Fifth Sunday After Pentecost The Gospel Matt.5.v.20 Thursday Meditation: A Plaine Path-way To Heaven Thomas Hill 1634
GOSPEL Matt. 5:20-24
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: "Unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to them of old: 'Thou shalt not kill.' And whosoever shall kill, shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee; Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift."
The Justice, or righteousness which Christ speaketh of here, is that,by which we must enter into the kingdom of heaven, for so these words of Christ import (unless your justice or righteousness,abound more then that of the Scribes and pharisees, yea cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven,) therefore if they do, we may: but as St. James telleth us, that faith without good works is dead; so the holy Scripture in another place, telleth us, that the just man liveth by his faith, that is to say, that his just and righteous works, are dead to salvation, without faith, therefore Christ speaketh here of such works of justice as proceed from a true faith,such as the Catholic faith only is.
Those works are called Justice, not only because they justify us in the sight of God, unto salvation, but also because they must be just, such as they ought, neither more nor less, neither declining to the right hand nor the left; for if we go out of the right way,it is all one whether we go to the right hand ,or the left; as for example too much rigour or severity is cruelty, too much levity foolery,too much zeal in religion without moderation is naught, overmuch coldness is as bad.
In moral works the mean between two extremes,maketh the virtue,the extreme vice: For as the Philosopher sayth,virtue consist in the middle,between two extremes. Wherefore as our works to make them just,such as they should be, as also our justice that it may be perfect,must abound more then that of the Scribes& pharisees,having a good intention in our works, and attention in our prayers,as is said in the former meditation, so must they be done in a true faith,and not decline from the mediocrity of virtue neither to the right hand nor the left, neither to much nor too little in such quantity as to make them mortal sins,or else we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.
But if they exceed the means no more then commeth to a venial sin or small imperfection or small imperfection,it debarred us not from the kingdom of heaven,but may hinder us from arriving there so soon, for no unclean thing shall enter there, till it be purified and purged.
True it is, that although we depart this world loaded with venial sins, and debts of due satisfaction for mortal,yet shall we be saved, as St Paul saith,at last,for our foundation sake, that is to say,for our faith,and good works, but we shall suffer detriment, for our venial sins, & imperfections mixed therewith, which must be purged by fire, as the same St.Paul affirmed,and will hinder us for a time from entering into the kingdom of heaven.
Wherefore that we may enter into kingdom of heaven, and that without any hindrance or delay,our justice or righteousness must not only exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees,in the substantial goodness of our works, but likewise in the lesser circumstances thereof; we must do the greater things of the law, and not omit the less; we must tithe the greater things, and yet not omit Mint, Aniseed, Rew and the like, & therefore Christ most desirous that we should enjoy his beatific, and ever happy vision immediately after our death, or with as little hindrance by the way as might be, exhorteth us to be perfect in our works, & service of God.that we need tarry the less while in amending fire, as St Augustine calleth it, of purgatory.
And for them that admit not of Purgatory, because the name of Purgatory is not in the scripture: I answer; neither is tha name Sacrament for Baptism, and the holy Eucharist, nor the word (Trinity) in the Scripture, but I hope we may give names to things according to their natures, as Adam did unto the creatures of God: and if St. Paul affirimeth, that our souls are purged by fire, in the day of judgement after we are dead, and afterwards gotoheaven, as St Augustine and St.Jerome expound his words, I hope we may call that place where they are purged, a Purgatory, or place ofpurgation; we may call that a Sacrament that hath the nature of a Sacrament, to wit a visible sign of an invisible grace instrumentally given thereby; and that a Trinity which is three persons, and one God.
If any man, not a Catholic, object against this proof of a Purgatory after our death, that St Paul sayth not, is after our death, but that (the day of our Lord) or, (the day) or (that say) as the Greek peradventure hath it, will make it manifest,it is all one; for these words,signify the day of judgement, which is after our death.
That there is an account to be given after our death for small sins, for which doubts we shall not be damned,it appeareth by these words of Christ, that of every idle word we speak,we shall give an account,in the day of judgement.
Thus I say we may answer one that is not a Catholic, but he that is, to him the doctrine, and practice of the Catholic, or universal Church, which St.Paul calleth the pillar and firm foundation of truth, is abundantly enough, for this, and all other controversies in Religion whatsoever, and more meritorious, unless it be for the Satisfaction of others. Lastly, for those that admit Purgatory but hold that to pray for the souls in general is as beneficial to them, as in particular, it is contrary to the practice of the Church, who besides her prayers and suffrage for all in general in the holy Mass, useth the Benedictines Trentall for souls in particular, granteth Indulgences to them that are prayed for in particular, alloweth of stipends for such as pray in particular for certain souls: the founders of hospitals, Colleges and the like,bind men to pray for them in particular, and if they that be so bound, should not pray in particular for them but in general, they should defraud the dead of their due.
The souls in purgatory cry out to their friends and them whom they have obliged to pray for them, with these words of Job, who was a figure of the souls in purgatory,Have pity upon me,Have pity upon me, that is to say pray for me in particular, at least yee that are my friends.