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Invocation of Saints

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a form of idolatry prevailing in the Roman, the Greek, and the different Eastern churches. They ignore the doctrine to which the Protestants tenaciously cling, that the rendering of divine worship to one Infinite Being must of necessity exclude the idea of rendering divine worship, no matter how modified and excused, to any other being, dependent upon and created by the Supreme Being. They also deny that the invocation of the created, instead of the Creator, does in any wise trench upon the honor due only to God, and that it is, as we assert, irreconcilable with Scripture, "which holds him forth as the sole object of worship, and the only fountain of mercy."

They cannot, of course, disprove these truths from Scripture, neither can they furnish any authority from the holy book for a practice unknown to the early Church, and expressly condemned by the Council of Laodicea (A.D. 481) and by the early fathers. The few passages which they frequently cite they themselves claim only to imply an intercommunion of the two worlds (as Matthew 13:3; Luke 14:17; Exodus 23:13), and they are therefore obliged to have recourse to tradition. To this end they cite some of the Church fathers, such as Origen (Opp. 2, 273), Cyprian (Ep. 60, Dodwell's edition), Basil (Opp. 2, 155), Gregory Nazianzen (Opp. 1, 288), Gregory of Nyssa (2, 1017), Ambrose (2, 200), Chrysostom (4, 449), and especially the liturgies of the different ancient churches of Roman, Greek, Syrian, and even Egyptian rite. But, while these testimonies are generally credited, it must be remembered that they are only unscriptural additions, and that they originated after the infusion into the Church system of Alexandrian Neoplatonism and Oriental Magianism, which left its traces even in the most orthodox form of Christian worship, and creed also, up to the 4th and 5th centuries, a period in the history of the Christian Church when heresies were, to use a common phrase, almost the order of the day. Nay, even the Roman Catholic Church admits that the worship of saints was carried to an excess not only in this age, but especially in the medieval period.

The worship of saints and of the Virgin Mary then took the place of the worship of Christ, the only legal intercessor between God and man, and thus virtually ignored the mediatorship of Christ. It is true some of the more enlightened and less bigoted of the Romanists claim that the saints are only invoked, "not for the purpose of obtaining mercy or grace from themselves directly, but in order to ask their prayers or intercession with God on our behalf (see Bellarmine, Controversice de Sanctorum Beatitudine, lib. 1, cap. 17). But as we have already stated in our article on the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, we repeat also here, that it is not for us to examine only the intent of the Romish liturgy, but also what her communicants understand it to mean. Here lies the greatest difficulty, to say the least, against the introduction of a mode of worship wholly unauthorized by the word inspired by God to serve as a guide in all things. It brings home again not only the question of the immaculate conception of Mary, but even the infallibility theory of the vicar of Rome.

Protestants are unwilling to take any authority except the word of God; they refuse to acknowledge as infallible any one except the Infinite Being himself. It was this view that inaugurated the Reformation, however much it may have been hastened by the sale of indulgences (see Hagenbach, History of Doctrines, 2, § 257). "The Church of Rome is justly and scripturally charged with idolatry in the worship, adoration, and invocation which she addresses to saints and angels. Idolatry, in the scriptural application of the term, is of two sorts. and consists (1) either in giving the honor due to the one true God, as maker and governor of the world, to any subordinate being, (2) or in giving the honor due to Christ, as the sole mediator between God and man, to any subordinate mediator. The former is the idolatry forbidden by the Jewish law, and by that of nature. The latter is Christian idolatry, properly so called, and is the abomination condemned in severe terms by the Gospel. This species of idolatry is, without doubt, chargeable on any Christian Church that shall adopt, in its religious addresses, another mediator besides Jesus Christ. But the Church of Rome, not merely in the private writings of her divines, but in the solemn forms of her ritual, publicly professes, and by her canons and councils authoritatively enjoins, the worship of saints and angels,' under the idea of mediators or intercessors; not, indeed, in exclusion' of Christ as the one or chief mediator, but in manifest defiance of his sole mediatorship. This charge is truly and justly brought against her, as she now stands, and hath stood for many ages, and cannot by any subterfuge be evaded. Therefore she must be content to have the imputation of daemon-worship, or anti-Christian idolatry, still adhering to her" (Elliott).

As a regular doctrine, the invocation of saints is taught in a canon Touching the Invocation, Veneration, and on Relics of Saints and sacred Images, issued by the Council of Trent in its 25th session. It reads as follows: "The holy synod enjoins on all bishops, and others sustaining the office and charge of teaching, that, according to the usage of the Catholic and Apostolic Church, received from the primitive times (!) of the Christian religion, and according to the consent of the holy fathers, and- to the decrees of sacred councils, they especially instruct the faithful diligently touching the intercession and invocation of saints, the honor paid to relics, and the lawful use of images: teaching them that the saints, who reign together with Christ, offer up their own prayers to God for men; that it is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them, and to resort to their prayers, aid, and help for obtaining benefits from God, through his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who alone is our Redeemer and Savior; but that they think impiously who deny that the saints, who enjoy eternal happiness in heaven, are to be invoked; or who assert either that they do not pray for men, or that the invocation of them to pray for each of us even in particular is idolatry; or that it is repugnant to the Word of God, and is opposed to the honor of the one mediator between God and amen, Jesus Christ; or that! it is foolish to supplicate, orally or inwardly, those who reign in heaven.

Also, that the holy bodies of holy martyrs, and of others now living with Christ, which were the living members of Christ, and the temple of the Holy Ghost, and which are by him to be raised unto eternal life, and to be glorified, are to be venerated by the faithful; through which [bodies] many benefits are bestowed by God on men; so that they who affirm that veneration and honor are not due to the relics of saints; or that these, and other sacred monuments, are uselessly honored by the faithful; and that the places dedicated to the memories of the saints are vainly visited for the purpose of obtaining their aid, are wholly to be condemned, as the Church has already long since condemned, and doth now also condemn them. Moreover, that the images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints, are to be had and retained particularly in temples, and that due honor and veneration are to be awarded them; not that any divinity or virtue is believed to be in them, on account of which they are to. be worshipped;. or that anything is to be asked of them; or that confidence is to be reposed in images, as was of old done by the Gentiles, who placed their hope in idols; but because the honor which is shown unto them is referred to the prototypes which they represent; in such wise that by the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover the head and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ and venerate the saints, whose similitude they bear. And this, by the decrees of councils, and especially of the second synod of Nicaea, has been ordained against the opponents of images. And the bishops shall carefully teach this: that, by means of the histories of the mysteries of our redemption, depicted by paintings or other representations, the people are instructed, and strengthened in remembering and continually reflecting on the articles of faith; as also that great profit is derived from all sacred images, not only because the people are thereby admonished of the benefits and gifts which have been bestowed upon them by Christ, but also because the miracles of God through the means of the saints, and their salutary example, are set before the eyes of the faithful; that so for these things they may give God thanks; may order their own life and manners in imitation of the saints; and may be excited to adore and love God, and to cultivate piety. But if any one shall teach or think contrary to these decrees, let him be anathema."

Most ridiculous is the defense which Ffoulkes (Christendom's Divisions, 1, § 86) advances in behalf of this species of idolatry, while yet in communion with the Romish Church; and his friends of the High-Church party of England and our own country may do well to read it before they carry much farther the laughable affectations which they term ; devotions." While defending the gross forgeries of Pius V in the missal and breviary of the Church, sometimes designated by Romanists as "revisions," on the invocation of saints and of Mary, he says, "They were but the expressions of what had been the devotional feelings of the whole Church. .. His Holy. Spirit communing with their spirits, and no other agent or instrument, had taught them that the saints reigning with Christ, and his blessed Mother especially, could and would intercede for them did they ask their prayers; and so one asked, and had his petitions granted, and asked again. Then he breathed the secret of his success to his brother or friend, till he in turn was encouraged to ask. Then another, and an. other, as the secret was passed about from house to hamlet, and from hamlet to town, and from one country to another, till at length it had spread over Christendom." If this was the way in which the invocation of saints was practiced, to authorize its admission in the litany by Pius V in the 16th century, and its affirmation as a doctrine by the Council of Trent, then why adduce the Church fathers of the early age, and the practices of some Christian churches of an age when the Church of Christ was so greatly corrupted and overrun by innovation? The Protestants also believe in saints. They believe in imitating the noble character exemplified in their life while on earth, which is a very different thing from invoking them to intercede in Christ's stead before the throne of God the Father. See Marheineke, Symbolik, 3, 439; Freeman, Claggett, and Whitby, in Gibson's Preservative, 7; Dublin Rev. April, 1853; Pusey, Rule of Elaith, p. 55 sq.; Huss (John), De Mysterio Antichristi, c. 23; Schrö ckh, Kirchengesch. 34, 614 sq.; Elliott, Delineation of Romanism, p. 753 sq.; Chambers, Cyclop. s.v.; Eadie, Eccles. Cyclop. s.v. (See IMAGES); (See SAINTS). (J. H.W.)


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Invocation of Saints'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/i/invocation-of-saints.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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