« FöregåendeFortsätt »
lity, shall we forfeit our allegiance, and distrust his promises, and suspect the goodness of his nature, for fear of being too saucy and too bold with his person? To this pretence of vo. luntary humility, the Fathers long since, particularly St. Ambrose and St. Chrysostom, gave a satisfactory answer ; St. Ambrose, or whoever was the author of those Commentaries that go under his name, * observing that the heathens used the same apology for going to their gods by their inferior deities as the Romanists do now for their addressing to God by saints and angels, namely, “as men go to the king by his courtiers, out of humility and a deep sense of the infinite distance between God and them,” calls it “a miserable excuse ;” and adds, “ is any man so mad and regardless of himself, to give the honour due to the king to any of his courtiers; which, if a man does, he is condemned of treason? And yet they think themselves not guilty, who give the honour due to God's name to a creature, and forsaking God, adore their fellow-servants, as though anything greater than that were reserved for God himself. But therefore we go to a king by his officers and servants, because the king is but a man, who knows not of himself whom to employ in his public affairs (without information from others). But with God it is otherwise, for nothing is hid from him ; he knows the deserts of every one, and therefore we need no spokesman but a devout mind; for whensoever such an one shall speak to him he will answer him.” St. Chrysostom also, often to the same purpose, denies the way of our coming to God to be like the manner of kings' courts : “ When thou hast need,”ť saith he, “to sue unto a king, thou art forced first to apply to his favourites, and go a great way about; but with God there is no such thing; he is entreated without an intercessor; it sufficeth only, that thou cry in thine heart, and bring tears with thee, and entering in straightway thou mayest draw him unto thee :” and for example hereof, he sets before us the woman of Canaan : “ she entreated not James, she beseeched not John, neither did she go to Peter, but broke through the crowd to Christ himself, saying, I have no need of a mediator, but taking repentance with me to recommend me, I come to the fountain itself; for this cause did he descend ; for this cause did he take flesh, that I might
* 1[In] Rom. i. 21. [vol. 2. Append. p. 33. Par. 1690.]
+ St. Chry. Serm. 7. of Repentance. [ut supra, vol. 2. p. 336.] Serm. in Psalm iv. p. 524, 802. [Ibid. vol. 5. p. 8, 9.]
have the boldness to speak unto him; I have no need of a mediator, have thou mercy upon me.”
3. It is highly injurious to the honour of Christ, as the only mediator God has appointed betwixt God and man. God, as the reward of the unspotted innocency of his life and perfect obedience of his death, exalted him to the right hand of majesty and glory, bestowed a mediatorious kingdom on him, invested him with all power in heaven and earth, and gave him authority to receive and answer the prayers of his people: “ Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree, him hath God exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour :'* “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”+ “He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” I So that now to make more mediators than Christ, is not only to undervalue his all-sufficient merits, to distrust his never-failing interest and power with God, but also to invade that honour and royalty that God hath conferred on him alone; by giving to angels and saints the same power, they give them the same honour too, and Christ is robbed of both, whilst others are made to divide with him. But to which of the angels or saints departed, said God at any time, “ Sit thou on my right hand to make intercession for men ?” Of which of them has he at any time affirmed, as he has done of Christ, “ He is able to save them to the uttermost, that come to God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for men ? That if any man sin, he is an advocate with the Father for him? Or, whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in his name, it shall be given you ?” Certainly, they who will have angels and saints mediators betwixt God and men, ought to produce a commission signed by God, or his Son Jesus, to constitute them such; but this they are no more able to do than they are to make a grant of such power and honour themselves to them. It is true, the blessed spirits above are said to stand about the throne of God, and the holy angels to behold his face; and as the honour of a prince is increased by the number of his attendants, so is our Lord's exaltation rendered the
* Acts [v. 30, 31.]
† Acts [ii. 23, 36.]
Phil. ii. [8, 9, 10, 11.]
more glorious by those ten thousand times ten thousand that minister unto him; but yet it is never said, “they sit at God's right hand, or live for ever to make intercession for us ;”. and having no such delegation of power from God for this office, the honour and worship that belongs to it cannot be given to them without manifest wrong and sacrilege to Christ, who has. The holy angels are God's ministering spirits, and the spirits of just men departed his glorified saints ; but God hath made “ Jesus only Lord and Christ : and put all things, in heaven and earth, in subjection under his feet;" of him only hath he said, “Let all the angels honour him, and let all the saints fall down before him, and all men honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.”* Amen.
TO CONCLUDE: Were we certain that the saints departed do now reign in heaven, and enjoy the beatific vision; and that it was lawful to invocate such as are undoubtedly saints, as the blessed Virgin and the holy Apostles : yet, methinks, a wary man should be shy, and not over-forward to exhibit that honour to all whom the Pope hath canonized : I cannot for my heart but think, that the prelates and bishops in King Henry VIIIth's time had as much reason to unsaint Thomas å Becket for being a rebel against his Prince, as Pope Alexander III, had to canonize him for being a bigot for the Church. What can a sober Christian think of the saintship of some, who never had any being in the world, and of others who never had any goodness; many of their saints are mere names, without persons; and many mere persons, without holiness; nay, I am very confident, that the greatest incendiaries and disturbers of the peace of the world do as well deserve it, as that famous Pope Hildebrand, or Gregory VII. Innumerable might be instanced in, whose saintship justly falls under great suspicion ; but it is enough that some Romanists themselves, and those of no little authority in their Church, have grantedt “ that the Pope's canonizations are doubtful and subject to error:" if then at any time his infallibility should chance to mistake, as I am pretty sure he has more than once done, the members of that Church are in a sweet case, and are not only in danger of invocating saints, but devils also ; which is idolatry with a witness, and by their own confession.
* John v. 23. + Bellarm. de Beat. Sanct. l. 1. c. 7, 8. (vol. 2. p. 396, &c. Prag. 1721.] A DISCOURSE
CONCERNING THE WORSHIP OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN AND THE SAINTS :
An Account of the beginnings and rise of it amongst Christians,
in Answer to M. de Meaux's Appeal to the Fourth Age, in his Exposition and Pastoral Letter.
§ 1. The gentlemen of the Church of Rome have been pleased lately to send books amongst us of a very different strain : on the one side “ Popery Misrepresented and Represented,” but especially Monsieur de Meaux's “Exposition of the Roman Doctrine;" on the other side our Lady's “Rosary," and the “Contemplation of her Life and Glory,” &c. which go up and down, though not so openly as the other. And we believe they have books in readiness to explain over again their meaning in the other articles (treated of in the “Exposition"), at the same rate that their books of particular devotion to our Lady, do explain the articles of religious worship, and Invocation of Saints.
In the mean time they seem to believe, that there are no articles will bear a representation in their true colours, sooner or better than these. And the truth is, as mankind has in all ages been very prone to superstition, so to no kind of it more than to that of worshipping dead men and women; which being the practice they would reconcile us to, in the first place, we are concerned the more thoroughly to examine, what they now think fit to say for it.
But let no man think, that in this cause we are engaged against the saints departed, because we contend with their worshippers. Let no man take our refusal to honour them, as their worshippers honour them, for an argument that we do not honour them at all. We are content to be tried by that known rule of St. Austin, that “they are to be honoured for imitation, not to be adored for religion.” We believe that the highest honour we can do them, is to follow their examples : we love their memories; we celebrate anniversary commemorations of their piety and virtues, especially of their sufferings for righteousness' sake; we congratulate their victories over the world; we rejoice in their glory and happiness; we propound their examples to the imitation of the faithful, exciting them to live as the saints once lived, that they at length may inherit those promises, which, by their faith and patience in this world, the saints now inherit in the other; we praise God for them, as often as we meet together at the holy table of our Lord : and when we meet to inter our Christian brethren, we pray to God “to hasten his kingdom, that we, with all those that are departed in the true faith of his holy name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in his everlasting glory.”
Thus we honour the departed saints, remembering all along, that though they are highly exalted above us, who are here below imprisoned in earthly bodies, and struggling in a sinful world with infirmities and temptations; we yet belong to the same body, of which they are members, and that they are still our fellow-servants. We are persuaded they have not less, but rather more charity for us than they had for the Church, when they lived upon the earth ; but whether they know us in particular or not, or in what instances they express their charity towards us, God having made no revelations of these things, we can define nothing about them; and therefore we dare not give them those honours, which suppose such an assurance of these things, as God hath thought fit to deny us.
As the Virgin Mary in particular, we do with men and angels acknowledge that she was “blessed amongst women,” since she brought forth the Saviour of mankind, and the Lord of heaven and earth; since she was not the mother only, but the virgin mother also of our Lord, and conceived him by the power of the Holy Ghost. Which confession so honourable to her, being inseparable from a right belief concerning our Lord Jesus, we do not only set it forth upon the anniversary of the Annunciation, but frequently also in our sermons, and daily in the Creed. Moreover, we take these singular graces of God towards her, in conjunction with other things of a more common quality : we doubt not but she was an excellently pious and virtuous person. We see by her behaviour, when the angel Gabriel* came to her, that she was not apt to be
* Luke i.