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If there are any doctrines of religion for a knowledge of which we are entirely dependent upon revelation, they are those which relate to man's future existence. We can gain much information of the nature and attributes of the Divine Being, from the glorious works of creation ; we can reason upon the evil of sin, from observation and experience of its effects; sound philosophy may suggest principles of ethics, and remedies for immorality ; but gross absurdities have ever been the offspring of human conceptions and deductions, as to that unseen world to which every immortal spirit is journeying. How signally the ancient philosophers failed in their endeavours to pry into futurity, is patent to all who are but slightly acquainted with their writings or opinions. Indeed, whether there were in man any soul at all, whether death were not a state of eternal sleep, whether there were a Paradise and a hell, or whether these were the chimeras of a superstitious fancy, were doctrines concerning wbose truth the Gentile world at least, and even the Jewish in some measure, wandered in uncertain and gloomy perplexity. All, all was dark until Christ came, shedding the brilliant light of truth over the darkness of the future“ bringing life and immortality to light by the Gospel.”
Hitherto in these lectures we have discussed those doctrines of Christianity which concern us in this life. We have spoken of God's Word, and of our obligation to read it; of the Church, and its glorious and universal Head ; of man as a sinner, of Christ as a Saviour; of repentance and faith, of forgiveness and holiness ; of the institutions of Christianity. This evening we are to pass from these present scenes, we are to list the vail which hides futurity from our vision, we are to leave this world for an hour or two, and are to enter the world that is unseen, the dark, dreary undefined regions of the departed dead; we shall need a guide to direct us in our wanderings-—let us not take man who is as ignorant as ourselves of the way, but The Spirit of God in His Word; we shall need light to illumine our path, let us not follow the meteoric light of human speculation, but let us seize the torch of T'RUTH ; and so far as our guide will take us, and our torch will serve us, let us solemnly contemplate those future scenes whose reality, ere long, every one of us must experience.
In the year 1813, several devout and charitable members of the Church of Rome in Dublin, formed themselves into a Society for the purpose of raising money to relieve themselves and their friends from Purgatory when they should go thither. The Society was designated by those who composed it, “The Purgatorian Society," and its rules were printed and published in a circular, by J. Coyne, Printer, 74 Cook Street, Dublin. The heading of the Circular is as follows: “Purgatorian Society, Instituted July 1st,
1813, and held in St. James' Chapel. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost. “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be . loosed from their sins.' Maccabees, chap. xii, ver. 46."
The Second Rule reads thus: “Every well disposed Catholic wishing to contribute to the relief of the suffering souls in Purgatory shall pay one penny per week, which shall be appropriated to the procuring of masses to be offered up for the repose of the souls of the deceased parents, relations, and friends of all the subscribers to the Institution in particular, and the faithful departed in general.”,
The Sixth Rule is as follows : “ The spiritual benefits of this Institution shall be conferred in the following manner, viz: Each subscriber shall be entitled to an office at the time of their death, another at the expiration of a month, and one at the end of twelve months after their decease."
The Seventh Rule makes the following provision : Every subscriber without distinction shall be entitled
the benefit of one inass each, provided that such member or subscriber shall die a natural death, be six months a subscriber to the Institution, and be clear of all dues at the time of their departure."
In London a similar Society was formed as early as 1810. From its rules the following are transcribed ;
“ All monies acquired by this charity shall be destined to provide that the Holy Sacrifice of the mass be offered for the intentions of the Society, and for the support of the schools. At the death of any member, mass shall
be said three times for the repose of his soul. A member may enter the names of his departed friends in the books of the Society, and such deceased persons shall be deemed members of the same, and partake of its spiritual advantages so long as their subscriptions continue to be paid.”
In the Catholic Directory for 1851, at page 28, there is an appeal for the Gravesend Mission, in which is asked “ five shillings from two to three thousand good Catholics.” It is added, “ that for the pious intentions of those who thus either contribute or collect, the holy mass will be offered every Monday, at 8 o'clock, which may be applied to their deceased friends.” At page 132 of the same Directory, we find an appeal on behalf of "the Asylum of the good Samaritan, Hammersmith,” to which the following announcement is appended : “Subscriptions will be thankfully received by His Eminence, Cardinal Wiseman, 35 Golden Square." It is added : “Benefactors living and deceased, participate in the stated masses, communions, and other prayers of the community and penitents, offered up in behalf of all those who assist them with the means of carrying out their holy undertaking. Cast off clothes, bonnets, &c., are earnestly requested to fit the penitents out for service.”
The grave subject involved in these extracts is that which we have proposed for this evening's consideration: PURGATORY ;—and the words which I have selected as a text you will find in the seventh chapter of the Apocalypse, at the fourteenth and fifteenth