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to do so. They may affect to do so on our behalf, happy if by an innocent stratagem they are able to convert us; but all the while in their own feelings, they are taking a far higher position. They are teaching, not disputing or proving. They are interpreting what is obscure in antiquity, purifying what is alloyed, correcting what is amiss, perfecting what is incomplete, harmonizing what is various. They claim and use all its documents as ministers and organs of that one infallible Church, which once forsooth kept silence, but since has spoken, which by a divine gift must ever be consistent with itself, and which bears with her her own evidence of divinity."

Leaving Bellarmine then, let us proceed to inquire what the opinion of the Fathers in the foregoing passages really is.



The argumentative ground of the doctrine of Purgatory as far as the Infallibility of the Church has not superseded any, has ever been, I conceive, the report of miracles and visions attesting it; but the historical origin is to be sought elsewhere, viz. in the anxious conjectures of the human mind about its future destinies,. and the apparent coincidences of these with certain obscure texts of Scripture.

These may be suppposed to have operated as follows; as described in the work already cited. "How ALMIGHTY GOD will deal with the mass of Christians, who are neither very good nor very bad, is a problem with which we are not concerned, and which it is our wisdom, and may be our duty, to put from our thoughts. But, when it has once forced itself upon the mind, we are led in self-defence, with a view of keeping ourselves from dwelling unhealthily on particular cases, which come under our experience and perplex us, to imagine modes, not by which GOD does, (for that would be presumptuous to conjecture,) but by which He may solve the difficulty. Most men, to our apprehensions, are too unformed in religious habits either for heaven or for hell, yet there is no middle state when CHRIST comes in judgment. In consequence it is obvious to have recourse to the interval before His coming, as a time during which this incompleteness might be remedied; a season, not of changing the spiritual bent and character of the soul departed, whatever that be, for probation ends with mortal life, but of developing it into a more determinate form, whether of good or of evil. Again, when the mind once allows itself to speculate, it will discern in such a provision a means, whereby those, who not without true

faith at the bottom yet have committed great crimes, or those who have been carried off in youth while still undecided, or who die after a barren, though not an immoral or scandalous life, may receive such chastisement as may prepare them for heaven, and render it consistent with GoD's justice to admit them thither. Again, the inequality of the sufferings of Christians in this life, compared one with another, would lead the unguarded mind to the same speculations, the intense suffering, e. g. which some men undergo on their death-bed, seeming as if but an anticipation in their case of what comes after death upon others, who without greater claims on God's forbearance, have lived without chastisement and die easily. I say, the mind will inevitably dwell upon such thoughts, unless it has been taught to subdue them by education or by the experience of their dangerousness.

"Various suppositions have, accordingly, been made, as pure suppositions, as mere specimens of the capabilities, (if one may so speak,) of the Divine Dispensation, as efforts of the mind reaching forward and venturing beyond its depth into the abyss of the divine counsels. If one supposition could be produced to solve the problem, ten thousand others were conceivable, unless indeed the resources of God's Providence are exactly commensurate with man's discernment of them. Religious men, amid these searchings of heart, have naturally gone to Scripture for relief, to see if the inspired word anywhere gave them any clue for their inquiries. And from what was there found, and from the speculations of reason upon it, various notions have been hazarded at different times; for instance, that there is a certain momentary ordeal to be undergone by all men after this life, more or less severe according to their spiritual state; or that certain gross sins in good men will be thus visited, or their lighter failings and habitual imperfections; or that the very sight of divine perfection in the invisible world will be in itself a pain, while it constitutes the purification of the imperfect but believing soul; or that, happiness admitting of various degrees of intensity, penitents late in life may sink for ever into a state, blissful as far as it goes, but more or less approaching to unconsciousness; infants dying after baptism may be as gems paving the courts of heaven, or as the living wheels in the Prophet's vision; while matured Saints may excel in capacity of bliss, as well as in dignity, the highest Archangels. Such speculations are dangerous when indulged; the event proves it; from some of these in fact seems to have resulted the doctrine of Purgatory.

"Now, the texts to which the minds of the early Christians seem to have been principally drawn, and from which they ventured to argue in behalf of these vague notions, were these two: 'The fire shall try every man's work,' &c.; and 'He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.' These texts, with

which many more were found to accord, directed their thoughts one way, as making mention of 'fire,' whatever was meant by the word, as the instrument of trial and purification; and that, at some time between the present time and the judgment, or at the judgment. And accordingly without perhaps having any definite or consistent meaning in what they said, or being able to say whether they spoke literally or figuratively, and with an indefinite reference to this life, as well as to the intermediate state, they sometimes named fire as the instrument of recovering those who had sinned after their baptism. That this is the origin of the notion of a Purgatorial fire, I gather from these circumstances, first, that they do frequently insist on the texts in question; next, that they do not agree in the particular sense they put upon them. That they quote them, shows they rest upon them; that they vary in explaining them, that they had no Catholic sense to guide them. Nothing can be clearer, if these facts be so, than that the doctrine of the Purgatorial fire in all its senses, as far as it was more than a surmise, and was rested on argument, was the result of private judgment exerted in defect of Tradition, upon the text of Scripture..

"As this doctrine, thus suggested by certain striking texts, grew in popularity and definiteness, and verged towards its present Roman form, it seemed a key to many others. Great portions of the books of Psalms, Job, and the Lamentations, which express the feelings of religious men under suffering, would powerfully recommend it by the forcible and most affecting and awful meaning which they received from it. When this was once suggested, all other meanings would seem tame and inadequate.

"To these must be added various passages from the Prophets, as that in the beginning of the 3d chapter of Malachi, which speaks of fire as the instrument of judgment and purification when CHRIST comes to visit His Church.

"Moreover there were other texts of obscure and indeterminate bearing, which seemed on this hypothesis to receive a profitable meaning; such as our LORD's words in the Sermon on the Mount, Verily, I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing;' and St. John's expression in the Apocalypse, that no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book.'

"Further, the very circumstance that no second instrument of a plenary and entire cleansing from sin was given after Baptism, such as Baptism, led Christians to expect that that unknown means, when accorded, would be of a more painful nature than that which they had received so freely and instantaneously in infancy, and confirmed, not only the text already cited, 'He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire,' but also St. Paul's announcement of the 'judgment and fiery indignation'

which awaits those who sin after having been once 'enlightened,' and by CHRIST's warning to the impotent man to sin no more lest a worse thing come unto him.

"Lastly, the universal and apparently apostolical custom of praying for the dead in CHRIST, called for some explanation, the reason for it not having come down to posterity with it. Various reasons may be supposed quite clear of this distressing doctrine, but it supplied an adequate and a most constraining motive for its observance to those who were not content to practise it in ignorance."

Should any one for a moment be startled by any thing that is here said, as if investing the doctrine with some approach to plausibility, I would have him give God thanks for the safeguard of Catholic Tradition, which keeps us from immoderate speculation upon Scripture or a vain indulgence of the imagination, by authoritatively declaring the contents and the limits of the Creed necessary to salvation and profitable to ourselves.

There seem, on the whole, to be two chief opinions on the subject embraced in the early Church. One of these is Origen's, which I shall first exhibit in the language of St. Ambrose, being the very passage referred to by Bellarmine. The notion is this, that the fire at the day of judgment will burn or scorch every one in proportion to his remaining imperfections. St. Ambrose then thus comments on Psalm xxxvii. (38) 14.

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"Thou hast proved us by fire,' says David; therefore we shall all be proved by fire, and Ezekiel (Malachi) says, Behold the LORD ALMIGHTY cometh, and who may abide the day of his coming? &c. for He is like a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap; and He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and He shall purify the Sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, &c.' Therefore the Sons of Levi will be purged by fire; by fire Ezekiel, by fire Daniel. But these, though proved by fire, yet shall say, 'We passed through fire and water,' (Ps. Ixvi. 12.) Others shall remain in the fire and the fire shall be as dew to them, (Song of Three Children, 27,) as to the Hebrew Children who were exposed to the fire of the burning furnace. But the Ministers of impiety shall be consumed in the aveng ing flame. Woe is me should my work be burned, and I suffer this worsting of my labour! Although the Lord will save His servants, we shall be saved by faith, but so saved as by fire. Although we shall not be consumed, yet we shall be burned. But how some remain in the fire, others escape through it, learn from another Scripture. The Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea, the Israelites passed over: Moses escaped to land, Pharaoh sank, for his heavy sins drowned him. In like manner the irreligious will sink in the lake of burning fire."

It is plain that St. Ambrose, so far from imagining a Roman Purgatory, definite in period, place, and subjects, speaks of an ordeal by fire which all Christians must undergo at the last day,

and grounds it on the solemn text already referred to,1 Cor. iii. 12-15. which whether rightly so interpreted or not, a point we cannot determine, since it is an árağ Aydevov in Scripture, yet at least may be so understood without violence to the wording. "If any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble, every man's work shall be made manifest; for the Day shall declare it, because it (the Day) shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." Now it would seem plain that in this passage the searching process of final Judgment, essaying our works of righteousness, is described by the word fire. Not that we may presume to limit the word fire to that meaning, or on the other hand to say it is a merely figurative expression denoting judg ment; which seems a stretching somewhat beyond our measure. Doubtless there is a mystery in the word fire, as there is a mystery in the words day of judgment. Yet it any how has reference to the instrument or process of judgment. And in this way the Fathers seem to have understood the passage; referring it to the last Judgment, as Scripture does, but at the same time religiously retaining the use of the word fire, as not affecting to interpret and dispense with what seems some mysterious economy, lest they should be wiser than what is written.

Next let us turn to the same Father's 20th Sermon on Ps. cxix. which is also referred to by Bellarmine.

"As long as the Israelites were in Egypt, they were in the iron furnace, that is, in the furnace of temptation, in the furnace of afflic. tion, when they were afflicted by cruel tyranny. Whence also it is written, I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace.' The furnace was iron, because, while the people was yet in Egypt, no one's works were illuminated by holiness, no one's gold had been there assayed, no one's lead of iniquity burned away. It was a cruel furnace, a furnace of perpetual death, which none could escape, which consumed every one, in which pain and sorrow dwell only. But the furnace, in which Ananias, Azarias, and Misael sang their hymn to the Lord was a golden furnace, not an iron; by means of which wisdom hath shown forth in the faith of true obedience all over the world. It was indeed in Babylon, where spiritual gold was not, unless perchance in captivity, for the Lord led captivity captive.' This is the gold in God's saints who were captives among the Babylonians in body, but in spirit were freemen with God, delivered from the chains of human captivity, and bearing the yoke of spiritual grace. And perchance the same furnace would be iron to the unstable, and gold to those who persevere.

"All must be proved through fire, as many as desire to return to Paradise; for it is not said for nothing, that, when Adam and Eve

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