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LETTER X.

On Purgatory.

RIGHT REVEREND SIR: ·

LTHOUGH Dr. Milner distinctly stated that

Catholic faith does not determine the nature of the punishment endured in Purgatory, still you maintain it to be fire, and accuse him of equivocating, because he said that we are not bound to believe it to be material fire. He was above all such quibbles. You ascribe to us interested motives for the maintenance of this doctrine: "Masses for the dead are of far more pecuniary value than Masses for the living." Not so; the same small offering is allowed for both, and is often given to the first beggar that solicits our charity.

You meet the first proof from the second book of the Macchabees, by denying the canonical authority of the book. It is enough for me to remind you that Beveridge acknowledges that these books were spoken of by St. Cyprian, and before him by Origen, precisely in the same manner as the books now received by all: "Since Cyprian cites those books among the

canonical in the same breath, in the same series, without any distinction whatever, it is manifest that the Catholic Church of that age was wont to count them among the canonical books, especially since Origen also adds rà Mazzaẞatzà to the books delivered by the Jewish Church to the Christian."* Further, you object that it proves too much, since those slain "were cut off for the crime of idolatry, and died in mortal sin." It does not appear that they worshipped the idols, but that they seized on donaries of the idols, contrary to the law, by which transgression they drew down vengeance on themselves. It was of itself a grievous sin; but Judas may have hoped that some acted in ignorance, or repented in death, and found mercy. You conjecture that the sacrifices were offered for the living, to reconcile God to them. The text says directly the contrary, and adds that Judas thought "well and religiously of the resurrection;" and infers "it is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins." The Greek says that he made an expiation for those who had died nepì tõv τεθνηκότων.

I will not discuss with you the obscure passage of St. Paul, respecting those who were baptized for the dead. If you can explain it satisfactorily in a different way from Dr. Milner,

* Codex Can. Prim. Eccl. 1. 2, c. ix.

+2 Mac. xii.

you will have accomplished what learned interpreters have often tried unsuccessfully.

You admit an intermediate state, without caring to define its character, and you allow Dr. Milner's application to it of two scriptural testimonies, Luke xvi. 22, 1 Peter iii. 9. His interpretation of the prison, from which there is no liberation until the last farthing is paid (Luke xii. 59), does not please you, because souls in Purgatory can do nothing to satisfy Divine justice; but their endurance is accepted, and the prayers of the Church may avail them, so that their debt may be discharged.

The inference drawn from Matt. xii. 32, that some sins may be forgiven hereafter, whilst the sin against the Holy Ghost shall never be forgiven, appears to you to force heretical doctrine on the Saviour Himself; inasmuch as no sin is forgiven in Purgatory, but punishment is endured for sins already forgiven. By reading our divines more attentively, you will perceive that we hold that venial sins are forgiven in that state, so that there is no foundation for your charge.

The various scriptural facts brought forward by Dr. Milner, namely, the punishment of death inflicted on our first parents, though penitent, the punishment of the Israelites, and of David after his sin was forgiven, were intended to prove that God often visits with temporal chastisements, sinners whose guilt He has pardoned; which point they fully establish. The fathers

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whom you quote, Irenæus, Tertullian, and Ambrose, seem to affirm that all souls, even those of the Saints, pass to the region in which the departed spirits were before the coming of our Saviour, and remain there to the Day of Judgment. Other passages, however, occur in their writings, especially in those of St. Ambrose, which are more in harmony with general tradition, and the Divine Scriptures, and with that doctrine which the Church has sealed with her solemn definition. Whatever may have been their individual sentiments, nothing said by them clashes with the doctrine of a middle state, in which souls are detained for slighter sins.

The observations of the Benedictine editors of St. Ambrose, to which you refer, are restricted by themselves to matters not then defined by the Church. They regard certain expressions. and views, which some fathers put forward concerning the state of just souls before the final judgment, but which in other passages of their writings they modified or corrected, by adhering more closely to the general teaching of their predecessors. This does not imply any uncertainty as to the intermediate state, which we style Purgatory, since their language on this subject is sufficiently definite, and the usage of praying for the dead, which even Calvin admits to be very ancient,* is an evidence of the tradition that there is a state of departed souls, to * In Acta Ap. c. xv. 10.

whom prayer may be beneficial. "Not without good reason," says St. Chrysostom, "it was ordained by the Apostles that mention should be made of the dead in the tremendous mysteries, because they knew that these would receive great benefit from it."* The sequel of this passage, which you give, does not weaken its force. Deceased catechumens were not included in the solemn prayers of the liturgy, because they had died without partaking of the communion of the Church; but as hope was cherished that their desire and disposition were acceptable to God, almsgiving was recommended, that it might be profitable to them, through Divine mercy, since good works, as well as prayer, may be offered for the departed. St. Chrysostom remarks that as we pray for the worst of living men, so we may pray for the departed, whose actual condition we know not.

The passages from the ancient Liturgies contain a commemoration of the Blessed Virgin and Saints, intended to express our communion with them, and that they have been saved by the merits of Christ, our victim. The words which follow remove all antiquity, since the priest asks, "that we may be helped by their intercessions." St. Augustin remarks, that "it is an insult to a martyr to pray in his behalf, for we ought rather to commend ourselves to his prayers.+"

* Hom. xxix. ad pop. Antioch. + Serm. xvii. de verbis Apostoli.

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