Page images

saints as we worship God, and so in like manner we necessarily pay the same worship to them as to God. This, my brethren, only arises from the poverty of language, and from the difficulty of substituting another word. We all know perfectly well that the word to worship is used on many occasions in a manner that does not denote any thing more than respect and honour. It is so used, for instance, in the marriage service of the Church of England; and no one, therefore, attaches to it the signification of giving supreme or divine honours to the person said to be worshipped. We know also that it is a title of mere civil honour, and that no one because he is called worshipful is therefore supposed to be put on a level with the Almighty. Why, then, do Catholics use the word “to worship ” in speaking of saints? Will they not tell you again and again, that when applying it to saints they mean it in a very different sense from what they do when they apply it to God. Why should the Catholic be charged as he is, when it is a similar honour that is shown in both cases, when they make use of the same terms? It would not be difficult to find innumerable terms, innumerable phrases, both in religion and out of it, which are commonly applied to objects of a most dissimilar character, of very various orders, and where no offence whatsoever is found, simply for the reason I have stated, because mankind have combined to use them in different senses, on different occasions. And no one thinks that his neighbour is to be called to account as if he meant to employ the term in the same sense upon every occasion. It is the same even with regard to the Latin word which we translated “ to adore.That word, in its primary meaning, signifies nothing more than placing the hand to the mouth. It was a compliment, it was a mark of esteem, it was a salutation, in short. The term has been applied in general to the Almighty; but by no means has it been confined to the Almighty. Although even Catholics, with the exception of old homilies and formularies where it occurs, do not use the term as applied to any but to God; and it would be very bard to demand, as has been done, that we should be accountable for a word in these formularies of devotion, where it existed long before a controversy of this nature arose, and where consequently it was so well understood by all Christians that no ambiguity arose from the use of the term. Therefore, they are not consistent who quote these exceed. ingly old passages against us as a proof that we adore, for instance, the cross, or adore images, because they are all taken from liturgies, taken from services in which they were used, from, I would say, the very earliest ages of the church.

Another point also with which I shall not have to deal largelythough, if time allow it, I may touch upon it again—is regarding the abuses which are said to flow from the Catholic doctrine. We are made responsible for all the abuses ; but why so? We have only to

defend our doctrines, what we inculcate upon the people; and supposing -granting, if you please, for the moment—that abuses do creep in, I would ask, Is that any reason why that which is in itself lawful, is to be abolished? Are mankind to be deprived of the use of an Institution, which is in itself so invaluable, because a great many choose to make a sinful and improper use of it? Is there any thing more grossly abused than the word of God than the Bible? Is there any thing more commonly profaned by making it apply to circumstances where it certainly should never be named? Is there any book which is more perverted to the support of extravagant, of fanatical and even sinful practices and opinions than the word of God, which is again and again quoted by the ignorant and the thoughtless in such a way as even almost to speak of it with ridicule. Is the Bible, therefore, to be cbarged with all these abuses? Must it consequently be abolished? The same, therefore, is to be said here; and when I have laid you down the Catholic doctrine, I will show you the grounds of that doctrine; and then I will leave it to any one to judge how far the church is to be expected to abolish any doctrine which has been received from Christ, on the ground that it is the parent of any abuse? But, if I have time, I may touch upon these supposed abuses, and inquire how far they exist.

The Catholic doctrine regarding the saints, therefore, is two-fold. In the first place, it teaches that the saints of God make intercession before him for their brethren who are upon earth; in the second place, that it is lawful to invoke this intercession, knowing that they do pray for us; and therefore it is lawful to turn to them, and to ask and to entreat of them to use that influence they have, in interceding on our behalf.

The doctrine is inculcated in every creed, and is known by the name of “ The communion of the saints.” Perbaps many who have repeated the apostles' creed again and again may not have thought it necessary to examine what was the meaning of these words-what is the doctrine which it inculcates. There is a profession that we believe in a certain communion with the saints. How does this communion exist? Are there any friendly offices between us and them? If not, if there be no sort of intercourse between us, what communion exists? What is the meaning of communion among the faithful, among the members of a family, or of a state, but that there is an interchange of mutual good offices; that the one is ready to assist the other in some way or other ? At least, therefore, we believe there is some intercourse, some communion between us and the saints of God. And assuredly there must be acts, reciprocal acts, which establish this communion, and which form the bond of union between them and us. Where, then, does this exist ?

The Catholic church is always, and always has been, consistent in every portion of its doctrines. I do not fear examining to the quick any

proposition which it lays down, or any doctrine, or any profession of faith to which it exacts submission from all its members. It is not afraid of pushing to the very fullest scrutiny the consequences that flow from its doctrine, and therefore here-if you ask any Catholic, “ What do you mean by the communion of saints ?”—he answers you at once,“ I understand the interchange of good offices between the saints in heaven and those fighting here below for their crown, whereby they are interested in our behalf. They look down upon us with sympathy, they take a lively interest in all we do, and they make use of that influence which they must necessarily possess with God, towards assisting their frail and tempted brethren upon earth. And to establish this communion more fully, we, on the other hand, also have our offices towards them, inasmuch as we turn towards them with respect, and admiration, and love; that we exult and rejoice to think that these our brethren have already run their course, are already in possession of their reward ; and we turn to them in the confidence of brethren, and ask of them to use their influence on our behalf with their Lord and ours, which we know their charity and affection prompts them naturally to exert.” This is a consistent doctrine, explaining also that portion of the creed; and it seems to enter so naturally and so fitly into all our ideas of Christianity, that it should certainly commend itself at once to the acceptance of the unprejudiced mind. For what is the idea that is given us in the gospel of Christianity, and of the Christian religion? Why, as I showed you upon another occasion, the very expressions and terms which were used in the old law were continued in the new : and I therefrom deduced that the new religion, the religion of Christ, was to be considered the perfection, the completion, the continuation of that which preceded it. So do we also find that the very same terms and expressions which are used in the church of Christ on earth, are also constantly applied to his church in heaven—the reign of the saints with God. It is spoken of as the kingdom of God, it is spoken of as the kingdom of the Father, and as the kingdom of Christ, precisely as the church upon earth ; as though it formed but one church, one community of brethren; they indeed in a glorified and we in a suffering state, but still having a certain connexion between us, still modified in our being considered in some manner under the guidance and direction of God. It is spoken of in these terms by St. Paul. St. Paul, instead of representing the blessed in heaven as removed from us--in the same manner as Lazarus in Abraham's bosom was from the rich man-speaks as if we were already joined in society with them, as if we had already come to the church of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, the spirits of the just made perfect, and the thousands of angels-; and speaks of the faithful as if already they formed a portion of the celestial church. Thus he shows that Christ had already broken down the partition wall, made all the extremes one, and joined

the holy of holies to the outward tabernacle. We are told in like manner by St. Paul, that those virtues which existed upon earth are all annihilated except one, and that one is charity or love. Faith and hope are extinguished, but charity—affection-remains unimpaired, and is become even the essence of the blessed. Who will for a moment imagine—who can for one instant suppose that the child separated from its parent, by having been taken away from this world of suffering before him, does not continue to love the parent that he left on earth, and to sympathize with his sorrows over its grave? Who for a moment believes, that when friend is separated from friend, and when one expires in the prayer of hope, that there is not that friendship still continued in heaven, and that the two are not still in the state of mutual closely knitted affection which they enjoyed here below. If, then, it was the privilege to love on earth, if it was one of its holiest duties to pray to the Almighty for those who were particularly beloved, and if it never was surmised for a moment that thereby injury was offered to God, or to his honour, or to the mediatorship of Christ, can we suppose that that holiest, that most beautiful, and that most perfect duty of charity hath ceased in heaven? Is it not, on the contrary, natural to suppose, that as charity is infinitely more glowing there than it was here, that therefore in its exercise also it will be infinitely more powerful; and that the same impulse which led the spirit, clogged and fettered with the body, to venture to raise its supplications to the cloud-shrouded throne of God for its earthly friend, will now, after its release from the bonds of earth, when it sees all the turns, the innumerable pitfalls, and precipices which await his course, the thousands of dangers he has to encounter, the immense risk he has to run, the immense joys he has to possess, and which experience now teaches to be worth a thousand, a million times more than earth can possibly give or take away? Seeing now also on the other hand, in the vision, in the sight of God, the evidences of his divine mercy, of his willingness and power to assist-can we believe that it will not be infinitely more energetic, infinitely more effective, and raise its pure and perfect spirit towards him in the voice of supplication for him with whom it hath been connected here below? Can we believe that God has deprived the child of that its brightest prerogative, when he has given it a spotless and perfect crown?

Assuredly then, my brethren, there is nothing repugnant to our ideas of God, or of his attributes, or of his institutions, in all this ; on the contrary, it seems absolutely necessary to fill up the measure of his mercies, and to complete the picture of his church, ere it is connected with that above which he has exhibited to us in his gospel.

But have we not something much more positive than this in the word of God ? Have we not the most plain and clear assurance, that God does receive the prayers of his saints and angels, and that they are

constantly, even, employed in their supplications on our behalf? For this is the great, the fundamental principle of our belief. Assuredly we have all that we can desire ; we have it as the belief of the Jewish church; we have it confirmed in the new law as the belief of the old law; for there we find, in the latter books particularly, that angels are spoken of constantly as in a state of ministration over the wants and interests of mankind. We find in the book of Daniel, for instance, that an angel is sent to instruct him. There is mention apparently made of the prince or angel of different kingdoms. We find in the book of Tobias (which, whatever may be thought of its canonicity, is still, as I said the last time of the book of Maccabees, a strong tes. timonial of the belief of the Jews), we find it there expressly put into the mouth of the angel, that “ When thou didst pray with tears, and didst bury the dead, I offered thy prayers to the Lord.” The angel then was a minister of taking up the just man's prayer before the throne of God. In the book of Maccabees, the same of which I spoke before, we have a vision related, and which, as I stated previously, whatever we may think of its canonicity, shows the conviction of the best and holiest among the Jews upon this point. It is said, that Onias appeared to him, stretching out his arms, and praying for the Jews. He then says another person appeared with him, respecting whom Onias said, “ This is a lover of his brethren, and of the people of Israel ; this is Jeremias the prophet, that prayeth much for the people, and for all the holy city.” This then was the belief of the Jews, and it is the belief of the Jews at the present day.

But is there any thing in the New Testament to contradict it, and to lead us to believe, for a moment, that our blessed Saviour rejected and reproved this conviction? Did he not, on the contrary, speak of it as a thing so well understood, that an allusion was quite sufficient, and in terms which, so far from contradicting, go to confirm his hearers in the belief? He says, “ I say to you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance.” “ So I say to you, there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance.” What is here signified then, but that communion of which I speak to you? When the sinner does penance, it is a matter of gladness and joy to the angels of God; and we have it said, that the saints of God shall be as his angels. We have the angels of individuals spoken of; you are to take care not to offend one of these little ones, or make them to fall, because their angels see the face of bis Father who is in heaventheir angels. And why are we tɔ be afraid of offending these little ones, on account of their angels? Is not this striking—as much as the Catholic belief, and more so in appearance, at least_at the superintendence, and general direction and guidance of God, to tell men that they are to take care

« PreviousContinue »