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the Great ?" they can tell us, if they please, and tell us truly, “In the writings of heathen poets and philosophers." These are the worthy ancestors of modern, and indeed of ancient Papists; and Cardinal Bellarmine (Bellarm. de Purgat. lib. i. cap. 11.) founds an argument on behalf of purgatory upon this very circumstance, that the ancient heathens believed in it; for then, he thinks, it must have been a dic. tate of right reason : but if the opinions of heathen philosophers are to be received as of authority in this matter; if we must take our notions of Christianity from such teachers, we will soon find ourselves led far enough away from the simplicity of the gospel. We will find that the worship of images, and that every sort of abomination, is consistent with right reason, because it has the countenance of some heathen poet or philosopher.
Eusebius relates of Plato, that he divided mankind into three states ; some, who, having purified themselves by philosophy, and excelled in holiness of life, enjoy an eternal felicity in the islands of the blest, without any labour or trouble, which neither is it possible for any words to express, nor any thoughts to conceive. Others, that having lived exceedingly wicked, and therefore seemed incapable of cure, he supposed were at their death thrown down headlong into hell, there to be tormented for ever. But now, besides these, he imagined there were a middle sort, who, though they had sinned, yet had repented of it, and therefore seemed to be in a curable condition; and these, he thought, went down for some time to hell too, to be purged and absolved by grievous torments: but that after that, they should be delivered from it, and attain to honours according to the dignity of their benefactors. See Archbishop Wake's Discourse on Purgatory, with the reference to Eusebius Praparat. Evangel. lib. ii. cap. 38.
“ The heathens undoubtedly supposed that those who were in this middle state, might receive help from the prayers and sacrifices of the living. This is evident, from the complaints of the ghosts of Elpenor in Homer, and of Palinurus in Virgil, (in Odyss. lib. xii. and in Æneid, lib. vi.) And indeed the ceremonies used for their deliverance, as described by those poets, so nearly resemble the practice of the present Roman church, that were but these poems canonical, it would be in vain for the most obstinate heretic to contend with them."
“It must then be confessed,” says Archbishop. Wake, “ that our adversaries, in this point, have at least four hundred years antiquity, not only against us, but even beyond Christianity itself. And I suppose I may, without any injury to the memories of these holy men, who have been our forerunners in ihe faith, say, that it was the impression which these opinions of their philosophy had made upon them, that moved them, when they became Christians, to fall into conjectures concerning the state of the soul in the time of separation, not very much different from what they had believed before.” The truth is, that when Christianity became popular, and the profession of it fashionable, heathens, professing to be Christians, brought into the church all their heathenish notions, and purgatory among the rest.
Origen, St. Augustin, and even St. Jerome, have expressions that savour of purgatory; or which at least show, that they indulged themselves in some wild speculations about the state of the dead; and though hey did not by any means entertain the nonsense of modern Papists
upon this subject, they used expressions which have been laid hold of, and pleaded as almost equal to apostolical authority for this most golden article of the Romish faith.
It is very evident, that the churches which were planted by the apostles knew nothing of purgatory, for the apostles did not teach the doctrine, and it was never brought into the church by divine authority; but about the end of the sixth century, Pope Gregory, called the Great, began to give countenance to it; and then it came to have a place among other relics of ancient heathenism, which were first connived at, and then established as profitable additions to the religion of Christ. “From henceforth,” says the learned prelate whom I have quoted above, "miracles and visions governed ihe church. The flames of Ætna and Vesuvius were thought to have been kindled on purpose to torment departed souls. Some were seen broiling upon gridirons, others roasting upon spits, some burning before a fire, others shivering in the water, or smoking in a chimney. The very ways to purgatory were now discovered; one in Sicily, another in Pozzueto, a third nearer home, in Ireland, -one found out by the help of an angel, another by the devil; insomuch, that Pope Gregory himself was carried away with these illusions, and which some, even at this day, are not ashamed to support. By these means came purgatory first to be established in the Roman church, in the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries: but yet still the article appeared rude and unpolished. Pope Gregory discovered how certain souls, for their punishment, were confined to baths, and such like places on earth, but he had not, as yet, found out any one common place for them to be tormented in, in hell. Nay, for some ages after, it seems not to have been risen to a matter of certainty, so far was it yet from being an article of faith; insomuch, that in the twelfth century many doubted of it, as we may gather by that expression of Otto Frisingensis, anno 1146, . That there is in hell a place of purgatory, wherein such as are to be saved, are either only troubled with darkness, or decocted with the fire of expiation, some do affirm ;' plainly enough implying that all did not believe it.
“But, however, purgatory is now become an article of faith, and of too comfortable an importance to be easily parted with; nor have I the vanity to hope I shall be able to argue those men out of it, who, by this craft, gain their living; and will, no doubt, therefore, be as zealous in defence of it, as ever Demetrius was of the great goddess Diana upon the same account. But for those whose interest it rather is to be freed from these terrors after death, which serve only to enrich the priests, and keep the laity all their lives in fear and subjection, I hope to satisfy them that these are only imaginary flames, invented for gain, established upon false grounds, and kept up by artifice and terrors to delude the people, but which themselves, many of them, no more believe, than did that great cardinal, who minded one day to pose his chaplain, and proposed this question to him :-How many masses would serve to fetch a soul out of purgatory? To which, when he appeared, as well he might, unable to reply, the cardinal thus pleasantly resolved the doubt,“That just as many masses would serve to fetch a soul out of purgatory, as snowballs would serve to heat an oven.” Preservation against Popery, Title viii. pp. 113, 114.
I have thus given a short history of the doctrine under discussion:
in doing so, I have departed from the order observed by some great authors, who give a long history of the thing before they tell what it is. Conceiving it proper to tell what purgatory is, before I said much about it, I laid down in my last number, very particularly, what the church of Rome declares to be of faith concerning it. I request the reader's attention to what is there laid down, in order to his better understanding of the remarks which I am now about to make.
Purgatory connects itself very naturally with the corrupt state of the church of Rome, both in doctrine and practice. I have often had occasion to remark, that the belief of all the dogmas of popery, and the practice of all its ceremonies, are perfectly consistent with a life of wickedness. In the church of Rome, it is not necessary that a man be renewed in the spirit of his mind; it is not necessary that he crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts. If he has been favoured with a sprinkling of holy water by a priest, in baptism, this makes him a new creature, in ecclesiastical reckoning: this they say makes him a member of Christ; and he cannot be deprived of this connexion with the Saviour, unless he become a heretic, or be excommunicated. The sins which he commits are all wiped away, so far as regards their guilt and liableness to eternal punishment, every time he confesses and receives absolution of his priest. He makes confession, and receives absolution, as often as he chooses to apply, and can afford to pay for it; but he makes it evident by his whole conduct, that he is not fit for heaven; that even to the hour of his death he is an unholy person. There remains even in the minds of Papists so much knowledge of natural religion, shall we call it ? as existed even among heathens; or rather so much traditional knowledge of the character of God, as to assure them that persons dying with the pollution of sin unremoved, cannot enter into heaven, without undergoing a purification,—and this suggests to them the reasonableness and necessity of a purgatory.
Real Christianity requires no such middle state between this world and the next, in order to purge men either from the guilt or pollution of sin. Through Jesus Christ is “preached the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses.” Acts xiii. 38, 39. Those who are so justified, are also sanctified. “ The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin.” “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity.” 1 John i. 9. Such passages of scripture tell us plainly, that the blood of Christ is not only sufficient as an atonement for sin, but also sufficient for the cleansing of the soul from all its pollutions.
If the greatest sinner that ever trod upon the earth, were to believe in Christ to-day, and die tomorrow, the righteousness of Christ, in which he believes, would present him without spot, that is, perfectly justified, and perfectly sanctified, in the presence of God the Judge of all. But, supposing such a sinner to believe in Christ, and live in this world for fifty years, he would make it manifest that he was a new creature; he would be turned from the practice and love of sin, into the love and practice of righteousness. This is the necessary effect of believing the gospel, and where this effect is not produced, the gospel is not believed; for the grace of God which bringeth salvation,
teaches us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, and righteously, and godly, in this present world.” When a person thus interested in Christ comes to die, it is his happiness to reflect, that no debt stands against him; that no satisfaction is required of him; because Christ has made complete satisfaction to divine justice for all his transgressions; and his being made a new creature, and his being enabled to live a holy life, is an evidence to others as well as to himself, that he is a pardoned sinner; and that, like the penitent thief, the day he dies he shall be with Christ in paradise, without any other purifying process than that which he has already undergone by the blood of Christ applied for his sanctification, and which he shall instantly undergo on the dissolution of the union between his soul and his body, when the one shall return to the dust, and the other to God who gave it.
These are truths which comfort the real Christian, and which sup. port his mind in the view of death, and judgment, and eternity. He knows that to depart out of this world, and to be with Christ, are the same thing; that there is not an intervening moment between the two. If it were otherwise, it would be impossible to meet death with composure of mind, except it were in a state of insensibility. How can a man resign himself to death without the most fearful apprehension, if he believes that there is a debt standing against him in the court of eternal justice,-a debt for which he must make satisfaction, by suffering torments in his own person, for a period, perhaps, much longer than his whole life in this world ? But this is what every Papist is taught to believe with regard to himself, unless he shall die a martyr, or perform some signal service to the church, such as it is not possible for one in a million to perform.
It is true, the dying sinner, if he be a rich man, may compound for ages of misery, by bequeathing his wealth to the church ; but the comfort which this is calculated to afford, must be greatly diminished by the reflection, that he is leaving his family in poverty: and, what is infinitely worse, he cannot be sure that his whole property, however great, will serve the
purpose of saving his soul from ages of torment. His widow and children may become beggars, and yet,
for that he knows, he will derive but little relief from his having robbed them to enrich the church. His ghostly guides are miserable comforters; for, with all their impudence, which in general is not small, they do not pretend to say for certain, that so much money will effectually deliver a soul from purgatory. Though it should be thousands of pounds, and as many masses as these can purchase, the utmost that can be effected by them, is only a certain degree of relief, or mitigation, or abridgment of the duration of the torments which a soul is condemned to endure, though, for any thing that the sinner knows, or the priest can tell, the abridgment may be no more than one year out of a thousand.
The case which I have supposed is one of the most favourable, for it is the case of a rich man; and it cannot be denied, that
is a religion which looks upon the rich with a more favourable aspect than upon the poor. Those who are rich, may buy some mitigation of their torments, but those who have nothing to pay, must suffer in their own persons all the torments of the purgatorian fire, untib they have made
full satisfaction to divine justice. It is true, they may comfort themselves with the belief that their surviving friends will pay money to have masses said for them; but when they reflect how poor their friends are, and what a monstrous debt stands against them, I am afraid, nay, I am sure, no poor sinner can derive much comfort from this reflection.
Gother, indeed, tells us, that “such as have no relations or friends to pray for them, or give alms, or procure masses for their relief, are not neglected by the church, which makes a general commemoration of all the faithful departed in every mass, and in every one of the ca. nonical hours of the divine office. This is avowedly a concession in favour of those who “ have no relations or friends to pray for them, or give alms, or procure masses for their relief;" from which it is clearly to be inferred, that those who have relations and friends can expect no relief but by their means, that is, by their giving alms, and procuring masses for them; which, in plain English, is neither more nor less than paying money to the priests.
By this arrangement, the poor who have no friends are left in a very awkward predicament. They are declared to be in purgatory; but the church takes no particular interest in any one of them, just because there is nobody to pay money for them. They are brought in by the lump, in “a general commemoration of all the faithful departed in every mass.” But such a general commemoration must be of little avail, when there is no specific reference to any individual case. In this general commemoration are included, all who paid for themselves, by bequeathing money for masses, and all whose friends have paid for them, as well as those who had neither money nor friends to leave behind them; and it may easily be supposed, that the intentions of the priests, in saying their masses, will be directed to the souls of those for whom they have been best paid; and the poor in purgatory, as well as the poor in this world, will be esteemed by mercenary priests as little worth.
It is worthy of remark, that, according to this much admired popish author, there is in every mass, at this very day, a commemoration of ALL the faithful deceased. From the connexion of the words it appears, that this commemoration signifies prayers, alms, and masses, offered up to God for their relief; that is, of all the faithful that have departed out of this world, I suppose, since the days of the apostles; for surely it will not be said, that the Christians of those days were not of the faithful. Then, according to this doctrine, they are all in purgatory still. The church of Rome will not avow the inconsistency of offering up masses and prayers to God, for the relief of those who are already relieved, and happy in heaven. Then, according to the popish notion of St. Peter having the keys of heaven, it will appear, that he has most tenaciously kept the door shut; for no sinner has passed thither out of purgatory since he received the commission. Now it may be fairly asked, for what purpose the priests have been saying their masses for so many hundred years ? For what have they applied the millions of money extorted from the people, under the pretext of relieving souls from purgatory, when, so far as appears, not one soul has yet been relieved ? Prayers and masses are yet offered up to God daily, for the relief of them all!