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"A Reformed Catholic", William Perkins (13), Against Purgatory

In this final instalment from A Reformed Catholic Perkins addresses the matter of Purgatory.

The scriptures are clear that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7) that all God's children die in Christ (1 Cor 15:18), and that such as die in Him do rest from their labours (Rev 14:13): that, as they be absent from the Lord while they are in the body, so when they be absent from the body they are present with the Lord (2 Cor 5:6,8); and they come not into judgement, but pass from death into life (John 5:24).

Yet the Church of Rome promotes its doctrine of purgatory and here William Perkins expounds the Reformed Church's dissent.


I. Our consent.

We hold a Christian purgatory, according as the word of God has set down the same unto us. And first of all by this purgatory we understand the afflictions of God's children here on earth, Jer. 3. The people afflicted say, thou hast sent a fire into our bones. Psal. 65. 12. We have gone through water and fire, Malach. 3. 3. The children of Levi must be purified in a purging fire of affliction. 1. Pet. 1. 7. Afflictions are called the fiery trial whereby men are cleansed from their corruptions, as gold from the dross by the fire.

Secondly, the blood of Christ is a purgatory of our sins, 1. John 1. 7. Christ's blood PURGES us from all our sins. Hebr. 9. 14. It PURGES our consciences from dead works. And Christ baptises with the Holy Ghost and with fire; because our inward washing is by the blood of Christ: and the Holy Ghost is as fire to consume and abolish the inward corruption of nature. To this effect saith Origen.Without doubt, we shall feel the unquenchable fire, unless we shall now entreat the Lord to send down from heaven a purgatory fire unto us, whereby worldly desires may be utterly consumed in our minds. Augustine , Suppose the mercy of God is thy purgatory.

II. The difference or dissent.

We differ from the Papists touching purgatory in two things. And first of all, for the place. They hold it to be a part of hell, into which an entrance is made only after this life: we for our parts deny it, as having no warrant in the word of God; which mentions only two places for men after this life, heaven and hell, with the two-fold condition thereof, joy and torment. Luke 16. 25, 26. John. 3. 36. Apoc. 22. 14, 15. and 21. 7, 8. Matt. 8. 11. Nay we find the contrary, Rev. 14. 13. they that die in the Lord are said to rest from their labours: which cannot be true, if any of them go to purgatory. And to cut off all cavils, it is further said, their works, that is, the reward of their works, follow them, even at the heels, as a servant does his master. Augustine saith well, After this life there remains no compunction or SATISFACTION. And, Here is all remission of sin: here be temptations that move us to sin: lastly here is the evil from which we desire to be delivered: but there is NONE OF ALL THESE. And, We are not here without sin, but we shall GO HENCE WITHOUT SIN. Cyril saith, They which are once dead can add nothing to the things which they have done, but shall REMAIN AS THEY WERE LFFT, and wait for the time of the last judgement. Chrysostom, After the end of this life, there be NO OCCASIONS of merits.

Secondly, we differ from them touching the means of purgation. They say, that men are purged by suffering of pains in purgatory, whereby they satisfy for their venial sins, and for the temporal punishment of their mortal sins. We teach the contrary, holding that nothing can free us from the least punishment of the smallest sin, but the sufferings of Christ, and purge us from the least taint of corruption, saving the blood of Christ. Indeed they say, that our sufferings in themselves considered, do not purge, and satisfy, but as they are made meritorious by the sufferings of Christ: but to this I oppose one text of scripture, Hebr. 1. 3. where it is said, that Christ has purged our sins BY HIMSELF: where the last clause cuts the throat of all human satisfactions and merits: and it gives us to understand, that whatsoever thing purges us from our sins, is not to be found in us but in Christ alone: otherwise it should have been said, that Christ purges the sins of men by themselves, as well as by himself: and he should merit by his death, that we should become our own Saviours in part.

To this place I may well refer prayer for the dead: of which I will propound two conclusions affirmative, and one negative.

Conclusion. I. We hold that Christian charity is to extend itself to the very dead; and it must show it self in their honest burial, in the preservation of their good names, in the help and relief of their posterity, as time and occasion shall be offered. Ruth. 1. 8, John. 19. 23.

Conclusion II. We pray further in general manner for the faithful departed, that God would hasten their joyful resurrection, and the full accomplishment of their happiness, both for the body and soul: and thus much we ask in saying, Thy kingdom come, that is, not only the kingdom of grace, but also the kingdom of glory in heaven. Thus far we come; but nearer the gates of Babylon we dare not approch.

Conclusion. III. To pray for particular men departed: and to pray for their deliverance out of purgatory, we think it unlawful: because we have neither promise nor commandment so to do.


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