Page images
PDF
EPUB

ed. For then not even the best of men were supposed to be exempted from the fire of purgatory; and it was generally represented as not less severe than that of hell itself. But then souls might always be delivered from it by the prayers and masses of the living, which prayers and masses might always be had upon certain pecuniary considerations; and the fables and fictitious miracles that were propagated to secure the belief of this new kind of future state, were innumerable.

The present doctrine of the church of Rome on the subject of purgatory is, that every man is liable both to temporal and eternal punishment for his sins; that God, on account of the death and intercession of Christ, does indeed pardon sin as to its eternal punishment; but that the sinner is still liable to temporal punishment, which he must expiate by acts of penance and sorrow in this world, together with such other sufferings as God shall think fit to lay upon him. But if he does not expiate these in his life, there is a state of sufferings and misery in the next world, where the soul is to bear the temporal punishment of its sin, which may continue longer or shorter till the day of judgment; and to the shortening of this punishment, prayers and works of supererogation here on earth, or the intercessions of the saints in heaven, but above all things, the sacrifice of the mass, are of great efficacy. This is the doctrine of the church of Rome, as asserted in the councils of Florence, and of Trent.

Before this time, the opinions concerning purgatory were exceedingly various, with respect to the place of purgatory, the nature of the pains of it, and indeed every thing belong. ing to it. Eckius maintained that it was in the bottom of

Others would have it to be in mount Etna, Vesuvius, or some other burning mountain. Sir Thomas Moore says, that the punishment will be only by fire, but Fisher, his fellow sufferer, by fire and water. Lorichius says neither by fire nor water, but by the violent convulsions of hope and fear. Fisher maintained that the executioners would be the holy angels, but Sir Thomas Moore thought they would be the devils. Some again thought that only venial sins are expiated in purgatory, but others that mortal sins. are expiated there likewise. Dennis, the Carthusian, thought that the pains of purgatory would continue to the end of the world, but Dominicus a Soto limited it to ten

the sea.

years, and others made the time to depend on the number of masses, &c. that should be said on their behalf, or on the will of the pope. Thomas Aquinas, as has been seen above, makes the pains of purgatory to be as violent as those of hell; whereas, the Rhemists

say

that souls are not in a bad condition there, and Durandus, holding a middle opinion gives them some intermission from their pains on Sundays and holidays. Bede tells a long story of a Northumberland man, who, after he died, returned to life again, and said that he had passed through the middle of a long and large valley, which had two lakes in it, in one of which souls were tormented with heat, and in the other with cold ; and that when a soul had been so long in the hot lake that it could endure no longer, it would leap into the cold one; and when that became intolerable, it would leap back again. This uncertainty was so great, that the whole doctrine must have been discredited, if it had not been for the profits which the popes, the priests, and the friars, made of it.

The living being, by means of this doctrine of purgatory, deeply interested in the fate of the dead, and having them very much at their mercy, the mistaken compassion and piety of many persons, could not fail to be excited in their favor. Before the tenth century, it had been customary in many places, to put up prayers on certain days for the souls that were confined in purgatory, but these were made by each religious society for its own members and friends; but in this century a festival was instituted by Odilo, bishop of Clugny, in remembrance of all departed souls, and it was added to the Latin calendar towards the conclusion of the century

The Greeks, though in most respects they had superstitions similar to those of the Latins, yet they never adopted their potions concerning purgatory.

According to the doctrine of purgatory, the moment that any soul is released from that place, it is admitted into heav. en, to the presence of God and of Christ, and made as hap. py as it can be in an unembodied state, which was contrary to the opinion of the early Fathers, viz: that all souls continued in Hades, until the resurrection, or at most that an exception was made in favor of the martyrs.

It may just deserve to be mentioned, that the doctrine of the resurrection of the same body, was questioned by Conon, bishop of Tarsus. in the sixth century; who, in opposition

to Philoponus, a philosopher of Alexandria; (who had asserted that both the form and the matter of the body would be restored at the resurrection) maintained that the form would remain, but that the matter would be changed.

So general was the belief of a purgatory in this western. part of the world, that Wickliffe could not entirely shake it off. The ancient Waldenses, however, who separated from the church of Rome before the doctrine of purgatory had got established, never admitted it; and presently after the reformation by Luther, we find it abandoned by all who left the church of Rome without exception, so that this doctrine is now peculiar to that church.

PART VI.

THE HISTORY OF OPINIONS RELATING TO THE LORD'S SUPPER..

THE INTRODUCTION. THERE is nothing in the whole history that I have undertaken to write, so extraordinary as the abuses that have been introduced into the rite of the Lord's Supper. Nothing can be imagined more simple in its original institution, or less liable to misapprehension or abuse; and yet, in no instance whatever, has the depravation of the original doctrine and custom proceeded to a greater height, or had more serious consequences.

In allusion, perhaps, to the festival of the passover, our Lord appointed his disciples to eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of him; informing them that the bread represented his body, which was about to be broken, and the wine his blood, which was about to be shed for them; and we are informed by the apostle Paul, that this rite is to continue in the christian church till our Lord's second coming. Farther than this we are not informed in the New Testament. We only find that the custom was certainly kept up, and that the christians of the primitive times probably concluded the public worship of every Lord's day, with the celebration of it. As the rite was peculiar to christians, the celebration of it, was of course, in common with joining habitually in the public worship of christians, an open declaration of a man's being a christian, and more so indeed, than any other visible circumstance; because other persons might occasionally attend the public worship of christians, without bearing any proper part in it themselves.

SECTION I.

one

THE HISTORY OF THE EUCHARIST TILL THE TIME OF AUGUS

TINE. The first new idea which was superadded to the original notion of the Lord's supper, was that of its being a sacrament, or an oath to be true to a leader. For the word sacrament is not to be found in the scriptures, but was asterwards borrowed from the Latin tongue, in which it signifies the oath wbich a Roman soldier took to his general.

The next idea which was added to the primitive notion of the Lord's supper was of a much more alarming nature, and had a long train of the worst consequences.

This was the considering of this institution as a mystery. And, indeed, the christians affected very early to call this rite, of the mysteries of our holy religion. By the term mystery was meant, originally, the more secret parts of the heathen worship, to which select persons only were admitted, and those under an oath of secresy. Those mysteries were als so called initiations ;; those who were initiated were supu posed to be pure and holy, while those who were not initiated were considered as impure and profane.

Hence those who did not partake of the ordinance, were, in the course of time, excluded from its celebration, in imitation of the heathen custom. It is probable that this practice did not arise till the middle of the third century. In the fourth century it was usual to call the eucharist a tremendous mystery, a dreadful solemnity, and terrible to angels.

Another new idea annexed to the eucharist was that of its being a sacrifice; and this, too, was in compliance with the prejudices of the Jews and heathens, who in the early ages used to reproach the christians with having no sacrices or oblations in their religion. We soon find, however, that this language was adopted by them, and applied to the Lord's supper. This language is particularly used by Cy

prian, and in general the Lord's supper was called the eucharistical sacrifice, though, in fact, they only considered it as a memorial of the sacrifice of Christ or of his death upon the cross.

Again, both Baptism and the Lord's Supper began in early times to be regarded as doing more than to influence religiously the mind and heart in the natural way. They were esteemed as a kind of charm. Justin Martyr and Irenæus thought that there was such a sanctification of the elements, that there was a a divine virtue in them. This opened the door to endless superstitions. Hence very early, baptism and the Lord's supper were esteemed necessary to salvation, or as saving ordinances.

It is too early to look for the notion of the transmutation of the bread and wine into the real body and blood of Christ, but we find even in this early age language so highly figurative (calling the symbols by the name of the things represented by them) as very much contributed to produce this opinion in after ages.

"We do not consider," says Justin Martyr, " this bread and wine as common bread and wine. For the evangelists teach us that Jesus Christ took bread, and said, this is my body. He also took the wine and said, this is my blood.Tertullian, however, says, that by the words, this is my body, we are to understand the figure of my body.

The language of Cyril of Jerusalem to the young communicants is very strong : “Since Christ has said, this is my body; who can deny it? Since he has said, this is my blood, who can say it is not so ?" He tells his pupils they must not judge of this by their senses, but by faith.

As a natural consequence of the superstitious awe with which the elements were viewed, many feared to partake of them. In the time of Chrysostom, so many abstained from this part of the service, that he was obliged to reprove them for it with great severity; and various methods were taken to engage them to attend it.

The bread and wine, being esteemed in some sense as the body and blood of Christ, were held in awful reverence. They shed a sanctity also upon every thing that was connected with them. The cloth, which covered the bread, was called the cloth of the body, and held sacred. The table Jerome calls a mystical table, and recommends a religious veneration to be paid to the utensils and furniture, be-.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »