yourself. God has shewn you the evil of sin. It must be so if we are brought into His presence in the light. But do you not see that those are the sins you have, for which Christ gave Himself that you might be cleansed in God’s sight from them, bearing our sins in His own body on the tree? God has made you feel the guilt and unholiness of them. Now He shews you the full atonement for them, that in His sight the blood of Christ cleanses perfectly from them; that when God sees the blood, He cannot charge them on you, whom He has taught to trust in that blood, or your faith would be in vain. Thus He said to Israel in that solemn night when God went through Egypt to smite the firstborn, and commanded the blood to be put upon the lintel and the two doorposts. You remember that account in Exodus 12.
James. Yes, yes, the night of the passover.
N*. Well, God said then, “when / see the blood, I will pass over.” Now, if a man had not believed God, he would not, of course, have had the refuge, and so it is now with us: but so God now sees the blood of our true paschal lamb, and passes over. He cannot see the true Christian’s sins as on him, because He sees the blood which has put them away for ever.
James. I see it all now. He gave Himself for my sins, and suffered agonies and wrath for them on the cross, that I may be clear from them. Well, it is blessed grace. To think—why one can’t think as one ought of it—one is bought with a price, as it is said! I see why Mary is so happy, and no wonder. Why, how blind I was!
N*. And yet God has been gracious to you, James.
James. Ay, gracious to me, that He has. It is I that have to say so; but you will excuse my saying much more about it now, sir. It is too wonderful, and I hardly know how to get my heart to contain it all rightly; but I see it, and thank you, sir, too. Oh, it is all plain, and it is now I see that the word of God is true, and what a book that blessed book is. Yet I have all to learn in it. I did not just doubt it till they spoke to me, but it is a different thing when it is light in one’s own soul. It convicted me before; but then I could hardly delight in its being true enough. It judged me, but now it is light to my soul.
N*. So the apostle John speaks, James: “He that beheveth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself. He that believeth not hath made God a liar, because he beheveth not the record that God hath given concerning his Son.” This last, you did not do, James, though you were in danger of it; but, as a system, Romanism and infidelity does. I say as a system, because I do not impute it to all the poor souls in the system, as if they did it wilfully. Now you have, as I fully trust, got the other part, the witness in yourself. You see what forgiveness is, but you have yet to learn more fully what divine righteousness is—what it is to be made the righteousness of God in Christ. You will find that there is a fulness in the deliverance of which God has made you partaker, of which you are hardly yet quite aware. You see that there is a perfect forgiveness, and that the blood of Christ has blotted out all the wretched sinful fruits of your old nature; that He has borne your sins and died for you as a sinner, and that all that you are as such is done away by His death, in God’s sight; for sin in the flesh has been condemned in the sacrifice He has made for sin, as well as sins atoned for. But, besides that, Christ is risen, and has taken a new place as an accepted Man, who as such is God the Father’s delight, and this is your place before God. You are accepted in Him; as well as the sins of your old man, and all its guilt, put away. He has been raised again for our justification.
And this connects itself, you see, with a new life in us, the power of which has been displayed in His resurrection. It was divine power, no doubt, which was displayed in that, but in the way of the energy of life, and that life is made ours in Christ. We are quickened together with Him, and raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Him. We are made the righteousness of God in Him. This perhaps you cannot fully understand yet; but, as we were speaking of what is given to us in being justified through Christ, I have just mentioned it. It is fully opened out in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, in the second chapter of that to the Ephesians, in the third of Colossians, and in the Epistle to the Galatians. You will find there that the fleshly religion, so largely now developed in Romanism, was what opposed Paul in his day; only his energy, through the power of the Holy Ghost, kept it down. If you humbly study the word of God, looking to Him to help you, He will lead you on in these things. I now only just point them out to you.
A remarkable image of these truths is found in the history of the children of Israel, which may help you to understand what this deliverance is which I speak of. When God passed through Egypt in judgment, the blood on the doorposts protected them against that judgment, and most blessed it was; but Israel was still in Egypt. But when they arrived at the Red Sea, God said by Moses: “Stand still and see the salvation of Jehovah.” Then Israel, as you remember, passed through the Red Sea dry-shod, and got out of Egypt, and into an entirely new position: as a people accepted of God, having a great deal to learn, but with God, and all their former state behind them. So it is not all, that the precious blood of Christ protects us, as the Lamb slain for us, from the righteous judgment of God; but His death and resurrection bring us into a new place, accepted before God in Him, who is risen up from among the dead after having paid the wages of sin for us. But I must leave you, James, thankful that you see that Christ has made peace by the blood of His cross. You can rejoice with your dear wife: it will be a cheer to her, and lead your children on. A poor man is the happiest being on the earth when he has the Lord with him in his peaceful, if humble, home. It is not that you will not find questions and difficulties arise in your mind, and temptations to overcome, and sin to resist; the Lord has warned us it will be so—but we have One to go to, whom you, as I trust, now know for yourself, James.
We have, what is a less pleasant part of our intercourse (but may be useful as you are circumstanced), your questions with Bill M. to settle about Romanist views, and I will try and see you again.
James. Thank you, sir, I shall be glad to see you. I am right glad to have seen you to-day, and I do not mind so much about those questions now, but it is as well to look into them, as I meet some of them often. I do not understand all you said about righteousness, but I see that it is there in the word, and that Israel was not only spared in the judgment but got into a new place with God. But my heart has not got in itself into it yet.
N*. Well, good-bye. Search the word, James, now your heart is in it. It strengthens the heart, and it keeps the conscience alive. A dull conscience is apt to be more or less a hardened one, and leaves the soul open to temptations and the assaults of the enemy. And pray continually to God, your Father in Christ, for grace to help and keep you. The Bible has been a blessing to you, even though you long had no divine light on it, James. I often think it is like the fire that is laid, but not lit. The truths it contains cannot take effect till grace puts the fire to them; but the truth, divine truth, is there to be kindled, any way, though it may be increased condemnation if a man give no heed to what God has said. So Paul speaks to Timothy, speaking of the safeguard in the last days, “that from a child thou hast known the scriptures.” God bless you, James; I hope to see you again,
James. Farewell, sir.
The Forgiveness Of Sins: Purgatory
N*. Good day, James.
James. Good day, sir.
N*. Well, James, I am come to continue our inquiries into the truth of Roman Catholic doctrines.
James. I am glad you are, sir, and much obliged to you. Bill M. has been here since, and angry at my being so sure of the Bible being the word of God, and that I am so happy because I see that God has forgiven me, and that I have found salvation in Christ. He says I am turned fanatic, and that my head is turned, and what not. It tried me a little, but I know I am happy, and my wife helped me. And it was only what he had said to me before. And when I turned to scripture, it came to me just with light and power; it was like another book to me; so I was not shaken really. If a man sees the sun, it is hard to persuade him he does not see it, though he cannot explain to another how he comes to see it, only that God gave him eyes; but I should like to hear something more about the church, for that is what he always comes down upon. I expect he will be here to-night, and perhaps, if it is not too much to ask, you would have some conversation with him about it. My woman would be glad to hear, too, if you have no objection.
N*. Not the least; we will wait to speak of the church and authority till M. comes. I am glad he will be here, we can have our questions fully out. We will take however Roman Catholic doctrines from their own authoritative sources, which is still better. However he can recall any point I might forget, which will be an advantage. As to their arguments, I have Milner’s “End of Controversy,” which I know is distributed largely in cheap editions, so that I suppose we shall have the best arguments which they have to produce. Meanwhile there is a point I can touch on (for which we had not time the other day), I mean purgatory, because it is directly connected with the all-sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, which gave you, through grace, such comfort the last time I saw you. The Romanists teach that there are two kinds of sins, mortal and venial. The first, they say, deprives the soul of sanctifying grace (that is, the grace that makes us friends of God), and deserves hell: venial sin does not deprive us of this. It does not, spiritually speaking, kill the soul, so their catechisms speak. The Council of Trent declares that the grace of justification is lost by mortal sin. Venial sin however, according to the same authority, does not exclude from grace, but by mortal sins men are sons of wrath and enemies of God. They say that if a man dies in mortal sin he goes to hell, but if he dies in venial sin he goes to purgatory; or if his mortal sin has been forgiven, and he is again justified by penance, he may go to purgatory to satisfy for the penalties that may remain after forgiveness.
James. What is purgatory?
N*. They are very shy indeed of saying what it is. Our friend, Dr. Milner, says, “All which is necessary to be believed on that subject is, there is a purgatory, and the souls detained there are helped by tb.e prayers of the faithful, and particularly by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar.” This is the same as the Council of Trent. Only they anathematize any one who denies that, after men are freed from the eternal penalty of their sins, they have to satisfy in this world or in purgatory the temporal penalty to which they are liable for them. They do not tell us what it is, and forbid curious questions; only there is, they say, a place of temporary punishment. In the Catechism of the Council of Trent, however, it is called the fire of purgatory, in which the souls of the just are cleansed by a temporary punishment.88 Those who get in must stay there till they have paid the very last farthing, for so they apply that text; yet their friends can help them to get out by prayers, alms, and particularly by the so-called sacrifice of the Mass. Now all this you can easily see (however little clear it may be) goes clean against the whole testimony of God as to the forgiveness of sins. They ground it in their reasonings on the impossibility of a soul suffering for a small sin as it would for murder. They put a person under vindictive temporal punishment, which does not purify, but satisfies God. They are always labouring to get people out; indulgences are used to spare people part of this temporal punishment due to sin, as they say, but “no one can ever be sure that he has gained the entire benefit of an indulgence, though he has performed all the conditions appointed for this end.”89 How different is scripture. God does chasten for sin with a view to our holiness, even when we are perfectly forgiven—He, for our profit (it is said), that we may be partakers of His holiness. That, the heart assured of His goodness can easily believe, and bless Him for it. He speaks to us (as it is beautifully said) as unto children: “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him.” It is also true that God governs, and shews sometimes His displeasure against sin in this world. And He has so ordered the world that he that sows to the flesh, of the flesh reaps corruption; but a vindictive penalty—when a man is not in the flesh at all, as to which God can be satisfied by the man’s sufferings in this or another world, or by his friends’ offerings, with which no purifying is connected, but which serve merely to buy him off from God’s hand, who will not let him go till the last farthing is paid—is a horrible blasphemy against the truth and grace of God. The scriptures do not teach us thus. What should you say, James, to the thought that, after God had forgiven you, and declared that He would remember your sins and iniquities no more, God was going to put you into the fire or some other horrible pain, till you paid Him the last farthing of these temporal penalties?
James. I never could think that.
N*. No one who knows God’s truth could, James. It revolts every thought that God has given to us of His grace and of Himself.
James. But, then, what do you say to the murderer not being punished more than one who had committed a small fault?
N*. I say that if they turn to God through Christ, they are both washed clean, as white as snow, even if the sin was as scarlet. The whole argument, James, denies Christian truth. No person renewed in heart will call any fault small which comes from the carnal mind, which is enmity against God. We know that, if we are not redeemed and justified and born again, we are all children of wrath; that if we are, though we may be chastened for our profit, God imputes to us no sin at all, as Paul says in Romans 4, “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth no sin,” quoting Psalm 32, because Christ has, for those who by grace are in Him, borne and satisfied perfectly for them all; that (Heb. 10) by one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified; that, if they are really Christ’s, they have a new nature (Col. 3:10); that Christ Himself is their life (Col. 3; Gal. 2:20); and that, when we die, we are absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5); that God has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (Col. 1). In a word, we believe in salvation through the work of Christ, and a new, divinely-given, nature. The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin (1 John 1). God forgives and cleanses from all iniquity. It was when Christ had by Himself purged our sins that He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1). What do we want of a purgatory, if we are perfectly purged and cleansed, made (as scripture speaks) as white as snow! They would persuade us that God has given His Son for our sins, that He has borne them; and yet, that for those who die in grace, who are really in Christ, all whose sins Christ has borne, cleansing them in His precious blood— interceding for them in virtue of it if they have failed (1 John 2) —God has still a prison in order to punish them grievously for the very sins which Christ has borne, and that He will exact the last farthing of them!
James. That’s not Christianity, I’m sure, nor the God of the Bible.
N*. It is not, James: and what strikes me in all the doctrines of popery is that they deny the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ, His own grace. But a word as regards degrees of guilt. Even in eternal punishment scripture speaks of a difference, of few stripes and many stripes (Luke 12:46, 47); but that is in eternal punishment when Christ comes to judge, as you may see, verse 46; and they are all alike shut out from the presence of the blessed God, and that is what is infinitely dreadful; while, if through grace they have been brought to repentance and faith in Christ, if they have really been made partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3, 4), the Lord imputes no sin to them. The Romanist reasoning supposes that the sinner who is in grace has to answer for his own sins, and hence it makes the difference of great and small. Christianity teaches us that, if a man be in Christ, Christ is He who has answered for them, and that hence none is imputed to him at all. But he does look for purifying by the word of God in whatever details he may need it, and by chastening in the flesh when it is called for; but he has a new nature, and, if he dies and leaves this world of discipline, he will not have his body or flesh remaining at all. He departs and is with Christ; he falls asleep in Christ, Jesus receiving his spirit. He could not look on the God who has loved him, given His Son for him, justified him, cleansed him in Christ’s blood, made him His own child, and declared He would never remember his sins, as a God who would after all put him into torment till he paid the last farthing.
James. That is true; I see plain enough it denies the very nature of Christianity, all it tells you of God and all the feelings it gives towards God for His love. Why the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost! I begin to feel it now, and see in the Bible that it belongs to the Christian; and there would be an utter end of that, if it was true that God was going, after saving us by Christ, to put us into prison till we had paid the last farthing. No: I believe Christ has paid the last farthing for me (blessed be His name), and that He ever lives to make intercession for me. I do not know what kind of a religion that is, but it is not real Christianity. Of this I am sure; though I do not say good people may not be blinded by it.
N*. No: its character is not divine. Penances to satisfy an exacting God, purgatory if you do not do enough, multiplied rites and ceremonies to quiet the conscience without purifying it, no confidence in God as a God of love, no resting in thankful peace on the efficacy of Christ’s work, no childlike confidence in a Father’s goodness taking away fear; these are not the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ, nor their fruits. The system really sets aside grace, and puts us under the terror of an eternity which we are not fit to meet. It pretends that Christ’s blood was shed to bring the Old Testament saints to paradise, but that the commandments are given for us to merit it by. Then there are ceremonies to eke out our failures; and, in spite of them all, and of a sacrament that is to wipe out the remains of sin90 (for so they say extreme unction does, which Christ’s blood, however believed in, has not done of itself), we are to go to purgatory and finish the payment to a God who will have the last farthing. It is neither God come down to us in love (and this is what Christ really was on earth, and as to His love He surely is not changed), nor we reconciled to God by the death of His Son, which scripture says that we who believe are. Forgive me, James, if I speak earnestly and warmly when I think of the wrong done to God’s love and to the efficacy of Christ’s precious blood by it.
They can give a thousand cunning explanations about purgatory, which after all are but straw before the word of God; but the end is that the poor soul under this teaching needs, and feels it needs, purging in order to be with God. It does its best, is not purged; gets the sacraments, is not purged; and then goes to purgatory, and God knows when it will get out. For see what a poor case it is after all. A man is absolved, has the viaticum, the benefit of Christ’s sacrifice; afterwards he is anointed, which is declared to wipe away the remains of sin,91 and then after all goes to purgatory. What is that for? Not to purge him—for the remains of sin are wiped away (I use the terms of the Council of Trent92) by extreme unction: what does he go to purgatory for after that? The natural conscience feels it must be to purge the soul, not merely to satisfy a vindictive God; but, if it be, then the sacraments have not done it. And though they have had masses before which have not kept them out of this prison, and they get masses said to get them out when they are in, yet we never know when they will get out after all. They are helped, but we are not told (that is carefully avoided) whether the satisfaction is judicially received for the satisfaction of another: the offended judge is not bound to receive. It is probable it is; but they are only suffrages,93 not satisfaction necessarily applied.
And remark here, that it is with no view of benefit to the souls that are in purgatory that they are tormented. God does chasten men in this world (and to this Roman Catholics appeal); but we read, “he for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness.” God may bring in judgment, like the flood, or the perishing of the Israelites in the wilderness; but, in this last case, it is said, “As I live, saith Jehovah, all the earth shall be filled with my glory.” It was His public government in this world vindicated. But Bellarmine says, the souls in purgatory are sure of their salvation, that death has wholly taken away the principle of sin in them, nor is the purgatorial fire to correct evil habits that have been acquired. It is purely completing so much punishment imposed on them, satisfying a penalty. And for that they are in horrible torments, perhaps till the resurrection.94
James. Well, how can people be so blinded? For I cannot believe, if a soul is forgiven and purged, God could take pleasure in tormenting it; and if it is not purged, then their absolution, and sacrament, and unction are worth nothing after all. Purgatory and they cannot both be true, that is plain. Ah! when a man is in the blessed light, he sees clear, even if he be ignorant, because he knows the love of God and the value of the precious blood of Christ.
N*. Yes, James, he is taught of God; and what concerns his soul is as clear as daylight, ay, and what God is too, though he have much to learn. We have considered what purgatory is for the soul when compared with the truth of scripture; we will see the value of their proofs of it by and bye. In the meanwhile see how their doctrine of the intercession of the saints hides the. grace of Christ.
The word of God teaches us that the blessed Son of God came down to earth, and got, as scripture beautifully speaks, the tongue of the learned, to speak a word in season to him that is weary (Isa. 50:4). We are told that He was in all points tempted like as we are without sin; that we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but that, having suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted (Heb. 2:17, 18; chap. 4:15, 16): so that I can come boldly to a throne of grace to find mercy and grace to help in time of need; that if I sin, which I can never excuse, still I have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins (1 John 2). Here then God teaches me I have a throne of grace to which I can come boldly, and a high priest who understands all my weakness and sorrows, and feels for me in them, and, if I have sinned, One who has made propitiation for the sin. Now that is all I want. It is holy ground to go on, for no sin is allowed at all, but it suits my heart and my wants. On the other hand, what does the intercession of the saints and Mary tell me? It says to me, No, you cannot come boldly to the throne of grace. Christ is too high, too glorious.95 He does not, and either will not or cannot feel for my wants and sorrows as others do. Mary has a more tender heart. The saints can enter better into my wants—are nearer to me. In vain has the Son of God become a man on purpose to know and to bear my sorrows, to assure me that He feels for me in tender love and compassion: others (if I am to believe the Romanist doctrine) are more suited to me. I must get them to go and move Him to love me and enter into my sorrows, and get what I want from Him for me.96 And if I have sinned, instead of trusting to His intercession who has made propitiation for me, I must get saints to do it, who never could nor ever have done it. Did they ever, when in the form of God, become a poor man for me? Did Mary ever do so, or shed her blood for me?—And see how it denies the grace of God. Is this getting saints to go because I dare not go, coming boldly to the throne of grace because it is a throne of grace? I had rather have the heart of Him who became a man of sorrows for me, and shed His blood for me, and is the one only high priest, than all the Marys and all the saints (blessed as they may be in their place) that ever were.
I speak with you, James, of the substance of these things, and compare the Roman Catholic system with the truth, with what Christianity is as given to us of God; because you have not lost it as given of God, but are rather come to it really in your heart, and thus can understand the difference. Romanism is not the Christianity of the scriptures at all, not God’s Christianity: grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
James. Thank you, sir, thank you. It does me good, and clears up many a point for me. It does make a wonderful difference when one knows there is such a thing as grace— knows God’s grace ever so little, as shewn us in Christ. When one has learned to have confidence in God’s goodness, one sees the whole system is false; that it is not grace; that man has to work and suffer to satisfy God. He may have sacraments to get grace and works to merit glory, but it is no God of grace that he has to do with.
N*. But they will not allow you, James, to have confidence in the love of God, or to be assured. They cite the words— “no man can know love or hatred by all that is before him,” to prove that no Christian can be assured.
James. Well, I do not see, if a Christian believes that God gave His only-begotten Son for him when he was a poor sinner, to say nothing of His love being shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, how he can doubt that God loves him. No doubt the grace of God must work in his heart to make him really think of it, or care for it, or believe it; but if it does, he must know God loves him, and he is bound to believe that the blood of Christ cleanses him from all sin.
N*. Surely he is, James, but this is formally denied by the Council of Trent,97 and every Roman Catholic.
James. I see it is impossible for a true believer to receive for a moment their doctrine. It denies the grace of God, and the real efficacy of Christ’s work, so that His love is never known, and the soul has never true peace, and penances are put in the place of inward purity.
N*. That is the truth. Scripture tells us of divine love, and its sweet and blessed comfort known in the soul; of purity, inward purity, required, but communicated to us by a new life, by one being born of God, and enjoying the renewing of the Holy Ghost; of the perfect efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice once for all, so that being justified by faith I have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord: and then of walking thus, through His continual grace, in the favour and fear of God, with the assurance that when I am absent from the body I shall be present with the Lord, and finally be glorified with Him. They tell me of meriting heaven by my works; of satisfying God for my sins (even if forgiven), of multiplied sacraments, and ceremonies, and penances, and, when I have done all, of going to hell or to purgatory. And if the blessed Son of God has died, it is only to give efficacy to the sacraments which leave me in this evil case after all. It is a poor kind of religion. They tell me I cannot be saved out of it—and yet, if I am in it, I cannot after all tell whether I am saved or not.98 Well, I do not believe that the God of grace meant to leave a man there. I believe He gave His Son that I might have peace in my soul, and be happy, according to His holy nature; not that I might remain ignorant after all of His love and of my own salvation. I read that the revelation of Christ was “to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sin”; and that peace by Jesus Christ was preached because He has made peace. And I see that Romanism deprives us of all the present blessing of the gospel altogether. But here, I suppose, is your neighbour.
James. Sit down, Bill. This is the gentleman I told you of. This, sir, is Bill M.
N*. Good day, M.
Bill M. Good day, sir.
N*. We have been talking of the true religion, M., and whether the Roman Catholic system is the true one. Hitherto we have mainly compared it with the substance of Christianity as it is set out in scripture for the comfort of us poor sinners. But it is all fair to hear what you have to say for the system which you have adopted and would persuade James to adopt, and I propose we should take Milner’s “End of Controversy “as a kind of text-book, for it is largely circulated by zealous Romanists to win Protestants by to Romanism, and printed cheap by your friends, as giving the best possible account of their doctrine and overthrowing Protestantism.
Bill M. The church alone can judge of the truth, sir, and we must submit to her authority, or we shall never arrive at it.
N*. Well, but we are Christians, what you will call Protestants, professing to believe sincerely in Christ, and you must shew us the truth somehow. We do not, at any rate, yet own the Roman Catholic system to be the true church. Of course I do not conceal from you that I am very far from thinking it so. It will not do to say the church teaches so and so, when you have not yet shewn us what is the true church; but I shall gladly hear all you have to say. You have sought to bring James here to turn Roman Catholic, saying you alone have the true church, and I have sought to guard him against it. You, or Dr. Milner himself, can tell us what that which you call the true church says on the points in controversy; but you cannot use the authority of the church to me before I believe that that to which you belong is so. Indeed, there would be another thing to prove, namely, that the church has authority to teach. I believe it has not, but that the apostles had, and subordinately, the ministry, those whom God has called to it, though these last not so as to be any rule of faith. I am quite ready to discuss the question of the church’s authority: it is of all importance; but we cannot use it till we have it, and as your famous Dr. Milner has discussed the different points, we can see what your best authorities have to say. We will discuss the true church like all the rest.
Bill M. I do not know whether I ought to argue with you, because, till you submit to the authority of the true church, you cannot see the truth.
James. Well, but then you must confess you have nothing to say for your doctrines. You used to praise Milner’s book, M., to me, and say nobody could answer it.
Bill M. When once the church has pronounced, I believe.
N*. You must first shew what is the church. But besides that, this is not receiving the truth yourself in the love of it. And if you think we are in such deadly error, and do not seek to convince us, you are answerable for our souls. Besides, it is not enough to shew me where the true church is (I believe I am in the true church these many years): I must have the truth of God for its own sake. I beheve in the authority of the word of God, and one way of knowing whether that which calls itself a church is the true church is to know what it teaches. And when your doctors write books on these points, they do try to persuade us. They must, or we should not be persuaded; though, strange to say, they never give the holding of the truth of God as a mark of the true church.
Bill M. But you cannot tell what the true sense of the Bible is. There the church alone can guide you.
N*. I do not see, if I humbly depend on God’s grace, why I cannot understand what Paul says as well as what Dr. Milner says; and if I cannot understand all scripture, I can see where it directly contradicts your doctrine. Besides you circulate Dr. Milner’s book, and I suppose therefore I can understand him, and surely I must examine what his book says. You must think me capable of that; or am I to swallow all he, too, says as gospel without inquiry? If you are going to convince me by Dr. Milner’s book, you must let me examine what it says. You have put the things before me, and I must examine them. I am surely not to beheve Dr. Milner as infallible. I am willing to take him as correctly representing what the church of Rome wishes to say; though as authority I must take the Council of Trent and what is called the Catechism of the Council of Trent. I do not wish now to discuss the true sense of the Bible, though I shall freely refer to it if needed, as you do not deny its authority, and I shall leave it to its own authority in the conscience. Nor can I swallow all manner of evil doctrines which you may have propounded to me by putting them in the gilded pill, “the church.” If you are going to convert me to your system, I must know what it is. We were speaking of purgatory, and, if you please, we will finish that subject, and then speak of the church, or rule of faith, or any other point you please: only you must let me speak plainly without being offended. I would not willingly hurt any man’s feeling: it would be a sin to do so; but when we are discussing the truth, we must have the truth.
Bill M. Oh! to be sure. It is better to speak all plainly out. I shall not be offended.
N*. You will have no objection, then, to my taking Dr. Milner’s “End of Controversy” as my guide in learning what Roman Catholic views are, as it has been given to so many for that purpose. This is the best and readiest way, even while referring to any other authority desirable. Allow me now to ask you what is purgatory?
Bill M. It is a place of punishment for venial sins, and for anything that remains of the temporal punishment of forgiven mortal sins, into which Christians dying in a state of grace go.
N*. Well, I suppose that is pretty correct. Dr. Milner says (Letter 43), “AH which is necessary to be believed by Catholics on this subject is contained in the following brief declaration of the Council of Trent: ‘There is a purgatory, and the souls detained there are helped by the prayers of the faithful, and particularly by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar.’” (Sess. 25, De Purg.). This is singularly vague, carefully vague. What is purgatory? Do people suffer there? What do they suffer for? What are they helped out of?—Of all this the statement tells us nothing. Yet on this is founded all the system of masses for the dead, masses multiplied according to the wealth of the dead man or his family (for the poor stand a poor chance here), and the anxious terror of the living; on this was founded all the dreadful traffic in indulgences. Yet the Catholic is not bound to believe that there is any suffering at all. But Dr. Milner is right: I seek in vain for any authoritative instruction from the Roman rule of faith upon the subject. What is left vague may be filled with terror, and so in practice it is. The Catechism of the Council of Trent, however, gives us a httle further insight into it. Speaking of Christ’s descent into hell, it says, “Hell, then, here signifies those hidden abodes, in which are detained the souls that have not been admitted to the regions of bliss” (vol. I, p. 123). And then, after speaking of the hell of the damned, it says, “Amongst them (the places called hell) is also the fire of purgatory, in which the souls of the pious, being tormented for a definite time, are cleansed,99 that an entrance may lie open to them into the eternal country, into which nothing defiled entereth.” And then it is left to the minister in these words: “The truth of this doctrine, founded, as holy councils declare, on scripture, and confirmed by apostolical tradition, demands diligent and frequent exposition, proportioned to the times in which we live, when men endure not sound doctrine.”100 The truth is, the Romanists are very shy of saying much on this head, because the statements of the Fathers are as contradictory and as full of confusion as they can possibly be. Here we are told Abraham’s bosom is in hell (hades).101
Tertullian102 says (when a good churchman), I think that hell (hades) is one thing, Abraham’s bosom another.
Augustine says that Abraham’s bosom is to be thought a part of hell (hades);103 elsewhere104 he cannot tell—thinks it may, but says he cannot find it is so called; and doubts105 if any one could endure its not being taken in a good sense, and therefore he does not see how it can be hell. Again, he says the bosom of Abraham is the rest of the blessed poor whose is the kingdom of heaven.106 In the first letter107 alluded to he refutes Christ having taken all out.
St. Jerome says, “Our Lord Jesus Christ descended into the furnace of hell, in which the souls of sinners and just were kept shut up, that without any burning or hurt to Himself He might free from the chains of death those who were shut up there” (in Dan. 1:3). Still I suppose we must take this only as applying to those that were His. He says (in Lam. Jer. 2:3), “Therefore the Redeemer called on the name of the Lord out of the lowest lake, when in the power of His divinity He descended into hell, and, the bars of Tartarus being destroyed, tearing away His own whom He found there, ascended conqueror to the upper regions.” Thus then all the just, all that belonged to Christ, would be delivered. Again, yet further (in Esaiam 6, 14), “hell is the place of punishment and torment, in which the rich man clothed in purple is seen, to which also the Lord descended, that He might loose the bound out of prison.” This was hardly Abraham’s bosom, as Augustine often says.108 Indeed he ventures on rather slippery ground for an orthodox Father, the pillar of Romanism (in Eph. 2, cap. 4). “The Son of God, therefore, descended into the lower parts of the earth, and ascended above all heavens, that He might not only fulfil the law and the prophets, but also certain hidden dispensations which He alone knew with the Father. For indeed neither can we know how the blood of Christ can profit the angels and those who are in hell, and yet we cannot be ignorant that it did profit them.” Whatever this may mean, it is clear that the preceding statements overthrow the idea of His simply delivering those who in quiet repose were awaiting the Redeemer’s victory. I suppose the bars of Tartarus were hardly round Abraham’s bosom. Can there be a greater confusion and ignorance? I do not quote as many different speculations as there are fathers. But saints may thus learn what the Fathers’ writings are worth.
I add only these to shew that it is no individual mistake of Jerome’s. Ambrose (de Mys. Pasch. 4) says, “Christ being void of sin when He descended to the bottom of Tartarus, breaking the bars and gates of hell, recalled the souls bound by sin, the dominion of death being destroyed, out of the jaws of the devil into life.” So many others. Now this was not delivering merely those in repose. Either all the just were in repose and better off than Christians, who go (I may say) all to purgatory—and then those fathers are all condemned; or else they were in purgatory, and this deliverance of peaceful souls in a distinct place from purgatory, as taught by the Catechism of the Council of Trent, is all wrong. And what is come of those that were in purgatory none can tell. St. Augustine will help us out a bit perhaps (Enchiridion, 110, 29): “When therefore sacrifices, whether of the altar or of any alms-giving whatsoever, are offered for all baptized persons deceased, for the very good they are givings of thanks; for the not very bad they are propitiations; for the very bad, even if they are no help to the dead, they are certain consolations of the living. But to whom they are profitable, they are profitable either to this, that there should be full remission, or at any rate that damnation itself may be more tolerable.” Albert the Great teaches that that must mean purgatory; but the famous master of sentences, as he was called, Peter Lombard, declares that it is not to be denied that it is accepted for the punishment of those who are never to be set free. All who are in purgatory are middling good: the least bad, who are never to be freed, are middling bad, and their pains may be mitigated. They can do better, it seems, than what the Lord taught as to Abraham and Lazarus: but, oh! how we see the wild unbridled imagination of these Fathers. They had lost the plain truth of scripture, and wandered in every uncertain and unstable thought of their own imagination.
James. Well, it is strange doctrine. It is a terrible thing, after one is justified and in a state of grace, to go and suffer in a kind of temporary hell-fire. And there we must go, and that just if we are in a state of grace. What do you say to that, Bill?
Bill M. It is no good arguing on religion. How could you expect me to explain everything? The church says there is a purgatory, and we are warned not to look curiously into it, and be taking notions to ourselves.
N*. Yes, my good friend, but we are not looking curiously into it. We are paying attention to what is taught in the Catechism of the Council of Trent; and according to that, though the doctrine be inconsistent and contrary to itself, if I am to take the general statement, it would have been far better, to have been a godly Jew than to be a godly Christian.
Bill M. But that Catechism is for the clergy, not for us.
N*. Yes, but the clergy are to teach according to it, and according to the consent of the Fathers. But we will pass on. I will quote BeUarmine’s account of purgatory, as he is of very high, perhaps the highest, authority among Roman Catholics; for as to the consent of the Fathers, it is out of the question. On this point he says, what is so called is “a certain place in which, as in a prison, souls are purged after this life which have not been fully purged in this life; that thus purged, namely, they may be able to enter into heaven, where nothing defiled will enter.” Yet the same Bellarmine distinctly declares that lust has ceased in death, that evil habits are not corrected in purgatory, that it is purely a penal satisfaction for sin—that is, no purifying or purging at all. See what he says as to satisfaction, lust being gone. Well, I deny purgatory as a wholly false unscriptural idea, and as a denial of the efficacy of the work of Christ. I read in scripture, “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” God declares of the sanctified (and they only, it seems, go into purgatory), that “He will remember their sins and iniquities no more.” I find that, when we are absent from the body, we are present with the Lord; I am taught to give thanks to the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. I find that the poor thief went, the same day he died, straight into paradise to be with Christ. Hence for the true Christian the fear of death is wholly taken away. He is already one spirit with Christ, and he knows that to depart and be with Him is far better. Christ has borne his sins in His own body on the tree; and he has not himself therefore to bear the consequences of them. He has a wholly new fife by the quickening power of Christ. Christ is his life; and when out of this sinful flesh he is in every sense clear from sin for ever.109
Bill M. Do you think, then, a murderer, and one who steals an apple, will be punished in the same way?
N*. Are you, then, an unbeliever, M.?
Bill M. No, I am a good Catholic.
N*. You are reasoning as an unbeliever would. What you say is as if Christ had not died for those who go to heaven. I do not say that the murderer and he who steals an apple will be punished alike; though we are very bad judges of guilt. It was by stealing an apple that men were driven out of God’s presence and the earthly paradise; because they had given up God for an apple, and because lust and sin had come in. The tree is proved by its fruit, and one wild apple proves as well as a hundred would that the tree which bears it is wild and good-for-nothing. I do not say some men have not broken through more restraints of conscience—have not sinned against light, so as to be beaten with many stripes.
But this has nothing to do with the matter we are speaking of, namely, of those that are forgiven, who are going to heaven, who are justified and sanctified; for purgatory is for none others. The question is not therefore about the degrees of punishment for the lost, but of the saved (and according to Bellarmine all in purgatory are all even sure110 they are saved, and so indeed they might well be, since none others go there): and I say as to such, that, whether they had been murderers or apple-stealers before, they are cleansed from all sin. They are, as scripture speaks, as white as snow, if their sins had been as scarlet. When I have washed anything, the question is not how much dirt it had before, disgusting as that may be, if the dirt be there, but whether I have washed it perfectly. Now the scripture tells us Christ has washed us perfectly, and I believe it. We are made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. If we are saved, we have a new nature, and that is a holy one. We are made, says Peter, partakers of the divine nature. And, when we die, nothing remains but this holy life which is born of God. Guilt is gone, all impurity is gone, and in due time we shall have a glorious body too. Purgatory denies the efficacy of Christ’s work, and the reality of receiving life from God. It upsets your own doctrines (as I said to James); for, as guilt is wholly removed, extreme unction, which wipes away the remains of sin, must be false, or else one that has been anointed has nothing to go to purgatory for; for men, we are told, go there for the remains of sin.
Bill M. Do you mean that the soul (when it goes out of the body) is fit for heaven or paradise?
N*. Certainly, or how did the thief get there? I see the whole system of Romanism to be the very contrary to the gospel of peace. In that—in the Christianity of the scriptures—I see a God perfect in holiness, but one “rich in mercy,” who loved the world, and gave His Son, that whoever believes in Him might not perish. God, I see, is love. Christ, the blessed Saviour, gives Himself to bear and put away our sins, that we might draw near to God without fear: as it is said, “to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the remission of their sins.” It is with a view to our being happy before Him, serving Him without fear. He gives His Spirit to them that believe, as a spirit of adoption and joy, the Holy Spirit; but He is given, says Peter, to all them that believe. Thus heaven is opened to them, and Jesus has entered as their forerunner; the joy of heaven is in their souls beforehand, the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, and by that Spirit which is the earnest of their inheritance till the redemption of the purchased possession. Having peace with God, they stand in God’s favour, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. If they are tempted and tried, the blessed Jesus has been tempted in all things like them, sin apart: and having suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted.
In a word, God is a source of joy because He is a Saviour, and a gracious help in every trouble. He finds me in misery, lost, going to hell, and warns me of it, and that if I go on in the broad road I shall surely come there. But when He is turned to, when Christ is really believed in, He takes me out of that position and saves me. In so doing He puts me in a place of joy and peace before Him, and He makes me know all this by His word and Spirit. Romanism is the very opposite of that. It brings me before a terrible exacting God when I am a Christian. It brings me by a series of ceremonies (after Christ has done all) into a position where I, even if a true Christian, have still to answer for my sins—may very likely go to hell for them—must do penance (unless I compromise it by an indulgence) for present failings: where I am always dreading eternity, and uncertain what is to become of me at last—only sure that God will exact satisfaction of me; that in any case I must go to purgatory into the fire, and make satisfaction for my faults, and that God will not let me out thence till I have paid the last farthing. Forgiving priests I may find, a tenderhearted Mary, kind interceding saints; but a forgiving God who loves and cleanses me, a tender-hearted interceding Saviour—that I cannot have in Romanism. Even if I am forgiven as to damnation, and if Christ Himself has effectually died for me, and I die in a state of grace, God will have the last farthing of me after all. This, as to the whole spirit of it, is contrary to the God revealed in Christ. God manifest in flesh, God become a man to die for me—that God I know. But that when He has done all that for me, He is going to exact the last farthing of me, and throw me into a fire of anguish till it is paid, this I do not believe. Such a God is not the God who has come to save us by Christ; it is another, and, morally speaking, a false one. It makes God one who lays heavy burdens on the human heart when we have to say to Him.
Christianity does shew us what an awful burden we are bringing on ourselves if we have not to say to Him, but shews us joy and peace if we have. It calls us from every burden of sin and of sorrow to find rest in Christ; and it shews me He was willing to take my burden on Himself, that I might be free. Christ says: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Is it rest to be put to do penance for my sins, living? and, even if saved, to go to purgatory for them when I am dead? And all this just to sustain the power of those that impose the penance, and profess to be able to help people out of—when they could not help their getting into—this terrible fire!
James. How plain and true it is! Oh, if God had not been a God of grace to me, where should I have been? But I had no thought the Romanists believed all this. What! penances while they are alive, and then the last farthing exacted when they die, and they forgiven and justified all the while! And, as you were saying, sir, told all the while that by extreme unction the very remains of sin are wiped away!
Mrs. J. I am sure we ought to feel for them, and pray for them too: but it is sad to think any could be so ignorant of what God is.
Bill M. But by your system a man may say he is justified, and go on sinning, and get clear to heaven.
N*. So man always reasons when he does not know what grace is; but scripture says, purifying their hearts by faith. Revealing God’s presence to a man is not the way to make a man sin. Besides, if a man has a part in God’s righteousness, it is by being born again, and thus he loves obedience to God and what is holy. Most true it is that we need grace every moment; but Christ has said: “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” And besides, if, through carelessness, we get away from God’s presence and fail, Christ intercedes for us, and God will warn us outwardly and inwardly: and, if we heed not the warning, He will chasten us. But tell me, humanly speaking, who will be most anxious to keep himself clean: one who is spick and span clean, and going to meet the Queen—or one who is dirty, and does not know whether he ever will go out, unless it be to be hanged?
Bill M. Well, I suppose the man that was clean.
N*. And he must know he is clean.
Bill M. Of course.
N*. So with the Christian. He knows he is cleansed to meet Jesus, and he seeks to be clean in his walk, going to meet Him. We know, says the Apostle John, (mark that word, “we know”) “that when he [Christ] shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; and he that hath this hope in him purineth himself even as he is pure.” So the Apostle Paul: “Therefore we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord, for we walk by faith and not by sight. We are confident and willing rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, whether present or absent, to be accepted of” (or, as in your Rhemish Testament, “to please) him.” People forget that a new nature, the new man, as it is called, is as necessary and as much a part of Christianity as is the blessed sacrifice of Christ. Your objection is just the one that was made to the Apostle Paul’s teaching, because he taught this very doctrine (Rom. 6), and he shews that Christ, who is his life, having died to sin, the true Christian reckons himself dead—cannot live in the thing which he is dead to. We have a part in the righteousness by having a part in the death, and so reckon ourselves dead, crucified with Christ. Having a part in death is not living on. How, says he, can we that are dead to sin live any longer therein? But if I deny that I am dead, I deny I am justified and righteous; for it is only by having a part in His death that I am justified. And it is real life and grace, and these will shew themselves in a man’s walk.
But we can come to the proofs. I deny that any such thing as purgatory is found in scripture. When we have examined this, we must see what you all allege from the Fathers. Not that I attribute the smallest authority to them, or believe anything as revealed truth but what is in the word of God; but as we are reasoning about it, it is fair to meet all you have to say. It would be quite enough to say they reveal nothing, and have no authority at all; nor would I allege them for the smallest thing; but as you do allege them, we may examine what you allege. I own to you I have a very poor opinion of them from what I have read of them, without meaning to say they have no historical value. We have the highest authority for saying we must have what was from the beginning. But that is Christ and the apostles—none of it elsewhere. And John says, “He that is of God heareth us.” Hearing what the apostles say themselves is the test of truth; and he who continues in what was from the beginning (and I repeat, the writings of the apostles and evangelists alone are that) shall abide in the Father and in the Son.
James. Where is that, sir?
N*. In 1 John 2:24 and chap. 4:6. But we will hear all you have to allege from the Fathers.
Bill M. They do not reveal anything; but they must know the truth better than we, and no sense ought to be received from scripture but according to their common consent as to the meaning of it. So says the Council of Trent (Sess. 4).
N*. Are you sure they do agree?
Bill M. To be sure they do, and the church teaches the doctrine they agree in.
N*. It would be a poor thing to have to wait for the truth till we had read all the Fathers. But I think you will find, even in our short inquiries, they are far from agreeing on the subject which occupies us, or indeed on any other.
However, to our proofs. The first that Milner notices is drawn from the second book of Maccabees. He tells us that he has a right to consider these books as scripture, because the Catholic church so considers them. Now, first, I do not admit the Roman system to be the Catholic church: but I leave this till we come to that question. But no church ever took them to be canonical scripture for fifteen hundred years. Augustine declares the Apocryphal books inferior to the other scripture, and Jerome, who was the translator of the Bible at the request of Pope Damasus, and whose translation, called the Vulgate, is declared authentic by the Council of Trent, and so held by all Romanists, says in his preface that Judith and Tobias, and the books of the Maccabees, the church indeed reads, but does not receive them among canonical scriptures. (Preface to the books of Solomon). So Ruffinus (published with Cyprian’s works). He gives the list of canonical scriptures, exactly as Protestants receive them, and not merely as his opinion, but declaring that they are the books which, according to the tradition of the ancients, are believed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit Himself. And having given the list, he adds: these are what the Fathers have included in the canon. But however, he adds, it is to be known that there are also other books, now called Apocrypha; and adds, which all they have willed should be read in the churches, but not anything be produced out of them to confirm as authority anything concerning the faith. So Jerome: thus also these two volumes the church reads for edification of the people, but not as an authority to confirm ecclesiastical dogmas. So Athanasius, or the author of the Synopsis ascribed to him, says—they were not put in the canon, but read to the catechumens; and in his festal letter again he gives the twenty-two books of the Old Testament, pronouncing the strongest blame on those who might pretend any others were scripture (I (62) 767).
This is the constant testimony of the early church. Cyril of Jerusalem gives the same list of the Old Testament, and does not admit the Maccabees. The Council of Laodicea forbids any others to be read in the churches, and gives the same list. The Apostolic Constitutions (which of course I do not cite as of the apostles, but which shew the early judgment on this point) give us the same list—2, 57, and that for reading in the churches. The only exception, or apparent one, is that the African churches, as represented by the Council of Carthage and St. Augustine (though Augustine makes a formal distinction between some books and others, and he says that they are not canonical), call the Apocrypha canonical too: but Augustine admits at the same time that learned men did not doubt that two of them were spurious, that is, not written by the professed authors, but says that though they were so, they were received by the Western churches. We learn also how little weight he attached to the word canonical. He says that people ought to attach most authority to those which were received by all the churches; and that in those which were not received by all, they should prefer those received by most and the more important churches. It is clear none of them were even received in the Eastern churches, nor were they in the churches of Gaul, as both the Hilarys shew. Hilary of Aries tells St. Augustine, writing to him on predestination and free will, on occasion of the Pelagian controversy, that the churches of France around him rejected one testimony he had produced, because it was cited from an uncanonical book.
Not only so, but a pope, and a very distinguished one indeed, who earned the name of Great—Gregory—says, Moral 19, 13 (34) on Job 29, “Concerning which we do not act out of order if we produce a testimony out of books which, though not canonical, are published for the edification of the church”; and then cites Maccabees.
Thus we have the constant sense of the doctors of early ages; and, referring to the African church, Cardinal Cajetan, one greatly employed by the pope about Luther, says, “The words as well of councils as of doctors are to be reduced to the rule of St. Jerome, and, according to his judgment, those books are not canonical, that is, regular, to establish those things which are of the faith. They may be called, however, canonical, that is, regular, for the edification of the faithful, as received and authorized for this purpose in the canon of the Bible: with this distinction, thou mayest discern what is said by Augustine, and written in the provincial Council of Carthage.” Thus he reconciles, as others have done, the statements of the African prelates with the universal judgment of Christendom.
Further, we have a list in the middle of the third century from Origen, the most diligent student of scripture, in his Commentary on Psalm I (De la Rue, vol. 2, 29), quoted by Eusebius, Hist. Ec. 6, 25), bearing exactly the same testimony as to what is canonical. We have a list of Melito’s, about the close of the second century, given by Eusebius, 4, 26. He says he has given, in extracts written by him, “a catalogue of the books of the Old Testament received of all, which I have thought necessary to put down here”; and then he gives the same list as all do, but not the Apocrypha. Epiphanius (B. T. 7, vol. 1, 122), confirms this same list as being received by the Jews, though not speaking of his own judgment. But Christendom is not all we have to look to, nor indeed the principal thing; because the Old Testament was committed originally to God’s people Israel, to the Jews.
Bill M. But you are not going to make infidel Jews an authority?
N*. I am not speaking of infidel Jews, who are now scattered because they rejected Christ (though in this even they are more faithful than Rome and her doctors), but of those of whom Paul says that the oracles of God were committed to them. The Old Testament was committed to Israel as God’s people, nor have they at any time failed in keeping it. Now they recognized the books we receive as canonical, and not those which the Council of Trent has wickedly added. This is a matter of undoubted history. Indeed the Apocryphal books are not extant in Hebrew at all. But further, Josephus also states it in a very formal manner, and adds that there were books written since Artaxerxes, but that they were not esteemed worthy of the same faith as the others, for there was no regular succession of prophets. He declares, “We have not a multitude of books, discordant and opposed to one another, but only two-and-twenty, embracing the history of all time, which are fully esteemed to be divine”; and thereon enlarges on their divine authority and the empire they obtain, from youth up, over the Jew’s mind. He gives then their number and triple division, as held by the Jews. But there is yet more and incontrovertible authority, which quotes them according to this same division, as the law, the prophets, and the psalms. That is, the Lord Himself quotes them, these same books, as of divine authority, as a known set, to the exclusion of all others; and declares too, in another place, the absolute authority of the scriptures—“The scripture cannot be broken.”
But I will appeal to yourself, and James here, or any man in his senses that fears God, to say if this book, the second of Maccabees, can be inspired. Here is the writer’s own account of it, at the beginning, 2 Maccabees 2:23: “All these things, I say, being declared by Jason the Cyrenean in five books, we have tried to abbreviate into one: for, considering the multitude of books, and the difficulty of those who wish to occupy themselves with historical accounts by reason of the multitude of events, we have taken care, for those who wish to read, that there should be pleasure for the mind; for the studious, that they may commit it more easily to memory; for all who read, that profit may be conferred on them. And for ourselves, indeed, who have undertaken this work of abbreviating, we have taken on ourselves no fight labour, but, indeed, a business full of vigils and toils.” Then he describes the different style of authors and abbreviators (“to the former belongs truth in details—to abbreviators studiousness of brevity, according to the given form), and adds, he will begin his story, “for it is foolish to be diffuse before the history, and then short in the history itself”: and finally he closes thus (2 Mace. 15:37-39): “With these things I will make an end of the discourse, and if indeed well, and as suited the history, this I myself also would wish; but if less worthily, it is to be pardoned me. For as drinking always wine or always water is unwholesome to us, but to use both alternately is delightful, so to those that read, if the discourse be always exact, it will not be pleasant. Here, therefore, it will be closed.”
Now, I ask you, is it not a blasphemy to say that “if it was well done, it suited the history, but if less worthily, it was to be borne with,” was said by the Holy Ghost?
Mrs. J. And surely they do not give that for scripture, sir?
N*. It is the very book which Dr. Milner quotes as scripture, on the authority of the Catholic church, to prove purgatory.
James. Why, Bill, how can you receive such things? I never could have thought it possible. I am not learned, but sure no one that had a respect for God could ever say that was inspired, or that the Holy Ghost could excuse Himself, and say that what was badly done was inspired, or that He had done it.
N*. Well, James, I do not think M. has much to say for himself in this matter; but note this, that the citation of this passage has proved to us another point—that the Romanists have falsified scripture, and have flown in the face of the constant testimony of the church for fifteen centuries, whatever value that may have, and of that too of the Jews, as divinely-appointed keepers of the Old Testament, who have given a testimony as to what is holy scripture, sanctioned by the Lord Himself, but rejected by what calls itself the Catholic church.
But this is not all: the passage (2 Mace. 12:39), even on their own shewing, can have nothing to do with purgatory, but denies all their doctrine. The men who were slain in Maccabees had votive offerings to idols about them, and therefore had fallen in battle, and hence had defiled themselves with idolatry;111 but purgatory is for venial sins, not for apostasy to idols. And it is hard to tell what was to free them then. And we must remember there is not one word in the law or the prophets which Christ owned of any such a purgatory, and that He sharply condemned the tradition of the elders who make thereby the word of God void. Dr. Milner ventures to quote no others from the Old Testament. I will give a list from Bellarmine; you may easily see whether they apply. They prove only one thing, that I can see, namely, that they could find nothing in scripture for it.
Tobias 4:18: this is also Apocrypha, a history of an angel, accompanying a good young man as a dog, and helping him to drive a devil away from his nuptial chamber with a broiled fish’s liver.
Mrs. J. And do they call that the word of God?
N*. They do.
Mrs. J. Well, well: but pardon, sir; you were giving the list.
N*. 1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 1:12; Psalm 37:1; Psalm 65:11; Isaiah 4:4; chap. 9:18; Micah 7:8; Zechariah 9:11. This last verse runs thus, “By the blood of thy covenant I have brought thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.” I may add the proof here, for it is edifying. He says that many apply this to the limbus of the fathers, as he is said to bring them out; but Luke 16:25 proves there is no water to console them, and there is in Abraham’s bosom, for Lazarus was comforted there. Hence he adds that Augustine held that Christ visited those tormented in hell, that is, in purgatory, and delivered many of them.
To return to Dr. Milner’s proofs. I need not notice 1 Corinthians 15:29, because the apostle does not give a hint that he is speaking of Jews; he is speaking of being baptized. And supposing he were, I know not what Jewish superstitions have to do with Christians. We are all baptized unto death, and of that’s being the sense (comparing verse 28) I have no doubt. The only thing such a quotation proves is that they are very hard run for a passage. The proof from the expression, “Abraham’s bosom,” is soon answered: the Catechism of the Council of Trent contrasts it with purgatory.112 How Dr. Milner reconciles it with honesty to quote it for purgatory I cannot tell. The force of the expression, however, is evident. Abraham had for the Jew the highest and most blessed place in the other world, and to be in his bosom was to be in the next best place to him, as the beloved disciple in Jesus’ bosom, when at the table. Besides, Dr. Milner says Lazarus reposed there. Is it repose to be in purgatory? All this is too bad.
Again, Christ in spirit went and preached to the spirits in prison. This is the prison above mentioned—Abraham’s bosom. He says, But Christ went into paradise. This day, He said to the thief, thou shalt be with Me in paradise. Do they preach in paradise? or is Abraham’s bosom (and, still more, is paradise) a prison? It is perfectly evident that the Lord uses Abraham’s bosom as a place of special favour and blessedness. The poor man died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. And again, Now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. Did the angels carry him to the fire of purgatory to comfort him, after his sorrowful life on earth?
James. Why, Bill, that can’t be. Is it not plain that the Lord meant to shew that the poor man that had so sad a portion below had, after all, if we think of the other world, a better part than the man that had his good things in this life? And surely that cannot mean making satisfaction to God in torment. But I don’t quite see, sir, why the poor man went there and the rich man to hell.
N*. I believe the Lord loves the poor, James. Still, alas! of course, all the poor do not go to heaven because they are poor. But the force of the Lord’s history, I believe, is this: He is, in these chapters of Luke, shewing the grace that seeks and receives poor sinners, as the lost sheep and the prodigal, and at the same time opening heaven to our view, and teaching us that we ought to use this world in View of the next, and not as the place of present rest and comfort. You know the Jew had been promised riches and blessings here, if obedient, because in that people God was shewing His government on earth. But after Christ was rejected this was no longer the case, and the veil was to be rent in His death, and saints were to take up their cross daily, and heavenly things were to be their portion and reward, as in very truth they always were; but now it was plainly and openly so, even as Christ speaks in this same chapter, calling them their own things: earthly things were only in their hands for a time, as another’s. Hence the Lord draws the veil, as it were, and shews that a poor man, whom a Jew might have thought to be under judgment for his sins, went straight to Abraham’s bosom—that is, to a Jew’s mind, to the best place in the other world: and riches, instead of being a proof of God’s favour, had shut the man up in his own selfishness, for he had slighted the poor man at his door— the dogs had more compassion than he—and when the other world came, he was in torment. He had had his good things.
James. I see, sir, it is all plain enough; and, indeed, if one sees God’s ways in the Bible, all becomes plain by degrees.
N.* We must wait upon the Lord to be taught, James, and He will surely instruct us. He has graciously said, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.” So the Lord opened the understanding of the two that went to Emmaus, and so He does now.
Bill M. But you cannot deny that St. Augustine held a middle place.
N.* You know the Romanists hold two middle places, one where the Old Testament saints were before Christ came, and another where the yet incompletely purified just go now: and here I cannot exempt Dr. Milner from the charge of dishonesty.113 He says, Christ descended into hell… the prison above mentioned, or Abraham’s bosom—in short, a middle state. And he says, What place, I ask, must that be which our Saviour calls Abraham’s bosom, where the soul of Lazarus reposed among the other just souls, till by His sacred passion He paid their ransom? … Not heaven, but evidently a middle place, as St. Augustine teacheth. Now, if he had answered his own question, Dr. Milner knows very well he must have said “limbus patrum (that is, the place where they say the saints dying before Christ were), and not purgatory” (which, in the Roman Catholic doctrine, is entirely distinguished from the limbus patrum). This is wholly and wittingly deceiving, for he adds, after speaking of Abraham’s bosom, “It is of this prison, according to the holy fathers, that our blessed Master speaks, when He says, ‘I tell thee thou shalt not depart thence till thou hast paid the very last mite.’” This is not Abraham’s bosom. Now this they do apply to a middle state, but not to the limbus patrum. Christ delivered the patriarchs and the others from that, and it is now quite empty. They were at perfect rest, they tell us, suffering no pain. All this is attempted to be passed upon us as a proof of purgatory, with the expression, “in short, a middle state.”
Further, he says, “As St. Augustine teacheth.” Now Augustine says, “Neither is it to be believed that Abraham’s bosom, that is, the habitation of a certain hidden rest, is any part of hell” (Letter to Evodiiis). But Dr. Milner refers to De Civit. Dei, 15, c. 20 (it should be 20, c. 15). Augustine does not say a word of purgatory there, but says, “For if it does not seem absurd to be believed that those ancient saints also, who kept the faith of a Christ to come, were in places as far as possible from the torments of the impious, but in hades (or hell, not the hell of the damned) until the blood of Christ, He, having descended also to those places, should bring them up immediately; thenceforward the faithful good, already redeemed thus at the price of that blood poured out, know nothing more at all of hades until, having received their bodies also, they should receive the good things they deserve.”
Hence his notion, whatever it is worth (and it is really worth nothing at all—it is a mere notion, and I will produce an opposite one from himself in a moment, but, such as it is, it is here), would prove that Abraham was clean out of hades now, and whatever middle place he is in is not purgatory, nor ever was; and moreover that since the death of Christ the faithful redeemed have nothing to do with hades.
But Augustine has said more than this, for he speculated, and very wildly too, on all sorts of subjects. He elaborately argues, reasoning on the text, “He hath loosened the pains of hades” (hell), which was then applied to Christ’s descent to hell (though an undoubtedly incorrect passage in the Latin translation)114 but insists,115 for that reason, that, as evidently the patriarchs and prophets go even there where Abraham was, Christ could do nothing for them as to loosening the pains of hades (or hell), a word which he declares was never yet found to be used in scripture in a good sense, for they were not in it, and the great gulf fixedly separated them at an immense distance. And he wonders if any one could dare (if the scripture had said Christ when dead went into Abraham’s bosom, not mentioning hades or hell) to assert He had descended into hell.116 He says that, if it is nowhere read in the divine authorities, it is not to be believed that that bosom of Abraham—that is, the habitation of a certain secret quietness—is any part of hell at all. Now, it is quite true that the Catechism of the Council of Trent says it is. How they manage about the consent of the Fathers I do not know. I believe, in all this utter confusion, one knew nearly as much about it as the other. How blessed is the simplicity that is in Christ! To depart and to be with Christ is far better, knowing that if we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord, and desiring rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. The more I see of the Fathers, the more I see what darkness and confusion they were in; only I was to answer what you should bring forward. A word more, therefore, from St. Augustine. He declares that (Letter to Evodius 3) he does not see what Christ could have conferred on these just who were in Abraham’s bosom, “from whence I do not see that, according to the beatific presence of His divinity, He had ever left them.” As also He promised the thief, that on the same day on which he died he should be in paradise with Him, when He was going to descend to loose the pains of hell. So that before even He went into hades He was in paradise and Abraham’s bosom, and even before, by His beatific wisdom, and in hades or hell by His judicial power (Epistle to Evodius). He says indeed that loosing the pains of hades might apply to Christ Himself, as there follows, “in which it was impossible for him to be holden.” This is undoubtedly the sense, only the true word is having loosed the pains of death. If Augustine had only looked 130 the Greek!
On the whole, he seems to deem it best to think that Christ’s soul descended to hell (hades), His body remained in the grave, and His divinity in Abraham’s bosom, and to believe that the thief was with Him as God in paradise. As to preaching to the spirits in prison, he is inclined to think (Epistle to Evodius) it was by His Spirit in Noe. Peter speaks only of the souls then disobedient, an interpretation which I have no kind of doubt is the true one. Peter speaks of the Spirit of Christ in the prophets; so here in Noe. The Jews, who expected a glorious Messiah in the body, had only His presence in Spirit, and were a small minority. So in Noe they were a small minority, and Christ was only there in Spirit: but those who despised that, are all in prison to await the judgment of the great day. We are saved, like Noe, by death and resurrection in Christ, as he in a figure was. In Genesis God says, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man, but his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” It would be monstrous to say that these were the only ones to whom more time would be given, and they be preached to when dead, for those only are spoken of.
Augustine refers also in this letter to i Peter 4:6, as well as to 1 Peter 3:19, 20. There it is said the gospel was preached to them that were dead. He prefers the sense of dead in sins; I believe it was simply when they were alive, hence to be judged accordingly (as said in verse 5). The truth is, this letter is an answer to one written to Augustine on the former passage, and the writer had used the expression that Christ had emptied, or made void, hades or hell which he questions, speaking uncertainly as to this—as to whether souls could believe after they were there. And a second question raises more nice points too, into which it is not necessary to go. But he arrives, on the point that now occupies us, at exactly the opposite conclusion to Dr. Milner, namely, that Abraham’s bosom had nothing to do with hades, or hell, that it was Christ’s Spirit in Noe, and that preaching to the dead meant the dead in sin, but allows his friend, Bishop Evodius, to think otherwise if he liked.
As to purgatory, he does speak of it elsewhere, but with the greatest possible uncertainty, so that to say he taught it is alleging what is false. He speaks of the subject in three different places, and in all of them in reference to i Corinthians 3—he shall be saved, yet so as by fire—and using the same arguments, and indeed in a great measure the same words. The places are, Defide et operibus, 15 and following (or 24 and following); Enchiridion de fide, spe et charitate, 69 (or end of 18); and De Civitate Dei, 21, 26.
In the first he is resisting persons who viewed the text as meaning that, if men believed and were baptized, they were on the foundation, and, let them live in whatever sin they might, they would be saved; passing through certain pains of fire, they would be purged so as to obtain salvation by the merit of the foundation.117 This he resisted by a multitude of texts. Some other sense, he said, must be sought for, and that this text is one of those of which Peter speaks as hard to be understood, and adds, “When I consider it, I had rather hear more intelligent and learned men.” He then puts the case of Christians living in a lawful state, but while never denying Christ for pleasure, yet not living in a self-denying way, and consequently having grief and distress when they lost the things. Those who sought only to please God were building gold, silver, and precious stones; those who please themselves, though Christians, wood, hay, and stubble.118 All would be tried by fire and tribulation, and the latter feel the loss, yet be saved, as on the foundation. Then he adds, “Whether in this life only men suffer these things, or whether after this life certain judgments of this kind follow, my understanding of the passage is not abhorrent from the principle of truth.” At any rate, he says, however we interpret it, the living wicked will not be saved.
In the Enchiridion, after going over the same ground, and saying it happens in this life that man is so proved, he says, That some such thing takes place after this hfe is not incredible, and whether it be so may be inquired, and it may be discovered, or remain hidden, etc.
In The City of God he insists that it cannot be what is said in Matthew 25, as in 1 Corinthians 3, all go through this probation; and after speaking of self-willed, and unsubdued souls, though Christian, he says, “After the death of the body, until they come to that which is to be the last day of remuneration and damnation after the resurrection of bodies, if, in this interval of time, the spirits of the dead are said to suffer a fire of this kind, which they do not feel who have not had such morals and such loves in the life of this body, in order that their wood, hay, and stubble should be consumed, but which others feel who have carried that kind of building with them, whether there only, or here and there, or, be it so, here and not there, they find a fire of transitory tribulation, burning worldly things, although not imputable to damnation (or pardonable as regards damnation), I do not oppose, because perhaps it is true.”
As to Psalm 37, there is not the smallest proof that what he says refers to purgatory. He does frighten the people (for it is to the people he speaks here) with a terrible fire, more terrible than anything in this life; but he may refer to his purifying work of the day of judgment, which is quite as likely, or seems so.
Now, no Christian soul who knows what it is to be cleansed from all sin could be shaken by confused notions of possible punishment such as this poor father debits here. It is as poor a foundation to build anything on as could well be thought of. Had he looked soberly at the passage, he would have seen it applies to those labouring in the ministry in the world— builders in the church; and that the things destroyed are not bad works, but bad building, so that the man’s labour was lost, though the builder was saved, yet even he as a man that just saves his life out of a fire.
As to the controversy—for as to divine truth such statements are not worth a thought, and only shew what an unstable foundation the doctrine of the Fathers is—as to the controversy, it is not purgatory he speaks of, for all saints go through it. He insists on that as its distinctive character; whereas into purgatory only those go who need partial purging. He adds, as a possible interpretation of it, persecutions when martyrs are crowned, and all stand good; others are consumed in it if the foundation is not there; others saved, but suffer loss. He instances Antichrist also as a possible explanation.
To shew how little he can be reckoned on, I may add that he holds that the judgment of the last day itself, the final judgment, will be purgatorial fire for some. He saw nothing of the judgment of the quick in this world, and so misapplied Malachi 3:1-6 to the judgment of the great white throne (De Civitate Dei, 20, 25). And when Malachi says the sons of Levi shall offer sacrifices of righteousness, he applies it to their being themselves offered up to God pure when thus cleansed, “for what could such offer more grateful to God than themselves?” and then says that that question of purgatorial pains, to be diligently treated, “must be put off to another time.” He thinks that thus they will offer perfectly, the floor being purged, and they that need it purified by fire.
That I may complete however the doctrine of the Fathers on this subject, and shew how sure a foundation they give for us to build upon, Origen tells us (and Dr. Milner quotes him among the holy Fathers as an authority, and he was very early in church history indeed) that we shall want the sacrament to purify us after our resurrection. Having spoken of purifying of women after child-birth, “If, because the law is spiritual, and has a shadow of good things to come, we can understand that a truer purifying will happen to us, I think that after the resurrection from the dead we want the sacrament, washing us and purging us; for no one can rise again without filth, nor can any soul be found which is immediately free from all faults.” That is comfortable doctrine (Origen in Luc, Horn. 14, ed. De la Rue, 3, 948).119
James. Well, Bill, how can you or Dr. Milner bring such confusion and uncertainty for us to build our faith on? The Bible is a thousand times clearer and more certain than all this. I understand plain enough, thank God, now that the blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin, and that God purifies the heart by faith, and that I am born again, and have a new nature in Christ; but all these doubts and dark doctrines could only blind and puzzle the mind.
Bill M. But I did not quote them.
James. No, but Dr. Milner, in the book you gave me, quotes different places in them; and, now I have heard what they say, I doubt if they understood the gospel at all—at least what redemption really is.
N*. It is just what they did not, James. The evil that pressed so sore upon Paul, even in his time, had now overrun the church, as he forewarned it would; and true saints, as surely Augustine was, having lost the full sense of the value of Christ’s work, indulged in all kinds of speculation, and were in confusion and darkness as to doctrine. They had lost the truth of the full value of Christ’s sacrifice, that by one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Hence, each had to get clear somewhere of his own sins, each differing in degree from another, and having to answer for them in proportion, and as there was nothing in scripture, none knew exactly how.
James. But is that all you have for purgatory?
Bill M. No; there are a number of holy Fathers who are quoted, as you may see in Milner, and passages of scripture too.
N*. I will refer to one of them, as one on whom the Roman Catholics build a good deal (the rest will soon be disposed of)—I mean Jerome (adversus Jovinian., lib. 2, 23). Jovinian denied human merits, and said all were equally saved who persevered in the faith of Christ, and opposed celibacy. Jerome, who was a very violent and abusive man,120 though called a saint, was furious, and St. Augustine was severe upon him too. In this work he refers to the same text of 1 Corinthians 3, but does not say a word of purgatory, and contradicts Augustine expressly. Augustine, from the text, refutes those who used the passage (Matt. 25) by shewing that every man’s work would be tried. Here Jerome says that he whose work remains will be saved without being tried by fire, and there is a certain difference between salvation and salvation. This is an attempt to answer Jovinian, but not a syllable about purgatory.
The truth is, Jerome expresses himself so strangely about the matter, that some accused him of denying eternal punishment, and say that Augustine refers to him in rejecting certain views on it. At all events one thing is certain, that it is not of purgatory, as held by Roman Catholics, that he teaches. In speaking of punishment, as contrasted with perishing, he quotes: “They that have done good unto resurrection of life, they that have done evil unto resurrection of judgment,” adding, to explain it (a gross misapplication), “those that have sinned without law shall perish without law” (that is, an impious person, who perishes altogether); “he that has sinned under the law shall be judged by the law, and shall not perish.” That is pretty interpretation! the sinner with light will not perish, the sinner without it will, contrary to all righteousness and the Lord’s express teaching. But, at any rate, in Jerome’s statement the judgment, in which man does not perish, comes consequent upon resurrection; that is, it is not purgatory at all.
The passage on which he is mainly charged with denying eternal punishment121 is in his Commentary on Isaiah 66. I do not know that there is more than gross confusion, and, I must say, excessive ignorance of truth. But I will trace his views more closely just now. It will help us to understand the truth of purgatory. But one has really only to read the so much-vaunted Fathers to see the utter worthlessness of their doctrine, and their excessive perversion of scripture. I have paid attention to these two writers, because they are the two great teachers of western or Latin Christendom, and are the real source of the establishment of these doctrines there, though we have seen that one of them affirms (indeed both) quite another doctrine, namely, that of the final judgment itself being a probationary fire; and the other saying that, as to the fire after death, he could not tell: he did not oppose it, for it might be true, but repeatedly expressing his doubts about it, and declaring that several of the scriptures relied upon, in his judgment, meant another thing. But both shewed that of the clear and scriptural doctrine of redemption, and the forgiveness of sins, and the perfect cleansing of Christ’s blood, they were wholly ignorant. It was practically lost in the church. Superstition and horrible corruption had come in like a flood.
As to the other Fathers, a single remark will suffice for them; they speak-of prayers for the dead, not of purgatory. This was the common practice, to pray for all the dead, that they might have a part, or a speedy part, in the resurrection to glory, or in the first resurrection. They were remembered in the sacrifice of the altar. But this had no possible connection with purgatory, for they named patriarchs, apostles, prophets, martyrs, and the Virgin Mary herself. I suppose, M., you do not think all these are in purgatory?
Bill M. Of course they are not; they are all in heaven.
James. In heaven! and what do they pray for them for?
Bill M. Well, I did not know they did.122
N*. I dare say not, but Dr. Milner did very well; and I must say, if he had been honest he would not have quoted them. If he was only proving that superstition and false doctrine and immorality came in very soon into the professing church, I should have nothing to say; the true thing to say would be that they characterized it; but that it was yet fallen into modern popish doctrine is not true. Faith is not shaken by the corruption of the early church (and you shall have proofs of that corruption), because the scripture foretells it as plainly as possible, saying that on the departure of the apostles the evil would break out, that the mystery of iniquity was already at work, and that in the last days perilous times would come— men would have a form of piety, denying the power of it; and scripture warns men to hold fast by the scriptures.
James. So it does; I remember that, to be sure. How blind one is when one has not them in one’s heart! And yet how good God is; He has saved me from all this confusion I did not know of.
N*. We shall get on this point when we touch on the authority of the church and scripture. We will try and finish with purgatory. One of the books quoted is a treatise of Tertullian’s, which he wrote when he had left the church, and refers in it to a fanatical teacher, whom he calls the Paraclete, or, as we should say, the Comforter; for Tertullian, the first and one of the most distinguished of the Latin Fathers, left what you call the Catholic church as insupportable.
I do not know that I need go farther into the Fathers. I admit that they prayed for the dead, and remembered them at the Eucharist. Their ideas were wholly unscriptural, and full of confusion; yet what they held was not the Romish purgatory, but what was entirely inconsistent with it. It was a doctrine which arose from their having entirely lost the sense of the completeness of redemption, and got back to the Judaism which Paul so contended against; so that when a person stated that all true believers persevering in the faith of Christ were alike saved, he was cried out against as a dreadful man. I have already quoted them as to their view of men going one of two ways after their death.
As regards the scriptures quoted, I have spoken of 1 Peter 3:19, and 1 Corinthians 3:13-15. The fire would try the work of every man who was a workman in God’s house. This was the day of the Lord, to be revealed by fire. But it is not purgatory. The work is the work of the labourers, not the conduct of Christians at all, and the day of the Lord, not purgatory; and it is alike evident and admitted that it cannot be applied to the Romish doctrine of purgatory, because every one’s work is to be tried. As regards not going out till men have paid to the last farthing, I have not the least doubt that it was addressed to the Jewish people, with whom God was in the way while Christ was there, and they have been delivered to the officer, and are still under judgment, and will remain so, till they have received the full chastisement under which they are lying, and then will be brought to repentance and blessing. This may not be as clear in Matthew 5:25, but it is as clear as possibly can be in the parallel passage in Luke 12:54-59. St. Augustine (Sermo 9, Sermo 109, and Tract, in Joh., 45) refers both the passages to the day of judgment in contrast with this life, and does not hint at purgatory.
As to the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, the incontestable meaning of the passage is that which is expressed in the Gospel of Mark; it “hath never forgiveness.” The Jews believed in an age to come, in which, under Messiah, there would be a fuller revelation of God’s grace and favour than under the law; and, in a general way, they were right. The Lord declares that this sin would be forgiven in neither—that is, never forgiven at all. Besides, this text, if applied as Roman Catholics apply it, would not prove purgatory, but deny eternal punishment, for purgatory is for those who are forgiven and justified. Hence this passage cannot apply to purgatory, for this sin is not to be forgiven, and it would mean that the unforgiven, the lost, would be forgiven in the next world. In Gregory the Great we find another view of purgatory. In general he rejects it, but admits it in a very small degree, referring to the last passage I have quoted. He quotes a number of passages to prove that we shall be in the day of judgment as we are when we die, and that now is the time to settle all with God—John 12:35; Isaiah 49:8, quoted by Paul; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Psalm 117—concluding from which sentences it is evident that such as any one goes out of this world, such he is presented in judgment. But, however, concerning certain light faults, it is to be believed that there is a purgatorial fire before the judgment, and he refers to 1 Corinthians 3 as the proof; but, however, as I said before, for little and the very smallest sins, such as “idle speech,123 immoderate laughter, or the sin of carefulness in family matters,” etc. And then he gives us an altogether novel explanation of the passage in 1 Corinthians. Augustine makes gold, etc., to mean works so good that they stood the fire: for Jerome it was salvation without going through the fire at all; Gregory does not notice them, but speaks of iron, brass, lead—such dreadful sins that men are wholly lost. He says, However the passage may be understood of the fire of tribulation applied to us in this life, however, if any one take it as speaking of the fire of future purgation, it is to be diligently considered that he says he can be saved through fire, not who shall have built on this foundation iron, brass, or lead—that is, greater sins, and therefore harder, and then already insoluble— but wood, hay, stubble, that is, the very smallest and lightest sins, which fire easily consumes.”124 (Dial. lib. 4, c. 39.) How fire consumes sins, every one must judge for himself.
The result is, purgatory has infinitely more influence than the truth: note what it is. A man, according to Pope Gregory, can build on the foundation—that is, on Christ—iron, brass, lead, such dreadful and indissoluble sins, that he goes to hell, and that no man is free to die in peace; for, for the smallest, he must go to purgatory. Christ has fully and effectually cleansed from none. To hell, however, no Catholic who goes to the priest can go. If a man neglects the church, he goes to hell; at any rate, if he does not confess once a year, he is in mortal sin: but for the most grievous sins he gets absolution on his confessing them—prayers and fasting, perhaps, for penance; but for not finishing these, or for venial sins, he goes to the horrible fire of purgatory, so that is really the only thing to fear. The most dreadful sin can be built on Christ, according to Pope Gregory, and a man not go to hell; but Christ saves none but some rare martyr from purgatory, the true and real place of suffering; all must go there. And that is Catholic Christianity!
Scripture, not history, is the warrant for doctrine; but the historical fact is that half the church, and the oldest half of it, never held purgatory, nor do to this day (the other half, when expressing their personal faith, spoke in a way entirely contrary to it), but had, when the true knowledge of redemption was lost, and the purifying power of ceremonies and works came in, some mere vague notion of an intermediate state, or its possibility, or a purgatorial fire in the judgment of the last day, which ripened gradually in the West to the fact of a purgatory stated, as we have seen it, by Gregory at the end of the sixth century, but then only, if these were just, for very little sins, such as idle words. Before that prayers for the dead were offered, but then for all departed in peace, including the Virgin Mary. I give a specimen from Chrysostom: “We offer to thee this reasonable service for those that are absent in the faith—our forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets and apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, religious persons, and every spirit perfected in the faith, but especially for all-holy, spotless, over-and-above-blessed, God-bearing, and ever-Virgin Mary.”
The importance of this is that it shews that all that Dr. Milner says of the connection of prayers for the dead and purgatory is without foundation, and is, I must say, disingenuous. I have quoted quite sufficient of the Fathers’ denying purgatory; I only fear that it might be supposed that I attach any importance to their opinions. From Epiphanius we may find both doctrines of going to the Lord and prayers for the dead combined. Aerius had objected to prayers for the dead, just before the time of Augustine and Jerome, saying, What good could it do them? Epiphanius answers, What can be more useful, more opportune, more worthy of admiration, than the hearing the names of the dead: first, in order that those present may be persuaded that the dead live, nor are reduced to nothing, but still exist and live with the Lord; then, that that most religious doctrine may be preached by which it is evident that those who pray for their brethren think well of them—that they are gone on a journey. But the prayer which is made profits them, though it may not cut off all the sins: but it is profitable in this, that, for the most part, while in this life we fail, voluntarily or involuntarily, something more perfect may be signified, for we make mention at the same time of the just and of sinners, of patriarchs, prophets, apostles, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, bishops, authorities, and all of the whole universal assembly, that Jesus Christ the Lord, receiving a special honour, may be separated from the rest of men, etc. The Lord Jesus was, of course, not prayed for; His mother, Mary, we have seen, was.
The statement of Dr. Milner, that the Greek church holds it, is an unworthy statement. The deputies did agree to it at Florence. The Emperor was pressed very hard by the Turks, and looked to help from the West, and so came to get the Greek and Roman sees and systems united. The Greeks strongly resisted purgatory, saying they were afraid it would lead to Origen’s doctrine, that there was nothing else for any one—no eternal punishment. However, they did yield; but their concession was rejected with outcries on their return. They themselves said they had been deceived, and the doctrine is denied to this day, and they remain separate from Rome as before.
Alphonsus de C. (Adversus omnes Haereses) admits that in the ancient writers “there is almost no mention of purgatory, especially in the Greek writers, and that therefore by the Grecians it is not believed unto this day.” So Fisher, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Rochester, “that no orthodox person now doubts whether there is a purgatory, concerning which, however, amongst the ancients, there is either none, or, at any rate, very seldom indeed, mention (rarissima). But among the Greeks, even to this day, it is not believed.” I give the quotations from others, but there is no doubt of their correctness.
Neither this reference then, to the Greek church, nor that to the Fathers, proves anything, save that the statements of Dr. Milner are unfounded. The Fathers cannot be trusted for doctrine a moment. Justin Martyr declares that it was impossible that the Supreme God could assume a body, and that it was not He who appeared to Abraham. He, I may say all the early Fathers, if we except the good and gracious old Irenaeus, held that there was no personality of the Son till the time of the creation. Hardly any of them—none, perhaps, but Irenseus— before the Council of Nice, were clear as to the divinity of Christ. All this came from the same source as purgatory, a mixture of Judaism and Platonic philosophy; so, indeed, did saintly and angelic mediation. This mixture of philosophy and Judaism at Alexandria in Egypt was the fertile cause of corruption in the church.
A few words as to the true origin of purgatory.
The Romanists do, as heretics always do, take a hard passage, which people do not understand, and use it for their false doctrine. If one knows the right interpretation, one can answer at once, and say, “No; it means so-and-so”; but if you cannot, you are exposed to be led away by false interpretation, because you do not know at all what the passage means. One may be guarded by other plain truths, but, as to such a question, a person has nothing to answer. But the true source of the doctrine of purgatory is a mixture of Judaism and Platonism. Roman Catholic authors refer to both as being the same doctrine in substance as the Romanist doctrine of purgatory; and so they are. It will help us, if I give you here a sketch of the history of purgatory. No one denies that the modern idea of purgatory is found nowhere so closely stated as in Plato. Dr. Milner125 admits and insists on it; and Bellarmine, De Purg. lib. i, c. 2, appeals to Plato, Cicero, Virgil, and the Mahometans, to prove that it is according to natural light. Now, what does that mean? That redemption and the complete putting away of sin by the work of Christ for the believer—his heart being purified by faith—having been set aside, natural conscience (having the sense of faults in it, having nothing else to make amends for these faults according to their gravity, and unable to quiet or purge itself here) looked with hope and fear to some satisfying for them, or being purged from them hereafter; that is, that Romanism, through the loss of the knowledge of redemption, is a return to heathenism, or, at best, to the instincts of natural light.
I will now give the statement of Plato. After a pretty elaborate description of hades, or the infernal regions, he continues: “These things being so, when those who are departed come to the place where the demon126 carries each, first they are distinguished in judgment, both those who have lived well, and piously, and righteously, and those who have not; and those who seem to have lived in a middle way, having come to the Acheron, having ascended the vehicle for each, they come to the lake, and there they dwell and, being purified and paying the penalty of their unrighteous deeds, they are absolved, if any one has acted unrighteously, and have the rewards of their good deeds, each according to his desert. But those who seem to be incapable of being healed, because of the greatness of their sins—having committed either many and great sacrileges, or many unrighteous and illegal murders, or whatever else such-like they may be involved in—these a fitted fate hurries away to Tartarus, whence they never get out; but those who have committed such as may be healed, yet great sins … are kept a year, and, if need be, more, till they obtain release from those they have injured for the wrongs done; for that is the penalty adjudged them… But those who are esteemed to have excelled as regards living piously, these, liberated and removed from their places on the earth, as from prisons, going away to the pure dwelling-place, dwell over the earth. And of these same, those who have been adequately purified by philosophy, live without pain all time after, and come into a better habitation than these, which it is neither easy to describe, nor is there now time.” And again, “If a soul depart in this state (a good one) it departs to what is like itself, and invisible—what is divine, immortal, and wise, and, coming there, begins to be happy, is freed from the contagion of human ills, and is in the society of the gods. But if it shall depart contaminated out of the body, it will be, when separated, impure.127 Those who have passed through life justly and piously, when they die, go to the isles of the blessed, to dwell in all happiness, without any evils. But he who has lived unrighteously, and without God, will go to the prison of vengeance and punishment, which they call Tartarus. But they who have committed the worst unrighteousness, and on account of such unrighteousness cannot be healed any more, of these examples are made. These cannot indeed any longer be helped who are incurable, but they help those who see them, when they see them, for their very great sins, suffering most painful and frightful sufferings for ever.”
All this was borrowed from Egypt, as different points shew, though made up into Grecian philosophy, as in other parts we find him stating the Egyptian doctrine of the transmigration of souls, accompanied with another doctrine, greatly taught there afterwards, that the soul existed before, and came down to dwell in the body, two natures making up one person, as will be found in the places I have quoted from. But, though in a heathen form, we have the Roman doctrine of saints who go to heaven, the wicked to hell, and a middle class to purgatory. So Virgil,128 when ALneas goes down to hades, he is told by them in purgatory, “When life leaves with the last light (of day), not yet is every evil over to the unhappy, nor all corporeal infection129 wholly gone; and it is altogether necessary that many things should have grown up as part of ourselves in wonderful ways;130 therefore they are exercised with penal torments, and pay the penalty of old evils.” And then he speaks of different punishments before they go to elysium.131 And, further, in the Odyssey, souls complain that sacrifices have not been offered for them, to get them out of this place. So Ovid’s Fasti, lib. 2, 33.
Plato teaches the pre-existence of the soul (Phasdo, 923) and transmigration. Only true saints, who had kept alone from every snare of corporate existence, went, it is suggested, to God: so did Pythagoras. Philo, the Jew, held the pre-existence of the soul, as Plato, and that the air is full of demons up to the moon; and the lower, or inferior class, were disposed to be earthly, and came into bodies. This came from Indian or Egyptian heathenism. Why do I speak of these things? Because the great early doctors of the church, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, were educated in Platonism. Origen, too, embraced the whole system—transmigration, and the renewal of the whole series of the soul’s history in another earth. Jerome and Ruffinus (Latins), and even, in part, Ambrose followed Origen in a great deal, as did Gregory of Nyssa, and many others in the East.
Origen was followed and defended till the fifth general council. Jerome and Augustine, who hesitated, as we have seen, about it all, led in the notions of the Western church. But Origen held that angels, devils, and men, were all on the same footing of responsibility, though in different states; and withal, that all would be ultimately saved; punishment was only purgatory for any.132
Ambrose we may speedily dismiss, the only difficulty being that he directly contradicts himself. But that is nothing with the Fathers. His doctrine, in result, is, that all professing Christians will be saved, and heathen unbelievers, that is, Christ’s enemies, will not; that Christ chastens those that are His, and consigns those who are strangers to Him to eternal punishment (Enar. of Ps. 118, Octon. 20, sect. 24). As to the manner of it, he gives two directly conflicting statements: first, that there are three classes, the godly Christians, who will not come into judgment at all; those who have failed, though Christians, who will come into judgment; and the wicked, who will not come into judgment, abiding under wrath, so that it is not needed (Enar. in Ps. 1:53 and 56). He held two resurrections, and the failing Christian class to be tormented between the two; but it is after their resurrection. To the third class he refers the passage, “They are condemned already.” Those who have added good works to faith will rise to blessedness, not judgment. He rests on John 5:28, 29, and the Revelation. But there is nothing clear as to when the resurrection to life or judgment takes place. In another place he declares that all must pass through the fire, even John and Peter; that the flaming sword is in the way of paradise (confounding the garden of Eden and the paradise of God); and hence, though John, the beloved of Christ, might escape death, he could not escape the fire, only such as John would be soon done with it (Enar. Ps. 118, Octon. 20, sect. 12, etc.).
Jerome may be fairly said to have also held that all Christians would be saved; but his history demands a little more attention. He admired and quotes Origen, or his views, at least, largely. Ruftinus, a great friend of Jerome, translated Origen. This made him known, and he was widely condemned. Jerome attacked Ruffinus, and Ruffinus answered, it was no worse to translate him (Origen) than to cite him continually on these very points without the smallest disapprobation. Jerome, though a saint, got badly out of the scrape, as Tillemont and Dupin, honest Roman Catholics, confess. He alleges all sorts of bad excuses, and at last says, if he had held the views, he did not hold them now. I will now give some of his statements, and the result.
On Ezekiel 1:4, 5, our God, he says, is a consuming fire, and, as the ember comes after the fire, so happier things will be afforded after the torment of fire, which is for all believers (nobis omnibusque credentibus). Here all professors of Christ are to be delivered: we are to be in the fire, to give better things to the pure and purged; though, indeed, it goes farther than believers here, saying that after judgment and torments comes the precious brightness to the sufferers, as the providence of God governs all things, and what may be thought penalty is medicine.
On Ecclesiastes 9 he records the opinion of some, that reasonable creatures can offend and merit in another age, though death ends it in this, and he does not blame this.
In the end of his thirty-fifth Homily on Luke, “agree with thine adversary quickly,” he gives getting out of prison, not as he excuses himself, and is pleaded for him, but as his own, the effect of paying the last farthing is that a man gets out; a minute sin soon paid; greater ones longer; and, if they are very bad, how long will people remain? But it is all after judgment, but no one can say how long; it may be infinite ages.
Finally, at the end of his Commentary on Isaiah, after quoting a series of passages, as alleged by others, to shew punishment will have an end [citations which shew utter ignorance of scripture, and the misleading of human imaginations, spiritualizing, as it is called, what is plain], after quoting, as the assertion of others, that this future mercy is hid for the sake of useful terror [which is Origen’s doctrine], he adds for himself, “which we ought to leave to the knowledge of God alone, who knows how to weigh both mercy and torments, and knows also how and how long he ought to purge,” etc.; and then he closes by saying, “and as we believe the torments of the devil, and of all deniers and impious men who say in their heart, ‘there is no God,’ to be eternal, of sinners and impious men, yet Christians, whose works are to be proved and purged in fire, we think the sentence of the Judge to be moderate, and mixed with clemency.”
Worse doctrine one could hardly have, for Christians, who have light, are to be dealt with in clemency, even if impious, but the impious heathen are to be eternally lost. With purgatory it has nothing to do; it takes place after judgment, and of forgiveness, which is the groundwork of purgatory, there is no hint.
James. But, with all this confusion and darkness, why do they quote the Fathers, and make so much of them? This man does not seem to know the truth, nor grace, either.
Bill M. How can an ignorant man like you judge these holy men?
James. I do not know what they are, nor why they are called Fathers; but I am sure what we have just heard is not according to scripture nor God’s truth, as the Lord Himself, and as Paul, and the rest—that is, the word of God—has taught it, and we are told to call no man father on the earth. But why is it, sir, so much is made of them, when such things are in them?
N*. It would not be so, James, with one who knew the truth and the scriptures of God. But what is ancient is venerable in men’s eyes, and the word of God is too powerful for any one whose heart does not bow to it to hear, and they put it practically aside. The writings of these men are a matter of learnings the tradition of the elders, not of conscience; and, besides that, we must remember the influence and power of the enemy.
James. But then, surely, sir, Paul, and Peter, and John, and all the apostles, and others, are more venerable than they are— the inspired apostles of the blessed Lord, chosen by Himself; and so the other inspired writers. But these writers are not inspired.
N*. Undoubtedly, James, they are more venerable; and we are specially charged to hold fast to that which was from the beginning, as the apostles clearly were, and those called Fathers clearly were not.
Bill M. But you will be taking a wrong meaning out of the scriptures, and those men that lived hundreds of years ago must know better what the apostles taught than we can.
James. Well, Bill (begging your pardon, sir, for answering; we are poor men, and understand each other), but surely the best way of knowing what the apostles taught is to read what the apostles say? I know we need God’s grace for it, and I am ignorant of many things in scripture; but, at any rate, the right meaning is certainly there to get, and it is not in what we have heard of these Fathers at all; and I find it a great deal easier to understand, upon those things we have been speaking of, than what we have heard out of these books. Anybody can understand that if the writers of the scriptures were inspired, they must have said it right, and “perfectly, rightly, and better than those Fathers, who were not inspired at all; and why can they tell me the matter better than those we know God sent to tell it?
Bill M. But it is the priest will tell you what the truth is; you need not be reading those books.
James. How can I tell that he is inspired?
Bill M. No, of course, he is not.
James. Then he is no better to me, as to this matter, than any other; and why can I not read the scriptures that are for myself?
Bill M. You are too proud entirely. The priest is not inspired, but he teaches what the bishop teaches, and the bishop teaches what the pope and the church teach; and the scriptures were written in Greek, and languages you do not know.
James. Sure, it is not pride to listen to what God says. The Lord Jesus commended a poor woman for doing it, and said it should not be taken from her; and I know that the New Testament scriptures were written to all the Christian people, except a small part. How can I tell the priest teaches, or the bishop either, what the church teaches? I cannot rest the salvation of my soul on that; it is resting it on man. I know what the apostles and the Lord taught is right, and my soul can trust it for salvation; but you give me nothing for my faith to rest in, except fallible men, for that you do not deny they are: and, as to Greek and Latin, what are these Fathers written in? I have no need to judge anything about them, for I rest my soul on the word of God, that I know is His; but what I have heard of the Fathers is very poor stuff any way.
N*. Poor stuff indeed; but it is what these doctors refer to, and the truth is, if you were learned, James, you would know that to refer to what the Fathers teach is to put your foot on a quicksand, in order to have firm ground. They contradict each other, and contradict themselves, as indeed we have seen already. But go on with Bill M.
James. I have not much more to say, sir. You see, Bill, I have a soul to be saved, and I must have some sure foundation from God for it, and I have got that, and through mercy know I have got it, in the word of God, in what you do not deny to be such. There I find that God hides these things from the wise and prudent, and reveals them unto babes. It was not through learning I found salvation and got peace in my soul, and to know I was saved, but by the grace of God.
Bill M. It is awful to hear you talk so. Know you are saved! Who can know that?
James. I wonder you can rest a minute till you do know it. I do not mean to offend you, Bill, but what is your church worth, if a man cannot know he is saved in it, after all? You would be a happier man, if you knew you were.
Bill M. Of course I should; who would not? But it is all presumption.
James. Not if a person comes honestly to Christ. He says, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”: and through mercy I came to Him, and found rest. If you go to Him, you will find it. Sure, He cannot deceive us, nor tell us what is not true; and him that comes to Him He will in no wise cast out.
Bill M. I suppose you are going to turn preacher; and what about all your sins?
James. And what did the blessed Lord give Himself for? was it not our sins? and His blood cleanses from all sin; and I have read, “by him all that believe are justified from all things,” and “their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.” That is the comfort, Bill, having God’s own word for it. And, as to preaching, I am no preacher, but only giving, as I ought to be able to do, a reason for the hope that is in me, I trust, with meekness and fear, as I read we should.
Bill M. And I suppose you may sin now as much as you please?
James. No, indeed; I have to watch and pray, lest I enter into temptation, and find I need it too. But a Christian is a new creature, is born again, and hates sin; and there are blessed promises of help and grace for time of need, and that God will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able; and, if we do fail (and we have no excuse, I know, if we do), we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins. But there is no work to put away sin but the blessed Lord’s one offering of Himself, and that is finished and perfected for ever, and He is set down at the right hand of God.
Bill M. But there is the holy, unbloody, sacrifice of the Mass.
James. Now, I know all your religion is a false one—forgive me for being plain, Bill—for the word of God declares that, where remission of sins is, there is no more offering for sin, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. Now, either you have no true remission of sins in your church, or there is no more offering for sin; and an unbloody sacrifice is of no use at all. Ah! Bill, when one has learnt the truth from God, and has the word of God to rest on, one does not want learning to know these things. I am very ignorant of scripture itself yet; but what one wants for the saving of one’s own soul, one gets through mercy fast hold of. My missis, there, knows a great deal more of scripture than I do; but, through mercy, I know what saves me. I wanted it, and, through mercy, I have got it; and I know what scripture is, not by learning, but because I found the holy God and a Saviour in it, or it found me, perhaps I should say. Any way, I know what I have got, and where I got it.
Bill M. But how do you know you are not deceiving yourself all the while?
James. That I might well do; but God cannot he, and it is on His word I rest—on what you do not deny is His word, what I know to be such. It found me out, revealed my sins and myself to me, told me all I was, and told me what Christ was. The Spirit of God (as it must for that) worked in my heart; I was convinced of sin; it was not I judged about it, it laid hold of me—was God’s eye, that brought me naked before Him. No one, Bill, who has been under its power doubts what it is; and it is always so, and is holy, and will have holiness. Besides the Holy Spirit is given to those that believe, as it is promised; and he that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself.
Bill M.. I told you you would turn preacher; your head is just turned. I do not understand a word you say.
James. Well, Bill, I hope you may, and be as happy as I am, though I am a poor, ignorant, and feeble creature, and know only what I want for my soul’s salvation; but I hope to learn more of this blessed book the Lord Himself has given us. But you were telling us about these Fathers, sir. I was led on, talking to Bill M.; but it is well to know what they are. They say so much about them, and, of course, I cannot read them myself, and they make a wonderful deal of them.
N*. What you have been saying is far happier, and much more important, James, than all the so-called Fathers. You would have poor work to do, to read the hundreds of volumes of them, if you even knew Greek and Latin. It is only because they make much of them, and you cannot tell what they are, and all that is unknown is apt to be wonderful, that it is well to know what they are. We were giving the statements by which they are alleged to support purgatory, and, I am glad to say, we have almost done. Of one more I will quote some passages, because he, as well as Jerome, is made a great deal of, and he will nearly complete our history. He is called Augustine—was a very ungodly, and undoubtedly became a truly godly man. As to poor Jerome, saint though he be called, he had an awful and wholly unsubdued temper, and was abusive and revengeful to the last degree: however, he was a saint for Rome. I hope it was all right with him; but really, one can say no more. And now for Augustine.
What we have cited from Ambrose and Jerome has nothing to do with purgatory, but made judgment a temporary and purifying thing for all Christians, and was chiefly borrowed from Origen, admitted to be a heretic on all these points. But I will give you Augustine’s statements, a good man, and partially led by what we have already looked at, but confessedly uncertain in his own mind; only he rejects positively the doctrines of the earlier Fathers, Origen, Ambrose, and Jerome. In the. twenty-first book of The City of God, chapter 25, he had insisted that a man might outwardly partake of the Lord’s supper, and not really receive Christ, that he who fed on Christ abode in Him, and that they were not members of Christ if in sin. Then he takes up the case of being burned (1 Cor. 3), and first refers to tribulation. “So,” he says, “as far as it appears to me, that fire is found”; and goes on to declare it cannot be the eternal fire, as some have said, into which those who are on the left hand are cast, and that only those who are set on the Lord’s right hand go into that fire, inasmuch as they are saved, though their work is burnt; whereas those who go into the eternal fire will never be saved, but punished for ever (21, 26, 3). Then, in 4, “if in the interval between death and resurrection the spirits of the deceased are said to suffer this kind of fire, that their wood, hay, and stubble may be consumed, which those who have not such morals and affections in the life of this body will not feel, but those feel who have carried building of this sort with them, whether there only, or here and there, or therefore here, that it may not be there, they find fire of transitory tribulation, consuming worldly things, but pardonable as concerns eternal damnation, I do not controvert, for perhaps it is true.” Death may belong to it. “Persecution, in which martyrs are crowned, or which any Christians suffer, tries both kinds of building as fire, and if they do not find Christ in them, consumes some works and builders, some without the builders, if Christ be found,” etc. He was a good man, and knew what it was to have Christ, and could not confound the substance of the matter with chaff, however dark he might be on a passage, and owns he was. “There will be, too, in the end of the age, tribulation in the time of Antichrist, such as never was.” Thus his own mind rests on tribulation. He utterly rejects Origen’s notions, taken up by Ambrose and Jerome; but, as I said, is partially led by their views, so as to admit the possibility of another purifying fire when a true Christian had allowed evil in himself. The application of 1 Corinthians 3 to purgatory, Bellarmine assures us, is quite wrong, because there every one’s work is tried, and that will not do for purgatory (Bell, de Purg., lib. 1, c. 5, sect. 37, 38), and he rejects Augustine’s own opinion, which is that of Gregory, that it is tribulation here (sect. 22, 26, 36). So little have we to trust in these doctors for unanimity of judgment. But in the tract on Faith and Works, 25 (15), this same Augustine utterly rejects the opinion of Ambrose and Jerome, though not naming them, and shews their views to be contrary to scripture where it is plainest, because of this, to him, obscure passage133 in 1 Corinthians 3, and quotes 1 Corinthians 13; James 2:14; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; Galatians 5:19-21. “All this will be false,” he says, “if they are saved by fire who persevere in such evil things, if only they believe and are baptized. And thus the baptized in Christ even who do such things will possess the kingdom of God.” He adds a great deal more to the same purpose, which I need not quote. He then adds, 29 (16), “Perhaps it will be asked me here what I think of the sentence of the apostle Paul itself, and how I think it is to be understood. I confess I had rather hear more intelligent and learned persons, who shall so expound it, as that all those things which I have above recited should remain true and unshaken, and what I have not cited by which scripture most openly testifies that faith profits nothing save that which the apostle has defined, which works by love.” He says, however, he will explain, as well as he can, that if there is a faith which works by love, that faith will not suffer him to perish; he will be saved: but if he has with that allowed his heart to be attached to earthly things, “in losing them they suffer loss, and by a certain fire of grief arrive at salvation.” It is all poor and uncertain teaching, but of a godly man. On the same point, in the Enchiridion 18 (69), referring to the same passage, he says, “It is not incredible there may be some such thing after this life, and whether it be so may be inquired, and it may be discovered, or lay hid, that some of the faithful may be saved by a certain purifying fire; by how much they may have more or less loved perishing good things, by so much they may be more quickly or slowly saved.”
His doctrine as to good works shews how he lay open to these thoughts, and such uncertainty, for here we have a different doctrine from what he says in the tract on Faith and Good Works. In The City of God he gives both, but that the fire means tribulation, as his own view. In his book on Dulcitius’ Eight Questions (1, 14), he earnestly rejects Origen’s doctrine of the salvation of the wicked after a time of punishment 1 and, while mourning over those he cannot mend, nor refuse at the sacrament, still bows to scripture that they are lost. But in the thirteenth chapter of the twenty-first book of the Civ. Dei, citing the Platonicians and Virgil, which I have already referred to, he accepts purgatorial pains between death and judgment, though rejecting (what Origen and Jerome and Ambrose taught) that all the baptized would be saved. But in the twenty-fifth chapter of the twentieth book of the Civ. Dei, he teaches, from Malachi 3, that the day of judgment itself will be purgatorial for some, and as Malachi (who really refers to Israel) speaks of offering, he says they will then offer, but it will be themselves when purified, for what offering could be more acceptable to God? They cannot offer for their sins when purged; but he puts off the full discussion of that subject to another time. He then goes on, as the sacrifices would be offered as of old, to state that they were offered in paradise before the fall, and he loses himself in other ideas.
James. But you say, sir, Augustine was a godly man; yet he is confused and uncertain on the plainest things in scripture.
N*. That is the very use of referring, as I have done, to the Fathers. They are quoted, and Bill M. had referred to them as great authorities to you, and so do Dr. Milner and all Roman Catholic teachers. Nay, their Council of Trent will have no interpretation of scripture but what is by their unanimous consent. Hence it was well to know what they are really worth. Augustine was a godly man, and hence his spirit rejected the vagaries of Origen, copied by Jerome and by Ambrose, who must have had great weight with him as his spiritual father, but he rejects it all. But not knowing the fulness of redemption, as not one of the Fathers did, nor that the poor thief could go straight into paradise to be with Christ, because Christ’s blood (who was in grace on the cross by him) had cleansed him from all sin, nor able, as scripture speaks, to “give thanks to the Father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light,” they were at a loss what to do with the faults and failings of real Christians. Before Augustine the purifying was held to be after the day of judgment: this he sometimes teaches—sometimes that it was tribulation here—sometimes between death and judgment; and then he put off its full discussion (but never took it up again), and wished some more learned man to treat of it— would not controvert its being after death, or here and not there, or here and there both.
But the seed of the doctrine was now sown. Gregory the First, of Rome, a great but very superstitious man, whom sober Roman Catholics acknowledge to have stuffed the very book I quote from with absurd and incredible stories, thus speaks in it, founding his doctrine on the Lord’s words, “neither in this world nor in the next”: which refer solely to the age of the law and that of the Messiah, a perfectly well-known Jewish distinction, of which he knew nothing. He says it is to be believed that there is a purifying fire for very light faults, but only for small and the very least faults, as frequent idle talk, or immoderate laughter, or error of ignorance in immaterial things; and then refers to i Corinthians 3, which, as we have seen, their great doctor, Bellarmine, says can not apply to purgatory, and which Gregory says may be understood of tribulation in this life, but with the strangest application, saying, contrary to the rest, “not iron, brass, lead—hard things, and these, indeed, indissoluble; but wood, hay, stubble—that is, the smallest and lightest sins, which the fire easily consumes”: and then he adds, “only if a man has deserved it in this life” (Dialogues, lib. 4).
James. But that has no sense, and the apostle speaks of gold and silver, and precious stones, and what the teacher has built in his service. They don’t seem to have understood the scriptures at all, according to what you have quoted, sir.
N*. Nothing can be more foolish as an interpretation; but they had all lost the doctrine of a complete redemption and purging of the conscience by the precious blood of Christ, and therefore all was dark to them. They had to make out some other way of clearing themselves, and hence penances and purgatory and indulgences and such like means. But this is all poor Romanists have to rest on. How different from the clear and sure testimony of the word of God, with its holy claim on the conscience, and full and perfect grace for the soul, the constant presence of Christ before God for us, and His intercession unsought, for every need and every failure, in virtue of a blood and righteousness which never can fail, and sanctifying correction by His word and Spirit in our hearts, with chastening, if needed, for our good, not as an exacting God, for “whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth,” and for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness!
But I have done my history of purgatory. The doctrine fyad now come in, and soon after the dark ages, when wickedness, and corruption, and superstition were at their height. What do we see, then, as the result? Scripture does not say one word of purgatory, but teaches exactly the contrary. We have examined the pretended passages; but when I turn to heathen philosophers and Jews, I find a system of doctrine to which the Romanist doctrine is conformed. Nor is that all. These Jewish doctrines were mixed up with this particular class of heathen ones at Alexandria, as is well known, and all the works of Philo testify. Now all the early learned Fathers who imprinted the character of their doctrines on the church lived at Alexandria. There was the great Christian catechetical school, and the principal of these Fathers were its masters, as Clement and Origen; and through these this mixture of Platonism and Judaism flowed into the church. The fact of the accordance of these doctrines is not my statement alone; you see Dr. Milner admits it, and says it shews how suited it was to human nature, which is quite true: only that the reasonings, of philosophy were added. And Bellarmine, the Jesuit, and one of the highest authorities in Romanist doctrine, refers to Plato and Cicero and Virgil, as holding these views, and seeks to prove it thereby as of the common light of nature (Bell, de Purg., lib. I; Prague, 1721, p. 348). So Dr. Milner, “it is conformable to the dictates of natural religion”; that is, punishment suited to the degrees of guilt is. Now, I do not deny this; moreover, scripture speaks of it (Luke 12:47, 48). Before I answer this, let us recall the doctrines to which I refer.
Plato holds that the flesh is an evil part of the nature, which infects the soul, and that if it has wholly given itself up to vice, it would be given up to punishment for the advantage of others, as an example: if not, but that still any had not kept themselves free, they would be punished in hades for a certain time, proportioned to their unpurged stains; that there were two instruments for the health of the body, exercise (gymnastics) and medicine, and if the first were not sufficient, the other was to be applied; that the spots of the soul were like the colours after a wound when completely well. The soul, at the end of its purification and punishment, would be rendered splendid and spotless. That is simply purgatory—purgatory from the natural need of the soul without Christ. Virgil enlarges a little on it: besides the torments of hell, he states the same process of punishment and purification, but he does not quite finish them off then; he sends them to elysium, a place of blessedness, and then, after a length of time, the hardened spots are wholly gone, and the ethereal soul is left quite pure. Other fictions were added; the souls quite pure, according to Plato, went off to the stars, according to their qualities, for they held (so Philo, the Jew) the stars to be living beings. All this was much borrowed from the Egyptians and Pythagoras. Hades was placed by them under the earth, and so by Romanists (as Bellarmine). This doctrine of purgatory was connected with the famous mysteries of Eleusis. It was signified in the rites, says Plato, that he who was not initiated and the unper-fected in them would go to hades, and he in mire, but that the purified and perfected person, when he departed, would dwell with the gods. So they held that there were those who answered to the Romish saints—the heroes, who went to heaven at once, and were eternally happy. Here is Virgil’s account of purgatory: “Moreover, when at the last ray fife leaves, yet not every sorrow ceases to the unhappy, nor do bodily pains altogether pass, and it is altogether necessary that many things contracted by long usage should grow in a wonderful way into their very constitution. Therefore they are exercised with penal sufferings, and satisfy by punishment for the inveterate evils.” This is not Tartarus, the hell of the condemned, but souls that can be purified, who are not yet fit for elysium. You must not be surprised if we refer Roman Catholic doctrines to heathens, where we find exactly the same doctrine. All the language used of the sacraments by the Fathers is borrowed from heathen mysteries, and that even in the language of the liturgies.
But there was another source historically of this doctrine (I say historically, for it was all the same reasoning of human nature that did not know the gospel of salvation)—the Jewish doctrine. The Jews’ notion (and the identity of thought is here also extraordinary) was this: they say (as Cyprian, Ambrose, and hosts of others) that there is no place of repentance after death. This the Fathers repeat continually; so the Jews. It is true; but where redemption is not known the only resource is to keep people from sin by terrifying the mind always by the dread of an avenging God, falsifying His character. But then they make almost all Jews get out of the place of punishment, because God has punished the best for all faults, and, after punishing the wicked, must crown what they have done right. Even if one commandment be kept, a Jew will be blest, so that, between that and Abraham’s help and Moses’, every child of Israel will see the world to come. God leans to the side of mercy, and it would not be just, they say, that a man suffered eternally for crimes which have often been light ones. Hence they have a purgatory for prevaricators in Israel, those who are not entirely good nor entirely bad. They pray to get souls out of it, and God releases them, and particularly at great days of expiation. It is even said that they sell indulgences to the people to get out quicker. Their purgatory is a part of hell beneath the earth. They judge that souls who have done both evil and good works will be punished for the evil, and then be rewarded for the good. So exactly says Origen (Horn. 16) on Jeremiah 5:6, “If after you are on the foundation of Jesus Christ, you have gold, etc., and wood, etc., what would you have done to you when your soul quits your body? Would you enter into the holy place for the gold, etc., to pollute God’s kingdom, or stay out for the wood, and receive no reward for the gold,” etc.? Yet neither is this just. He then quotes, “our God is a consuming fire,” and says, there comes always blessing after threats and sorrow. And quoting falsely, I know not how, Isaiah 40, he insists on the word first (“I will first retribute double their iniquities “); first we shall suffer the torment for our iniquities, then be crowned for” our righteousness. This is exactly Jewish.
Jerome, reasoning against Pelagius (who said that in the day of judgment the wicked and sinners are not to be spared, but to be burned), answers, You interdict mercy to God. When He says, sinners shall cease out of the earth, He does not say they shall be burned in eternal fire—sin and iniquity (not impiety, which is not knowing God) according to the quality of the vices, after the wound of sin and iniquity receives health. It is one thing to lose the glory of the resurrection—another to perish everlastingly. This, too, was the Jewish notion. The resurrection is for Moses, the saints, and the righteous. In all this we see, no doubt, what suits nature, and how thoroughly the Fathers have followed the crude imaginations of Jews and heathens; and then Rome has made a new system out of it, whose first definite traces are to be found in Gregory the Great, at the end of the sixth century. Only some went farther, as Origen, who held, as Bellarmine himself tells us, that there was no punishment but purifying punishment: he thought that souls had existed before, and were then born into this world, and that they would go on purifying gradually till they purely enjoyed God. It is hard to say what place he gave to Christ in this. Gregory of Nyssa held the same views, and speaks of Judas being purified, of whom Peter says, “he went to his own place,” and the Lord, “it had been good for him not to have been born.” And throughout his works this doctrine is taught. Some looked shy at him with good reason; but the great Romanist champion, Bellarmine, eulogises him as admirable, and he was one often whom the Council of Ephesus said they were to decide all by, and one of those sent on a kind of visitation round the churches to see there was no Arian heresy.134
And now see the true character of all this.
Christianity has come finding man lost—justly lost by sin, and departed from God—has brought him salvation when he is in that state—has brought him life, eternal life. Christ is that life—a life holy in its nature, and which loves God and that which is good; he, it tells us, who receives Christ, receives this life. Such is the positive plain declaration of scripture; but that is not all. How can such poor, sinful, guilty, creatures have confidence to come to God; to walk at peace with Him, so as to come to His holy habitation hereafter, even if, quickened by Christ, they desire it? First, the Son of God has become a man, and lived amongst men to prove His love, and that He does not reject the vilest; He is the friend of publicans and sinners. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. Hence we see the very vilest (who could not venture near a decent person) come to Jesus—humbled surely, but received, and told to go in peace. Thus God was revealed amongst men, that sinners, such as we are, might trust Him. But to enter into His presence in heaven we must be cleansed—justified. The same blessed One gives Himself for us; has given Himself for the sins of all who come to God by Him; has borne their sins in His own body on the tree. Thereupon the Holy Ghost declares to us that they which believe are justified from all things; that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses them from all sin, and that God will remember their sins and imquities no more. Hence we are assured of being with Christ directly when we die—absent from the body and present with the Lord—and we are called upon to give thanks to the Father, who has made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. So the poor thief, who talked of being remembered when the kingdom came, was assured that he should be that very day with Christ in paradise. And the Holy Ghost is given to those who believe as the seal of God upon them, and the earnest of their inheritance. And He is in them—a Spirit of adoption—crying Abba, Father. Death they know is a gain to them—resurrection the time of glory. They know that when He comes He will receive all that have believed in Him, and they will appear with Him in glory.
Being justified by faith they have peace with God; holiness is their delight; glory and being like Christ their sure hope. If they fail, Christ is an Advocate with the Father for them, and ever Hveth to make intercession for them, and hence is able to save utterly and completely. Warnings they need; exhortations too, vigilance, prayer, and every other means, public or private, that God in grace has afforded them. If they carelessly fail, they have every ground to humble themselves in the dust, and confess their fault before God. If they do not own the warnings of the word in grace, God chastens them as a father, that they may be partakers of His holiness; but they do not doubt that they have eternal life in Christ, because God says so, nor that the blood of Christ cleanses them from all sin, nor think that God will remember their sins and iniquities any more.
Instead of that, what do I find? Christ brought in as a foundation to begin with, and a man who is built on Christ as a foundation having still to answer for everything as much as if there was no Christ; he has to pay the penalty of his sins now, or must do so hereafter, for God will have the last farthing. Sacraments there are to cleanse and justify—justified in baptism, not from his actual sins (for as yet he has committed none), but when he has, a sacrament to purify him from guilt without purifying his heart; nay, on the contrary, a sacrament which makes contrition unnecessary, and gives absolution on sorrow from a lower motive, called attrition—a horribly unholy doctrine—forgiveness quieting the conscience without purifying the heart, but the forgiven man having still to satisfy an exacting God for his sins, unless this temporal penalty too be excused by an indulgence. Then, when dying, other sacraments, no less than three, to quiet his conscience again; and then he must go to purgatory to pay and satisfy God still. And all this if a man is in grace forgiven, sanctified, and justified! It is not Christianity, whatever else it may be.
James. Well, how little one knows what Romanism is! I could never have thought it; but all these Fathers! I thought they were such holy people, all teaching as nobody else could. Why, they only make everything dark, I think: the word of God is clearer and surer too. I see that plainly now, and then one has the words of the apostles and of the blessed Lord Himself, and we are sure they are right. Oh, what a comfort for one’s poor soul that is!
Mrs. J. But I do not know, sir, why one should trouble oneself with all these books and mazes of uncertain teaching when one has the word of God. They are beyond poor folks like us, and if knowing the truth depended on reading them, we should be in a bad way, while with my Bible and the words of my blessed Saviour all is simple and full of grace, just suited to simple people: and then they are His own.
N*. Just so, Mrs. J.; they are His own. Oh, what a thought that is! They come with power, they come with authority, and that is what no man’s words can do; and then they come in grace to the heart—God’s grace.
Mrs. J. They do, sir.
N*. When God has become a man—when He can say, If thou knewest the gift of God, and Who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given—when the High and Holy One has come so low to be with sinners, the moment I believe it, I can have confidence in Him. I have much to learn; but to learn from one who loves us. If we reject His grace, we have a debt we never can pay at all: but if we have Him, we have one who— blessed be His name—has paid the last farthing for us. There is not the smallest need of your knowing the Fathers. They may be interesting, as a matter of history, to shew what went on in those days for those who make research, and they are so; and in a very few indeed we see marks of piety and true grace, as in Irenaeus of the more voluminous, and others I need not name here; but it is not in the books of those times you get the highest parts of Christianity. They were almost all corrupted by heathenism and philosophical reasonings. I do not think you would find as much rubbish and false interpretation in any quantity of serious books of the same size nowadays. But men suffered then for Christ, and so did some of these very men. As to their consent in doctrines, it is all a fable. There never was more disputing and confusion about doctrine than in those days. They were holding councils on councils to try and settle it, and often the emperors managed the matter their own way—by their power, by the banishment of those whose opinions they did not like, etc. In one great council they had, the prelates of one party beat the old Archbishop of Constantinople so that he died of it. And some of the other councils were not a great deal better, though not so violent.
Bill M. But I do not want you to read the Fathers, but to hear the church. I cannot answer as to all these Fathers, because I have not read their books: the priest would answer all, I am sure.
James. But you used to talk about the holy Fathers to me, Bill, and how they all agreed from the beginning in one doctrine and one church, and all that.
Bill M. And so they did, I am sure.
N*. You cannot, M., speak of the Fathers, nor do I blame you for that, unless it is speaking of them without examining; but Dr. Milner has read them, and though I own scripture alone for an authority, we agreed to take his book as you had given it, and we were bound, as he had quoted them, to examine what he said. Nor can I acquit Dr. Milner of dishonesty on this subject. As to the scripture (1 Pet. 3:19) there is no preaching in purgatory we well know: Abraham’s bosom, Augustine even assures us, cannot mean purgatory. As to 1 Corinthians 3, not only Augustine says it is most difficult, but Bellarmine declares it cannot apply to purgatory, for there all are to go into the fire. But as to the Fathers it is worse, because he knows that prayers for the dead cannot be reconciled with the Romish purgatory, for all were prayed for, even the Virgin Mary. This he must have known; so that to quote the Fathers, who speak of it as proving purgatory, is utterly dishonest, and to say “an intermediate state which we call purgatory” —he knew very well it was not what they call purgatory. His statement as to the Greek church is equally false: it holds neither purgatory nor indulgences. They do hold prayers for the dead, as in the earlier centuries, but reject wholly purgatory. Neither was “from the beginning,” and we must have that, or what is false. We have examined these Fathers on the subject of purgatory pretty much at length, and we may leave it. You, I know, would like to take up the question of the church, which you think settles everything.
Bill M. Yes, it is no good arguing; we must get some authority to decide. And the church, the Lord declares, is that authority, and tells us to hear it. What can you say against the Lord’s own words?
N*. Well, M., we will take your own subject up next. It is fair you should have your turn; but for the present I think we have had enough. The Lord willing, we will take that up when we meet again; only remember, as far as we have gone, we have had all your friend, Dr. Milner, has to say for your doctrine. It is not taking a person who cannot be expected to know much of the Fathers, and seeking to confound him. I can add, that I have looked into a more famous man still of your party, and that is Bellarmine; but it is the same in substance, and I do not see that he adds anything material. He says St. Chrysostom is quite wrong in his view of 1 Corinthians 3, for on this interpretation all would be saved. I do not know how he manages about the consent of the Fathers. I suppose he was not thinking of it just then, yet this is their pet text on the subject. Bellarmine prefers Gregory, which I have given you. For my own part, what I see is this—the real source of purgatory is heathenism and Judaism, which were associated at Alexandria, where the first great doctors of the church lived. At first it took the shape of purifying all completely in eternal fire. Still this was not generally accepted. It then took the form of prayers for all, because they had not fully the sense of Christ’s having so atoned for believers’ sins, that they were white as snow for God. They apportioned, therefore, to all some punishment—at the least the punishment of loss, not seeing God; or at any rate were uncertain, and prayed for all, even for the Virgin Mary, with a view to their speedily seeing the face of God; but the idea of the purging process survived through, and in Augustine’s time was a question as to which he doubted—Jerome speaking with such uncertainty that he is accused of denying eternal punishment. This was in the fifth century: in the end of the sixth Gregory specifies the purifying very light sins, but doubts still. With schoolmen it was like other things formed into an elaborate system; but all this last part was only in Western Christendom. Greek or Eastern Christendom has never received the doctrine.
I conclude: scripture is positively and clearly against it, as destructive of Christ’s work. The Fathers are one mass of confusion as to it, its true source being heathenism and Judaism; and the oldest half of Christendom rejects it to this day. Yet it is practically the great doctrine of Romanism in connection with the Mass. It is to get people out of it that Masses are constantly said. The poverty of the system is shewn, and the character it gives to God, in that it proceeds on the ground of God’s exacting the last farthing (an interpretation denied by Augustine and Jerome), and that after the use of all the means the Roman system has at its disposal—absolution, the viaticum, and extreme unction, which wipes off the remains of sin—so utterly unprofitable are they (by their own confession) that the faithful have to go to purgatory to get these remains burned out by the relentless and exacting hand of God.
Oh, what a difference from that holy grace of God that saves, cleanses, and gives life!
[End of Doctrinal—Volume 5]
86 The words of the catechism are given from J. Donovan’s (a Professor at Maynooth) Translation, Dublin, 1839. It is thus translated in his edition published at Rome, and printed, Latin and English, at the Propaganda Press: “But as this is a degree of contrition which very few could reach, the consequence, also, was, that very few could have hoped to obtain through perfect contrition the pardon of their sins. It therefore became necessary that the Almighty, in His infinite mercy, should provide by some easier means for the common salvation of men: this He did, in His admirable wisdom, when He gave to His church the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” etc.—Vol. 1, p. 535, “Confession; its Importance.”— Cath. Conc. Trid.
87 It is just this that distinguishes between true ministry and a superstitious priesthood. True ministryj by the power of the Spirit of God, brings God and His word to the soul. A false priesthood gets, and gets as man, between God and the soul. Hence it shuts out the soul from God, while Christ has given Himself to bring us to God.
88 It is singular enough the obscurity and inconsistency of the Catechism of the Council of Trent on this subject. In the article on the descent into hell, besides what I have just quoted, after speaking of purgatory, it is said, “The third kind of abode is that in which were received the souls of the just who died before Christ, and where, without experiencing any kind of pain, supported by the blessed hope of redemption, they enjoyed peaceful repose. These pious souls, then, who in the bosom of Abraham were expecting the Saviour, Christ the Lord liberated, descending into hell.” (Vol. I, p. 123, 3.) Shortly after, in the same article, it is said, speaking of the descent of the just: “They all descended, some to endure the most acute torments; others, though exempt from actual pain, yet deprived of the vision of God, and of the glory for which they sighed, and consigned to the torture of suspense in painful captivity.” Is being consigned to the torture of suspense in painful captivity peaceful repose in the bosom of Abraham? Were the holy and the just held in painful captivity in the bosom of Abraham? Is that the picture which scripture gives of it? The fire of purgatory is the second thing. ‘Limbus patrum’ is the third kind of abode, where there was no pain, but peaceful repose. Yet some were there to endure the most acute torments. In a further passage it is Said, “And the souls of the just, on their departure from this life, were borne to the bosom of Abraham; or, as is still the case with those who require to be freed from the stains of sin or die indebted to the divine justice, were purified in the fire of purgatory” (p. 127, 2.) Hence the souls of the just who were enjoying peaceful repose in the torture of suspense must have been perfect souls. The others were in the fire of purgatory as people are now. The Jews’ belief is that Abraham descended from time to time to deliver souls. BeUarmine insists that it is a material fire—a strange thing for souls to suffer from. But what is more important, he declares that the element of sin (the fomes peccati) is gone by death, because sensuality is extinguished—habits not. But they must soon be gone too, nay, at once, though that is not the case in this life, because there will there be no contrary and resisting element as there is here—nor is purgatory for these habits, as adults who die directly after baptism, and martyrs do not go there. Yet neither baptism nor martyrdom destroys them. After reasoning thus, and saying purgatory was for none of these, he adds, “There remain, therefore, the penalties of guilt and venial sins, which may properly be called the remains of sins, on account of which purgatory is. But these remains, it is sometimes certain, are purged in death: sometimes it is certain they are not purged, sometimes it is doubtful which happens, and it is most probable they are partly purged and partly not purged.” (Vol. 2, Bellarm. De Purg. lib. 2, cap. 9, 7 (p. 370): “Restat ergo reatus poena; et peccata venialia, quae proprie did possunt reliquiae peccatorum, ob quas est purgatorium. Has autem reliquias aliquando certum est in morte purgari; aliquando certum est non purgari: aliquando dubium est, quid fiat, et probabilissimum est, partim purgari, partim non purgari “: and preceding and following sections. I cite this because it is thus clear from the highest authority of the Roman Catholic church that it is not inward spiritual purifying, for sensuality is extinguished by death—not even habits, but the penalty of guilt and venial sin. It is strictly penal and satisfactory; and, secondly, it is exactly for that (“the remains of sin,” which extreme unction takes away) that men go into purgatory; which is noticed farther on. The pains of purgatory, says BeUarmine, are most horrible (atrocissimas). It cannot be said how long they last—they may diminish gradually. This he proves by visions. He enlarges upon the proofs of the horrible pains compared with anything here. In result, for the slightest faults (if Pope Gregory the Great is to be believed), and with no view to purify from lust or sensuality (for that is extinguished), justified holy souls in a state of grace are kept in torment as a mere penal satisfaction.
One catechism defines it “a place of punishment where souls suffer for a time, before they go to heaven”; but the Council of Trent and the creed of Pope Pius give us no help here.
89 Milner’s “End of Con.” Letter 42, On Indulgences, “of what it really is “(sec. 4 of second par. of Letter 42.). Bellarm. De Indulg., lib. 1, cap. 12.
90 Concil. Tridentini Sessio 14, De Sacr. Extremae Unction is, Cap. 2 — “Cujus unctio delicta, si quae sint adhuc expianda, ac peccati reliquias abstergit.” This is exactly what Bellarmine says souls go to purgatory for. Again, “it rids the soul of the languor and infirmity brought on it by sin, and of all the other remains of sin.” (Extrema Unct., vol. 1, 5. 6, p. 597, II) — Catechism of the Council of Trent.
93 Bellarmine de Indulg. lib. 1, 6, 3. They are “per modum suffragii.” I4, 5, 6, “per suffragia.”
94 Yet the words “expiantur” and “purgantur” are used for clearing the tormented souls from it, because heaven cannot be denied. But it shews the mere external character of the remedy of their idea of sin. It looks like quibbling on the Latin word “pur go,” which means to put away in the way of expiation, and not purging of a soul.
95 See Dr. Pusey’s “Eirenicon,” vol. 1, p. 122, for the Encyclical.
The present pope, in his encyclical letter of 1849, says that the Virgin, “by the foot of Virtue, ‘bruised the serpent’s head,’ and who, being constituted between Christ and His church, and, being wholly sweet and full of graces, hath ever delivered the Christian people from calamities of all sorts.” … “For ye know very well, ven. brethren, that the whole of our confidence is placed in the most holy Virgin, since God has placed in Mary the fulness of all good, that accordingly we may know that, if there is any hope in us, if any grace, if any salvation, it redounds to us from her, because such is His will who hath willed that we should have everything through Mary.”
M. Olier, the founder of the Seminary of S. Sulpice (quoted by Dr. Pusey in his “Eirenicon,” vol. 1, p. 104), said,” We are very unworthy to draw near unto Jesus; and He has a right to repulse [rebuter] us, because of His justice, since, having entered into all the feelings of His Father from the time of His blessed resurrection, He finds Himself in the same disposition with the Father towards sinners, that is, to reject them; so that the difficulty is to induce Him to exchange the office of judge for that of advocate; and of a judge to make Him a suppliant. Now this is what the saints effect, and especially the most blessed Virgin!”
I will add here, from a prayer-book, “St. John’s Manual,” recommended (1856) by John, Archbishop of New York, some of the devotions to the Virgin. “I worship thee, O great Queen, and I thank thee for all the graces which thou hast hitherto granted me; and especially I thank thee for having delivered me from hell, which I have so often deserved… I place all my hopes in thee, and confide my salvation to thy care.”—Saint John’s Manual, p. 886 j and in p. 887, “By thee we have been reconciled to our God; Thou art the only advocate of sinners… We have no hope but in thee, O most pure Virgin.”
96 It is the common doctrine that the Virgin has more power in heaven than God, that the mother can command her Son. I have had it stated to myself by poor Roman Catholics. Nor is this the ignorance of the poor: Bernardme Senensis teaches, Serm. 61, Artie. I, cap. 6: “All things are subject to the command of the Virgin, even God himself.” (Quoted by Ussher, “Answer to a Jesuit’s Challenge,” p. 417, where there is a great deal more to the same purpose.) It is expressly founded on a mother’s having pre-eminence, and being superior to a son. The words in Latin are, “sequitur quod ips abenedicta Virgo sit superior Deo.” It follows that the blessed Virgin herself is superior to God.—De Bust. Marial. Part 9, Serm. 2. And so it is said that God has reserved the supremacy of justice, but given up to the Virgin the supremacy of grace. And such is the tenor of their practical teaching. Thus, in “The Glories of Mary,” by Liguori (vol. 1, chap. 3, sec. 2), a sinner, after saying the “Hail Mary” to an image of the Virgin, “saw an infant covered with wounds streaming blood … he began to weep; but he saw the infant turning away from him… . He had recourse to the most holy Virgin, saying, Mother of mercy, thy Son rejects me.” The Virgin reproached him with renewing the passion of Jesus. “But because Mary knows not how to send away disconsolate a soul that has recourse to her, she turned to her Son to ask pardon for that miserable sinner. Jesus still appeared unwilling to forgive him; but the holy Virgin, placing the infant in the niche, prostrated herself before him, saying, ‘Son, I will not depart from thy feet till thou dost pardon this sinner.’ Jesus then said, ‘Mother, I can refuse thee nothing; thou dost wish me to pardon him, for thy sake I pardon him; make him come and kiss my wounds.’ The sinner came weeping bitterly, and as he kissed the wounds of the infant they were healed. In the end Jesus embraced him in token of his pardon; the sinner changed his conduct, and afterwards led a holy life, enamoured of the most holy Virgin”!
What shall we say to such statements? The images, in the first place, are the living persons; they do not, as falsely alleged, merely recall these. Real idols! Mercy is in Mary, not in Jesus. It is a denial of His own words: “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” It is for Mary’s sake that Christ pardons the sinner. And what place has His blood-shedding, which is stopped (!) by the sinner’s repentance through Mary’s grace? Is it possible to have a more complete subversion of all truth? Upon its folly I offer no comment. Their excuse is that “Jesus is the only mediator of justice between men and God,… but because men recognize and fear in Jesus Christ the divine majesty which resides in Him as God, the Lord wished to appoint another advocate, to whom we could have recourse with less fear and with more confidence. This advocate is Mary…” There is need then of a medium with the mediator Himself.—S. Bernard, Serm. in Sign. Magnn., quoted in Liguori, vol., 1, chap. 6. sec. 2. Again she is compared to Abigail with David: “She knows so well how to appease the divine justice by her tender and wise prayers, that God Himself blesses her for it, and, as it were, thanks her for thus keeping Him from abandoning them to the chastisements which they deserve.” Note that she is a mediatrix of justice really in these stupid blasphemies; or what does appeasing the divine justice mean?
97 See Con. Trid. Sessio VI, cap. 9.
98 See Cat. Con. Trid., pars 4, cap. 14, sect. 16 (vol. 2, p. 389). Bellarm. De Indulg., lib. I, cap. 3, sect. 3.
99 Animae cruciatae expiantur. Expiantur is a sacrificial word, expressing the removal of what in any way offends the gods, is offensive in their sight.—The Editor of the Present Testimony adds from Donovan’s Latin and English Catechism of Council of Trent the passage in full:—
“Praeterea est purgatorius ignis, quo piorum animae ad definitum tempus cruciatae expiantur, ut eis in aeternam patriam ingressus patere possit.” —Catech. Rom. cap. 6, sect. 3.
“There is also the fire of purgatory, in which the souls of just men are purified by a tem porary punishment, to qualify them to be admitted into their —eternal country, into which nothing defiled entereth.” — Donovan’s Translation, vol. 1, p. 123, 2, Art. 5.
100 The sixth question on this subject in the Roman Catholic Catechism would lead us to conclude that as there were these pious people in purgatory, as well as saints in Abraham’s bosom, before Christ descended, the one—though in repose—tortured by suspense, though sustained by hope (a strange kind of repose), the other pious souls not completely saints, tortured horribly in the fire—so when He descended these last got off to heaven as well as the saints, properly speaking. Who finished their satisfaction for them, without which they could not be clean, we are not told. They were better off than those now in purgatory, any way. These, we are told, must pay the last farthing, or they cannot come out thence. Better to have been a Jew, any way, than a Christian. However that may be, it is to be taught that Christ the Lord went down to hell to liberate from prison those holy fathers and the other pious persons, and brought them to heaven. Yet those in purgatory now enjoy the effects of Christ’s expiation, are in a state of grace, sure, Bellarmine tells us, of their salvation, no principle of sin1 in them; but there they must stay till they have made satisfaction for their faults. The happier Jews and Old Testament saints got clear without doing so, though what Christ did was to impart the benefit of His passion to them, of which the Christians who have to stay enjoy the benefit, but only to bring them into purgatory; for otherwise they would have gone into hell. They are strange inventions all, and hence confusion. It must be so when it is denied that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin, and that by one offering He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified. But let us remember that the doctrine of purgatory is that, when the guilt of sin is wholly removed, and the principle of sin1 totally gone, men are to be tortured for a definite time in hell-fire to satisfy God; nor did Christ loose the pains of hell for the saints!
101 Ad inferos. Rom. Cat. de Symb. cap. 6, Quaes. 6, vol. 1, 124. Quibus de causis Christus ad inferos descendere voluit.
“Wherefore, before he died and rose again, the gates of heaven were never open to any one; but the souls of the pious, when they departed from this life, either were borne into Abraham’s bosom, or, which also now happens to them who have something to be cleared away (diluendum) and be paid (persolvendum), were purged in the fire of purgatory.”— So 2, 3: “The souls of those pious persons who, in the bosom of Abraham, expected the Saviour, Christ the Lord, descending into hell, set free.”
102 Adv. Marcion, 4, 34: He adds, Abraham’s bosom is a place of refreshment for the souls of the just, till the resurrection.
103 Ps. 85, 18; De Gen. ad Lit 12, 33, 63; De Civ. Dei, 1, 12, 50.
104 Ps. 85:18.
105 Epist. 187, 6 (Ed. Ben.); Ed. Gaume, 2, 1019, 1020.
106 Quaest. Ev. 2, 38; Ben Ed. 3.
107 Epist. 164, 7 (Ed. Ben.) [Gaume fratres ediderunt] 2,860.
108 Aug. makes two hells (inferos; inferna), Ps. 85:18.
109 Alphons. de Castro and the Roman Catholic bishop of Rochester admit that there was nothing about purgatory in the early, especially the Greek, Fathers, and the Greek church denies the doctrine, and passages from Tertullian, Cyprian, Gregory Neocaes., Basil, Dionysius, Quaes, et Resp. ad Orth (ascribed to Justin Martyr), Athanasius (if De Virginitate be his), Hilary, and Ambrose may be quoted, which plainly set aside purgatory, declaring that the righteous go to an eternal home. In the works of Greg. Neocaes. (Horn. 22) Macarius puts the three states: guilty, the devil takes it off; the holy servants of God, angels bring them to the Lord; if between the two, and where a man fights against the evil and loves the Lord with all his soul, He cleanses him in one hour, and takes him unto His bosom and to see light. Thus Athanasius says the just pass out of this world into everlasting rest. Ambrose says wise men desire death as a rest from their labours and an end of their evils; so in other passages. So Macarius; and Gregory Nazianzen (Orat. 32 in Pasch.) says, “nor beyond this night [of this life] is there any purifying.” So the famous Cyril of Alexandria on Joan., lib. 12, c. 36. “For he delivered his own soul into the hands of his own Father, that we taking our point of departure in it, and on account of it, may have splendid hopes, firmly feeling and believing that we, having undergone the death of the flesh, shall be in the hands of God, and shall be in a far better state than we were with flesh: wherefore, also, the wise Paul writes to us that it is better to depart and to be with Christ.” So the Q. et Respon. ad Orth., in Justin (2, 60). The narration of the rich man and Lazarus is a form of word having this doctrine, that, after the departure of the soul out of the body, it is not possible that by any care or diligence men can get any profit. “There is no death (says Athanasius, De Virg.) for the just, but a change, for he is changed out of this world into the everlasting rest. And as if any one might come out of prison, so the saints go out of this toilsome life into the good things prepared for them.” And Ambrose, De bono mortis (4), “It is a certain haven for those who, cast about on the great sea of this life, seek a roadstead of sure quiet, and it does not make their state worse, but such as it has found it in each, such it reserves it for future judgment, and cherishes by the quiet itself.” So again (12), “trusting therefore to these, let us go with full courage to our Redeemer Jesus, with full courage to the council of patriarchs, with full courage to our father Abraham, let us go boldly to the assembly of the saints and gathering of the just.” It is plain that he had no idea of going to purgatory here, for those named are not there; he names going to Jesus Himself, and that with entire courage, on our death.
We might quote Jerome too, but of him I will speak, and Augustine, we have seen, had no settled thoughts. He supposed indeed that the day of judgment itself was a kind of purgatory, Enchiridion, 67, De Civ. Dei, 16, 24, Ps. 103 15; Ps. 6. As to Cypr. De Mortalitate—one would have to quote the whole tract. Nothing can be clearer as to the immediate blessedness of all the righteous. The righteous are called to refreshing, the unjust to punishment; it is his pa$ to fear death who is unwilling to go to Christ—proving and insisting that thus there is for the servants of God peace, their free, their tranquil quiet. It is not going out but going elsewhere, and, time’s journey finished, you pass to what is eternal. Who does not haste to better things?
“We injure Christ,” says Tertullian, “when we do not with undisturbed mind accept others being called away; as if they were to be pitied. They have obtained their desire.” (Tert. de Pat. 9, Quaest. et Resp. ad Orth., 75.) The souls of the just go into paradise to meet and see angels and archangels, according to the vision also of the Saviour Christ Himself, and according to what is written, “absent from the body and present with the Lord”; but the souls of the unjust go into the regions of hell (hades), as Nebuchadnezzar. Greg. Thaum. says, the good man will go rejoicing into his own eternal house; but the wicked will fill all things with their complaints.
If De Virginitate be not of Athanasius, as the style and some doxologies would shew, it is later. The writer says, “There is no death for the righteous, but translation, for he is translated out of this world into everlasting rest.” There is the same truth in Macar. Horn. 22, but it may be alleged to concern the saints—the holy servants of God. The devils receive the wicked, he says, and drag them to their own place; choirs of angels the holy servants of God. Of any other place he does not speak. But in Horn. 26 he puts the case of conflict, two persons in the soul, as he says, and where is the soul to go, thus drawn two ways? He replies that the Lord, seeing you strive, and sometimes with all your heart, will separate you from death at once, and receive you into His bosom and light.
Hilary insists on all being settled at death, referring to the rich man and Lazarus, and Abraham’s bosom as eternal bliss; but though judgment is to come, still the case is settled in death. There is no putting off or delay, for the day of judgment is the eternal retribution of blessedness or punishment; but the time of death holds each one meanwhile by its own laws, either Abraham or punishment keeps each one for judgment. He then insists on confidence, which is more than hope, and refers to John 5; he that believeth on Me shall not be judged. (End of Tract on Ps. 2.) I do not quote more passages at length.
Basil and Gregory Naz. teach in general the same truths: the orthodoxy of the last may be questioned. We see from these the general faith of the church. The Hypognosticon once attributed to Augustine is equally clear. “As for any third place we utterly know none, neither shall we find in the holy scriptures that there is any such,” Lib. 5.
Nor do the Roman Catholics deny that those who go to purgatory are forgiven and justified, and the principle of sin (peccati fomes) is gone. It is penal suffering from God after guilt and sin are wholly gone. I do not give the Fathers as any authority, but as shewing the common current belief. Alphons. de Castro and John of Rochester I give from Ussher, the rest from the original authors. I will speak farther on of the real origin and history of purgatory, and of Jerome and Augustine more particularly. Bellarmine is not quite honest on the point, as he quotes the use of passages such as 1 Corinthians 3, by old writers, which he himself declares cannot be applied to purgatory, because it embraces all, and others as to praying for saints, which proves nothing, because, whatsoever the ground, for they find it hard to say, they prayed for all saints (even the Virgin Mary), that is, for those whom they held to be in heaven already. It may be for glory (Bell, de Purg., lib. 1 7), and this some said, “for glory given to them among men,” for all is darkness and confusion. Indeed Bellarmine’s quotations are not to be trusted. He quotes Hilary on Ps. 118 in proof of purgatory (De Purg., lib. 1, io, sec. 38), leaving out the words which precede his quotation, and which wholly set aside the idea of purgatory. He says we have to undergo that unwearied fire; but Hilary says, “the day of judgment in which we are to undergo,” etc., and goes on to say that thus the sword is to pierce the blessed Virgin Mary’s heart too—and how could we desire it then? Either he borrowed his quotation, or he is wilfully dishonest.
110 Bellarm. de Purg., lib. 2, c. 4.
111 And it was a sin-offering Judas made the collection for, to make expiation for their sin; and the thing praised is, in truth, his belief in the resurrection. Offering for the dead was foolish else, it is said.
112 Part I, Article 5, of Creed, chap. 6, sec. 4.
113 There is this excuse for Dr. Milner, that the Roman Catholic doctrine is confused enough. The hell to which the Saviour descended is said to contain three places: first, hell proper, where the wicked are tormented; secondly, the fire of purgatory; lastly, a third sort of receptacle is that in which were received the souls of the just who died before Christ. These pious souls Christ liberated, for after all they were kept in painful suspense (suspensi torquebantur), and miserable wearisomeness (misera molestia)—a singular kind of Abraham’s bosom. But here purgatory is a distinct thing. We have already seen that Christ brought to heaven, according to the Roman Catholic doctrine, the holy fathers, and the other pious souls freed from prison. But then they do hold that some were suffering the most acute torments, as those in purgatory do.
114 The Vulgate reads, adou for thanatou, “hades,” for death, but has no support whatever from the Greek text.
115 Epistle to Evodius, where he says, moreover, that they had the beatinc presence of His divinity, which He had never withdrawn from them, and therefore does not understand what He could have conferred on them. (Sec. 8 or iii.)
116 He repeats the same thing in Gen. addit.: “I have not found in scripture—at any rate canonical scripture—that hell is used in a good sense; but that the bosom of Abraham is not to be taken in a good sense, and that rest where the pious poor man was carried by angels, I know not that any one would listen to, and therefore I do not see how we can believe that can be in hell.” In the tract, De praesentia Dei, or Epistle 187, he says, that whether the bosom of Abraham be paradise or infernal places (inferos) he cannot say. If “to-day shalt thou be with me in paradise “is to be taken of Christ’s human soul, paradise is in the infernal places (in inferno), but easier, and free from all the ambiguities.
117 This, however, as we shall see, was pretty much the conclusion that Jerome came to; for agreement between the Fathers is the most ridiculous thing in the world to talk of.
118 As to this, however, Bellarmine says he is all wrong, because this would put the highest saints in purgatory too, as all are tried by fire.
119 Origen, however, is not very consistent. He says, “As I think it is necessary for us all to come into that fire of 1 Corinthians 3, even if we are Paul or Peter.” But then he says we shall not all go through it in the same way. “Some will go through it like the Egyptians, those who have followed the devil (Pharaoh) j some like Israel, if they are quite pure in this life; but if they pass through the fire, it shall not burn them,” Is. 48:2. But then he expressly says it is the penalty of eternal fire; he thought all would go through eternal fire for purification, but none remain there.
120 Nothing is more curious than the way the honest and excellent Tillemont explains how he was a saint for the church, in spite of all this, though better men were not.
121 He speaks, too, of devils, and those who deny God, suffering eternal torments; but wicked Christians will be more mercifully judged. But this refers to Origen holding that all would be saved.
122 It is a curious fact, too, that these very prayers for the saints were turned into prayers to the saints. These prayers are found in all the ancient liturgies. Thus, in that, ascribed to St. James: “Remember, Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, the orthodox whom we have commemorated, and whom we have not commemorated, from righteous Abel unto this day. Give them rest there, in the land of the living in thy kingdom, in the delight of paradise, in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our holy fathers, whence pain, sorrow, and groaning are exiled, where the light of thy countenance looks down,” etc. And St. Chrysostom, “And further, we offer to thee this reasonable service in behalf of those who have departed in the faith, our ancestors, fathers, patriarchs, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and every just spirit made perfect in the faith … especially the most holy, undented, excellently-laudable, glorious lady, the mother of God and ever Virgin Mary.” I recall here what I have noticed elsewhere, that Epiphanius specially remarks, that Christ alone, as testifying to the glory of His Person, was not prayed for.1 It would only be repeating the same words nearly, to quote all the different liturgies. St. Gregory’s, who formed the Roman one, may suffice: “Remember, O Lord, thy servants (male and female) who have preceded us with the sign of faith, and sleep in the sleep of peace. To them, and to all who are at rest (quiescentibus) in Christ, we entreat thou shouldest grant a place of refreshment and light and peace.” Nor is this all. In the Decret.
1 Bellarmine attempts to say it was only commemoration at the Mass; but that is false. Epiphanius speaks distinctly of prayers for them.
Greg. lib. 3, tit. 41, c. 6, Cum Marthae 5 et infra, after a long discussion whether the water as well as the wine in the Mass is changed into blood. Innocent III replies to another question of the Archbishop of Lyons, why, when in the ancient liturgies, in a part of the service called the Secreta (where the name of the person in whose honour the Mass was said was mentioned), it ran thus: “Grant, Lord, that this offering may profit the soul of thy servant, Leo,” it was now said, “Grant us that by the intercession of thy servant, Leo, this oblation may profit us.” Innocent tells him that scripture says that it is injurious to the saints to think they need to be prayed for when they are in life. As to how the change came about, he says nothing; but in looking for glory for the saints, it must be their being honoured among men, and refers to St. Augustine’s statement, calling it scripture; thanksgiving for very good, prayer for middling good, and a solace to middling bad, and tells the archbishop that whether it be so he leaves to him to investigate. The poor pope made a sad blunder in quoting Augustine as scripture, for that word about martyrs is St. Augustine’s. Thus the liturgy was changed: still the prayer for rest for those asleep in Christ remains. The force of this has been felt, and, in a modern Roman Catholic Prayer-Book, approved by the Archbishop of New York, it is said to be for souls in purgatory, though it is expressly for all who rest in Christ (omnibus quiescentibus in Christo).
123 This is an unhappy instance, because the Lord says for every idle word we shall give account in the day of judgment—a plain witness that for any and the smallest sins, if they were not wholly and entirely put away, and we cleansed from them, they remain to be answered for in judgment, and if so, we are condemned. “Enter not into judgment, O Lord, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.”
124 Again, I recall that Bellarmine says this passage cannot apply to purgatory, because all pass through the fire; and, as we shall see, Augustine thought of a fire purifying carnal affections, the wood, hay, and stubble, which Bellarmine does not allow. It is penal, paying the last farthing. Gregory thought the end of the world was close, and if people had lived very well, if they were not purified by tribulation here (to which Augustine also applies it), for some very small failings, they might be purified by a short process, before the judgment actually came. See his Dialogues, lib. 4, 39, and following.
125 Letter 43, sect. 4, “End of Controversy.” “Bishop Porteus intimates that the doctrine of a middle state of souls was borrowed from pagan fable and philosophy. In answer to this, I say that if Plato [Plato in Gorgia], Virgil [/Eneid], 1, 6, and other heathens, ancient and modern, as likewise Mahomet [the Koran] and his disciples … have embraced this doctrine, it only shews how conformable it is to the dictates of natural religion.”—[Ed. P. T.]
126 Demon, with Plato, is an instrument of divine agency, not bad as such.
127 Plat. Phaed. sea. 118, 119; Eus. Praep. Ev. (553), lib. 11, 27 to 38; from (568) Gorgias, near the end, sections 164, 168.
128 In Dante’s Inferno Virgil is made to be the poet’s “guardian spirit” through the visit. The English reader may see the account of the whole occurrence in Wilkie’s translation of the Inferno, Edinburgh.— [Ed. P. T.]
129 Or evils; but Platonic doctrine makes the text, I doubt not, right.
130 This is also Platonic, and the same is found just before the passage I have quoted from Eusebius.
131 But here, again, there is the Egyptian doctrine of transmigration. This Christianity made them suppress; the rest they retained.
132 This is so universally admitted, that I do not quote the passages. Those who wish may refer to Huet’s Orig., lib. 2, Q. 6.
133 There is really no obscurity in it. The apostle is not speaking of man’s works, but of ministry. The fruit of bad ministry comes to nothing, but the minister may be in Christ the foundation, and saved. If a real heretic, and corrupter of the temple of God, the workman will be destroyed too. We have three cases (a wise builder; a true Christian, who built badly; and a corrupter) with the consequence to each.
134 The reader who cannot search his works may see a Protestant account in Schroek, 14, 236; or a Roman Catholic in Tillemont, 9. Gregory of Nyaassa, 20, 276.