Romanism: an Answer to the Pamphlet of a Romish Priest, Entitled "The the Testimony": Part 7

 •  38 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Purgatory remains besides. On this Rome is very weak. She has recourse to it, because full redemption by the work of Jesus, and the reality of a new nature, is not believed. It is not believed that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin,” as scripture says it does; it is not believed that “he that is dead is freed from sin,” and has left it all behind if he be a Christian, “absent from the body, and present with the Lord,” Christ being his life, and he a member of His-body. None of this is believed, hence they must have a purifying fire after death for the Christian, for such only go there (and not those who die, as they say, in mortal sin). Nor do they really believe even in the efficacy of their own rites, as we have seen. If they send men to purgatory, they do not believe that extreme unction, abstergit religuias peccati, wipes off the remains of sin; nor in the other means used for a dying man. They can give no certainty, with all their boasting of being the true church: a man may be of it and lost after all. Nay, they cannot keep him out of purgatory, with all their rites, even if he be finally saved. They know no other God than one who will exact the last farthing; a God of love, who is a Savior, they know not.
But let us see their proofs. The Council of Trent was uneasy about it; it is anxious that curious questions about it should be avoided. And the author takes care here to tell us, that Romanists receive many doctrines on the authority of the Catholic church, which are not contained in the written word. To be sure they do: I suppose, by such an introduction, that purgatory is one of them. It is a candid avowal: they have no warrant from scripture for many things they teach. Now, I repeat, the church has to receive and keep the truth, but cannot reveal it; God may use a man—a Paul or a Peter—but the church, as such, receives and keeps it. The church's teaching is all very well as a conventional expression; but the church cannot reveal anything, and that is the whole point here. As a body, it is impossible. Its members may teach it, or they may be the instruments by which God reveals it; but the body, as such, cannot reveal it: God uses individuals' minds or mouths for that. The church is not, by its very nature, as a body composed of many individuals, capable of it. It may, and ought, in its common faith to maintain the truth. We are told that they have been revealed by Christ, and always taught by the church. Revealed to whom? to the whole church as a body, or to an individual? If to the latter, then it is not to the church it is revealed, nor who teaches it. The church receives the revelation made to the individual. If the revelation has been to the whole body, let the author say, where and when it was made as to a single truth. This is an important point. I deny any truth was ever revealed to the church as a body—i.e., that God so revealed it to the body, that it becomes to others a revelation by the church. It cannot be. Where has it been? I admit her duty to guard it when revealed, and hold it up before men.
But I turn to particulars. Moses does not teach the creation of angels, but he teaches the creation of all things—the heavens and the earth, and all the hosts of them. All the creation is spoken of as referred to man; other scriptures state it clearly. “He maketh his angels spirits.” I have already spoken of the sabbath and the Lord's day. Moses does not speak of rewards and punishments of a future life; because he was showing the ways of God with Israel in and on the earth by favors and judgment here, God being present with them and dwelling among them on the earth. Other scriptures of the Old Testament are clear enough. If the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son rests on the church's authority, it is not worth much. The Greek church does not hold it. The early teachers extant are very loose indeed as to the doctrine of the Spirit, though not denying it; and, as we have seen, on the whole doctrine of the Trinity in general. But in John it is said, the Father sends, and the Son sends from the Father. As to the discussion between Greeks and Romanists, it is endless metaphysics. That the Holy Ghost is a divine person, one with the Father and the Son, scripture is clear. He wills, distributes, comes, is sent, is grieved, leads, intercedes: in a word, He does every kind of personal act; yet what is spoken of as done by Him, it is expressly said, God does, in the same chapter (1 Cor. 12). Further, the Spirit is called not only the Spirit of God, but the Spirit of the Father, and the Spirit of the Son, in Gal. 4; the Spirit of Christ, even when speaking in the prophets, 1 Peter 1:1111Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. (1 Peter 1:11), and Rom. 8:99But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9): and of Jesus Christ, Phil. 1:1919For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, (Philippians 1:19). He is, indeed, oftener called the Spirit of the Son than the Spirit of the (your) Father. The word procession is never applied to the Son. The Greek Fathers, before the separation from Rome, never use it but in connection with the Father, as it appears; the Latin from after the Arian controversy, do. Charlemagne raised the question, and Pope Leo said it ought not to be put in the creed. It rather appears, that the dogmatical assertion of it (the Council of Nice had only, “I believe in the Holy Ghost;” the second, that of Constantinople, added, “proceeding from the Father,” without adding “and the Son”) first took place in Spain, where Arianism prevailed; but from the fifth century, the Latin Fathers speak of both Father and Son. The Greek held to the terms of scripture. The Council of Ephesus commanded nothing to be added to the creed. Pope Leo not only said to his legates at the French Council, it ought not to be inserted, but to hinder it, had the creed fixed on at Constantinople, engraved in Greek and Latin on silver plates, and fixed up, without the addition of “and the Son.” It was only in the papacy of Nicholas I., in the latter end of the ninth century, that it was regularly inserted. The Greeks objected, and, in what they call the eighth General Council, ordered it be removed.
So much for the church's teaching, and Vincentius's “what always, what everywhere, what by all,” as the sure rule of faith. The Latins did not quote church authority for it, for they had none to quote. All the world knew (for heathens Lucian's Philopatris gives the substance of the creed very exactly, though in scorn) that church authority had never sanctioned it, and a General Council forbidden all addition, and Pope Leo this particular one. They appealed to deductions from scripture, such as, “He shall take of mine, and show it unto you;” “All things that the Father hath are mine;” and they said He was received from the Son, and hence proceeded from Him. I do not decide anything about the time; but, as to the Catholic church having always taught it, there cannot be a greater mistake or more unfounded assertion. And see what a proof the author gives us—she teaches it: therefore it must be right. That is a convenient argument in a book which is to prove she is right. The quotation of Mr. Whiston is unhappy. He wanted to have acknowledged as scripture acknowledged impostures of an Alexandrian, Arian seemingly in his views (as it appears Mr. W. was too), of the fifth century, and which our priest himself quotes in ignorance as of the first, but not as scripture.
The first authority adduced for purgatory is the Jewish church; the quotation to prove it is mistaken. The Lord kills and makes alive; He bringeth down to hell, and bringeth up. But what has this to do with purgatory? Hell was School, the invisible place of death, or even the grave. It is a simple statement of the power of God to do what He pleases, to bring down and lift up. Ecclesiasticus, we have seen, is not scripture. The author speaks of the Jewish church believing it, as many portions of the Bible record; but the Jews did not receive this as the Bible at all. That the unbelieving Christ-rejecting Jews believe in a purgatory, is, I believe, quite true; but that is a strange authority for a Christian. They do not know redemption, but boast of being God's people in a fleshly way, but have no real resting-place for their souls. They want a purgatory. The Romanist has the same boast, and does not know redemption for his own soul, and he wants a purgatory too. I would not have put their faith on the same ground; the author has thought good to do it. He must know the Lord's judgment of that ground— “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
As to funeral feasts amongst the Jews, it is very likely: they are not the only ones who have them. When people are hard pinched, they will quote anything. The author quotes Zech. 9:1111As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. (Zechariah 9:11): “By the blood of thy covenant thou hast sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.” What sending people out of a pit where there was no water by the blood of the covenant has to do with purgatory, it would be hard to tell. The prophet is speaking of Ephraim, and God's dealings with the Jews, and nothing else; and declares that, in virtue of the blood of the covenant, He will deliver them from a pit where there was no resource to refresh them. The whole chapter refers to God's dealings with Ephraim and Judah.
Next comes the well-known passage of Christ's going to preach to the spirits in prison. I have no doubt that it was the Spirit of Christ in Noah; as in the same epistle Peter says, the Spirit of Christ which was in the prophets; and that it is not said He preached in prison at all, but to those who are spirits in prison now, because they did not listen when He preached in Noah; and the force is then obvious. The Jews would not listen to the Spirit of Christ speaking by the apostles, and the few who did were despised and persecuted. There was no living Christ to help them on earth. Well, says Peter, it was only by His Spirit He went and preached in Noe, and there were only eight souls saved then, fewer than you; yet the others are in prison, for not having listened. Let it be remembered, that the passage speaks only of the disobedient in the time of Noe. Now God had said then, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.” Yet these are chosen, as the only ones with whom His Spirit should strive afterward; and mark, it was the Spirit which then strove, Christ's Spirit, which went and preached. Moreover, Peter, in another passage, says, that the sparing Noe, and bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly, was a proof that God knew how to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished. How so, if they were preached to afterward to be delivered? The sense then to me is evident, and the whole Roman Catholic application of the passage fails. But at any rate, who ever heard of preaching in purgatory? That is not Romish doctrine. People go there to finish penance, and be purged, not to hear sermons.
Christ says to the thief that he should be in paradise. It is monstrous, well-nigh blasphemy, to quote this. Do they mean that the blessed Lord went to purgatory? When Paul was caught up to paradise, and heard unutterable words, he did not go to purgatory, I suppose. Departed souls are in an intermediate state, no doubt, because they have not their bodies: but they are “present with the Lord” (2 Cor. v.); “They depart and are with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1); they are the same day in paradise with Him (Luke 23); the Lord Jesus receives their spirit (Acts 7) Paul did not descend into paradise; he was caught up there. But it is monstrous and horrible to make purgatory out of the paradise the soul of Christ went to at His death.
His work was so blessed, that the poor thief, justly hung for his crimes, could go straight to paradise with Christ Himself, and not go near any purgatory, because he was purged by the death of Christ. This was what the Lord told him, and teaches us—that the Lord's work was so perfect, that it takes a thief into paradise, as sure as Christ is there, for Christ had borne his sins, and His blood cleansed him from them. The thief thought he would have to wait till Christ came in the glory of His kingdom. No, says the Lord, you shall not wait till then; you shall go straight to paradise with Me to-day. His work was perfect for him—cleansed him; and those wretched teachers would make purgatory of it, and send the Lord there! The Lord forgive them.
As to agreeing with thine adversary, &c., Matt. 5 is meant. There is the general idea of reconciliation in grace, or judgment if not; but the specific application is to the Jew, with whom Christ was on the way. They would not be reconciled, they are under judgment, and as in prison, and there they will stay till they have as a nation received full chastisement. Then they will come out. So in Luke 12. It is definitely connected with an appeal to the Jews, why they did not discern that time (i.e., when the Lord was in the way with them). As regards forgiveness in the world to come, purgatory is not forgiveness, but purging when a man is forgiven; and no forgiveness in the world to come means never forgiven at all; as Mark expresses it— “hath never forgiveness.” It is the same thing; the Jews had three periods, or ages, here translated worlds. But it has nothing whatever to do with another place, but with another time. The first was before the law; the second, under the law, in which they were; the third, the age (world) to come, or that under Messiah. In this they knew there would be more abundant grace and forgiveness than under the law. If their sins were as scarlet, they would be as white as snow; but here was a sin that would not be forgiven even then. Till the kingdom was set up (it was at hand then), the world to come was not arrived.
As to baptism for the dead, baptism has nothing to do with penitential acts and prayer. Paul is speaking of those fallen asleep in Christ, and suffering himself every hour; and after expatiating on what the resurrection is, from 1 Cor. 15:1818Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. (1 Corinthians 15:18) to 28, he resumes. What would they do who enter into the ranks in the very place of those fallen asleep (the dead), if the dead do not rise—who would take place along with them, if they are to remain dead, and get only that for their faith? To join such ranks, and replace them in them, would be madness; and if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men, he declares, most miserable. The passage speaks of baptism, and not of things done for departed souls. If purgatorial fire can be called, by a figure, the last baptism, what has that to say to baptism for the dead?
It is not sins he is speaking of, when speaking of wood, hay, stubble, in 1 Cor. 3, but preaching and teaching; and if, though a real Christian on the foundation, all his labor is bad, as labor, from teaching nonsense and futility, even if not heresy, when put to the test by trial, it all goes. He is not lost, but his work is; and he sorely shaken and disturbed. Paul is speaking of his own, Apollos', or others' work, not of their sins. Origen believed nobody would be lost, not even the devil, and that hell served for purgatory, and men came back and might fail over again. He is a pretty authority to quote for purgatory.
What Christ's walking in Solomon's porch on the feast of the dedication has to do with admitting the authority of the book of Maccabees, no human wit can tell. The feast after the dedication was there, and be met the people on it. The Maccabees tell us how it came to be celebrated, as Josephus does many other things which the Savior joined in as a Jew. But He could do that without sanctioning the book of Maccabees. As to these books, the first is a fair useful history of the times, never admitted by the Jews into the canon, nor owned as scripture till the Council of Trent. The second; the one quoted, is a very worthless, bad, self-contradicting book, giving three contradictory accounts of Antiochus's death. I have not the decrees of the Council of Florence; it is possible it may have been admitted there near 1500 years after Christ. The second of Maccabees ends— “I will make an end of my discourse also with these things, and if, indeed, well, and as suits the history, it is as I should wish; but if less worthily, it is to be pardoned me. For as always drinking wine, or always drinking water, is bad for us (contrariton,), but to use them alternately is delectable, so for readers, if the discourse is always exact, it will not be pleasant. Here, therefore, it shall be completed.” Think of the audacity, be it Florence or Trent, of saying that a book which gives this description of itself, is inspired.
But let us take the case alleged; it is quoted for this passage: “It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins.” Now, that this was a Jewish superstition, like many others, this may lead us to believe; just as they thought the stars were living beings, and many other things, as previous existence of souls. But here the case does not answer at all for the point it is quoted for. Idols were found on the persons who were slain, and the cause of their death manifest. They had died in mortal sin; but that does not send a man to purgatory in the Romish system but to hell. But I must go a little farther here, and charge the Vulgate, or at any rate the present reading of it, with being an entirely corrupt translation, or rather version. The Maccabees are in Greek, and the passage in Greek runs thus: “He made a collection of two thousand drachms and sent it to Jerusalem, to present a sacrifice for sin,” that is all; and then speaks of it as done well and comelily, thinking of the resurrection. And after saying it was a good thought, referring to what went before, he says, “Wherefore he made a propitiation about the dead, to do away the sin.” The shape in which it is therefore in Latin is only a clothing put upon it, by I know not whom; it is not much matter. The author also highly commends Razis for killing himself—xiv. 42. I do not know whether that is canonical; and gives such a history of his deeds as I must leave to the reader to believe, if he can, and admire if he will. He ends, after running himself through with a sword, and doing all manner of feats afterward, by plucking out his own bowels, I do not know how, and throwing them at the people. I do not know whether this is a part that, as the author says, is not very exact to make it pleasant; Rome says it is inspired.
We are told next, that the Apostolic Constitutions were written by Clement, the companion of Paul. Why there is not a writer, ancient or modern, Roman or Protestant, unless his friend, the Revelation Mr. Whiston, that believes it. They are universally recognized as an imposture, written four hundred years after Clement. As to Constantine, it was poor work to cry so for him, for he would not be baptized till he was on his death-bed (though he had managed the church for years, and called a General Council and managed it), in order that he might be sure to be washed quite clean. They might as well indeed believe in purgatory, as seek to secure themselves by such shifts as that. But prayers for the dead did not form purgatory at all; they were used long before purgatory was believed in. The real history of this matter was this. The full acknowledgment of grace is the hardest thing for the proud heart of man to submit to. Its tendency is always to look at God, as Rome does, as an austere man, who will exact the last farthing; and to maintain his good opinion of himself in pretending to satisfy God, while after all, as works cannot quiet the conscience, he has recourse to ordinances to pacify, if they cannot purify, it. Hence, even while Paul lived, he had to struggle incessantly against this tendency. Peter slipped into it at Antioch, and most of Paul's Epistles were written against it—that is, against Romanism, or what is now called Puseyism, showing it as the mystery of iniquity which was corrupting the church—a form of piety denying the power, and which would go on, till it broke out into open apostasy. It is characterized expressly in his epistles by works, ordinances, voluntary humility, worshipping of angels—the very things Rome now boasts of, and by not holding the Head, i.e., that real union of the church with Christ, which, while it puts her before God in the same place as Christ as to acceptance, is the power of a new life, in which saints live to God as dead to sin with Christ, and alive to God through Him—perfect acceptance, perfect peace with God, and a really new spiritual life manifested in all a man's ways. The devil and man's heart do not like this; he will have pleasure and ordinances, build tombs of the prophets, have memories of martyrs, celebrate ordinances over their tombs, and get drunk at the celebration.
Man is naturally idolatrous; and a corrupt church will, as we have seen, furnish him with martyrs, if he cannot have demigods. Still the poor “Catholic church” did not get its present stature all at once. There was what in these times is called “development.” The blessed energy of the apostle hardly held the saints, of whose conversion he had been the instrument, even during his own lifetime, in the power of the truth. They were already then returning to the beggarly elements of heathenism under a Jewish form. “After his decease,” as he warned it would, that “mystery of iniquity,” which worked as leaven while he was there, spread freely, and the full knowledge of redemption, as he had taught it, was gone, Heresies sprang up like weeds, the general remedy used against it was not truth and grace but external unity, no matter how much evil; and with the influx of numbers corruption came in. Jude warns us of what was going on; and John, that there were already so many antichrists that the last time was apparent.
In the third century superstition had made ample progress, and we find, not indeed prayers to saints, nor purgatory, but prayers for them. If the knowledge of redemption was practically lost, if works and ordinances had taken their place, if the corrupt morals and proud asceticism of Clement, of Alexandria, and Tertullian had taken the place of the gospel, men's minds wanted something to mend them when dead, who knew neither redemption nor holiness when living. At first, as given by Origen, it was calling them to mind, with thanksgiving for them, and prayer for resemblance to them. The first person who speaks of these prayers for the dead pretty definitely, is the upright but ardent Tertullian, who left the “Catholic church” as no longer bearing its looseness; and, with an African imagination, though a Father, fell into the wild pretensions of Montanus. His disciple the martyr Cyprian also speaks of them; he who tells us that all morality was gone, men given up to shameful vanity, women painting their faces, bishops running about all the provinces to make gain by fraud.
But then, at this time, they prayed for martyrs, apostles, prophets, patriarchs, saints, and all the departed together, that they might have part in the first resurrection; and the virgin Mary, among the rest, was prayed for in the same way, and not only among the rest, but especially for her. Cyril of Jerusalem says the same in connection with the Eucharist, saying, We believe it to be a considerable advantage to their souls! So Austin says, as to the drunken bouts, the people believed it to be a solace to the martyrs; and he says, since it was to be believed, it was something (aliquid). But then here a difficulty arose; a step was made in the superstition, and the saints and martyrs being greatly exalted, they were considered as enjoying the beatific vision; full heathenism was flowing in, and they were to help the living, not the living to help them. This was an immense change indeed in the “Catholic” view of things. Epiphanius justifies prayers for saints, because it put a difference between Christ perfect and other men's imperfection, showing be had wholly lost the notion of Christ Himself being our righteousness, and that, when we depart, we are with Him; but showing too, that all other men were held to be prayed for (not a word, remark, about purgatory all this time). So Hinemar, in the ninth century, tells us, “Grant to us, O Lord, that this oblation may be of advantage to the soul of thy servant Leo (a St. Leo) by which, in its immolation, thou hast granted that the sins of the whole world should be loosened.” In the thirteenth century, as given by Pope Innocent, it was become, “Grant to us, we beseech thee, O Lord, that, by the intercession of the blessed Leo, this offering may profit us.”
Such was the progress in this superstition. How different from the peace of “to depart and be with Christ is far better!” From this scripture truth they went back to Judaism, and believed they were in hades waiting. Now, we know that till the resurrection we are not in our perfect state of glory; we do not wait in a separated state in that sense; but scripture is very clear as to it— “To-day,” says Christ, “thou shalt be with me in paradise,” for redemption was accomplished. “Lord Jesus” says Stephen, addressing Christ in heaven, “receive my spirit,” and so fell asleep praying for his murderers. “We are always confident,” says Paul, “knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord, and desiring rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5) And again, “Desiring rather to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” Nothing can be plainer; but the power of it was lost. That Christ had by one offering perfected forever them that were sanctified was forgotten; that God would remember their sins and iniquities no more was lost for their consciences; and hence the intermediate state became a kind of prison for the departed, where prayers, they knew scarce how, would do them good; yet, at first, they were joined with thanksgiving, but there was no thought of their living in purgatory—it is never supposed a moment in their prayers. They also looked to their having part in the first resurrection, which all, they supposed, had not. But then “Fathers” had other notions as regards purgatory, to say nothing of Origen who was out of the way wild and heterodox. They held that, at the last day, men would be purged with fire; to this they apply “baptized with fire.” It was not now, but in the day of judgment; he owned that was the fire of the day of judgment. Thus Ambrose (I take this quotation from another)— “All must pass through the flames, though it be John the Evangelist, though it be Peter, the sons of Levi shall be purged with fire, Ezekiel, Daniel,” &c. So, Hilary, “Because to the baptizing in the Holy Ghost it still remains to be consummated by the fire of judgment.” “As we are to render account of every idle word, can we desire the day of judgment, in which we are to undergo the unwearied fire in which the grave punishments of a soul to be expiated (purified) from sin are to be undergone?” “If,” he adds, “the Virgin herself, who conceived God in her womb, must undergo the severity of judgment, who is so bold as to desire to be judged by God?” And Jerome speaks a similar language in the closing sentence of his Commentary on Isaiah, “And as we believe the eternal torments of the devil, and all deniers and impious men who have said in their heart there is no God, so of sinners, and impious men, yet Christians, whose works are to be tried by fire and purged, we think there will be a moderate sentence of the Judge, and mixed with clemency.” He is speaking of the final judgment depicted in Isa. 66. I quote it to show what the fire of purgatory then thought of was; but I cannot let it pass without remarking how entirely the truth of God was lost and abused. Redemption cleansing from sin—God's not imputing it—never enters into their mind. They know nothing of the blood of Christ cleansing from sin. Secondly, they have no thought that all are utterly condemned if they come into judgment— “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” Thirdly, impious Christians they make better off than other impious people: the Lord says they are worse off, “He that knew his Lord's will, and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.” The light that was in them was darkness, and how great was that darkness! Austin says, Enchir. 78, ad Laurentium cx. (29) (another witness of the thick darkness the best were fallen into, and which shows the idea of intermediate punishment, not purgatory, but rest or misery, according to deserts)— “With the sacrifice for the very good, it was thanksgiving; for the not very bad, propitiations; for the very bad, though they are no help for the dead, they are a certain consolation for the living” (that is, a lie was, for the dead were not helped). “But those whom they profit, they profit for this, that there should be full remission, or that damnation itself, at any rate, should be more tolerable!” The Benedictine editors cite masses said to mitigate hell; and Augustine goes on to show they will not get out, that God may remember mercy in (not after wrath, he says) wrath, and alleviate them from time to time.
Is it not deplorable I might cite more passages, but these may suffice. Prayers for the dead there were in the third century; in the next, at any rate. Purgatory was decidedly unknown for six centuries. The Greek church has never received it; the Fathers are all confusion about it. It was a Platonic and Jewish idea. The purgatory generally spoken of in the fourth and fifth was the final judgment which would be in measure to Christians—which, mark, denies the other. Augustine, after saying that an unmarried man built gold, &c., a married one, wood, hay, and stubble, and reasoning much on the subject says—Some were willing to prove an intermediate fire by the fire trying every man's work; and thought they who had lived without indulging their affections wrongly would not go there, and the others would, adds— “I do not oppose, because perhaps it is the truth” —non redarguo quia forsitan verism est. That is it began in the fourth or fifth century to be hinted at as possible—Augus. de Civ. Dei, lib. xx. 26. Prayers for the dead, disproving purgatory, are found there from the third, showing the knowledge of redemption to be lost; and purgatory began to be hinted at merely in the fourth or fifth, the purgatory of a final judgment proportioned to sin being then taught (redemption being wholly lost as a doctrine giving peace to the soul), and in the sixth and seventh it began to be established as a doctrine. That is the true history of it.
Here our author closes his subject. Why have we nothing of indulgence?
I had reserved the point of holiness as a proof of the true church. I have no longer need to say much. It is a painful point to touch on, because it seems like attack. But when holiness is advanced as a proof—and in its place it is a very real one—what can one do (since it is a proof, though not taken alone) but show that holiness did not characterize what is called the Catholic church? I say not alone, for scripture always gives counter-checks. A man comes to me with the truth in form, but unholy—that is not the Spirit of God. The Spirit of truth is the Holy Spirit. Another comes to me with a great appearance of holiness, but he has not the truth. It is not the Spirit of God, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. God guards His children thus on every side. But holiness is a proof in its place; I must therefore touch on it.
We have seen in the third century Cyprian declaring, that corruption was universal, and that the bishops were running about everywhere for money, and making gain by fraud. We have seen that the martyrs' memories were, in the fourth and fifth, celebrated with drunken feasts, and Augustine fearing a sedition, if an attempt was made to stop it. We have learned from him that this was deliberately allowed, to please heathens coming in, and let them go on in their own ways unchanged, only substituting martyrs for idols. This is holiness neither in practice, purpose, nor doctrine. Augustine—De Opera Manichmorum—complains of their running about to sell relics, to make money; and so great was the superstition, that the fifth Council of Carthage orders the innumerable altars to martyrs to be overturned, unless it made a tumult; and, if it could not be done, warn the people not to go.
Hear Jerome now as to priests (so-called). A law was made by Valentinian against priests and monks getting inheritances. Jerome says he does not complain of the law, but of its being necessary. The caution of the law is provident and severe; yet even so avarice is not restrained. We mock at laws by means of trusts; and, as if emperors' decrees were greater than Christ's, we fear the laws and despise the gospels. And then, “It is the ignominy of all priests to study their own wealth. Born in a poor house, and in a rustic cottage, I, who could scarce content the loud cry of my belly with millet and coarse bread, now am nice about fine flour and honey.
I know the kinds and names of fishes; I am knowing on what shore a shell-fish is gathered; I discern provinces by the savor of birds, &c. I hear, moreover, of the base service of some to old men and old women without children—themselves put the chamber pot, besiege the bed, receive with their own hands the purulence of the stomach and the expectoration of the lungs. They tremble at the entrance of the physician, and with faltering lips inquire, whether they are better; and if the old person is somewhat more vigorous, they are in danger, and with feigned joy their avaricious mind is tortured within; for they fear lest they should lose their pains, and compare the vigorous old person to the years of Methuselah.” Epist. lii. 34.
What do you think of such a state of the clergy, and general enough at least to require a law, not from heathen, as Jerome remarks, but from Christian emperors? Is that holiness? Was bloodshed and tumults, through ambition in the election of bishops, whether from individual ambition, as at Rome, or disputes between the clergy and people who should elect, as happened in France, a holy state of things? Hear Sulpitius Severus in Gaul de Vita B. Martini xxiii. “But that I may insert less things than these (although, as is the course of our times, in which all things are depraved and corrupted, it is almost the chief thing, he did not yield priestly firmness to royal adulation); when many bishops from divers parts had come together to the Emperor Maximus, a man of a ferocious spirit, and elated with victory in the civil wars, and a base adulation of all around the prince was to be remarked, and the priestly dignity, by a degenerate inconstancy, had bowed before the royal attendant, in Martin alone apostolic authority remained.” He relates he gave the cup of honor to a presbyter to drink before the Emperor, “And it was celebrated in all the palace that Martin had done at the king's dinner, what no one of the bishops would have done in the festivals of the lowest judges.” It was a mixture of the lowest servility and the haughtiest pride: so it ever is in such case. Pride at last got the upper hand.
But your doctrine, you say, is holy. Is it holy to have an absolution to facilitate men getting ease to their consciences, when they have not thoroughly repented? That is the express doctrine of your sacrament of penance, and the daily snare of millions in practice. The doctrine of attrition and a sacrament, or contrition without it, is the most iniquitous principle ever invented to content men with sin; and so it works. Can you show me a more dreadful set of persons than a multitude of the popes, though with honorable exceptions in early days yet never without excessive ambition? What do you say to indulgences? As a doctrine compounding for penances, as a practice compounding for sins, and paying for my faults with another's dreamed-of superfluous merits, and all disposed of for money? Is that holy doctrine? Are the taxes for sin in the Romish chancellery—i.e., how much is to be paid for each—holy in doctrine or in practice'? Good books forbidden at any price; all sins set off at some price. Is it a holy thing to teach, as to corruption produced by celibacy, si non casti cauti? Let me ask, what was a great part of the bishops' revenues, at the time of the Reformation, derived from? Do you know that in Rome, at this day, according to statistical accounts, of over three thousand children born, considerably more than two thousand are given up to be brought up by avellin institutions, illegitimate or abandoned by their parents? Are not Romish countries known to be walking in corruption and evil, even more than Protestant ones? Do you think a person traveling through Spain, or Italy, or France, would find holiness characterize the country? Their state is awful. Do I say, then, that Protestant countries are holy? far from it. No one is, but he that is born of God, and who is led by the Spirit of God. But I say that the professing church, and, above all, the Romish body is not; not a person who goes to the East but would sooner trust a Turk than those called Christians; but this is of long date.
I will close this by a passage from Eusebius: “Wickedness of unutterable hypocrisy and dissimulation was risen to the highest pitch; the pastors of note among them, despising all bond of piety, turn in contention one against another, only increasing in strife, threats, envy, hostility, and hatred one against another.” Lib. viii. 1. Austin declares, that in his day if any one would live godly he was mocked, not, by heathens simply, but by the professing Christians.
But to close. The truth is, all this has been predicted. Even in the apostles' days Paul declares, with a sorrowing heart, “All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.” He declares that the mystery of iniquity did already work, and would issue in apostasy, in God's own time; that evil men and seducers would wax worse and worse; that in the last days perilous times should come; that there would be a form of piety without the power. We have seen this fulfilled. It fills the heart with sorrow, but not surprise; it tests, but it confirms faith; it shows the pretension to universality and external perpetuity, as a visible body, to be the sign of a false church, not of a true one; for the scriptures speak of apostasy, perilous times, and judgment, cutting off, if professing Gentiles do not continue in His goodness, while it is prophetically declared they will not. God will surely keep them that are His, and His own true church will be preserved and maintained, till the time for the Lord to come and take it into glory with Himself. As to the outward professing body, the Lord has declared that the mystery of iniquity, which existed in the apostles' days, would go on till the full apostasy which would bring the judgment. The tares were sown by Satan in the field; the Lord will reap it in judgment. It is a solemn subject, as solemn for Protestants as for Romanists, for God will judge righteous judgment as to all, and there is grace in Christ for the one as for the other. Yes, holiness is a mark; but it is not forms of piety. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord;” but God will have reality; it is the real putting on of the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. It is being renewed in the spirit of our minds—this is the holiness which God will have. It is wanting alas! in many Protestants; but it is that which every man, who knows the actual state of Ireland, mid still more perhaps other countries professing Romanism, knows does not characterize the vast bulk; he knows that corruption and evil are (with the exception perhaps of Belgium) in the proportion of its influence; France bad, Italy and Spain morally insupportable.
Yet holiness is a mark of the true church; but my reader, Protestant or Roman Catholic, note it well, truth, the truth of God's holy word, is another. Not the uncertain vacillations of Fathers with the growing superstitions of the mystery of iniquity, but God's own pure, certain, blessed word, written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, by apostles and evangelists, and addressed to Christians and whoever has ears to hear. Lastly, grace is a mark of the true church. The knowledge of a God of love, a God who has given His Son because He loved poor sinners; of that Son's having perfectly accomplished redemption by His own offering of Himself once for all; the knowledge that His blood cleanses from all sin, that He has made peace through the blood of His cross, and that by Him all that believe are justified from all things, and have eternal life; that God will remember their sins and iniquities no more. Yes, holiness, the truth, and the knowledge of a perfect and accomplished redemption of a God of love, mark the member at least of the true church, of the body of Christ, of the children of a heavenly Father.
May you, reader, as a repentant sinner, know them for yourself!
Courtesy of Most likely this text has not been proofread. Any suggestions for spelling or punctuation corrections would be warmly received. Please email them to: