Mercy And Judgment by Canon F.W. Farrar
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MERCY AND JUDGMENT
ON PURGATORY; THE DESCENT OF CHRIST INTO HELL; PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD; MITIGATIONS; AND THE MILDER ASPECT OF FUTURE RETRIBUTION.
"And these two pains, so counter and so keen,
The longing for Him whom thou seest not,
The shame of self at thought of seeing Him,
Shall be thy keenest, sharpest purgatory."
NEWMAN, Dream of Gerontius.
"One has in one's darkness and limitation a trembling faith, and can at least, with the voices, say 'Wir heissen euch hoffen,' if it be the will of the Highest." — CARLYLE'S Reminiscences, ii. 48.
THUS far then we see that, owing to the dark veil which hangs between us and the future life, and owing to the dim character of God's revelation respecting its details, all the following views as well as many other slightly differing from them in minor points, have been taught by Christians within the pale of the Catholic Church: -
That the vast majority of mankind will be lost, - CALVIN, and the popular theology.
That all men will at last be saved. *(1) — ORIGEN, and the Universalists in all ages.
*(1) "Qui salvus fit per ignem salvus fit, ut, si quid forte de specie plumbi habuerit admixtum, id ignis decoquat et resolvat, ut efficiantur omnes aurum purum." — ORIG. Hom. VI. In Exod.
That all Christians will at last be saved. *(1) — ST. JEROME , and many in his day.
*(1) See Jer. Comment. In Is. In fin.; supra, p. 43.
That all who died within the pale of the Catholic Church would be saved. — Many in the Fifth century.
That the wicked will be finally annihilated. — Many in early Church and in modern days.
That God has indeed threatened endless punishments, but only conditionally, and in such a way that He may not carry out the threat. — TILLOTSON, &c.
That the condition of the saved will pass by indistinguishable degrees into the condition of the lost. — PALEY, &c.
That there is an intermediate state of preparation and purification in which sinful and imperfect souls may be prepared for heaven. — THE FATHERS generally, and many modern theologians.
That the condition of the lost, even when endless, is not incompatible with a resignation and penitence almost akin to happiness.
That there is no intermediate state, but that, in the words of the Westminster Confession, "souls neither die nor sleep, but go immediately to heaven or hell." *(1)
*(1) This was also the view of Calvin, Inst. iii. 25.
That the judgment which punishes the sins may yet preserve all that is not sinful in the sinner, - saving the workman, burning the works.
That between death and the resurrection there is a psychopannychia — in other words, a sleep of the soul so long as it remains in its bodiless condition, to be re-awakened at the resurrection for final judgment.
Different from all these is the distinctive creed of the Roman Church. Their doctrine is that all who die in a state of , and yet in a state unfit for heaven, will be purified in a purgatorial fire. Among their divines — as among all divines — there have been many differences of opinion, but they all agree in the general statements of the Council of Trent and the Creed of Pope Pius IV. The decree passed in the twenty-fifth session of the Council of Trent was as follows: -
"Since the decree of the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Spirit out of the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, hath taught in holy Councils, and lastly in this Oecumenical Synod, that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls detained there are aided by the suffrages of the faithful, but most of all in the acceptable sacrifice of the altar, this Holy Synod enjoins all bishops diligently to endeavour that the wholesome doctrine of Purgatory, handed down by Holy Fathers and Sacred Councils be believed by Christ's faithful, held, taught, and everywhere preached."
All that is asserted in the Creed of Pope Pius IV. Is that "I constantly believe that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful."
In the Catechism of the Council of Trent we find, "There is a purgatory fire in which the souls of the faithful, being tormented for a certain time, are expiated, that so a passage may be opened for them into their eternal country, into which no defiled thing can enter." *(1)
*(1) "Praeterea est purgatorius ignis quo piorum animae ad definitum tempus cruciatae expiantur ut eis in aeternam patriam ingressus patere possit, in quam nihil coinquinatum ingreditur." — Cat. De Symbolo, Art. Descendit in Inferno. This, it will be observed, goes beyod the decree of the council, because (1) it mentions "fire"; (2) it substitutes cruciatae for detentae. Bellarmine, following St. Thomas Aquinas, lays it down as the teaching of almost all their theologians that the fire of purgatory is the same kind of fire as that of hell (De Purgat. ii. 6), and "minimam poenam purgatorii esse majorem maxima poena hujus vitae."
The Council of Florence (A.D. 1439) decreed "that if true penitents depart in the love of God before they have satisfied for their sins of omission or commission by fruits of repentance, their souls go to Purgatory to be purged."
Now in our English Church the Twenty-second Article speaks of "the Romish doctrine concerning Purgatory," with other doctrines of that Church, as "a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God."
It becomes then a very important thing for us to know what the English Church intended to reject in thus repudiating the Romish doctrine of Purgatory, since "there is no ground for thinking that in rejecting the popular Romish doctrine the Church of England meant to reject all suffering after this life." *(1)
*(1) Dr. Pusey, Eirenicon, p. 197. For moderate and forcible statements of the doctrine see Dr. Newman's Development, p. 388; Via Media, p. 175.
I should say at once that I have not the least interest in defending what is generally known as "the Romish doctrine of Purgatory." Just as endless confusion has been introduced into the thoughts of Christians by the adoption of the word "hell" to represent alike Sheol *(1), Hades, and Gehenna, and by the fact that the words "hell" and "damnation" have come to be used in senses far darker than those which were originally attached to them; so too the word "Purgatory" *(2) has been mixed up by Romish divines with a mass of untenable notions from which it can never be entirely dissociated. Even apart from these notions which are touched upon in the following words "of indulgences and pardons," *(3) in our Twenty-second Article, it can hardly be said that the simplest essential conception of Purgatory as a place of "purification in penal fire (whether material or immaterial) for the faithful dead" is with any distinctness revealed in Scripture, or that it was at all recognised as an article of faith in the earliest centuries. And yet since the Church did not, in her articles, condemn either her doctrine of the Intermediate State or the practice of prayer for the dead, and since she pronounced no opinion whatever on the probatory fire of the day of judgment which so many of the Fathers deduced from the words of St. Paul in I Cor. iii. 15 *(4) , it is clear that the Reformers did not at any rate hold the belief about the sleep of souls (psychopannyclia), nor endorse the view of Calvin, which is still the common view of the uninstructed masses, that every soul at death passes directly and irrevocably to hell or to heaven. For what are the facts?
*(1) "In our English translation the word 'hell' seems to speak that that is neither warrantable by Scripture nor reason." — LIGHTFOOT, Disc. On the Fourth Article of the Creed (Works, ii. 1350, ed 1684). "The word hell is now come to signifie only the place of torment, but of old it signified larger, as the word Hades does." — Ib. p. 1351.
*(2) Far more, it should be said, by individual divines — as, for instance, Bellarmine — than by any conciliar decrees. The Council of Trent expresseed itself very moderately.
*(3) "The doctrine of purgatory is the mother of indulgences." — JER. TAYLOR , Dissuasive from Popery, i. ch. i.
*(4) Archbishop Usher, after noticing this, says that the reader "may easily discern what may be thought of the cracking Cardinal [Bellarmine], who would force us down that 'all the ancients, both Greek and Latin, from the very time of the Apostles, did constantly tech that there was a Purgatory,' whereas eminent Romish controversialists have themselves admitted that 'in ancient writers there is almost no mention of Purgatory, especially in the Greek writers.'" He calls Bellarmine's quotations "counterfeit stuff," which refers to this life, or the conflagration of the world, or the fire prepared for the devil, &c. He finds the first traces of a Purgatory, properly so-called, in Tertullian (who, he says, derived it from Montanus), and in Origen.
The Twenty-Second Article now runs: - "The Romish doctrine of Purgatory, &c, is a fond thing vainly invented and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God." *(1)
*(1) "Doctrina Romanensium de purgatorio, de indulgentiis, &c. res est futilis, inaniter conficta, et nullis Scripturatum testimoniis innititur; immo verbo Dei contradicit."
Such is the Article of 1562. But in the Article of 1552 it stood "doctrina scholasticorum," not "doctrina Romanensium." *(1)
*(1) Perrone says, "The Latin Church, by uniting with the Eastern, has allowed the scholastic opinion of a material fire in purgatory…to drop; and the substance of the doctrine can cause no further offence if once the gross abuses and misapprehensions are removed which have incrusted its kernel in practice and popular belief." [If the same words be applied to "hell," they will accurately express my own opinion.]
Now it has been fairly argued that the Article could not have been intended for a categorical condemnation of the very cautious and modified decree of the Council of Trent, because that decree was not promulgated till December 4, 1563, nearly a year after this edition of the Article was published. "The Romish doctrine of purgatory" was probably substituted for "doctrine of the school authors," because it was, as Dr. Boultbee says, "more popularly intelligible." *(1) It must be admitted that originally the doctrine condemned by our Reformers was the doctrine as it stands in the pages of the schoolmen, not as it is stated by the Council of Trent; and further, as Bishop Forbes points out, the word Romanenses, like Romanistae, is used to represent the extreme mediaeval party, - those whom we now call Ultramontanes. *(2)
*(1) Theology of the Church of England, p. 185.
*(2) Bishop Forbes, On the Articles, ii. 301.
Now the doctrine of the schoolmen may be described generally as the mediaeval doctrine: the doctrine which, taking its start from the speculations of Origen *(1) in the third century, acquired distinctive shape first in the still-wavering utterances of Augustine, *(2) and then in the dialogues of St. Gregory the Great. That the mind of St. Augustine was by no means made up respecting this subject, I shall show clearly farther on. Sometimes he seems to be thinking of what is now called "purgatory"; but sometimes rather of the purgatory at the end of the world; and sometimes only of "that grief which he imagined those souls who had been passionately tied to the things of this world might still retain in their place of sequester. But all this he proposes with so much doubt and uncertainty, as plainly shows it to have been in the Father's time so far from an article of faith, that he durst not affirm anything at all concerning it…
*(1) It is generally admitted that Origen was influenced by the writings of Plato.
*(2) "St. Austin speaks in this whole matter very doubtfully; he varies often from himself; he seems sometimes very positive only for two states; at other times as he asserts the last probatory fire, so he seems to think that good souls might suffer some grief in that sequestered state before the last day upon the account of some other past sins, and that by degrees they might arise up to their consummation." — BURNET on Art. xxii.
Thus had the Romish doctrine of purgatory no manner of foundation in the Primitive Church ." So says Archbishop Wake, and we need no further proof of St. Augustine 's uncertainty than his own words, "whether it be so or not may be inquired: and possibly it may be found so, and possibly not." *(1) But by the close of the sixth century we find Pope Gregory the First saying, with an emphasis and plainness not known in earlier ages, that "for some light faults we must believe that there is before judgment a purgatorial fire." *(2)
*(1) Enchirid. C lxix.; see too lxvii., lxviii.; Ad. Dulcit. Qu. 1.; De Civ. Dei, xxxi. 18-22.
*(2) Greg. Dial. Iv. 30. Schrockh goes so far as to call him "Der Erfinder des Fegefeuer's." — Kirchengesch, xvii. 332.
St. Gregory (+ 604) flourished in days when the age of barbarism had begun. His dialogues abound in legends and visions, and are the chief source of the popular notions about hell and purgatory in the middle ages. The importance which was attached to these valueless stories — such as that of the appearance of Paschasius to St. Germanus; of Justus to Copiosus; of Vitaliana to St. Martin, of St. Severinus, &c. — may be seen from the use made of them even by so acute a controversialist as Cardinal Bellarmine. Then, says Archbishop Wake, "the flames of Aetna and Vesuvius were thought on purpose to have been kindled to torment departed souls. Some were seen broiling upon gridirons, others roasting upon spits, *(3) others shivering in the water, or choking in chimneys.
*(1) Specimens without number may be found in the Speculum Exemplorum and the Legenda Aurea. Those to which I have alluded are specially authentic by Bellarmine, i. iI. Theyare taken from Gregory of Tours, A. D. 573; Pope Gregory, A.D. 660; Bede, A.D. 700; Peter Damian, A.D. 1057; and St. Bernard, A.D. 1100.
The very ways to purgatory were now discovered, one in Sicily , another in Pozzuetto, a third nearer home in Ireland . *(1) In the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries the opinion grew yet even in the twelfth (A.D. 1196) Otho Frisingensis *(2), so far from speaking dogmatically, only says there are some who affirm that there is in the lower world a purgatory, in which those who are to be saved are either kept in darkness only, or are purged in the fire of expiation." *(3) It is to such crude conceptions as those found in St. Gregory and the schoolmen that the words of Archbishop Usher apply, "For extinguishing the imaginary flames of the Popish purgatory we need not go far to fetch water." *(4)
*(1) A full account of this will be seen in Mr. Wright's St. Patrick's Purgatory, 1844.
*(2) Chronic. viii. 26. "Esse locum purgatorium…quidam asserunt."
*(3) Archbishop Wake, Discourse of Purgatory (in Gibson's Preservative, vol. v.).
*(4) Archbishop Usher, Answer to a Jesuit, vi. P. 118.
The scholastic doctrine of purgatory may be found reflected in the frightful Inferno of Dante; and the part played by the wild visions of monks and ascetics in stereotyping the ordinary conception may be judged by the fact that Dante *(1) largely borrowed his notions of infernal torments from the vision of Alberic published in the twelfth century, at Monte Cassino. *(2) It may also be found, though in a modified form, very clearly delineated in the supplement to the summa of St. Thomas of Aquinas, and in Bellarmine De Purgatorio. *(3)
*(1) Bellarmine, Disp. De Controv. Christianae Fidei, i. Pp. 1962-2081, ? 1596. His definition of Purgatory is "locus quidam, in quo tamquam in carcere post hanc vitam purgantur animae, quae in hac non plane purgatae fuerunt."
*(2) See Ozanam, Les Poeles Franciscains, p. 415.
*(3) De Purgatorio, ii. 6 and passim.
Bellarmine decides that purgatory, hell, and the limbus Patrum and the limbus Puerorum are all in the centre of the earth; argues that the fire of purgatory is material; quotes the testimonies of St. Gregory and Bede to show that the pains of purgatory are more intense than any which we can suffer in life; and accepts the whole doctrine that souls in purgatory are aided by "the sacrifice of the mass, prayers, penances, alms, pilgrimages, and so forth." *(1) And in support of these views he adduces the evidence of visions, and the authorities of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventura, and other schoolmen. To some at any rate of these views the Church would not have hesitated to apply the epithet perniciosa which stood in the earlier Articles, but was afterwards entirely dropped.
*(1) De Purgatorio, ii. 16.
And yet we shall long have to deplore the fact that the teaching of the Reformers on this subject was so vague and negative. They were mainly occupied with other and far different controversies. Machyn in his diary tells us that on January 30, 1559, "dyd prech Master Juell, the new Bishop of Salesbury, and then he sayd playnly there was no pergatore." Would that in preaching that there was "no pergatore" the Reformers had told us their view of the true doctrine! They might, with Luther, have condemned "purgatory" as a mere "devil's mask" (mera diaboli larva), but such a condemnation would not at all necessarily imply any view on their part that there was no purification of imperfect and sinful souls (whether penal or probatory) beyond the grave. They condemned "purgatory" in the lump, and such a condemnation no more involves the view now held by most thoughtful divines, whether Protestant or Catholic, than (as I shall show hereafter) a general condemnation of"Origenism" excluded an approval even of Origen's universalism. Neumann, Schulze, Karsten, Martensen, Dr. Pusey, and many living High Churchmen may be mentioned among Protestants who accept the belief in this modified phase of Purgatory.
Further than this, the "doctrine of Purgatory" — whether scholastic or Roman — is inextricably entangled, with views "all dubious and disputable at the very best" *(1) about the distinction of sins mortal and venial in their own nature; *(2) that the taking away the guilt of sin does not suppose the taking away the obligation to punishment;*(3) that God requires a full exchange of penance and satisfaction, which must regularly be paid here or hereafter, even by those who are pardoned here; and that the death of Christ, His merits and satisfaction, do not procure for us a full remission before we die, nor (as it may happen) for a long time after. *(4)
*(1) Jer. Taylor , Dissuasive, i. I; Works, vi. P. 194, ed. Heber.
*(2) "Purgatorium pro iis tantum esse, qui cum venialibus culpis moriuntur." — BELLARM. De Purgat. ii. 2, following Tert. De Anima, 35; Aug. De Civ. Dei, xxi. 26, "Venialia concremantem ignem." "Medium vero locum esse habentium peccata venialia." — LABREUS, Conc. xvii. 20.
*(3) "Those who depart this life in grace, in charity, but nevertheless indebted to gthe divine justice some pains which it deserved, are to suffer them in the other life." — BOSSUET. "Ad purgatorium deferuntur justorum animae obnoxiae poenis temporalibus." — DENS, Theolog. ? 347.
*(4) Jer. Taylor, l. c., pp. 194, 195.
"They imagine," says Hooker, "beyond all conceit of antiquity, that when God doth remit sin, and the punishment eternal thereunto belonging, He reserveth the torments of hell-fire to be nevertheless endured for a time, either shorter or longer, according to the quality of men's crimes. So that by this postern gate cometh in the whole mart of papal indulgences; a scorn both to God and man." *(1)
* (1) Eccl. Pol. iii. v. 9. See too Hooker, Serm. III.
These assuredly are not doctrines of the English Church , and her decisive rejection of "purgatory, indulgences, and pardons," is the rejection not of an isolated opinion, but of a system with which all these views and details are indissolubly associated. "It was not," says Bishop Forbes, "the formulated doctrine, but a current and corrupt practice in the Latin Church which is here declared to be 'fond' and 'vainly invented.'" In fact the word purgatory carried with it all these abuses. "The fire of purgatory," said the vulgar mediaeval proverb, "boils the monk's saucepan."
But perhaps it is due to a guiding Providence that the Church has been withheld from laying down "as of faith" any distinct doctrine as to the state of the dead and the day of judgment.
I. The ancient Fathers are nearly as unanimous in recognising an Intermediate State *(1) as popular teaching is unanimous in speaking of "dying and going straight to heaven or to hell." *(2) Justin Martyr says that persons who used such language "were not to be considered Christians or even Jews." *(3) Tertullian, Lactantius, Origen, Hilary, Ambrose, Augustine are all perfectly explicit on this point, and to our own Reformers it seemed so clear that the entrance on the state of aeonian joy or sorrow was not decided till the resurrection, that, in the Fortieth Article of 1552, they imply their belief in the Intermediate State by their express condemnation of the fancy of psychopannychia, or the inanition of the soul between death and judgment.
*(1) The opinions of Origen, Tertullian, Chrysostom, the two Gregories, Jerome, Athanasius, &c., may be seen collected in Sixtus Senesis, vi. 264; Huet, Origenmiana, ii. xi. 15; Bellarmine, De Sanct. Beat, i. 4.
*(2) Bishop Harold Browne says, "I think it hardly necessary to add ore to show that on this point the opinion of the ancients is more correct than the modern popular creeds." — On the Articles, p. 86. See many passages in Usher, l.c. pp. 120 seq.
*(3) o 'l kai legousi...ama ty apoqnskein ta s yuca s autwn analambanesqai ei s ton ouranon, mh upolabhte autou s cristianou s wsper oude Iouda l ou s . - JUST. MARTYR, Dial. See too Bishop Bull, Serm. III.; Works, i. P. 52; Pearson Art V; Dodwell, Tertullian, pp. 116 seq.
II. The ancient Fathers also speak almost unanimously of a fire of purgation after this life *(1) and their sayings have been repeatedly urged by Romish controversialists to prove the doctrine of purgatory. But it has been sufficiently shown that the Fathers are usually speaking of a fire at the day of judgment, and not of purgatory. It is asserted, says Archbishop Wake, by almost all the Fathers of the Primitive Church, "that all men, being raised up at the last day, should pass through a certain probatory fire ( pur dokimastikon ) in which every man should be scorched and purified; *(2) and some be tormented more, others less, according as they had lived better or worser lives here upon earth."* (3) Yet respecting all the details of this subject the Fathers vary in their language,*(4) and they express this opinion, as an opinion, without laying it down as a matter of faith. Perhaps, therefore, it was best on the whole that, on such topics, the Church should pronounce no dogmatic decision; and the more so because an astonishing diversity of views may be proved to have existed in all ages. Even an eminent Cardinal says, in the eighteenth article of his book against Luther, "It (purgatory) was for a long time unknown; it was recognized late by the Universal Church ; then it was gradually believed by some, by little and little, partly from Scripture, partly from revelations." *(5) Though a sort of nominal adhesion to it was given by the eighteen Bishops of the Eastern Church at the Council of Florence, their adhesion was summarily repudiated by the Eastern Church in general, and the decrees of the Council were not acknowledged. *(6)
*(1) Origen, Ep. Rom. Ad fin.; Ambrose in Ps. xvi. 3; in Ps. cviii. ("omnes oportet transire per ignem"); Hilary in Ps. cxviii. 20. ("judicium quo nobis est ille indefessus ignis obeundus"); Basil in Is. Ix. 19; Jer. In Am. Vii. 4 ("cumque omnes fuerimus in peccato, et jacuerimus ad sententiae severitatem, miserebitur Dominus nostri"); Sixtus Senensis, who quotes these and other passages, says, "Ab horum sententiis apparent satis esse diversa quae tradunt omnes theology scholastici de igne ultimate conflagrationis." — Bibl. Sanct. V. annot. Clxxi. Many similar passages are adduced by Dallaeus, De Poenis et Satisf. 387-434, and some are quoted in Tracts for the Times, No. 79. The same notion is found among the Rabbis, who say that "even a righteous man is conducted through hell by way of atonement for his offences." — Emek Hammelech, f. 23, 4; Malleh Aharon, f. 51, I ap. Stehelin, i. 45.
*(2) "Diem judicii concupiscemus in quo subeunda sunt gravia illa expiandae a peccatis animae supplicia." — HILAR. In Ps. cxviii. 3.
*(3) Archbishop Wake, Discourse, p. 5
*(4) See Origen in Ps. xxxvi. Hom. iii. I; in Exod. Hom. vi. 4; Lactant. Instt. vii. 21; Greg. Naz. Or. xxxix.; Greg. Nyss. De Mortuis; Hilary in Ps. cxviii. Lit. Gimel.; Aug. De Civ. Dei, xvi. 24; xx. 25; xxi. 26; Enchir. 1xix., &c. Some of them held that "even Peter and John" (Ambrose in Ps. cxviii. Hom. xx.), even the Virgin Mary (Hilary, l.c.) would have to pass through this fire.
*(5) Cardinal Fisher, Bishop of Rochester , Assert. Luther. Confut. 18 So too Bruys (Hist. I. 375) admits that Purgatory was "unknown to the Apostles and original Christians." See Edgar, Variations of Popery, p. 452.
*(6) Archbishop Wake, as above. Usher, Answer to a Jesuit, vi. P. 131 (where passages from eminent Greek theologians are quoted). See Jer. Taylor, Of Purgatory, ii. 2; Gibbon, 240, 260 (ed. Milman).
Alexander Natalis *(1) reduces the whole controversy between Protestants and Roman Catholics to this, "Whether the faith teaches that there is a state of the dead in which they shall be expiated by temporary punishment, and from which they may be freed or otherwise helped by the prayers of the Church." But the Church of England does not assent even to this most general statement. That there is an Intermediate State all her best divines would admit; and also that prayer for the dead was an ancient and almost universal practice; and also that Christ descended into Hades in the sense that He entered into the world of spirits; but she has nowhere laid down the inferences to be drawn from these premises, but left them as open questions to individual opinion. Nor has she ever given the least sanction to the strange view that even the saints of God must pass through penal fire, and that a certain amount of punishment is (so to speak) a quantitative equivalent for a certain amount of sin. But I agree with Dr. Pusey *(2) in thinking that the Church of England has not rejected and never meant to reject all suffering after this life even for some who will ultimately be saved.
*(1) iv. 41.
*(2) Eirenicon, p. 197.
Cardinal Wiseman is reported to have said "that the belief that there would be suffering in the day of judgment would satisfy the doctrine of Purgatory." If so, many English Churchmen would find little difficulty respecting it. They might prefer, for the avoidance of mistakes, to call the Intermediate State, with any purifications or retributive sufferings which it may involve, by some other name than Purgatory, just as many theologians of the Greek Church do; but, as a Greek theologian says, while they shun the name as though it were something frightful, they believe in different conditions of the dead in Paradise or in "Gehenna;" and in the very varied degrees of punishment and of blessedness; and even that some may be in anguish who yet hope for the Resurrection of Life; and this practically amounts to something but little distinguishable from a purgatorial fire.*(1) And this view is freely admitted, and has long been admitted, by Lutheran and other Protestant divines.*(2) And in views like these I see a strong confirmation of all that I said in Eternal Hope , and a very sensible mitigation of the horrors which are preached by popular theology.
*(1) Petr. Arcudius, De Purgatorio, p. 52. feugousi wsper ti apotropaion onomasai pur kaqarthrion kai omw s topou s diaforou s tou adou...kai ouk epish s autou s kolazesqai oiontai kai malista tou s epi elpidi
anastasew s zwh s aiwniou basanizomenou s ... touto oun to kaqarthrion.
*(2) See Perrone, De Deo Creatore, iii. 6 (Pusey's Eirenicon, pp. 118, 119)
And I find the blessedness of a similar belief in four other doctrines or opinions which bear on the question of the future life, and which, although they furnish no proof of the Romish doctrine of purgatory, do undoubtedly point inferentially to the belief of the Church that after death some change and progressive development is still possible in the condition of the dead.
One of these is the admissibility of Prayers for the Dead; the other is the article of the creed which says that Christ descended into hell; a third is the doctrine of "mitigation"; a fourth is that which has been boldly called "the bright side of hell."
I. As regards Prayers for the Dead it is unanimously admitted that they existed in the Jewish Church and were unreproved by our Lord. It is also admitted that to pray for the dead was a very ancient custom in the Christian Church. It is mentioned with approval by Tertullian in the second century*(1), and by Origen, Cyprian, Cyril of Jerusalem, Gregory of Nazianzus, Ambrose, Chrysostom, and others*(2), the common opinion being that of St. Augustine , that "The souls of the dead are relieved by the devotion of the living."*(3) It is, however, quite clear that these prayers were considered by the majority, when they spoke with precision, to affect the condition of none but the faithful dead . This is conclusively proved by Archbishop Usher in his Answer to a Jesuit , and has recently been shown again in Canon Luckock's After Death .*(4) He proves that in the earliest liturgies there is little mention of sin in these prayers for the dead, and scarcely anything in the Fathers before St. Jerome. After that time there was an increasing belief that the purification of ordinary frailties and lesser defilements after death might be furthered by the prayers of the faithful and by the due administration of the Holy Eucharist.
*(1)De Coron. Milit. 3; De Monogam. 10.
*(2) See Bishop Harold Browne, On the Articles, p. 494.
*(3) Aug. ad Dulcit.
*(4) After Death, p. 117 seq.
In some few instances, however, we are told of prayers offered up for acknowledged sinners, and not merely for the more speedy resurrection or fuller blessing of those whose eternal salvation was already secured. No one who reads the numerous extracts which may be collected from ancient liturgies can avoid something more than a suspicion that in some way or other the prayers for the dead were supposed to benefit the souls of great sinners. "The expressions," says the Roman Catholic theologian Dieringer, "are too strong to be applied to purgatory"; and Bishop Forbes says, "Perhaps it may not be an improbable conjecture that the Church at first prayed for all the departed in one tenour, without discriminating; leaving it to God to hear her in whatever way He knew for each; and so that the prayers for deliverance from hell related to souls on which the particular judgment was not yet passed."*(1)
*(1) On the Articles, it. 318.
And although these instances of prayers for grievous sinners are rare, must it not be admitted that, if prayer for the dead be Scriptural, it must ex vi termini be Scriptural to pray for those of whose eternal condition it would be impossible to be assured? On the well-known example of Judas Maccabeus, who, with his companions, seems to have prayed for those who had died in an act of sin, I will not dwell; but Origen was "one of the three of wonderful gifts of whose own salvation the Church had misgivings";*(1) he was, we are told, condemned when dead, and condemned when living, as having taught heresy; yet even Cyril would, I suppose, have prayed for him, since he speaks "of offering Christ for those who have fallen asleep, even though they be sinners." Certainly St. Chrysostom in no less than three passages uses similar expressions.*(2) St. Ambrose distinctly prayed for the Emperors Gratian and Valentinian;*(3) could he be so very sure that they had died in a state of final salvation? Was Theodosius absolutely convinced that both his parents were saved when he prayed for them so earnestly at the shrine of St. Chrysostom?*(4) We are told, quite truly, that we have no right to pronounce the doom of any one however sinful his death may seem to have been. May we not then pray for all, - or rather must we not, under these circumstances, pray for all who are dear to us? And would it have been permitted to pray for them if it was impossible to do them any good? Even St. Augustine thought that our prayers might at least secure for the lost a tolerabilior damnatio.*(5) Multitudes of passages might be quoted from modern liturgies, in which the words do not easily bear any other construction than that they are a prayer that the sins of the dead may be forgiven. The evidence of mediaeval legends — however worthless in themselves — shows that the belief in the efficacy of such prayers was widely spread. Thus St. Gregory was popularly believed by his prayers to have saved from hell the soul of the Emperor Trajan,*(6) and St. Dunstan the soul of King Edwin.*(7) Other legends told how Thekla, had by her prayers saved from hell Falconilla, the daught of Tryphaena, and how the skull of a dead heathen priest informed St. Honorius that the dead felt some little consolation ( paramuqia s mikra s, John Damasc.) when he prayed for them. These legends — however idle — of course prove the popular belief. Nor was the belief merely popular. St. Augustine himself*(8), like many others, inferred from Matt. xii. 31, 32, that forgiveness for some sins might be obtained for the dead by the prayers of the living.
*(1) What is of Faith, p. 11. Of these Solomon was one, and Tertullian another.
*(2) Luckock, After Death, pp. 131-148.
*(3) St. Ambr. De Obitu Valent. Ad fin.
*(4) Theodoret, H. E. v. 36.
*(5) Aug. Enchir. Ad Laurent. Ex.
*(6) Baronius, Ann. 604, 44.
*(7) Gul. Malmesbur. Ii. 50.
*(8) Aug. De Civ. Dei, xxi. 24.
Once again, what is the meaning of the story told in the Acts of St. Perpetua, which some have assigned to the authorship of Tertullian? In a vision she sees her brother Dinocrates in distress and darkness, he having been guilty of some heinous fall. She prays for him, and then sees him in light, cleansed and refreshed; and St. Augustine says that 'he had gone into the damnation of death, and was only liberated through the prayer of his sister, who was about to die for Christ.'*(1) So St. Paulinus, speaking of his brother Delphinus, who seems, from what he says, to have died in sin, begs St. Amandus and others to pray for him, "that God may refresh his souls with drops of mercy. For doubtless…the dew of His forgiveness also will penetrate to hell, so that when scorched in the kindled darkness he may be refreshed with the dewy light of His pity."*(2)
*(1) Aug. De Anima, i. 10.
*(2) Ep. xxxvi. Ad Amand
Nay more, even our Church "deeply convinced that the general tone of the teaching of antiquity goes beyond a mere prayer for consummation of bliss both in body and soul, and probably extends to actual forgiveness for some sins (perhaps at the foreseen prayers of the Church) and the mitigation of some penalties, has formed her Burial Service on a theory of which this doctrine is the only interpretation; that words of hope may be used of all but the excommunicate."*(1) And in the light of all these beliefs and practices, am I not entitled to claim that the real doctrine of the Church on Future Retribution has never been identical with that which so many preach in her name?
*(1) Bishop Forbes, On the Articles, ii. 347.
I. Another doctrine which suggests inferences all tending to the possibility of purification and educational discipline being mingled with the penalty for sin beyond the grave may be found in the article of the Creed which says of Christ, that "He descended into hell."*(1)
*(1) "Quam devorarat improbus Captivitate libera
Praedam refudit Tartarus Jesum Sequuntur agmina."
FULBERT, Hymn. Pasch.
As regards the descent of Christ into hell, some glimpse of the history and gradual growth of opinions on this article of the faith may be gained from reading the following passages, but I only touch on that part of the question which bears on my present subject. The reader who seeks further information may find it abundantly in Bishop Pearson On the Creed .
ST. IGNATIUS, + 107. — "He descended alone into Hades, but He rose up from it with a multitude, and He cleft the aeonian barrier, and broke down its middle wall." *(1)
*(1) kathlqenei s adou mono s , anhlqe de meta plhqou s , kai escise ton ap aiwno s fragmon kai to mesotoicon autou eluse. - Ep. Ad Trall. Collections of the chief passages of the Fathers may be found in G. H. Voss, Thes. Theol. Disp., and in Dietelmair, De Descensu Christi ad Inferos, 1760, where the subject is clearly and fully treated, and the great diversity of opinion respecting it made very evident.
ST. JUSTIN MARTYR, + 167. — "And He descended to them (the dead) to preach to them His salvation." *(1)
*(1) kai katebh pro s autou s euaggel l sasqai autoi s to swthrion autou. - Dial. Cum Tryph.
ST. IRENAEUS, + 202. — "Christ descended to preach even to those (who were under the earth) His advent." *(1)
*(1) c. Haer. Iv. 27.
TERTULLIAN, + 218. — "Christ did not ascend to heaven till He descended to the lower parts of the earth, that there He might make patriarchs and prophets partakers of Himself." *(1)
*(1) "Nec ante ascendit in sublimiora coelorum quam descendit in inferiora terrarum, ut illic Patriarchas et Prophetas compotes sui faceret." — De Anima, 55. See, too, De Rusur. Carnis, 44.
HIPPOLYTUS, + 257. — "Who has been manifested as King even of those under the earth — of those under the earth, because He was numbered even among the dead, preaching the Gospel to the souls of the Saints." *(1)
*(1) katacqoniwn oti kai en nekroi s katelogisqh, euaggelizomeno s kai ta s twn agiwn yuca s . - De Antichristo, 26. In c. 45 of the same work he says that John the Baptist preceded Christ as His forerunner in Hades also.
ORIGEN, + 254. — "Jesus descended into Hades, and the Prophets before Him, and they proclaim beforehand the coming of Christ." *(1)
*(1) Ihsou s ei s adou gegonen kai oi profhtai pro autou, kai prokhrussousi tou Cristou thn epdhmian. - In I K. xxviii. 32.
"And with His soul stripped of the body He associated with souls stripped of their bodies, converting to Himself those even of them that were willing, or those who for reasons which He Himself knew, were more fitted for it." *(1)
*(1) kai gumnh swmato s genomeno s yuch tai s gumnai s swmatwn wmilei yucai s , epistrefwn kakeinwn ta s boulomena s pro s auton, h a s ewra, diou s hdei auto s logou s, epithdeiotera s . - C. Cels. ii. p. 85.
ST. CLEMENS OF ALEXANDRIA , + circ. 218. — "Did not the same dispensation also occur in Hades that there also all the souls, on hearing the proclamation, may either manifest repentance, or that their punishment was due to their unbelief?" *(1)
*(1) ouci kai en adou h auth gegonen oikonomia l na kakei pasai ai yucai akousasai tou
khrugmato s , h thn metanoian endeixwntai h thn kolasin einai di wn ouk episteusan. - STROM. Vi. See other passages quoted supra, in Chap. II.
EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA , + circ. 342. — "Bursting open the eternal gates of the dark abode, and opening a way of return to life for the dead there bound in chains of death." *(1)
*(1)tois autoqi nekroi s seirai s qanatou pepedhmenoi s palintropon th s epi thn zwhn anodou thn poreian poioumeno s . - Demonstr. Evang. iv. 12.
ATHANASIUS + ? 373. — (The devil) "sitting by the gates sees all the fettered beings led forth by the courage of the Saviour." *(1)
*(1) kaqhmeno s para ta s pula s qewrei exagomenou s panta s tou s pepedhmenou s th tou Swthro s andreia. - In Pass. Et Cruc. Domini.
GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, + 389. — "Until He loosed by His blood all who groan under Tartarean chains." *(1)
*(1) eisoke panta s Taotarewn mogeonta s uf a l mati lusato desmwn. - Carm. Xii.
FIRMICIUS MATERNUS, + ? 370. — "The crowd of the just was so collected by Him that the iniquity of death might no more have dominion over them." *(1)
*(1) De Error. Prof. Rel.
VICTORINUS, + circ. 303. — "From the lowest depths Tartarus poured forth its chiefs, and the blessed fathers Arise." *(1)
*(1) "A sedibus imis Tartarus evomuit proceres, patresque beati Consurgunt." — De Christo, Deo et Homine.
ST. AMBROSE, + 357. — "Christ….bursting open the bars and gates of hell, recalled to life from the jaws of the devil…souls bound in sin." *(1)
*(1) "Christus…vinctas peccato animas…e diaboli faucibus revocavit ad vitam." — AMBR> De Myster. Pasch. 4.
ST. HILARY OF POICTIERS, + circ. 367. — "He knows…that even to those who were in prison and had once been unbelieving, the exhortation was preached." *(1)
*(1) "Scit…etiam his qui in carcere errant, et increduli quondam fuerunt, exhortationem praedicatam fuisse." — In Ps. cxviii.
EPIPHANIUS, + 403. — "To liberate the captive Adam and his fellow captive Eve from anguish, goeth her God, and Son." *(1)
*(1) Ton aicmalwton Adam, kai thn sunaicmalwton Euan twn odunwn lusai poreuetai d Qeo s kai uio s auth s. - Hom. In Sepult. Christi (who also holds that John the Baptist heralded him in Hades).
ST. JEROME , + 420. — "From those seats of hell no one has been freed by his own merits, but only by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ."
"The land of the dead, which is torn asunder and emptied, when by the death of Christ the souls bound in hell are set free." *(1)
*(1) Jer. In Job, c. 36; in Hoseam. C. 13.
SYNESIUS, + circ. 430. — "And descending under Tartarus…And setting free from their pains The holy choir of souls." *(1)
*(1) kataba s d upo tartaron
lusa s d apo phmatwn
yucwn dsiou s corou s. - Hymn IX.
ST. CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA . + 444. — "And wandering down even to Hades, He has emptied the dark, secret, invisible treasuries." *(1)
*(1) katafoithsa s de kai ei s adou kekenwke qhsaurou s skoteinou s , apokrufou s, aoratou s . - Glaphyr. ii. See too Hom. Pasch. xi. And Hom. vi. sesulhto twn pneumatwn o adh s.
It would be useless to heap up the masses of later testimonies; but this one from Theodore of Jerusalem, which is found in the Acts of the Second Nicene Council, may suffice. He says that he believes in Christ, "Who despoiled Hades, and set free those who had been imprisoned from eternity." *(1)
*(1) ton adhn skuleusanta kai tou s ap aiwno s desmiou s eleuqerwsanta. - HARDUIN, iv. 142.
Many other passages might be quoted to show the prevalence of the view that Christ, by His descent into hell, saved all who had, up to that time, died, although St. Augustine stigmatized the view as a heresy. Indeed some went even so far as to imagine that Judas hanged himself for the express purpose of gaining the advantage of this conquest over Satan and Hades. *(1)
*(1) Zonaras, Ep. 56, kai ei s adhn katrlqein epi tw tucein ekeise par autou sugcwrhsew s.
It will be seen from these passages that the Church first grasped the meaning of Christ's descent into hell as being something more than His suffering and burial; then deduced from I Peter iii. 19 the belief that He preached to those spirits in prison; then that He set free the faithful souls of olden saints and patriarchs. *(1) It will be seen further that a belief gradually and not unnaturally sprang up that since He preached to those "who sometime were disobedient," these sinners must have benefited by His preaching; and this conception ripened into the view first that some, and then that all, even of these sinners were set free. As early as the first century it had been inferred that, since His saints and apostles continue His work on earth, so they too preached, and by their preaching helped to deliver or to ameliorate the lot of those who pass hence into a state of punishment. If much of this doctrine rests solely on inference, the same is equally true of no small part of the details of scholastic theology, of which it cannot always be said that the inference is at least merciful, and in accordance with all which God has revealed to us respecting His infinite compassion as the God of Love. All that our Church defines respecting the descent into Hades in the Third Article is that "it is to be believed that He went down into hell." But in the Article of 1552 these words were added. "For the Body lay in the sepulchre until His resurrection; but His ghost, departing from Him (ab Illo emissus), was with the ghosts that were in prison or in hell (in carcere sive in inferno); and did preach to the same, as the place of St. Peter doth testify." These words, in Dr. Hey's opinion, were only withdrawn out of deference to the Calvinists, who held that Christ's descent into hell meant only the suffering for sin on earth; *(2) but they are a far more reasonable explanation of the three passages of Scripture on which the doctrine mainly rests than either the notion of Durandus that Christ's descent was only one of efficacy and influence;*(3) or that of others, that they merely refer to the burial of Christ. *(4)
*(1) "Our Saviour Jesus Christ at His entry into hell…spoiled hell, and brought with Him from thence all the souls of those righteous and good men which, from the fall of Adam, died in the favour of God." — Institution of a Christian Man.
*(2) Calvin, Inst. ii. 16, ? 10. "Eam mortem pertulit quae sceleribus ab irato Deo infligitur." Beza and others maintained that He actually endured the sufferings of the Lost.
*(3) Durandus in Sent. iii. dist. 22, qu. 3. See Strype's "Parker," iii. 18.
*(4) On this "very late" opinion see Pearson On the Creed, p. 329.
Keble alludes to this last opinion, but only to reject it, in the lines of his hymn for Easter Eve: -
"Sleepst Thou indeed, or is Thy spirit fled
At large among the dead?
Whether in Eden bowers Thy welcome voice
Wake Abraham to rejoice;
Or in some drearier scene Thine eye controls
The thronging band of souls;
That as Thy death won earth, Thine agony
Might set the shadowy world from sin and sorrow free." *(1)
*(1) The doctrine is mainly built on Eph. Iv. 9; I Pet. Iii. 19; Acts ii. 26.
I. But besides the gleam of light which is thrown upon the dark future of the lost by inferences which mercifully and naturally suggest themselves from these three doctrines — the Intermediate State of preparation and purification; the permissibility of Prayers for the Dead; and the Descent of Christ into Hades — there is yet a fourth consideration of importance even more direct: I mean the belief in the possibility of some future Mitigations of the pains of the lost [refrigeria (*1)], and especially of the "pain of sense," which has always been (even apart from Purgatory) permitted in the Catholic Church.
*(1) Salvian. Avar. Iii. II, "guttam refrigerii."
This position was maintained, with great ability and unanswerable demonstration, by Pere Emery, the superior of St. Sulpice, and Grand Vicar, in his theological lectures at Lyons . Emery, who died in 1811, was a man not only of high position and of great courage, but also of profound theological learning. The Emperor Napoleon had a sincere respect for him, and in one of his conversations with him, as we are told by Cardinal Fesch, had touched on the doctrine of endless torment as a great difficulty. Emery asked if he would like to hear him read his lecture on the subject. Napoleon eagerly accepted the offer, and remarked repeatedly, "Tres bien, tres bien." It is however more to the purpose that, although the Dominican order is the most jealous of all about orthodoxy, the Dominican Sibylla at Venice took the same view, and Emery's book was admitted into the Dominican Library of the Minerva at Rome . It is still more remarkable that although Emery did not acknowledge his work during his lifetime, the Abbe Carle, in his book on the Catholic doctrine of the future (Du Dogme catholique sur l'Enfer, Paris, 1840), prints the dissertation of Emery Sur la Mitigation des Peines des damnes *(1) at full length, and with the entire approval of the high authorities whom he consulted on the subject. Further than this, either Emery's book nor the Abbe Carle's has ever been censured by the Con greg ation of the Index. This learned and high-minded theologian has treated the subject so wisely and fully as materially to abridge my labour on this important head, which, so far as I know, has scarcely been so much as touched upon by English theologians.
*(1) It was published anonymously with the Pensees de Leibnitz, 1804 and suppressed by the author.
i. In St. Augustine's remarks on Psalm cv. (written A.D. 416), he denies any mitigation of the pains of the lost (quis audeat dicere?…quis audacter dixerit?), because Dives could not get a drop of water to cool his tongue: a view of the passage which, like so many adopted by St. Augustine, belongs to an obsolete style of exegesis; unduly presses an incidental detail of the framework of a parable; and obviously is wholly beside the mark, since Dives is not in "hell," but in Hades. What was impossible at that moment might by no means be impossible for ever. He however puts off all discussion of the subject till some other opportunity.*(1) But — wavering on this subject of Eschatology, as he did again and again — he says in his Enchiridion (2) that there are propitiations for those who are not very bad, and that though for the very bad there are no means of aid, yet for the moderately bad (i.e. for the vast majority), though they be in hell, the sacrifices of the altar were advantageous to secure "either complete remission, or at least a more endurable damnation." The last words, as Petavius and Emery both argue, show that he is here speaking of "hell," and not of purgatory. Further on, commenting upon the text, "God will not forget to pity," he says, "Let them suppose, if it pleases them, that the pains of the lost are, at certain intervals, mitigated…so that in His anger He still does not withhold His compassions, not by ending, but by alleviating, or giving a rest amid their torments."(3) Albertus Magnus, followed by many schoolment, would again confine this remark to purgatory, but there can be no doubt that Sixtus of Siena *(4) is right in saying that Augustine ultimately leaned to the theory of "mitigation." For in his City of God (A.D. 426 or 427), in which we possess some of his latest thoughts, he says that if any wish to extend the expressions of the Psalms to "the torments of the impious," by holding that these pains become milder and lighter, he has, at any rate, nothing to say against it.*(5)
*(1) "Sed de hac re diligentius disserendum est." — In Ps. cv.
*(2) Enchir. 110, ? I. On his uncertainties, see infra, pp. 188-195, supra, p. 63.
*(3) "Poenas damnatorum certis temporum intervallis existment, si hoc eis placet, aliquatenus mitigari…ut in ira sua non tamen contineat miserationem suam non aeterno finem dando, sed levamen adhibendo, vel interponendo cruciatibus." — Enchir.
*(4) Sixt. Sen. Bibl. Sanct. V. 47. "Ab hac opinione Augustinus non omnino abhoruisse videtur."
*(5) De Civ. Dei, xxi. 24. "Quod quidem non ideo confirmo, quia non resisto" see p. 291.
ii. Again, often as St. Chrysostom speaks of "eternal woes," he uses expressions in his Third Homily on the Phillippians which make both Sixtus and Petavius, as well as Emery, think that he too held the theory of "mitigation." This conjecture will be greatly supported by what I shall have to say about the views of this great saint further on.*(1)
*(1) See infra, pp. 271-274, and the quotation on the title page.
iii. That Prudentius held the doctrine of mitigation is certain. He writes in a celebrated passage -
"Sunt et spiritibus saepe nocentibus
Poenarum celebres sub Styge Feriae."
iv. Bishop Lupus argued that just as the sun warms without enlightening the blind, so Christ, by the merit of so great a sacrifice, might lessen the pains of the self-blinded.*(1)
*(1) Bibl. Patr. xv. 51.
v. John of Damascus incontestably believed in the doctrine of Mitigation, and thought that sinners could even be delivered from "hell" by the prayers of saints. Thus he tells how St. Thekla delivered her mother Falconilla; and Pope Gregory I. Delivered the Emperor Trajan; and Macarius helped a certain Pagan priest. With these valueless legends we have, as I have said, no concern. What I am proving is that the opinion which the Church so fully permitted cannot be otherwise than consistent with the faith once delivered to the saints.
vi. And little as the fact is now known to those who ignorantly maintain that it is heresy to hold that the doom of "the lost" is not "necessarily" final to all who incur it, nearly every one of the great Roman Catholic theologians and the whole body of Eastern theologians — held this very view. They gave unanimous credence to the story of the deliverance of Trajan from "hell," and even invented theories to account for it. Thus Suarez says, "Whether any one may be delivered from Hell is a disputed point, and one which does not pertain to faith."*(1) Estius even says that many might be mentioned who had been so delivered.* ( 2) Even St. Thomas of Aquinum could not resist the cogency (to himself) of the legend about Trajan, and could only say that "Trajan had not been finally doomed to hell, but only provisionally, and that his deliverance was granted to him as an exceptional privilege."*(3)
*(1) "An vero aliquis excipiatur res controversiae est, et quae non pertinet ad fidem." — SUAREX, De Peccatis, Disp. vii. 3.
*(2) Est. in Sentent, iv.; Disp. xlvi. 241.
*(3) "Alia sunt quae lege communi accidunt, et alia quae singulariter ex privilegio aliquibus conceduntur." — ST. THOM. AQ.
vii. The eminent commentator Theophylact, who was so great an admirer of St. Chrysostom's works, says on Luke xii. 5, that "even when men have died in mortal sin God can remit something, and not use His full power of casting into Gehenna."*(1)
*(1) See supra, p. 23, infra, p. 92.
viii. Again, the author of the Quaestiones ad Antiochum, which is printed with the works of St. Athanasius, says that even the lost will benefit by our alms and prayers.
ix. It is a remarkable fact that the great Pope Innocent III., when consulted on this very point by the Archbishop of Lyons, left it an open question (tua discretio investiget) whether Masses might not benefit those of the lost who were only "moderately bad." The attempt to get over this opinion — which, as Bellarmine observes, "torments many" (multos torquere solet) — by saying that it only refers to Purgatory, is strangely futile; for that the souls in Purgatory were benefited by prayers and alms, was not regarded by any Roman Catholic as an open question at all, but one which was absolutely settled in the affirmative from very early days.*(1)
*(1) "Ce pape," says Emery, "supposait..qu'on pouvait, sans blesser la foi, croire ce qu'on voulait sur cette matiere." — ABBE CARLE, p. 406.
x. The Third Council of Florence (1438) expressly admitted that this doctrine of mitigation might be held without any blame.*(1)
*(1) Mansi, xxxi. 488.
xi. At this Council the Greek Bishop Mark, Metropolitan of Ephesus, made two speeches as to the views of the Greek Church on this subject, and quoted a passage of St. Basil to prove that he held it.*(1) Father Lequien in his edition of John of Damascus selects Bishop Mark as a representative theologian of the Greek Church, and Syropulus*(2) in his History of the Council of Florence says that Bishop Mark's speech was approved by the Emperor Palaeologus, and his learned theological assessors. Leo Allatius, in his account of the Greek ecclesiastical writers, says that they defend with tenacity (mordicus) the merciful opinion that the lost are refreshed by the prayers of saints, and sometimes even delivered by their aid.*(3) They maintain this opinion on three grounds — the pity of God; the opinions of the Fathers; and the legends about the Emperor Trajan and Theophilus.
*(1) The passage is in a homily attributed to Basil, which is used in the paschal office of the Greek Church, in which he prays to Christ that by His merits the pains of the lost may be alleviated. — CARLE, p. 409.
*(2) Syropulus, Hist. Conc. Florent. Sess. V. cap. 14.
*(3) "Quibus (precibus) et recreantur et aliquando etiam a poenis liberantur." — LEO ALLATIUS, De. Libr. Eccles. Graec. Ii. 117.
xii. To return to the Latin Church: the famous monk Gotteschalk wrote to the Bishops of France in the ninth century that they should urge the people to pray expressly, not only for those in purgatory, but for the lost, that God would even a little alleviate (mitiget et laeviget) their pains.*(1)
*(1) This appears from the answer of Amolon, Archbishop of Lyous, Bibl. Patr. Xiv. 335.
xiii. Hugo Etherianus, one of the most learned theologians of the twelfth century, wrote his treatise On the Return of Souls from Hell, at the request of the clergy.*(1) In the thirteenth and following chapters a Christian soul in hell begs the prayers of the living, and says that even those who die in mortal sin can be assisted and even delivered. The lost soul bids men pray for the lost, "that they may suffer a more endurable damnation, or gain a complete remission." Hugo, besides the usual legends, adduces that of Herman, Bishop of Capua, who delivered the soul of the Deacon Paschasius from a troop of devils.
*(1) Bibl. Patr. Xxii. It was not published till 1540.
xiv. This view of "mitigation" was held by Peter Lombard *(1), by Praepositivus *(2), by St. Thomas Aquinas *(3), by our great Bishop, Robert Grostete *(4), by Townely *(5), by Gilbert, Bishop of Poictiers, by the great Chancellor, Jean Gerson (probably in part author of the Imitatio Christi) *(6), by Pope Benedict XIV *(7), by St. Bonaventura , by the Scotists, and even by Bossuet *(8), and by Petau *(9).
*(1) Sent. iv. Disp. 45. "Mediocriter malis suffragantur ad poenae mitagationem."
*(2) Summa Theol. Xiv. (not published). "Fortasse queunt viventium merita in aliquo perditorum laxare supplicia."
*(3) He says on Ps. 1xxvi. "Hoc intelligitur de misericordia aliquid relaxante."
*(4) See Sixt. Sen. Bibl. Vi. 48.
*(5) De Eucharistia, ii. 8. He says that great theologians had though "reproborum tormenta in inferis leniri posse."
*(6) Gerson, in a sermon before the king, argued from the case of Dives that the damned could at least rejoice in the salvation of their living friends. — Opp. iv. 634.
*(7) He quotes with approval a prayer, "Fusis precibus imploremus ut Ejus indulgentia illuc defuncti liberentur a Tartaro."
*(8) See Emery, in Carle, p. 435.
*(9) De Angelis, iii. 8.
xv. Coming down to later time, St. Francis de Sales, writing on Psalm 1xxix. 10. quotes with approval the version of the old poet Desportes: -
"Vous n'avez oublie' la bonte' de votre ame,
Non pas meme en jetant les damnes dans les flames,
De l'eternel en enfer; emmi [parmi] votre fureur,
Vous n'avez su garder [empecher] votre sainte douceur,
De repandre les traits de sa compassion,
Emmi ses justes coups de la punition."
xvi. Leibnitz argued that the pains of the lost might be constantly diminished, yet never quite removed, just as the asymptote never quite touches the circle. In this he gave more accurate expression to a notion of Gilbert, Bishop of Poictiers, who argued from the infinite divisibility of lines.*(1)
*(1) Leibnitz, Theodicee, ? 92.
xvii. Lastly, Emery attaches great importance to a remarkable pastoral issued by a holy and learned Bishop of Boulogne, Mgr. De Pressy, in 1790, in which he devotes a long passage to the refutation of all objections to the doctrine of "mitigation," and concludes by saying that, since the opinion is not contrary either to Scripture or to reason, it may serve to remove in the minds of unbelievers "the scandal of the cruelty which they attribute to the dogma of eternal pains."
It is remarkable that throughout his treatise M. Emery does not so much as once allude to the word refrigeria, the "refreshments" of the lost, in which some of the Fathers believed. How universally it was supposed that such "times of refreshment" were granted to the damned may be seen in the famous mediaeval legend of St. Brendan, which Mr. Matthew Arnold has put into such exquisite verse. On an iceberg in the Northern Sea the saint catches sight of a miserable figure, in which he recognizes the "traitor" Judas out of hell." Judas cries out —
"One moment wait, thou holy man!
On earth my crime, my death, they knew;
My name is under all men's ban;
Be told them of my respite too."
Because of his one good deed — the giving of a cloak to a poor leper at Joppa —
"Once every year, when carols wake
On earth the Christian's night's repose,
Arising from the Sinner's lake,
I journey to these healing snows."
The notion that the lost not merely remained impenitent in a sinful state, but went on sinning in hell is a refinement of superfluous horror left for the pious tenderness of modern Calvinists, and absolutely alien from, nay, contradictory to, the teachings of Scripture. It is a mere figment of human inference, which makes more terrible, and not less terrible, the theory which it was invented to support.
I. It only remains to mention yet another of the views of the views wherewith the heart of the pitiful has striven to alleviate the frightfulness of erring fancies. It is the conception of what the late F. W. Faber, calls "the bright side of hell." Cardinal Newman, in his Dream of Gerontius, represents the pains of purgatory as almost a bliss: -
"In the willing agony He plunges and is blest."
The Bishop of Belley, a friend of St. Francis de Sales, applies the same conception even to hell. He imagines the damned, not as a modern Catechism describes them, "cursing, roaring, and blaspheming God," but joining in unanimous hymns in honour of that Mercy in consequence of which they are not consumed. The notion is probably founded on such texts as Philippians ii. 10. I do not know whether Mr. E. H. Bickersteth ever read the views of this Roman Catholic Bishop, but he, too, in his striking poem "Yesterday, To-day, and ForEver," represents "hell" as almost a holy, and therefore almost a happy place. Some passages in the De Bono Mortis of St. Ambrose might lead us to think that he also leaned to the same view. Throughout his cautious language we trace the opinion that even for sinners the world beyond the grave is less painful than the retribution which falls on them in their earthly life.
No one, I think, can read this chapter without arriving at the conclusion that views far more tolerable, infinitely less repulsive than those of current sermons-views analogous to or identical with my own — have in all ages been not only permissible, but common in the Church. In the doctrine of an Intermediate State with its possible purgational and probatory fire; in the permitted practice of prayer for the Dead; in the revealed fact of Christ's Descent into Hades; in the belief that Mitigations would be granted to the lost; finally, in a more spiritual and less abhorrent conception of the condition of the lost souls, the Catholic Church has granted comfort and hope to those who find a stumbling-block in remorseless of human fancies.
*** END OF CHAPTER III. ***