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§ 121. The Future State.


The unseen world of spirits was divided by the mediaeval theology into five distinct regions or abodes,—receptacula animarum,—as Thomas Aquinas calls them—heaven, hell, purgatory, the limbus patrum, or the temporary abode of the Old Testament saints, and the limbus infantum, or the abode of children who die without being baptized.

Hell, the place of punishment or eternal dolors,18171817    Thomas Aquinas calls it locus dolorum and infernum damnatorum.st men and demons suffer eternal torment. It is a region of jet darkness, a deep prison as compared with heaven, into which the demons are thrust down.18181818    Profundus carcer respectu amoenitatis coeli et est aer iste caliginosus in quem detrusi sunt demones, etc. Alb. Magnus, In Sent., III. 22, C, 4, Borgnet’s ed., XXVIII. 393. Its fires burn but do not consume. No other heat can compare with its heat.18191819    Ignis est in fortissima calididate ... cui nil est comparabile. Alb. Magnus, Borgnet’s ed., XXX. 597. of the lost.18201820    Gehenna illa quae stagnum ignis et sulphuris dicta est, corporeus ignis erit et cruciabit damnatorum corpora vel hominum vel daemonum. P. Lomb., Sent., IV. 44, 6. Absque dubietate corporeus ignis cruciat, etc. Alb. Mag., In Sent., Borgnet’s ed., XXX. 393. Ignis corporalis qui concremabit et affliget spiritus et etiam corpora ... sed semper affliget, alios plus alios minus, secundum exigentiam meritorum. Bonavent., Brev., VII. 6.

The limbus patrum corresponds to Abraham’s bosom in the parable of Dives and Lazarus, the place where the worthies of the Old Testament dwelt till Christ descended into hades and released them. Before that time they enjoyed exemption from pain. Since then they have enjoyed heavenly bliss. Circumcision released them from original sin. Hell and this locality are probably in the same region or, at any rate, contiguous.18211821    Probabile est, quod idem locus vel quasi continuus, sit infernus et limbus. Th. Aq., Migne, IV. 1222. Thomas calls the infernal regions interchangeably infernus and inferni. Alb. Magnus uses the neuter plural inferna. In Sent., III, 26, C. 392.triarchs remained in hades till Christ’s death, goes back to Hermas and Clement of Alexandria.

The limbus puerorum or infantum is the abode of children dying in infancy without having been baptized. They are there for original sin which only baptism can wash away.18221822    Th. Aq., Summa, III. 69, 6, originali peccato debebatur poena aeterna in limbo puerorum. Limbus means edge or border. Alb. Magnus also calls it limbus parvulorum, the region of the little ones. Borgnet’s ed., XXVIII. 392. death,—supplicium mortis aeternae,—but their damnation is the lightest of all—omnium levissima. They have no hope of beatitude. God, in His justice, provides that they never make any advance nor go back, that they neither have joy nor grief. They remain forever unchanged.18231823    Pueris non adest spes beatae vitae, etc. Th. Aq., Supplem., p. 1223. divinae justitiae aequitas perpetualiter eos consolidat, ut nec proficiant, nec deficiant, nec laetentur, nec tristentur; sed semper per sic uniformiter maneant, etc. Bonavent., In Sent., II. 33, 2, 3, Peltier’s ed., III. 419.se Christ’s blessed words, "Suffer the little children to come unto me for of such is the kingdom of God." But they did not. The doctrine of original sin and the doctrine of the necessity of water baptism for salvation were carried to their extreme logical conclusions without regard for the superabounding grace of God. So also Augustine had taught and so most of the Reformers taught at a later time.

Christ’s descent into hades was carefully discussed by the Schoolmen. It occurred as soon as his soul was separated from the body at his death. He was in the infernal regions during the three days of his burial, but did not assume their pains. The reason for this visit was twofold, says Bonaventura, —to release the Old Testament saints and to confound the adversaries of the Gospel, the demons.18241824    In Sent., III. 22, I. 4 sqq., Peltier’s ed., IV. 467. Job 17:16, "my hope shall go down to the bars of Sheol," or into the "deepest hell," as the Vulgate puts it, he meant that he went no farther than the limbus patrum and not to the abode of the lost.18251825    Suppl., Migne, III. 1222. The deepest hell—profundissimus infernus —is the place of the lost. Bonavent., Brevil., VII. 6, Peltier’s ed., VII. 339.18261826    Summa, III. 52, 1, Migne, IV. 476.he bars of hell—vectes inferni,—that is, by "spoiling principalities and powers," Col. 2:15; and third, to make show of his divinity—manifestatio divinitatis — to the demons by preaching, 1 Pet. 3:19, and by enlightening those dark spaces with his presence, as it is said, Ps. 24:7, "Lift up your doors, O ye princes, and the king of glory shall come in." Here again the Vulgate is responsible for a mistake, the word "gates" being translated "princes."18271827    Attolite portas, principes, vestras.18281828    Post hanc vitam non est tempus gratiam acquirendi. Th. Aq., Summa, III. 52, 7; Suppl., Migne, IV. 1244.

Purgatory is a sort of reformatory school for baptized Catholics who are not good enough at death to go directly to heaven. They are there in that intermediate region for actual transgressions,18291829   Poena purgatorii est in supplementum satisfactionis quae non fuerat plene in corpore consummata. Th. Aq., Suppl., 71, 6 Migne, IV. 1242.nly upon 2 Mac. 12:40 and the universal teaching of the Church.18301830    Th. Aq., Migne, IV. 1239. reach of human intercession. Masses for the dead are instituted to meet their case. For infants in the limbus puerorum, such intercessory works are of no avail. But one who has been baptized in infancy or manhood, no matter how flagitious or criminal his career may have been, for him there is hope, nay there is certainty, that in time he will pass out of purgatory into the company of the blessed.

Heaven includes three kinds of rewards, said Bonaventura: the substantial reward or the vision of God; the consubstantial or the glorification of the body to which belong the qualities of transpicuity, lightness, agility, and impassibility which are granted in the degree we exercise love here on earth;18311831    Claritas, subtilitas, agilitas, et impossibilitas quae ... secundum majoritatem et minoritatem prius habitae charitatis. Brevil., VII. 7, Peltier’s ed, VII. 340en for preaching and leading others to salvation, for virginal purity and martyrdom.

The bliss of heaven, said Thomas Aquinas, consists in the immediate vision of God.18321832    Deum per essentiam videre in quo consistit perfecta hominis beatitudo. Summa, III. 52, 5, Migne, IV. 482.g on earth, hear the prayers that ascend to them, and by their merits intercede for their brethren here. St. Bernard, in his homilies on the Canticles,18331833    Serm., XI.18341834    Proslog., XXIV. sqq.ction and glory of the soul in heaven has never been quite so well portrayed as in the poem of Bernard of Cluny:—


O sweet and blessed country, the home of God’s elect,

O sweet and blessed country, that eager hearts expect;

Jesus in mercy bring us to that sweet land of rest,

To be with God the Father and Spirit ever blest.


It remained for Dante to give to the chilling scholastic doctrines of purgatory and the lower regions a terrible reality in poetical form and imagery and also to describe the beatific vision of paradise.

The remarkable vision which a certain Englishman, Turchill, had of the future world, as related at length by Roger of Wendover18351835    An. 1206, Luard’s ed. of M. Paris, II. 497-512.ared to this honest laborer, and took him off to "the middle of the world," where they entered a church which, as Turchill was told, received the souls of all those who had recently died. Mary, through her intercession, had brought it about that all souls born again should, as soon as they left the body, be taken to this church and so be freed from the attacks of demons. Near one of the church walls was the entrance to hell through which came a most foul stench. Stretching from another wall was the great lake of purgatorial fire in which souls were immersed, some to their knees, some to their necks. And above the lake was a bridge, paved with thorns and stakes, over which all had to pass before they could arrive at the mount of joy. Those who were not assisted by special masses walked over the bridge very slowly and with excruciating pain. On the mount was a great and most wonderful church which seemed to be large enough to contain all the inhabitants of the world. St. Nicolas, St. James, and other saints had charge of the church of Mary and the purgatorial lake and bridge. Turchill also saw St. Peter in the church of Mary and before him the souls were brought to receive sentence. The devil and his angels were there to hurry off to the infernal regions those whose evil deeds tipped the balances. Turchill was also taken by a certain St. Domninus to behold the sports the devils indulge in. Coming to the infernal realm, they found iron seats, heated to a white heat and with nails driven in them, on which an innumerable multitude was sitting. Devils were sitting around against the walls poking fun at the unfortunate beings for the evils they had been guilty of in this life. Men of different occupations and criminal practices, the soldier, tradesman, priest, the adulterer, thief, and usurer, were then brought forth and made to enact over again their wicked deeds, after which their flesh was fiercely torn by the demons and burnt, but again restored. Such are the popular pictures which form the vestibule of Dante’s Inferno.

Of all the gruesome religious tales of the Middle Ages, the tales representing the devil as torturing the naked soul were among the most gruesome. The common belief was that the soul, an entity with form as the Schoolmen defined it, is at death separated from the body. Caesar of Heisterbach tells of an abbot of Morimond with whose soul the demons played ball, rolling it from hill to hill, across the valley between, until God allowed the soul to enter the body again. This was before the abbot became a monk.

Another of these stories, told by Caesar of Heisterbach,18361836    Dial, I. 32, Strange’s ed., I. 36-39.ellow-students stood around it singing, the devil carried his soul to hell. There the demons played ball with it. Their sharp claws stuck deep into it and gave it unspeakable pain. But, at the intercession of the saints, the Lord rescued the soul and reunited it with the body and the young man suddenly arose from his bier. In telling his experience he related that his soul had been like a round piece of glass through which he could see on every side. Fortunately, the fellow was scared badly enough to go to a convent and do sound penance. Bernard of Thiron bore witness that he saw the devils carry an unfaithful monk’s soul out of the window.18371837    See Walter, Die ersten Wanderprediger, etc., p. 49.

The severity of the purgatorial pains is vouched for in this story by Thomas of Chantimpré,18381838    See Kaufmann, Thos. von Chantimpré, pp. 117 sq. Albertus Magnus. A good man, after suffering from a severe sickness for a year, had this alternative offered him by an angel: to go to purgatory and suffer for three days or endure for a year longer his sickness and then go directly to glory. He chose the first. So his soul took its departure, but the purgatorial agony of a day seemed like the pains of ages and the sufferer was glad to have the opportunity of returning to his body, which was still unburied, and endure his sickness for another year.

Such stories are numerous and reveal the coarse theology which was current in convent and among the people.




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