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Farther ; though we do not make it an article of our faith, we look on it as a probable thing, that holy bishops and pastors, when they are gone to heaven, have in their prayers a particular regard to that part of Christ's Church over which they presided ; that other saints also in heaven may recommend the condition of their particular friends and relations unto God, with whom they lately conversed in the body, and whose wants they then were intimately acquainted with : so Gregory Nazianzen tells us, he believed concerning his deceased father, * «That he did especially intercede for that flock, over which he was bishop, and did them more good by his prayers now in heaven, than he did by his preaching when he lived amongst them.” So the primitive Christians were wont to beg of the martyrs a little before they suffered, that when they came to heaven, and had received their crown, they would be mindful of them whom they left behind. Famous in ecclesiastical story is the agreement betwixt St. Cyprian and Cornelius, † that he which went first to glory, should particularly intercede for the other at the throne
This we lay down as probable : others have thought that they might go farther, and that it was no less likely, but that God may, on some particular occasions, and in some circumstances, depute an angel or saint to have the charge of such a particular person, or country, or city; but that this was extraordinary and out of course.
Now thus much being granted, there is no need of proofs to make it good ; and yet some of those texts they produce for it are so little to the purpose, that were there no other, and those managed by no better hands, we should want sufficient motives to induce the belief of it. But they must be excused; Scripture is a weapon they have not tried, nor used to fence withal. As for example, to give you a cast of their skill in expounding Scripture.
They endeavour to prove that the saints in heaven do pray for men on earth, from Jer. xv. Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people.” Which words, Bellarmine thinks, imply that Moses and Samuel could, and were wont to intercede for the people of Israel.
* Orat. 19. (vol. 1.] p. 288. [Par. 1630.] + Epist. 57. [p. 206. Venet. 1728.]
# C. 18.
I answer, they do not necessarily so; for when St. Paul* says, “If an angel from heaven preach any other Gospel, let him be accursed ;” he does not at all intimate, that an angel from heaven could or was ever guilty of it: but suppose they do, it does not follow that this was their custom since they went to heaven ; for then, why did they not do it now, when there was most need, and the state of the Jews most deplorable? But that they often did it when they were here on earth. So that the plain sense of the text is this : the people of Judah had, by their sins, so highly provoked God to anger, that he had decreed their ruin, and the doom was irreversible ; and this God was pleased to amplify by declaring that though he had ofttimes been prevailed with by those two holy men, † Moses and Samuel, when they were on earth, in the behalf of this people, to turn away his fierce anger from them; yet now the provocation was so great, that if they were alive again, and did intercede for them, it should not avail, and he would not be entreated for them. So St. Jerome and Theodoret expound them; “God spake of Moses and Samuelf as though they were living in the world, and were in their former station and condition;" and so they are explained by that parallel place, “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in the land, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.”
The next proof of theirs · I shall take notice of, is by the way of inference, and not express in the text ; it is in Rev. vi. 10: “ How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth ?” Now, say they, if the souls of martyrs pray
vengeance on their persecutors and murderers, much more may we suppose them to pray for mercy and deliverance for their fellowmembers and sufferers.
But they certainly frame a very odd notion in their minds of the blessed saints above, who think them so addicted to revenge and retaliation : can they, who, after the example of their Lord, prayed for their enemies when they were on the earth, and forgave their murderers, be supposed, now they are in heaven in a more perfect state, to pray for judgment and wrath upon
them? The words therefore are figurative, and by this scheme of speech is signified unto us, not the desires * Gal. i. [8.]
+ Exod. xxxii, 11, 14. # In locum. (Hieron, ut supra, vol. 4. p. 943.] [Theodor. vol. 2. p. 488. Hal. 1770.]
§ Ezek. xiv. 14.
and wishes, and prayers of the saints for vengeance on their enemies, but only the certainty of the Divine vengeance that would overtake them. By the souls of the slain crying under the altar, is meant their blood, and the sin of murdering them ; and as it is said that Abel's blood cried for vengeance ;* so the sin of shedding their blood cried, and would certainly awake and provoke the justice of God to take vengeance on them for it. The Fathers Ribera and Viegas so explain the text ; and a passage in the book of Esdrast gives farther light to it: “Behold the innocent and righteous blood crieth unto me, and the souls of the just complain continually, and therefore, saith the Lord, I will surely avenge them.”
Another proof of theirs is from the corrupt reading of a text, and not the true sense of it, 2 Peter i. 15. The words are, “I am shortly to go out of this tabernacle, as our Lord himself hath declared unto me; but I will endeavour that ye may be able, after my decease, to have these things always in remembrance.”
They read them, “I will endeavour after my decease,” that is, say they, by his intercession in heaven for them. We read them, “I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease;" that is, say we, by his diligence in instructing them while he was with them on earth. This is the true reading and natural sense of the words : St. Peter did not tell them what he would do for them when he was gone, but what should be his endeavour for them whilst he was here, σπουδάσω δε και εκάστοτε έχειν υμάς μετά την εμήν έξοδον, not σπουδάσω μετά την εμήν έξοδον.
. And so St. Peter interprets himself in the words both before and after, ver. 12, 13: “I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things; it is meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up, by putting you in remembrance ;” and ver. 16 : “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but weres eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Was there any need, this exposition might be confirmed by their own gloss, and many of their own authors on the place : but Bellarmineş himself being not over confident that this text is for their turn, I may venture to dismiss it without any farther reflections on it.
From a corrupted text they proceed to apocryphal ones. * Gen. iv. 10.
# Chap. 15. Dum vivo, Gloss. Dum vita suppetit, Cajet. § Non est argumentum evidens. Bell. c. 18.
2 Maccab. xv. 12, 13, 14, “This was his vision, Onias who had been High Priest &c. prayed for the whole body of the Jews. This done, there appeared a man,” &c. Onias said, “This is a lover of the brethren, who prayeth much for the people, and for the holy city, to wit, Jeremias, the prophet of God.”
Now that which I would observe from this place (besides that it was but a dream of Judas Maccabæus, and the book of no good authority), is, that we do not find that Judas thereupon did either pray himself to them, or exhort the people to do it; but, ver. 22, directed his prayer to God alone; “Therefore in his prayer he said after this manner, O Lord, thou didst send thine angel in the time of Hezekiah :” and ver. 23,
Wherefore now also, O Lord of Heaven, send a good angel before us for a fear and dread unto them."
Again, they cite out of the Apocrypha, Baruch iïi. 4:“O Lord Almighty, thou God of Israel, hear now the prayers
of the dead Israelites." From whence they gather, that the dead Israelites prayed for the living.
But these words may have another sense fairly put upon them. And, 1. By the dead Israelites may not be meant those dead indeed, but whose condition was so distressed and desperate, as every moment to threaten death ; and then the prayers of the dead Israelites were only the prayers of the Israelites that were ready to perish. And for this the verse before gives it, "we perish utterly.” Or, 2. By the prayers of the dead Israelites, may be meant the prayers of their ancient worthies, which they, though now dead, put up to God when they were alive ; to wit, the prayers of the patriarchs and prophets, when they were in the body, for the good estate of their posterity.
But what these texts fall short of, others may make up: in the 1st of Zech. 12, an angel is represented as interceding for the people of Israel. “And the Angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem, and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?" And yet by the angel here, the Jesuit Ribera* confesses, is meant Christ, the only advocate and intercessor in heaven for his Church and people, and backs his opinion with the sufferage of several of the Fathers, St. Jerome, St.
* Comment. in Heb. c. vii. v. 18.
Ambrose, Origen, and others. To which purpose we may observe, chap. iii. 2, that this angel is called the Lord. “And he shewed me Joshua the High Priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right-hand to resist him; and the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan, even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem.”
We believe also the communion of saints, and therefore it is a calumny that* Bellarmine puts upon us, where he says we deny it; but we believe withal, that that
may be preserved betwixt the Church triumphant and Church militant, without our praying to them, or their meriting for us. The saints above, and those here below, make up but one body ; they differ only in condition and degree; they in heaven, we upon earth; they in rest and peace from all their labours, we still beating it on the waves ; they set safe out of the reach of sin and folly, we still struggling in the midst of temptations ; but yet we are all of the same body: so says the Apostle, Heb. xii. 22, “ Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.” Now being of the same society with them, as we ought to honour their memories, to imitate their virtues, t to bless God for their examples, to be encouraged by the hopes of that salvation they now enjoy, and to pray for their perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul, in God's everlasting glory : I so no doubt do they bear a most tender affection to us, and have a hearty concern for our good, and do what, by the laws of that invisible world, they are permitted to do, especially by their earnest prayers, mightily prevalent with God, to procure our welfare. Communion with the saints in heaven thus far we own, and it may be proved; but that on this or any other account we are to worship them, we deny, and it can never be proved. However, the several texts cited by them to this purpose, I shall examine in the following heads.
* C. 18.
+ Communion Officc.
# Burial Office.