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the soul from its corporeal tenement on earth. The only two passages that I am aware of which can be cited from the Sacred Volume in support of this opinion, are referred to in these extracts from four of the Fathers one of whom, Tertullian, finally fell into heretical opinions, and may be said to have separated from the Church, and the others lived towards the close of the Roman Empire, when the catholicity and orthodoxy of the Church, so feelingly described and strongly condemned by Vincentius Lirinensis, had begun to be impaired. Still, admitting that a belief of the character described were even generally prevalent in the early Christian Church-though seemingly unknown to the martyrs and writers of the period which immediately succeeded to that of the apostolic age-founded on some obscure passages of Scripture, by whose general tenor such expositions are condemned, and supported by Rabbinical traditions and Platonistic and Gnostic theories, there is no sanction whatever afforded in these extracts, or in any of the writings of that period, to the Romish practice of prayers for the dead, and relief of departed spirits by the supposed ordeal of purgatory by solitary masses-the repetition of a certain number of acts of devotion to God, to the Virgin Mary, or the saints or by any personal privations, or pilgrimages, or performances of any kind for the weal of the departed, and the repose of their soul, in the separate and invisible state. Tertullian merely intimates his belief, 'that the soul makes some amends in the places below, without the fulness of the resurrection by the flesh also.' St Cyprian, also, only expresses his opinion, that it is one thing to stand for pardon, another to arrive at glory,—one thing for him who has been cast into prison, not to go out thence until he pay the last farthing, another to receive immediately the reward of faith and virtue (or courage),' evidently alluding to the special rewards of martyrdom, &c.; while no intimation, direct or indirect, is made of the soul's receiving any assistance from the acts or devotions of those whom it has left till the resurrection on earth, but with whom it has no intercourse, as far as can be gathered from a greater testimony than that of any of the Fathers-the Scriptures of truth, till 'the dead, small and great, stand before God.' From the writings of an inspired apostle, we are led rather to conclude that we are then only to be 'judged for the deeds done in the body;' and from his total silence on the subject of any further probation after death, we are constrained to believe that no such state or period of probation is designed, but that, as far as the departed are concerned, after
death cometh the judgment.' Indeed, it is not easy to understand why or how the deeds done in the body' can be either perfected, or amended, or atoned for, or deprived of their occasional or particular stains of guilt or imperfection, by any performances, piacular or otherwise, of the soul, without likewise the presence and co-operation of its mortal companion and agent, the body, from whom it is for the present divorced until the resurrection. For, granting that the body was merely the passive agent of the soul's offences, still we learn from the Sacred Volume, that both, when re-united, are to be judged together, and both are to be glorified, or both are together to be condemned. Until, therefore, we have seen better and stronger proof adduced from the Sacred Writings, and we may add, too, though in a much more subordinate sense, from those of the Fathers, for the existence of a place of purgatory, or continued probation after death (without even any reference to subsequent Romish practices of masses and prayers for the dead, founded on this erroneous impression), we may well be satisfied, and cannot reasonably be condemned, for preferring the solemn admonition of the Oracle of truth, Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest.'*
To the language of St Gregory of Nyssa and St Augustine, we have merely to apply the remarks which have already been made on the passages extracted from the writings of Tertullian and St Cyprian. From none of the expressions employed by these writers can we infer that they indulged any Romish notion respecting the monstrous abuses which have in later times been indulged by that communion, the inordinate rapacity and blasphemy of which, as practised by the Romish Pontiff and his subordinates, in the commencement of the sixteenth century, gave the first impulse to the Reformation. One important lesson, however, may be obtained from the occasional unguarded statements of the Fathers, and their addiction, in some instances, to adopt opinions without sufficient examination or sanction from Scripture, and that is the danger of countenancing, to however small an extent, unauthorized fancies or traditions, with or without any apparent support from the Sacred Volume, as such an unguarded method of tampering with truth, has invariably, we find, led, and must invariably again lead, to the adoption of very serious abuses afterwards by others, under the alleged sanction of names dis* Eccl. ix. 10.
tinguished in the Church, and who would be the first to lament and condemn the superstitious practices deduced from their occasional unguarded expressions or an adoption of a few unimportant opinions.
The following graphic sketch occurs in a chapter in Gibbon, entitled the Destruction of Paganism, Introduction of the Worship of Saints and Relics among the Christians,' relative to the public worship of the Church, at the close of the fourth century :—
If in the beginning of the fifth century Tertullian or Lactantius had been suddenly raised from the dead, to assist at the festival of some popular saint or martyr, they would have gazed with astonishment and indignation at the profane spectacle which had succeeded to the pure and spiritual worship of a Christian congregation. As soon as the doors of the Church were thrown open, they must have been offended by the smoke of the incense, the perfumes of flowers, and the glare of lamps and tapers, which diffused at noonday a gaudy, superfluous, and, in their opinion, a sacrilegious light. If they approached the ballustrade of the altars, they made their way through the prostrate crowd: consisting for the most part of strangers and pilgrims, who resorted to the city on the vigil of the feast, and who already felt the strong intoxication of fanatacism and perhaps of wine. Their devout kisses were imprinted on the walls and pavement of the sacred edifice; and their fervent prayers were directed (whatever might be the language of their Church) to the bones, the blood, or the ashes of the saints, which were usually concealed by a linen or silken veil from the eyes of the vulgar. They frequented the tombs of the martyrs in hope of obtaining from their powerful intercession every sort of spiritual, but more especially of temporal blessings.. [In case of the fulfilment of their wishes] they again hasten to the martyr's tomb to celebrate, with grateful thanksgiving, their obligations to the memory and relics of those heavenly patrons. The walls were hung round with symbols of the favours which they had received-eyes, and hands, and feet of gold and silver and edifying pictures, which could not long escape the abuse of indiscreet or idolatrous devotions, represented the image, the attributes, and the miracles of the titular saint.'
The language of St Augustine, in his epistle to Januarius, fully confirms this statement of the infidel historian :
'I cannot approve,' says he, 'the new practices, neither dare I censure them too freely, lest I should give offence. But it grieves me that so many salutary precepts of Scripture should be held cheap,
while our religion abounds with commandments of men. Therefore as to all those customs which are not contained in Scripture, ordained by councils, or sanctioned by the traditions of the Church, they ought to be laid aside. They burden religion with servile usages, which God intended to be free. However, the Church, surrounded as she is with chaff and tares, may endure many things, though not what is contrary to Christian faith and practice.' And in his treatise, De Mor. Cath. Eccle., i. 34, he adds, follow not the crowds of the unwary, who in their very religion are superstitious, so as to forget what they have promised to God. For I know that there are many adorers (adoratores) of sepulchres and pictures of saints.' *
I have now gone through very generally—and for the importance of the subject perhaps too briefly-the extracts from the writings of the Fathers, selected by yourself from the Faith of a Catholic,' and I have endeavoured, I hope not unsuccessfully, to show that, while it was not in my power at the present time of writing to verify them, it was quite possible, however, admitting the extracts to be genuine, to explain them in the only true sense which they are qualified to bear. You may remember, that on them and similar extracts (and you have selected, I presume, what made the deepest impression on yourself), you have consented to risk the whole matter at issue between our Church and that of Rome; and if my explanation of these passages in the main is admitted to be correct, in your own statement and promise I confide, that you will adhere stedfastly for the future to the faith of your baptism and fathers, and the consistent tenor of your former life. In God's hands, however, are the wills and ways of men; and as this is beyond a question a time of blasphemy and rebuke,' and a final period of trying and testing men's faith, I can only earnestly hope, that you may yet prove yourself one of those who may, by the help of power from above, be enabled to resist the efforts of gainsayers and deceivers, by whose wiles and more than human powers of persuasion and seduction they are enabled, as the Saviour himself foretold, ' to deceive even the elect.'I am very truly yours,
I. Briefly, since we understand by that prison which the gospel points out, the places below (inferos), and the last farthing, we * See Elliot's Apocal., vol. i. p. 314, note.
interpret to be any small delinquency to be there expiated by a delay of resurrection, no one will doubt that the soul makes some amends in the places below, without the fulness of the resurrection by the flesh also.'*
II. It is one thing to stand for pardon, another to arrive at glory; one thing for him who has been cast into prison not to go out thence until he pay the last farthing, another to receive immediately the reward of faith and virtue (or courage); one thing for a man, tormented by long anguish for his sins, to be cleansed and to be long purged by fire, another to have purged away all sins by suffering (martyrdom); finally, one thing to wait in suspense unto the day of judgment for the sentence of the Lord, another to be crowned by the Lord immediately.'+
III. As they who are purifying gold from matter mingled with it, do not merely melt with fire the alloy, but it is absolutely necessary that the pure gold be melted together with the adulterate matter, and where this has been thoroughly consumed the gold remains; so it is absolutely necessary that, whilst the evil is being consumed by the fire that rests not, the soul that is united with that evil be also in that fire, until that alloy and dross, and adulterate matter commingled with the soul, be utterly destroyed, consumed in the everlasting fire. . . . . . And the measure of the pain is the quantity of evil in each one. For it is not fitting that he who has lived to so great an extent in forbidden evils, and he who has been engaged in moderate transgressions, should be equally afflicted in the sentence passed on their evil state, but that according to the quantity of that matter, the painful fire be either for a longer or a shorter time enkindled, according as there may be wherewith to feed it.'
IV. Being either purified during this present life, by means of prayer and the pursuit of wisdom, or after his departure from this life (purified) by means of the furnace of the fire of purgation.'§
V. But had they built gold, silver, precious stones, they would be safe even from both fires; not only from that eternal fire which will torment the impious for ever, but also from that which will chasten (amend) those who shall be saved by fire.' ||
VI. If the child (who has not attained to the perfect use of reason) has received the sacraments of the Mediator, even though it may end its life during these years, translated, that is, from the power of darkness into the kingdom of Christ, it not only is not fitted for everlasting pains, but it does not even suffer any purgatorial torments after death.' T
* Tertullian (2d Century); Faith of Catholics, vol. iii., p. 146.
+ St Cyprian (3d Century); Faith of Catholics, vol. iii., p. 156.
St Gregory of Nyssa (4th Century); Faith of Catholics, vol. iii., p. 166.
§ Faith of Catholics, vol. iii., p. 167.
St Augustin (5th Century).
Faith of Catholics, vol. iii., p. 197.