Monday, 27 June 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 93.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada

The Angelus (L'Angelus) is an oil painting by French painter Jean-Fran├žois Millet, completed in 1859.

Q. Let me now hear what grounds you have for the belief of a purgatory upon tradition, or the authority of the Church ?

A. Because, both the Jewish Church, long before our Saviour's coming; and the Christian Church, from the very beginning in all ages, and all nations, has offered up prayers and sacrifice for the repose,* and relief of the faithful departed, which evidently imply the belief of a purgatory or third place : and it is certain that the Church of Christ always believed that there is a purgatory, as is evident from the writings of the ancient fathers, and the express definitions of the general councils. See Tertullian, St. Cyprian, etc.

Q. What grounds have you for the belief of purgatory, from reason ?

A. Because reason teaches these two things,, first, that every sin, be it never so small, is an offence to God, and consequently deserves punishment from the justice of God; and therefore every person who dies under the guilt of any such offence unrepented of, must expect to be punished by the justice of God. Secondly, that there are some sins, in which a person may chance to die, that are so small, either through the levity of the matter, or for want of a full deliberation in the act, as not to deserve everlasting-punishments. From whence is plainly follows, that besides the place of everlasting punishment which we call hell, there must be also a place of temporal punishment for such as die in those lesser offences, and this we call purgatory.

Q. Do you then think that any repentance can be available after death, or that they are capable of relief in that state ?

A. No repentance can be available after death; but God's justice must take place, which will render to every man according to his work: however, they are capable of relief; but not from any thing that they can do for themselves, but from the prayers, alms, and other suffrages offered to God for them by the faithful on earth, which God in his mercy is pleased to accept of, by reason of that communion which we have with them, by being fellow-members of the same body of the Church, under the same head, which is Christ Jesus.

Q. How do you prove that it is lawful and profitable to pray for the dead?

A. If there be a place of temporal punishment where some souls are purged, and venial sins remitted after this life, as I have already proved there is; then that charity which obliges us also to pray that the living may be saved, obliges us also to pray that the dead may be freed from their punishments. Besides, if we consult the Scripture, or primitive tradition with relation to the promise or encouragement given in favor of our prayers, we shall nowhere find the dead excepted from the benefit of them; and the perpetual practice of the church of God (which is the best interpreter of the Scripture) has, from the beginning, ever authorized prayer for the dead, as believing such prayers beneficial to them. (See Conc. Nice. C. 65.) Again, we find that praying, and making offerings for the dead, was practiced by Judas Maccabaeus, (2 Macca. xii. 43, 44, 45.) and by the Jews, before the coming of Christ, who were then the true people of God; now, had this doctrine and practice of the Jews" been unlawful and unprofitable, our blessed Saviour would certainly have condemned it; as he reproved all the evil doctrines and traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, but we do not find that he ever spoke one word against this public practice. As to what several churchmen of the reformed Church buzz so industriously from the pulpit into the people's ears, viz.: That praying for the dead was only an invention to get money, it is a scandalous reflection upon Christendom, and even the primitive Christians, since it has always been the practice from the beginning, both among the Greeks and Latins, (See the Translations of Monsieur Du Pin. Cent. 7. p. 3.) and all the ancient Churches to pray for the dead, and so continues to this day. A little reflection might let people see that these gentlemen have found out a much easier method to subsist by, than praying day and night either for the living or the dead.

Q. St. John, in his first Epistle, chapter v. 16. says, that it is not lawful to pray for the dead: there is a sin, says he, unto death, for that I do not say that any one should ask.

A. What the Apostle here signifies by a sin to death, is final impenitence, or a mortal sin persevered in until death, and for such a sin we are not taught to pray, but what is this to those who die guilty only of venial sins or small failings ? for such as these, the Apostle himself, in the words immediately preceding, seems to command, or at least encourages us to pray, where he says, he that knoweth that his brother committeth a sin, which is not unto death, let him ask, and life shall be given him. 1 John v. 16. Now some object that we pray for all who die in the communion of the Catholic Church; this is very true, we do so, and the reason is, because we do not certainly know the particular state in which each one dies ; however, we are sensible that our prayers are available for those only that are in a middle state.

* See 2 Mach. xii. Tert L. de Mil. Coro. C. 3. St Cypr. Epis. lxvi. Euseb L. de Vit. Constan. C. 71. St Jo. Chrys. Hom. iii. ect Tertul. L. 4. de Ania. C. 58. St Cypr. Ep. Iii. ad Antonin. St Amb. in C. 3. Ep. ad Cor. St. Jer. in C. 5. Mat. St. Aug. L 20. de Civi. Dei. 24 et L. 21. C. 13. Cone. Flor. Sess. Ult Cone. Trid. Sess. vi. Can. xxx. et Sess. xxv. dear, de Purga.