DOGMATIC AND SCHOLASTIC - THE VARIOUS QUESTIONS CONNECTED WITH IT CONSIDERED AND PROVED.
CHAPTER XIII. THE PLACE WHERE PURGATORY IS. Part 9.
III. The Limbus of infants who die without baptism is subterranean, or under the earth.
This is shown, in the first place, from St. Augustine. (Lib. 4, de Baptismo, cap. 2.) This holy Doctor teaches that there are only two places in which souls shall for ever be. One is heaven ; the other is hell. He recognises no other perpetual receptacle or abode for souls in the other life, but these two. As infants who die in original sin cannot go to heaven, they must, in the opinion of St. Augustine, go to hell. Hence their Limbus, if not the Limbus of the damned, is so near this, that St. Augustine considers it one place with, or a portion of it. But the Limbus of the damned, as we shall soon see, is under the earth. Therefore the Limbus of infants which is near to, or a portion of that of the damned, is likewise under the earth.
In the second place, the Limbus of infants is shown to be under the earth from the Council of Florence. In the last session of this Council, it is denied " that the souls of those who depart in deadly sin, actual or original, presently descend info hell to be punished however with unequal pains." Then the Council defines that those who die in original sin descend into hell. This hell, we shall see, is under the earth. So, as a conclusion from the definition of the Council of Florence, we should hold that the Limbus of infants who die in original sin is also under the earth.
However, the more common opinion in the schools would tell us that the Limbus, in which unbaptised infants are imprisoned, is higher up than Purgatory. It is so high above the latter place, that the fire does not reach it. Thus, if we are to believe those who hold this opinion, the infants who die without baptism have not to endure the fire of hell nor suffer the pain of sense at all. Then their only pain would be that of loss.
IV. The place or hell of the damned is under the earth.
1. The first proof to show that hell is under the earth is found in those phrases or terms, which the Scripture uses when speaking of it. The inspired Word everywhere calls the seat of the reprobate a " stove of fire," a "pool of fire and sulphur," an "abyss," a "well," a " pit," the "depth of the pit," or a " gulf." We cannot understand the grave by such terms as these, which have been never used to designate the place where the body is deposited after death. They indicate a hidden place in the depth of the earth, far removed from the reach and power of man in his present state, or while he is in this life. We read in the Gospel of St. Luke, (viii. 31.) that when Jesus Christ expelled the demons from the possessed man, they entreated Him not to cast them into the abyss: "And they besought Him that He would not command them to go into the abyss." This " abyss " cannot mean the grave. The demons did not entreat, not to be cast into the grave. To be transferred there would be no punishment to them. They had no more to suffer in the grave than in the body of the demoniac. Graves, moreover, are not made for demons, but for human bodies. Thus, there is no reason why the expelled demons should ask not to be commanded to go into the grave. Then the place they feared was some place into which they naturally expected to be cast—some place that had been prepared for them.
2. The very name of hell, which is found in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin texts of the Scripture, proves it to be under the earth. It signifies not the grave, but a place far below us. It denotes the lowest place, in opposition to heaven, which is the highest. This opposition the Psalmist (cxxxviii. 8.) sang thus: " If I ascend into heaven, thou art there: if I descend into hell, thou art present." In like manner we read in Job xi. 8: "He is higher than heaven, and what wilt thou do ? He is deeper than hell, and how wilt thou know?" In Isaias xiv. 14-15 also it is written: "I will ascend above the height of the clouds. Thou shalt be brought down to hell, into the depths of the pit" And our Divine Lord says, in the Gospel of St. Matthew xi. 23. "Thou Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up to heaven? thou shalt go down even unto hell." In each and all these passages, there is an anti thesis, or contrast, set up between heaven and hell. While heaven is in the highest place over us, hell is in the lowest place under us, in the universe. The contrast which is put forth between heaven, which is at such a distance above us, and hell, shows that the latter word cannot mean the grave, which is only a few feet below us, and is oftentimes even over the earth, as in the case of vaults, or raised sepulchres. This was especially the case in the time of Jesus Christ, when it was the custom to bury the bodies, not in the ground itself, but in caves which were raised over, or upon it. What would be the reason, then, of the contrast between heaven, which is the highest place above us, and the grave, which is on a level with, or at most, a few feet under us. There fore hell, in the above passages, must refer not to the grave, but to a place which is far lower in the earth, and where the damned dwell.
3. In the Gospel of St. Luke xvi. 22., it is said of the rich man, that "he was buried in hell;" and, it is added, that " he was in torments." Now, " hell," in this place, cannot by any process of reasoning, nor even by cavilling, be construed so as to mean, or be equivalent to, the grave. That rich and wicked man was not tormented in the grave, where no one suffers torment, unless we be so simple as to say that the soul and body are buried together. This rich man who " was buried in hell," according to the words of our Lord in the Gospel, cried out: " I am tormented in this flame." Surely this "flame," in which he was so tormented, was not in the grave, but in a place far lower down in the earth, in the hell of the damned.
4. The writings of the Fathers bear testimony to the subterranean situation of hell. Arnobius, (Lib. 2, contra gentes, de Platone.) speaking of the reprobate, says; "One does not improperly suspect that those souls lie amidst rapid rivers, which are hideous with balls of flames and filthy whirlpools." His words are undeniable evidence that Arnobius did not confound the locality of hell with the grave. Tertullian (Apolog. 47.) openly calls hell " the subterranean treasure of hidden fire." This cannot apply to the grave, where there is no fire, open or secret. This treasure of fire, then, must be buried deep in the interior of the earth, a place to which we, while in this life, have no access. St. Jerome (In cap 14 Isaiae.) describes the situation of hell as distinctly as words could describe it at the present day. He writes with terseness and succinctness: " We say that hell is under the earth." Such is the conviction of St. Jerome, the prince of biblical scholars and interpreters, regarding the situation of hell. St. Augustine, (Lib. Retractat., cap. 24) St. Gregory, (Lib. 4, Dialog., cap. 42.) Ven. Bede, and other Fathers, agree with those just quoted.
5. Reason itself would insinuate that hell is under the earth. If heaven is in the highest, hell should be in the lowest place. As the seat of those who subdued their passions and overcame the love of the world, is the highest, so the seat of those who gave a loose rein to their passions and cherished the love of the world should be the lowest. This is in conformity with those words which we read in the Book of Proverbs xv. 24. "The path of life is above for the wise, that he may decline from the lowest hell." Thus, while the wise or the just have their eternal abode above, they have escaped the lowest hell, or that hell which is in the lowest place.