Page images

Apamea: he died in 458: in his Greek Scholia upon chapter iii, of I Cor. inthians, is the following passage upon verse 13.

“We believe this to be that very fire of our purgatory in which the souls of the departed are proved and repurged as gold is in the crucible.''

9. St. Augustin was born at Tagaste, in Numidia, on 13th of November, 354: he became a convert to a new life and to penance in August, 386, and was baptized by St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, on Easter eve in 387; he founded the institute of his hermits in 388, but did not found his institute of nuns until after he was raised to the episcopate; he was ordained priest in 390, consecrated Bishop in December, 395, and continued to administer the See of Hippo, from the death of Valerius in 396 to his own death in 430. He instituted the order of canons regular in the early part of his episcopate. No Bishop was better acquainted with the doctrines and practices of the Church than was Augustin, and few have left to her a larger legacy of valuable works. In his Book xxi, Of the City of God, chapter 16, making mention of baptized infants, he writes of one,

“Not only is he not prepared for eternal torments, but after death he undergoes no purgatorial affliction."

In the 24th chapter writing of faithful adults who die with lesser sins,

“It is plain, that their spirits being purged before the day of judgment by the temporal pain which they endure, will not be given over to the punishment of eternal fire."

In his Book v, Homily 16.

“They who have done things worthy of temporal pains, will pass through a certain purging fire, of which the apostle says: he will be saved, yet so as by fire."

In his Book ii, de Genes. against the Manichees, chapter 20.

“Whosoever will not till his field, but will allow it to be choked with weeds, hath in this life the malediction of the earth in all his works, and after this life will have either the fire of purgation, or eternal punishment."

There is a great number of similar passages upon the same subject in his works and those of the other authors whom I have quoted, and of several whom I have omitted. In his Book xxi Of the City of God, chapter 26, and in his Enchiridion, this father states that a question may be raised as to whether the punishment in Purgatory is by material fire, and if so, whether by the same sort of fire as that of which mention is made in Matt. xxv, “eternal fire." This is the distinction to which I before alluded, and this question does not involve that of the existence of a purgatory, but regards a topic in which faith is by no means involved, viz. the nature of the punishment.

10. St. Jerom, the most learned commentator of the holy Scriptures, was born at Stridonium, now Sdrigni, near the famous Aquileia, about the year 330. Few, if any of the fathers of the Church had such ample opportunities of knowledge or turned them to better account: he died on the 30th of September 420. Amongst other testimonies of his, is the following from the latter portion of his Commentary upon Isaias :

“As we believe that the torments of the devil, and of all those who deny the truth, and of the impious who say in their hearts there is no God, as well as of other impious sinners are eternal; so we believe that there is a moderate sentence of the judge tempered with clemency for those Christians whose works are to be tried by fire and purged.”

11. St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, was a pious and learned prelate, who died in the year 400; his see was in Cappadocia, near the lesser Armenia; he was one of the fathers of the second general council, (1, of Constantinople) in the year 381; and is an undoubted witness for the faith of his day. In his Sermon for the Dead, are to be found the following passages :

"1. Either being purged in the present life by prayers and the practice of wisdom, or expiated after death by the furnace of a purging fire, if he desires to return to his first happiness.

“2. Having gone forth from the body, he cannot become a partaker with the divinity, unless the fire of purgatory shall have taken away the spots fastened in the soul.

“3. Others clearing away the stains of matter, after this life by purging fire."

12. St. Ambrose, the renewned Bishop of Milan, was born about the year 340, in Gaul, where his father was prefect of the Pretorium; he was educated in Rome, whither his mother returned after his father's death, with the infant Ambrose, of whose education she took the most special care. In 368, Anisius Probus, whom Valentinian made prætorian prefect of Italy, appointed Ambrose his assessor, and subsequently governor of Liguria and Aemilia: in 374, at the unanimous request of the people, this governor was appointed Bishop of Milan, and consecrated on the 7th of December: his administration exhibits several most instructive lessons: and the prelate was conspicuous for learning, eloquence, zeal, disinterestedness, independence and piety: he died on April 4, in the year 397. I shall make but one quotation from his works: in his Comment on Psalm xxxvi, (Prot. Vers. xxxvii,) verse 14, he has the following passage:

“Though the Lord shall save his servants, we shall be saved by faith; we shall be saved, yet so as by fire. Though we may not be burned utterly, we shall be burned. Yet how some shall remain in fire, and others only pass through fire, the divine Scripture teaches us in another place: for the people of Egypt was drowned in the Red Sea, but the Hebrew people passed through ; Moses passed through, but Pharao was overwhelmed therein ; because his grievous sins sunk him down: so will the sacrilegious be precipitated in the lake of burning fire."

13. St. Basil, Archbishop of Cæsarea, in Cappadocia, was born in the year 329, of parents illustrious for their descent and station, as well as their sanctity; his education was equally attended to for learning and for virtue; and his labors, erudition, knowledge and sanctity, conspire to make him one of the brightest ornaments of the Church; he died on the 1st of January, 379. In his 9th chapter on Isaias, we have the following paragraphs :

I. If therefore by confession we shall have uncovered the sin, we have thus dried upon the growing grass, such indeed as would have been fit to be fed upon and devoured by the purging fire.

"2. He doth not in this place indeed threaten perfect death and extermination, but he alludes to that purgation according to the statement of the Apostle, he shall be saved yet so as by fire."

14. Eusebius, Bishop of Emissa, or Apamea, now Hems, the birth place of Heliogabalus, about 30 miles from Aleppo in Syria, upon the Orontes, flourished about the year 340. The Homilies attributed to him are those of writers of not a later date; they are generally supposed to be of some of the Gallican prelates : but whoever might have been the writers, their doctrine is in perfect accordance with that of the Church in the fourth century. In Homily 3, On the Epiphany we read,

“This punishment of hell awaits those who having lost or not preserved baptism will perish eternally; but they who shall have done things worthy of temporary punishment will pass through a flery flood, through shallows dreadful with burning globes."

15. St. Hilary, Bishop of Poictiers in Gaul, was styled by St. Augustin, the illustrious doctor of the Churches, and by St. Jerom, a most eloquent man, the trumpet of the Latins against the Arians: he was banished by the agency of Julian the apostate, in the reign of Constantius, in 356; after spending some years in the East he was permitted to return in 360; and died at Poictiers in the year 368. In his Comment on Psalm cxviii, is the following passage:

We must pass through that untiring fire, in which are to be endured those heavy punishments of a soul undergoing expiation for


16. St. Cyprian, the eminent Bishop of Carthage, who suffered martyrdom in the year 258, left some valuable testimonies of the faith. In his Book iv, Epistle 2, we find the following passage,

“It is one thing for a person tormented because of sins to be purged during a long period and to be corrected during a considerable time by fire; a different thing is it to have purged away all his sins by suffering martyrdom.”

17. Origen, the famous teacher of the Catechetical school of Alexandria, flourished in the year 250. Amongst other passages, he has left us the following in his 6th Homily on Exodus,

“He that shall be saved, shall be saved by fire, as if there was in him any thing of lead commingled, the fire would produce its effect thereupon and resolve it, so that he might all become pure gold."

18. Tertullian, that most ancient witness, born in the year 160, and died in 245, has left us amongst other passages the following in the xxxv chapter of his Book of the Soul.

“He will commit you to the lower prison, whence you will not be let go, unless by the delay of your resurrection, and every lesser crime being expiated."

In the same book, chapter lviii, is the following:

“Seeing then, we understand that prison which the gospel demonstrates to be places below, and the last farthing we interpret every small fault to be there punished by the delay of resurrection, no man will doubt but the soul doth expiate something in the places below.”'

I am aware that to several persons my letters are tedious, and are looked upon as too long, and not very interesting, but the subjects are matters of importance, and I write not so much to amuse my readers, as to instruct them: hence I am more anxious to produce a full conviction of truth than to please the fancy. I have here adduced a number of witnesses, selected from a far greater body, and considerably curtailed their testimony: but I believe I have upset White's position, that purgatory was only invented after, or about the decline of the penitential discipline, for I have shown that discipline not fully abolished in the tenth century, although about the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth, its decline commenced in Constantinople—and I have shown the doctrine of the existence of purgatory, to have been in the Church up to the middle of the second age: I shall afterwards show it to have a much higher and more remote antiquity. Indeed if White believed as some of the best, and wisest, and most learned of the English Protestant clergy did upon this point, he never would have written the wretched passage which we now consider.

I shall here close this letter, and in my next I shall adduce evidence to prove the perpetual usage of praying for the dead, after which I. shall lay before you the Scriptural proofs, and other historical and rational motives, to establish this conclusion, that it is one of the most ancient and universal doctrines of true religion, that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein detained are aided by the suffrages of the faithful.-Meantime I remain, Yours, and so forth,

B. C.


CHARLESTON, S. C., Sept. 3, 1827. To the Roman Catholics of the United States of America.

My Friends,-Before I proceed to adduce evidence of the fact, that prayers were offered up for the deceased brethren by the Christians, I shall premise that a purgatory might exist, and yet the souls therein detained not be aided by the prayers of their friends on earth: but when I shall have shewn that such prayers were offered, it is mani. fest the object must have been, the benefit of the dead, or the solace of the living, or both. In examining the evidence, therefore, you will observe what was the object of the prayer; what benefit was expected; did they who prayed seek alleviation for the dead, or only solace for themselves! If we shall find that they expected the first effect, it will tend much to support the conclusion at which I aim. It will be unnecessary for me to give the character and era of the witnesses already described; I shall therefore only explain the character] of any additional persons whom I may introduce.

1. St. Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, was born in 1094, and died at the abbey of Clairvaux, in France, on the morning of November 2d, 1148, being the solemnity of "All Souls," as is still observed. His life was written by St. Bernard, and he informs us that the holy sacrifice was offered for him (chap. xxxi) and that Malachy, upon coming to the monastery, informed the community that he came there to die.

You all know well the near approach of that day which I have always desired should be that of my dissolution. I know in whom I have placed my trust, and I shall not be defrauded of my desire, for I already have a portion accomplished. He who by his mercy hath

« PreviousContinue »