Page images

in religious truth; and there is nothing about the passage indicating that he regarded the sublime creature who had been his interpreter in any other light than as an angel. Neither does the word which the translator has rendered adore, make any difference; because it is the same word in the original which is elsewhere termed worship, and which is occasionally applied to acts of reverence that had nothing of a religious character. We see, therefore, how carefully the Scripture guards against every approach to creature-worship, even when applied by the purest of the apostles to the highest angels in heaven, where there was the least possible danger of its abuse. How inconceivable then, is it, that the worship, the prayers, the litanies, the rosaries, the novenas, incense, the love, faith, confidence, and devotion inculcated by the Church of Rome upon her multitudes, without the slightest check, and indeed with every encouragement to idolize the saints and angels, and especially the virgin Mary, could be acceptable to the Almighty King?

But Dr. Wiseman, with every other advocate of his system, although the Scripture be conclusive against him, feels strong in the fathers. And here, brethren, as in the other points of our discussion, we have reason to be thankful for the evidence of truth. Even amongst his chosen witnesses, there is enough to prove, that the corruption we are opposing was unknown to primitive Christianity, and came in by degrees, after the Roman government adopted the Church, and brought upon it the temptations of ease, and affluence, and power. I am conscious, indeed, that you must be wearied by the length of our discussion, and would willingly spare you any further citations of authority; but believing that you would rather bear with me a little longer, than have the subject dismissed without a full examination, I must present a few of those passages, in which it will be seen that the earlier witnesses of Rome testify in our favour.

We shall commence with the celebrated Chrysostom, ordained bishop of Constantinople, A. D. 398, who will give us a very clear opinion on the general principle of intercessors between us and the Lord, which is the basis of all saint and angel worship.

"When we want any thing of men," saith this eminent father, "we have need of cost and money, and servile adulation, and much going up and down, and great ado. For it falleth out oftentimes, that we cannot go straight to the lords themselves, and present our gifts and speak unto them, but it is necessary for us first to procure the favour of their ministers, and stewards, and officers,-and then, by their mediation, to obtain our request. But with God it is not thus; for there is no need of intercessors for the petitioners, neither is he so ready to give a gracious answer, when entreated by others, as by ourselves praying unto him."

Again, saith the same eminent teacher; "Mark the philosophy of the woman of Canaan. She entreats not James, she beseeches not John, neither does she come to Peter, but she breaks through the whole company of them, saying: I have no need of a mediator, but taking repentance with me for a spokeswoman, I come to the Fountain itself. For this cause did he descend, for this cause did he take flesh, that I might have boldness to speak unto him. I have no need of a mediator: Have THOU, O Lord, mercy upon me." (Finch, I.


From Chrysostom, brethren, we pass to Augustin, another of the favourite witnesses of the Church of Rome. "Mary," saith this father, 66 was more blessed in adopting the faith of Christ, than in conceiving his flesh. For when some one said to him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, he answered; Yea, rather blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it. Thus her maternal relationship would have profited her



nothing, if she had not borne Christ more blessedly in her heart than in her flesh." (Ib. 162.)

Let us next hear the sentiment of Gregory Nyssen, a bishop in the same century, but a little earlier. "The Word of God," saith this father, "hath ordained, that none of those things which have their being by creation shall be worshipped by men, as we may learn out of nearly all the divinely inspired Scriptures. Moses, the tables, the law, the prophets; afterwards, the Gospel, and the decrees of all the apostles, equally forbid our looking to the creature." (Ib. 210.)

A little earlier still, but in the fourth century, Athanasius, the bishop of Alexandria, saith: "Peter, the apostle, admonished Cornelius, who desired to worship him, saying, I also am a man. The angel in the Apocalypse admonished John who desired to worship him, saying; See thou do it not; I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them that keep the sayings of this book. Worship God. Therefore it appertains to God only to be worshipped, and the angels themselves are aware of this; for although they surpass others in glory, they are all creatures, and are not beings to be worshipped, but beings who worship the Lord. The angel, therefore, admonished Manoah, the father of Sampson, who wished to sacrifice to him, saying; Offer not to me, but to God." (Ib. 192.)

Theodoret, bishop of Cyprus in Syria, flourished in the fifth century: and he gives testimony in favour of the same principle. "Because," saith he, "they commanded men to worship angels, he enjoins the contrary, namely, that they should adorn their words and actions with the commemoration of our Lord Christ. Send up thanksgiving, he says, to God the Father through him, (that is Christ) and not through angels. But this evil practice continued in Phrygia and Pisidia for a long time, for which cause the Council of Laodicea forbade them by a law to pray to angels." (Ib. 208.)

Lastly, let us hear Epiphanius, the bishop of Cyprus, who lived in the same century, arguing against the idolatry of the virgin Mary, by a sect of heretics called the Collyridians. “I acknowledge," saith he, "that the body of Mary was holy, but nevertheless she was not a god. And she remained ever a virgin, but she never was proposed to us as an object of worship, since she herself worshipped him who was born of her flesh, but who had descended from heaven and the bosom of the Father. Wherefore, the sacred gospel also admonishes us, in which Christ saith,' Woman, what have I to do with thee? My hour is not yet come.' Here he calls her woman, lest any one should think her to be of a superior nature, and he used this word as if prophesying for the refutation of those heresies which he knew would arise in the world; that no one should be led away by too great admiration of the holy virgin, to adopt those puerile follies." (Epiph. Tom. I. p. 1061–2.)

"Wherefore, truly, let Mary be honoured, but let the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be worshipped. Let no one worship Mary." (Ib. 1064.)

There is another part of this ancient writer's work, however, which I consider particularly interesting; because it directly proves that the vain and presumptuous story of the virgin's assumption into heaven, which I have quoted to you from the Roman Breviary, was not in existence in the fifth century. You will remember, brethren, that Epiphanius was a distinguished bishop of that age, the author of two learned volumes against heresies, and honoured besides with a place on the list of canonized saints in the Church of Rome. Thus, therefore, he speaks on the subject of the virgin's death, in an argument against another set of heretics, one of whose errors it was to depreciate her character below the mark of Scripture. "The minds of men," saith Epiphanius, "can never rest, and always incline to evil. But whether the holy virgin died and was buried, so that her death, being in honour and in chastity, the

crown of virginity was granted to her; or whether she was slain, as the Scripture seems to indicate by these words, The sword shall penetrate her soul also, and so she obtained the glory and honour of the martyrs, and her sacred body was laden with all felicity, by which light came into the world; or whether, finally, she may not be still alive, for God is able to do whatever he pleases, but nothing is known certainly about her departure." Here, then, we have a positive contradiction to the whole story of the virgin's death, burial, resurrection, and assumption, as related in the Roman Breviary. The truth is, that it was one of the pious fictions prepared to edify the multitude in the dark ages, for not a trace of it can be found until the ninth century. To this I will add the testimony of St. Jerome, who, in his first book against the Pelagians, expressly declares that no mortal was or could be free from sin, except Christ alone: which his commentator, Erasmus, remarks, as being opposed to the universal sentiment concerning the virgin Mary. (Jerome vol. II. p. 2071.) And Leo, the great, declares in many places, that "the soil of human nature, which was exposed to the curse through the first Adam, in the single instance of Christ had produced a blessed germ, free from the vice of its parent stock." (Op. p. 76.) And again, “Christ took our nature, but not its sinfulness, from his mother.” (Ib. 72.) Here we have another plain contradiction of the modern Church in the doctrine that the virgin was free from sin.

We have now closed, brethren, a very painful part of our promised series of lectures; and yet one, with many others, of which it is absolutely necessary to have a thorough understanding, if we would know the true character of the Roman system. For in connexion with this doctrine of the virgin and the saints, stands the worship of their images and relics, and a whole train of superstitions, ending in purgatory and indulgences. Of these, images and relics will form our next sub

« PreviousContinue »