CHAPTER XVI. THE CERTAINTY OF THE SOUL AS TO ITS SALVATION.
As happened to every other point of Catholic doctrine, the one of the certainty of the souls in Purgatory, as to their salvation, has been questioned and denied. Besides Luther and others of his way of thinking, even some Catholics denied it. Of the latter class, some were led to deny it, because they thought that it is from the mercy of God alone it comes, that venial sins are pardoned. Hence, be cause these sins of their own nature, as they thought, deserve eternal damnation, the souls are net aware whether, or not, they may be punished for ever. Michael Baius,(Lib. 2, de Meritis operum, cap. 8.) and before him, Gerson (Lect. I, de Vita spirituali.) held this opinion. Others were led to separate them selves from the Catholic opinion, because they considered it is for some souls, though not for all, one of the greatest torments in Purgatory, that they do not know what their eternal lot may be—whether they may ever be liberated or not. No doubt, they were induced to so believe by the same reason, as the former class. This reason was, the liability, as alleged by them, of the soul to suffer for ever on account of venial sin. Bellarmine thinks that among those who coincided with the second opinion, is Denis the Carthusian, who seems to hold it in some visions which he relates. (Lib. de Quator novissimis, art. 47.)
The Catholic teaching, as seen by the common opinion of theologians, spurns such dreams as these, and holds that the souls in Purgatory are quite certain of their salvation.
I. The Catholic teaching is proved to be true, in the following manner.
If the faithful departed are not certain of their salvation, the reason of this should be, either that they have not yet been judged ; or that, though they may have been judged, they are not aware of the sentence that has been passed upon them ; or that they can still merit; or lastly, that they are so absorbed by their punishments, that they cannot apprehend with certainty the effect of the judgment pronounced on them. But, as Bellarmine holds, no one of these reasons can stand the test of investigation.
The first reason, that the souls in Purgatory have not yet been judged, is known to be false. The faith of the whole Church in every age makes us believe that a particular judgment takes place immediately after death ; and that the moment a man has breathed his. last, he is judged by Jesus Christ, in person. It is the persuasion and firm belief of the Church scattered throughout the world, that immediately after death some of the just—those who have merited it—are translated to the enjoyment; of glory. It is equally the persuasion and belief of the Church, that the wicked, or those who die in; mortal sin, are consigned to punishment in eternal flames. The translation of the just to heaven, at: death, is proved from St. Luke, (xxiii. 43.) where Jesus Christ consoled the penitent thief on the cross : " Amen, I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise." The consignment of the wicked to eternal : torments, is evident from the same Gospel of St. Luke (xvi. 22.) where it is written that "the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell." This particular judgment can be likewise proved from the Old Testament. Thus in the Book of Ecclesiasticus (xi. 28.) we read: "It is easy before God in the day of death to reward everyone according to his ways." In the verse which follows this it is said : " In the end of a man is the disclosing of his works." These quotations from sacred Writ prove that immediately after death the soul is judged.
The second reason—that though the souls in Purgatory may have been judged, they are not aware what sentence has been pronounced on them—does not deserve serious consideration. For there is no reason why the Judge should pronounce sentence, without making this known to the person against whom it has been pronounced. In addition, the person who is judged should know the sentence, if no other way, at least from its effect. The soul sees at once whether it is assumed into heaven, or banished for a while to Purgatory, or consigned for ever to hell. Not alone when it goes to heaven, but even when it goes to Purgatory, it sees that it has fallen to the right, and it is certain that it is for ever saved.
The third reason that can be alleged why the souls in Purgatory should not be certain of salvation is, that they can still merit; and this reason has been shown to be unreal. We have seen in the preceding chapter, that the souls that have departed this life cannot merit. Hence the argument in favour of their uncertainty as to salvation, drawn from their capacity to merit, must fall to the ground.
The fourth reason—that the souls in Purgatory are so absorbed by their pains that they cannot apprehend with certainty the judgment that has been passed on them—rests on no stronger foundation than those that preceded it. First, because that desperation, with which Luther would have the souls in Purgatory affected, is a mere creation of his own brain. There is no such thing as desperation in Purgatory. Although the souls there endure bitter sufferings, they bear them with ample peace and full submission to the holy will of God. The Liturgies of the Church represent them as enjoying the sleep of peace. But they who sleep in peace are not embittered by desperation. So far are they from being a prey to despair, that from the certainty of salvation with which they are impressed, and from the ardent charity with which they are filled, they possess immense joy in the midst of their sorrows. Secondly, because the reason why men who are afflicted with great pain, or with some grievous dis ease in this life, err in judgment, or wander in mind, is not that they are afflicted with pain or disease, but that the organs of the body are affected and dis arranged by sickness or disease. But this reason does not hold in Purgatory, where the soul is freed from the body, unaffected by it or its organs, and in the enjoyment of complete immunity from corruption. Thirdly, the case of the rich man buried in hell, mentioned in St. Luke, to which reference has been made above, proves that souls in the other life—let them be ever so much afflicted or tormented — are certain of their state, and of the judgment that has been pronounced upon them. That unhappy rich man, though exasperated with rage—what can not be said of the just souls—was aware of his own miserable state, and even of the condition of his brethren who were on earth.