CHAPTER XV. THE CAPACITY OF THE SOUL TO MERIT OR DEMERIT. PART 2.
II. That the souls in Purgatory can neither merit, nor demerit, is proved also from the New Testament. The first proof is found in the Gospel of St. John, (ix. 4.) where these words are related to have fallen from the sacred lips of Jesus Christ: "The night cometh, when no man can work.'' By night is meant death. The word can be taken in no other sense in the verse. Hence, the Fathers, such as Origen, Jerome, Chrysostom, Augustine, and others, have, with remarkable consent, understood it in this sense alone. Now, in that night no man can work: he can then only receive the reward of his labours. If we will work and thereby acquire merit, we must do so whilst we are alive; for in the future life there is no labour and no repentance, and, consequently, there is no reward. In the other life, one cannot perform any meritorious works; that is, works that merit salvation.
Another proof is found in the Apocalypse, (x. 5, 6.) where St. John writes: "And the angel, whom I saw standing upon the sea and upon the earth .... swore by Him that liveth for ever and ever .... That time shall be no more." After this solemn announcement, and the blast of the angel's trumpet, there shall be no time for merit—no time for doing meritorious works. The elect in truth shall have time to praise God, and the reprobate shall have time to blaspheme Him ; but there shall be no time for merit, or for doing good works that are worthy of reward.
In his Epistle to the Galatians (vi., 8, 9, 10. ) the Apostle writes : "What things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap .... And in doing good let us not fail. For in due time we shall reap, not failing. Therefore whilst we have time, let us work good" In this passage, the word "sow," as St. Jerome too observes, is the same as to perform good works. These a man can perform only while he has time; that is, during the course of the present life.
Again, in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians, (v., 10.) St. Paul says: "We must all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he hath done, whether it be good or evil." The Apostle here speaks of the particular judgment, which takes place immediately after death, before the tribunal of Jesus Christ. The soul then receives reward or punishment, according to what it did when in the body. " The proper things of the body" is a form of expression, which embraces everything a man did during all the time he was in the body. As St. Augustine observes, that expression can be taken in no other sense. It cannot be limited to those sins that one commits through the agency of the body ; for a man performs many acts with the mind alone, which do not require the aid or co operation of the body or of any of its members, and which, nevertheless, shall be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ. Of this description was the thought of the unwise man, who, in the words of Holy Writ, " said in his heart: There is no God."
All purely internal sins are committed without the aid or co-operation of the body; and still they shall be subject to a strict investigation at the tribunal of Jesus Christ. Hence, since merely internal acts and sins are to be investigated, as well as external ones; "the proper things of the body," which, according to the Apostle, are to undergo strict scrutiny at the hands of the Redeemer, must be taken for the acts that were performed and the sins that were com mitted while in the body or in this life. But if, as we learn from the Apostle, the soul at the particular judgment, immediately after death, is rewarded or punished according to what it has done in the body, it is evident there is no more time for reward or punishment, for merit or demerit.