John England.

The works of the Right Reverend John England, first bishop of Charleston; (Volume 3) online

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Edited with Introduction, Notes, and Index
under the direction of

The Most Reverend Sebastian G. Messmer
Archbishop of Milwaukee

With Portraits

Volume III

Cleveland, Ohio

The Anhui H. C ark Company


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Calumnies of J. Blanco White [concluded from Volume II] 9

Catholic Doctrine Misrepresented 104

Controversy with Mount Zion Missionary 223


On the Residence op St. Peter in Rome 329

The Pope 's Dispensing Power 385

English Ecclesiastical Laws and Privileges 424

The Moral Character of Several Popes 452

(Concluded from Volume II )


Charleston, S. C, Oct. 29, 1827.
To the Roman Catholics of the United States of America.

My Friends, — My first object in this letter is to show you that the
doctrine of Purgatory is older than Christianity, and therefore, when
the Rev. Joseph Blanco White asserted that "on the cessation of peni-
tential discipline, tradition having about the same time brought purga-
tory to light, offered an ample scope to the power of the Roman keys,"
if he meant that it was then a new doctrine, his assertion was grossly
erroneous ; next, I desire to show that this was the doctrine of the true
believers previous to the coming of the Redeemer, and therefore, if it
was then true, it must continue still to be a sound doctrine, except there
exists some sufficient evidence of its having been changed by an alteration
in the mode of God's proceedings towards those who are placed in
judgment before him. This evidence ought to be produced by those who
would make the assertion, for, until then, it is fairly supposed not to

The Jewish people at present use the following, amongst other
prayers, at the interment of their deceased friends:

"At the interment of a man.

1. "Omnipotent God of life! we pray thee have mercy over him,
thou King of the universe ; for with thee is the centre of life : may
he continually be led in the land of the living : And may his soul receive
rest in the bundle of life.

2. "0 may the Gracious, in his many mercies, forgive his sins:
and may his good works be present in his sight, and may be placed
in his view, together with all his faithful ones, and may he be led in his
presence in the land of the living.

3. "0 may he have a good memorial before his rock, that he may
inherit of the riches of him who formed him, that he may approach to
his light, to remain in his vision, and in the vision of his word: since
my covenant of life and peace with him, therefore let his soul receive
rest in the bundle of life.


4. "0 ma vest thou find the gates of heaven open, and ma vest thou
behold the city of Peace, and the dwelling place of the trusty, and may
the angels of peace approach thee joyful, and the High Priest standing
ready to receive thee; and mayest thou go to thy end and receive thy
firm stand and rest.

5. "May thy soul go to the cave of Machpela, and thence to the
cherubim where God will guide it; and there Pinkas will receive thee
into the Garden of Eden, its desired path, and there wilt thou behold
the pillar drawn from above, and wilt thou be highly exalted and not
remain without: and mayest thou go to thy end, and receive thy firm
stand and rest.

6. "Michael shall open the gates of the sanctuary and offer thy
soul as an offering before God; and there will be joined with thee the
redeeming angel, until the gates of the pleasant place where Israel is.
In this pleasant place mayest thou merit to stand, and mayest thou
go to thy end and receive thy firm stand and rest.

7. "0 may thy soul be bound in the bundle of life, together with
the heads of the colleges and captivity, with the Israelites, Priests and
Levites, and with the seven companions of the just and perfected, and
in the garden of Eden mayest thou receive thy firm stand and delight,
and thou go to thy end, and wilt receive thy firm stand and rest."

In this part of the service, we find that God is besought to have mercy
on the soul of a person who has been already judged ; and the object
of the prayer is to obtain for that soul rest in the bundle of life, that is
amongst the congregated saints in the rest of life, amongst those who
are not afflicted by any thing which could disturb their repose. Next
God is besought to forgive sins which might be as yet against this judged
man and obstacles to his entering into the land of the living amongst
the faithful, or in the bundle of life : next, the petition is for his being
brought to an approach to light, which presupposes existence in dark-
ness: the petition is also to have this person go to the end, and not be
stayed in the passage, and that he may receive a firm stand, and not an
unstable and transitory habitation; the special places mentioned in the
next passage shew the belief of such an intermediate place through
which persons pass before they arrive at this firm stand and rest.

For an eminent person there is a special prayer, in which the same
principle is found, as may be seen by the following extract :

"An established repose, in the celestial abode, under the wings of
the divine presence, according to the degree of the holy and pure, who
shine as the refulgent splendor of the firmament : a renewal of strength ;
expiation of trespasses; removal of transgression; and approach of sal-


vation, compassion and favor, from the presence of him who dwelleth
on high: may it be granted, that in the goodly part of the future state,
there may be the portion and tranquil abode of the soul of the good
person named, A. B. May the spirit of God lead him into Paradise,
being now departed from this world according to the will of God, the
Eternal Self-Existent of heaven and earth. May the supreme King of
kings, through his infinite mercy, have mercy on him, pity and compas-
sionate him. May the supreme King of kings, through his infinite mercy
hide him under the shadow. of his wings, and in the sacred place of his
tabernacle; to behold the beauty of the Eternal Self-Existent, and to
inquire in his temple : may he raise him at the end of days : and cause
him to drink of the brook of his dainties. May he cause his soul to be
bound up in the bundle of life; and his rest to be glorious. May the
Eternal Self-Existent be his inheritance; and grant him peace: and
may his repose be in peace : as it is written, he shall come in peace : they
shall rest in their beds : every one walking in his uprightness. May he,
and all his people of Israel, who lay in the dust, be included in mercy
and forgiveness. And may it thus be acceptable, and let us say, Amen."

The whole tenor of this prayer manifests the doctrine of ' ' expiation
of trespasses," "removal of transgression," and "approach to salva-
tion, ' ' and prayer offered by the living to obtain those blessings, together
with the repose, in peace, and life for the persons who are dead.

The following, which contains the same principle, is said for women :

"0 most merciful! to whom mercy appertaineth ; and by whose
fiat the worlds were created : both this and the future one ; in which are
deposited the souls of the righteous and pious women, who performed
his will. May he, by his word, glory and power, command the ascen-
sion of the memorial of the worthy, modest, and virtuous woman, A. B.,
into his presence ; may the spirit of God lead her into paradise, being
now departed from this world, according to the will of God, the Lord of
heaven and earth. May the Supreme King of kings, through his infinite
mercy, pity and compassionate her, and grant her peace ; and may her
repose be in peace; as it is written, he shall come in peace: they shall
rest in their beds: every one walking in his uprightness. May she
and all the daughters of Israel, who sleep in the dust with her, be
included in mercy and forgiveness. And may it thus be acceptable, and
let us say, Amen."

Whoever reads those prayers attentively must see that they are not
only for the comfort of the survivors, but for the benefit of the deceased.

I shall now add a few observations, to make it more manifest, if


possible, that the doctrine upon which those prayers and other Jewish
observances is founded, is similar to ours.

During the seven days subsequent to the death of any member, a
number of the nation, at least ten, assemble morning and evening, with
the mourning family, to pray; and on each occasion of prayer, the
prayer for the dead is repeated, beseeching of God to grant repose
and peace to the departed soul.

After the seven days of retirement and affliction are passed away,
the days are counted to the number of thirty from the decease, which are
days also of mourning, and of devotion for the family, though the regu-
lar prayer has ceased at the end of the seventh.

The son of the deceased, or one substituted for him by adoption,
attends the synagogue with more than usual punctuality until the anni-
versary, and there is a special prayer, which he says, more indeed of
acknowledgement of God's justice, than to beseech mercy for the de-

I shall therefore say, that the Jewish nation did not take up the
custom of praying for the repose of the souls of their deceased friends
from the Christians, but that they received it, together with their other
customs, from their ancestors ; that those ancestors had the custom long
before the Christian era; and that the doctrine of the utility of such
prayer, existed in the ancient Jewish Church, which was the true Church
of God ; and not being a portion of the ritual or political code, but a doc-
trine of permanent truth, revealed by heaven, was always to be retained ;
and thus the Christian finding it not condemned or revealed by the
Saviour, but alluded to and recognised by him, as I have shown in a
former letter, caused no interruption to the practice, and not only
observed the day of the interment, but, the third, the seventh, the thirti-
eth, and the anniversary days, and therefore those are not papistical
observances, but some of the most ancient and venerable and consoling
and beneficial practices of true Jewish religion.

I now come to two other practices of the modern Jews, which have
also been derived from their progenitors, viz. prayers made for the
repose of their deceased friends in the synagogue on the day of atone-
ment, at the request of the persons who make offerings for that purpose.
On this occasion, the person who makes the offering, has it made to
obtain from God a blessing on his living friends, and repose for those
who are deceased, and the suffrages are made for persons who have
been dead during many years, as well as for those who have died within
the preceding year. Surely neither Bishop Kemp nor Blanco White,
will say that it was in compliment to the Roman Catholic Church, nor


in imitation of it, the Jew introduced this custom; especially when the
whole Israelitic nation will testify that it is as ancient as is any other
part of their observances.

The other is a similar custom, but upon a less solemn occasion.
It is usual to call upon different members of the synagogue to attend the
reader during the several portions of the Pentateuch being read weekly,
and on those occasions the member so called upon, frequently makes an
offering, to have part of the service specially applied to the benefit of his
intention and the aid of his friends whether living or dead; and very
often such special application is made for persons who have been a long
time deceased: the alms thus given are believed to be useful, and the
service thus applied is believed to do them a benefit. This custom the
nation testifies to be much older than the Christian era, and to have
been derived from the best days of their pure and true Church: conse-
quently no introduction of Popery. No person would make himself
so ridiculous as to assert that it was received by the Jews from our

Having thus seen the practice of the modern Jews, I shall look to
that of their ancestors before the Christian era. The fact which I shall
here place before you, occurred about 250 years before the birth of the
Redeemer. Of course we consider the books of the Machabees to be
canonical Scripture, and the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, but let us
for the present suppose them to be only what our opponents will admit,
viz. a true history of facts. I shall quote from them the following
statement: — II Machab. xii.

"So Judas having gathered together his army, came into the city
Odollam: and when the seventh day came, they purified themselves
according to the custom, and kept the Sabbath in the same place. And
the day following Judas came with his company to take away the bodies
of them that were slain, and to bury them with their kinsmen, in the
sepulchres of their fathers. And they found under the coats of the
slain some of the donaries of the idols of Jamnia, which the law for-
biddeth to the Jews: so that all plainly saw, that for this cause they
were slain. Then they all blessed the just judgment of the Lord, who
had discovered the things that were hidden.

"And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him, that
the sin which had been committed might be forgotten. But the most
valiant Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, foras-
much as they saw before their eyes what had happened, because of the
sins of those that were slain. And making a gathering, he sent twelve
thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for


the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resur-
rection. (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise
again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead.)
And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with god-
liness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and
wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from
sins. ' '

Let us compare this record of the nation concerning a fact which
occurred more than two thousand years ago, with the facts which we
ourselves now observe amongst the same people ; their prayers and their
offerings for the dead; and let Bishop Kemp and his associates answer
whether prayers and suffrages for the dead were not previous to the
days of the Apostles considered as useful to obtain pardon for their
lesser transgressions. Nor can it be pretended that this was a cor-
rupt usage which had crept into the Jewish Church, because Judas
Machabeus was himself not only the protecting champion of his nation
and of the true religion, but also the High Priest of the regular lineage
of Aaron, who only did that which he knew to have been usual and law-
ful. I shall dwell a little upon the import of this passage : it contains
the following conclusions : first, that it was the belief of the then Jewish
spiritual authority that lesser sins might be remitted after death; and
since no person having any unremitted sin can enter heaven, it is a
manifest corollary that the person who dies guilty of a sin which is sub-
sequently remitted, suffers temporary exclusion from heaven, and is thus
in a state of purgation until that remission takes place : secondly, that
the prayers and suffrages of the living were useful to the dead who
were not utterly rejected for grievous crimes which deserved the punish-
ment of hell: thirdly, that all the penalty of sin was not remitted at
the hour of death, even though the guilt might be blotted out and the
punishment of hell remitted, for they still might be held in captivity
for a temporary punishment, which would be substituted for the eternal,
such as we find from many places in Scripture to be the usual mode of
God's providential and merciful dispensation; and therefore a person
might die with godliness and have great grace laid up for him, but
not to be obtained until after the endurance of this temporary pain,
or its remission upon intercession.

I believe it may now be safely stated that I have shown that the
doctrine of the efficacy of prayer for the relief of the dead, was in the
true Church of Judea, was known as such by the Saviour and his
Apostles, was alluded to and admitted by them: was never reprobated,
never undervalued, but as being a correct and true doctrine of heaven,


formed as much a portion of the new law as did the doctrine of the
immortality of the soul ; and it was as unnecessary for our blessed Lord
and his Apostles to make any new revelation upon the subject, as upon
the subject of the existence of God himself and a future state of rewards
and punishments. Hence we find it acted upon uniformly by the Jew
and the Christian, save those of the latter, who, in the fourth century,
adhered to Aerius, in the twelfth century to Peter De Bruis, and in
the sixteenth century to Martin Luther and to John Calvin.

There was a custom amongst the Jews, which was also amongst the
early Christians, as is testified amongst others by St. John Chrysostom,
(Horn, xxii in Matt.) of inviting the poor, and the pious to a banquet
upon the occasion of a death, that after having partaken of the bounty
they might pray for the repose of the soul of the deceased: and in some
places, the food was after the interment placed upon the grave, that
the person who there found relief for his body, might pray for the
relief of the soul of the individual for whose sake the benefaction was
given. In many places we may yet observe much of the remains of those
customs. But as we are not by our adversaries allowed to quote the
book of Tobias as canonical, I shall adduce from it historical evidence
of the custom which I have described.

In the advice which that holy man gives to his son as recorded in
chap. iv. is the following passage: — verses 17, 18,

"Eat thy bread with the hungry and the needy; and with thy
garments cover the naked. Lay out thy bread and thy wine upon the
burial of a just man; and do not eat and drink thereof with the
wicked. ' '

In the II Kings, otherwise II Samuel — chapter xii, verse 16, and so
forth, we distinctly find the objects of the fasting of King David.

"And David besought the Lord for the child: and David kept
a fast, and going in by himself lay upon the ground. And the ancients
of his house came to make him rise from the ground ; but he would not :
neither did he eat meat with them. And it came to pass on the seventh
day that the child died : and the servants of David feared to tell him that
the child was dead. For they said; Behold, when the child was yet
alive, we spoke to him, and he would not hearken to our voice; how
much more will he afflict himself, if we tell him that the child is dead?
But when David saw his servants whispering, he understood that the
child was dead: and he said to his servants: Is the child dead? They
answered him : He is dead. Then David arose from the ground, and
washed, and anointed himself: and when he had changed his apparel,
he went into the house of the Lord, and worshiped : and then he came


into his own house, and he called for bread, and ate. And his servants
said to him: What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast
and weep for the child, while it was alive : but when the child was
dead, thou didst rise up, and eat bread. And he said: While the child
was yet alive, I fasted and wept for him: for I said: Who knoweth
w T hether the Lord may not give him to me, and the child may live. But
now that he is dead, why should I fast; shall I be able to bring him
back any more? I shall go to him rather: but he shall not return to

The King then did not fast through grief or affliction of regret, but
by way of prayer, and for the purpose of impetration or obtaining
favor : and his answer shows his estimate of the folly of fasting through
grief or regret. Upon this principle the venerable Bede very properly
explains other passages of the same divine records in conformity to
what the whole of the preceding testimony assures us is their meaning.
Thus in chap, iii of the same book, upon the occasion of the death of
Abner; after David lamented and mourned for his death, he fasted to
entreat mercy from God, for his soul: so too in the xxxi chapter of the
preceding book, the brave men who buried Saul and Jonathan, fasted
seven days, not in idle grief, but in profitable intercession for their
souls — and in chap, ii of book ii, it is recorded that David expressed his
gratitude to those good men for their corporal and spiritual mercy to

Another custom of patriarchal times was founded upon the doctrine
which I am at present exhibiting, for that doctrine was known in those
days and gave to the venerable fathers of the faithful in ancient times
equal consolation, as it did to the Christian of after ages, and as it does
to the Catholic of to-day. There is a marked difference between Catho-
lics and Protestants upon the subject of interments. The former always
desire to be buried near their Church, or at least in the place common to
the members of their communion. They are often said to be super-
stitiously fond of what is too often sneered at, consecrated ground.
Whilst persons of other denominations are generally above this vulgar
prejudice, and think their bodies just as well provided for in a corner
of their plantation, or field, or any other place ; the Catholic expects
to have his soul benefited by the prayers offered on its behalf by those
who seeing the spot where the body is buried, intercede for him : hence
the origin of cemeteries about the Churches: the Catholic believes that
when the Church solemnly prays for the repose of the souls of those
persons whose bodies might be interred within the inclosure, he will
be made partaker of the benefit of the prayer when his body is so in-


terred: hence we value highly interment in ground so consecrated;
strangers to our Church may, if they will, call this superstition ; but
it is one of a very ancient date. We find such superstition in Jacob
as we read in Genesis, xlvii, verse 29, and so forth.

"And when he saw that the day of his death drew nigh, he called
his son Joseph, and said to him : ff I have found favor in thy sight, put
thy hand under my thigh and thou shalt show me this kindness and
truth, not to bury me in Egypt: But I will sleep with my fathers, and
thou shalt take me away out of this land, and bury me in the burying
place of my ancestors. And Joseph answered him: I will do what
thou hast commanded. And he said : Swear then to me. And as he was
swearing, Israel adored God, turning to the bed 's head. ' '

Also in chapter 1, regarding Joseph, it is written, verse 23, and
so forth.

"After which he told his brethren: God will visit you after my
death, and will make you go up out of this land, to the land which he
swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And he made them swear to him,
saying: God will visit you, carry my bones with you out of this place:
And he died, being a hundred and ten years old. And being embalmed,
he was laid in a coffin in Egypt."

The testimony of the whole body of interpreters, as well as of other
witnesses, has been uniformly given to inform us that the great object
of the patriarchs was to have their bodies brought amongst their kin-
dred to have the benefit of commemoration and participation in their
sacrifices and suffrages, even after their death.

To these proofs I might add passages from the sacred writers of
the old law, which the earliest Christians testified to have been always
understood of purgatory. Thus Psalm xxxvii, (Prot. ver. xxxviii,)

' ' Rebuke me not, O Lord, in thy indignation, nor chastise me in thy
wrath. ' '

St. Augustine, Bede, and many others tell us that it means, "Do
not, O Lord, punish me after death by the passing rebuke even of your
(lighter) indignation: nor by the (heavier) wrath which endures for

Online LibraryJohn EnglandThe works of the Right Reverend John England, first bishop of Charleston; (Volume 3) → online text (page 1 of 59)