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under the groves and in the lawns of Paradise (a lovely and a restful thought); yes, and they lie there in the very bosom of God, and under the lap and covering of His eternal peace and love.
In startling contrast to the mediæval dogma of Purgatory, St. Anselm has said again, and very devoutly : 'In the day when Thou, my God, shalt see me, unclothed of my mortality, let Thy love fold me within Itself, and be for a garment of beauty to my soul, that it may be "clothed upon,” and its weaknesses hidden from Thine eyes. Let the fervour of Thy love keep far from me that fire which shall devour Thine enemies, and, raising my soul unto Thee, let it be plunged deeply within the ocean of Thy Divine light. Jesus, my Lord, let all who love Thee be filled with Thy benedictions, and, coming home to Thee, let them have peace under the shadow of Thy wings.'*
What an infinitely poor apology for the use of prayers for the dead is contained in such words as these !
'It has been so common to admit the false premise of the Roman divines (viz.; that prayer for the dead presupposes a Purgatory), that it is to many minds difficult to understand on what principles the early Christians used such prayers. One of those principles was, doubtless, that all things to us unknown are to us future. Present and future are but relative ideas. To God nothing is future : all things are present. But to man, that is future of which he is ignorant. As, then, we know not with absolute certainty the present condition or final doom of those who are departed, their present condition is relatively, and their final doom absolutely, future to our minds. Hence, it was thought, we are justified in praying that it may be good, even though the events of their past life may have already decided it. Again, the Resurrection is yet to come, and, therefore, the full bliss of the departed is yet future. Hence, the ancients prayed for a hastening of the Resurrection, much in the spirit of our own Burial Service, and of the petition in the Lord's Prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” Thus St. Ambrose prayed for the Emperors Gratian and Valentinian, that God would “ raise them up with a speedy resurrection.” And the Liturgies constantly ask a speedy and happy resurrection to those who have died in the
in the subtle scholastic method, upon the question whether there are to be assigned to separated souls any recondita receptacula, local and material dwellings in the unseen world. It is decided in the affirmative, and a certain proportional fitness' is allowed between the illuminated soul and its luminous dwelling, as also between the darkened soul with its tenebrous and shadowed abode, with, moreover, a certain correspondent sensation and response of joy or sorrow in the soul.Summa Theol.,'iii., Quest. 69.
* In the Clementine homilies 'the good man who has been chastened here for his sins' is said to be received after death 'into the bosom of the righteous, and constituted an heir of good things' (cap. 13, ' AnteNicene Fathers,' xvii., p. 37). On the date of these Clementine fictions,' cf. Bishop Lightfoot, ' Apost. Fathers’ (Part I.), i. 347.
Shall we unthankfully ignore, then, all these blessed and consolatory words that in the Divine Scriptures describe, if in vague outline, yet quite sufficiently for our present consolation, the present beatitude of the holy Dead ? Fully and entirely do we allow the words that follow :
' Another portion of these prayers was eucharistic or thanksgiving: whereby they gave God thanks both for the martyrs and for all that had died in the faith and fear of God; and these commemorations of the parted were thought most important, as testifying a belief in the doctrine of the “Communion of Saints," and that the souls of those who are gone hence are still living-still fellow-heirs of the
* Bishop Harold Browne, ' Exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles,' p. 495.
same glory, and fellow-citizens of the same kingdom with ourselves.'
Yet remark how these two positions, so far as we understand the obscure language of the first, are mutually destructive. We cannot give thanks for those who are in a condition unknown to us. Our only reason for eucharistic commemoration of the faithful dead is found in the belief that they do now rest well in God. For this reason it is, indeed, that the omission of all prayer for them is our best homage to His love, with whom they live in the untroubled sanctities and perfect blessedness of Paradise. Ah, surely this silence is a far greater consolation to the mourner than any words of prayer could be, in which there must be always a doubt implied of their perfected happiness in their present intermediate life with Christ ! But any such suspicion would be wholly inconsistent with the multiplied witness of Holy Scripture to their state of perfect and indefectible blessedness, and a most unworthy doubt of His love, by whose Passion and Blood they were redeemed. And yet, be it always observed, in the persuasion of this, their perfect rest in the Paradise of God, our silence neither need, nor can, nor will remain always silence. Unbroken, indeed, by any of the passionately-pleading voices of prayer, which would only wrong the love of Him with whom they eternally rest, our silence may and must continually break forth into thanksgivings with glad commemorations and benedictions of His grace, who, by the gift of His own Life for them in the death of the Cross, has so brought them into their crowned and perfected life in the garden of the just.
Which offers most consolation to our hearts,—the long monotonous wail of souls in Purgatorial discipline and in the penal fires, which may only burn lower, however constantly the prayers and tears of those left on earth are given
for their relief in masses and offices for the dead, lavishly endowed; or the sweet silence of faith, meekly waiting for its own entrance into the garden of perpetual Life in God? Which will soothe the breaking heart into a deep, restful hush of assurance that it is well with them, who are gone to God, and that His gift to them is perfect peace ? Yes, we believe, O Christ, that no aching torture of suspense, * no shuddering terror of an uncertain doom, afflicts, no penal fires and cruel pains torment, our dead who are with Thee! Oh, surely the revival of mediaval dogma and ceremonial, though it endeavours to soften and subdue the horrors of the mediæval Purgatory by changing the material flames into purely spiritual torments, must reckon with the necessary logical consequences of this its conjuration of the past belief, that had been far better left, as a cruel spectre that haunted past ages of superstition and of ignorance, laid and exorcised by the power of the Word of God. For, if that horrid phantom be unchained
* There is, we will confess, in the 51st Epistle of Cyprian (Oxford ed., 55, p. 128), a very suspicious passage (20), in which, following too closely the erring footsteps of Tertullian, whom he called 'his master,' Cyprian seems to give his consent to something like a moral, and even a material, Purgatory, utterly inconsistent with a later passage in the same Epistle, and with his 'De Mortalitate.' Is the passage an interpolation? There are acknowledged to be several such in these Epistles. There is a long note to the Oxford translation of this obscure passage, in which it is attempted to interpret the purification by fire of ecclesiastical discipline, as the former expression, stare ad veniam, is to be understood, while the idea of a suspense touching their final doom, by which some souls are, it is supposed, tormented in the intermediate state, is justified and approved by a reference to the words of St. Ambrose and Gregory of Nyssa. This explanation, however, seems unnatural and strained, and we fear in this passage, if genuine, there is a following too closely of Tertullian, and a virtual consent to his doctrine, however unlike in some respects that doctrine undoubtedly is to the Tridentine dogma of Purgatory.
from the holy spell of truth, then most certainly before the mourner, who kneels to pray for his dead, there must arise the terrible apparition of the mediæval Purgatory* with its fearful sights, with its ghastly moans and cries, and its ghastly shapes of agonized horror ;-an apparition that will not be easily charmed away by any refinements of modern expression, by the conjurations of soothing prayers, or the incantations of musical litanies for the dead.
How different was the use of the Church in her earliest and most pure days, of which (says good and learned Archbishop Usher), 'Dionysius, in the description of the funeral observances used of old in the Church, informeth us that the friends of the dead accounted him to be, as he was, blessed : because that he had obtained a victorious end, and thereupon sent forth hymns of thanksgiving to the Author of that victory, desiring that they might come unto the like end' (Answer to a Jesuit,' ch. vii.).
Of this godly, primitive use we shall treat more in detail in the final chapter on ‘The Voice of the Church.'
* The reader may see the Roman doctrine of Purgatory, and the texts usually urged for it, dispassionately discussed and disproved in Bishop Harold Browne, 'On the Articles,' pp. 519-527.