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HOME > Doctrines > On Prayer to Saints - an excerpt from New Ways of Salvation by Daniel Brevint
Saul and Samuel at Endor, or
by Daniel Brevint, D.D.
(French Huguenot, Dean of Lincoln)
by Daniel Brevint, D.D.
(French Huguenot, Dean of Lincoln)
on Prayer to the Saints
This pretended help of men and women, who after their departure out of this world, and their being canonized by some Pope, are called Saints; are another great enchantment to keep and draw people to Rome. Their souls are conceived to be still ready to go about any business, which their worshippers have in heaven: and their bodies, even to the least of their bones, their clothes and their shoes withal, can at every good occasion work great cures and feats on earth. Thus one Saint is upon this account worth as much or more than any two angels. What sober man therefore would not be tempted, to turn a Roman Catholic? and who would turn from being so; though there were no other reason for either, then the getting and losing such friends. The persuasion of Romanists is, that all such souls as deserve their canonization at Rome, go up directly to heaven as to a place, where, their happy rest from all their labors, and an happy possession of an eternal glory with God, is not all what they expect: they must have also government, and regencies [Bell. de Sanct. Beatit. l. 1. c. 18.] over the whole world; wherefore they fancy them sometimes like so many great captains marshalling all the nation under Christ, with an iron rod: sometimes like great pillars above, holding all churches under them. And because so much were too much for any one Saint, to manage it well; and that no creature is capable of such an universal burden, except the Virgin Mary above, and the Pope of Rome, here below; to facilitate [Gab. Biel. in Can. Lect 32. N.] the business, they divide the whole among themselves; that every one may be troubled with no more, then his proper share.
First by this imaginary distribution, they divide their Saints into countries. St. James [Salmero. 1. ad Tim. c. 2. Disp. 7.] is to take care of Spain: St. Sebastian of Portugal: St. Denis of France: St. Mark of the Venetians: St. Nicolas of the Moscovites: St. Ambrose of Milan: the three Kings of the Electorate of Cologne: St. Barbara of Germany, etc. and before the happy Reformation, St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick had the respective charges of England, Scotland, and Ireland.
Secondly they subdivide their employments in these and other countries, after the several sorts of processions and trades extant therein. For St. Nicolas, and St. Christopher are thought to look to the seamen; St. Catharine to the scholars; St. Austin to the divines; St. Luke to the painters: St. Ivo the lawyers; St. Eustachius to the hunters; St. Chrispin to the shoemakers. The very harlots have their proper Saints, and they are St. Magdalen and St. Afra who look to them. Some others are put to equally vile services; as St. Anthony about swine; St. Pelagius about cows, St. Eulogius about Horses; Saint Vendeline and St. Gallus, have the care both of sheep and geese. Judge you how gladly these happy souls leave the bosom of Abraham, to drudge about these sorts of cattle.
Thirdly, in these distinct provinces, and about these ranks of men and beasts, the Roman Saints are for the most part appointed to distinct works, and helps, Non omnia possumus omnes, that is, Every one cannot do all, says one of the [Biel. sup.] learned Catholics; and therefore will they sometimes direct clients to other, although possibly inferior Saints; as once St. Peter sent a [Gregor. Dialog. l. 3. c. 25.] woman to a sacrist he had at Rome, for the cure of her palsy; and it is upon this ground, that devout persons are directed to several Saints, for their several exigencies, to the end that both every Saint may have his share in the worship, and every client in the relief. This is it which they [Idem. in Can. lect. 32. N.]call the discreet variety, so honorable to their Church, and so advantageous to her poor members; when you shall see one pray to St. Peter, for the gift of submission: to St. Agnes, for continency: to our Lady St. Anna for wealth: to St. Margarite for childbearing: to St. Rochus against the plague: to St. Petronilla against an ague: to Saint Apollonia against the toothache: to St. Liberius against the stone: and so to every Saint for that help that is in his way. Let no bachelors go to St. Peter, because a married man: nor no married man to St. John, because he was a bachelor: but [Salazar. Proverb. c. 8. v. 18.] let everyone go to a Saint of his on tribe; a widow to a widow-Saint, and a soldier to one of his trade, for this is the humor of Roman Saints, to favor better their own companions.
According to this economy, there is not one Romanist but may pretend to march under the colors of several Saints. For example, a French Catholic born at Paris, has as fair title as Rome can give, to the protection of St. Michael, St. Denis, and our Lady, who generally rule that kingdom: of St. Genevesa, that more specially looks to Paris; of St. Germain or St. Thomas, or St. Sulpice, if he either be born, or reside in those parishes: of St. Cosmus, and St. Damian, in case he do practice physic: of St. Ottilia and St. Lucia, when his ears and eyes trouble him, and of St. Mathurin also, if he be troubled with folly. Over and above these, he may be sure of other Saints, St. Dominic, St. Celestin, St. Francis, and twenty more, by matriculating his name into their confraternities; which he may do for a small matter.
It is great pity that this fancy of distributing presidencies and powers thus among Roman Saints, has no better ground then that had which Julian the Apostate alleges [Julian ap Cyrill. Alexand. l. 4. sub init.], and St. Augustin observes to have been constantly practiced among the ancient pagan gods [Augustin. de Civitate l. 6-8]. What signifies, says the holy Father elsewhere, that trifling division of offices among your gods, wherefore must they be severally prayed to, but to make it rather a play fit for a stage, than anything which may become the worth and gravity of a true God? This new comedy is still the same, only the actors wear better clothes, or rather borrow better names; and the Roman People that stand about it, adore the Virgin for Juno, and St. George instead of Mars; and as a learned Romanist says, another kind of he and she Saints [Lud. Vives, de Civ. l. 8. c. 27] , instead of the old gods and goddesses. But as to any honest ground and precedent for such practices, these two things may, and must be said, to the everlasting shame of the Roman Church. The first is, that whereas, as long as either the patriarchs, or the prophets, or the Apostles, or any holy and apostolical men ordered the church, there never appeared one soul that offered to speak to men, unless the soul of Samuel, 1 Sam 28 (and in the judgment both of the Fathers, and of many Roman Doctors, that appearing soul was a devil;) the Church of Rome brags in her time of above ten thousand souls, all coming down to talk with Men, which souls she believes to be Saints. The second is, that whereas neither patriarchs, nor prophets, nor any Apostles, or any apostolical holy men, in all their dangers and distresses ever prayed to, or worshipped any creature whatsoever, whether holy angel, or holy soul; the Church of Rome in a great measure prays to, and worships nothing else.
And the truth is, this unusual praying to departed Saints, and this new appearing of men's souls, may very well meet together. It is the constant practice of evil spirits, though neither called nor thought on, to meet men in unlawful ways. When the pagans did consult fowls of the air about their good or bad success, and so did birds for prophesies; the devils moved ravens and eagles to signify somewhat, by either flying or croaking: the same did actuate stocks and stones, when they did call upon images: they made the votaries often to see visions, when they watched for them about tombs. And it is both very just with the true God to suffer, and pleasing to false gods to do, that they, who run after dead Saints, should find the same thing that Saul and the witch did, when they sought after dead prophets.
First, it is a great presumption to pretend to more wisdom, in point of serving God and saving ourselves, then either God has appointed, or all the holy prophets and Apostles have known and taught: and it is most just and likely, that men should meet with strong delusions, and with the devils themselves, when they venture upon slippery, and unknown, and dark by-paths, where not one of God's Saints ever dared walk.
Secondly, admit what we know not, that the souls of holy men are not confined to heaven, and fixed there to their happy rest; but (which [Origen. ad Rom. c.2. l. 2.] any discreet man, though he suspected it, would not affirm) that they may come down now and then, and take some care of our affairs. Admit that these few apparitions, which I find recorded by good authors. 1. Of Potamiena to Basilides [Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l.6.c.5.]. 2. Of a father, who after his death brings the true acquitance of a debt, that his poor son was troubled for [ibid. c.16.]. 3. Of something like Felix the Confessor appearing to relieve Nola. 4. Of something like Spiridians daughter, that offered to the good Bishop her father, to show him where she had laid the jewels, which a friend had entrusted her with [Socrat. Hist. Eccl. l.1.c.12.]. 5. Of something like John Monachus, (a Holy Man) that appeared to a really pious woman, when once she longed to see him [Aug. sup. c. 17.]. 6. And of something like St. Augustin, that once appeared to his disciple Eulogius [Ibid. c. 11.], and another time to one Curma about Hippo, when both this John and St. Augustin were yet alive [Idem. c. 12.], and knew nothing of this appearing (at the least St. Augustin did not) but what he heard other men say; suppose, I say, both against all probability, and the positive judgment of St. Augustin himself, that these were not angels, but real souls [Ibid. c. 16. &c.]; what are some few extraordinary apparitions, to ground an universal and perpetual way of worship? And suppose that not few, but whole thousands of souls should swarm down amongst us, as we know the angels do; the angels we also know, were never called upon, nor prayed to, by any true servant of God, as long as the church was ordered by any prophet, Apostle, or apostolical men: and after their departure, it is well known, how the Fathers who next succeeded them, always voted both against worshipping and praying to any one created angel. The disciples of Christ, says St. Ireneus, do nothing by praying to angels, but by directing holy and undefiled prayers to the Lord, who has created all things [Iren. Cont. Haeres. l. 2. c. 57. sub fin.]. Prayers directed to others, it seems, are defiled with something. And though the blessed angels, (says Origen, a most authentic author in this point) are sometimes called gods, and convey down to us the favors of God, yet we do not serve them as gods [Orig. Cont. Celsum l. 5.]; for all our prayers, supplications, addresses, and givings of thanks (which he makes to be all one with the true service of God) must be directed to God, who is the master of all things, through our High Priest the living Word and God, who is greater than all the angels. And as for the angles themselves, we have no reason to pray to them, because we do not understand them well; and although we did, this very knowing of both their nature, and offices, would not afford us the confidence of offering our vows and prayers to any other than to the all-sufficient and supreme God, by his Son our Savior. Not to trouble myself, or others, with any more clear and direct citations to this purpose, I will only add the verdict of two and thirty Fathers, who find in a full Council [Council. Laodic. Can. 35], that the praying to angels (for so St. Theodoret interprets the Word, onomadzein angelos) to be both a hidden idolatry, and a forsaking of Christ and his church [Theodor. Colossens c. 2. v. 18.].
The true reason which makes these and other Fathers so sharp against praying to angels (much more against praying to Saints) as to call it idolatry, is not because the angels cannot hear always, the Saints never; for this would make praying to them no more than an idle and useless act: but mainly and principally, because prayer, vows, and giving of thanks, is a main part of God's service; and therefore Saint Ireneus [Iren. sup.], and Origen, [Orig. sup.] take prayer and worship promiscuously for the same thing. And 'tis upon this same account, that both Scripture [Psalm. 50:14-15], and the ancient Fathers, still reckon prayer and thanksgiving among the truest sacrifices, and which can belong to none but God [Tertullian Apoc. c. 30; Euseb. Demonst. Evand. c. ult. sub fin.; Orig. in Rom. c. 10. v. 14.; ]. Now Prayer is part of God's service, because, if serious and devout (and I am sure Roman praying to Saints is no jest) it presupposes and acknowledges in the Saint which is prayed to, such an infinite knowledge of men's hearts, such an universal and extensive capacity, or rather being, in hearing them all, always, everywhere, and such an immense sufficiency and power of helping them accordingly, that to make, or to presuppose, created either Saints or angels fit persons for to be prayed to, is to make or to presuppose them to be gods. And this is the true account, wherefore calling upon God, is reputed an honor given to God, "Call upon me, and you shall glorify me," Psalm. 50:15, 23, because it implies, and in very deed acknowledges the immensity, the knowledge, the mercy and power of God: not calling upon him, is atheism, Psalm. 79:6. And so calling on them, who are not gods, is down-right idolatry.
The truth is, you may call upon a Saint, without any danger of idolatry, if he be in such a distance whence intelligent creatures may without miracle hear one another: thus the prophets were not afraid to speak to angels, Dan. 10 and 22. Zachar. 1:9. If you did pray a holy man while he is with you, to pray for you, and to recommend you to God after he is dead, perhaps this exceeds not much the ordinary power of a Saint. Thus St. Cyprian entreated his friend Cornelius, then Bishop of Rome, that he of them two who should, by suffering martyrdom, step the foremost to Jesus Christ, would being with him there, continue his wonted prayers for his poor brother, whom he knew to be left behind [Cyprian l. 1. Ep. 1. sub fin.]. And, as I take it, the same Father asks the same favor of his holy and devout virgins, against the time when their virgin zeal and piety should be crowned with its due honor. Thus far I see nothing at all, that an humble Christian may not wish, and a created Saint may not perform: and if such prayers have any defect, it is not idolatry, nor superstition perhaps, 'tis only they want an example. Nor is it any idolatry to pray to your friends by letters at any distant whatsoever, for St. Paul in his epistles does often so: and therefore I would not blame our learned papists for dedicating their books, and writing dedicatory letters to the most Blessed Virgin Mary, if they had expresses to carry them. But if you can fancy a Saint of such an unlimited and universal intelligence, as, though he be but in one place, yet to be able to see, and hear what all mankind can say or do, or think, or write, or suffer, all the World over: and that St. Nicholas for example, hearkens and provides where he is (in heaven I hope) to what one seaman prays in a shipwreck at the Streets of Magellan; to what another wishes for, when he is becalmed in the South Sea; to the cries of another, who sees a hurricane by the Barbados; to the private desires or another, who fishes for pearls by the Guiney shore, or herrings by our English Coast, or for whales hard by Greenland, or for trout in our small rivers; and whole thousands of passengers, who cry to him being Catholics, and perishing in as many places both at once, and always, as he is called upon in all these places, and in all these times, and by all at once; and if you do fancy withal, that he understands besides all this, in these both numberless places and exigencies, what they do both think and deserve, in order to the returning of suitable reliefs and helps: I say, you fancy in St. Nicolas an infinite omniscience: wherefore they that pray to him on this account, do give him what belongs to God, and make him a complete idol.
Here Roman and sacred authors are at a great distance the one from the other. Those will have the Saints being departed, to know whatsoever is said, thought and done under the sun: and these nothing; or if something, besides that which they must needs remember, both of the Church and of themselves, in order to their holiness and thankfulness to God Almighty; St. Augustin thinks that they have it, either of those angels who of course converse here and there among men, or from the souls of the righteous whom God takes up to them; or immediately from God himself, revealing to his Saints above as he does to his Saints below, that which is necessary they should know [Aug. de Cur a pro Mort. c. 15.]. But alas! all this comes far short of what is required in this case: for the papists themselves confess, that neither the angels, nor separated souls, can be pesent everywhere, to know and report the prayers sent up to every Saint, and by every worshipper at one time, and from all countries; and though they were, yet could they not tell what, or whether men pray when they pray to them sincerely and in their hearts [Bell. de Sanct. Beatis. l. 1. c. 20]: therefore they must make use of God, and turn, as much as in them lies, his essence into a looking-glass, where without any more ado, angels and Saints may see what they please. And when they have thus taught the simple people, and amused them with their Gregorian Motto, that, Whosoever sees him that sees all, sees all himself [Greg. Magn. Dialog. l. 4. c. 33.] : they laugh at it among themselves, and say plainly (as well they may) that created things have not a being, which may be seen in God, as an object that shines in a glass; witness the angels that see God, and yet are ignorant of many things [Occam. 4. Sent. q. 13.], but as effects in the virtue of their own causes, which indeed could be seen in God, by him who could know him perfectly, which no man can [Tham. part 1. q. 12, a. 8.]: and so it is not true, that whosoever looks in a glass, sees all in the glass. And it is fair, if the Saints see in God the things that are proper to their happiness: and such certainly are not the cries of men perishing in a storm. In a word, they all come to this, that when they say that the Saints see all things in God, it must be understood, as far only as God is pleased to represent it to them [Greg. de Valent. De modo quo Deus cognoscit. Disp. 1. q. 12].
Now let the Roman Catholics show us, either out of Scripture, or some infallible author, that God reveals to St. Nicolas (to insist in the same example) all the rocks, the billows and storms, which may put his seamen to pray; and that the hearing of their cries, and the sight of all their shipwrecks, is to this second Neptune a great addition of happiness.
This looking-glass being thus broken, they run as to their best refuge, to new revelations, which, is sufficient to the purpose which they are invented for, must swarm up in heaven, as thick and as continually as there are prayers made to Saints under the dominion of Rome. At this rate, whensoever one says Ave Maria, or another St. Aegidi, or another some other prayer, God must inform the Saint who it is that prays to him, to what purpose, and with what heart, or else it is a hundred to one if the Saint hears a word of it. And as the whole Trinity must be ready for a million of miracles to do the business at mass, so must it be for as many, or rather more revelations night and day, morning and evening, to wait on the Roman Litanies: only there is this difference, that at the mass the priests are so civil, as to pray to God for his miracles; and so rude at the litany, as never once in their whole life to ask for a revelation, wherewith he may be pleased to inform them all, whom it may concern. A very great rudeness indeed, and such a prodigious over-sight, that whole Rome, as well as great Bellarmine, may most justly be puzzled at [Bell. de Sanct. Beatit. l. c. 20. sect atque ex his.]; that a pious and infallible Church should not remember, that so many, so continual, and so absolutely necessary revelations, if true, are true continual favors; and that God, once in an age, might be as well supplicated to show and expose their prayers, as continually as every petty Saint is importuned to recommend them.
But here is a far worse, and I doubt not, a more, impious absurdity. I cannot tell whether it be more lawful for papists to set up new mediators (without any warrant) in heaven, then it was for Jeroboam to make new priests in Israel: nor whether the making Mediatores ad Mediatorem, grandees, who through their own merits, and not by their prayers only, shall promote our concerns with Christ, be a lesser temerity then it had been, if Abraham had obtruded all his servants as officers and Levites to serve under Melchisedec. But see how Babel can set and unset, and over-turn all things upside down; Christ the only Mediator, the Advocate, and the Intercessor above to God the Father, must lay this his office aside, and become a kind of Mediator and Intercessor for men with the Saints. All the supplications and addresses which the papists send up to these souls, signify to them nothing at all, unless Christ be there in the stead of either a prophet to reveal, or of a messenger to bring, or of a kind of clerk, to read to them all these prayers. Here to make use of those examples, wherewith both papists and pagans will persuade men to call upon their Saints [Bell, de Beatit. Sanct. l. 1. c. 20. sect. Respondeo quemadmodum.; S. Ambros. ad Rom. c. 1.]; the King alone must be the master of requests to his courtiers, and the speaker to his Commons, to inform them, of every great, and every petty trifling thing that their respective relations, countries and towns will have them put in a bill, and then, present it to his own self. Whensoever the Pope calls on S. Peter, or a Cardinal on, S. Jerome, or a monk on St. Cutbert, or any Catholic man or woman upon, the Virgin; nothing is done, till God himself calls for these Saints, and tells them, Hear you Peter, Jerome, and you Cutbert, such and such people now pray to you, that you would pray to me, and persuade me, through your merits, to grant them such and such things: and to dispose you the better to be forward in this office, I must tell you, the Pope is old, the Cardinal wants an estate suitable to his eminence and unless you make hast to solicit me for more grace, such monks or maidens, your humble suitors, are at this very nick of time in great danger of incontinency. Then (and not a moment before) come up the Saints with these prayers, to press and solicit with God, the very same things, and circumstances which God hath reveled to his Saints before. Such wheelings and impertinencies as these were ridiculous upon a stage, much more are they so in a Church; and how much more with God in heaven? And what can you think of the comedians, who dare bring both God and his Saints as chief actors in such a play? Well, payer to Saints includes these sins in its most plausible practice, when 'tis no more than calling on the blessed Saints, that they be pleased to mediate, and to intercede in their prayers for us to God, which is the cheating notion under which men, ashamed of what they do, would fain dignify their praying to souls and angels with the color of doing no more [Bell. de Sancti. Beat/ l. 1. c. &c. c. 20.], than when we pray here our friends and pastors to pray to God Almighty for us. But, when they pray and beg at their hands, not only for prayers, but (as it is apparent by their real practices, and the stories of their best Saints), for effectual deliverances, such praying is without excuse: for instead of the former drudgery, which the other puts upon God, this attributes ubiquity, omnipotency, and other infinite and divine powers to Saints; that is, the Church of Rome cannot expect, and upon that expectation cannot pray, as they do, everywhere at the same time to the Virgin Mary, for example to bless and help them, unless she be conceived as being both present everywhere, and potent to bless them and help them everywhere. And this is a double immensity, that of being present where they pray, especially where they pray more devoutly, and of being present where she helps. For without this ubiquity, how could she be seen at harvest, wiping the faces of reaping monks [Vincent. Sperat. Hist. l. 8. c. 17.]; or in a chamber, rubbing the head of the good honest Father Adam [Menol. Cistere. 22. Decemb.], while she is elsewhere burning villages, or in a rich abbey midwifing an abbess [Chronicon. Ord. Min. Tom. 2. l. 5. ], whom her steward had unfortunately gotten with child? Is it not unimaginable, that during either of the two days, when she was under a gallows holding up a thief under the feet, for fear his own weight should strangle him [De Mirac. B.M. 2 Tom. Serm. Discipuli, Mogunt., 1612], she could be then in a river riding Prince Pacoldas his horse [Chronic. Deip. an. 1358.], or upon the walls of Poitiers beating the English off from that town? Or if she be so nimble as to be at the same time under a gallows, upon a wall, and in the middle of a river, because all these places are in Europe? Can she run both the East and West Indies at the same moment of time, thereto to make a Jesuit more chast [Beretar. in vita Anachoretae, l. 1. c. 1.], and here to comfort a poor captain [Bal nghem. 11. Apr.]? Thus far what Bellarmine says [Bell. de Beat. Sanct. l. 1. c. 20. sect. Alii dicunt.], may very well pass for certain truth, that, to help men in the point of need, at the same time, and in so many distant countries, no, nimbleness can serve the turn, nor anything less, says he, then a true omnipresence, which is an attribute proper to God. Every Saturday in the week requires in a special manner this universal presence, for then the Virgin Mary is in her own person undoubtedly, and by their most solemn devotions upon that day, exalted besides others above the highest heavens. She is at the same time conceived to be most present and beneficial by her miracles and other ways, to her worshippers upon earth; and according to the promises which she hath passed to Pope John the 22 [Bull. Sabbath.], she goes down to purgatory upon that day, and therefore she is then underground.
This same universal presence, the cleared character of God, is in a very great measure required in all other Saints, for she goes seldom without them; and then they are prayed to nevertheless from all parts, not only to intercede in heaven (which there they might being in one place) but to assist them by sea and land, in Spain and in Armenia, which no man believes they can do, without believing them everywhere. For no created causes whatsoever, can work anything but where they are. If our Savior did, help some sick, at a distance from him; as Matth. 8:12., he did it with that divine immense nature that his human was united to. And holy souls are not likely to have more power than the angels, who are personally present, wheresoever they work anything.
It any one say, that the Saints may out of heaven do on earth whatever they pleas, not by their coming down themselves, but by their sending down some angels. First, let him show, that the Saints are not only equal to, but superiors to the angels, and then that they have the disposal of this celestial hierarchy. Secondly, although they, or at the least the Virgin had it, yet this sending of angels could not be applied but to some few private services; as when some say, 'twas not herself but some angel, whom she had sent for her, but to counterfeit the devotions, and to save the credit of a nun for the space of nine whole years, when she was all the while rambling up and down in bawdy-houses; that it was not herself, but an angel who ran races, and fought battles in the shape of her worshippers being then at mass. Some are also pleased to say, that every Saturday she goes down to purgatory, not by herself, but by her proxy, for the rescuing thence of some souls. But none of her historians will aver, that it was a deputy, or any other but herself who did hug and kiss St. Bernard, St. Dominic, and St. Alain, upon several occasions; who did once ride behind a knight, in the shape of a woman, in order to surprise the devil; or who in a dark tempestuous night was really met by two wandering travelers in a forest with St. Michael, and St. Peter. It is she, and not another, if you will believe what she says, who now and then will call herself the Mother of Grace and Mercies; who comes often to visit churches with sweet perfumes, or holy waters, of whole baskets of holy roses, or white and black hoods for her chaplains. And accordingly it is she herself, and not her angel, that is adored in all the places where she appears. No man prays either to her, or to any other Saint or angel, upon any considerable occasion, but thinks to have her and them present, and so the very same conceit of an universal power and presence (essential attributes of God) which makes them willing to pray to Saints, must needs make them idolaters in praying thus.
This impious worship is an abuse of what was done sometimes to God, in the primitive times, at the graves of his own martyrs: and no wonder, if ignorant men could turn the miracles and mercies of God, s they can all other good things, to their own destruction. It is well known, how many wonders were wrought at the sepulchers of holy martyrs, as one at the shadow of S. Peter, Act. 13, and at the bones of the holy prophet Elisha, 2 Kin. 13:21. These miracles were to those saints in some measure, what the glorious Resurrection, and ascension had been before to their Savior, to wit, high declarations from above, that their souls and bodies, however they had appeared vile in the eyes of their murderers, were precious in the sight of God; and that what they had believed, taught and signed, as it were, with their own blood, were both true doctrines, and good examples in order to salvation. And these extraordinary marks of God's favor on their persons, and seals of truth to their belief, as they were principally intended in behalf of infidels, so they mostly and longest continued in those parts of the world, as Africa [Lege Aug. de Civit. l. 22.] for example where more pagans remained not called, or not converted to the faith. It is well known also, how at the same time, which was a time of general and cruel persecutions, the holy zeal and death of the martyrs, as it was marked out, as it were, by the ringer of God in his miracles; so it was exalted both to their own praise and to the encouragement of others, by the Christians in all churches. The highest strains of eloquence, which the Fathers had, were spent in the magnifying of martyrs. They set down their names in their best church records; and rehearsed them duly in their solemn Eucharists and public praises to their Savior: they gave the most honorable burial they could in those sad times to their bodies: and having no churches then, they made their graves their most ordinary places of meeting, to declare before all the world, that by this resorting to their sepulchers, they prepared themselves to their death. In a word, they did what they could to bring both themselves and their flocks to love and admire those holy souls, that so both themselves and others might be encouraged to follow them. Bless and esteem most sincerely, says S. Basil, [Basil. in 40. martyr.] the holy martyrs, that you may in your course do as they did: in the mean while in your real intention be accounted as good as real martyrs already: that you may without the blows and cruelties, which they suffered, attain to the rewards which they enjoy. These zealous exhortations in times of persecution, and the visible hand of God confirming whatever they said, as to this point, prevailed so far upon the people, that [S. Basil, ibid.] at every particular occasion, as well as upon solemn days, they did go and pray hard by their graves, and did take for a great honor to be buried, where they had prayed: till at lasft their pagan foes began to take notice of it, and to believe, at least to say, [Cyril. Alexand, cont. Jul. l. 6.] that Christians did adore dead men, as themselves did adore their gods. This gave an occasion to the holy Fathers to wipe off all suspicions of this kind from Christian religion: and to declare to all the world (I wish that Roman Catholics would take better notice of it) first that they did not worship [Hieron contr. Vigilant.] martyrs at all, neither as gods, nor as presidents and viceroys [Cyril. Alex. contr. Julian. 16.] of any town or country. Secondly, that the blessed Saints have neither particular notice, [August. de cura pro Mort. c. 13.] nor care of the affairs of this world; and if by chance they meddled with it, it was as extraordinary to them to do so, as [August. ibid, c. 16.] as to the water to become wine; or to a dead body to rise up. Thirdly, that the veneration and reverence which they did bear to holy martyrs, exceeded not that degree of honor, which in former times was deferred to [Cyril. sup.] valiant men, after they had spent their lives for the defense of their country: or that is due to all the Friends [Smyrnensis ap. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. l. 4. c.15.] and true disciples of Jesus Christ: and is of no other [August. cont. Faust. l. 20. c. 21.] sort, than is that which in this life we give to other holy men, whom we think to be endued with the same piety that martyrs were: only our devotion for the dead Saints is more confident than it can be for living; because these are yet fighting, and those have got the victory. Fourthly, that when they built [Idem. De Civitat. l. 22. c. 10.] monuments, and houses of prayer where these martyrs were buried; the monuments were for the dead Saints, and the houses of prayer were only for the living God. Fifthly, that when the names of the martyrs were there mentioned, it was neither to pray for them, nor to them: but to keep up after [Dionys. Aerop. de Eccl. Hierar. c. 5.] their death an authentic declaration of their continual being with God; and (specially in these great mysteries, where Christ is both signified, and received) of their continuing sacred communion with Christ. Sixthly, that these honors were all bellowed on them, [Scriptum Smyrn. ap. Eus. Eccl. Hsit. l. 4. c. 5.] both for the more solemn celebrating of their faith throughout all churches, and for the encouraging of all Christians, to their example.
This was enough to vindicate the truth of God, and the true meaning of his church, as to the honor due to his Saints. It might have been enough also to smother in the very birth the growing superstitions of some private men in this case, (that St. Austin doth complain of) or at the least to restrain them from growing worse, and endangering the after ages; if the pagans being confuted, some partly seduced, partly seducing Christians had not revived their quarrel, and gone about to justify as much as in them did lie, their old reproaches, by propping their praying to Saints upon the two main points, whereon the pagans, worshipped their gods.
The first is taken from the prudence, that humble or wise suitors must use at court. You shall hardly find one papist, but will tell you, that it is rashness to go bluntly and directly to great persons, unless you be presented to them by their officers and favorites: and why should any man pretend any easier admittance to God, without their intercession and favor, who as the Saints and the angels do stand continually about him? This is the very self same argument, which the heathenish philosophers mainly objected to the Fathers: and to which the Fathers gave two such answers as at once may stop equally both the pagan and Roman mouths; the one is that [Ambros. ad Rom. c. i. V. Dicentes se esse sapientes.] of S. Ambrose. We are forced to go to the king, says he, by the mediation of his nobles, because great kings are men, as we are; and have this infirmity along with their condition, that they must hear, and understand with the help of others besides themselves; whereas God understands everything, which every supplicant asks, and deserves: and, as for the obtaining of his favor, we can employ no better friend, than an honest and pious soul. The other is most singular, and I have it from Origen. "But if you have a mind also to have "the concurrence of the angels, [Origen cont. Cets. l. 8.] says he, we have it, when by pious lives and prayers, we do address ourselves to God. For as the motion of the shadow must needs follow that of the bodies, what way soever these will turn; let us know this, that if we move God towards us, we shall get by the same means all the good angels, souls, and spirits to be our friends; and which is more, actual helpers, both by prayers and other ways; for these blessed spirits take most especial notice of men qualified for God's favor. And I dare say confidently, that whosoever prays to God devoutly, "hath whole legions of holy angels at the same time praying for him, without his desiring them to do so. This ancient author is the first who ventured to say, that the Saints might perhaps pray and act for us: and yet he is as express as any other, to direct men to God by Christ alone, and to keep them from praying to angels and Saints.
The other main ground common to pagans and papists, for praying, those to their gods, these to their Saints, is either the false allegation, or the false construction of miracles. This everyone knows, who knows them both. Whereas when the miracles of the Saints were at the best, that is, during the three primitive hundred years, they never tempted Christians any further, than to go and to pray to God in those places where they were wrought, and where prayers had sometimes very extraordinary returns; there they might perhaps wish to God, that he would hear in their behalf, the general prayers which these souls most probably offer to God, for the afflicted members of his church. But where is the worthy prelate or Christian (saith [S. August. contra Faust, l. 21. c. 21. ld. De Civit. l. 8. c. 27.] St. Augustin) who being by the grave of a martyr, ever said, Peter, or Paul, or Cyprian, 1 offer to you this sacrifice, whether of prayer, or praise, or vow, 'tis all one. The miracles done by holy men did set, as it were, the Seal of God upon the Gospel which they believed, and upon the worship which they both promoted and died for, therefore we must believe and worship as they did. If they did set also, as certainly they did, some marks of reverence on their persons, and their memory, 'twas not to this purpose, that they should be either adored or prayed to. We do not read that true Israelites ever prayed to the dead prophet, for the great miracle wrought at his Tomb; nor that Christians ever worshipped the living Apostles, for all the signs wrought by their hands, and sometimes at their very shadow. S. Chrysostom [S. Chrysost. ad Pop. Antioch. Hom. 1.] assures me, that God kept them most commonly under some sensible infirmity, which they could not ease themselves of, as the ill stomach of Timothy, and the troublesome angel about St. Paul, that the glory of their miracles might wholly reflect on Christ's power, and that nothing of it might be abused to the admiration of their persons. But all is in vain to save those men, who have a mind to lose themselves. Pagans in spite of all will worship the living Apostles, Acts 14, and papists will pray to dead Saints. The Miracles of God must be wrested, to countenance these men's folly; and to use the words of an ancient Father [S. Chrysost. Ibid.] to this purpose, here observe the wiles of Satan; Christ employs both at once, his Apostles, and his miracles to destroy all idolatry from among men; and pagans and papists make use of both to bring it in.
This manner of calling on Saints is both unchristian and unjust, on all the sides that you can take it. First, it transfers on creatures that prerogative of God's glory, and that special part of his worship, which in Holy Scriptures does comprehend his whole service. Secondly, it makes Saints to be what the Holy Spirit alone is, searchers of men's hearts and thoughts, and present over all the world; if not, how can they perceive mental prayers? Thirdly, if you suppose, that night and day God is revealing to them what men do, and what they would have, it forges another impiety, and make God a perpetual it is to say so, plainly confess, that they directly [Bell. de Sanct. Beat. l. 1. c. 19. sect. Praeterea in utroque.] pray to Saints, but mince it as it were but as to friends, only to desire them to pray (which yet at that distance were bad enough) and not as to principal benefactors: and it is upon this ground, they say, that praying to Saints in heaven, and praying to friends in my house to pray for me, comes both to one. These men are so confident at Rome, and do think us to be so blind to all ends and purposes here in England, that they shall persuade us these two things. The first, that all their breviaries and psalters signify nothing, but what they please: the other, that they make Saints [lbid. c.18. sect. Nos autem facile.] to be rulers and princes over nations, with an iron rod in their hands, only to pray.
This desperate cause forces Bellarmine at every turn (the most honest and wisest papist of his time) to forsake upon this account both all knowledge and conscience: for here you shall find him sometimes offering [Bell. ibid. c. 19. Athanasius Sermone.] proofs out of some books, under the name of St. Athanasius, which, when he needs them not, [Id. De Scriptorib Eccl. observat. in Tom. 3. Athanasis.] he acknowledges to be false: sometimes most willingly and grossly satisfying [Bell. de Beatit. Sanct. l. 1. c. 19. sect. Eusebius, lib. 13.] Eusebius: sometimes insisting [Ibidem, sect. Deinde in sexta Synodo] upon such Canons and Decrees (ascribed to the Fixth Council) as in his heart he knows to be mere [Binius in fin. 6.Synod.] forgeries: sometimes siding with the [Cyril. Alexand. Thesaur.] Arians, and leaving the [Ibid. Athanas. cont. Arian. Orat. 4. Chrysost. in Genes. Horn. 66.] Fathers, thereby to get some little thing, that may favor the praying to angels: sometimes he says, that the Roman Church praying to Saints, makes [Bell. sup. c. 19, and 20.] them no more than holy men; and in the point of vows, and such other divine honors, that mere men are in no wise fit for, he himself [d] makes them to be by participation nothing less than gods. And thus the papists must own at last, what they did dissemble at the first. And what can you make of such shifts, turnings, and contradictions, but that there is most plain untruth, as well as juggling in the case? Either let them show out of Scripture, or out of any true record written in true primitive times, that any prophet, any Apostle, or any martyr, have in any one of their many and great distresses called upon any other Saint, but God alone: or else let them show, they have found some new lights, and some better ways, than all these Saints ever did. St. Chrysostom [Id. De Cultu Sanct. c. 9. sect Tertio, quia Sancti. S. Chrysost. in Lazar. Orat. 2. S. Eph. contr. Collyrid.] takes for mere devils, those spirits who even in his time did appear under human shapes, and did go under such and such men's names. And St. Epiphanius adds more to this, that these devils will, under religious and plausible pretences, both make men to appear like gods, and induce people to believe it. And who can warrant, that all those souls that come creeping in Bellarmin, first, under the notion of God's friends, and afterwards as gods themselves, are none of these? However, in point of serving them, let the pretences be never so fair, it is not safe to venture on ways which none of God's ancient servants have traced before. But the following chapter shall tell us more: for certainly the name of the Blessed Virgin, is unworthily abused now days, to complete in all respects the full measure of idolatry.
Excerpt from the book "Saul and Samuel at Endor, or the New Ways of Salvation and Service,
which usually tempt men to Rome, and detain them there. Truly represented, and refuted. With A Brief Account of R.F. his Missale Vindicatum or Vindication of the Roman Mass." by Daniel Brevint.
"For there is one God: and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus: who gave himself a redemption for all, a testimony in due times." 1 Timothy 2:5-6 Douay-Rheims Bible