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The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying brings with
it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.

15. This fear and horror is sufficient of itself alone (to say nothing of other things) to
constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ as do despair, almost-despair, and the
assurance of safety.

17. With souls in purgatory it seems necessary that horror should grow less and love increase.

18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of merit,
that is to say, of increasing love.

19. Again, it seems unproved that they, or at least that all of them, are certain or assured of
their own blessedness, though we may be quite certain of it.

These theses provide some insight into Luthers view of the abodes of the soul. His
speculation revolves around the themes of increasing or decreasing love and fear. This
argument seems to presume that the soul invariably has knowledge of its true state, contrary
to the nineteenth thesis, otherwise the fourteenth thesis is highly dubious. Those who have
little love of God may nonetheless foolishly approach death without fear, and conversely the
Church is filled with examples of saints, beginning with St. Paul, whom Luther so much
admired, who have approached death with much fear and trembling before God. Truly, even
the saints know fear because of their small imperfections, but it is fallacious to extrapolate
the smaller the love, the greater the fear. The fifteenth thesis reflects Luthers own
obsessive scrupulosity. For him, the fear of God may well have approached the horror of
despair, and later reached it, forcing him to abandon hope in the Churchs forgiveness of sins,
but most are not so scrupulous. On the contrary, it would seem that those who feel the least
horror for their sins are most culpable and thus would require the greatest chastisement.
Luthers model of fear as the substance of punishment is a generalization of his personal
experience that misunderstands the positive role of fear without despair in the Christian life.
Nonetheless, it is worthy of comment that Luther does believe in the existence of Purgatory,
and he does allow for the possibility of penalties there beyond fear. Although we reject his
simple antithesis between love and fear, there is a real truth underlying his depiction of the
various abodes in terms of their relative assurance of safety. He curiously speculates that
those in Purgatory might not know whether they are damned or to be included eventually
among the blessed, without denying that all in Purgatory are saved. In other words, the soul
will not be able to tell whether it is in Hell or Purgatory. This possibility is not demonstrated
as fact, but merely cited as not refuted by reason or Scripture. We might see here a denial of
the value of Sacred Tradition, but Luther has appealed to tradition elsewhere, as with the
practice of canonical penances, so the omission of mention of tradition here is not a denial of
its value, nor atypical for Catholics, many of whom supposed that all Tradition might be
contained in Scripture, at least indirectly.