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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Pardons

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or the releasement from the temporal punishment of sin, the popes of Rome claim to have the power to grant. It is held by Romanists that the pope, in whom this power is lodged, can dispense it to the bishops and inferior clergy for the benefit of penitents throughout the Church. In the theory of pardons, the point is assumed that holy men may accomplish more than is strictly required of them by the divine law; that there is a meritorious value in this overplus; that such value is transferable, and that it is deposited in the spiritual treasury of the Church, subject to the disposal of the pope, to be, on certain conditions, applied to the benefit- of those whose deficiencies stand in need of such a compensation. A distinction is then drawn between the temporal and the eternal punishment of sin; the former of which not only embraces penances, and all satisfactions for sin in the present life, but also the pains of purgatory in the next. These are supposed to be within the control and jurisdiction of the Church, and in the case of any individual may be ameliorated or terminated by the imputation of so much of the over-abundant merits of the saints, etc., as may be necessary to balance the deficiencies of the sufferer. The privilege of selling pardons we have treated in the art. INDULGENCES SEE INDULGENCES . We content ourselves, therefore, in this place by stating what the Romish doctrine of pardons is; and yet this is no small undertaking, for Romanists have had so many crotchets about it that one can scarce tell where to find them. We shall endeavor to explain it in these following propositions in the language of Beveridge:

"First, they assert, as Bellarmine saith, that many holy men have suffered more for God and righteousness' sake than the guilt of the temporal punishment which they were obnoxious to for faults committed by them could exact.'

"Secondly, hence they say, as Johannes de Turrecremata, That one can satisfy for another, or one can acceptably perform satisfactory punishment for another,' viz. because they suffer more than is due to their own sins; and seeing all sufferings are satisfactory, what they undergo more than is due to their own is satisfactory for other men's sins.

"Thirdly, Seeing they who thus undergo satisfactory punishments for others do not appoint the fruit of this their satisfaction to any particular persons, it therefore,' as Roffenis saith, becomes profitable to the whole Church in common, so that it is now called the common treasury of the Church, to wit, that from thence may be fetched whatsoever any others lack of due satisfaction.'

"Fourthly, This common treasure,' saith Bellarmine, is the foundation of pardons.' So that, as he saith the Church hath power to apply this treasure of satisfaction, and by this to grant our pardons.'

"By this, therefore, we may have some sight into this great mystery, and perceive what they mean by pardons. For as Laymnanus the Jesuit saith, A pardon or indulgence is the remission of a temporal punishment due to God without the sacrament, by the application of the satisfaction of Christ and the saints.' Or, as Gregorius de Valentia saith, An ecclesiastical pardon or indulgence is a relaxation of a temporal punishment by God's judgment due to actual sins, after the remission of the fault, made without the sacrament (of penance), by the application of the superabundant satisfaction of Christ and the saints by him who bath lawful authority to do it.' But let us hear what a pope himself saith concerning these pardons. Leo X, in his decretal, ann. 1518, saith, The pope of Rome may, for reasonable causes, grant to the same saints of Christ who, charity uniting them, are members of Christ, whether they be in this life or in purgatory, pardons out of the superabuudancy of the merits of Christ and the saints: and that he used, for the living as well as for the dead, by his apostolic power of granting pardons, to dispense or distribute the treasure of the merits of Christ and the saints, to confer the indulgence itself, after the manner of an absolution, or transfer it after the manner of a suffrage.' So that, as Durandus saith, The Church can communicate from this treasure to any one, or several, for their sins, in part or in whole, according as it pleases the Church to communicate more or less from the treasure.' And hence it is that we find it said in the book of indulgences or pardons, that popes Sylvester and Gregory, who consecrated the Lateran Church gave so many pardons that none could number them but God; Boniface being witness, who said, "If men knew the pardons of the Lateran Church, they would not need to go by sea to the Holy Sepulchre." In the chapel of the saints are twenty-eight stairs that stood before the house of Pilate in Jerusalem. Whosoever shall ascend those stairs with devotion hath for every sin nine years of pardons; but he that ascends them kneeling, he shall free one soul out of purgatory. So that it seems the pope can not only give me a pardon for sins past, but to come; yea, and not only give me a pardon for my own sins, but power to pardon other men's sins, else I could not redeem a soul from purgatory.

"We have been the larger in the opening of this great Romish mystery, because we need do no more than open it; for, being thus opened, it shows itself to be a ridiculous and impious doctrine, utterly repugnant to the Scriptures. For this doctrine, thus explained, is grounded upon works of supererogation; for it is from the treasury of these good works that the Romish Church fetches all her pardons. Now, this is but a bad foundation, contrary to Scripture, reason, and the fathers; as we have seen in the fourteenth article. And if the foundation be rotten, the superstructure cannot be sound. Again, this doctrine supposes one man may and doth satisfy for another; whereas the Scriptures hold forth Christ [as] our propitiation' (1 John 2:2), Who trode the wine-press of his Father's wrath alone' (Isaiah 63:3). Lastly, this doctrine supposes that a pope, a priest, a finite creature, can pardon sins; whereas the Scripture holds forth this as the prerogative only of the true God. For who is a God like unto thee,' saith the prophet Micah, that pardoneth iniquities?' (Micah 7:18). And therefore, when the Scribes and Pharisees said, Who can forgive sins but God alone?' (Luke 5:21), what they said, though wickedly said by them, not acknowledging Christ to ue God, and so not to have that power, yet it was truly said in itself: for, had not Christ been God, he would have had no more power to forgive sins than the pope.

"And whatsoever the doctors of the Romish Church now hold, we are sure the fathers of old constantly affirmed that it was God only could forgive sin. So Chrysostom saith, For none can pardon sins but only God.' Euthymius, None can truly pardon sins, but he alone who beholds the thoughts of men.' Gregory, Thou who alone sparest, who alone forgivest sins. For who can forgive sins but God alone?' Ambrose, For this cannot be common to any man with Christ to forgive sins. This is his gift only who took away the sins of the world.' Certainly the fathers never thought of the pope's pardons, when they let such and the like sentences slip from them. Nay, and Athanasius was so confident that it was God only could pardon sin that he brings this as an argument against the Arians, to prove that Christ was God, because he could pardon sin. But how,' saith he, if the Word was a creature, could he loose the sentence of God, and pardon sin?' it being written by the prophets that this belongs to God; for who is a God like to thee, pardoning sins, and passing by transgressions?' For God said, Thou art earth, and unto earth shalt thou return.' So that men are mortal: and how then was it possible that sin should be pardoned or loosed by creatures? Yet Christ loosed and pardoned them. Certainly had the pope's pardons been heard of in that age, this would have been but a weak argument. For Arins might easily have answered, It doth not follow that, because Christ could pardon sin, he was therefore God; for the pope is not God, and yet he can pardon sin.' But thus we see the fathers confidently averring it is God only can pardon sins, and therefore that the pope cannot pardon them by ally means whatsoever,, unless he be God, which as yet they do not assert. And so the Romish doctrine concerning pardons is a fond thing, repugnant to the Scriptures. And so is also their doctrine." (See KEYS).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Pardons'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/p/pardons.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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