Monday, 28 March 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 29.

REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada

Q. How do you prove that it is good and profitable to pray to the saints; and that it is an ancient custom so to do?

A. Because it is good and profitable to desire the prayers of God's servants here upon earth: as St. Paul often does in his epistles; Heb. xiii. 18. Brethren, pray for us; 1 Thess. v. 25. And St. James says, the prayer of a righteous man avails much; James v. 16. Moses by his prayers obtained mercy for the children of Israel; Exod. xxxii. 11 and 14. Samuel by his prayers defeated the Philistines; 1 Sam. vii. 8, 9, 10. And God himself commanded Eliphaz, and his two friends, to go to Job, that Job should pray for them, promising to accept of his prayers; Job iv. 8. Now if it be acceptable to God, and good and profitable to ourselves, to seek the prayers of God's servants here on earth, how much more of the saints and angels in heaven ? It has been always the constant custom and practice of the Church, in all ages, to desire the prayers or intercession of the saints: this is acknowledged by Mr. Thorn-dike, a learned and Protestant author. It is confessed, says he, that the lights, both of the Greek and Latin Church, St. Basil, St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Gregory Nyssen, St. Ambrose, St. Jerom, St. Augustine, St. Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, and St. Cyril of Alexandria, Theodoret, St. Fulgentius, St. Gregory the Great, St. Leo, more, or rather all after that time, have spoken to the saints, and desired their assistance or prayers." (In Epil. Par. iii. P. 358.)

Q. But is not this practice of desiring the prayers or intercession of the saints and angels superfluous, and derogatory to our Saviour Christ, since Christ is our only mediator ?

A. No, by no means, no more than to desire the prayers of our brethren here below. Christ is the only mediator of redemption, but this does not exclude others from being mediators of intercession: and this distinction is to be observed in the prayers for one another on earth. In this sense Moses is called the mediator between God and the Israelites. However, those of the Church of England, have no reason to cry out, and exclaim against us, for desiring the prayers and intercession of the saints and angels; since they themselves, according to their own language, worship the angels: we, it is true, desire their prayers, but they their succor and defence; as may be seen in their common prayer book, in the collect for Michaelmas day, the 29th of September.

Q. How can saints and angels hear our prayers at such a distance? Has God any occasion to be informed by them of our wants?

A. Distance of place is no obstruction, because they hear not by ears, but by understanding. The manner whereof is not conceivable, no more is the nature of any spiritual substance. Again, by seeing God, they see all things which belong to complete their happiness, and it is a part of their happiness, to know the state of those for whom they are concerned ; and were they not concerned in prayers directed to them, their condition in this, would be worse than when alive; because they would not be able to assist their friends when in distress. Do not the angels rejoice at the conversion of a sinner? St. Luke says they do, Luke xv. 10. If then they know our repentance, and rejoice at it, have we not reason to believe they know our petitions too? Do not the devils, by the light of nature alone, know our actions, and accuse us of our sins ? Rev. xii. 10. Again, the saints know we are in want of assistance, in general at least, and being sensible of it, may pray for us in general, as we on earth pray for one another at a distance, though ignorant of each other's necessities in particular. Lastly, there is no occasion that God should be informed, either by the living, or saints dead, but the nature of prayer requires, that we should mention what we want.

Q. We are ordered to pray to God himself immediately.

A. Why then do we make use of prayers for one another living ? Again, all prayers to saints are directed also immediately to God, viz.: through our Lord Jesus Christ. Besides, the order of Divine Providence requires that we should make use of the means he has assigned to obtain our ends, both in a natural and spiritual way; the husbandman applies himself immediately to God by sowing, and the faithful by prayer.

Q. There is no precept or example in the Scriptures of praying to saints and angels.

A. While we are advised to pray for one another, and commanded too, it implies both a precept and example. The Creed supposes as much by the communion of saints. The instance of Dives and Lazarus imports, there was a communication between the living and the dead. Are not the prayers of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, etc., mentioned in the Scriptures, and their names invoked after their decease? Do not the twenty-four elders offer to God, the prayers of the faithful ? Did not Jacob, when he gave his blessing to the sons of Joseph, desire also the angel to bless them; Gen. xlviii. 16. saying, the angel that delivered me from all evils, bless these children ? Besides, what occasion is there of a precept for a voluntary practice ? There are many practices, and even precepts, whereof there are no mention in the Scriptures, as observing Sundays, infant's baptism, etc.