Saturday, 18 July 2015

Purgatory, By The Rev. M. Canty, P.P., Part 12.



BY theological reasons we understand those reasons or arguments which human reason draws from those principles and truths of theology which are admitted by all theologians. Suppose that it is a principle admitted by theologians that penance is necessary for salvation, human reason concludes at once that we are bound to receive it under pain of mortal sin. This conclusion may be called a theological reason. Now, the following theological reasons prove or con firm the existence of Purgatory.

I. After sin is forgiven, there remains very often a temporal punishment to be paid. Sometimes, it is true, the whole temporal punishment may be remitted along with sin. This is the case in baptism and martyrdom, which, if received with proper dispositions, remit all punishments due to sin. The same happens, but rarely, in the case of vehement contrition and intense charity. Sorrow and love so seldom forgive all the punishments of sin that King David sighed :( Ps. 50, 16.) " Deliver me from blood, O God." He referred to the blood of Urias and his fellow combatants, whose death he had procured in battle, and though he had repented of his crime, he still begged to be delivered from its effects, from the punishments due to it.
It is related in the second Book of Kings (Chap, xii., v. 13, &co.) that after David had been guilty of adultery and had repented of it, and the prophet Nathan had assured him, " The Lord also hath taken away thy sin," still the prophet added : " Nevertheless, because thou hast given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, for this thing, the child that is born of thee shall surely die." A little further on in the same chapter of the second Book of Kings we are told that the child really did die. Here is temporal punishment, after the sin itself was forgiven.
In the same Book of Kings (2 Kings, 24, 15.) we find that God struck Israel with a plague that took away the life of seventy thousand men, on account of the vanity of David in numbering the people; and this punishment was inflicted after the repentance of the king.
It is related in the Book of Numbers (27,13.) that while God was pleased to give Moses a glimpse of the promised land, He decreed that he should never enter it, in punishment of a certain diffidence and weakness of faith, to which he had given way when God commanded him to miraculously supply the people with water, by striking the rock with his rod.
In the Book of Genesis (Chap. iii. 16.) God condemned our first parents to various penalties on account of their disobedience to Him.
Hence the temporal punishment generally remains still due to God, after the sin is forgiven. But this punishment is not always paid in the present life, partly through negligence, and partly because the penitent is often taken away quickly, after having obtained pardon of sin, before he has time to do penance for it. Therefore this penance for sin, this temporal punishment due to it, must be borne in the other life. "Otherwise," as St. Thomas ( Lib. 4. Contra gentes, chap. xci.) observes, " the condition of the negligent would be better than that of the cautious, if they should not have to endure in the future the punishment which they do not pay here for their sins."

II. To establish the doctrine of Purgatory, it is enough to admit the four following points:—

1. That there are some sins that are only venial.
2. That people shall render an account of these on the day of particular judgement.
3. That this account they are to render is in order to their punishment. And
4. That they must fully pay this punishment before they can enter heaven, or enjoy the beatific vision.

Now each of these points is certain, and beyond the region of doubt.

1. It is certain that some sins are venial, or so light, that they can consist in a just person with the state of grace or the friendship of God. This is proved from Scripture and from reason.
It is proved from Scripture. In the Book of Proverbs (xxiiii. 16.) it is said : "A just man shall fall seven times;" and in St. James (iii. 2) it is said: "In many things we all offend." These sentences are under stood to refer to the just, so that a man may be just and at the same time fall or offend God. Again in St Matthew (Chap. vii. 5.) some sins are compared to a mote, or very small particle in the eye, and in St. Paul, ( i Cor. iii. 12.) as we have already had occasion to see, they are compared to wood, hay, and stubble. From these passages of Scripture we must conclude, that there are some sins, which, of their own nature, are light or venial. On this matter St. Augustine says (Lib. 83, quæst. q. 26.) "There are some sins that spring from infirmity, some from ignorance, some from malice .... everyone .... can estimate what sins may be venial."
It is proved from reason. As in human society there are certain light faults or offences committed by one person against another, which do not dissolve their friendship; so in the society or friendship which man enjoys with God, there are light faults or offences committed, which do not sever him from the friendship of God.

2. People shall render an account of these venial sins on the day of judgement. This is patent, for we read in St. Matthew (xii. 36.)  that they shall render an account on that day even of every idle word they may have spoken : "Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgement." It is easy then to see that they shall render an account of venial sins.

3. They shall render this account of venial sins, in order that they may receive punishment for them. They are not called on to render an account of venial sins, that they may receive praise or reward for them. Therefore they are to render this account, in order that they may receive punishment for them.

4. They must pay this punishment before going to heaven. The soul cannot enter heaven till it is free from sin of every sort, for, as we read in the Apocalypse, (xxi. 27.) " There shall not enter into it anything defiled."

III. The general belief in Purgatory is a proof of its existence. This belief is the belief of all time. We know from the Book of Machabees, and from their own historian, Josephus, (De Bello Judaico. ch. xix.) that the Hebrews believed in Purgatory. We have before had occasion to give the text of Machabees, which clearly establishes the faith of the Jewish Synagogue on the point. Josephus shows that the Jews were accustomed to pray for the dead, though not for those who were guilty of suicide.,. The Mohammedans profess this faith in their Koran. It was not unknown to Gentile philosophers, like Plato, or pagan poets, like Virgil. (Aeneid. 6) Except Protestants, all Christians, including even those sects who separated from the Church in remote centuries, make open profession of it. This faith is so wide-spread and so constant that it seems to spring from the light of reason itself; or perhaps we should rather say, that it is the result of tradition, derived from the sons of Noe, with which the minds of men, dispersed throughout the world, have become so imbued, that it can be no more banished from them than the conviction of reward for the good, or of punishment for the bad.

IV. The various apparitions of souls in Purgatory which are described in the writings of the Father asking the prayers and assistance of the living, con firm this doctrine. St. Bernard, (Vita B. Malachiae.) Venerable Bede, (Lib. 3. Hist. Angl.) St. Peter Damian, (Epist. ad Desiderium.) B. Gregory of Tours, (De Gloria Confessorum, ch. v.) and St Gregory the Great, (Lib. 4 Dialog, ch. xl.) relate apparitions of this kind. We cannot doubt these, for the Fathers who relate them were men of rare piety, of deep intelligence, and of great discernment.