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the hearts; and then shall every man have praise from God: who as it is written will render to every man according to his works."
What we call the merits of justified persons, then evidently rest upon the merits of Christ, as their foundation: first, because their justification can be had only through his merits; and secondly, because no man can do meritorious works until after he is thus justified, and the merit of those works is derived from that of the Saviour, as the fruit of the branch is derived only from that virtue or sap which has been drawn from the trunk of the vine. The saints are those persons who are justified by the merits of Christ, and dying in the state of grace, are now in heaven, partakers of his redemption. As we would expect aid, and ask it through the prayers of a justified person on earth, we also expect it from their prayers, now that they are in heaven: and as to hope for efficacy from the prayers of a just man upon earth, because of his being meritorious or righteous in the sight of God would not be asking that man to save us by his merits, so confidence that God will have favourable regard to the merits or righteousness of these heavenly supplicants, is not asking those saints to save us by their merits; and the merits of these saints, who have no virtue or power or merit but what has been obtained from the mercy of God through the original and independent merits of Jesus Christ, are of a nature far different from, and infinitely below the merits of our Redeemer.
In the twenty-fourth session, the council published a decree concerning the invocation of saints, in which it desires the faithful to be taught, according to the usage received from the earliest days of the Church.
"That the saints reigning with Christ do offer their prayers to God for man: that it is good and useful to invoke them by way of supplication: that it is good and useful to have recourse to their prayers, help, and aid, for the purpose of obtaining benefits from God, through his son Jesus Christ our Lord, who is our only Redeemer and Saviour.”
The decree charges the bishops farther, to use their utmost diligence and best exertions to prevent any abuse or superstition or other impropriety in this practice. It is clear, therefore, that Roman Catholics, though they do pray to the saints to aid them by their prayers to God, and do ask for their help to obtain benefits from God through the merits of Jesus Christ their only Saviour and Redeemer, do not pray to the saints to save them by their merits.
In the twenty-second session, chapter iii., the council teaches
“That although the church hath been sometimes accustomed to celebrate some masses to the honour and memory of the saints, yet she does not teach that sacrifice ought to be offered to them, but to God only, who hath crowned them, whence
the priest is not used to say, I offer sacrifice to thee, Peter, or Paul; but giving thanks to God for their victories, he implores their patronage; that they whose memory we celebrate on earth, may intercede for us in heaven.
If you, gentlemen, will compare these testimonies of our doctrine, drawn from our highest and [most] undeniable authority, with the production of your extraordinary correspondent, bearing the curious name, you must at once perceive how grossly he has misrepresented our tenets, and you cannot avoid seeing the dishonest garbling and misconstruction of our prayers, of which he has been guilty in his paragraph No. 20. I could adduce much more evidence, but where is the necessity ?
I now state that it is a misrepresentation of our doctrine and practice to state, as your “Protestant Catholic” correspondent does, first, That we pray to angels to save us by their merits; and secondly, That we pray to saints to save us by their merits, so as to make those saints mediators with Christ or in his stead; and, thirdly, That we give to creatures the worship due to God alone; and, fourthly, That we are thus guilty of idolatry.
But since the chief topic which is relied upon as the basis for charging us with error, is our assertion that a man who is justified by Christ upon repentance can afterwards do anything for which he may have merit, I shall adduce the testimony of an eminent prelate of the English Protestant Church, in support of the correctness of our doctrine on this head. I could produce several, but I shall confine myself to one, and he was no great admirer of Roman Catholics, as two or three extracts from his writings will show.
"The wonder is not that the professed members of the Church of Rome unite their hearts and hands, and leave no methods, whether of deceit or violence, unattempted for the service of that cause, which in all their lowest fortunes, they never suffer to be removed out of their sight; that they put on all forms of complaisance and dissimulation; of civility and good humour, even to heretics themselves, to inveigle them into their own ruin; that they flatter, and promise, and swear every. thing that is good and kind to their fellow-labourers, and at the same time enter into all the resolutions of destruction and desolation, whenever an opportunity of power shall come. This is nothing but what is worthy of themselves, and of that church to the slavery of which they have devoted themselves. It is no more than what they openly and publicly profess; if Protestants will but open their eyes and see it. It is their religion and their conscience: it is inculcated upon them as the great condition of their acceptance with God, that no good nature of their own; no obligations from others; no ties of oaths, and solemn assurances; no regard to truth, justice, or honour; are to restrain them from anything, let it be of what sort soever; that is for the security or temporal advancement of their church.”
Such, gentlemen, is the calumny published in a sermon! by that great friend of civil and religious liberty !!! the Right Reverend father in God, Benjamin Hoadley, D.D., successively Bishop of Bangor, Hereford, Salisbury, and Winchester. Yea, of a truth, he loved not Popery! The above is taken from a sermon preached at St. Peter's Poor, November 5th, (Cecil's holiday,) 1715, from the text, “And for this cause, God shall send them a strong delusion, that they shall believe a lie," (II Thess. ii. 11), entitled, “The present Delusion of many Protestants considered.”—pages 623, and so forth, volume iii. of his works, edit. London, MDCCLXXIII. I shall give but one other extract from the same sermon, though I could give a great number from the various parts of the works of this liberal and enlightened prelate, as he is styled in contradistinction to several of his fellows who were indeed more virulent, and compared with whom, he might be called liberal and benevolent.
“But in the Romish Church, it is firmly settled upon never altered principles; it is an established article of religion; equally believed, and owned, and inculcated in their adversity and low estate, as in the hight of their power. It stands unrepealed upon record, and it is confirmed by experience, that they are most likely not to fail of the honours of saintship, and the applauses of that church, who act the most uniformly, and the most steadily upon that foundation. Every weapon they use is sanctified; every instance of fraud and perfidiousness; every degree of violence and fury, is consecrated. It is not only allowed, but first recommended, and afterwards rewarded.”
No wonder that persons who derive their notions of Roman Catholics and of their religion from such sources as this, should be tempted to thank God that they are not like the worse than publicans described by these holy men! We cannot be astonished than in an old British colony, looking to Britain for her literature and her religion, and whose children were taught, for British political reasons, to despise a church which she had always theretofore persecuted, much of such information as that above should be instilled into the mind! Nor can we expect that in one generation it could be obliterated! Thus, gentlemen, though your curious correspondent has fallen into extravagant mistakes, I am far from attributing his misrepresentations to any personal malevolence. I would merely suggest, for the consideration of some of those who appear desirous to charge us with those characteristics, the light in which all well-informed men at present view what this liberal father in God wrote about a century ago. In less than half that time, our successors will scarcely believe that at the present day Americans would be found capable of exhibiting themselves as our assailants do.
But it is time to leave this digression and to see what this prelate of the Protestant Church teaches, regarding the merits of Christian men's works. In his Sermon xii., Of relying upon the merits of Christ for salvation, page 570, volume iii., he gives as the doctrine of the English Protestant Church,
"That there can be no pardon, nor salvation, demanded or hoped for, but by such as forsake their sins, and obey the moral laws of the Gospel: and in other words that the sufferings of Christ have actually procured these conditions to be granted by Almighty God; so that those sinners who have forsaken their sins and entered upon a new course of action, may obtain justification from the guilt of their former sins, and eternal happiness in the kingdom of heaven.”
After having at some length sustained this position, which requires the co-operation of man with God's grace, he proceeds to combat an error which he thus describes :
“It is manifest that there have been, especially in these latter ages, and still are, (in a very vicious generation of men,) multitudes of Christians, who were not content with this, that God should pardon the sins which they have forsaken for the sake of the merits of Christ: but profess to believe that he will pardon all the sins which they can possibly continue in, till death overtakes them; if so be, they can but have time to declare their trust in Christ's merits to this purpose; or, in the usual promises of God made to Christians for the sake of his son Jesus Christ. They seem to think that Christ's merit excuseth them from attempting to have any merit in themselves; nay, that it would derogate from, and disparage his merits, if they should pretend to have anything in themselves so much as agreeable to the will of God; that it would be a piece of unpardonable presumption in them, to pretend to imitate the moral perfections of God, though they are called upon to be holy, as He is boly."
Thus, according to Bishop Hoadley, the Protestant Church of Eng. land does not teach that it is a derogation from the merits of Christ, for a man who has repented and been justified through those merits, to strive by the co-operation with God's grace to have the merit of being holy; by endeavouring to imitate the moral perfections of God, though imperfectly and at a great distance. But in his next sermon (xiii. 576), Mistakes about man's inability, and God's grace considered, he is more explicit. He undertakes to examine and confute pernicious mistakes. “The mistakes at which I now particularly point, are such as are founded upon a very fatal notion of the weakness and inability of men; and of the part which Almighty God is to act in the business of reformation and holiness." Commenting on his text, Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God, (II Cor. iii. 5), he writes :
“St. Paul himself builds no such doctrine upon that great and strong notion which he had of his own insufficiency: and of the sufficiency of God. This insufficiency, I have shown, already had reference to the work of his Apostleship; and to his successful performance of it, and so forth. . . He doth not presently infer, that nothing was to be done by himself, considered as distinct from his great patron. But in this very Epistle, he represents himself and the other Apostles as workers together with God (chap. vi. 1); and often speaks of his indefatigable endeavors to answer the ends of his office. And if he were a worker together with God, he certainly had a part of his own distinct from that of Almighty God, in this great affair. And consequently, as he had God Almighty's sufficiency to support him, and make up his deficiencies; so he had likewise some strength and ability of his own for his own part. And as God was the architect, the chief builder, director, and encourager of the whole, so likewise was the Apostle, a worker, under and together with him.”
In his Sermon xiv, he answers an objection that it would be stripping God of his honour and glory to attribute to man any share in his amendment, reformation, and salvation.
In his Sermon xix., page 827, The best Christians unprofitable servants, he misrepresents the doctrine of Roman Catholics, by stating it to be that which it is not. But we shall see what he lays down as the doctrine of the English Protestant Church. He explains the text Luke xviii. 10, “So likewise when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants, we have done that which was our duty to do, to mean,” “Where you have done your duty to God, and performed the services He has commanded, you cannot claim the happiness, as a reward due in justice to your services, which God will in mercy give you." Such too is our explanation, as has been seen above.
When in the course of the sermon he proceeds to examine what is meant by the word unprofitable, he justly observes,
“We must not imagine that our Lord declares, or insinuates that the best Christians, and such as have exercised themselves in all the good works of his holy religion, ought to acknowledge themselves to have done nothing in what is called the service of God, or for the good of mankind; or of any significancy for their own salvation; or that anything like this is the meaning of the words unprofitable servants. Far be such thoughts from us, concerning him, who in another parable represents himself or his Father as speaking to every Christian of this sort, Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of thy Lord.” (Matt. xxv. 20, 23).
He then proceeds to show that he is not the unprofitable servant mentioned in verse 30 of the same chapter, who is wicked and slothful, and punished. But he is unprofitable, because he cannot increase the happiness of God; because of his many lesser faults and failings; because of the imperfections of his best actions. Again, because the capacity being derived from God, they are unprofitable in themselves and their own merits, and what good they do as Christians is derived from God's mercy and the grace of Christ. In all this he does not contradict our doctrine. But we now approach to a new point in which he still farther upholds us.
"I will now add an observation or two, not foreign to what I have been saying; and so conclude.
"1. The subject we have been treating may naturally lead us to a question which has been sometimes asked by those who, I fear, are much more willing to know what is not their strict duty, than to practise what they know to be so: and that is,