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seduced into, who invoke saints and angels. And it is a fixed principle in our creed, that where God's written word is clear and certain, human evidence cannot be weighed against it in the balance of the sanctuary. When the Lord hath spoken, well does it become the whole earth to be silent before him ; when the eternal Judge himself hath decided, the witness of man bears on its very face the stamp of incompetency and presumption.
For myself I can say (what I have good hope these pages will of themselves evince) that no one can value the testimony of Christian tradition within its own legitimate sphere more sincerely, or more highly, than the individual who is now soliciting your attention to the conclusions which he has himself drawn from it. When Scripture is silent, or where its meaning is doubtful, Catholic tradition is to me a guide, which I feel myself bound to follow with watchful care and submissive reverence.
Now let it be for the present supposed, that instead of the oracles of God having spoken, as we believe them to have spoken, with a voice clear, strong, and uniform against the doctrine and practice of the invocation of saints and angels, their voices had been weak, doubtful, and vague; in other words, suppose in this case the question had been left by the Holy Scriptures an open question, then what evidence would have been deducible from the writings of the primitive Church? What testimony do the first years and the first ages after the canon of Scripture was closed, bear upon this point? And here I would repeat the principle of inquiry, proposed above for our adoption in the more important and solemn examination of the Holy Volume itself.-We ought to endeavour to ascertain what may
fairly and honestly be regarded as the real bearing of each author's remains, and not suffer the general tone and spirit of a writer to be counterbalanced by single expressions, which may be so interpreted as to convey an opposite meaning. Rather we should endeavour to reconcile with that general spirit and pervading tendency of a writer's sentiments any casual expressions which may admit of two acceptations. We adopt this principle in our researches into the remains of classical antiquity; we adopt the same principle in estimating the testimony of a living witness. In the latter case, indeed, the ingenuity of the adverse advocate is often exercised in magnifying the discrepancies between some minor facts or incidental expressions with the broad and leading assertions of the witness, with a view to invalidate his testimony altogether, or at least to weaken the impression made by it. But then a wise and upright judge, assured of the truth of the evidence in the main, and of the integrity of the individual, will not suffer unessential, apparent inconsistencies to stifle and bury the body of testimony at large, but will either extract from the witness what may account for them, or show them to be immaterial. Inviting, therefore, your best thoughts to this branch of our subject, I ask you to ascertain, by a full and candid process of induction, this important and interesting point,—Whether we of the Anglican Church, by religiously abstaining from the presentation, in word or in thought, of any thing approaching prayer or supplication, entreaty, request, or any invocation whatever, to any other being except God alone, do or do not tread in the steps of the first Christians, and adhere to the very pattern which they set; and whether members of the Church of Rome by addressing angel or saint in any form of invocation seeking
their aid, either by their intercession or otherwise, have not unhappily swerved decidedly and far from those same footsteps, and departed widely from that pattern?
In one point of view it might perhaps be preferable to enter at once upon our investigation, without previously stating the conclusions to which my own inquiries have led; but, on the whole, I think it more fair to make that statement, in order, that having the inferences already drawn placed before the mind, the inquirer may in each case weigh the several items of evidence bearing upon them separately, and more justly estimate its whole weight collectively at the last.
After having examined then the passages collected by the most celebrated Roman Catholic writers, and after having searched the undisputed original works of the primitive writers of the Greek and Latin Churches, the conclusion to which I came, and in which every day of further inquiry and deliberation confirms me more and more is this:
In the first place, negatively, that the Christian writers, through the first three centuries and more, never refer to the invocation of saints and angels as a practice with which they were familiar.
In the second place, positively, that the principles which they habitually maintain and advocate are irreconcileable with such a practice; that they have not recorded or alluded to any forms of invocation of the kind used by themselves or by the Church in their days; and that no services of the earliest times contain hymns, litanies, or collects to angels, or to the spirits of the faithful departed.
In tracing the history of the worship of saints and angels, we proceed (gradually, indeed, though by no
means at all periods, and through every stage, with equal rapidity,) from the earliest custom established and practised in the Church,—of addressing prayers to Almighty God alone for the sake of the merits of his blessed Son, the only mediator and intercessor between God and man,—to the lamentable innovation both of praying to God for the sake of the merits, and through the mediation of departed mortals, and of invoking those mortals themselves as the actual dispensers of the spiritual blessings which the suppliant seeks from above. It is not only a necessary part of our inquiry for ascertaining the very truth of the case; it is also curious and painfully interesting, to trace the several steps, one after another, beginning with the doctrine maintained by various early writers, both Greek and Latin, that the souls of the saints are not yet reigning with Christ in heaven, and ending with the anathema of the Council of Trent, against all who should maintain that doctrine ; beginning with prayer and thanksgiving to Almighty God alone, and ending with daily prayers both to saints and angels ; one deviation from the strict line of religious duty, and the pure singleness of Christian worship, successively gliding into another, till at length the whole of Christendom, with a few remarkable exceptions, is seen to acquiesce in public and private devotions, which, if proposed, the whole of Christendom would once with unanimity have repudiated.
Before I offer to you the result of my inquiries as to the progressive stages of degeneracy and innovation in the worship of Almighty God, I would premise two considerations :
First, I would observe, that the soundness of my conclusion on the general points at issue does not depend at all on the accuracy of the arrangement of those stages
which I have adopted. Should any one, for example, think there is evidence that two or more of those progressive steps, which I have regarded as consecutive, were simultaneous changes, or that any one which I have ranked as subsequent took rather the lead in order of time, such an opinion would not tend in the least to invalidate my argument; the substantial and essential point at issue being this: Is the invocation of saints and angels, as now practised in the Church of Rome, agreeable to the primitive usage of the earliest Christians ?
Secondly, I would observe, that the places and occasions most favourable for witnessing and correctly estimating the changes and gradual innovations in the worship of those early times, are the tombs of the martyrs, and the churches in which their remains were deposited; and at the periods of the annual celebration of their martyrdom, or in some instances at what was called their translation, the removal, that is, of their mortal remains from their former resting-place to a church, for the most part dedicated to their memory. On these occasions the most extraordinary enthusiasm prevailed; sometimes the ardour of the worshippers, as St. Chrysostom' tells us, approaching madness. But even at times of less excitement, from contemplating the acts and sufferings of the martyr immediately after his death, and recalling his words and looks and stedfast bearing, and exhorting each other to picture to themselves his holy countenance then fixed on them, his tongue addressing them, his sufferings before their eyes, encouraging all to follow his example, they began habitually to consider him as actually one of the faithful assembled round his tomb.
· St. Chrys. Paris, 1718. Vol. xii. p. 330.