"The Romish Doctrine covering purgatory, pardons, worshiping, and adoration, as well as of images as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture, but repugnant to the Word of God."

Scriptural background: Matthew 5:26, 18:34, 12:32; I Corinthians 3:10-15; Revelation 14:13,6:9-11; Philippians 1:23; Hebrews 11:40; Acts 10:25, 19:10.

This Article differs in one important point from the original one as first published in 1553, for in that the doctrine was termed, "the doctrine of school authors." The original also, condemned the scholastic doctrine. Not one of these abuses was even considered by the Council of Trent.

The Article states that purgatory is a Romish doctrine, a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no proof of Scripture, but rather contrary to and repugnant to the Word of God.

Let us look at it from two angles, (1) the history of the doctrine, and (2) the Scriptural arguments on the subject.

1. The History of the Doctrine

During the first three centuries there are only to be found a few traces of belief in anything like a purgatory between death and judgment. Three indications of such a belief are all that can fairly be claimed during this period, two of which come to us from the same quarter and from a Montanist source.

Tertullian writes that the Montanists state that in Hades there are rewards and punishments, as may be learned from the parable of Dives and Lazarus and quotes the words, "Thou shalt not come out thence until thou has paid the uttermost farthing." He says that the Montanists interpret this to mean that "small offenses must be expiated by delay of resurrection," which is looked upon as a punishment and to some extent purgatorial.

To this same period belong the Acts of the martyr, Perpetua. In one of Perpetuas visions there is some indication of a belief in a Purgatory. In this vision, Perpetua sees her brother, Dinoerates, who had died early from a gangrene in the face, in a dark place, hot and thirsty, dirty and pale, with the wound still in his face. He is trying in vain to get at the water in a "piscena", the rim of which is above his head. Perpetua, grieving for her brother, prays much for him, and in a subsequent vision she sees him cleansed, well-clothed and refreshed. Only the scar remains where the wound was. The rim of the piscena is lowered to his waist. He is seen drinking from a golden goblet that never fails. Perpetua stales: "Then I understood that he was released from punishment" (Passions of Perpetua, VII and VIII).

This certainly looks very much like a belief in a kind of purgatory. Augustine also so states that he understood it to teach just that.

The third writing relating to purgatory is found in the writings of Clement of Alexandria in AD 200. In these writings he states that "the punishments of God are saving and reformatory, and lead to repentance."

It is not until the fourth century, then, that writings begin to state certain ideas that imply a belief in a temporary chastisement after death, and in a cleansing by fire. Yet this does not seem to have been placed by him before judgment. Rather it is the judgment, through which men pass, and by which those in need of purification are at once both chastened and healed.However, there is sufficient proof that the whole Church from the very beginning did practice and encourage prayers for the departed. See I Corinthians 3:13. This was very far from a teaching of a belief in Purgatory. Many of the prayers of the early Christians are quite inconsistent with a belief in Purgatory, for they include petitions for the Blessed Virgin and other great saints, whom no one would venture to maintain were in purgatory. Augustine never regarded "Purgatory" as a formal doctrine of the Church and declared that at best it is only a "pious opinion."

However, Gregory the Great, at the close of the sixth century wrote, "a purgatorial fire before the judgment for lighter faults is to be believed." This is only a passing statement by one writer, but a writer who carried great authority in the church. It was not until the Council of Florence in 1439 that a definite statement was made as to a belief in "Purgatory." At this Council the representatives of the Greeks were persuaded to admit that "the middle sort of souls were in a place of torment, but whether that were fire or darkness or tempest, or something else, they would not contend." When the decree of union was drawn up, it was asserted in it that "if such as be truly penitent die in the grace of God before they have made satisfaction for their sins by worthy fruits of penance, their souls are purged after death by purgatorial punishments." The original teachings had been strangely and terribly corrupted. Bishop Forbes in an article states, "It, the teachings on Purgatory, had come to take the place of a living faith in the eternal pains of hell in the case of most men; there was a perfect traffic in masses for the souls, and men fancied that by leaving money to the Church at the hour of death and at the expense of their heirs, they might purchase mitigation or exemption from pains which in degree, though not in duration, were said to equal the pains of hell."

2. Scriptural Arguments

Roman Catholic writers acknowledge that there is little Scripture, if any, that can be quoted in support of the doctrine. Bellarmine boasts of "twenty passages" but few would dare quote any of them in support of the doctrine. Indeed some are so weak as "we went through fire and water," and, "Thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place," that they would only indicate how desperate the advocates of the doctrine were for scriptural support.

Only three or four passages deserve or require any consideration whatsoever. They are Matthew 5:26, 18:34, 12:32.

Even these are extremely precarious, and those who would rely on them would be the last to apply them.

Another passage is I Corinthians 3:10-15, but when carefully considered, seems to have no bearing whatsoever on the doctrine. Yet, it is probably that from this passage, more than from any other, the idea of purgatorial fire has arisen. But it only refers to the day of judgment and has nothing to say as to any remedial value of the fire mentioned. In fact, the scripture portion appears to deny the very fact of purgatory and in its place supports a teaching against Purgatory.

The passage points out two definite truths. First, this life is the time of mans probation; and no countenance is given to the view that a "second chance" or time of probation, is to be looked for after death" (See also I Peter 3:18). Second, the "dead which die in the Lord" are in a state of peace; "they rest from their labours" (Revelation 14:13) and in the words of Paul "to depart" is "to be with Christ." (Philippians 1:23).


The Romish Doctrine of pardon is closely connected with the theory of "works of supererogation," doing that which is more than required, thus building up a source of merits for future use.

"Indulgences" originally used in a sense of gentleness and tenderness, has come, now, to mean a remission of taxation or of punishment. It was because of the misuse of "Indulgences" that Luther rose up in revolt against the Roman Church. The promises made through the selling of these "indulgences" at exorbitant costs caused decent and God-fearing men to rise in protest. However, the Roman Church, at the Council of Trent (1520) voted to retain the custom, frankly acknowledging the abuses. The Roman Church, also, still stands committed to the view that "indulgences" can avail to help the souls in purgatory by modifying or limiting their sufferings there.

Images and Relics

In the earliest ages of the Church there was some hesitation to the use of art with Christian worship. Art had been so steeped in the spirit of impure heathenism that the church was shy of using it for Christian purposes.

We find the first beginnings of art in the Catacombs. Tertullian states that by AD 200 it was customary to paint the figure of the Good Shepherd on "the chalice" or communion cup. In the fourth century, pictures were used freely, with some protest by some of the church Fathers. Soon images and relics, also, became an important part of worship. Great impetus to the use of relies was given when S. Helena claimed to discover remains of the true cross in 326. By the year 500, the relics of saints and martyrs were believed to have miraculous powers and were worshipped.

About the 8th century a real protest arose against images, relics, and paintings because of the misuse of them. The council of Constantinople in 754 forbade their use, but the decision was reversed by the Council of Nicea in 787 and the use of all soon became universal in the church.

Saint Thomas Muinas laid down some definite rules as to the worship of the Cross and the image of the crucified as well as relics. He stated how they were to be adored and worshiped and laid down the procedures still used in the Roman Church today. Gross abuses and superstitions soon arose which were condemned by the leaders of the Protestant Reformation.

Certainly such practice is condemned by the second commandment, but the Roman Church has found ways to bypass it and to find Scriptures to support the practices. They refer to the action, for instance, of David (II Samuel 6) dancing before the ark of the covenant. They refer to the 99th Psalm where it states His footstool is adored and to Jacob who "adored the top of his rock." They also support their argument by using the reference II Kings 13:21 relating to miracles wrought by the bones of Elijah and to Acts 19:2 concerning "handkerchiefs and aprons" blessed by Paul. Neither the bones nor the handkerchiefs were preserved to be adored and all other Scriptures have been taken out of their context to support the doctrine.

The Invocation of Saints

The practice of invoking the saints, who had fallen asleep in Christ, to pray for those still in the flesh was introduced by Origen in 220. He stated, "It is not improper to offer supplication, intercession, and thanksgiving, not only to the saints, but to mere men; but supplication to saints, only if any Peter or Paul can be found, that they may help us; making us worth to enjoy the license which was granted them of forgiving sins.

However, it was not until the latter part of the fourth century that the practice of such invocation began. Many of the Bishops of the East approved the practice. Ambrose (380) and Augustine (400) promoted it in the West. The practice, having once been established, spread rapidly throughout the church.

In the eighth century, devotions in honor of the Blessed Virgin began to find a prominent place in the Churchs worship.

In time the saints were often invoked as if they were the authors of benefits: and the Blessed Virgin, in particular, was addressed in language which it is impossible to avoid stigmatizing as blasphemous and idolatrous.

Again, Rome can find scriptural support when she needs it. The scripture used by Rome to support all of this is Acts 10:25, "When it came to pass that Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet and worshiped him." They forget to use the next sentence, "But Peter raise him, (Cornelius) up, saying, "Stand up; I myself am a man."

There is absolutely no evidence in scripture that saints can intercede on our behalf For Mary, the Magnificat is clear in its statement that Mary looked to Christ as her Savior as we do. Her prayers must be on the same basis as our redemption, through Jesus Christ our Lord. To this many of the Bishops in the Roman Church also agree. Cardinal Cajetan in the sixteenth century stated, "we have no certain knowledge as to whether the saints are aware of our prayers, though we piously believe it."

relics, belief in purgatory or any adoration to the Virgin Mary or imploring the intercession for us by the saints.

We believe that such practices are vainly invented, have no foundations in Scripture, and are repugnant to the Word of God.