DOGMATIC AND SCHOLASTIC - THE VARIOUS QUESTIONS CONNECTED WITH IT CONSIDERED AND PROVED.
|Saul and the Witch of Endor|
CHAPTER XIII. THE PLACE WHERE PURGATORY IS. Part 4.
II. The limbus of the fathers is proved to be under the earth. cont.
But if we deny the credit of it to God, and attribute it to Satan, then we should have to multiply miracles, in order to avoid admitting one. It would be a miracle that Satan, on behalf of God, would reproach Saul with the crimes which he instigated him to commit. It would be a miracle that God would give the evil one a prescience, such as was
displayed, of future things. It would be a miracle that God would publish his praise by the pen of the writer of Ecclesiasticus. It would be wonderful that Satan should, six times, pronounce with reverence the name of the Lord. Moreover, this interpretation would offer violence to the words of the Scripture, which, through the passage, speaks of Samuel by name, without uttering one word which would lead us to think that another person should be understood under his appellation. Any one of these objections should be fatal to the opinion which would attribute the apparition to an evil spirit. How can that opinion, then, stand when all these objections, banded together, militate against it ?
The very wording of the passage itself would show that it was Samuel who appeared. Any one who, free from partiality or preconception, would cast his eye over the sacred page and reflect on it, should admit that; he could no more doubt that Samuel appeared, than he could doubt that Saul changed his garments, or betook himself to Endor, or asked the witch to raise up to him the spirit of Samuel. The sacred text is as explicit on the first, as it is on the other points.
Thus far we have seen the arguments that prove the genuineness of the apparition of Samuel. We have as if it were digressed, to prove that it was genuine and not counterfeit. But this was necessary; for if it be once proved that it was genuine, we must consequently admit that Samuel, to quote the words of the text, " ascended out of the earth ; " and this is an indisputable proof that the Limbo of the Fathers was under the earth. We shall now return to the direct arguments which prove the Limbo of the Fathers to be under the earth.
III. A third argument to prove that Limbo was under the earth, is taken from the Apocalypse, V. 2 , 3.
where the angel proclaimed with a loud voice: " Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?" It is at once answered: "No man was able, neither in heaven, nor on earth, nor under the earth, to open the book." St. John de clares there was no man under the earth worthy to open the book. By worthy he means the just: no other person could be at all thought worthy to open the book. Some of these just persons were in heaven, some on earth, and some under the earth. Unless there were just persons under the earth, there would be no sense in saying, that there was no one found worthy under the earth. There would be nothing remarkable in this, that there should be no one found worthy to open the book under the earth, if there were no just there. Now these just were, either in the Limbo of the Fathers, or in Purgatory. Although the souls, that had been in Limbo, were then, when St. John wrote the Apocalypse, with God, it may be that he alludes to their condition before the Anointed of the Lord opened to them the gates of heaven, or ascended there. Whether the apostle alludes to the souls in Limbo, or to those in Purgatory, his words contain a confirmation of the opinion as to the subterranean abode of the dead.
Nor can it be said that we are to understand the phrase, " under the earth? in a metaphorical sense; so that strictly speaking, there was no book to be opened, and no rational creature under the earth expected to open it; just as in the thirteenth verse of the same chapter, it is written by way of metaphor: "And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them : I heard all saying: To him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb, benediction and honour and glory and power for ever and ever." There is no comparison between the two verses. The first cannot be read metaphorically, like the second. In regard to the second, we should keep in mind, that it is usual with the Scripture to represent all creatures, even inanimate things, as proclaiming praise and benediction to God. This is true, because they all show forth the glory of God, and give praise to his name, inasmuch as they faithfully serve the end for which He created them. But, on the other hand, it is quite as unusual in Scripture, as it would be ridiculous, to require or expect creatures without reason or sense, to be worthy to open the book, or unlock or disclose the mysteries it contained. It may be added that, if the second verse be received in the literal sense, as it can, the phrase, " such as are in the sea," may be understood, as Collet remarks, to refer to those, who may be travelling on sea, or who may be within the grasp of shipwreck. Taken in the literal sense, the latter verse too, as well as the former one, may be under stood to refer only to rational creatures, as blessing God, and proclaiming His praise.
St. Gregory (Lib. 4. Dialog., c. 42.) understands the words, "under the earth" to have reference to the reprobate. This rendering of them is against the common opinion of other Doctors and Fathers. It does not seem, also, to agree with the text. It would sound strange, to require, or to expect to find, among the reprobate one " worthy to open the book." But even in the light of this exposition, the phrase would demonstrate another proposition—that regarding the subterranean situation of hell—to which we shall by-and-by turn our attention.