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20. If the soul after death retains its consciousness, and does not enter into an eternal state until after the last day, it enters upon a Middle or Intermediate State whenever the body is deprived of life, and it then must go to the region of separate spirits, to await there the re-formation of bodies and judgment, but which place is merely one of safe keeping, out of mortal sight, (Sheol or Hades signifying no more) a place of rest for the souls of the righteous from the labours of their earthly state of trial, and has no relation to Purgatory, which is said to be a place of purification for all who enter it; but the conscious spirits of the wicked, or as we here say, their consciences shall therein torment them with the remembrance of their sins, and they shall have a fearful looking for of judgment, and be also unhappy from being deprived of all worldly pleasures, on which alone their whole minds were fixed while in this world.
The belief in a Middle State shown to give no sanction to the Roman Catholic notion of Purgatory, and that such a place was not heard of for several hundred years after the time of the Apostles, and can have no existence consistently with divine Revelation.
Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered."-ST. MARK vii. 13.
"Teaching for doctrine the commandments of men."-ST. MATT. xv. 9.
BEFORE we proceed to show that Purgatory can have no reality, it is proper that we understand correctly what it is described to be in its nature by those who uphold its existence, so that every justice may be done to the doctrine, and we shall therefore refer to their own accounts of it, for much misapprehension exists among Protestants regarding several of its peculiarities. The following information on this head is from The General Catechism* of the Roman Church.
"Quest. What is purgatory?
"Ans. A place or state of punishment in the other life, where some souls suffer for a time, before they can go to heaven, where nothing defiled can enter. Matt. xii. 32.—Apoc. xxi. 27.
* First written by Archbishop Butler, and bearing to be recommended by four Roman Catholic Bishops of Ireland; afterwards corrected and enlarged by Bishop Doyle.
"Quest. Do any others go to purgatory besides those who die in venial sin?
“Ans. Yes; all who die indebted to God's justice on account of mortal sin.
"Quest. Can the souls in purgatory be relieved by our prayers and other good works?
→ Ass. Yes; being children of God, and still members of the Church, they share in the communion of saints, and the Scripture says, "It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins." 2 Mac. xii. 46."
The Right Rev. Dr. Chaloner gives a further exposition of it in The grounds of the Catholic doctrine as contained in the Profession of Faith, published by Pope Pius IV.
"Of purgatory.-What is the doctrine of the Church as to this point?
"We constantly hold that there is a purgatory; and that the souls therein detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful: that is, by the prayers and alms offered for them, and principally by the holy sacrifice of the mass.
"What do you mean by purgatory ?
"A middle state of souls which depart this life in God's grace, yet not without some lesser stains or guilt of punishment which retards them from entering heaven; but as to the particular place where these souls suffer, the church has decided nothing.
"What sort of Christians then go to purgatory?
"1st, Such as die guilty of lesser sins, which we commonly call venial; as many Christians do, who either by sudden death or otherwise, are taken out of this life before they have repented for these ordinary failings.
"2d, Such as having been formerly guilty of greater sins, have not made full satisfaction for them to the divine justice.
"Why do you say, that those who die guilty of lesser sins go to purgatory?
"Because such as depart this life before they have repented of these venial frailties and imperfections, cannot be supposed
to be condemned to the eternal torments of hell, since the sins of which they are guilty are but small, which even God's best servants are more or less liable to. Nor can they go straight to heaven in this state, because the Scripture assures us-There shall in no wise enter thither any thing that defileth.'* Now, every sin, be it ever so small, certainly defileth the soul. Hence, our Saviour assures us, that we are to render an account-' even for every idle word.'”†
The Roman church holds, that the souls of saints and martyrs go directly to the highest heaven immediately after death, while those of entire reprobates and heretics are taken to the hell of everlasting torments; or, in the language of one of her prelates-"Some few have before their deaths so fully cleared up their accounts with the Divine Majesty, and washed away all their stains in the blood of the Lamb, as to go straight to heaven after death; and others who die in the guilt of deadly sins, go straight to hell;" there being in their opinion no middle state but purgatory alone. Those only go to purgatory who shall ultimately be saved, and are to be allowed to enter into heaven on coming out of that place of purification.‡
The doctrine inculcated in the preceding pages of the present work is that none go to heaven, as the place where we are to be eternally happy, or to hell (yeevva, Gehenna, of the Scriptures,) until after the resurrection and judgment, which is then to take place. In the interval from death till then, the soul in its separate state continues in either the Paradise or Tartarus of Hades, happy or miserable in that middle abode between life on earth and its eternal destination, but that none have yet felt pain or happiness in consequence of a sentence of that nature which shall ultimately be revealed and experienced as punishment or reward after our sentence shall have been pronounced.
• Rev. xxi. 27.
+ Matt. xii. 36.
See The Catholic Christian instructed; a book of standard authority among Roman Catholics, and written by one of their most distinguished Bishops, Dr. Chaloner.
When so much is argued in the present day on the subject of Purgatory, and when protestants have found it necessary to counteract the open attempts of the Romanists to gain converts to their doctrines, it is very extraordinary that the preliminary and simple question of a Middle State is seemingly thought by so many of us unnecessary to be inquired into, or else held to be the same as Purgatory is fabled to be, which would be a most dangerous admission, if openly and directly made. Any examination into it is apparently shunned even by those who stand forward as the champions of our reformed faith; we may therefore infer, that in their opinion it nowise enters into the merits of the discussion in any other point of view, than as what Popish misrepresentations call it; whereas, it is the surest way to meet with conclusive arguments those who on this foundation build a structure evidently never intended by the inspired writers to be raised upon it. To waive its consideration simply as a middle state, or to peril the question of the existence or non-existence of Purgatory on the proof alone of a Middle State, is to give our Christian opponents too great an advantage over us in one part of their inferences from scriptural texts, and enables them to quote with apparent triumph, opinions and arguments in their own favour even from the writings of numbers of eminent and pious protestants, both of the Churches of England and Scotland, who admit a middle or separate state of consciousness for the immortal soul before it arrives at its eternal destination. This, these wise and good men show, is the result of the most learned and diligent investigation of the meaning of the Scriptures; while those who deny it in every form have most commonly made no serious or proper inquiry into the subject, and consequently involve themselves in contradictions by attempting to prove too much in opposition to the doctrine of Purgatory. They find it impossible to answer some fair arguments brought against them, without doing violence to the most obvious meanings of many parts of Sacred Writ, and in some cases, indeed, arguing directly in opposition to it, by asserting, as they find themselves obliged to do, in