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Ball, Nov. 15, 1813.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
If from the statements, which have been made in the foregoing letter, it should appear that the justice of God still require the punishment of the Sinner, previously to his admittance, into a state of perfect reconciliation with himself, then it will also appear, that an inability, or a forgetfulness to comply with this laborious condition, will exclude him from the possession of eternal happiness, until that debt of punishment be discharged, in some way or another, even to the very last farthing. It is the remission of this punishment, which we call temporal, because it is not of eternal duration, which we believe is effected by the power of an indulgence; and the privilege of dispensing which, we maintain lias been given by Christ to his Church.
When, indeed, we consider the nature of that extraordinary commission, which was conferred on the person of St. Peter, in these words of our divine Redeemer: I will give unto thee, the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; and whatsoever, thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shallbe loosed in Heaven :* and on the other apostles in words nearly similar,f it is natural for us to conclude, that Christ then had it in contemplation to give them the power in question. This commission appears evidently to go the length of investing them with a privilege of removing upon earth, in his name and by his authority, every obstacle which can prevent the entrance of men, who have truly repented of their sins, into the eternal kingdom of God. Is it then either unreasonable or unnatural to conclude, that it implies a power of dispensing with that share of punishment, which the sinner is incapable of dis. charging himself, because it is in the number of those obstacles ? And, consequently, is it not fair to conclude, that it implies a power such as is claimed and exercised by the Catholic Church, of dispensing to the faithful the grace of what is termed an indulgence?
Neither the belief, nor the exercise of this power, it is certain, is of modern date in the Church. The conduct of St. Paul, as it is recorded in the eleventh chapter of his second epistle to the Corinthians, goes evidently to establish this fact. We are there informed by the Apostle himself, that a man who, on account of a scandalous crime, had been separated from the communion of the faithful, and subjected to a course of rigorous penance, was again restored to all the advantages of that communion, and the term of his penitential labours abridged, by his own sentence pronounced in the name and in the person of Christ. Now, what is this proceeding of St. Paul, but a remission of those penitential labors, which had been imposed on this man, as a condition of effecting a perfect reconciliation with God? Consequently, what is it but a remission in the
* Matth. xvi. 19.
+ Ibid, xviii. 15.
person, of Christ, of that share of punishment, for which those penitential labours had been imposed? And therefore, let Mr. o* * * * * * inform you, what It is, if it be not what, in the language of the Church, is termed an indulgence?
I remain, &c.
Bath, Nov. 17, 1813.
MY DEAR FRIEN!),
If men were to judge of Catholic Doctrine, respecting the nature of indulgencies, from the ideas which Mr. * * * * himself to entertain on the subject, then they would be led to conclude, that its advantages are believed, by a Catholic, to arise from a participation of no merits, and of no sufferings, but those of the saints. No insinuation, however, it is certain, can be more insiduous, and no idea can be more false,
The grace of an indulgence, like grace
other blessing, which is enjoyed by a Christian, we believe flows from the merits and from the sufferings of Christ. We believe that there exists no other name, under Heaven, but that of Jesus, in which we can hope for salvation: we believe, that his merits, and his sufferings, are the only source of the merits of bis Saints, and the only secure and certain ground of our hope.
But this belief of the Catholic Church, is not inconsistent with any idea, which we are taught to entertain of the merits of the Saints, nor with
any idea, which we are taught to entertain of the influence which those merits possess of obtaining for us from God, a more extensive application of the merits of Christ to ourselves. We are instructed by the Apostles' creed, to believe in the communion of Saints; and, therefore, if that term has any meaning, we are instructed to believe, that amongst all those, who are trae members of the true Church of Christ, there is a communication of all spiritual good things;--that the deficiency which may arise from the inability of one, is supplied from the superabundance of another;-and that, in the grace of an indulgence, we are made to partake, in a more extensive manner, of the merits of those good meu, who have already finished their earthly course, and are gone before us to the possession of eternal happiness and glory.
To me it does not appear, that this doctrine, on a full and fair consideration of the subject, will be found to be at variance with the language of Scripture: and certainly history will shew us that it is in perfect consonance with the belief and with the practice of the Church, in her earliest ages. In the supplications and the prayers of God's people, in the old law, God is frequently called the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob; and the remembrance of the virtues of these great men, is for ever held up by that people to God, as an inducement to obtain the blessings of his