Limbo or Limbus
Limbo Or Limbus meaning a border or department, is used by Romanists as the name of the place of some of the departed, which the schoolmen who first held this doctrine (see below) believed to be situated on the limb, i.e., the edge or border of hell. SEE INTERMEDIATE STATE. There are five places to which the Church of Rome consigns departed spirits. Heaven is the residence of the holy, and hell of the finally damned. Besides these she enumerates limbus infantum the department for infants; limbus patrum, the department of the fathers; and purgatory. Hell is placed lowest, purgatory next, then limbus for infants; and finally is enumerated a place for those who died before the advent of Christ. According to the Roman Catholic view, until Christ's death and resurrection, which constituted the decisive moments of the work of redemption, the doors of heaven were closed to all (Catech. Romans 1:2, 7); since then they have been permanently open to all perfect saints. This doctrine was first advanced by pope Benedict XII, and afterwards sanctioned by the Council of Florence (Perrone, 5:213). According to this theory, until the coming of Christ, the souls of all departed were, without exception, sent into the place of punishment, or infernus, as is (according to Romish views) still the case with those who die without having arrived at perfection, or with some penance still to be performed for sin. At present they use the word infernus to convey the idea that all sinners are in some place outside of heaven, and that, on account of their different personal qualities, they are divided into different classes, which have nothing in common except their exclusion from the happiness of heaven, and therefore divide these abdita receptacula (Augustine. Enchiridion ad Laurent. § 109), of which the place of punishment consists, into,
1, hell, in its fullest sense, that terrible, immense prison in which the damned, who died in a state of mortal sin, are to remain forever (Cat. Romans 1:6, 3, 5);
2, purgatory, in which the souls of believers, and of those who are justified, suffer until they are entirely free from sin;
3, the bosom of Abraham, where the saints who died before the coming of Christ were received, and where, while free from torments, they were nevertheless, on account of original sin, prevented by the daemons from beholding othe glory of God until the coming o the Redeemer, whose merits freed them from these bonds, and opened to them the doors of heaven. Compare here the statement of the early English reformers in "the Institution of a Christian Man" on the fifth article of their creed: "Our Savior Jesus Christ, at his entry into hell, first conquered and oppressed both the devil and hell, and also death itself... afterwards he spoiled hell, and delivered and brought with him from thence all the souls of those righteous and good men which, from the fall of Adam, died in the favor of God, and in the faith and belief of this our Savior, which was then to come." The doctrine of the Church, as expressed in the symbols, names no other divisions. The third place which, in ecclesiastical phraseology, is usually called Limbus patrum, is even represented sometimes as a quiet habitation, and at other times as an unpleasant prison (misera illius custodiae molestia), which two views, being difficult to conciliate, gave rise to many intricate questions unavoidable as soon as an attempt is made to establish such a detailed topography of the places of future life. The limbo of Dante is placed in the outermost of the nine circles of his Inferno. No weeping is heard within it, but perpetual sighs tremble on the air, breathed by an infinite crowd of women, men, and children, afflicted, but not tormented. These inhabitants are not condemned on account of sin, but solely because it was their fortune to live before the birth of Christ, or to die unbaptized. The poet was grieved at heart, as well he might be, when he recognized in this sad company many persons of great worth (comp. Milman, Latin Christianity, book 14, chapter 2).
From the authorities of the Church, we find that the admission of the belief in a purgatory had in the West great influence on the ideas concerning the future. The scholastics, in the course of time, erected these views into a system. Besides the above-named three places of abode for departed spirits deprived of heavenly felicity recognized in the Roman Catholic Catechism, they asserted the existence of a fourth, intended for children who died previous to baptism. Bellarmine (Purg. 2:7) considers it a very difficult question to decide whether there may not be a fifth, in which the purified souls remain until their final admittance into the kingdom of heaven, and which must consequently be situated somewhere between purgatory and heaven (Beda, Hist. 5:13; Dionysius Carthusianus, Dial. de jud. particul. 31; Ludi Blosius, Monil. Spirit. 13). The necessity of ascribing to each of these loca paenalia its special position accounts sufficiently for the fact that the word limbus is made to answer both for the place where the saints who lived before Christ remain, and for the abode of children who died without baptism. It appears to have been first set forth by Thomas Aquinas, and to have been at once adopted by the Church. Hell is considered as situated in the center of the earth; next comes purgatory, which surrounds hell; then the Limbus infantum, or puerorum; and finally, as the central point between hell and heaven, the Limbus Patrum, or Sinus Abrahae. Of course each different place has its own special punishments: in hell it is paena aeterna damni et sensus; in purgatory, paena temporalis damni et
sensus; in the Limbus infantum, paena damni aeterna; and in the Limbus patrum, poena damni temporalis (Thom. Aq. 3, d. 22, q. 2, a. 1, q. 2, 4; d. 21, q. 1, a. 1, q. 2; d. 45, q. 1, a. 1, q. 2, 3, 3, q. 52, 2, 4, 4; d. 45, q. 1, a. q. 2, etc., Eleucidar. 64; Dante, Inf. 4; comp. 31 sq.; Durand, De S. Port. Sentt. 3, d. 22, q. 4; Sonnius, Demonstr. rel. Chr. 2:3, 15, and 2:4, 1; Bellarmine, Purg. 2:6; Andradius, Defins. Trid. Synod. 2:299).
The Limbus patrum is exclusively reserved to the saints of the Mosaic dispensation. They suffer only by the consciousness that they are deprived, in consequence of original sin, from beholding God, and by an ardent longing for the coming of their Messiah. Since Christ has atoned for original sin, and freed them from imprisonment, this limbo is empty, and no longer of any importance in a religious sense. It is called Limbus inferni, "quia erat poenae carentiae," Sinus Abrahae "propter requiem, quia erat exspectatio glori' " (Bellarmine, De Christo, 4:10; Becanus, Append. spurg. Calv.). This view is defended partly by means of some passages in Scripture (such as Ge 37:35; 1Sa 28; Zec 9:11; Lu 16:23; Lu 20:37; Lu 23:43; Joh 8:56; Heb 11:5; 1Pe 3:19); but especially by oral tradition. This last is the more available because, with the exception of the later attempts at locating the different places, the Western Church has always taught the same things on this point, at least since St. Augustine (De civ. Dei, 20:15), that the limbus in general was only the capult mortum which the doctrine of the purgatory had yet left to the old Church. The Greek Church, on the other hand, holds no such views (Smith, De Eccles. Graec. starcti. 1678, page 103; Heineccius, Abbildung d. alten u. neuen griech. Kirche, 1711, 2:103).
The doctrine of the Limbus infantum, or, rather, of the fate of unbaptized children, is insisted on with much greater force. On this point, however, the consequences of the system and the natural feelings of humanity come into conflict, and therefore the Church has never officially proclaimed its views as to the exact nature of it, so that a certain latitude is given for different opinions concerning it. The fathers early held different opinions on this point. Ambrosius (Oral. 40) does not venture to give any view concerning unbaptized children. Gregory of Nazianzum (Oralt. in s. Bapt. 40:21) claims that τοὺς μήτο δοξασθήσεσθαι, μήτο κολασθήσεσθαι περὶ τοῦ δικαίου κριτοῦ; and Gregory of Nvssa (ed. Paris, 1615, 2:770) only denies in the very mildest manner their being ἐν ἀλγεινοῖς. Pelagius knew better where they do not go to than where they do go. In accordance with his general theory, St. Augustine consigns them "ad ignem aeternum damnaturum iri;" but at the same time he admits that theirs is the slightest punishment consequent to original sin; their damnation is even so very slight that he expresses the doubt, "an eis, ut nulli essent, quam ut ibi essent, potius expediret," and declares "definire se non posse, quae, qualis et quanta erit" (Sermo 294, n. 3 sq.; Enchirid. c. 93; De pecc. merit. i, c. 16, n. 2; Contra. Julian. 5:44; Epist. ad Hieron. 131). This is the view most generally held in the Roman Catholic Church. General councils held at Lyons and at Florence decided that both those who died in mortal sin and those who were only tainted by original sin went down to the infernus, but that their punishments were different. In this respect the damnation of unbaptized children became de fide, as it had to be in some way distinguished from that of adults. Carrying out this view, the most distinguished scholastics, such as Peter Lombard (Sent. 2, d. 33), Thomas Bonaventura, and Scotus, assign to them only poena damni, in contradistinction from piena sensus. The contrary assertion of Petavius (De Deo, 9:10, 10) is based on an error. Gregory of Rimini alone makes an exception, and for this reason received the name of tortor infantum (Sarpi, Storia del Conc. di Trento, 2; Fleury, Hist. Eccl. 1:142, n. 128).
Now, although the essential nature of the poena damni consists in the deprivation of the happiness of seeing God, there exists a difference in the manner of applying the idea to children and their inheritance of original sin. In the fifth session of the Council of Trent the Dominicans advocated the stricter view, making of the limbus infantum a dark, underground prison, while the Franciscans placed it above in a region of light. Others made the condition of these children still better: they supposed them occupied with studying nature, philosophizing on it, and receiving occasional visits from angels and saints. As the council thought it best not to decide this point, theologians have since been free to embrace either view. Bellarmine (De amiss. grat. 6:6) considers their state, like Lombard, as one of sorrow, On the contrary, cardinal Sfondrani (Nodus praedest. dissol. 1:1, 23, and 1:2, 16) and Peter Godoy (compare Thomas, Quaest. 5 de nalo, a. 2) consider them as enjoying all the natural happiness of which they are capable. They do not even know that supernatural happiness consists in the visio clara Dei, and can feel no pain from this, to them unknown, exclusion. Finally, Perrone (5:275), who takes Concil. Tr. sess. 5, c. 4, as including in de fide only the want of the supernaturalis beatitudo, says: " 'Si spectetur relative ad supernaturalem beatitudinem habet talis status rationem poenae et damnationis; si vero spectetur idem status in se sive absolute, cum per peccatum de naturalibuis nihil amiserint, talis erit ipsorum conditio, qualis fuisset, si Adam neque peccasset neque elevatus ad supernaturalem statum fuisset, i.e., in conditione purae nature." This attempt at conciliation agrees so well with the Roman Catholic view of original sin, that on this account it has been admitted (Conc. Tr. sess. 5:2, 3, 5, and sess. 6; Bellarmine, grat. prim. horn. 5). Moreover, it is well known that Roman Catholic principles are of great elasticity in their application, so that there is alwavs some way for the Church of getting out of difficulties. Thus, while the Catechism (2:2, 28) continues to assert that, aside from baptism, there is "nulla alia salutis comparande ratio," we learn from the theologians, from Duns Scotus down to Klee (Dogm. 3:119), that the mere desiderium baptismi can be considered as valid for the children while set in the mothers' womb, and is equivalent to the actual performance of the rite of baptism on the child. What becomes of the children who, though baptized, die soon after baptism, and who thus lose the meritum e congruo necessary for justification, cannot here be taken into consideration.
Protestantism has taken but little notice of all these views. It was considered by many that these theories were too unimportant. The old Protestant Church, on the contrary, tried to prove the untenability on Biblical or philosophical grounds of this changeable doctrine, its late origin, and its inner contradictions. Neither did it forget the impossibility of separating the paena damni and paena senstus (Calvin, 3:16, 9; Aretits, Loci. 17; Ryssenius, Summa, 18:3, 4; B. Pictet, 2:265; Gerhard, 27:8, 3; S. Niemann, De distinct. Pontif. in interno classib. 1689). The old Protestant theologians considered it as an undeniable truth that there exist no other divisions than heaven and hell in the, to us, unknown world; also that there can be no further distinction between the souls of the departed than that based on belief and unbeliet, causing the former to be blessed and the latter to be damned. Still there arose questions which it was difficult for them to settle: the Reformed theologians disposed of them in a comparatively easy manner, for, as they admitted only of a gradual difference between the two dispensations, and upheld the identity of the action of grace and faith possible to both, they found no difficulty in ascribing blessedness to the saints of the old dispensation. It is well known that Zwingle went even further. Thus they also disposed of the doctrine of predestination, at least in regard to elect children, in which the fides seminalis was presupposed, and no one could deny, in view of Mt 19:14, that children dying in infancy can also be among the elect. The Lutherans solved the two questions in a different manner: in order to justify the qualitative equality of the Jewish and Christian faith, they were obliged to assert the retrospective power of Christ's merits. With regard to children, they found a still greater difficulty on account of their stricter conception of original sin and their doctrine concerning baptism, which bears such close resemblance to that of the Roman Catholic Church. The only way in which they could dispose of it was to have recourse to the free power of God, who can give salvation in other than the general way. Thus reasons Gerhard when he says, "Quasi non possit Dens extraordinarie cum infantibus Christianorum parentum per preces ecclesim et parentum sibi oblatis agere" (9:282). Also Buddeus (5:1, 6): '"In infantibus parentum Christianorum, qui ante baptismum moriuntur per gratiam quamdam extraordinariam fidem produci; ad infidelium autem infantes quod attinet, salutem aeternam iis tribuere non audemus." See Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 8:415; Biblioth. Sacra, 1863, 1. SEE LIFE, ETERNAL; SEE PREDESTINATION; SEE ELECTION; SEE SALVATION; SEE GRACE; SEE SIN; SEE INFANTS; SEE BAPTISM (OF INFANTS).