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imposed upon by counterfeit visions and revelations, nor forward to believe great things of herself
, nor lifted up with pride, because she was so highly favoured; but that upon
this extraordinary occasion, she wholly resigned herself to the disposal of God, with a wisdom and humility that could not but be habitual. But if nothing at all had been said of her personal qualities in the Scriptures (as indeed there is but very little), we might have presumed without rashness, that because God (who has no less regard to a holy mind than to a pure body) would have the mother of our Lord to retain the purity of a virgin, he would also choose a most holy virgin to be his mother: and since he was pleased to send us so heavenly a treasure in an earthen vessel, he would choose one of the greatest honour. For which reason likewise, we might have concluded, without other testimony, that she became afterwards a faithful disciple of her Son. For when one, in admiration of him, cried Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps that gave thee suck: Yea rather,” said he, “ blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it :" without which blessedness, she that bore him in her womb, and nourished him at her breasts, would have been justly esteemed by all generations, the most unhappy and miserable creature in the world. Finally, from all this we cannot but conclude that she is very happy and glorious in the kingdom of heaven. For though we have no particular revelations concerning this, to warrant any comparisons of her state, with that of angels and archangels; yet, upon general reasons we may say with sufficient assurance, that her rewards and glories in heaven are exceeding great, and such as hold proportion, not only with her faith and patience (for as some think she suffered martyrdom); but likewise with that honour, which God was pleased to confer upon her in this world.
Now if anything remains, whereby to express the tenderness we have for the honour of the blessed Virgin, it is this, That we should do what we can to redeem her name from that dishonourable imputation of affecting glories that cannot belong to the most excellent creature, that is but a creature : for they who, by most solemn rites of religious service, address to her, as to the “queen of heaven and earth,” would make us believe, and pretend to believe themselves, that she is pleased with that worship which they offer to her. But if, as we say, they yield to her those services which no creature is to receive ; they do by consequence represent her as a lady, that aspires to the glory of the Most High ; which is by no means for the glory of the blessed Virgin. And if their saint-worship be liable to the same charge, thus also they represent the other saints. Now though in opposing their doctrine and practice, we are principally moved by that concern we ought to have for the glory of our Creator and Saviour ; yet it is some inducement to us so to do, that we shall thereby vindicate the blessed Virgin also, and all the glorified saints. For if she knows what passes amongst mortals, she cannot but be displeased at those services that have been, and still are paid to her, by some of her Son's disciples ; and if she said any thing at all to them, she should say to her votaries, but with greater indignation, what the angel said to St. John, falling at his feet to worship him ;* “See thou do it not: I am thy fellow-servant : worship God.”
The same I say of the angels, the apostles, the martyrs, and all the saints, whom they honour with the same kind of worship that they give to the blessed Virgin. Only the degree of her worship, and the frequency of their addresses to her, and the strength of their confidence in her, is so much greater, that they have thought fit to invent a word of art to express it by : Hyperdulia they call it; a word which our people cannot understand better, than by knowing the practice which it is a name for.
It is so vast a proportion of religious service, which they render to her ; it consists of so many parts and diversities, that it were a labour to recount them as particularly as the case would bear. It shall suffice to mention some of the principal heads. They worship her with religious prayers and vows. They erect churches and oratories for her service ; where they worship her very images and pictures, and pretended relics. They make rosaries and compose Hours, Psalters, and other forms of devotion to her: they ask things of her that are proper to be asked of God only: they burn incense to her images, and offer their very sacrifice of the mass in her honour.
Now as to this, and all the rest, we cannot but stand amazed, that this service of the blessed Virgin should grow to be one of the principal parts of their religion; when the holy Scriptures have not given us the least intimation of rule or example for it, or of any doctrine or practice that leads to it. That it should be a main design of their catechisms to instruct youth in the worship of the blessed Virgin; of their sermons to excite the people to put confidence in her, and to call
* Rev. xix. 10.
upon her for the present occasion ; of their books of devo. tion to direct them how to pray to her, and magnify her in formal invocations ; of their confessors to enjoin penitents to say so many Ave Maries, in satisfaction for their sins, and to make at least as frequent applications to Mary, as to Jesus himself, for deliverance from sins and dangers : when not one word, not one intimation of any thing like to any thing of all this, is left upon record in the writings of the Evangelists and Apostles ; from whom those men pretend to derive their religion, whose books are large enough for this so famous a service, to have been at least mentioned somewhere or other and who, without all doubt, would have more than mentioned it, if it had been the religion of those times. This is that we must always wonder at, and so much the more, because the constant tenor of the holy Scriptures bears against_such practices as these, agreeably to that precept of both Testaments, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."
And indeed our reasons to keep at a distance from this worship of the blessed Virgin and the saints, are so obvious and commonly known, that I shall not make it a business by itself to represent them. But these two things I shall consider as well as I can :
1. The plausible expositions and colours, by which they have tried of late to justify themselves in these things.
2. What were the beginnings of this kind of worship amongst Christians, and by what steps it is grown to that height, in which we now see it. I shall consider the former in a narrow compass, because much has been said to it already. The latter is what I chiefly design.
$. 2. In pursuance of the first thing propounded, I shall particularly observe how Monsieur de Meaux hath expounded these matters, under the heads of religious worship, of invocation of saints, and giving honour to images and relics : but I shall begin with the two latter, because he expounds these particularly; and then I shall consider the general defence he makes, for all the religious worship they give to the blessed Virgin, and to the saints.
The worship ot'invocation is the foundation of a great many
other things done in her service : for instance, it is this that hath brought forth the Rosary, the Psalters, the Hours, and all other offices of devotion to her. It is this that hath raised her shrines, and built oratories and chapels for her especial service. And indeed, if she as well as God is to be worshipped with prayers and hymns, it is but reasonable, that she should have her holy places for such services, as well as God. And yet St. Austin* thought the erecting of temples to be so proper an act of divine worship, that if we should do it to the most excellent angel, we should be anathematized from the Church of God: whereas therefore our churches are known from one another in cities and populous towns, by the names of several saints ; yet we profess, that however for distinction sake they are so called, they are God's houses and oratories, and not theirs; and it is most manifest that they are used by us for his worship, and not for theirs in whole or in part.
The invocation of the blessed Virgin and the saints has run out into some excesses, from which they might have separated it; and therefore to these excesses I shall say but little, especially because they defend them very faintly, and with great appearances of self-condemnation.
It was too much in all reason, that the Council of Trentt allowed of mental as well as vocal prayers to be made to the saints; for this ascribes to them the knowledge of the secrets of hearts. And it is a very faint plea for this, which Monsieur de Meaux; makes in saying, that “God did not disdain to discover future things to the prophets, though they appear
uch more particularly reserved to his own knowledge.” For this does not clear mental praying to the saints, from the consequence we charge it with, unless they were sure, that as God discovered some future things to the prophets, so he does also perpetually reveal the prayers of our mind to the saints. The instance shews what is needless, that God can do it if he please ; it does not shew that he does it, and that only would have been to the purpose.
Besides, whatever opinion they have of the lawfulness and profitableness of praying to saints, they should have been very much afraid to affirm them to be mediators of intercession; when, without any distinction, the Scripture does not only
* Cont. Maxim. Arian. lib. 1. c. 11. (vol. 8. p.686. Par. 1688.]
+ Sess. 25. de Invoc. S. [Labbe, Concil. vol. 14. p. 395. Lut. Par. 1672.) Bellar. de Sanct. Beatit. 1. 1. c. 20. (ut supra, p. 419.] # Exp. p. 8. (p. 7. Lond. 1686.]
give to Christ the quality of a mediator, as M. de Meaux* grants; but likewise the quality of our only Mediator, as he should have granted. For as there is one God," so there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”+ Much less should men have been encouraged to make immediate applications to the saints, more frequently than to God or to Christ; as if the saints were more easily prevailed with by our prayers, than our God and Saviour. These excesses were too notorious to be denied, but withal, they were too scandalous to be confessed ; but in all reason they ought to have been severely reproved. M. de Meaux would have us to observe that the Council teaches, it is good and profitable to pray to the saints. And we do observe, that though the Fathers were not insensible of the extravagant practices and doctrines in this matter, that were current amongst them, yet they would not vouchsafe to note them with the least censure; but content to let them go on, as they had done before.
Moreover they pray to the blessed Virgin, to protect them from the enemy, to receive them at the hour of death, to be propitious to them, to spare them, to give them strength, to give them grace, to open the gate of everlasting life to them, and for all that a good Christian can ask of God. Such like prayers do they also offer to the other saints: but neither shall I stay upon this ; because they do not go about to justify it amongst us, otherwise than by pretending, that they say what they do not mean ; and that “ the intention of the Church, and of her faithful, reduces these prayers always to this form, that the saints would pray for us.” I Now when they confess, that “the outward veneration is established to testify the inward sentiments of the mind,”'we desire no greater evidence of self-condemnation in this case, than to hear them say quite backward, that the intention of the Church and her faithful is established to explain the meaning of so considerable a part of their outward worship. But in the mean time, God help the common people, if they are to be judged after their own intentions and understandings, and not the intentions and expositions of some few guides of their Church.
To name no more of these enormities; their dividing to the saints their several offices in their prayers to them, is a most unaccountable superstition, i. e. that one saint is applied to
* Exp. p. 6. [Ibid. p. 5.]
of 1 Tim. ii. 5.