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Part 34

Of the Mass for the Dead.

Our adversaries have no testimonies and no command from Scripture for defending the application of the ceremony for liberating the souls of the dead, although from this they derive infinite revenue. Nor, indeed, is it a light sin to establish such services in the Church without the command of God and without the example of Scripture, and to apply to the dead the Lord's Supper, which was instituted for commemoration and preaching among the living [for the purpose of strengthening the faith of those who use the ceremony]. This is to violate the Second Commandment, by abusing God's name.

For, in the first place, it is a dishonor to the Gospel to hold that a ceremony ex opere operato, without faith, is a sacrifice reconciling God, and making satisfaction for sins. It is a horrible saying to ascribe as much to the work of a priest as to the death of Christ. Again, sin and death cannot be overcome unless by faith in Christ, as Paul teaches, Rom. 5, 1: Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, and therefore the punishment of purgatory cannot be overcome by the application of the work of another.

Now we shall omit the sort of testimonies concerning purgatory that the adversaries have: what kinds of punishments they think there are in purgatory, what grounds the doctrine of satisfactions has, which we have shown above to be most vain. We shall only present this in opposition: It is certain that the Lord's Supper was instituted on account of the remission of guilt. For it offers the remission of sins, where it is necessary that guilt be truly understood. [For what consolation would we have if forgiveness of sin were here offered us, and yet there would be no remission of guilt?] And nevertheless it does not make satisfaction for guilt, otherwise the Mass would be equal to the death of Christ. Neither can the remission of guilt be received in any other way than by faith. Therefore the Mass is not a satisfaction, but a promise and Sacrament that require faith.

And, indeed, it is necessary that all godly persons be seized with the most bitter grief [shed tears of blood, from anguish and sorrow] if they consider that the Mass has been in great part transferred to the dead and to satisfactions for punishments. This is to banish the daily sacrifice from the Church; this is the kingdom of Antiochus, who transferred the most salutary promises concerning the remission of guilt and concerning faith to the most vain opinions concerning satisfactions; this is to defile the Gospel, to corrupt the use of the Sacraments. These are the persons [the real blasphemers] whom Paul has said, 1 Cor. 11, 27, to be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, who have suppressed the doctrine concerning faith and the remission of sins, and, under the pretext of satisfactions, have devoted the body and blood of the Lord to sacrilegious gain. And they will at some time pay the penalty for this sacrilege. [God will one day vindicate the Second Commandment, and pour out a great, horrible wrath upon them.] Therefore we and all godly consciences should be on our guard against approving the abuses of the adversaries.

But let us return to the case. Since the Mass is not a satisfaction, either for punishment or for guilt, ex opere operato, without faith, it follows that the application on behalf of the dead is useless. Nor is there need here of a longer discussion. For it is evident that these applications on behalf of the dead have no testimonies from the Scriptures. Neither is it safe, without the authority of Scripture, to institute forms of worship in the Church. And if it will at any time be necessary, we shall speak at greater length concerning this entire subject. For why should we now contend with adversaries who understand neither what a sacrifice, nor what a sacrament, nor what remission of sins, nor what faith is?

Neither does the Greek canon apply the offering as a satisfaction for the dead, because it applies it equally for all the blessed patriarchs, prophets, apostles. It appears therefore that the Greeks make an offering as thanksgiving, and do not apply it as satisfaction for punishments. [For, of course, it is not their intention to deliver the prophets and apostles from purgatory, but only to offer up thanks along and together with them for the exalted eternal blessings that have been given to them and us.] Although they speak, moreover, not of the offering alone of the body and blood of the Lord, but of the other parts of the Mass, namely, prayers and thanksgiving. For after the consecration they pray that it may profit those who partake of it, they do not speak of others. Then they add: Eti prospheromen soi tehn logikehn tautehn latreian huper tohn en pistei anapausamenohn propatorohn, paterohn, patriarchohn, prophertohn, apostolohn, etc. ["Yet we offer to you this reasonable service for those having departed in faith, forefathers, fathers, patriarchs prophets, apostles," etc.] Reasonable service, however, does not signify the offering itself, but prayers and all things which are there transacted. Now, as regards the adversaries' citing the Fathers concerning the offering for the dead, we know that the ancients speak of prayer for the dead, which we do not prohibit, but we disapprove of the application ex opere operato of the Lord's Supper on behalf of the dead. Neither do the ancients favor the adversaries concerning the opus operatum. And even though they have the testimonies especially of Gregory or the moderns, we oppose to them the most clear and certain Scriptures. And there is a great diversity among the Fathers. They were men, and could err and be deceived. Although if they would now become alive again, and would see their sayings assigned as pretexts for the notorious falsehoods which the adversaries teach concerning the opus operatum, they would interpret themselves far differently.

The adversaries also falsely cite against us the condemnation of Aerius, who, they say was condemned for the reason that he denied that in the Mass an offering is made for the living and the dead. They frequently use this dexterous turn, cite the ancient heresies and falsely compare our cause with these in order by this comparison to crush us. [The asses are not ashamed of any lies. Nor do they know who Aerius was and what he taught.] Epiphanius testifies that Aerius held that prayers for the dead are useless. With this he finds fault. Neither do we favor Aerius, but we on our part are contending with you who are defending a heresy manifestly conflicting with the prophets, apostles and holy Fathers, namely, that the Mass justifies ex opere operato, that it merits the remission of guilt and punishment even for the unjust, to whom it is applied, if they do not present an obstacle. Of these pernicious errors, which detract from the glory of Christ's passion, and entirely overthrow the doctrine concerning the righteousness of faith, we disapprove. There was a similar persuasion of the godless in the Law, namely, that they merited the remission of sins, not freely by faith, but through sacrifices ex opere operato. Therefore they increased these services and sacrifices, instituted the worship of Baal in Israel, and even sacrificed in the groves in Judah. Therefore the prophets condemn this opinion, and wage war not only with the worshipers of Baal, but also with other priests who, with this godless opinion, made sacrifices ordained by God. But this opinion inheres in the world, and always will inhere namely, that services and sacrifices are propitiations. Carnal men cannot endure that alone to the sacrifice of Christ the honor is ascribed that it is a propitiation, because they do not understand the righteousness of faith, but ascribe equal honor to the rest of the services and sacrifices. Just as, therefore, in Judah among the godless priests a false opinion concerning sacrifices inhered, just as in Israel, Baalitic services continued, and, nevertheless, a Church of God was there which disapproved of godless services, so Baalitic worship inheres in the domain of the Pope, namely, the abuse of the Mass, which they apply, that by it they may merit for the unrighteous the remission of guilt and punishment. [And yet, as God still kept His Church, i.e., some saints, in Israel and Judah, so God still preserved His Church, i.e., some saints, under the Papacy, so that the Christian Church has not entirely perished.] And it seems that this Baalitic worship will endure as long as the reign of the Pope, until Christ will come to judge, and by the glory of His advent destroy the reign of Antichrist. Meanwhile all who truly believe the Gospel [that they may truly honor God and have a constant comfort against sins; for God has graciously caused His Gospel to shine, that we might be warned and saved] ought to condemn these wicked services, devised, contrary to God's command, in order to obscure the glory of Christ and the righteousness of faith.

We have briefly said these things of the Mass in order that all good men in all parts of the world may be able to understand that with the greatest zeal we maintain the dignity of the Mass and show its true use, and that we have the most just reasons for dissenting from the adversaries. And we would have all good men admonished not to aid the adversaries in the profanation of the Mass lest they burden themselves with other men's sin. It is a great cause and a great subject not inferior to the transaction of the prophet Elijah, who condemned the worship of Baal. We have presented a case of such importance with the greatest moderation, and now reply without casting any reproach. But if the adversaries will compel us to collect all kinds of abuses of the Mass, the case will not be treated with such forbearance.

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