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In answer to this, not to mention how it contradicts the express words of Scripture, which without any distinction or limitation, does as plainly assert as words can do it, “That God only knows the heart ;” not to mention the many
disputes the Romanists have among themselves which way is to be chosen as the most probable, and after what manner, in either way, this knowledge is derived and passed from God to them: these things may be said,
1. That God hath nowhere declared, that he hath communicated this privilege and prerogative of his nature to saints and angels, or that he does any way make visible or known to them the hearts and the requests of men ; and now, if what is not of faith is sin, we having no text of Scripture to build our faith upon in this particular, must of necessity sin in praying to them on that supposition, and commit that very sin too, which we doubt whether we so doing commit or no; nay, the silence of the Scripture in this particular, has in a manner determined the point; and we may conclude, that the most jealous God has reserved the honour of invocation to himself alone, since he has nowhere given us the least hint or intimation of leave to pray to them.
2. We are informed in Scripture, that the saints departed do not particularly know or mind what is done here below ; God tells Josiah, “Thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil I will bring upon this place.
“The dead know not any thing,”+ that is, of the affairs of this world, saith the Preacher. “ His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, and he perceiveth it not of them,” says Job, of man in the other state. When Elijah was about to be taken up into heaven, he thus spake to Elisha, “ Ask what I shall do for thee before I shall be taken away from thee:”I strongly implying, that when he was once gone, it was in vain to ask any thing of him. Elijah was immediately taken up into heaven, made no stay by the way, in limbo, as the Romanists themselves agree; being in heaven, his love to Elisha could not be forgot, nor his interest in God lessened, but rather both, by being exalted thither, very much increased and augmented; so that no reason can be given why he should limit and fix his making his desires known to him to the time of his abode with him on earth, but only this, his persuasion that in the
* 2 Chron. xxxiv. 28.
+ Eccl. ix. 5.
* 2 Kings ii. 9.
other state he should not be capable to hear his request, and so all his future addresses to him would be ineffectual. To these we may add that known place in Isaiah, “Abraham doth not know us, and Israel is ignorant of us ;'* from whence St. Austin concludes, that “if those great men, and founders of their nation were ignorant of what was done in after ages to their posterity, why should the dead be thought in a condition to know or help their surviving friends in what they do.”+
3. They that will have God acquaint particular saints and angels with those petitions that are put up to them, impose a very servile and dishonourable office on God; and as sometimes they will have us, out of discretion and humility, go to God by saints and angels, as men make their way
to a prince by his favourites ; now they make the king and his subjects to change places, and God is sent to wait on them with the requests of their votaries. What can be more strangely ridiculous than this position of theirs ? That the petitioner must first make his suit to angels and saints, then God must tell those angels and saints both the person
and the boon he prays for, then the angels or saints must back again and present them to God. Or, when any one addresses to an angel or saint, to supplicate the blessed Virgin in his behalf, God must first tell this angel or saint the contents of the address; then he must post to the blessed Virgin ; she, upon the first notice of it, must have recourse to her Son; and he, upon
the motion of his mother, repair to his Father, to present that request to him, which he himself first revealed. But is not this an insufferable affront to God, and an intolerable abuse to themselves ? To send the Most High God on the errands of his creatures, and to apply themselves to broken cisterns, when they may directly go to the fountain itself of all blessings ?
4. Neither can the angels and spirits above know the hearts and petitions of their supplicants any more, by virtue of the sight of God, than by revelation from him. This fond opinion depends upon this Romish gingle, " That seeing God, they must in him see all things,”I that in idea are contained in him ; but does not the Scripture assure us, “ That no one knows the things of God, but the Spirit of God which is in him ?”'S
* Isa. Ixiii. 16.
§ Eph. iii. 10.
Do they not tell us, how ignorant the angels were of the great mystery of man's redemption, notwithstanding their nearness to God, and beholding his face, “ till it was made known to them by the Church.' Does not our Saviour let us know, that he himself as man, though his humanity was hypostatically united to the Divinity, did not pretend to know all the counsels and purposes of God? Speaking of the day of judgment, he says, “Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the angels of heaven, but the Father only.”+ Why then should it be thought credible, that the blessed spirits above, by beholding God's face, do in that glass of the Divinity see all things and transactions that are done, and hear all prayers and petitions that are made by the sons of men ?
2. This doctrine and practice is highly derogatory from the glory of God, as Governor of the world. God is the great Lord of heaven and earth; all that we are, and all that we have, we derive from him ; we are upheld by his power, and maintained by his bounty and goodness : “In him we live, and move, and have our being;" “ he gives to all life and breath, and all things :” he numbers the hairs of our head, paints the lilies of the field beyond the glory of Solomon, feeds the young ravens that call
takes care of sparrows, much more of man, who is of a more worthy and excellent nature, much more yet of nations and kingdoms, who consist of multitudes of men linked by laws and government; and though sometimes, when he pleases, he makes use of the ministry of angels, and makes them the instruments of his providence towards the sons of men; yet he has no where told us, that he hath divided to them, much less to saints departed, their several provinces, or set them their particular tasks; that he has made them presidents over such countries or cities, patrons and guardians over such persons or professions; that he has given them a power over such and such maladies and diseases; but has reserved the power of dispensing his kindnesses, where, to whom, and in what measure, in his own hands; and therefore all our trust and confidence ought entirely to be placed in God, all our thanks and praises are due to him, and he alone is to be acknowledged as the author and donor of all our blessings: but now from that presidentship and protection, that power and patronage, that the Romanists " intruding into those things they have not seen,” without sufficient ground
* 1 Pet. i. 12.
+ Matth. xxiv. 36.
# Col. ü. 18.
ascribe to angels and saints, over particular kingdoms, persons, and in particular cases and circumstances (though as substitutes under God), arises naturally some degree of trust and confidence in them, some debt of homage and praise to them; and it is well if the person obliged looks any higher in his returns of love and thankfulness, than to that particular angel or saint he prayed to, and from whose deputed power and authority he thinks he received his deliverance ; and what is this but to rob God of the honour of being sole Governor of the world, and to make some of his creatures, who are no less beholding to him for their subsistence than the rest, to partake with him of that trust and affection, that homage and subjection, that is wholly due to him from all his creatures ? What is this, as our Church in her Homily expresses it, “but a turning from the Creator to the creature ?”* “ Cursed is the man that trusteth in man,” says the Prophet, and for the same reason in any finite and created being ; because in what degree he does so, in the same does his heart depart from God; but “ blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.”
What low and mean conceptions of God have those men, who think his government of the world must be modelled and conformed to a prince's government over his kingdom ; and because he being but a man, and so not able in person to hear all complaints, and redress all grievances, appoints substitutes under him, judges and magistrates to do it; therefore God must do so too ; whereas there is an infinitely wider distance between the wisdom, and knowledge, and goodness, and power of God, and those of the most accomplished governor, than there is between the height of heaven and the lowest centre of the earth : “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”+ The wisest monarch on earth falls infinitely short of the perfections of God; his knowledge is but short, his power small, and therefore cannot possibly, without the information and assistance of others, extend the influences of his government over all his subjects; did he not make use of more eyes and more hands than his own, the complaints of some would be altogether neglected, and the cause of others not rightly judged, his mistakes would be innumerable, and his wings too short to cherish and foster, to shelter and cover every corner of his realm : but could he act with that plenitude of wisdom, and knowledge, and power, that is in God, all then might have access to his person, either immediately, or by his son, that is of like nature and power with him, and no man fear the being sent back unheard, or the having his cause misjudged, the not having justice done him, or mercy in a compassionable case withheld from him ; God's wisdom is never wearied with seeing, nor his
* Jerem. xvii. 5, 7.
+ Isa. lv. 8, 9.
tired with acting in the world, supposing the affairs of the world to be infinite, which they are not, yet God is infinite too; and now an infinite God can with as much ease manage and govern an infinite number of affairs, as one wise man can prudently manage one affair, infinite bearing the same proportion to infinite, as one does to one.
The same fancy likewise of making the court of heaven resemble princes' courts on earth, hath brought forth that excuse in the Romish supplicants, that it is out of an humble sense of their own unworthiness, and an awful regard to the infinite Majesty of God, that they address to him, as earthly subjects to their king, not immediately to himself, but by the mediation of angels and saints, those courtiers and favourites of heaven. But what wise man on earth, who is abundantly satisfied of the readiness and ability of his prince to help him, and hath free leave given him on any occasion to come, immediately, or by his son, to him, will choose to waive this freedom of access, and apply himself to some inferior officer and favourite (of whose power and interest he is not so well assured), either to relieve him himself, or to procure relief of the king for him? This is our case; God is of infinite wisdom, goodness, and power, every way able, on all occasions, to afford suitable aids and supplies to the wants of his creatures, hath not only allowed, but commanded all “ to call him in the day of trouble, to pour out their complaints to him," hath over and over promised “to hear their prayers, and to answer them,” hath appointed his own Son, God with himself, the master of requests, from time to time to receive all the petitions of his subjects ; and both the one and the other are infinitely more able, and infinitely more willing to hear and succour them, than the best and wisest, and most powerful of all created beings; and shall we now be afraid to take the liberty that God hath given us ? Shall we call that impudence which God hath made our duty ? Whilst we pretend humi