PREACHED AT ST. PAUL'S, MAY 21, 1626.
1 Corinthians Xv. 29.
Else, what shall they do which are baptized for the dead? if the dead rise not at all, why are they then baptized for the dead?
I Entered into the handling of these words, upon Easter day1; for, though the words have received divers expositions, good and perverse, yet all agreed, that the words were an argument for the resurrection, and that invited me to apply them to that day. At that day I entered into them, with Origen's protestation, Odit Dominus, qui festum ejus unum putat diem, God hates that man, that thinks any holyday of his lasts but one day, that never thinks of the resurrection, but upon Easter day: and therefore I engaged myself willingly, according to the invitation, and almost the necessity of the words, which could not conveniently, (scarce possibly) be determined in one day, to return again and again to the handling thereof. For they are words of great extent, a great compass: the whole circle of a Christian is designed and accomplished in them; for, here is first the first point in that circle, our birth, our spiritual birth, that is, baptism, Why are these men thus baptized? says the text; and then here is the point, directly and diametrally opposed to that first point, our birth, that is, death, Why are these men thusbaptized for the dead? says the text; and then the circle is carried up to the first point again, to our birth, in another birth, in the resurrection, Why are these men thus baptized for the dead, if there be no resurrection? so that if we consider the militant and the triumphant church, to be (as they are) all one house, and under one roof, here is first Limen Ecdesiw, (as St. Augustine calls baptism) the Threshold of the Church, we are put over the threshold, into the body of the church, by baptism, and here we are remembered of baptism, Why are these men thus baptised? and then here is chorus ecclesiw, the choir, the chancel of the church, in which all the service of God, is officiated and
'1 See Sermon xis. vol. I.
executed; for we are made not only hearers, and spectators, but actors in the service of God, when we come to bear a part in the hymns and anthems of the saints, by our death, and here we are remembered of death, Why are these men thus baptized for the dead? and then, here is sanctum sanctorum, the innermost part of the church, the holy of holies, that is, the manifestation of all the mysterious salvation, belonging to soul and body, in the resurrection, Why are these men thus baptized for the dead, if there be no resurrection?
Our first day's work in handling these words, was to accept, and then to apply that, in which all agreed, that these words were an argument for the resurrection; and we did both these offices; we did accept it, and so show you, how the assurance of the resurrection accrues to us, and what is the office of reason, and what is the office of faith in that affair; and then we did apply it, and so show you divers resemblances, and conformities between natural death, and spiritual death, and between the resurrection of the body to glory at last, and the resurrection of the soul by i grace, in the way; and wherein they induced, and assisted, and illustrated one another: and those two miles made up that Sabbath day's journey. When we shall return to the handling of them, the next day (which will be the last) we shall consider how these words have been misapplied by our adversaries of the Roman church, and then the several expositions which they have received from sound and orthodoxal men, that thence we may draw a conclusion, and determination for ourselves; and in those two miles, we shall also make up that Sabbath day's journey, when God shall be pleased to bring us to it. This day's exercise shall be, to consider that very point, for the establishment whereof, they have so detorted, and misapplied these words, which is their purgatory, that this baptism for the dead must necessarily prove purgatory, and their purgatory.
So then this day's exercise will be merely polemical, the handling of a controversy; which though it be not always pertinent, yet neither is it always unseasonable. There was a time but lately, when he who was in his desire and intention, the peacemaker of all the Christian world, as he had a desire to have slumbered all field-drums, so had he also to have slumbered all pulpit-drums*, so far, as to pass over all impertinent handling of controversies, merely and professedly as controversies, though never by way of positive maintenance of orthodoxal and fundamental truths; that so there might be no slackening in the defence of the truth of our religion, and yet there might be a discreet and temperate forbearing of personal, and especially of national exasperations. And as this way had piety, and peace in the work itself, so was it then occasionally exalted, by a great necessity; he, who was then our hope, and is now the breath of our nostrils, and the anointed of the Lord, being then taken in their pits, and, in that great respect, such exasperations the fitter to be forborne; especially since that course might well be held, without any prevarication, or cooling the zeal of the positive maintenance of the religion of our church. But things standing now in another state, and all peace, both ecclesiastical and civil, with these men, being by themselves removed, and taken away, and he whom we feared, returned in all kind of safety, safe in body, and safe in soul too, whom though their church could not, their court hath catechized in their religion, that is, brought him to a clear understanding of their ambition, (for ambition is their religion, and St. Peter's ship must sail in their fleets, and with their winds, or it must sink, and the Catholic and Militant church must march in their armies, though those armies march against Rome itself, as heretofore they have done, to the sacking of that town, to the holding of the pope himself in so sordid a prison, for six months, as that some of his nearest servants about him died of the plague, to the treading under foot priests, and bishops, and cardinals, to the dishonouring of matrons, and the ravishing of professed virgins, and committing such insolencies, Catholics upon Catholics, as they would call us heretics for believing them, but that they are their own Catholic
* Donne alludes to the design which James I. entertained at several times during his reign, but especially during bis negotiations with Spain and France, of reconciling the Romish and English churches. I cannot find any special ordinance forbidding the treatment of controversies with the Papists. It will be remembered that this sermon was preached in the second year of Charles I., to whom the expressions shortly following belong. His " beiDg taken in their pits" must, I suppose, be interpreted of his being in treaty of marriage with the Infania of Spain. The expression "pulpit-drums" will remind the reader of Butler's "Pulpit, drum ecclesiastick;" which was probably taken from this very passage. Ed.
authors that have written them) things being now, I say, in this state, with these men, since we hear that drums beat in every field abroad, it becomes us also to return to the brasing and beating of our drums in the pulpit too, that so, as Adam did not only dress Paradise, but keep Paradise; and as the children of God, did not only build, but build with one hand, and fight with another; so we also may employ some of our meditations upon supplanting, and subverting of error, as well as upon the planting, and watering of the truth. To which purpose I shall prepare this day, for the vindicating and redeeming of these words from the adversary, (which will be the work of the next day) by handling to-day that point, for which they have misapplied them, which is purgatory, and the mother, and the offspring of that; for what can that generation of vipers suck from this text, which is not, if there be no such purgatory, but, if there be no such resurrection, why then are these men baptized for the dead? Heaven and earth shall pass away, saith Christ, but my word shall not pass away*. But rather than purgatory shall pass away, his word must admit such an interpretation, as shall pass away, and evacuate the mtention and purpose of the Holy Ghost therein. How much of the earth is passed away from them, we know, who acknowledge the mercy, and might, and miracle of God's working, in withdrawing so many kingdoms, so many nations of the earth, in so short time, from the obedience, and superstition of Rome, as that if controversies had been to have been tried by number, they would have found as many against them, as with them; so much of the earth is passed from them. How much of heaven is passed from them, that is, how much less interest and claim to heaven they can have now, when God hath afforded them so much light, and they have resisted it, than when they were in so great a part, under invincible ignorance, God only, who is the only judge in such causes, knows; and he, of his goodness, enlarge their title to that place, by their conversion towards it. But how much soever of earth or heaven pass away, they will not lose an acre, an inch of purgatory; for, as men are most delighted with things of their own making, their own planting, their own purchasing, their own building, so are these men therefore enamoured of pur
* Matt. xxiv. 35.
gatory: men that can make articles of faith of their own tradi1 tions, (and as men to elude the law against new buildings, first build sheds, or stables, and after erect houses there, as upon old foundations, so these men first put forth traditions of their own, and then erect those traditions into articles of faith, as ancient foundations of religion) men that make God himself of a piece of bread, may easily make purgatory of a dream, and of apparitions, and imaginary visions of sick or melancholy men.
It may then be of use to insist upon the survey of this building of theirs, in these three considerations. First, to look upon the foundation, upon what they raise it, and that is prayer for the dead, and that is the grandmother error; and then upon the building itself, purgatory itself, and that is the mother; aud lastly upon the out-houses, or furniture of this building, and that is indulgences, which are the children, the issue of this mother, and not such children, as draw their parents dry, but support and maintain their parents; for, but for these indulgencies, their prayer for the dead, and their purgatory would starve; and starve they must all, if they can draw their maintenance from no other place but this, Why are these men baptized for the dead?
First then for the first of these three parts, the foundation, the grandmother, prayer for the dead; the most tender mother, the most officious nurse, cannot have a more particular care, how a new-born child shall be washed, or swathed, or fed, when they consider every drop of water, every clout, every pin that belongs to it, than God had of his infant church, when he delivered it over to her foster-fathers, her nursing-fathers, her god-fathers, Moses and Aaron, and bound them by his instructions, in every particular, as he prescribed them. How many directions he gave, what they should eat, what they should wear, how often they should wash, what they should do, in every religious, in every civil action, and yet never, never any mention, any intimation, never any approach, any inclination, never any light, no nor any shadow, never any colour, any colourableness of any command of prayer for the dead. In all the law, no precept for it; and this might imply a weakness in God's government, in so particular a law no precept of so important a duty: in all the history no example; and this might imply ill luck at least, in so large a a story no precedent of an office so necessary: in all the gospel no promise annexed to it; and this doth not imply, but manifest a conclusion against it, an exclusion of it. There being then no precept, no precedent, no promise for it, how camo it into uso and practice amongst the Jews I
After the Jews had been a long time conversant amongst the Gentiles, and that as fresh water approaching the sea, contracts a saltish, a brackish taste, so the Jews received impressions of the customs of the Gentiles, who were ever naturally inclined to this mis-devotion, and left-handed piety, of praying for the dead, in the faintness and languishing of their religion, when thoy were much declined from the exact observation thereof, then, in the time of the Maccabees entered that one example*, which hath raised such a dust, and blinded so many eyes. We have mention of many funerals before that, and after that of many too, even in the time when Christ was upon the earth, and yet never mention of prayer for the dead, but in this one place of this book; I do not say, in this one story, (for in this story reported by Josephus, there is no mention of it) but in this one book. That is true that I have read, that after Christ's time, the Rabbins laid hold upon it, and brought it into custom; and that is true which I have seen, that the Jews at this day continue it in practice; for when one dies, for some certain time after, appointed by them, his son or some other near in blood or alliance, comes to the altar, and there saith and doth something in the behalf of his dead father, or grandfather respectively. But all this they have drawn into practice, from this one place, from this book, from which book the same Rabbins draw a justification of a man's killing himself, because in this book they find an example of that in Razis*; the Rabbins took no better a ground for their prayer for the dead, than for self-homicide, only matter of fact, out of a historical book, which themselves did not believe to be canonical. But how took this hold of Christians?
That which wrought upon the Jews, prevailed upon the new Christians too; for the greatest part of them, by much, being Gentiles, (for few amongst the Jews, in comparison, were converted to the Christian religion) they which came from Gentilism,
* 2 Macc. xii. 43, 45. * 2 Macc. xiv. 37.
retained still many impressions of such things as they had been formerly accustomed unto. And as the fathers of the church then, out of an indulgence to these new convertites, did suffer and tolerate the practice of many things, which these Gentiles brought with them; (as indeed a great part of the ceremonies of the Christian church are of that nature, and of such an admission, things, which rather than avert their new convertites from coming to them, by an utter abolishing of all parts of their former religion, and worship of their gods, those blessed fathers thought fitter to retain, and turn to some good use, than altogether to take them away) as in other things, so also in this prayer for the dead, to which they, as Gentiles, had been formerly accustomed, the fathers did not oppose it with any peremptory earnestness, with any vehement diligence, partly because the thing itself argued and testified a good, and tender, and pious affection; (and though God do not ground his decrees upon any disposition in man's nature, yet in the execution of his decrees, God as he works in his church, loves to work upon a good-natured man) and partly also, because this practice, being but a practice only, and no dogmatical constitution, might be (as it was in the first practice thereof) without shaking any foundation, or wounding any article of the Christian religion; and lastly, (that we may speak truth, with that holy boldness which belongs to the truth) because it was a long time before the fathers came to a clear understanding of the state of the soul, departed out of this life: for though they never doubted of the certain performance of God's promises, that all that die in him, do rest in him, yet where, and how this rest was communicated to them, admitted more clouds than they could at all times dispel and scatter, some arising from philosophers, some from heretics, some from ignorance, some from heat of disputation.
So then, at first it was a weed that grew wild in the open field, amongst the Gentiles; then because it bore a pretty flower, the testimony of a good nature, it was transplanted into some gardens, and so became a private opinion, or at least a practice amongst some Christians; and then it spread itself so far, as that Tertullian, and he first of any takes knowledge of it, as of a custom of the church; and truly this of Tertullian is very early, within little more than two hundred years after Christ. But as Tertullian shows us an early birth of it, so he tells us enough, to show us, that it should not have been long lived, when he acknowledges that it had no ground in Scripture, but was only a custom popularly, and vulgarly taken up. But Tertullian speaks of more than prayer; he speaks of oblations and sacrifices for the dead; it is true, he does so; but it is of oblations and sacrifices far from the propitiatory sacrifice of the mass, for Tertullian makes a woman the priest in his sacrifice: Offert uxor, says he, annuls diebus dormitionis mariti, the wife offers every year upon the day of her husband's death; that is, every year upon that day, she gives a dole and alms to the poor, as the custom was to do in memory of dead friends.
This being then but such a custom, and but so induced, why did none oppose it I Why it was not sufficiently opposed, I have intimated some reasons before: the affection of those that did it, who were (though mistaken in the way) piously affected in the action, and then the harmlessness in the thing itself at first, and then partly a loathness in the fathers to deter the Gentiles from becoming Christians, and partly a cloud and darkness of the state of the soul after death. Yet some did oppose it; but some not early enough, and some not earnestly enough; and some not with much success, because they were not otherwise integrw famw, they were not thought sound in all things, and therefore they were believed in nothing; which was ^Erius's caso, who did oppose it; but because iErius did not come home to all truths, he was not hearkened unto, in opposing any error. Otherwise at that time, Epiphanius had a fair occasion offered, to have opposed this growing custom, and to have rectified the church in a good measure therein, about an hundred years after Tertullian: for then jErius opposed it directly; but because he proceeded upon false grounds, that since it was come to that, that the most vicious man, the most enormous sinner, might be saved after his death, by the prayers and devotions of another man, there remained no more for a Christian to do, but to provide such men in his life, to do those offices for him after his death, and so he might deliver himself from all the disciplines, and mortifications, and from the anguishes, and remorses, and vexations of conscience which the Christian religion induces and requires, Epiphanius discerning the advantage that ^Erius had given, by imputing things not thoroughly true, he places his glory, and his triumph, only in overthrowing ^Erius's ill-grounded arguments, and takes the question itself, and the danger of the church, no farther to heart than so. And therefore when .-Erius asks, can prayers for the dead be of any use? Epiphanius says, yes, they may be of use, to awaken and exercise the piety and charity of the living; and never speaks to that which was principally intended, whether they could bo of any use to the dead. So when ^Erius asks, Is it not absurd to say, that all sins may be remitted after death? Epiphanius says, no man in the church ever said, that all sins may be remitted after death, and never clears the main, whether any sin might. And yet with all advantages, and modifications, Epiphanius lodges it at last, but upon custom, JS7ec enim prwceptum patris, sed institutum matris habemus, says he, For this which we do, we have no commandment from God our Father, but only an institution, implied in this custom, from the church our mother.
But then it grew to a farther height; from a wild flower in the field, and a garden flower in private grounds, to be more generally planted, and to be not only suffered by many fathers, but cherished and watered by some, and not above forty years after Epiphanius, to be so far advanced by St. Chrysostom, as that he assigns, though no Scripture for it, yet that which is nearest to Scripture, that it was an apostolical constitution. And truly, if it did clearly appear to have been so, a thing practised, and prescribed to the church, by the apostles, the Holy Ghost were as well to be believed in the apostles' mouths, as in their pens; an apostolical tradition, that is truly so, is good evidence. But because those things do hardly lie in proof, (for that which hath been given for a good rule of apostolical traditions, is very defective, that is, that whatsoever hath been generally in use in the church, of which no author is known, is to be accepted for an apostolical tradition, for so that 'ablatio pedum, the washing of one another's feet after Christ's example, was in so general use, that it had almost gained the dignity of being a sacrament; and so was also the giving of the sacrament of the body and blood to children newly baptized, and yet these, though in so general use, and without any certain author, are not apostolical traditions) therefore we must apply St. Augustine's words to St. Chrysostom, Lege ex lege, ex prophetis, ex Psalmis, ex evangelio, ex apostolicis literis, et credemus, Read us anything out of the law, or prophets, or Psalms, or Gospel, or epistles, and we will believe it. And we must have leave to return St. Augustine's words upon St. Augustine himself, who hath much assisted this custom of praying for the dead, Lege ex lege, &c. Read it out of the Scriptures, and we will believe it; for St. Augustine does not pretend any other place of Scripture, than this of the Maccabees, and (not disputing now what credit that book had with St. Augustine) certainly it fell not within this enumeration of his, the Maccabees are neither law, nor prophets, nor psalms, nor Gospel, nor epistle.
Beloved, it is a wanton thing for any church, in spiritual matters, to play with small errors; to tolerate, or wink at small abuses, as though it should be always in her power to extinguish them when she would. It is Christ's counsel to his spouse, that is, the church, Capite vulpes pareulas, Take us the little foxes, for they destroy the vine; though they seem but little, and able to do little harm, yet they grow bigger and bigger every day; and therefore stop errors before they become heresies, and erroneous men before they become formal heretics. Capite, says Christ, take them, suffer them not to go on; but then, it is capite nobis, take us those foxes, take them for us, the bargain is between Christ and his church. For it is not capite vobis, take them to yourselves, and make yourselves judges of such doctrinal matters, as appertain not to your cognizance; nor it is not cape tibi, take him to thyself, spy out a recusant, or a man otherwise not conformable, and take him for thy labour, beg him, and spoil him, and, for his religion, leave him as you found him; neither is it cape sibi, take him for his ease, that is, compound with him easily, and continue him in his estate and errors, but cape nobis, take him for us, so detect him, as he may thereby be reduced to Christ and his church.
Neither only this counsel of Christ to his church, but that commandment of God in Leviticus is also appliable to this, Non misereberis pauperis in judicio, Thou shalt not countenance a poor man in his cause6, thou shalt not pity a poor man in judgment. Though a new opinion may seem a poor opinion, able to do little harm, though it may seem a pious and profitable opinion, and of good use, yet, injudicio, if it stand in judgment, and pretend to be an article of faith, and of that holy obligation, matter necessary to salvation, non misereberis, thou shalt not spare, thou shalt not countenance this opinion upon any collateral respect, but bring it to the only trial of doctrines, the Scriptures. In the beginning of the reformation in Germany, there arose a sect whom they called Intermists, and Adiaphorists, who, upon a good pretence, were like to have done a great deal of mischief: they said, since all the hope of a reformation that we can promise ourselves, must come from a general council, and of such a council we can have no hope but by the pope, it were impertinent, and disconducing to our own ends, to vex or exasperate the pope, in this interim, till the council be settled, and so the reformation put into a way; and in the interim, for this short time till the council, these adiaphora, the indifferent things, (in which mild word they involved all the abuses, and all the grievances that were complained of) may be well enough continued. But if they had continued so long, they had continued yet; if they had spared their little foxes then, they had destroyed their vines; if they had pitied the poor in judgment, the cause had been judged against them; if they had reprieved those abuses for a time, they had got a pardon for ever: and therefore blessed were they in taking those children, and dashing them against the stones, in taking those new-born opinions, and bringing them to the true touch-stone of all docrines, an ab initio, whether they had been from the beginning, or could consist with tho Scriptures.
Neither doth this counsel of Christ's, Take us these little foxes, nor this commandment of God, Thou shalt not pity the poor in judgment, determine itself in the church, or in the public only, but extends itself (rather contracts itself) to every particular soul and conscience. Capite vulpeculas, take your little foxes, watch your first inclinations to sins, for if you give them suck at first, if you feed them with the milk and honey of the mercy of God, it shall not be in your power to wean them when you would, but
5 Exod. xxiii. 3. Lev. xix. 15.
they will draw you from one to another extreme, from a former presumption to a future desperation in God's mercy. So also Non misereberis, Thou shalt not pity the poor in judgment; now that thou callest thyself to judgment, and thy conscience to an examination, thou shalt not pity any sin, because it pretends to be a poor sin, either poor so, that it cannot much endanger thee, not much encumber thee, or poor so, as that it threatens thee with poverty, with penury, with disability to support thy state, or maintain thy family, if thou entertain it not. Many times I have seen a suitor that comes in forma pauperis, more trouble a court, and more importune a judge, than greater causes, or greater persons: and so may such sins as come in forma pauperis, either way, that they plead poverty, that they can do little harm, or threaten poverty if they be not entertained. Those sius are the most dangerous sins, which pretend reason why they should be entertained; for sins which are done merely out of infirmity, or out of the surprisal of a temptation, are (in comparison of others) done as sins in our sleep; but in sins upon deliberation, upon counsel, upon pretence of reason, we do see the wisdom of God, but we set our wisdom above his, we do see the law of God, but we insert and interline non obstantes of our own, into God's law.
If therefore thou wilt corruptly and viciously, and sinfully love another, out of pity, because they love thee so; if thou wilt assist a poor man in a cause, out of pretence of pity, with thy countenance and the power of thy place, that that poor man may have something, and thou the rest that is recovered in his right; if thou wilt embrace any particular sin out of pity, lest thy wife and children should be left unprovided; if thou have not taken these little foxes, that is, resisted these temptations at the beginning, yet nunc in judicio, now that they appear in judgment, in examination of thy conscience, non misereberis, thou shalt not pity them, but (as Moses speaks of false prophets*, and by a fair accommodation of all bewitching sins, with pleasure or profit) If a dreamer of dreams have given thee a sign, and that sign be come to pass; if a sin have told thee, it would make thee rich, and it have made thee rich; yet if this dreamer draw thee to another God, if this profit draw thee to an idolatrous, that is, to an habi
* Deut. xiii. 8.
tual love of that sin, (for Tot habemus recentes Deos, quot vitia, says St. Hierome, Every man hath so many idols in him, as he hath habitual sins) yet, Though this dreamer (as God proceeds there) be thy brother, or thy son, or thy friend which is as thine own soul, how near, how dear, how necessary soever this sin be unto thee, non misereberis, says Moses, Thine eye shall not pity that dreamer, thou shalt not keep him secret, but thine own hand shall be upon him to kill him; and so of this pleasurable, or profitable sin, non misereberis, thou shalt not hide it, but pour it out in confession; non misereberis, thou shalt not pardon it, no nor reprieve it, but destroy it, for the practice presently; non misereberis, thou shalt not turn out the mother, and retain the daughter, not leave the sin, and retain that which was sinfully got, but divest all, root, and body, and fruits, by confession to God, by contrition in thyself, by restitution to men damnified; else, that will fall upon thee and thy soul, which fell upon the church. That because they did not take their little foxes, they endangered the whole vine; because they did pity the poor in judgment, that is, (as St. Augustine says) they were loath to wrestle with the people, or force them from dangerous customs, they came from that supine negligence, in tolerating prayer for the dead, to establish a doctrinal point of purgatory; and for both, prayer for the dead, and purgatory, they detort this text, else, that is, if no purgatory, Why then are these men baptized for the dead?
As in the Old Testament there is no precept, no precedent, no promise for prayer for the dead, so in the Old Testament they confess, there was no purgatory; no such place, as could purify a soul to that cleanness, as to deliver it up to heaven; for thither, to heaven, no soul, say they, had access, till after Christ's ascension. But as the first mention of prayer for the dead was in time of the Maccabees, so much about the same time was the first stone of purgatory laid; and laid by the hands of Plato. For, Harreticorum patriarchs, philosophi, says Tertullian, The philosophers were the patriarchs of heretics, evermore they had recourse to them. And then, Plato being the author of purgatory, we cannot deny, but that the Greek church did acknowledge purgatory, that is, that Greek church, of which Plato is a patriarch; for, for the Christian Greek church, that never acknowledged purgatory, so as the Roman, that is, a place of torment, from which our prayers here, might deliver souls there. But yet Plato's invention, or his manner of expressing it, took such root and such hold, as that Eusebius7, when he comes to speak of purgatory, delivers it in the very words of Plato, and makes Plato's words his words, and Plato his patriarch, for the Greek church. The Latin church had patriarchs too for this doctrine; though not philosophers, yet poets; for of that which Virgil says of purgatory, Lactantius says*, Propemodum vera, Virgil was very near the truth, Virgil was almost a Catholic, but then later men say, Hwc prorsus vera, This is absolutely true that Virgil says, and Virgil is a perfect, a down-right Catholic; for an upright Catholic, in the point of purgatory, were hard to find.
These then are the first patriarchs of the Greek and Latin Church, philosophers, and poets; and when it came farther, to Christians, it gained not much at first; for the first mention of purgatory amongst Christians hath this double ill luck, that first it is in a book which no side believes, the book called Pastor, whose author is said to be Hermes, and he fancied to be St. Paul's disciple; and then that which is said of purgatory in that book, is put into an old woman's mouth, and so made an old wife's tale; she tells that she had a vision, of stones fallen from a tower, and then mended after they were fallen, and laid in the building again: and this tower must be the church, and these fallen stones must be souls in purgatory, and then they must be made fit to be placed in the uppermost part of the building, in the triumphant church.
But to consider this plant in better grounds, than philosophers, or poets, or old wives' tales, or supposititious books, amongst men of more weight and gravity; Clement of Alexandria, within little more than two hundred years after Christ, spake doubtfully, uncertainly, suspiciously, disputably of purgatory; and within twenty years after him, Origen, who was evermore transported beyond the letter, upon mysteries, somewhat directly. But yet when all is done, Origen's purgatory is a purgatory, that would do them no good; for it would bring them in no money; and
7 Anno 32G.
* Anno 290.
they could be as well content that there were none, as that it were nothing worth; except they may have the letting, and setting of purgatory at their price, they care not though it were pulled down. And Origen's purgatory is such a purgatory as the best men must come into it, even martyrs themselves, that are re-baptized in their own blood, (and will this purgatory serve their turns ?) and it is such a purgatory, as the worst of all, even the devil himself may, and shall get out of it; and will this purgatory serve their turns? Neither is this an error peculiar to Origen, that all souls must pass through purgatory, but common with others of the fathers too; Sive Paulus, sive Petrus, says Origen, whether it be St. Paul, or St. Peter, thither he must come, and sive Petrus, sive Johannes, says St. Ambrose, whether it be the disciple that loved Christ, St. Peter, or the disciple whom Christ loved, St. John, thither he must come; and St. Hilary extends it farther, he draws in the blessed Virgin Mary herself into purgatory. And that we may see clearly, that that purgatory which the fathers intended, is not the purgatory now erected in the Roman church, St. Ambrose consigns to his purgatory, even the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament; Igne filii Levi, igne Ezekiel, igne Daniel, the holiest generation, the sons of Levi, and the greatest of the prophets must pass through this fire: and will such a purgatory serve their turns, as was kindled in the Old Testament I
Well; they are very loath to be put to their special plea, very loath to answer, what purgatory of the fathers they will stand to; they would not be put to answer; they choose rather to interrogate us; and they ask us, since the fathers are so pregnant, so frequent in the namo of purgatory, one purgatory or other, will you believe none? None, upon the strength of that argument, that the fathers mention purgatory, except they will assign us a purgatory, in which those fathers agree, and agree it to be matter of faith, to believe it; for from how many things, which pass through the fathers, by way of opinion, and of discourse, are they in the Roman church departed, only upon that, that the fathers said it, but said it not dogmatically, but by way of discourse, or opinion. But then they ask us again, since it is clear that they did use prayer for the dead, what could they mean by those prayers, but a purgatory, a place of torment, where those souls needed help, and from whence those prayers might help them? What could they mean else? Certainly, we cannot tell them, what they meant; if they should ask them, who made those prayers, they could hardly tell them. If a man should have surprised St. Ambrose at his prayers, and stood behind him, and heard him say, Non dubitamus, etiam angelorum testimoniis credimus, Lord, I cannot doubt it, for thou by thine angels hast revealed it unto me, Fide ablutum, wterna voluptate perfrui, That my dead master the emperor, was baptized in his faith, and is now in possession of all the joys of heaven, and yet have heard St. Ambrose say, sometimes to God, sometimes to his dead master, Si quid preces, If my prayers may prevail with thee O God, and then Oblationibus vos frequentabo, I will wait upon you daily with my oblations, I will accompany you daily with my sacrifices; and for what? Ut des, Damine, requiem, That thou, O Lord, wouldest afford rest, and peace, and salvation to that soul; and if this man after all this, should have asked St. Ambrose, what he meant to pray for him, of whose present being in heaven he was already assured? surely St. Ambrose could have given no such answer, as would have implied a confession, or an argument for purgatory; but St. Ambrose is likely to have said to him, as he does say there, Est in piis affectibu s quwdamflendi voluptas, In tender hearts, and in good natures, there is a kind of satisfaction, and more than that, a holy voluptuousness in weeping, in lamenting, in deploring the loss of a friend; In commemoratione amisri acquiescimus, Let me alone, give me leave to think of my lost master some way, by speaking with him, by speaking of him, by speaking for him, any way, I find some ease, some satisfaction in commemorating and celebrating of him; but all this would not have amounted to an argument for purgatory. So also if a man should have found St. Augustine in his meditations after his mother's death, and heard him say, Pro peccatis matris mew deprecor te, Lord, I am a suitor now for my mother's sins; Exaudi Domine, propter medicinam vulnertim tuorum, Hear me, 0 Lord, who acknowledge no other bahamum, than that which drops out of thy wounds, Dimitte Domine, Domine obsecro, Pardon her, O Lord, O Lord pardon her all her sins; and then should have heard St. Augustine, with the same breath, and the same sigh, say, Credo quod jam feceris, qua? rogo, Lord, I am faithfully assured, that all this is already done, which I pray for; and then should have asked St. Augustine, what he meant to pray for that which was already done? St. Augustine could but have said to him, as he does to God there, Voluntaria oris mei accipe Domine, Accept 0 Lord, this voluntary, though not necessary devotion. But if a man would have pressed either of them for a full reason of those prayers, it would have been hard for him to have received it. They prayed for the dead, and they meant no ill, in doing so; but what particular good they meant, they could hardly give any farther account, but that it was, if not an inordinate, yet an inconsiderate piety, and a devotion, that did rather transport them, than direct them.
These then prayed for the dead, and yet confessed those whom they prayed for, to be then in heaven; St. Chrysostom prays for others, and yet believes them to be in hell; Potest infideles de Gehenna dimittere, says he, sed forte non faciet, God can deliver an unbelieving soul out of hell, perchance he will not, says he, but I cannot tell, and therefore I will try. And yet St. Gregory absolutely forbids all prayer for the dead, where they died in notorious sin; as generally their whole school doth at this day, either for such sinners, as dying in impenitency, are presumed to be already in hell, or such as died so well, that they are already presumed to be in possession of as much as can be asked in their behalf.
If then they will still press and pursue us with that question, what could those fathers mean by their prayer for the dead, but ■ purgatory? we must send them to those fathers, (and I pray God they may get to them) to ask what they meant. So much as any of those fathers have told us, we can tell them; and amongst those fathers, St. Dionyse the Areopagite hath told us most; he hath told us the manner, and the ceremonies used at the funerals of Christians; and amongst them the offices, and liturgies, and services said and read at such funerals; and expressed them so, as that we may easily see, that first the congregation made a declaration of their religious and faithful assurance, that they that die in the Lord, rest in him; and then a protestation in the behalf of that dead brother, that ho did die in that faith, and that expectation, and therefore was then in possession of that rest, which was promised to them who died so. And this testimony for themselves in general, and this application thereof to that dead man, says he, the church then expressed in the form of prayer, and so seemed to ask and beg at God's hands, that which indeed they did but acknowledge to have received before; they gave that the form of a prayer, as of a future thing, which was indeed but a recognition of that which was present, and past, that they did then, and that that dead brother had before embraced that belief.
This answer to their question, (What could they mean but purgatory, by those prayers ?) they may have from those of those ancient times; and thus much more from daily practice, that every man who prostrates himself in his chamber, and pours out his soul in prayer to God; though he have said, 0 Lord, enter not into judgment with thy servant; forgive me the sins of my youth, 0 Lord; 0 Lord blot out all mine iniquities out of thy remembrance, though his faith assure him, that God hath granted all that he asked upon the first petition of his prayer, yea before he made it, (for God put that petition into his heart and mouth, and moved him to ask it, that thereby he might be moved to grant it) yet as long as tho spirit enables him, he continues his prayer, and he solicits, and he importunes God for that which his conscience assures him, God hath already granted: he hath it, and yet he asks it; and that second asking it implies and amounts but to a thanksgiving for that mercy, in which ho hath granted it. So those fathers prayed for that which they assured themselves was done before, and therefore, though it had the form of a prayer, it might bo a commemoration of God's former benefits, it might be a protestation of their present faith, or an attestation in the behalf of their dead friend, whose first obsequies, or yearly anniversary they did then celebrate.
Add to this the general disposition in tho nature of every man, to wish well to the dead, and the darkness in which men were then, in what kind of state the dead were, and we shall the less wonder, that they declined to this custom in those times, especially if we consider, that even in the reformation of religion, in these clearer times, Luther himself3, and after him, (if perchance Luther may be thought not to have been enough fined and drawn from his lees) the apology for the Confession of Augsburg10, which was written after all things were sufficiently debated, and had siftings, and cribrations, and alterations enough, allows of such a form of prayer for the dead, as that of the primitive fathers may justly seem to have been. All ends in this, that neither those prayers of those fathers, nor these of these Lutherans, (though neither be in themselves to be justified) did necessarily imply, or pre-suppose any such purgatory, as the Homan church hath gone about to evict or conclude out of them; men might pray for the dead as those fathers did, and as the Lutherans do, safely enough without assisting the doctrine of purgatory, if that were all that were to be said against such prayers.
Be then that thus settled, the fathers did not intend any such building upon that foundation, not a purgatory, which should be a place of torment, upon those prayers for the dead; but then, what did they mean by that purgatory, and that fire, which is so frequent amongst them I In the confession of our adversaries, the greatest part of the fathers that mention a purgatory fire, intend it of the general fire of conflagration at the last day: they thought the souls of the dead to have been kept in abditis, and in receptamlis till the day of judgment, and that then that fire which was to take hold of all creatures to the purifying of them, should also take hold of all souls, and burn out all that might be unacceptable to God in those souls, and that this was their purgatory. Others of the fathers have called that severe judgment, and examination which every soul is to pass under, from the hand of God at that time, (because it hath much of the nature of fire, aud many of the properties and qualities of fire in it) a fire, a purging fire, and made that their purgatory. If others of the fathers have spoken of a purging fire after this life, so as it will not fall within these two acceptations, of the fire of conflagration, or of the fire of examination, we must say in their behalf, as Sextus Seuensis
* Chemnicius Exam. De purgator. fo. 92. b. 10 By Melanchthon. It is one of the books of authority of the Lutherans.
does, that they are not the less holy, nor tho less reverend, for having strayed into some of these mistakings, because it is a fire without a light.
In those sub-obscure times, St. Augustine might be excusable, though he proceeded doubtfully and said, Non incredibile, it is not incredible that some such thing there may be, and Quomri potest, it is not amiss to inquire, (where such things are to be inquired after, that is, in the Scriptures) whether any such thing be or no, and Utrum latere, an inveniri, whether any such thing will be found there, or no, I cannot tell: he may be excusable in his proceeding further in his doubt, Sive ibi tantum, whether all our purgatory be reserved for the next world, Sive hio et ibi, or whether God divide our purgatory, some here, and some there, Sive hic ut non ibi, or whether God exalt and multiply our purgatory here, that we may have none hereafter. Of these things, I say, howsoever St. Augustine might be excusable for doubting in those dark times, we should be inexcusable, if we should not deny them in these times, in which God hath afforded us so much light and clearness; and rest in that acknowledgment, that we have in this life Purgationem, et purgatorium, a purging, and a purgatory; a purging in this, that Christ Jesus, whom God hath made the heir ofall things, by whom also he made the world, who was the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person; that he, by himself hath purged our sins": there is our purging; but then, because after this general purging, which is wrapped up in the general nature, as Christ died for mankind, for all men, and after that nearer application thereof, as it is wrapped up in the covenant, as he died more effectually for all Christians, still our own clothes defile us", our own evil habits, our own flesh pollutes us, therefore God sends us a purgatory too in this life, crosses, afflictions, and tribulations, and to burn out these infectious stains and impressions in our flesh, Ipse sedet tanquam ignis confians, God sits as a fire, and with fuller's soap", to wash us, and to burn us clean with afflictions from his own hand.
Let no man think himself sufficiently purified, that hath not passed this purgatory; Irascaris mihi Domine, saith St. Bernard,
Lord let me see that thou art angry with me; I Know I have given thee just cause of anger; and if thou smother that anger, and declare it not by corrections here, thou reservest thine anger to undeterminable times, and to unsupportable proportions. Propitius fuisti, says David, Thou wast a merciful God to thy people; for, saith he, Thou didst punish all their inventions; in this consisted his mercy, that he did punish; for if he had been more merciful, he had been unmerciful; if he had begun with no judgments, they had ended in judgments without end; affliction is a Christian's daily bread, and therefore in that petition, Da nobis hodie, Give us this day our daily bread, not only patience in affliction, but affliction itself, so far as it conduces to our mortification, is asked at God's hand. It is an over-presumptuous confidence, for which they glorify one in the Roman church14, that he was put often to his Decede a me, Domine, O Lord, withdraw thyself, and thy grace farther from me, for by mine own sanctity, or diligence, I am able to wrestle with, and to overcome all the temptations, and tribulations of this life, decede a me, withdraw thyself, and thy grace, and put not thyself to this trouble, nor this cost with me, but leave me to myself: this was too much confidence; but that was more, which we find in another, that he begged of God, by prayer, that he might be possessed with the devil for some months, because all the temptations of the flesh, and all the crosses of the world, were not enough for his victory, and his triumph. But it is an humble and a requisite prayer, to ask such a measure of affliction, as may ballast us, and carry us steadily, through all the storms, and tempests of this life. As he that hath had no rub in his fortune, in his temporal state, is in most danger to fall, (to fall into murmuring) at the first stumble he makes, as ho that hath had no sickness till his age, hardly recovers then; so he that hath not borne his yoke in his youth, that hath not been accustomed to crosses and afflictions, hath a wanton soul all the way, and a froward and impatient soul towards the end.
This is our true purgatory; and in this purgatory, we do need
14 St. Philip de Neri, founder of the Order of the Priests of the Oratory in Italy. See above, Sermon X. Vol. I. note 10.
the prayers of others; and upon this purgatory, we may build indulgences, which are those testimonies of the remission of sins, which God hath enabled his church to imprint and confer upon us, in the absolution thereof; which are nothing of kin to those indulgences of the Roman church, which are the children of this mother of purgatory, and to the maintenance of which, they have also detorted our text, Else, if there be no such indulgences, if the works of supererogation done by other men, may not bo applied to the souls that are in purgatory, if there be no such uso of indulgences, why are then these men baptizedfor the dead?
Against the popular opinion of the sphere, or element of fire, some new philosophers have made this an argument, that it is improbable, and impertinent, to admit an element that produceth no creatures; a matter more subtle than all the rest, and yet work upon nothing in it; a region more spacious than all tho rest, and yet have nothing in it to work upon. All the other three elements, earth, and water, and air, abound with inhabitants proper to each of them, only the fire produces nothing. Here is a fire that recompenses that defect; tho fire of the Roman purgatory hath produced indulgences, and indulgences are multiplied to such a number, as that no herds of cattle upon earth can equal them, when they meet by millions at a jubilee, no shoals, no spawn of fish at sea, can equal them, when they are transported in whole tuns to the West Indies, where of late years their best market hath been; no flocks, no flights of birds in the air can equal them, when as they say of St. Francis, at every prayer that he made, a man might have seen the air as full of souls flying out of purgatory, as sparkles from a smith's anvil, beating a hot iron. The apostle complains of them, that made Mercaturam animarum, Merchandise of men's souls; but these men make Ludibrium animarum, A jest of men's souls: for, if that sad and serious consideration, that this doctrine concerns that part of man, which nothing but the incorruptible blood of the Son of God could redeem, the soul, did not cast a devout and a religious bridle upon it, it were impossible to speak of these indulgences, otherwise than merrily: they do make merchandise of souls, and yet they make a jest of them too.
These then, theso indulgences, are the children, the generation of that viper, the salamanders of that fire, purgatory; and then, Inter omnia venenata, says Pliny, Of all the venomous creatures in the world, the salamander is maximi sceleris, the most mischievous; for whereas others, singulos feriunt, (as the same author says) they sting but one at once, the salamander destroys whole families, whole cities together, for all that eat the fruit of any tree, that he hath touched, perish. We need not apply this; our fathers did, and our neighbours do feel the manifold mischiefs that these mercenary indulgences work in the world, and to what desperate and bloody actions men are induced, and animated by them; what knives these indulgences have whet in courts, and what armies they have paid in the open field; a cheap discharge, and easy subsidy; we have seen copper coined, and we have read of leather coined, but here they coin paper, and in an indulgence, which requires but as much paper as a ballad, they send a man more salvation, than the whole Bible can give them. Men that will not see light, or not watch by the light, will not see this; men that delight to wallow still in the mire, can digest this; Etlam salamandra a suibus manditur, says Pliny, As venomous as a salamander is, a Sow will eat a salamander; as the citizens of the lowest fire, of hell itself, entered into the herd of swine, so these children of this other fire, of purgatory, these indulgences, enter into swinish men, that consider not their own foulness, but think themselves clean when they have eaten a salamander, that is, bought an indulgence. But though they have had a spurious generation, and yet have lasted longer than spurious generations use to do, (for they have spread into three generations, prayer for the dead begot purgatory, and purgatory indulgences) yet they have had a viperous generation too, for they have eaten out the womb of their own mother, and these salamanders, these indulgences retain still the nature of Pliny's salamanders, non gignunt, they beget no more, they proceed no farther; for in this enormous excess of indulgences, the Roman church took her death's wound; from this extreme abuse of indulgences, arose the occasion of the Reformation, which God advanced and prospered so miraculously in the hands of Luther, upon the indignation that the world took upon these indulgences. How they rose, how they grew, how they fell, is a historical
knowledge, and not much necessary to bo insisted upon here: though indeed our danger be greater from these indulgences, than either from prayer for the dead, or from purgatory; though all three be equally erroneous in matter of doctrine, yet for matterof-fact, and danger, indulgences are the most pernicious, because that opinion of an immediate passing to heaven thereupon, animates men to any undertakings. But as the Christians in abolishing the idolatry of the Gentiles, in some places, sometimes, left some of their idols standing, lest the Gentiles should come to deny, that ever they had worshipped such monsters: so it hath pleased the Holy Ghost to hover over the authors and writers in the Roman church, so as that they have left some impressions of the iniquity of these indulgences in their books. From them we are able to declare, that indulgences in the primitive church were nothing but relaxations, moderations of those severe penances, which the canons, called penitential, inflicted upon particular sins, which canons were for the most part the rule of the whole church, and which penances, enjoined by those canons, every bishop in his own diocese, might according to his holy discretion moderate, according to the bodily infirmity, or the spiritual amendment of the penitent sinner; that in time, the bishops of Rome drew into their hands all this power of remitting penances, reserving to themselves, and shedding upon other bishops, as much, and as little as they were pleased; that after they had extended this overflowing power over this world, they enlarged it farther to the next world too, to purgatory. And this, not long since, Postquam aliquandiu ad purgatorium trepidatum est, coepere indulgentiw, says a good author of theirs, of our nation15, that bishop of Rochester, whose service they recompensed with a cardinal's hat, (but somewhat late, for his head was off before his hat came) after the vapours of purgatory had blinded men's eyes, after men had been made afraid of those fires, for a good while, says that bishop, then they began to set on foot their indulgences; this beginning was not above three hundred years since, and within one hundred they came to that height, that though in their schools they make the pains of purgatory to be so violent, that they say no soul is likely to remain there
above ten years, yet they give indulgences for infinite thousands of years; they give one clayplenam, and the nextpleniorem, and after plenissimam, they forgive all to-day, and to-morrow the rest, and then they find something beyond that, which was beyond all: so that as Seneca says, of the excess in libraries in his time, that they had Bibliothecas pro supellectile, No man thought his house well furnished, if he had not a library, though he understood never an author, so no man thought his house well furnished, if he had not indulgences for every season, if he bought not all that came to market, if he had not indulgence upon indulgences, present and successive indulgences, possessory and reversionary indulgences, total and supernumerary, current and concurrent indulgences, to delude the justice of God withal.
Well; to our true purgatory which we spake of before, those crosses which God is pleased to lay upon us, belong true indulgences, the constant promises of our faithful God, that he will give us the issue with the temptation, and that as the apostle says, No temptation shall befall us, si non humana, but that which appertains to man": now for this humana tentatio, temptation or affliction that appertains to man, it is not only affliction that appertains to men so, as that other men do inflict it, when wicked men revile and calumniate and oppress the godly; it is not only that, though so St. Chrysostom interprets it; nor is this affliction appertaining to man, because man himself inflicts it upon himself, our own inherent corruption being become spontaneus d(emon, a devil in our own bosom; it is not only that, though so St. Hierome interpret it; nor is this affliction appertaining to man, so called humana, as humanum is opposed damoniaco, that all torments falling upon the devil, work in him more and more obduration, but the corrections inflicted by God upon man, work a reconciliation; it is not only this, though so St. Gregory interpret it; but this affliction appertains so to a Christian man, as the soul itself, and as reason appertains to a natural man: he is not a man, that is without a reasonable soul, ho is not a Christian that is without correction; it appertains unto man so, as that it is convenient, more, that it is expedient, more than that, that it is necessary, and more than all that, that it is essential to a Christian: as when
10 1 Cor. x. 13.
the spirit returns to him that gave it, there is a dissolution of the man, so when God withdraws his visitation, there is a dissolution of a Christian; for so God expresses the spiritual death, and the height of his anger, in the prophet, / will make my wrath towards thee to rest, and my jealousy shall depart from theeTM; that is, I will look no more after thee, I will study thy recovery and thine amendment no farther.
Have ye forgot the consolation"? says the apostle; what is that consolation, is it that you shall have no affliction? no; this is the consolation, That whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. It is general to all sons, for, If ye be without correction, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons; and then, to show us how this purgatory and these indulgences accompany one another, how God's crosses, and his deliverances do ever concur together, we see the Holy Ghost hath so ordered and disposed these two, mercy and correction, in this one verse, as that we cannot say which is first, the correction or the mercy, the purgatory or the indulgence: for first the indulgence is before the purgatory,- the mercy before the correction, in one place, whom he loveth, he chasteneth, first God loves, and then he chasteneth; and then after, the purgatory is before the indulgence, the correction is before mercy, He scourgeth every son whom he receiveth; first he scourges him, and then he ^receives him; they are so disposed, as that both are made first, and both last, we cannot tell whether precede, or succeed, they are always both together, they are always all one; as long as his love lasts, he corrects us, and as long as he corrects us, he loves us.
And so we have a justifiable prayer for the dead, that is, for our souls, dead in their sins, Cor novum, 0 Lord create a new heart in me; and we have a justifiable purgatory, purgabit aream, it we be God's floor, he hath his fan in his hand, and he will make us clean1*; and we have justifiable indulgences, Indulsisti genti Domine, indulsisti genti"0, Thou hast been indulgent to thy people, O Lord, thou hast been indulgent to us; we cannot complain, as they begin, rather to murmur, than to complain, Ah Lord God, surely thou hast deceived thy people, saying, You shall have peaw,
and the sword pierceth to the heart*1; for when this sword of God's corrections shall pierce to the heart, that very sword shall be but as a probe to search the wound, nay that very wound shall be but as an issue to drain, and preserve the whole body in health; for his mercies are so above all his works, as that the very works of his justice are mercy.
And so, not the prayer for the dead, not the purgatory, not the indulgences of the Roman church, but we, who have them truly, do truly receive a benefit from this text, which text is a proof of the resurrection. Because we feel a resurrection by grace now, because we believe a resurrection to glory hereafter, therefore we can give an account of this baptism for the dead in our text: the particular sense of which words, will be the exercise of another day. This day we end, both with our humble thanks, for all indulgences which God hath given us in our purgatories, for former deliverances in former crosses, and with humble prayer also, that he ever afford us such a proportion of his medicinal corrections, as may ever testify his presence and providence upon us in the way, and bring us in the- end, to the kingdom of his Son Christ Jesus. Amen.