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injurious, in a smaller degree, to the sanctifying grace, and friendship of God.
Of the former, unless repentance has obtained its forgiveness, we believe, that eternal “ death is the wages;" and of the other some punishment, which is not of an eternal duration.
If Mr. ******* think, that he can esta. blish his opinion, on the authority of Scripture, Catholics are equally confident, that they can establish their's, on the very same ground. The passage indeed, which he cites in his favor, to me appears inapplicable to the point in dispute. On a reference to the context, it will be found, that the Apostle, on the occasion, in question, is not speaking of every sin, of every description. Ile is endeavouring to guard the Converts of Rome, against a relapse into those irregularities, which had marked their general conduct, previously to the period of their happy conversion; and he concludes, that the consequence of such an unfortunate event would be again death to their souls. St. Paul, indeed, it is certain, could not have been ignorant, that imperfection, and consequently some degree of sin, even in the just and virtuous man, is a state inseparable from the corruption of human nature; or, it is equally certain, he must have delivered a doctrine, very different from that of St. John. If we say, observes that Apostle, that we have no sin, we deceive
ourselves, and the truth is not in us. *
We must, then suppose either, that these two Apostles are at variance with each other, or we must suppose, that it is not to every sin St. Paul intends to al. lude, and that, on the occasion in question, it could not have been his object to deal out the same measure of guilt, or to assign the same cba. racter of malignity to every sinful transgression of man.
If this view of the subject does not satisfy the framer of the questions, then I will refer him to the Book of Proverbs, and he will find what to me appears very clearly to establish a distinction between mortal, and venial offences: A just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief t. From this passage it appears, that both the just man, and the wicked, are subject to sin; but it also appears, that they are subject to it in degrees, and in consequences, which are of a very different complexion; and it, moreover, appears, that the existence of some degree of sin, and the possession of some degree of justice, or of sanctifying grace, are circumstances, which are not incompatible with each other. If every transgression of man be essentially mortal, indeed, as Mr. * * * * * * *
maintains, then we must, of necessity, conclude, that there
! 1 Ep. i. 8.
exists not a just man, upon earth, as it is affirmed by St. John, that there exists not a man, who is exempted entirely from sin.
If this authority be judged to be insufficient to establish the doctrine of Catholics, in relation to this subject; then, let this Gentleman turn to the Epistle of St. James *, or to the Gospel of St. Matthew t. In the former of these inspired writers, he will find, that all men, and consequently, that those, who, like the Apostle bimself, are in possession of justice and of grace, are nevertheless subject to sin: and the latter will convince hin, that there are sins, the guilt of which may pursue a man, into the next world, and that even there, he may still hope for some portion of indulgence, and of mercy. How this doctrine, however, can be supported, it is not very easy to conceive, unless we either suppose, that mortal sins can be remitted in the world to come, or that, betwixt the guilt of human transgressions, there exists some essential distinction, like that, which is admitted by Catholics, betwixt mortal, and venial offences. I remain, &c.
+ xii. 32.
Bath, Nov. 12, 1813.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
Where is it contained in holy Scripture, that the merits
and the sufferings of holy men, out of a certain treasure house, can be imputed by a man to men, to deliver their souls from torment?
This question alludes to the practice which is observed, in the Catholic Church of granting to Sinners, who have truly repented of their sins, the benefit of what is usually termed, an indulgence.
Of all the various doctrines of the Catholic Church, there is, perhaps, not one, which has been less understood, nor one, perhaps, which has been more misrepresented by the adversaries of the Catholic name. Before we enter, therefore, into the consideration of the merits of this important subject, it will be proper to awaken your recollection, to the exact nature of an Indulgence.
By this term, the Catholic is taught to understand, that the Church of Christ has received from her divine founder, a power of remitting to the Sinner, who has truly and sincerely repented of his sins, that share of temporal punishment, which we believe, is still required by the justice of God, and which he is incapable himself of discharging by his own penitential exertions and labours. We do not believe, that this advantage can be communicated to any man, who has not thus truly repented, and who has not moreover previously obtained from God, the remission of every nortal offence.
The effects of this merciful dispensation of a bountiful God, we conceive is produced, in favor of the penitent sinner, by the application of the merits of Christ to himself; and also by the union of the merits of those virtuous Servants of God, whose penitential labors have been more than sufficient, for the complete expiation of their own individual offences. With those erroneous ideas, therefore, of ignorant protestants, who have falsely supposed, that we attach to an indulgence, either the
power of remitting offences, yet uncommitted, or the power of remitting any offences whatever; or who have as falsely supposed, that it implies, on the part of the Sinner, an exemption from any penitential labor, of which he is capable himself, the Catholic Church has nothing to do, nor is it necessary for me, to undertake to refute them.
To impress you, with a conviction, that there is not any thing unreasonable, nor any thing incorrect, in this doctrine of the Catholic Church, it will be necessary, and it will be sufficient for me, to establish, on scriptural grounds, the fol