DOGMATIC AND SCHOLASTIC - THE VARIOUS QUESTIONS CONNECTED WITH IT CONSIDERED AND PROVED.
CHAPTER XII. OBJECTIONS TO PURGATORY ANSWERED.
THEY who are opposed to this doctrine raise many objections to it. To give all these would require much space, and may only weary the reader. We shall give but one or two.
I. In Ecclesiastes (ix. 10.) it is written: "Whatsoever thy hand is able to do, do it earnestly : for neither work, nor reason, nor wisdom, nor knowledge shall be in hell, whither thou art hastening." According to this text, they say, there is no remedy for us in the other life, no way to expiate sin, such as we should have if we admitted Purgatory.
In answer to this objection, some interpreters say that Solomon, in this place, speaks in the person of those faithless people who not only do not admit Purgatory, but even deny the existence of hell, and pretend that there is no life after this present one. According to the mind of such people, all ends with this life, and they should act here as if they expected nothing hereafter. Others say that he speaks ironically, and sarcastically exhorts the wicked to gratify their passions during the short time of this life, since their industry and talent, which they abuse, shall be of no advantage to them in hell, whither they are going. A third opinion understands him to speak of the just in this sense : Do what you can now, because after death neither your labour, nor sorrow, shall profit you in the way of merit or satisfaction in as much as they are your works, or performed by you ; nor can the works of the living assist you, unless when alive you may have merited, by your good works, to be assisted by them.
II. Another objection raised against Purgatory is taken likewise from Ecclesiastes: (ix. 3.) " If the tree fall to the south or to the north, in what place soever it shall fall, there shall it lie." This sentence would seem to show that there are but two places in the other world, the south and the north. If we accept the teaching of the Catholic Church on Purgatory, we must admit a middle state, which would seem to be opposed to the sentence just quoted.
There are three answers to this objection. The first is that if the Wise Man speaks literally of the death of the body, he merely means that as a tree sometimes falls and remains to rot where it has fallen, so men must die and shall never, of them selves, rise from the grave. The second answer is, that, if the sentence is to be understood to refer to the soul, the sense of it is, that after this life we can no longer lose or recover the divine friendship. Hence we shall for ever stand either to the south, where we will be unceasingly loved by God, or to the north, where we shall be undying objects of His hatred. In this sense the souls in Purgatory who have fallen to the south, or the side of salvation, are to remain here for ever. Thirdly, the text, in question, raises no more objection to Purgatory than to Limbo. If it were opposed to the existence of Purgatory, so should it be to that of Limbo. The souls of the just of old did not descend into hell, as is manifest; nor did they enter heaven, which was shut against them till the Ascension of Jesus Christ. They descended into Limbo. Now, If the tree fall to the south or to the north, in what place so ever it shall fall, there shall it lie," is no more a contradiction of Purgatory, than it was of Limbo.