Page images

verse 31.; and Almighty God was appeased, “and bade Moses go on, and lead the people,” says he, “ whither I have told thee, and my angel shall go before thee;" but be immediately adds, “and in the day of revenge I will visit this sin also of theirs,” verse 34. ; where we see that the divine justice was inflexible in demanding satisfaction, by taking vengeance of them, even after he was reconcilied with them for the sin.

(6.) When the people of Israel murmured against God in the return of the spies, and provoked him to such a degree that be threatened to consume them entirely; at the prayers of Moses he was appeased, and said to him, " I have forgiven according to thy word,” Numb. xiv, 20. Here we see an express declaration from the mouth of God, that he had forgiven the people this sin; but, as for the temporal punishment, in satisfaction to his offended justice, he immediately adds, “but yet all the men that have seen: my majesty, and the signs that I have done in Egypt, and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now ten times, and have not obeyed my voice, shall not see the land, for which I swore to their fathers, neither shall any of them that hath detràcted me behold it: say, therefore, to them, as I live, saith the Lord, according as ye have spoken in my hearing, so will I do to you : in the wilderness shall your carcase lie. Your children shall wander in the desert forty years, and shall bear your fornication, until the carcases of their fathers be consumed in the desert,". Numb. xiv. 22, 28, 33. Behold what a dreadful and long penance the divine justice demanded from them, even after ther sin was forgiven.

(7.) When David unhappily fell into the grievous crimes of adultery and murder, God sent the propbet Nathan to him to reprove him for his sin;

who, after declaring to him the grievdusness of his crime, thus pronounced the temporal punishment which God had resolved to inflict upon him, “ Thou hast killed Urias the Hethite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife.... therefore the sword shall never depart from thy house, because thou hast despised me.... Thus saith the Lord, Behold I will raise up evil against thee out of thy own house, and I will take thy wives before thy eyes, and give them to thy neighbour; and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of the sun," 2 Kings (Samuel) xii. 9. David, upon this entering into himself by a sincere and perfect repentance, acknowledged his crime: then the prophet, by inspiration of God, declared to him, that his sin was forgiven : “The Lord hath also taken away thy sin : thou shalt not die,” verse 13. But he immediately adds, "nevertheless, because thou bast given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, for this thing the child that is born to thee shall surely die,” verse 14. Here we see à most severe sentence of temporal punishment passed upon David, which was executed upon him with the utmost rigour, even though the guilt of his sin was forgiven ; for soon after, the child that was born to him, died; one of his sons abused his own sister; he again was murdered by a brother; this brother afterwards rose up in rebellion against bis father, forced him to fly to the wilderness for his safety, and taking his father's wives, abused them before the whole people, as is related at large in the following chapters.

Q. 35. Can we know what extent of temporal punishment the divine justice demands from any sinner, after his sins are forgiven.

A. No; that can be known to none but God alone, and depends upon several circumstances, of which we can form no judgment; but this we are

certain of, that it will always be according to justice, and such as our sins most justly deserve. Yet our ignorance of this is of great service to us, and ought to excite us to use every means in our power to discharge this debt as far as possible, by all the various penitential works, as described above, chap. xvii. § 5, as it is infinitely easier for us to discharge it ourselves, by doing penance, than to have it exacted from us by God himself. See chap. xvii. 25, 26.

Q. 36. Is not the penance enjoined in the sacrament sufficient for this purpose ?

A. The sacramental penance undoubtedly contributes very much to this end, more in proportion than any other penance we can do in an equal degree: of which, see above chap. xvii. Q.35. Where also we have seen the strict obligation we lie under of performing our sacramental penance; but this is so far from being sufficient entirely to cancel this whole debt, that the Church of Christ, in a general council, declares that “the whole life of a Christian ought to be a continual penance." Council of Trent, sess. xiv.chap.9, on Extreme Unction.

Q. 37. Has Christ appointed any other means of freeing us from this debt of temporal punishment, but by actually doing penance ?

A. He bas, by means of indulgences; the power of granting which he has left in his Church.



Q. 38. What is understood by an indulgence !

A. An indulgence is a relaxation or remission of the debt of temporal punishment, which remains due to the divine justice for sin, after the sin itself and the eternal punishment have been remitted by the sacrament of penance.

Q. 39. Has Jesus Christ given to his Church the power of granting indulgences ?

A. He has, as appears evidently from holy Scripture ; for (1.) He says to St. Peter, “Thou art Peter,' ...and I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven," Matth. xvi. 19. In which words our Saviour gives to St. Peter, as the chief pastor of his Church, whose authority as such extends to all her members, an ample and universal power of conducting the faithful to heaven, by loosing them from every thing that might binder them froin going there, provided always they be properly disposed, and perform the conditions required upon their part. Now, there are only two things that can hinder a soul from going to heaven, to wit, the guilt of sin, and the debt of temporal punishment; for, till that debt be paid, none can enter there ; consequently our Saviour saying, " whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven,” manifestly includes both, and assures us, when the chief pastor looses the faithful from their sins, in the sacrament of penance, or from the debt of temporal punishment, by granting

an indulgence, this sentence is ratified in heaven, and stands good in the sight of God bimself. (2.) On another occasion, declaring, “ that he that will not hear the Church,” that is, the pastors and governors of the Church, is to be considered as à beathen and a publican,” he immediately says to these pastors, in the persons of all the apostles, “ Amen, I say to you, whatsoever ye shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven," Matth. xviii. 18. In which words, by the same reasoning as in the former case, we see the power of granting indulgences conferred on the first pastors or bishops of the Church, as successors of the apostles. It is given to the bead of the Church, with regard to all tbe faithful, and to the bishops of the Church, with regard to that portion of the faithful committed to their charge, to be exercised by them under such regulations as the Church herself, in her sacred councils, has judged proper to appoint. (3.) St. Paul, though not one of the twelve apostles then present with our Saviour when this power was given them, both exercised it himself towards the incestuous Corinthian, and recommended to the pastors of that Church to do the same; for, having first condemned and bound him to public penance, and “ delivered him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit might be saved in the day of our Lord," 1 Cor. v.5.; yet afterwards, being informed of his great repentance and vehement sorrow, he writes to that Church, “To him that is such a one, this rebuke is sufficient that is given by many; so that contrariwise, ye should rather forgive him ... and to whom ye have forgiven any thing, I also, For what I forgave, if I have forgiven any thing, for

your sakes have į done it, in the person of Christ, 2 Cor. ii. 6, 10.

« PreviousContinue »