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What is the professed Doctrine and Practice of the Church of
Rome, as to Invocation of Saints ? An account of this I shall give you first in general, as it is set down in the decree of the Trent Council, and then lay it before you more at large distributed under several particulars.
In the twenty-fifth session of that packed synod, we have its decree in these words : “ That all bishops and pastors, that have the care of souls, do diligently instruct their flock, that it is good and profitable, humbly to pray unto the saints, and to have recourse to their prayers, help, and aid.” And then to reinforce the obligation of it, it denounces an anathema against all those who shall find fault with it, or refuse to practise it; so that now, whosoever shall be so hardy as to think and teach the contrary, to say, that either it ought not to be done, or that it is a foolish thing to do it; that the practice is little less than idolatry, repugnant to the doctrine of the Scriptures, hugely derogatory to the glory of God, as sole Governor of the world, and highly iujurious to the honour of Christ, as the only Mediator betwixt God and man, does, in the judgment of that Church, think impiously; and if the Pope's power, as well as his infallibility, does not fail him, he must be cursed and damned for it. But, for once, not to be frighted with his vain thunder, I shall proceed, in due place, by God's assistance, to prove all the aforegoing particulars against it, when I have given you yet a fuller description of it. First then :
1. The least and most excusable thing in this doctrine and practice is, to pray to saints to pray for them. Thus much is not only confessed by them, but made the pretence to bring off this doctrine without the charge of idolatry and creatureworship : We do no more, in praying to saints departed, say they, than one living Christian does to another, when he says, Pray, sir, pray for me, or remember me in your prayers. But was this indeed the true meaning of such devotions, it is so far from being any justification of them, that the apology itself is sinful; and admitting the excuse, the practice no less to be condemned. For,
When they pray to saints departed to pray for them, those saints do either hear their prayers, and become acquainted with their desires, or they do not : if they do hear all those
prayers that are put up to them at the same time by innumerable persons, and that in far distant places, what is this but to ascribe to them that ubiquity and omnipresence, that is solely, peculiarly, and incommunicably in God? If they do not, then it is very absurd and ridiculous, and a great abuse of that reason God hath given men for other ends than to trifle with, to pray to them. For, to what purpose should they pray to them that cannot hear them? Why should they beseech those to be their advocates to God, and recommend their particular cases to him, whose cases they cannot, by any way that we know of, come to understand? As for their learning and seeing all things in the glass of the Trinity, or learning them by particular revelation from God; as God has declared no such thing to us, so is it not to be known by the light of nature, but the contrary is very probable, if not certain ; as shall be made to appear by the sequel of this dis
It is not denied but that blessed spirits, who are safely landed upon the shore, do pray for their partners who are still behind beating it on the waves; it is not denied but that saints in heaven may pray in particular to God for their friends and relations, whose necessities and infirmities they were well acquainted with before they left the body: so it was agreed betwixt St. Cyprian and Cornelius, that who went first to glory, should be mindful of the other's condition to God; for why should their memories or their charity be thought to be less in heaven, than they were on earth? We know it was the practice of some good men in the primitive times, to recommend themselves to the prayers of the saints ; that is, to desire God to hear the prayers that the saints in heaven did make in their behalf; and to apply themselves to the martyrs a little before their suffering, when they themselves were entered into bliss, to intercede with God for those who were yet on the way passing thither with fear and trembling. But now is there no difference betwixt the saints' intercessions for us, and our invocation of them? Betwixt their praying for us in heaven, and our praying to them on earth? Is there no difference betwixt one living Christian praying to another to pray for him, who hears his request, and who is acquainted with his condition, and our addressing to saints departed to pray for us, who know us not, and who are ignorant of our state ?
Again, when they pray to saints departed, they do it with all the rites and solemnities of a religious worship, in sacred offices, upon
their knees, with uncovered head, with hands and
eyes lifted up, in times and places dedicated to God's worship; now, though it should be true, that they do no more than pray to saints to pray for them: yet doing it in that manner, with such external acts of devotion that are confessed to be the same wherewith we call on God, I do not see how they can be excused, even on this account, from attributing that honour to the creature, which is due only to the Creator. As God is owned to be infinite in himself, and to have incommunicable perfections, so there ought to be some peculiar and appropriate acts and signs of worship to signify, that we do inwardly so esteem and believe of God: and when these are once determined by the law of God, or the universal reason and consent of mankind, the applying them to any else but him, is a plain, violating his peculiarities, and robbing him of his honour. And now in this respect also I cannot discern how the Romish invocation of saints is of the same nature with our requesting our fellow-members to pray
For (not to mention again the presence of these, and the absence of the other), is there no difference betwixt my desiring an eminently good Christian to pray for me, and falling down on my knees, with hands and eyes lifted up, and that in a temple to him, with that request? Would not every good man, that has any regard for the honour of God, presently shew his detestation of such an action ? Would he not say to me, as St. Peter to Cornelius falling down before him,
I myself also am man ? Would he not, with St. Paul, have rent his garments, and with much holy indignation cried out to me, as he
to the men of Lystra, designing the same honours to him and Barnabas, wherewith they worshipped their gods, Why do
ye these things ? we also are men of like passions
As the saints in heaven cannot be supposed to lose anything of their love and charity towards their fellowmembers by going thither; so neither can they be thought to abate anything of their zeal and fervour for the honour of
and therefore certainly what they did and would have refused here on earth, they must, with higher degrees of abhorrence, reject now they are in heaven.
Moreover, if this be all they mean by all their several offices of devotions to saints departed, that they should pray for them unto God, why in all this time that these forms have been complained of, has not the sense of them been better expressed ? Whence, I pray, shall we take the meaning of such prayers, but from the usual signification of the words ? But if not,
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why has no inquisition passed upon them? Why have not the grossest and rankest for superstition, and encroaching on the prerogative of God, been expunged and blotted out? Why all this while has there been no review, no comments upon them, no cautions and instructions written and bound up with their Breviaries, Rosaries and Hours, that the people might know how to understand them? If the form of words in their saint-invocation be the same that is used to God, but their sense and meaning otherwise ; why don't they tell this to the world, and make their explication as public and as general as the prayers ?
Certainly, the bishops and governors of the Romish Church, and those that have the care of souls amongst them, are either guilty of gross and wilful neglects to the people, or else, whatever they say to us, their will is, that the people should understand those prayers according to the customary and received use of the words; and then I am sure they pray, not only to saints to pray for them unto God, in order to the obtaining of him such aids and supplies as they want, but to saints themselves for those very blessings : as will appear at large in the next particular.
2. They pray to saints departed for those very blessings that none but God can give. To what purpose else do they advise us to fly, not only to their prayers, but “ their help and assistance ;" * which words,“ help and assistance," would have been altogether superfluous, was not something else meant by them, than only that of their prayers.
To what purpose else do they pray to them to “visit” them, t “ to make haste and come to them, did they not expect some other aid and assistance from them, than bare praying for them? For that certainly might have been better and more conveniently performed in heaven, before the face of God.
To what purpose else, in some particular cases, do they put up their addresses to one saint, rather than to another, according as in this world they were famous, either for some eminent grace shining in them, or for some strange cure, or extraordinary deliverance wrought by them, but only that they believe and trust, that those who did such great things on earth, are much more willing and able to do them now they are in heaven, where, while other graces cease, charity and beneficence are perfected and abide for ever?
* Opem Auxiliumque Trid. Con. sess. 25. [Labbe, Concil. vol. 14. p. 895. Lut. Par. 1672.]
+ Propere veni, accelera.
Thus because St. Roche was signally charitable in assisting those who were infected with the plague, therefore do they call upon him in times of infection; because St. Apollonia had all her teeth struck out for her undaunted confession of the faith of Jesus, therefore do they fly to her for ease against the rage of teeth ; because St. George was by profession a soldier, and renowned for wonderful achievements, therefore have they recourse to him for assistance against enemies. It is true, was it lawful to address to any at all, this might be a sufficient reason, why they address to this rather than to another saint, because his or her former actions or sufferings do best suit and befit their present case; but being not sure that these and such-like canonized saints of the Romish Church, are saints in heaven ; being sure, if they are, they cannot hear us, nor know our particular state, much less bestow health and deliverance upon us, whilst we love and honour the memory of saints indeed, we ought to call only upon God, who only “is a present help in time of need,” and “the Saviour of them that put their trust in him.”
But to put this out of doubt, it will not be amiss to set down some of their forms of devotion to saints departed : and here, not to rake for them in some obscure authors, that have privately stole into the world, I shall need go no farther than The present Roman Breviary, corrected and published by the decree and order of the Council of Trent. The blessed Virgin is there invocated in the feast of the Assumption, "for strength against enemies;" and in the hymn frequently used in her office, she is not only called “the gate of heaven," but intreated to “loose the bonds of the guilty, to give light to the blind, to drive away our evils, to obtain good things for us, and to shew herself to be a mother" (that is, as the Mass-book of Paris, 1634, interprets it), * "in right of a mother to command her son.
In another place she is sued to “ for help to the miserable, for strength to the weak, for comfort to the afflicted, and that all that celebrate her festivals may feel her assistance:” and but that I
* O felix puerpera, nostra pians scelera, jure matris impera Redemptori. Dall. de Cultu Latin. (Adv. Latin. de Rel. Cult. Objecto.] lib. 3. cap. 4. p. 359. [Genev. 1664.] Not denied by Natalis Alexander, though he answers this citation of Daille, only he says, Non est ab Ecclesia probata, et quibusdam tantum missalibus olim inserta est. Hist. Eccl. Sec. 5. dissert. 5. [dissert. 25.] p. 343, 347. [vol. 9. p. 773. Bing. ad Rhen. 1787.]