Mercy And Judgment by Canon F.W. Farrar
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MERCY AND JUDGMENT
THE SECOND ACCRETION TO CATHOLIC DOCTRINE — THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF MANKIND ARE DOOMED TO ENDLESS TORMENTS.
[ Hebrew text should be inserted here from original book ]. "The Lord of Pity inclines to Pity." - Proverb of the School of Hillel .
"How should Grace, one living gem disown,
One pearly mote, one diamond small, one sparkle of the unearthly light?
Go where the waters fall sheer from the mountain's height —
They rush and roar, they whirl and leap, not wilder drives the wintry storm,
Yet a strong law they keep, strange powers their course inform
Yet in dim caves they softly blend in dreams of mortals unespied:
On in their awful end, one their unfailing Guide." — Keble.
I pass to the second point.
I repudiated as an accretion to the faith of Christians, and as forming no true essential part of it, the belief "that the doom of everlasting damnation is incurred by the vast majority of mankind."
Those who assert this assert their own "opinion." They may suppose that they have the strongest grounds for that opinion, but they have no right to try and enforce it upon others as a matter of faith. Yet this has been done by theologians both dead and living, times without number.
I should have thought that the very first command to Adam and to Noah, and the similar command to Jacob, and the promise to Abraham that, as a special blessing, his seed should be as the sand of the sea for multitude, would alone be sufficient to show that it is utterly alien from God's purpose that Satan, and not the Heavenly Father, should win the vast mass of human souls. If the popular views be true, the multiplication of the human race is an unmitigated evil, for it serves mainly to people with agonizing myriads an endless hell. If the popular views be true — if most souls are lost — then to bring human beings into the world can be little short of a selfish crime *(1).
*(1) Adam to Eve —
"Childless thou art, childless remain; so Death shall be deceived his glut, and with us two be forced to satisfy his ravenous maw." Par. Lost, x 989
"Matters of faith" are those truths to which the Church demands assent from all who belong to her communion. Other doctrines are left open as matters of opinion, respecting which she requires no unanimity.
Now I was of course aware that the doom of the majority to endless torment was not a matter of faith. I knew that it could not be deduced from Scripture, and that it was no necessary part of the belief of Christians.
I am now told on all sides, even by evangelical newspapers, that in repudiating this popular accretion, - in declaring that it was a mere individual opinion, and that it ought not to be required of any man to be believed, - I was perfectly correct. Dr. Pusey says that this belief in the perdition of the mass of mankind "has no solid foundation whatever." *(1)
*(1) What is of Faith, p. 6
"You aim," says Cardinal Newman in a letter to Dr. Plumptre, "at withdrawing from so awful a doom vast multitudes who have popularly been considered to fall into it….There is nothing, I think, in the view incompatible with the faith of Catholics."
We are told that among Roman Catholics this was also the view of the late Dr. Faber, of Lacordair, of Pere Ravignan, of Pere Gratry, of many members of the religious orders. So learned a theologian as Mr. H. N. Oxenham avows it as his own belief, as also does such a Protestant writer as Dr. Angus. Nay more, I now find the clearest traces of a strong leaning to it in quarters so diverse as the newspapers which circulate widely among the English clergy — the Guardian, the Record, and the Church Times. Thus I read in the Record newspaper (October 20, 1880) this remarkable sentence. After saying that the complete remedy for my "agonized despair" lies in the distinction between "justification and sanctification," and "a clear mental grip of the completed atonement of Christ" — doctrines respecting which I may perhaps appeal to my Life of St. Paul, to prove that I have stated and defended my own absolute belief in them more fully than ever the Record has done — it adds, "What human being can tell whether, even in a dying moment, the sinner may not have grasped the Saviour? No doubt we are taught that in the present dispensation the saved are a small number compared with the lost; but Scripture affords ample grounds for believing that it will not be always thus, and that ultimately the saved number of Adam's race will outnumber the lost to a degree beyond all calculation. The tenderest heart that ever beat in human breast is cold and hard compared to the living heart of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of Him we are assured that 'He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.'" I read such words in such a quarter with deep thankfulness. The Guardian (August 11, 1880) writes: "We agree with Dr. Farrar that Dr. Pusey has in this volume given a very serious correction to much of what is popular theology and teaching." But, it truly adds, "the old warnings against trusting to a skin-deep or a deathbed repentance will not be less necessary when we are told, and told with truth, that we must not despair of souls even when we are ignorant of their hopes of grace, and that there is no ground for believing that the majority of mankind are lost."
Was I then fighting with shadows? I ask again, - for what I said had I no cause?
I had this cause, that damnation of the vast majority of mankind has been the normal teaching of theologians in every age since the earliest. But the consent of the many, if it be unreasonable and unscriptural, what is it but ancient error? *(1)
*(1) "Multorum consensus aut vetus consuetude si ratione aut sacrorum auctoritate librorum careat quid aliud quam vetus error est?" — CURIO, De Amplitud. Beati Regni, p. 25
It is true that in no Synod, in no Council, by no decree has the Church ever required this belief. It is also true, as Dr. Pusey says, that there are very few individual souls respecting whose salvation the Church of God has ventured openly to express a doubt. *(1) "The Church," says the learned and saintly Ozanam, "has inscribed thousands of names in the catalogue of saints, she has never pronounced the damnation of a single individual" — with the exception, as he adds in a note, of Judas Iscariot.
*(1) What is of Faith, p. II.
Yet I assert, and I shall prove, that the Christian writings of every age abound in assertions that the few only will be saved. Even in some of the so-called "answers" to my sermons, the difficulty was only met by the argument that "the majority of mankind die in infancy, and therefore that the majority of mankind would be saved"! It is not worth while to argue with writers who take refuge in quibbles.
By the "majority of mankind, I mean, as all serious writers have meant, the majority of those who have attained to years of discretion. But by using such an argument these writers imply their belief, and it is still the common opinion of those who claim to be "orthodox" — too often at the expense of "speaking deceitfully for God" *(1) — that most men "perish"; and by this they mean that most men pass after death into a life of endless torments. *(2)
*(1) Job xiii. 7. "Will ye speak wickedly for God? And talk deceitfully for Him?"
*(2) It is simply a modern reaction, caused by the growth of pity and humanity in the hearts of men, which, as M. Charles de Remusat said, "has so greatly widened the conditions of salvation, that the doctrine of the few that are saved is now replaced by that of the few that are lost." — C. DE REMUSAT, Rev. des Deux Mondes, June 15, 1865.
They have not only held this, but further, that the vast majority of Christians also pass after death into endless torments. *(1)
*(1) I say after death, because such writers either (with the Catechism of Westminster divines) deny the existence of an Intermediate State at all, or hold it in such a way as to render it meaningless.
I. Of the case of unbaptised Infants I will say very little. Their "damnation" is graciously asserted to be "of a very slight character." Still what has been the opinion of most Christian writers since the days of St. Augustine about them?
Their damnation was affirmed by the second canon of the Council of Carthage. *(1)
*(1) Ad. 412, Labbaeus Concil. ii. 1510.
At the Synod of Diospolis, A.D. 415, it was made one of the seven express charges against Pelagius that he had taught "that infants dying unbaptised enjoy eternal life though they do not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. " *(1)
*(1) "Quoniam infants etiam, si non baptizentur, non habeant vitam aeternam." — MARIUS MERCATOR, Commonit. i.; Gieseler. I. 374.
"It can be lightly said," says St. Augustine , "that infants, passing out of the body without baptism, will be in a damnation the mildest of all." *(1) He condemned the notion of a lumbus infantum, urging that there was no middle place. Any one who was not with Christ could not, he said, be anywhere except with the devil. *(2)
*(1) Aug. De Peccat. I. 16; Enchir. 93. "Mitissima sane poena eorum erit," &c. See Pet. Lombard, Sentent. II. Dist. xxxiii. E.
*(2) De Peccat. I. 28; Hagenback, Hist. Of Doctr. I. 390.
Dante sees the spirits of unbaptised infants in the first circle of the Inferno, where they live in desire of seeing God, but without hope. *(1)
*(1) Inferno, iv. 28-43 (quoted in Eternal Hope, p. 65).
The damnation of infants was acknowledge doctrine of Calvinism. When George Keith impugned the doctrine, Cotton Mather, and other Boston ministers wrote a treatise against him (A.D. 1690), and expressly maintained the reprobation of infants if unbaptised. *(1)
It was also the all but universal opinion among Roman Catholics. In 1696 Cardinal Sfondrati wrote a treatise to show that, though not admitted to heaven, unbaptised infants would hereafter be supremely happy. *(1) But no less a person than the great Bossuet made a complaint to Innocent XII. Requesting him to condemn the book *(2); a.d. numbers of writers rushed into the field to anathematize its doctrines. In 1770 a reply was written by Ignazio Bianchi with the express object of demonstrating that infants dying without baptism or martyrdom could not be saved.
*(1) The title of this book, which I have consulted, was Coelest. Sfondratus, Nodus praedestinationis ex S. Litteris, & c. dissolutus. Accredit Appendix siv Litterae Parvulorum sine Baptismo mortuorum, scriptae e limbis ad suae quietis perturbatores. The Cardinal was a man of saintly character and tender heart, and his book was posthumous. He dwelt in it throughout on the infinite love of God, His will to save man ("Deum serio, impensissime, et quantum in se efficaciter, omnium, hominum salutem velle"), His necessary love to His creatures, &c. A full account of his book will be found in Acta Eruditorum, 1697, pp. 281-293. It created an alarm in the religious world, as so many other of the best books have done, and was answered in a crowd of eager pamphlets, written by archbishops, bishops, monks, &c., all proving that he was "inconsistent" and heretical. In the Acta Eruditorum for 1701 (pp. 65-68), I read that one of these answers adduced one hundred and two erroneous propositions from this book, written to defend, from Scripture and the Fathers, the love of God! "Tot tamque pertinacibus adversaries impetitum est scriptum illud, concordiae causa editum, ut omnino adversis astris natum videatur." — Act. Erud. 1701, p. 65. The Pope however did not condemnt it. It was said of Pope Innocent XII. "Il pjapa non e teolog, e jurista," and happily the sense and manliness of Christian statesman has, not seldom, saved the Church from the pitiless aberrations of professed theologians.
*(2) The Abbe Le Dieu, in his Memoir of Bossuet, says that he occupied much time, during his last years, in answering Sfondrati's book.
Need we even go beyond the pale of our own Church to see what was the general opinion?
The Rubric at the end of our Baptismal Service says that "children which are baptized, dying before they commit actual sin, are undoubtedly saved"; but in the "Articles to establish Christian Quietness," in 1536, we find the words, "Infants, dying in their infancy, shall undoubtedly be saved thereby" [i.e. by baptism], "and else not." In his book on Regeneration in Baptism *(1), Bishop Bethell admits that it was the common opinion of the ancient Christians that unbaptized children were not saved.
*(1) P. xiv.
"It is only during the last forty years," says Mr. E. White, "as we learn from Mr. Logan's Words of Comfort for Bereaved Parents, that the Scottish Churches have ventured to repudiate the old blasphemy against God's justice and goodness involved in the doctrine of the everlasting woe of non-elect infants. Formerly Scottish parents seem to have believed that their dead babes had probably fallen into the burning hands of some invisible Moloch. A more fiendish dogma than this is inconceivable — the consummation of theological hardness of heart." *(1)
*(1) Life in Christ, p. 326.
2. But passing over this question, since most reasonable men excluded the notion of anguish from this damnation of infants, - except perhaps those Calvinists who spoke about "infants an ell long crawling on the floor of hell" — what have been the prevalent opinions  as to the salvation of the Heathen, who, even alone, form the vast majority of mankind?
St. Francis Xavier wrote, in 1552, "One of the things that most pains and torments these Japanese is that we teach them that the prison of hell is irrevocably shut. For they grieve over the fate of their departed children, of their parents and relatives; and they often show their grief by their tears. So they ask us if there is any hope….and I am obliged to answer that there is absolutely none. The grief at this affects and torments them wonderfully; they almost pine away with sorrow….I can hardly restrain my tears sometimes at seeing many so dear to my heart suffer such intense pain about a thing which is already done with and can never be undone."
Calvin writes, "Again I ask whence it happened that the fall of Adam involved, without remedy, in eternal death so many nations, together with their infant children, except because it so seemed good to God? A decree horrible, I confess, and yet true." *(1)
*(1) Insti utes, iii. 23, 7.
The opinion of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, as expressed in their Larger Catechism, is that "they who, having never heard the Gospel, know not Jesus Christ, and believe not in Him, cannot be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature or to the law of that religion which they profess." *(1)
*(1) Ans. To Qu. 90.
And in the Westminster Confession of Faith they add that to assert and maintain that the heathen may be so saved "is very pernicious, and to be detested." And of the non-elect they say that "God was pleased…to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice"!
This must be carefully distinguished from the dogmatic statement of our own Eighteenth Article, of which the meaning is very different, though some of the words are the same. It is needless to say that though its words, like those of the Reformatio Legum, *(1) look as if they imperatively exclude all hope for the heathen, no reasonable being now takes them in that sense. The man who says that Socrates and Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus are inevitably doomed to endless torments puts himself out of court as one who is beyond the reach of reason or of charity. They, no less than we, may be saved, not indeed by their profession or their morality, but by Him whom they knew not in His outward manifestation. "God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation He that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of Him."
*(1) "Horrible and vain is the audacity of those who contend that men may hope for salvation in every religion and sect which they may profess." — Reform. Legum.
But this opinion, that the heathen all perish, has continued to this day. The well-known Dr. Nathanael Emmons, writing on "the hopeless state of the heathen," maintains that "all the heathen will finally perish"; *(1) and a little farther on makes the awful assertion, - which assigns to everlasting perdition all Arminians, and all Roman Catholics, and the vast majority of Churchmen and divines in all Churches, - that "it is absolutely necessary to approve of the doctrine of reprobation in order to be saved." And even in 1857 Enoch Pond, alluding to the future state of the heathen, writes that "the great body of the adult heathen…will lose their souls for ever." *(2)
*(1) Emmons, Works, vi. 284-297. Foggini begins his book De Paucitate Salvandorum, with the remark that no one can possibly be saved out of the bosom of the Catholic Church.
*(2) See Alger, p. 959.
Indeed it seems superfluous to pause over the proof that the everlasting damnation of the heathen has been the common opinion in the Church *(1), when we find that whole treatises have been written to overthrow the common opinion as to the damnation of even the purest and the most illustrious of them. Thus there are two dissertations by Engelcken (d. 1742) to show that Pythagoras was not a proselyte, and therefore was not saved; in 1666 a book was written to show that Plato was saved; in 1487 a pamphlet by Lambertin de Moule to show the probability that Aristotle was saved, and another on the same subject by Liceiti in 1645, and by Meier in 1698 *(2). The salvation of Seneca found a champion in Schoeps (1765), and it was a common belief in the middle ages that the Emperor Trajan had been rescued, not from purgatory; but even from hell, by the prayers of St. Gregory the Great *(3). Luther was thought to have shown an exceptional boldness when he expressed the merciful hope that "our dear God would be merciful to Cicero , and to others like him." But if it was only a dangerous liberalism to suppose that two or three such heathen saints were saved, what must have been the current opinion of the fate of the majority?
*(1) Clem. Alex. Strom. Vi. 6 takes (as might have been expected) the milder view.
*(2) See Bayle, Dict. s. v. "Aristotle."
*(3) See Bayle, s. v. "Trajan"; Mrs. Jameson, Sacr. And Legendary Arts, i. 321; supra, pp. 84-86
Nor was it only the heathen who were thus doomed. In the seventeenth century it was a common theme of some Roman Catholic writers that "Protestancy unrepented destroys salvation." It was a book with this theme by Matthias Wilson which called forth the famous answer of Chillingworth on the Religion of Protestants. On the other hand the Protestant Du Moulin was taxed with culpable laxity for admitting that some Roman Catholics might be saved.
But to return to the heathen: the notion that they perish has been till very recent times the avowed argument of many who, - most justly and righteously, but with a rash statement of the ground of their appeals — have urged on the Christian Church the sacred duty of missions. Mr. Alger has quoted such statements as these.*(1) An American missionary to China said, in a public address on his return, "Fifty thousand a day go down to the fire that is not quenched…should you not think at least once a day of the fifty thousand who on that day sink to the doom of the lost?" Again, the American Board of Missions say in their appeal, "Within the last thirty years a whole generation of five hundred millions have gone down to eternal death"; and again in their tract on "The Great Motive to Missionary Effort," "the heathen…are expressly doomed to perdition. Six hundred millions of deathless souls on the brink of hell! What a spectacle!" Again, "The most popular preacher in England has recently asked his fellow-believers, 'Can we go to our beds and sleep while China , India , Japan , and other nations are being damned?'"*(2)
*(1) Doctrine of a Future State , p. 544.
*(2) Id. pref. p. iv.
If I said that the awful fiery doom of the vast mass of mankind was an accretion to what the Church requires us to believe, - was there not a cause?
3. But now, without specially considering the case of Infants, or of the Heathen, let us see what has been the ordinary view of the Church on the general question whether many or few are saved.
It may be objected, we have no right even to ask such a question. It may be so. Nevertheless it has been put in all ages. When the disciples asked an analogous question to our Lord, He declined to give any answer, and only bade them each to "strive to enter in at the strait gate, which many shall seek to enter in and shall not be able."*(1) And on another occasion He said, "Enter ye in at the strait gate," since the majority were passing through the wide gate, and walking in the broad way.*(2) But that He was speaking of this life, and this one primarily if not exclusively, appears from this, that the question of the disciples was not, "Are there few that be saved?" but "Are there few who are in the way of salvation?" And the fact that "few" are now walking in that road must be compatible with His own words that "many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Issac, and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven," even though "the children of the kingdom" shall be cast out. The "salvation" to which the disciples referred in their question, and our Lord in His answer, was not that of the future eternity, but that of participation in the blessings of the Messianic kingdom.
*(1) Luke xiii. 24.
*(2) Matt. vii. 13.
If it had been necessary to interpret our Lord's words in the sense that the majority of mankind would perish, the Church would have drawn that conclusion from them. But she has not done so; she has not required of any of her children any such belief; and in all the Burial Services of all her communions has been led by a holy instinct or a divine inspiration to utter over the bodies of those whom she commits to the dust the language of an inextinguishable hope.
Yet it was necessary for me to repudiate as not being of faith a conclusion which so many of all schools are now as anxious as myself to repudiate, because the opinion has not only been again and again asserted, but is even now forced upon Christian people as though it were an article of the Christian creed.
A few passages, chosen from the writings of great teachers in different ages, will suffice to show that the doom of the majority to endless torment has been a common theme for Christian teaching.
As to the opinion of the Fathers, it may be gathered from the collection of their testimonies by Foggini in 1759, the very title of whose book was "the wonderful agreement (mira consensio) of the Fathers as to the fewness of the adult faithful who could be saved."*(1) Estius, a very high authority, said that "there was not one Father that had held a different opinion."*(2)
*(1) Foggini, who died in 1783, was Librarian of the Vatican . His book, of which with difficulty I procured a copy after these pages were written, is very disappointing. The title is Patrum ecclesiae de paucitate adultorum fidelium Salvandorum si cum reprobandis fidelibus conferantur, mira consensio asserta et demonstrata. He quotes none of the authorities here adduced, except the one from St. Chrysostom. He quotes many passages and among them some from Origen and Gregory of Nazianzus (who both leaned to Universalism!). But in almost every passage the argument consists merely of an appeal to Matt. xx. 16, xxii. 14. "Many are called, but few chosen," or the "broad and narrow way," Matt. vii. 13, Luke xiii. 23, 24. But obviously these texts are misinterpreted. They apply to present facts ( oi swdomenoi ), and neither exclude the possibility of repentance, nor decide the ultimate issues of the future. By declining to answer the question of the disciples, the Lord rebuked all self-righteous eschatologies, and furnished the strongest contrast to the language of 2 Esdras ix. 15-16. "There are many more of those that perish than of those which shall be saved; like as a wave is greater than a drop." Though but few of the "called" be in the highest sense "chosen," they may yet enjoy the blessing and peace of God in a lower degree, and may even become themselves "the chosen" in due time.
*(2) Est. M. Sent., Lib. I, Dist. 40. The remark is not true
St. Chrysostom in his Twenty-fourth Homily on the Acts, preaching at Antioch , said, "How many, think you, are there in our city who will be saved? It is a terrible truth which I am about to utter, but yet I will utter it. Among so many thousands a hundred cannot be found who will be saved, and even about them I doubt." Now Antioch was the third city of the Empire, the city in which disciples were first called Christians, and it must have contained some five hundred thousand inhabitants. What then in St. Chrysostom's opinion was the proportion between the saved and the lost? It was (if we press his words) that perhaps one in each five thousand might be saved!
Writing on the "great multitude which no man could number" (Rev. vii. 9), Cornelius a Lapide, the eminent commentator, says, "From what has been said we may estimate that in the end of the world the total number of all the saints and elect who have ever lived anywhere in any age will make up some hundred millions: the number of the reprobate will however be far greater, which will come to not only hundreds, but even thousands of millions. For often out of a thousand men, nay even out of ten thousand, scarcely one is saved."*(1)
*(1) "Reproborum vero longe major erit turba, quae plures non tantum centenos, sed et millenos milliones efficient, saepe enim ex mille hominibus, immo ex decem millibus, vix una salvatur." — CORN. LAPIDE, in Apoc. vii. 9.
Cornelius says elsewhere that "a crowd of men sink daily to Tartarus as dense as the falling snows."*(1)
*(1) "Quam densi hieme flocci nivis cadunt ex aere, tam densa hominum turba quotidie descendit ad Tartara." — Id. On Num. xiv. 36. Foggini quotes the defence of a similar opinion by St. Nilus Calaber, p. 88.
In the Elucidarium, often printed with St. Anselm's works, the Diciple asks: "Quid sentis de militibus?" and the answer is, "Pauci Boni…Quam spem habent mercatores? M. Parvam…Quid sentis de variis artificibus? M. Paene omnes pereunt…Habent spem joculatores? M. Nullam," and so on. The only persons to whom wider hope is allowed, are husbandmen, infants, and idiots! De variis laicorum statibus. — Elucid. Ii. 17.
In 1554 Curio published a once famous book, De Amplitudine Beati Regni, in which he maintained the salvability of the heathen, and that the saved would in number exceed the lost. But "the doctrine was deemed so dangers that the Senate of Basle refused to allow him to publish the work, and the first edition was printed surreptiously."*(1) The book caused him much trouble and persecution; and all his hopeful estimates were indignantly rejected by Recupito in his Sacrarium (1620), and by Vicars in his Pusillus Grex (1627).
*(1) Schelhorn, Amoen. Lit. xii. 592-627. See references to sermons in Darwin 's Cyclop. On Matt. xx. 16, xxii. 14.
Du Moulin, a History Professor at Oxford, published a book in 1680 on the Number of the Elect, of which part of the title was "proving plainly from Scripture" — and let us observe in passing what a most astonishing variety of doctrines, utterly irreconcilable with each other, are, in the opinions of their propounders, "proved plainly from Scripture" — "that not one in a hundred thousand (nay, probably not one in a million), from Adam down to our time, shall be saved." Yet not even Du Moulin went sufficiently far for some of his readers. They taxed him with the crime of not having excluded all Papists from salvation, and he apologized for his laxity by the magnanimous remark that "he would not condemn St. Bernard to hell for having believed Purgatory."*(1)
*(1) See Professor Abbot, Appendix to Alger, p. 956.
I have before me the curious book of Recupito, De Numero Praedestinatorum et Reproborum ( Paris , 1664), of which I found a copy in the Archbishop's library at Lambeth. In the first chapter he argues that the number of the elect is fixed definite. In the second he quotes the view of those who held that the number of the lost did not exceed that of the saved. He does not stop to argue the question generally. He at once assumes as an axiom that for 6,000 years none but Jews could have been saved, and that now none could be possibly saved outside the pale of the Church; so that countless millions of Mohammedans, Gentiles, and heretics are calmly disposed of with the oracular remark that "their damnation is certain." The question thus reduces itself to "the faithful.". Counting baptized infants, he admits that, of Christians, perhaps the majority may be saved, and so confines the question to the adult faithful. In favour of the salvation of the greater number of the adult faithful, he refers to the Rosa Aurea of Sylvester; to Lorinus on Ps. 1xxxviii. 14, and to Fr. Luarius, De Praedestinatione, lib. V., and to the strange texts which they seem to have applied to this conclusion. He then quotes John Damascene, and alludes to the notions that redeemed men would take the place of the "third part of the angels" who had fallen; that most women are saved; that many who have sinned repent, and that God is full of compassion. He adduces the sentence of Tertullian, "If the majority perish, how is the perfect goodness defended which, in that case, for the most part, is inefficient, yielding to perdition, sharing with destruction?" Then he speaks of the physical size of the place of torment, being apparently as much puzzled as William of Auvergne *(1) was to know "how hell could hold all the damned, since the number of the lost is to be so excessive." Recupito, however, at once gives his opinion that these arguments as well as that from the efficacy of the blood of Christ, and from the innumerable number of the martyrs, do not lend any probability to the opinion, which, he says, is "better suited to our desires than to the truth."*(2)
*(1) "Qualiter infernos capiet omnes damnatos." — GUL. ALVERN. De Retrib. Sanctorum, i. (See Hist. Lit. de la France, xviii. 370.)
*(2) "Accomodata cupiditati magis quam veritati, optando potius exitu quam sperando." — RECUPITO, De Num. Praed. p. 8.
Accordingly he proceeds to quote a host of theologians in favour of the opinion that most men are doomed to perdition: namely Lyranus, Maldonatus, Cajetan, Bellarmine, Fasolus, Aluarez, Ruiz, Smising, Drexel, Lorinus, Molina, Thomas Aquinas, and Abulensis, - setting aside the remark of Vasquez, that it is a point on which we cannot be certain, because "to God alone is known the number of His elect."
He proceeds to prove this thesis to his own satisfaction. I. From Scripture — quoting Is. ii. 4, xxii., xxv., I Cor. ix., x., and some twelve other passages, of which the great majority are as irrelevant as they could possibly be. He also argues, if argument it may be called, from the fact that only two of the first generation of Israelites entered Canaan ; from the 144,000 only of Rev. vii. 4;*(1) from the eight souls only saved from the Deluge; from the shape of the ark; from the burning of Sodom; from the salvation of Rahab alone in Jericho; from the 300 of Gideon; from the fact that only one was healed at the Pool of Bethesda; from the fact that out of sixty wives eighty concubines, and numberless others, Solomon only loved one — and so forth. The bare enumeration of these, and the argument derived from them, will at least serve to show how hollow and how fantastic — not to say preposterous — were most of the bases on which this awful superstructure of ignorant and perverted inference was supposed to rest.
*(1) It is needless to point out the futility of this argument. It tells the other way. Being a thousand multiplied by the square of twelve, it is simply meant as a symbol of an absolutely consummate number, not to speak of the "innumerable multitude" in verse 9.
He next adduces the opinion of the Fathers, and quotes in his favour St. Chrysotom, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine , and St. Gregory. Then he tells us, from the Abbot Nilus, a revelation to St. Simeon Stylites that scarcely one soul was saved out of 10,000, and the vision of a bishop, referred to by Trithemius in his Chronicon, about A.D. 1160, in which a hermit appeared to him, and said that at the hour of his death 3,000 others had died, and the only one saved among them was St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and three who went to purgatory. He further adduces another vision of a preacher who says that 60,000 stood with him before God's bar, and all except three were condemned to hell; and yet another of a Parisian master, who appeared to his bishop, announcing that he had been damned, and added that "so many souls were daily thrust down to hell that he could scarcely believe there were so many men in the world." Indeed he asked if the world still existed? For he had seen so many tumbling into the abyss that he thought that none could remain alive.
He proceeds, in the fifth chapter, to show the reasonableness (!) of his view from the difficulty of the means of salvation in consequence of vicious habits; of the hatred and fraud of demons; from the vast multitude of demons, each human being having one set apart for himself; from their persecutions; from the strictness of the final judgment; from death-bed scenes; from the Archangel's balance of sins and virtues; from the prevalence of self-love; from the frequency of backsliding; and (among yet other reasons) because good priests are so few, and therefore that, a fortiori, most ordinary men will perish.*(1)
*(1) Jer. Ep. Ad Damasum. "Ecce mundus undique fervet sacerdotibus; et tamen tam sunt rarissimi sacerdotes ut vix e centum bonus reperiatur unus." St. Chrysostom says that "he thought that not many priests would be saved" (Hom. iii. in Act. Ap.). St. Pachomius said the same monks (Vit. S. Pachom. By Dionysius Exig. C. 45). Comp. Bellarmine, De Gemitu Columbae, ii. 6.
And so the book proceeds, and the author grinds out his hard theological dogma — questioning the validity of any deathbed repentance, minimizing any grain of comfort from the case of the penitent thief, and cheapening away all counter arguments: and, as is so common a phenomenon with all books of this kind, doing all this without a sigh, without one expression of pity for the lost; without seeming to realize the hideous fate to which he is dooming his brethren for whom Christ died; calmly and cheerfully hugging his own plank of fancied security amid the flaming deluge, and not thinking it worth while to waste one word of regret that the whole object of the Atonement should thus be frustrated, and that God should thus glean but a few ears out of the beaten, blightened, mildewed harvest of the world!
It is needless to prove that this has continued to be the popular opinion. It is very rarely that in common religious literature I have found even a trace of any other. Dr. Pusey and Mr. Oxenham seem to fancy that the opinion is in some way connected with Calvinism. Alas! It is centuries older than Calvinism; it is immensely wider than the limits of Calvinistic Churches. Massillon , who wrote the terrible sermon Sur le petit Nombre des Elus, was no Calvinist, nor were multitudes of those divines whose sermons on the "little flock" may be found enumerated in Darling's Cyclpaedia. Nay, there is a terrible sermon of Dr. Pusey's own, "On the Fewness of the Saved," in the first volume of his Parochial Sermons,*(1) and it will, I think, be difficult for any one who reads it to arrive at any other conclusion than this — that the saved are — in the opinion of the writer — only a minority of a minority out of a minority.
*(1) Pusey, Paroch. Sermons, i. 123.
How is it that Dr. Pusey can still hold out a possible hope for suffering humanity we shall see in the next chapter; only let me say now that if all the terrible conjectures here recorded were indeed matters of faith, how could any one think of the race of man without either hard defiance, or agonies of despair? How could he brazen his heart to think with calm indifference, with revolting self-congratulation, of this awful mass of life doomed to welter hereafter in the hopeless and unendurable abyss?
Even a heathen could exclaim —
"Sunt lacrimae rerum, et mentem mortalia tangunt."
*** END OF CHAPTER V ***