IF there are some sins that can be pardoned in the other world it is neither in hell nor in heaven, therefore it is in Purgatory. Now, that there are sins which are pardoned in the other world we prove, firstly, by the passage of S. Matthew in chap. xii., where Our Lord says that there is a sin which cannot be forgiven either in this world or in the next: therefore there are sins which can be forgiven in the other world. For if there were no sins which could be forgiven in the other world, it was not now necessary to attribute this property of not being. able to be forgiven in the next world to one sort of sins, but it sufficed to say it could not be forgiven in this world. When Our Lord had said to Pilate : My kingdom is not of this world, in S. John, chap. xviii., Pilate drew this conclusion: Art thou a king, then? Which conclusion was approved by Our Lord, who assented thereto. So when he said that there is one sin which cannot be forgiven in the other world, it follows very properly that there are others which can. They try to say that these words, neither in this world nor in the world to come, only signify, for ever, or, never; as S. Mark says in chap. iii., shall never have forgiveness. That is quite true ; but our reason loses none of its force on that account. For either S. Matthew has properly expressed Our Lord’s meaning or he has not: one would not dare to say he has not, and if he has, it still follows that there are sins which can be forgiven in the other world, since Our Lord has said that there is one which cannot be forgiven in the other world.
And please tell me – if S. Peter had said in S. John, chap. xiii.: Thou shalt never wash my feet either in this world or in the other, would he not have spoken [properly], since in the other world they might be washed ?-and indeed he does say: thou shalt not wash my feet for ever. We must not believe then that S. Matthew would have expressed the intention of Our Lord by these words neither in this world nor in the next , if in the next there cannot be remission. We should laugh at a man who said: I will not marry either in this world or in the next, as if he supposed that in the next one could marry. He then who says a sin cannot be forgiven either in this world or in the next, implies that there may be remission of some sins in this world and also in the other. I am well aware that our adversaries try by various interpretations to parry this blow, but it is so well struck that they cannot escape from it, unless by starting a new doctrine. And in good truth it is far better, with the ancient Fathers, to understand properly and with all possible reverence the words of Our Lord, than, in order to found a new doctrine, to make them confused and ill-chosen. S. Augustine (de Civ. Dei, lib. xxi., c. 24), S. Gregory (Hom. 7, de Dec., c. 39), Bede (in Marc. iii.), S. Bernard (Hom. 66 in Cant.), and those who have written against the Petrobusians, have used this passage in our sense, with such assurance that S. Bernard to declare this truth brings forward nothing more, so much account does he make of this.
In S. Matthew (v.), and in S. Luke (xii.): Make an agreement with thy adversary quickly, while thou art in the way with him; lest perhaps the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Amen, I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou pay the last farthing.
Origen, S. Cyprian, S. Hilary, S. Ambrose, S. Jerome, and S. Augustine say that the way which is meant in the whilst thou art in the way is no other than the passage of the present life: the adversary will be our own conscience, which ever -fights against us and for us, that is, it ever resists our bad inclinations and our old Adam for our salvation, as S. Ambrose expounds, [and] Bede, S. Augustine, S. Gregory, and S. Bernard. Lastly. the judge is without doubt Our Lord in S. John (v.): The Father has given all judgment to the Son. The prison again, is hell or the place of punishment in the other world, in which, as in a large jail, there are many buildings; one for those who are damned, which is as it were for criminals, the other for those in Purgatory, which is as it were for debt. The farthing, of which it is said thou shalt not go out from thence till thou pay the last farthing, are little sins and infirmities, as the farthing is the smallest money one can owe.
Now let us consider a little where this repayment of which Our Lord speaks – till thou pay the last farthing-is to be made. And (1.) we find from most ancient Fathers that it is in Purgatory: Tertullian (Lib. de Anima c. x.), Cyprian (Epist., lib. iv. 2), Origen (Horn. 3 5 on this place of Luke), with Emissenus (Hom. 3 de Epiph.), S. Ambrose (in Luc. xii.), S. Jerome (in Matt. v.), S. Bernard (serm. de obitu Huberti).
(2.) When it is said till thou pay the last farthing, is it not implied that one can pay it, and that one can so diminish the debt that there only remains at length its last farthing ? But just as when it is said in the Psalm (cix.): Sit at my right hand until I make thy enemies, &c., it properly follows that at length he will make his enemies his footstool; so when he says thou shah not go out till thou pay, he shows that at length he will pay or will be able to pay.
(3.) Who sees not that in S. Luke the comparison is drawn, not from a murderer or some criminal, who can have no hope of escape, but from a debtor who is thrown into prison till payment, and when this is made is at once let out? This then is the meaning of Our Lord, that whilst we are in this world we should try by penitence and its fruits to pay, according to the power which we have by the blood of the Redeemer, the penalty to which our sins have subjected us; since if we wait till death we shall not have such good terms in Purgatory, when we shall be treated with severity of justice.
All this seems to have been also said by Our Lord in the 5th of S. Matthew, where he says: He who is angry with his brother shall be guilty of the judgment; and he who shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be guilty of the council ; but he who shall say, thou fool, shall be guilty of hell fire: now it is only the third sort of offence which is punished with hell; therefore in the judgment of God after this life there are other pains which are not eternal or infernal, -these are the pains of Purgatory. One may say that the pains will be suffered in this world; but S. Augustine and the other Fathers understand them for the other world. And again may it not be that a man should die on the first or second offence which is spoken of here? And when will such a one pay the penalty due to his offence ? Or if you will have that he pays them not, what place will you give him for his retreat after this world? You will not assign him hell, unless you would add to the sentence of Our Lord, who does not assign hell as a penalty save to those who shall have committed the third offence. Lodge him in Paradise you must not, because the nature of that heavenly place rejects all sorts of imperfections. Allege not here the mercy of the Judge, because he declares in this place that he intends also to use justice. Do then as the ancient Fathers did, and say that there is a place where they will be purified, and then they will go to heaven above.
In S. Luke, in the 16th chapter, it is written Make unto yourselves friends of the mammon of iniquity, that when you shall fail they may receive you into eternal tabernacles. To fail, what is it but to die? -and the friends, who are they but the Saints ? The interpreters all understand it so; whence two things follow, -that the Saints can help men departed, and that the departed can be helped by the Saints. For in what other way can one understand these words: make to yourselves friends who may receive you? They cannot be understood of alms, for many times the alms is good and holy and yet acquires us not friends who can receive us into eternal tabernacles, as when it is given to bad people with a holy and right intention. Thus is this passage expounded by S. Ambrose, and by S. Augustine (de Civ. Dei xii. 27). But the parable Our Lord is using is too clear to allow us any doubt of this interpretation; for the similitude is taken from a steward who, being dismissed from his office and reduced to poverty, begged help from his friends, and Our Lord likens the dismissal unto death, and the help begged from friends unto the help one receives after death from those to whom one has given alms. This help cannot be received by those who are in Paradise or in hell, it is then by those who are in Purgatory.