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SAINTS, RELICS, AND IMAGES.
Decree respecting the Invocation of Saints-Relics-and Images-Facts and
Observations relative to each—Worship of the Virgin Mary—The Agnus Dei—The Scapular—The Rosary.
It has been already stated, that on the first day of the last session of Trent, a decree was passed, concerning the 6 invocation, veneration, and relics of the saints, and also concerning sacred images :" it is here subjoined :
« The holy council commands all bishops, and others who have the care and charge of teaching, that according to the practice of the Catholic and apostolic church, received from the first beginning of the Christian religion, the consent of venerable fathers, and the decrees of holy councils, they labour with diligent assiduity to instruct the faithful concerning the invocation and intercession of the saints, the honour due to relics, and the lawful use of images ; teaching them that the saints, who reign together with Christ, offer their prayers to God for men ; that it is a good and useful thing suppliantly to invoke them, and to flee to their prayers, help, and assistance, because of the benefits bestowed by God, through his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who is our only Redeemer and Saviour; and that those are men of impious sentiments who deny that the saints, who enjoy eternal happiness in heaven, are to be invoked—or who affirm that they do not pray for men, or that to beseech them to pray for us is idolatry, or that it is contrary to the word of God, and opposed to the honour of Jesus Christ the one Mediator between God and men, or that it is foolish to supplicate, verbally or mentally, those who reign in heaven.*
*" True, there is but one Mediator, Christ the Lord, who alone has reconciled us through his blood, and who, having accomplished our redemption, and having once entered into the holy of holies, ceases not to intercede for us ; but it by no means follows that it is therefore unlawful to have recourse to the intercession of the saints. If, because we have one Mediator, Christ Jesus, it were unlawful to ask the intercession of the saints, the apostle would not have recommended himself with so much earnestness to the prayers of his brethren on earth. In his capacity as Mediator, the prayers of the living should derogate from the glory and dignity of Christ, not less than the intercession of the saints in heaven.”—Catechism, p. 357. If the Roman-catholic dogma be true, how is it that the apostle says nothing of the prayers of the saints in heaven, but restricts himself to those on earth? Why did he not commend himself to Stephen, James, John the Baptist, and other martyrs ? The answer is obvious: prayers to the saints in glory were not then invented.
“ Let them teach also, that the holy bodies of the holy martyrs and others living with Christ, whose bodies were living members of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit, and will be by him raised to eternal life and glorified, are to be venerated by the faithful, since by them God bestows many benefits upon men. So that they are to be wholly condemned, as the church has long before condemned them, and now repeats the sentence, who affirm that veneration and honour are not due to the relics of the saints, or that it is a useless thing that the faithful should honour these and other sacred monuments, and that the memorials of the saints are in vain frequented, to obtain their help and assistance.
« Moreover, let them teach that the images of Christ, of the Virgin, Mother of God, and of other saints, are to be had and retained, especially in churches, and due honour and veneration rendered to them. Not that it is believed that any divinity or power resides in them, on account of which they are to be worshipped, or that any benefit is to be sought from them, or any confidence placed in images, as was formerly by the Gentiles, who fixed their hope in idols. But the honour with which they are regarded is referred to those who are represented by them; so that we adore Christ, and venerate the saints, whose likenesses these images bear, when we kiss them, and uncover our heads in their presence, and prostrate ourselves. All which has been sanctioned by the decrees of councils against the impugners of images, especially the second Council of Nice.*
“ How the saints in heaven know the prayers and necessities of such who address themselves to them, whether by the ministry of angels, or in the vision of God, or by some particular revelation, it is no part of his (the papist's] faith, nor is it much his concern it should be determined. For his part, he does not doubt but that God, who acquainted the prophets with the knowledge of things that were yet to come many hundred years after; that informed Elisha of the King of Syria's counsels, though privately resolved on in his bedchamber, and at a distance, (2 Kings vi. 12,) can never want means of letting the saints know the desires of those who beg their intercession here on earth.” -Gother's Papist Misrepresented, &c. p. 17.
6 Let the bishops teach further, that by the records of the mysteries of our redemption, expressed in pictures or other similitudes men are instructed and confirmed in those articles of faith which are especially to be remembered and cherished; and that great advantages are derived from all sacred images, not only because the people are thus reminded of the benefits and gifts which are bestowed upon them by Christ, but also because the divine miracles performed by the saints, and their salutary examples, are thus placed before the eyes of the faithful, that they may give thanks to God for them, order their lives and manners in imitation of the saints, and be excited to adore and love God, and cultivate piety.t Whoever shall teach or think in opposition to these decrees, let him be accursed.
6 But if any abuses have crept into these sacred and salutary observances, the holy council earnestly desires that they may be altogether abolished, so that no images may be set up calculated to lead the ignorant into false doctrine or dangerous error. And since the histories and narratives of sacred scripture are sometimes represented in painting or sculpture, for the benefit of the unlearned multitude, let men be taught, that when the Deity is thus represented, it is not to be supposed that the same can be seen by our bodily eyes, or that a likeness of God can be given in colour or figure.Ị Moreover, let all superstition in the invocation of saints, the veneration of relics, and the sacred use of images, be taken away ; let all base gain be abolished; and lastly, let all indecency be avoided, so that images be neither painted nor adorned in a lascivious manner; nor the commemoration of the saints or visits to relics be abused by men to gluttony and drunkenness; as though the festal days appointed in honour of the saints were to be spent in licentiousness and luxury. Finally, let all diligent caution be observed in these respects by the bishop, that nothing be done tending to disorder, impropriety, or tumult, and no profane or unseemly exhibitions be allowed ; for holiness becometh the house of God. And that these things may be faithfully observed, the holy council decrees that it shall not be lawful for any one to fix or cause to be fixed a new image in any place or church, however exempt from ordinary jurisdiction, unless the same be approved by the bishop; nor are any new miracles to be admitted, or any new relics to be received, but with the recognition and approbation of the bishop, who, having received information respecting the same, and taken the advice of divines and other pious men, will do whatever shall be judged consonant to truth and piety. But if any doubt or difficulty occurs in abolishing abuses, or any unusually important question arises, let the bishop wait for the opinion of his metropolitan and the neighbouring bishops, assembled in provincial council; yet so as that nothing new or hitherto unused in the church be decreed, without the cognizance of the most holy Roman Pontiff.”
* Held A.D. 787. The controversy respecting image-worship was finally settled at this council. It was decreed that the images of Christ and the saints are to be venerated and adored, though not with “ true latria,” or the worship exclusively due to God; and the fathers thundered out their ana, themas against all who should oppose the decree, or call image-worship idolatry, or refuse to honour images, or even hold fellowship with such as maintained the contrary opinion.-Magdeburg. Centuriat. Cent. viii. c. 9.
+ How much better would it be to give the people the free use of the scriptures and the worship of God in the vernacular tongue!
I But “to represent the persons of the Holy Trinity by certain forms, under which, as we read in the Old and New Testaments, they deigned to appear, is not to be deemed contrary to religion or the law of God.”—Catechism, p. 360. Hence, in the engravings found in some editions of the Breviary, God the Father is represented as a 'venerable old man, (the “ Ancient of Days,” Dan. vii. 13;) on his right hand the Saviour stands, in human form ; above is the Holy Spirit, in the shape of a dove ; at a little distance the Virgin Mary; and farther off, prophets, apostles, martyrs, &c.
That the Roman-catholic system is an idolatrous system has been often asserted and satisfactorily proved. It is, in fact, scarcely better than modified paganism. For Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, and the gods and goddesses of ancient history, are substituted the Virgin Mary and the saints; instead of the household deities formerly worshipped, the Catholic is taught to venerate his guardian angel, and the
saint whose name he bears; and if the Roman of olden time acknowledged some presiding deity in every department of nature's works, and allotted to his imaginary gods their respective powers and functions, dividing among them the virtues and vices of the human character, and even the diseases incident to the human frame, similar arrangements are witnessed in the pseudo-christianity of the “ mother and mistress of all churches :" she, too, has her “ gods many, and lords many."* They have supplanted the true God as really as did the mythology of the heathen ; and of the papist it may be affirmed, as well as of the pagan, that he “worships and serves the creature more than the Creator.”+
In proof of these assertions, it is only necessary to refer to the ordinary devotions and daily practice of Roman Catholics. God is not the exclusive object of their worship; his providence is not their sole trust; nor do they confess their sins to him only, but divide that solemn act between the Deity, the Virgin, and the saints. I It is not denied that many of the prayers and devotional exercises prepared for their use seem to savour of piety; but their good effect is neutralized by the perpetual reference to angelic guardians and saintly intercessors. The obedient son of the church is constantly reminded of his obligations to these invisible friends. Almost every day is devoted to the memory of some one of their
* “ It is happy for the people that they have another source of hope under the various diseases incident to the human frame, besides the skill of their physicians, a source of hope that never fails them at any season of distress. Thus, for instance, St. Anthony the abbot secures his votaries from fire, and St. Anthony of Padua delivers them from water; St. Barbara is the refuge of the timid in times of thunder and of war; St. Blass cures disorders of the throat; St. Lucia heals all diseases of the eyes; St. Nicholas is the patron of young woman who desire to be married; St. Ramon is their powerful protector during pregnancy, and St. Lazaro assists them when in labour ; St. Polonia preserves the teeth ; St. Domingo cures the fever; and St. Roque is the saint invoked under apprehensions of the plague. And thus in all diseases, under every pressure of affliction, some saint is accessible by prayer, whose peculiar province it is to relieve the object of distress.” — Townsend's Travels in Spain, vol. jii. p. 215.
† Rom. i. 25. Every student of this controversy should be familiar with Middleton's “ Letter from Rome, shewing an exact conformity between Popery and Paganism.”
See the Confiteor, p. 182.