John McQuirk.

Sermons and discourses (Volume 3) online

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it to conduct it, and give it rest beneath the Tree of


Life." If we did not know to the contrary, we
would think that these passages were taken from
some CathoHc book of theology or the prayers of
the Church for the dead.

The Church teaches that Purgatory is a state of
suffering and expiation for the souls of those who
die in venial sin, or in debt to Divine justice for the
temporal punishment of mortal sins forgiven as to
guilt and eternal punishment. Every sin has a two-
fold punishment; an eternal and a temporal. The
one is forgiven with the fault; the latter generally
remains to be forgiven either in life by such efforts
as we can make in the Lord, by our prayers, pen-
ances, indulgences, etc., or to be expiated in Pur-

The existence of Purgatory is a matter of faith;
as is also the utility of prayers for those there de-
tained, particularly the efficacy of the Holy Sacri-
fice for their relief. And the Council of Trent ad-
monishes and commands that the sound doctrine de-
livered by the Fathers and Holy Councils concern-
ing Purgatory is to be believed, held by the faithful,
and to be taught and everywhere preached by the
priests of the Church.

The same Holy Council anathematizes those who
teach that the grace given in pardon of sin and
justification of the sinner, not only remits the guilt
and the eternal punishment, but also the temporal
punishment ; so that nothing of it remains to be dis-
charged either in this life or the future. As the
doctrine of Purgatory is based upon the necessity
of discharging this temporal punishment which may
remain and, for the most part, does remain, after the


pardon of the sinner; and also upon the necessity
of expiating for the venial sin, in which the soul
may depart, it is plain how very imix)rtant this last
declaration, made against the objectors to Purgatory,

All the souls in Purgatory, having died in grace,
are saved, but they are not yet pure enough to enter
heaven. Purgatory is not a place for probation, for
probation ends with this life. It is a place of expia-
tion, where it is no longer possible to merit, but
where every venial sin and every debt due to Divine
justice must be atoned for to the full malice of the
sin, or the quantity of the debt ; must be drained or
exhausted to the last farthing. In this life a small
act may earn an indefinite merit or reward : in Pur-
gatory there can be no abridgment of this kind ; the
suffering endured must be commensurate absolutely
w^ith what sin in its nature demands, or Divine jus-
tice requires. Here a cup of cold water might pur-
chase eternity : there no number of cups of cold
Vv'ater, if they were possible, could rednce the period
or degree of suffering from that which is assigned.

It is said, and truly, that there is no passage in
the New Testament that peremptorily establishes
the existence of Purgatory. Nevertheless, Pur-
gatory exists, and its existence is certain with the
certainty of faith. A truth may be revealed virtual-
ly and obscurely, or explicitly and plainly. Like the
Immaculate Conception and some other truths, the
existence of Purgatory is revealed in the former
manner. The Church with unerring knowledge de-
clares that such truths, no less than those mani-
festly revealed, belong to the deposit of Revelation.


When Christ came among the Jews, He found
the beHef in Purgatory to exist among them. Yet
He never condemned this persuasion, or reproached
them in any way for it, as He would naturally have
done, had it been erroneous. And all the more, as
He condemned other doctrines and practices, which
He found among them. He took it for granted that
they believed what they professed to believe, and
which He knew they believed. For this persuasion
of a purifying state was quite universal among them,
as the passages which I have quoted evince, and
which the Jew^s believe even to the present day.

We know that He, after His death, descended
into Limbo and announced to the souls of the just,
there detained, their redemption. There was, there-
fore, a place of rest for those not yet allowed to
enter heaven; their circumstances imperatively re-
quired it. Why should there not be a place of puri-
fication for those not fit to enter heaven, and not de-
serving of hell ? The nature of the case requires it ;
and God cannot be wanting in what is necessary, or
congruous, or fit.

The knowledge which Christ had of the next
world could escape Him in various other ways than
by formal announcement. Just as virtue went out
of the hem of His garment as well as when He
worked miracles. Just as His knowledge of this
world would suggest to Him illustrations of the
world from which He had come ; so His knowledge
of His invisible world could suggest to Him illustra-
tions of the things of this world. Frequently He
used parables to declare the hidden world ; as the
rich glutton, to declare the punishment to come, and


the need of obeying visible authority rather than
relying upon miracles for our instruction; and the
casting out of the man destitute of the wedding gar-
ment, to show the need of grace to sit at the heaven-
ly banquet of His Father.

Hence there is no reason why we should not
understand the words of St. Matt., v, 25-26, to re-
fer to Purgatory, although apparently they refer
to a world occurrence : "Agree with thine adversary
betimes whilst thou art in the way with him : lest the
adversary delivers thee to the judge, and the judge
delivers thee to the officer, and thou be cast
into prison. Truly I say to thee, thou shalt not go
thence till thou shalt have paid the last farthing."

We are aware that there are great writers who are
not disposed to refer this to Purgatory, and who
claim that the prisoner's ransom delayed till he pay
"the last farthing," is another way of saying that he
shall never be liberated and that the punishment is
eternal, because the debt can never be paid ; as the
servant handed over to the tormentors till he would
have paid the ten thousand talents, the debt which
had been acquitted to himself, a sum which no ser-
vant could possibly ever pay.

But this, as applied to Purgatory, could only prove
that the souls there detained could never be forgiven
the venial sin which they carried therein, as having
passed out of this world where alone sin can be for-
given, in the supposition of those who make this ob-
jection, and that, therefore, the sin is eternal. But,
if applied to tlie venial sin on the soul when it leaves
this world, the teaching of the greatest theologians
is, that this venial sin is blotted out in the first mo-


ments of the soul's separation from the body, by the
act of intense love and sorrow, which, according to
them, the soul is then enabled to make, and which
removes all sin. Then nothing would remain to be
forgiven but the temporal punishment due to sin
mortal or venial : who will say that this debt cannot
be blotted out, or that eternity alone would suffice
to adequately punish it? The temporal punishment
cannot be so immense and incalculable as the last
farthing of a debt of impossible solution, or of ten
thousand talents for a slave.

Besides, no one claims that temporal punishment
cannot be liquidated in Purgatory, because sin can-
not there be forgiven, in the opinion alleged. But all
grant that purgation flames can purify the soul of
such debt. Hence we cannot see that this passage
should be withdrawn from the doctrine of Purga-
tory, simply because sin cannot be there forgiven,
so long as it granted that temporal punishment can
be discharged, and we restrict its tortures to this
purpose. Hence we would apply this passage ana-
logically to the prison of Purgatory, and say that as
the debtor, by human law, was required to pay the
last farthing before liberation; so the souls in Pur-
gatory should acquit themselves of the last farthing
of temporal punishment before being admitted into
heaven. This prison cannot be heaven into which
nothing defiled can enter, where dwells the freedom
which belongs to the children of God. Nor hell
from which there is no escape or redemption, where
dwell the souls cursed with God's eternal maledic-
tion. Therefore, Purgatory where the elect are puri-


fied for glory and yet consoled with satisfactions

peculiar to their state.

* * *

"And whoever speaketh against the Son of man,
it shall be forgiven him, but he who speaketh against
the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven Him, neither
in this world, nor in the world to come." (St. Matt.,
xii, 32.)

The obvious meaning of these words, as they
stand in the translation, is that some sins shall be
forgiven in the world to comje. For if no sin is to be
forgiven in the future life, to what purpose is it said
that the sin against the Holy Spirit shall be forgiven
neither here nor there? Christ in these words re-
fers to the belief prevalent among the Jews that
some sins would be forgiven hereafter. By using
these words He thus corroborates their belief. For if
He knew that they were in error in this persuasion,
He would be sealing their error, by so direct a sanc-
tion as is implied by saying that this one sin shall
not be forgiven, intimating that others would be
forgiven. Even apart from this consideration of
His addressing Himself to their belief, it could not,
as St. Augustine remarks, be truly said that this sin
against the Holy Ghost would not be forgiven, either
here or hereafter, unless there were some sins which,
although not in this world, yet would be forgiven
in the next.

Now we know that no sin can enter heaven or
leave hell : we know also that mortal sin eternally
separates the soul from God. Hence if sin is to be
forgiven in the future life, it must be venial sin, or
the arrears of temporal punishment due to mortal


sin ; and it must occur somewhere outside of heaven
and hell. The conclusion is inevitable that there
must be some other place where venial sinners so-
journ for a time to purify their souls and to acquit
themselves of what they owe Divine justice for for-
mer transgressions until they reach that degree of
purity as may become those admitted to the unblem-
ished majesty of the Godhead. If there were no hope
for any other sin to be forgiven hereafter, what spe-
cial condemnation does the sin against the Holy Ghost
receive, because of not being forgiven hereafter?

In spite of an opinion to the contrary, which some
hold, I would say that as there is no hope for the
sin of blasphemy against the Divine Spirit because
of its intrinsic malice, and because of its precluding
conversion by nullifying the grace necessary thereto,
there is hope for the forgiveness of other sins and
debts, viz. : venial sin and arrears of temporal pun-
ishment. And to this is to be added the words of
Christ near the same place in St. Matt., v, 36 : "But
I say to you, that for every idle word which men
shall speak, they shall render an account on the day
of judgment." If an idle word is a matter for judg-
ment, it plainly cannot enter heaven till it be purged
and expiated; for if it forms a matter of judgment,
it must contain malice or blemish, which, of course,
cannot enter heaven. And, surely, no one will claim
that we are to be damned eternally for idle words.
Wherefore as the sayer of the idle word dwells not in
heaven, nor suffers in hell, he must abide in some
intermediate state, and this we truly call Purgatory.
If the obvious truth of the Bible, as presented in
authorized translations, is to be perverted from the


sense in which it has been received for aj^es, by
fjuibbles and (|uirks, and slei^ht-ofdiand (Hstinclions
of llebrew words by those who caiiiiol possibly be
as conversant with its nK-aiiiiii;- as scliolars of former
times, it will so(jn lose all the meaninjj;' and inllucnce
which it has impressed niH)n the hnman mind and
carried into the hnman sonl ; it will soon cease to be
"usefnl for teachiniif, instrnctinj^", exhorting,'' as the
Apostle declared it to be.

"According; to the i^race

Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 32 of 43)