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but an error of the Latin church, not an article of the catholic faith.
Thirdly, For reason.
I shall only offer this one reflection: Whether there can be any reason to think there should be such a place, and such punishments as purgatory, for no end or purpose in the world. They who go thither must be perfect in charity, in the grace of God, secure of their salvation; their satisfaction must have been made by Christ's blood, and so God's justice satisfied. Now when all this is already done, to what end is it that they should be tormented? Had there been any means by such a purgatory, either to fit them for heaven or to satisfy the Divine justice, there might then have been some pretence for it. But to think that God punishes men only for punishing sake; and this too his own servants, men who are in his favour, that have lived well, and upon that account are justified by him through the blood of Christ; this is such an idea of an infinite love, mercy, and goodness, as sure can never be the dictate of right reason; I think I may say, is utterly inconsistent with it.
PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD.
WE have now passed through the former part of our undertaking, and found but little reason to be concerned for those imaginary flames which so much terrify those of the other communion. It only remains that we descend to the great argument that is most usually insisted upon by them, to prove at least the antiquity of their error, and that is from the undenied primitive custom of "praying for the dead," and concerning which, I suppose, it may be sufficient to offer these two things:
First, To give a general account what the practice of the primitive church was; from whence it will appear how little advantage the church of Rome can derive to themselves by it.
Secondly, To answer those allegations that are from hence brought by them in favour of that praying for the dead which is now practised by them in their church.
Of the Practice of the Primitive Church in praying for the Dead.
NOW that I may give the clearer account of this, I must observe, 1st, that it is one thing to inquire whether we may not innocently pray for the dead; and another, whether we ought to do it. 2. That there is a great difference between praying for the dead in general, without defining what the particular intent of it is, and what advantages accrue to the dead thereby, and determining that we are to pray for the
dead upon such a certain account, as for instance, "to deliver their souls out of purgatory," and that our prayers are effectual in order thereunto.
1. As to the former of these, we do not deny but that the Fathers did begin very early to pray for the dead; and some of them were so zealous for it too, that Epiphanius (as we shall see below) made it no small part of his accusation of Aerius, that he opposed the practice of it. But yet we do not find that they pretended it was any part of a Christian's duty to do this; that the gospel has any where required it of us, or recommended it to us: in short, they did it as something which seemed to them very pious and fitting; but they tied up no man's conscience with any decisions or anathemas about it.
2. For the benefit and advantage of it, in this they were yet less agreed than in the other; insomuch that when Aerius, whom I before mentioned, earnestly demanded what good came to the dead from our prayers? Epiphanius a chose rather to fly off to the custom of the church, to the necessity of these prayers, to distinguish the condition of our blessed Lord from that of all other persons, and the like; than he would say expressly, how or wherein the dead were profited by them.
Many were the private opinions of those holy men as to this matter b. Some who believed the millenary doctrine before mentioned, that the dead in Christ should revive within the compass of a thousand years, some sooner, others later, according as they had lived better or worser lives on earth, flattered themselves, that by their prayers they might hasten the felicity of their friends, and accordingly prayed, propter maturam resurrectionem c, for their speedy rising in Christ's kingdom.
3. Others supposed, that in the general conflagration of the world at the last day, all men should pass through the fire; that the better Christian any one had been, the less he should
a Epiph. Hæres. 75. 1. 3. n. 3 p. 908. A. edit. anno 1682. Ibid. n. 7. p. 911. C.
b Tertullian. lib. 3. contr. Marc. c. 24. p. 412. Intra quam ætatem (sc. 1000. annorum) concluditur sanctorum resurrectio, pro meritis maturius vel
c Tertull. de Monogam. c. 10. p. 531. A. Ambros. de Obit. Valent. t. 3. Te quæso, summe Deus, ut charissimos juvenes matura resurrectione suscites, &c.
feel of the torment of it: and these prayed for the dead, that God would have mercy on them in that day, and not suffer them to be too much singed and burnt, not in the fire of purgatory, but in the general conflagration at the end of the world.
4. Some believed that the souls of just persons departed went not straight to heaven, but were reserved in a certain place of sequester, where they earnestly expected, and continually wished for their absolute consummation with all the faithful in Christ's kingdom. And these prayed that God .would give them ease, rest, and refreshment, in the bosom of Abraham, that they might be comforted with the blessed company of the holy angels, and the vision of our Saviour Christ, till the so much wished-for day of judgment should
5. And lastly, not to mention any more; others there were who thought that the sentence was not instantly pronounced as soon as men died, or if it were, yet not so peremptorily, but that still, till the last day, an increase of glory might be added to the crown of righteousness which God hath designed for the just; and some diminution made of the torments of the wicked. Now these prayed for the dead out of this hope, to render them either more happy or less miserable, to augment their glory, or to diminish their pains for ever.
And all these were the private opinions of particular men, no definitions of the faith of the church in this matter d: many of the holy Fathers declaring no other cause of their praying for the dead, than only to shew their hopes of them, that they still lived, and therefore ought to have some communion maintained with them; or else to distinguish all, even the greatest saints, from our blessed Saviour, and shew his infinite prerogative above them, whilst they prayed for all the rest to testify their infirmity, and only gave thanks for him to manifest his glory.
Having given this particular account of the opinions of the primitive Fathers as to this point, and to some or other of which I shall shew that all the passages produced out of them, in vindication of the doctrine of purgatory, may be ap
d Epiphan. ib. sect. 7. p. 911.
plied; it will be no difficult matter to shew how little all this can favour the present doctrine of the Roman church in this
1. The primitive Christians, it is true, prayed for the dead, but they never put it into any of their creeds, as the council of Trent has done now. Nay Epiphaniuse himself, in the close of his book, making a distinct recapitulation of what was the catholic faith, and what the constitution of the church, places prayers for the dead among the latter f; and which were therefore used, because the custom of the church gave authority thereunto.
2. The prayers that are made for the dead by the church of Rome are expressly determined to this particular end %, to help and relieve the souls that are detained in purgatory. Whereas we do not find in the primitive church any thing at all defined as to the immediate design and benefit of them; and are only sure of this, that it was not to deliver the souls out of purgatory.
Now this in general is evident, in that we find them to have prayed for the best persons, for the holy apostles, martyrs, and confessors, for the blessed Virgin herself; for those whom they supposed at the same time to be in happiness, and whom the papists themselves do not suppose to have ever touched at purgatory.
Thus we find in the Liturgies, said to be of the ancient church, that their prayers were made for all these: the author of the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, having first described the party deceased h "as replenished with Divine joy, and now no more fearing any change for the worse; being publicly pronounced a happy man, and verily admitted into the society of the saints that have been from the beginning of the world;" then brings in the bishops praying for him, "that God would forgive him all the sins he had committed through human infirmity, and bring him into the light and land of the living, into the bosom of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob;
e See Epiph. tom. 2. l. 3. p. 1103. pag. 347, 348, 350. A. B. C. 352. C. vol. i. n. 21.
Πάντα μὲν ἀφεῖναι τὰ δι' ἀνθρωπίνην ἀσθένειαν ἡμαρτημένα τῷ κεκοιμημένῳ, κатaтážai dè aùtòv év pwтl kaì xwpq Súvτwv, &c. pag. 354. A.