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and even conclusive, against the oldest, the most numerous, and the most learned body of Christians in the world!
We can not, in one brief article, attempt to go into a minute and detailed examination of all the specifications made by our accuser, to establish against us the Charge of Idolatry. Nor do we deem it at all necessary to do so. We shall be content with offering three general remarks on them all ; and, if we are not greatly mistaken, these will cover the whole ground of the controversy, and prove Mr. Palmer's entire argument to be little better than a shallow sophism from beginning to end. We lay down, then, and will undertake to prove the three following propositions :
I. The true meaning of the passages objected by Mr. Palmer is clearly settled by our recognized formularies, and by the universally received doctrine and worship of our Church ; there can be no reasonable doubt, or even cavil about this; and this being once proved, the Charge of Idolatry falls of itself to the ground.
II. The objected passages are generally either fully explained by the oontext, or they fully explain themselves,
III. In answering arguments alleged in support of Catholic doctrines, and in explaining passages from the fathers, Mr. Palmer himself adopts the very line of interpretation, which he so much objects to in Catholics.
We hope to prove all these positions in succession,
I. Mr. Palmer admits more than once, that our recognized formularies do not sanction idolatry. Thus he says: “ Their formularies do not (I believe) teach or enjoin idolatry, and yet idolatry is taught and practised; that is, Romanism is more corrupt than its own formularies.” ! He should have said, that our formularies not only “ do not teach or enjoin idolatry,” but that they expressly, and unequivocally, and repeatedly condemn it, and protest against it; and that if, notwithstanding all this, idolatry is “taught and practised” in the Church, it is in direct opposition both to the spirit and to the letter of the formularies themselves.
Take, for instance, the following explicit declarations on the subject, made by the Council of Trent ::
"The Holy Synod enjoins upon all bishops and others having the office and charge of teaching others, 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 the decrees of sacred councils, they should, in the first place, diligently instruct the faithful concerning the intercession and invocation of saints, the honor of relics, and the legitimate use of images, teaching them that the saints, reigning together with Christ, offer up their prayers to God for men, that it is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them, and to fly to their prayers, aid, and assistance, in order to obtain favor from God through his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, wHO IS OUR ONLY REDEEMER AND SAVIOUR. • . (Let them also teach) that the images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints, are to be kept and retained, especially in the churches,
1 Letter V, p. 4. See also Letter 1, p. 30, and p. 12. 2 Sessio xxv. Decretum de Invocatione, Veneratione, et Reliquiis Sanctoruin, et Sacris Iriaginibus
and that to them due honor and veneration are to be paid ; not that any virtue or divinity is to be believed to be inherent in them, or that any thing is to be asked of them, or that confidence is to be placed in images, as was done of old by the gentiles, who reposed their hope in idols, but because the honor which is shown them is referred to the prototypes which they represent; so that through the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover the head and kneel down, we adore Christ, and venerate the saints whom they represent. . . But let all superstition in the invocation of saints, and in the veneration and sacred use of relics and images, be entirely abolished... Finally, let so great diligence and care be exhibited by the bishops concerning these things, that nothing inordinate, nothing preposterously or tumultuously ordered, nothing profane, nothing immodest, should appear, since · holiness becometh the house of God.' That these things may be the more faithfully observed, the Holy Synod decrees, that it shall not be lawful for any one to set up, or cause to be set up, in any place or church, no matter what exemption it may plead, any unusual image, unless it shall have been approved of by the bishop; and that no new miracles are to be admitted, and no new relics to be received, except with the recognition and approval of the bishop."
If this be not an explicit and solemn disclaimer of all superstition and idolatry, by the highest tribunal of our Church, we know not what would be considered as such. And to charge a Church with superstition and idolatry, which thus solemnly disclaims both, and takes every possible precaution to preclude both, is, we apprehend, atrociously unjust ; however much it may suit the purposes of a mere isolated handful of men, who would, forsooth, claim to be “the church Catholic," while they are actively engaged in slandering the Catholic Church.
But this is not yet all. The Missal and the Breviary are the standard and official organs of Catholic worship; and the Missal and the Breviary have not only not a shadow of superstition and idolatry, but they expressly and repeatedly exclude both. Mr. Palmer has, in fact, presented not one objectionable passage from either of them; as he would certainly have done, had he been of the opinion that ingenuity could have tortured their meaning into the expression of any idolatrous sentiment. The prayers contained in both these liturgical works, even those in which the Blessed Virgin and the saints are commemorated and invoked, are, without a single exception, addressed directly to God, and ask blessings directly from God, through the virtues and intercession of his saints; and they all explicitly recognize the one mediatorship of Christ, by terminating with the well known words, “ Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour," or words of similar import.
And yet, with all this continual and unequivocal protest against every species of superstition and idolatry; with all these daily and hourly recog. nitions of Christ's sole mediatorship of salvation; with all these solemn declarations of our general councils and recognized formularies of worship staring him in the face, Mr. Palmer could still find it in his heart to charge idolatry on the Catholic Church! O shame! Well may we administer to him and to his admirers the implied rebuke which the energetic and saintly St. Jerome administered to Vigilantius, who preferred the same
charge against the Church, and on precisely the same grounds, fifteen hundred years ago : “Idolatras appellas hujuscemodi homines ? Do you dare call such men as these idolaters ?”
In fact, the arguments of Mr. Palmer are as old and as threadbare, as is the accusation itself, which they are intended to sustain. Both had been alleged, and better alleged, and refuted, too, at least a thousand times already! “Romanism" has had much more redoubtable opponents than even Mr. Palmer; they have all disappeared ; but “Romanism” still bravely stands its ground, and still proudly maintains its high position. And it will stand, should the world last so long, for thousands of years after Mr. Palmer and his admirers shall have descended to the tomb, and been entirely forgotten.
The whole force of Mr. Palmer's objections rests on a total misapprehension and misrepresentation of the nature, and of the whole end and aim of the Catholic doctrine in regard to the honor and invocation of saints. Why are the saints honored ? Why are they invoked? It is simply and only because they are the favorites of Christ and the friends of God.
They are not honored on account of any inherent qualities or merits which they possess independently of God, or of Christ Jesus, their Redeemer ; all that they have, they have received from God through Jesus Christ; they are but bright mirrors from which are reflected the attributes of the Deity ; they have, they claim, they receive veneration for no other privilege than this. Every religious honor that is paid to them, then, is paid solely on account of supernatural gifts imparted to them by God, and conse quently every such honor necessarily redounds to the glory of God. God is honored in his servants, and every act of veneration to the saints is based on, and is elicited by, the claim of the Deity to supreme adoration from all His creatures. This is the true Catholic doctrine, as clearly developed in all our official definitions of faith, and as universally understood among us. Where is the idolatry that lurks beneath it? It not only does not enjoin, but, in its very nature and essence, it positively excludes all idolatry.
Again, why are the saints invoked ? Have they, of themselves, and independently of the merits of Christ, any power to assist us in obtaining spiritual succor or salvation ? Assuredly not. No Catholic ever dreamed that they had. The one mediatorship of Christ is a cardinal principle of Catholic faith and practice. It reaches everywhere, and its influence is felt throughout the whole of Catholic theology. It is the sun of the Catholic system; the great source of light and heat. Without it, the Christian world would be in a more hopeless and gloomy condition than would be the material universe, were the sun stricken from our system ; there would be no life ; all would be gloom, and dreariness, and coldness, and desolation. The saints were themselves saved by the atoning merits and blood of Christ; they can aid in saving others only by and through the same great atonement. This is precisely the reason why all our public liturgical formularies of invocation addressed to the saints, terminate with the clause “ Through Jesus Christ," &c.
Such being plainly our doctrine and authorized practice, every act of invocation of the saints is a solemn recognition of the one mediatorship of Christ ; and it not only does not contain one element of idolatry or of superstition, but it positively and necessarily excludes both. And Mr. Palmer's effort to extract idolatry out of such a doc ne, is about as wise and conclusive as would be the effort to prove that mankind do not believe the sun to be the great source of light and heat, from the fact that they sometimes make use of artificial means to produce them !
Let us apply these undoubted principles to a few of Mr. Palmer's specifications, alleged to prove the idolatry of the Roman Catholic Church, To show that we are in the habit of paying to the Virgin honors due to God alone, he produces the following passage from the encyclical letter of the late venerable Pontiff:
“We address this letter to you, on this most joyful day, when we solemnize the festival of the triumphant assumption of the holy Virgin into heaven, that she whom we have acknowledged as our patroness and deliverer amongst the greatest calamities, may propitiously assist us while we write, and by her celestial inspiration may guide us to such councils as may be most salutary to the Christian Church.""
One must be very keen-sighted, indeed, to discover aught of idolatry in this passage. In different parts of the encyclical letter, the Pontiff distinctly recognizes the great mystery of the atonement, and that of the one mediatorship of Christ, and we are quite sure that he must have been greatly astonished, if he ever chanced to hear that a cunning seer of Oxford was able so far to penetrate into his most hidden thoughts as to discover in them a lurking propensity to idolatry, of which he was wholly unconscious. It was natural enough for the holy Pontiff to allude to the great festival on which his letter was dated, and to feel inspired by a theme so lofty as the triumphant glory of Mary in heaven. Could not the Virgin aid and assist him, by her prayers to her divine Son? Could she not obtain for him from that Son a heavenly inspiration? To prefer the charge of idolatry in such a case, manifests about as much wisdom in interpretation, as would be shown by a cynic who should charge one of our Fourth-of-July orators with downright idolatry, merely because, kindling with the fervor of his theme, he happened to say that he was inspired by the virtues and patriotism of Washington !
Nor does our stern censor exhibit greater discretion, when he tortures the following invocation of the guardian angel into idolatry : “ Angel of God, who art my guardian, enlighten me, who am committed to thee, with heavenly piety; guard, direct, and govern me.''
We apprehend, that if one man may “enlighten, guard, direct, and govern” another, those “ministering spirits, who are sent to minister for them who shall receive the inheritance of salvation," may surely discharge similar offices towards us. Else what is the proper office of those guardian angels, so often spoken of in the inspired volume? Do
1 Latter I, p. 15.
2 Ibid. p. 22.
3 Hebrews, i, 14.
they not communicate with, and act upon our spirits, imparting to nem enlightenment and holy influence ? Or are we to believe it idolatry to assert, that God sometimes acts througla secondary causes ? Mr. Palmer must have been sadly at a loss for evidence, when he alleged this beautiful prayer as an instance of Catholic idolatry.
He seems to have been similarly straitened, when he objected to the appropriate and touching prayer of Cardinal Bona to the angels, and especially to St. Michael, “ the prince of the celestial army.' ! Surely Michael, who fought with the dragon and conquered him, has not lost any of his power, but he can still triumph over Lucifer, whenever the latter dares assail the people of God. Like his first, his last victory will redound to the glory of God, from whom all his strength is derived ; and there is, and there can be no idolatry in the case. In both triumphs his motto is contained in his name itself: “Who is like unto God?”
II. But we go a step farther, and maintain that the most “offensive" passages alleged by Mr. Palmer, as instances of “Romish”
idolatry, either clearly explain themselves, or are sufficiently explained by the connection in which they are found, so as not only not to sanction, but expressly to exclude the least shadow of idolatry. Take, for example, the prayer to the Virgin, upon which he insists so strongly:
“We fly to thy protection, holy Mother of God, despise not our prayers in our necessities, but deliver us at all times from all evils (dangers ?), glorious and blessed Virgin." ?
This prayer, he himself tells us, is placed at the conclusion of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, at every petition of which there occurs the significant pray for us; which explicitly sets forth the manner in which she is expected to protect us in our necessities, and to deliver us from danger. In the Litany itself, the distinction between prayer to God and prayer to the Virgin, is openly made and clearly marked. When God is addressed, the petition is Have mercy on us; when the Virgin is addressed, it is Pray for us. Was it ingenuous or fair in Mr. Palmer to conceal this obvious and palpable fact, of which he must have been fully cognizant ?
Nor is he more candid in adducing as idolatrous a prayer of Cardinal Bona to the Virgin, the most objectionable part of which is contained in the following passage, according to his translation:
“Behold I fall down before thee, most gracious Virgin ; I fall down and worship in thee thy Son, and I implore thy suffrages (prayer3) to obtain that sins
may be blotted out, to reconcile the heart of thy Son to my heart, that He may possess me, and make me a man according to His heart.
This prayer speaks for itself, and whatever a Protestant may think of it, he can not certainly charge it with being idolatrous. The supreme adoration is evidently paid, not to Mary, but to her Scn z'no dwells in the heart of Mary; and He, and not she, is evidenly the extend object of the prayer. Mary is merely asked to obtain, by her pregret, her son,
1 Letter I p. 23.
2 Ibid. p. 16.
7 lbid. p. !