ON THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL SOULS
Tuba mirum spargens sonnum per sepulcra regionum coget omnes ante thronum.
Consider first, that on this day the Church of God, attending to the necessities of great numbers of her children, who are departed out of this life in her faith or communion, but not without some blemish of sin in their souls – some lesser stains at least, of idle words, or other venial offences; some wood, hay, or stubble in their building, which cannot stand the fire, or some debt to divine justice on account of former sins not sufficiently expiated by penance – turns all her prayers and sacrifices towards the procuring for them from the mercy of God, through the merits of the precious blood of Jesus Christ her spouse, their remission of all their sins, and their speedy admittance into the happy regions of eternal rest, light, and peace, in the company of the saints. O my soul, how holy and wholesome is the institution of this day of expiation! Oh, how full of piety and charity is this apostolical tradition, this religious practice of the church of God in all ages, ‘to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins’? 2 Mac. xxii. 46. alas, how few depart this life so pure as to be immediately admitted to that blessed city above, where ‘nothing defiled can enter in’! Rev. xvii. 2. How few are fit to fly up to the embraces of the God of all purity, without some purgation after death! ‘Tis then a duty of Christian charity, incumbent on all the children of the church of Christ, to assist by their prayers their brethren that are gone before them, that they may be discharged from their sins, and may rest in peace.
Consider 2ndly, that this kind of charity is highly pleasing to God, is very beneficial to the souls of the faithful departed, and is very wholesome to our own souls. The spiritual works of mercy are of all the most acceptable to God, the lover of souls. Now this is one of the spiritual works of mercy: it far exceeds all the corporal works of mercy. It tends to feed those souls that are hungry with the plenty of God’s house, to bring them to quench their thirst at the fountain of life, to clothe them with immortal glory, to comfort and refresh them under their pains and sufferings, to loose their bonds, to deliver them out of their prison, and to help them forward to their eternal home which they so ardently long for. Now all this is most agreeable to the Father of mercies, who has a most tender love for these his children. ‘Tis doing these souls of our brethren the greatest charity imaginable, by contributing all that is in our power to deliver them from all their evils, and to bring them to their sovereign good. And ’tis at the same time a most excellent means of obtaining mercy for ourselves also, whilst we show this mercy to them: ‘for the merciful shall obtain mercy,’ Matt. xi. 7. `’tis making to ourselves friends, who when we fail, may receive us into everlasting habitations,’ Luke xvi. 9.
Consider 3rdly, that this charity which we owe to the souls of the faithful departed, is not only exercised by praying for them, but also by fasting or other penitential austerities, offered up to God in their behalf for the remission of their sins, as likewise by alms-deeds, performed with the like intention, according to the religious customs of former ages, and the practice of our pious ancestors, in their doles at the funerals of the dead. But the most effectual means of all to purge them from their sins, and to bring them to their God, is the offering up for them the great sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ, and presenting to God in their favour that most sacred victim, by which was cancelled the hand-writing which was against us, and a general atonement was made for all our sins. In the old law, the high priests once a-year, viz., on the solemn feast of expiation, (Lev. xvi.,) carried the blood of victims into the sanctuary, to make atonement for the sins of the people; but this was but a figure of what was done by our high priest, who is gone out for all into the sanctuary of heaven, not with the blood of goats or calves, but with his own most sacred blood, shed here upon earth for our sins; and now ceasing not to exhibit the same to his Father, both by himself in heaven, where he makes continual intercession for us, and here by his ministers in the sacred mysteries. This blood pleads strongly for the remission of our sins; this is the source of all mercy and grace; this is plentifully applied to the souls, both of the living and the dead, by the great sacrifice of the altar.
Conclude to assist, to the best of thy power, the souls of the faithful departed, both by prayers, alms, and this holy oblation of the blood of Christ. Thy charity for them may stand thee in great stead, when their case shall come to be thy own. But remember withal, that the best thing thou canst do is to work now all thou canst for thyself, whilst thou hast time, and to do full penance for thy sins in this life, that thy soul may not stand in need of these helps hereafter.