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BIBLICAL CRITICISM. AN EXAMINATION OF SIX PASSAGES ERRONEOUSLY QUOTED IN SUPPORT OF
PCRGATORY. “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him ; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily, I say into thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing."-(Mat. v. 25, 26.)
ANOTHER passage adduced by Romanists to support the doctrine of purgatory is the one placed at the head of this article. The prison mentioned in this passage is supposed to mean purgatory, and the paying of the last farthing is said to imply the doctrine of satisfaction by penal suffering in purgatory. It is, however, very unfortunate for this notion that it is opposed by high authorities among the fathers, and even by some Papal writers of eminence. Therefore, before we enter upon an investigation of the meaning of this passage, it may be well to confront the modern interpretation by the interpretation of ancient authorities.
St. Jerome interprets the “prison" as hell; for he says, “ He is never released from prison who does not pay the last farthing before the end of life."* St. Chrysostom applies the phrase to “outer darkness," where men suffer divine vengeance, and where there is no longer time for repentance. He says, “ Agree with thine adversary whilst thou art in the way with him, that is, in this life ; for when the way is finished there is no longer time for repentance. Beware lest the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge to the avenging powers, and thou be cast into prison, that is, into outer darkness; being condemned, not only for thy deeds but even for thy thoughts. Let us implore the all-merciful God, that we be not delivered up to the devils."1 Augustine delivers the following exhortation : “ Induced, therefore, by these salutary reflections, beloved brethren, let us agree with our adversary while we are in the way with him : that is, let us conform to the word of God while yet we are in this life; for afterwards, when we shall have departed hence, there will be neither room for contrition 11or satisfaction. Nothing will then remain except the judge, the officer, and the prison."! Now this language, like that of Chrysostom, cannot apply to purgatory, but to eternal perdition. A state in which there is no room for repentance and satisfaction can belong to no place but the regions of eternal misery and despair. The same ancient writer again remarks, when speaking of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, “ With reference to his (Abraham's) declaration, that the good cannot, even if they wished, pass over to those places in which the wicked are punished, what else does it mean except that no merciful assistance can be ren. dered by the just, even if they wished to render it, to those who, by the immutability of the divine sentence, are so fast in prison that they cannot go out thence until they have paid the uttermost farthing?"$ Ful. gentius likewise applies the phraseology to hell, and that in the most unequivocal language. He observes, “A man makes the word of God his adversary when he does those things which Holy Writ forbids. To such a one it is said in the Psalm, · Thou hatest to be reformed, and hast cast my words behind thee.' If any one in the way, that is in this life, agree not quickly with this divine word, he is thrown into the prison of eternal fire, and will have no rest beyond it."|| Bede, remarking on this passage, gives
* Hieron. Comment, in Maro iii., tom. V., p. 895. Paris, 1700.
+ Chrysostom, Hom. xxvii., de Pænitentia, tom. i., p. 824, B.C.-Ed. Paris, 1636. See also Hom. xvi. in Matt. v. 25, 26, tom. i., p. 204, etc.
Augustin, Hom. v, in 1 Tim. iv., tom. X., col. 420. D. Basil, 1569. $ August. Quæstionum Evangeliorum, lib. 2, sec. iii., col. 265, tom. iii. Paris, 1689.
|| Fulgentii Rusensis Episcopi de Remissione peccatorum, lib. 2, cap. v., p. 387. Paris, 1684.
it the following interpretation:“ Until thou payest" is put for infinity, just as, in another place," Until I place thine enemies beneath thy footstool."* Maldonatus expressly applies it to hell, the place of everlasting torment. He says, The way is the time of this life, the prison is hell. He will never come out, because those who are in hell never pay."Alexander is equally clear and decided in applying this scripture to everlasting punishment. These are his words: “It does not mean that we shall come out afterwards, but that we shall never come out; because, when the condemned suffer infinite punishments for mortal sins, they never thoroughly discharge them. Those of whom this is said will never come out of the prison of hell."
We have introduced these comments, not because we regard them as being strictly correct, but to confront papal doctors in their attempt to force the passage to speak in favour of purgatory. Opinions are neither true nor false because they are old; but when a Church boasts of her unity of sentiment, and argues her dogmas on the ground of her infallibility and the unanimous consent of the Fathers, we have a right to show that the boast is fallacious and the pretence hypocritical. All the authorities we have adduced are clearly against the Papal use of this scripture, and we might add to the number. Leaving the contradictory authorities between the Fathers and the Romish Church, we have now to inquire what is the true meaning of the passage.
We do not think there is any evidence that our Lord, in this passage, was making a direct reference to the future world. There is nothing in the literal phraseology of the passage which expresses the slightest allusion to the spiritual world, or the future condition of souls. It is only by giving a figurative meaning to the passage that it can be thus applied; and such a figurative application we believe does not convey the proper meaning of the Saviour who uttered the words.
If we look at the context, we find that our Lord is inculcating the duty of meekness and gentleness of spirit-of peace and brotherly affection, without which our devotions are unacceptable and our professions of religion are vain. He says, “Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first go and be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Then comes the text under consideration, and it is a further application of the same principle--that of meekness and placability. “Agree with thine adversary quickly," &c. That is to say, “ Be not contentious, resentful or litigious; but be gentle and placable. Live peaceably with all men. Seek peace and pursue it; and if a controversy or misunderstanding should exist between thee and any person, and lead thine antagonist to prosecute thee at law, take the first opportunity of composing the difference by making all reasonable concessions. Do this quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him ; that is, by mutual agreement, before you appear together at a legal tribunal. Lest the judge decide against thee, and stern justice take its course--the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing." Having neglected the opportunity of mutual arrangement by timely concession, the unrelenting law will exact from thee all its rigorous demands.
That this is the true meaning of the passage is evident from the version which Luke gives of the Saviour's words in a parallel text. “When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him ; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into the prison. I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence till thou.hast paid the very last mite.” (Luke xii. 58, 59.) We have here the same precept in .
# Beda, lib. 5, p. 12. Coloniæ, 1612.
substance as that recorded by Matthew, and it gives us the true sense and meaning of our Lord. Indeed, being given by inspired authority, it must be regarded as exegetical or explanatory of the former, as is usual with other parallel passages of the sacred volume. Regarding the text recorded by Luke as exegetical of that recorded by Matthew, we are compelled to give the precept of our Lord a literal sense. This literal application of the passage has force and propriety, from the fact that the litigious disposition and frequent disputes of the Jews at that time rendered such counsel especially necessary.
But if even we give the passage a figurative application, it can avail nothing in favour of purgatory, for several important reasons. First. It is against all acknowledged laws of sound criticism and scriptural interpretation to employ a metaphor in proof of any controverted doctrine. Secondly. The fanciful application of the several terms in this passage, to make it subserve the purposes of Popery, would render it perfectly ridiculous; for if the word “ prison" be applied by the Papist to purgatory, and the payment of the last farthing to penal satisfaction, then, to be consistent, all the other terms must have a corresponding application. Thus, the debtor or the culprit must be man, the plaintiff must be God, and the ruler before whom both go for justice must be Christ; and, while God is dragging the sinner to Christ the ruler, the sinner must propose terms of accommodation, and seek to make peace. If he do not adopt this course, Christ the ruler will deliver him over to Satan, and cast hiin into purgatory. Who does not see that such metaphorizing is opposed to the majesty and simplicity of the Scriptures, and to the truth of God? To represent the sinner as capable of obtaiving peace with God at the moment that Justice is dragging him to the judgment-seat is to teach falsehood, and to burlesque the sacred writings. The utmost application which the text can have of a spiritual kind is thisthat the prudence which dictates the necessity of an early and mutual adjustment of our legal differences with men should induce us, without delay, to seek salvation, lest vengeance suddenly overtake us. But, thirdly, even if the preposterous metaphorical application which Popery requires were admitted, still the text could avail notbing in behalf of purgatory, for this reason : in the words of Christ, the agreement with the adversary is recom. mended as a means of preventing the being cast into prison; but the doctrine of Popery respecting purgatory does not accord wish this, for it teaches that all who are not reconciled to God on earth by the forgiveness of their sins are, at death, cast not into the prison of purgatory, but into the prison of hell. It is only those who are reconciled here who are admitted into purgatory hereafter. Dens, in his Theology, says “ Purgatory is a place in which the souls of the pious dead, obnoxious to temporal punishment, suffer enough or make satisfaction."* Thus, it is the pious dead, those who have agreed with the adversary, who are admitted to purgatory; while those who have not agreed with him are sent to the prison of hell to all eteruity. Popery, therefore, contradicts herself, and proves from her own testimony that this passage cannot apply to purgatory in any sense. If this prison be applied to the future world, it means hell, and from that the sinner wi!l never be delivered, because the last farthing will never be paid; the requirements of justice cannot be discharged, because the sinner bas nothing wherewith to pay. This the Romanists themselves everywhere maintain.
THE SI: THAT IS NOT FORGIVEN, EITHER IN THIS WORLD OR IN THE
WORLD TO COME.-MATTHEW X11. 32. Another passage which the advocates of Purgatory have endeavoured to press into their service is contained in Matthew xii. 32, where our Lord solemnly declares, “ And whosoerer speaketh a word against the Son of man,
* Dens Theolog., tom. vii., Tract. de Quatuor Norissimnis de Purgatorio. No. 25.
it shall be forgiven him; but whoso speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”
When such a passage is adduced in favour of purgatory, a considerate and unprejudiced mind must at once be satisfied that the advocates of the doctrine are hard pressed for want of scriptural argument. We naturally inquire, What is there here said respecting purgatory? Is the existence of such a place or state asserted ? Not at all. There is no allusion to its fires or its mode of penal satisfaction. It is true the “world to come" is mentioned, but it is not mentioned as a place where sin can either be expiated or forgiven; but, on the contrary, as a place where sin cannot be forgiven; and how this language can be supposed to favour purgatory it is difficult to imagine. The mere negation of one thing does not prove or imply the existence of its opposite. It is not, indeed, maintained by the Romanists themselves that the passage directly asserts the doctrine, but that the doctrine may be inferred from the phraseology; which, by excluding the sin against the Holy Ghost from forgiveness in the world to come, admits the supposition that some other sins may be forgiven in the world to come. The fertile imagination of a mind already prepossessed in favour of the dogma may suggest such a supposition; but certain we are that no such supposition is sanctioned by a candid and impartial consideration of the text and its parallel passages.
While it is admitted by Romanists themselves that this passage asserts nothing plainly and directly respecting purgatory, it is most unfortunate for the doctrine that its phraseology is incompatible even with any inference in its favour. For the text speaks not of making satisfaction for sin, but of receiving the forgiveness of sin. Now purgatory is not represented by Romanists as a place where men receive forgiveness, but where they make satisfaction for sin. We are informed by the highest authorities of the Romish Church, that none can go to purgatory but those whose sins are forgiven in the present world; and the object of their being sent to purgatory is not to obtain forgiveness, but to make some penal satisfaction for sins already forgiven. Cardinal Bellarmine expressly says that “Purgatory is only for those who die in venial sins, and for those who depart this life with liability to punishment, their guilt having been already remitted.” And this is the doctrine of their standard authorities. Now this fact renders the passage before us incompatible with the doctrine of purgatory. Had the text spoken of expiation or satisfaction for sin, then the inventive powers of a Romanist, hard pressed for want of better evidence, might have given the text a sophistical turn to force it into his service; but seeing it speaks of forgiveness only, and seeing purgatory, on the Papist's own showing, is not a place of forgiveness, but that forgiveness is obtained in this life only, it follows that the text defies even the perverted ingenuity of a Romanist to make it subservient to his purpose.
If it be argued that forgiveness and satisfaction are synonymous, we reply, No such thing. They express opposite ideas. Satisfaction is payment; but forgiveness is remission without payment. The one meets the requirements of justice, the other is an act of pure mercy. The Church of Rome herself notes the distinction between satisfaction and forgiveness; for the one she ascribes to God's mercy alone, the other to the sinner himself by personal suffering, or to others whose merits are said to be appropriated to his account. Forgiveness, she says, is imparted in this world; but satisfaction, in a great degree, is performed, she maintains, in the world to come, in the torments of purgatory. Thus she herself points out and contends for the broad and obvious distinction between forgiveness and satisfaction ; and, in maintaining this distinction, she deprives herself of the possibility of pressing this passage into her service. It speaks of forgiveness only ; it says nothing of satisfaction, either in this world or in the world to come.
But we go further, and maintain that, if the Church of Rome did not hold this distinction, the text in question could vield no support to lier favourite dogma; for there is another view in which the phraseology of this text is incompatible with the Papal doctrine of purgatory. If the Romanist supposes that our Lord, by excepting the sin against the Holy Ghost from forgiveness in the world to come, intimates that some sins are not excepted from forgiveness in the world to come, it will follow, on the same principle, that all other sins may be pardoned in the world to come. For the sin against the Holy Ghost is the only sin he has excepted; and if that sin, which is here formally excepted, is the only one unpardonable in the world to come, then it follows that all others may be pardoned in the world to come. · On this principle it follows that the hell of eternal misery is for none except those who sin against the Holy Ghost! This is the legitimate conclusion which flows from the principle of the Papist's reasoning; and while it is contradicted by the whole tenor of Scripture, it is contradicted also by the Papist's own doctrine of purgatory. He does not admit that all other sins, except the sin against the Holy Ghost, may be either forgiven or expiated in the world to come. On the contrary, he maintains, as we have shown before, that all who die in mortal sin go direct to hell, to be punished everlastingly; that all such are excluded not only from heaven, but from purgatory itself, and consigned to hopeless, irrevocable and eternal misery. Thus, the text is incompatible with any principle of argument which would torture it in favour of purgatory. It inflexibly refuses to yield its assent to the Papal fiction.
The true meaning of the passage we believe to be simply this: that the sin against the Holy Ghost should never be forgiven that those who committed it should be totally and for ever excluded from the divine mercs. What that particular sin was, it is not our object to investigate at length. We believe it was a wilful and determined resistance of the evidence afforded by the Saviour's miraculous works, and a malignant ascription of those works to a diabolical agency, as when the Pharisees said of Christ, " He casteth out devils by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of devils." This sin involved such determined resistance to the clearest evidence, and such an audacious insult to the truth, the love, and the majesty of the Holy Spirit, as excluded men for ever from the divine mercy, and led the Redeemer himself to declare that it should never be forgiven.
The phrase “ Neither in this world, neither in the world to come," is surposed by some commentators to refer to the two dispensations—the Jewish economy which existed then, and the Christian economy which was soon to be established. The original will bear this construction, but we think the words were used merely as a strong negative expression, and intended to express emphatically that forgiveness was never to be obtained. This phrase was used as a proverbial expression among the Jews, and it was intended to indicate emphatically that a thing should never take place, when it was said, " It shall not be either in this world or in the world to come.” We have, however, a more weighty reason for regarding the proper meaning to be that which we have stated-namely, the fact that it is supported and borne out by parallel passages. The Scriptures are the best and safest interpreters of their own meaning; and when the same thing is asserted in various forms in other passages, there can be little difficulty in ascertaining the true sense intended. Thus, in the preceding verse, our Lord utters the same solemn truth in the form of a simple negative, “ Wherefore I say unto yoni, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men." In the Gospel by Mark, the same awful truth is given in another form, expressing both an exclusion from pardon and an exposure to eternal damnation. “He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is subject to eternal damnation.”* (iii. 29.) In Luke the same awful truth is expressed by a simple negative: “And whosoever shall speak a word against
* The word ivoxós is feebly rendered in our translation by the word “ danger.” The meaning of the word is bound, liable, obnoxious, subject to punishment.