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prayers, almsdeeds, and other works of piety, which are accustomed to be performed by the faithful, on the behalf of the faithful dead.” (Decret. Con. Tr. Sess. XXV.) And it is stated, as one of the great benefits of good actions, that they not only “merit the rewards of eternal glory” for the doer, but enable him also “ to satisfy for another ;” (Cat. Par. II. p. 244.) a faculty or power which God, “in his most exalted goodness and clemency, worthy of all praise and thanksgiving, has mercifully granted to the infirmity of the human race;" (Id.) “so that, though no one can be contrite for another, or confess for another, yet those who are endowed with divine grace are able, in the name of another, to discharge fully what is due to God; thus it happens, as by a certain agreement, that men bear one another's burdens.” (Id.) In the Council Trid. Sess. XXV. p. 216, it is expressly asserted that these suffrages, “according to the foundations of testators, are to be performed by the Priests and Ministers of the Church, with diligence and accuracy.” (3.)
(1.) The Protestant Churches unanimously reject Purgatory. Ist. Because it is a new doctrine, established by Pope Eugenius IV., in the Council of Florence, about the year 1430: it was rejected at all times by the Greek Church; and, according to the confession of some Roman Catholic writers, it was not unanimously received in the Church of Rome. 2nd. Because it is a doctrine evidently intended to bring money to Priests, as may be seen from the establishment of various Purgatorian Societies. But lastly, and chiefly, they reject it, because it opposes the Scriptures ; by making light of sin, calling some transgressions of God's law venial; by taking away from the infinite merit of the Saviour's atonement, in saying, that he only made satisfaction for mortal sins, and left the sinner to suffer for his venial ones; and by contradicting the great truths of the New Testament, that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin," and, that “there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” It is not, therefore, to a future purifying from sin in the fire of Purgatory, that the Protestants are directed to look; but they are taught out of the canonical Scriptures, the true inspired word of God, that this present life is the time allotted for men to be“ turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may obtain forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them that are sanctified, through faith that is in Jesus Christ ;” (Acts xxvi. 18;) that “after death comes judgment;” (Heb. ix. 27 ;) and that “ there is no device, nor knowledge in the grave, whither we are going.” (Eccles. ix. 19.) While, therefore, the Church of Rome supports this doctrine, which is evidently borrowed from the heathen nations, by perverting the word of God; by bringing passages from books never generally received as canonical ; and, by making an unscriptural distinction between mortal and venial sin; the Protestants, who take their religion from the canonical Scriptures alone, believe and teach, “ that the Romish doctrine of Purgatory is a foolish thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the word of God.”
(2.) The Bible teaches us, that “without shedding of blood there no remission of sin;" (Heb. ix. 22 ;) and that our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, by the perfect sacrifice of himself, once offered upon the cross, has obtained eternal redemption for the penitent believer; so that there remaineth now no more sacrifice for sin. “By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Heb. x. 14.)
The Roman Catholic Church dwells much on the authority of the Fathers; but the present Bishop of Strasburgh admits, that Jesus Christ has communicated to us no revelation concerning Purgatory, and observes, “ Had it been necessary for us to be instructed in such questions, Jesus would, doubtless reveal, the knowledge of them. He has not done so; we can, therefore, only form conjectures on the subject, more or less probable." (Discuss. Amic. Vol. II. p. 242.) The celebrated Roman Catholic Bishop Fisher informs us,
66 In the ancient Fathers, there is either none at all, or very rare mention of Pure gatory; that by the Grecians it is not believed to this day; that the Latins, not all at once, but by little and little, received it, pedetentim, step by step ; and that Purgatory being so lately known, it is not to be marvelled, that, in the first times of the Church, there was no use of Indulgences, seeing these had their beginning, after that men for a while had been affrighted with the torments of Purgatory."
Cardinal Caietan observes, “If we could have any certainty concerning the origin of Indulgences, it would help us much in the disquisition of the truth of Purgatory; but we have not, by writing, any authority, either of the Holy Scriptures, or ancient Doctors, Greek or Latin, which affords us any knowledge thereof." (De Indulg. cap. 2.)
The doctrine of Purgatory is confessedly of heathen origin, intended to cheat the simple out of their money, by giving them bills of exchange upon another world for cash paid in this, without any danger of the bills returning protested.
If there be a Purgatory, what is the condition of those who die in the Lord? Can they be called blessed who are enduring the intensity of purgatorial fire ? Surely the Christian, instead of looking forward, in any degree, to the period of his death as the commencement of eternal blessedness, if he must first pass through the lake of purgatorial fire, would, doubtless, stand shivering on the brink. But the people of the Lord, whether they live or die, are the Lord's. Would the Apostle assert that the Lord's people are blessed after death, if they had to suffer in Purgatory, on their way to glory? It is our belief, in which we glory, founded
upon the testimony of Holy Writ, that the blood of Jesus Christ is perfectly competent for the salvation of sinners; and that same Word assures us that the soul of the real Christian, having been emancipated from the body, passes immediately to a state of felicity. Besides, the doctrine of Purgatory carries, on the very face of it, a contradiction to the sacred Scriptures, in the distinction which it establishes between the rich and the poor : but the Gospel is emphatically and principally preached to the poor. It appeals to their condition, their feelings, their necessities, and offers to them that consolation and that supply which must wipe away all tears from all faces, and lead their redeemed souls to the presence of him, who, though he were in himself rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we, through his poverty, might be rich.
(3.) Dr. Moore, in his Travels in Italy, mentions a Society of persons who attend upon criminals when under sentence of death, and collect
money for masses to be said, for the purpose of praying them out of Purgatory. He witnessed the execution of a criminal who was hung for the fifth murder he was known to have committed ; and during the time the body was suspended from the gallows, the members of this society went to a neighbouring church, and remained there while a Mass was said for the repose of his soul. To induce persons to subscribe to the boxes fixed in the churches, he says, “ that over the boxes into which you are directed to put your money, views of Purgatory are painted in the most flaming colours, where people are seen in all the agonies of burning, raising their eyes to those unmindful relations and acquaintances, who, rather than part with a little money, allow them to remain in those abodes of torments.” Surely this is making merchandize of the souls of men.
If the prayers of the Priests, and the celebration of Mass, will deliver souls from a state of torment, and introduce them to heaven, what must be thought of the practice of the Church of Rome, which refuses this boon, unless paid for ?
OF THE MERIT OF GOOD WORKS.
“Good Works do truly deserve eternal life; and whoever holds the contrary, is accursed :” (Trid. Conc. Sess. VI.
. Can. 26.) “ If any one shall assert that justifying faith is nothing else than a trust in the divine mercy, remitting sin for Christ's sake; or that it is faith alone by which we are justified, let him be accursed.” (Sess. VI. c. 12.) And“ if any one say that the righteousness received is not preserved and even increased before God by Good Works; and that these Works are only fruits and signs of justification, not the cause of its being increased, let him be accursed.” (Ib. c. 24.) (1.) For “ the Good Works of a justified person are not so the gifts of God, that they are not also the merits of the justified person; and he, being justified by the Good Works performed by him, through the grace of God and merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does truly merit increase of grace and eternal life." (Conc. Trid. Sess. VI. Can. 32.)
Connected with this Doctrine is that of Works of Supererogation ; of which this is the notion : Many of the Saints, it seems, having not only done enough to merit immediate entrance into heaven, but more than was necessary for that purpose ; this overplus of their goodness, usually called Works of Supererogation, joined with the infinite merits of Christ, makes a treasure of inestimable value, which the Pope, as Head of the Church, applies towards the remission of the