« السابقةمتابعة »
VII. St Gregory of Nyssa, who flourished in the 4th century, is one of those Fathers who, besides indulging in the Oriental vein of figurative and unguarded composition, lived in an age when the seeds of doctrinal corruption and practical error were beginning to be more widely disseminated, and, from the civil distractions of the times, superstitious opinions and practices began to abound, unchecked in many instances, from the ravages of the Gothic invasions, which broke up the Western Empire, and embroiled also, to a fearful extent, the Empire of the East, the partition of the Roman world, and the invasion of Attila, 'the Scourge of God,' who overran and broke up the western division of the Empire, while it was the occasion of general disorder and confusion, which more or less affected also the Church, was the means of originating and fostering errors which, by the decline of literature and increasing ignorance of the age, acquired a root which paved the way for the rise and firm establishment of Popery in the now-deserted metropolis of the World. It is in vain to look for clear and orthodox views or statements in most of the writers of this age. If this statement be questioned or doubted, we have only to refer to the Short Confession, or Summary of the Christian Faith, by Vincentius Lirinensis (Vincent of Lirins), a writer of the 4th century, who bitterly and feelingly deplores the decline of orthodoxy and decay of piety in his own and the preceding age, and which he attempts to remedy by laying down his well-known rule, 'quod semper, quod ubique, et quod ob omnibus creditum est,' (which has always, everywhere, and by all Christians been believed,) as a test for ascertaining, amidst the prevailing diversity of erroneous opinions, the true faith of the Gospel and the earlier Fathers of the Church. This little volume (now translated) should be in every one's hands who is likely to be blinded and seduced by the misrepresentations of Rome.'
VIII. The same remarks which have just been made on the pre
'VII. For the beholders with joy embrace it (the relic of the martyr) as if a living and healthful body, applying it to eyes and mouth and ears, and to all the senses, and then shedding a tear of veneration and sympathy for the martyr, as though he were entire and visible before them; they supplicate him to intercede, beseeching him as God's attendant, calling on him as receiving gifts whensoever he pleases.'*
* St Gregory of Nyssa (4th Century); Faith of Catholics, vol. iii. p. 349.
ceding extract from the writings of St Gregory of Nyssa, will apply with equal truth to this detached passage from the works of Gregory of Nazianzen, a writer of the same century. We do not undertake to defend or explain this invocation of the Virgin, which has not been condemned by its relator. The tide of corruption had now seriously set in, and, as this writer adduces no sanction from Scripture for a circumstance which the whole tenor of the sacred volume condemns, we may adopt the noble language of the three children in the book of Daniel, and rejoin: 'We are not careful to ver him in this matter,' nor will we 'serve' such 'gods, nor worship the . . . . image which' is here 'set up.1 *
IX. There is nothing in the two first of these extracts from Epiphanius in which every true Christian, of any period of the Church, may fully concur. The disciple, as servant, will necessarily be honoured for his Master's sake; and these passages give no sanction to the worship or invocation of the saints, or any undue unscriptural veneration for those who now sleep in the Lord. There is too much reason to fear, that the Romish Church exhibits too great a resemblance to the Collyridian Heretics,' referred to in the last cited passage, by obtruding the Virgin Mary (see Romish Offices of Devotion and Canon of Mass) on us in lieu of God. The slightest examination of Romish accredited works, will prove this declension into the Collyridian Heresy by the Romish communion, from which it will at once be seen, that the virgin is the grand object of worship by her deluded members, for which may God grant them timely repentance. God expressly commands the children of Israel to 'worship no other God; for the Lord, whose name is Jehovah, is a jealous God.'+-'I am the Lord, that is my name, and my glory will I not give unto another, neither my praise to graven images. They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods.' In the 'Devout Christian's Daily Companion,' we find, for instance, an addition to the angel's' salutation, neither to be met with in Scripture nor anywhere sanctioned by the sacred volume-' Holy Mary, mother
1 VIII. 'She (Justicia) having commemorated these, and more than these (interferences on the part of God), and having supplicated the Virgin Mary to aid a virgin in danger,' &c. §
* Daniel iii. 16, 18.
+ Exodus xxxiv. 14.
Isaiah xlv. 8, 17.
§ St Gregory of Nazianzen (4th Century); Faith of Catholics, vol. iii. p. 353.
of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.' Again, in an Exercise for the Morning,' in the same work, we find, in the form of confession, a similar adoration paid to the Virgin, St Michael, the apostles, &c., as to God, I confess to Almighty God, to the blessed Virgin Mary, to blessed St Michael the archangel, to blessed St John Baptist, to the holy apostles St Peter and St Paul, and to all the Saints, that I have grievously sinned in thought, word, and deed, &c., &c., therefore I beseech the blessed Virgin Mary (and the above-mentioned saints and angels) to pray to God for me.' A little after follows a prayer to our blessed Lady,' imploring her to 'obtain for me, O blessed Lady of thy Son, whatsoever thou knowest to be necessary for the salvation of my soul. O holy mother of God, help my frailty and weakness, assist me this day in all my calamities, temptations and dangers, but especially at the hour of my death; vouchsafe not to depart from me, that by thy prayers and protection I may be safe in that last and dangerous battle.' In the Prayers for Night,' God is stated to have, from the depth of his mercies,' provided for us a multitude of acceptable witnesses, and, therefore, the petitioner beseeches the blessed Virgin Mary (&c., as before) to pray to God for him.' Again, the petitioner's soul and body is committed, in the same form, to the 'holy and glorious Virgin Mary,' 'this night and for ever; and the angel of God, to whose holy care each person is committed, is entreated to defend and govern (them) this night from all sin and danger.' In the Litany of our Lady of Loretto, the Virgin, among a multitude of other titles, is styled the Ark of the Covenant, Gate of Heaven, Morning Star, Health of the Weak, Refuge of Sinners, Comforter of the Afflicted, Help of Christians, Queen of Angels, Queen of Patriarchs, of prophets, of apostles, of martyrs, of confessors, of virgins, and of all saints. And in this litany, and the antithesis following, we find these expressions: We fly to thy patronage, O holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us from all danger, O ever glorious and blessed virgin.' The Prayers at Mass' are certain repeated invocations to the Virgin Mary, apostles, martyrs, confessors, and virgins, with all the saints of heaven,' to intercede for the worshippers. In the 'prayer after confession, our Lord is besought to receive our confession by the intercession of the blessed Virgin Mary thy holy mother, and of all the saints.' In the Litany' the Virgin Mary, and angels, and archangels, apostles, evangelists, and a multitude of saints, are entreated to pray for us, the
Holy Trinity having first been implored to have mercy on the worshippers. The Litany for the Dead,' and the Rosary of the blessed Virgin,' and nearly every Romish office of devotion, are equally chargeable with the performance of divine honour to mortals, and giving the glory of God unto another:' wherefore, we may well add, in the language here quoted from Epiphanius, 'Be Mary in honour, but be the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost adored; let no one adore Mary."
X. As has already been observed, the apostles and martyrs, and indeed all the departed in the Lord,' are employed in continual intercession for their brethren on the earth, and St Jerome asserts nothing more in this passage from his works. From these holy employments of the just in the invisible state, we are by no means justified in inferring, that they possess the divine attribute of omniscience, or can hear the invocations which the Romish Church insists preferring to them. But on such weak foundations does all the Romish corruptions of Christianity rest, by which the cunningly devised fables,*—the unlearned and unstable,' (who wrest also the Scriptures to their own destruction) ' are led away with the error of the wicked, and fall from (their) own stedfastness.+2
XI. As St Augustine is known to have protested in all his writings against martyr-worship, of which invocation is a part, it is perfectly clear that detached passages, such as the one here cited, must be understood only according to the rhetorical figure called apostrophe, to which allusion was formerly made, otherwise the holy father will
1 IX. But who is he that
. instead of hymns and glory, is devising insults and injuries against the Holy Virgin, and will not honour that most honourable vessel?. Hail! full of grace, the Lord is with thee! . . . . Whoso honoureth the Lord honoureth also the saints, and whoso puts dishonour on a saint, puts dishonour on his own Lord. On the other hand, there are some (the Collyridian heretics) who, in what regards the same holy ever-virgin Mary, are so insane as to have thought to obtrude her on us in lieu of God. . . Be Mary in honour, but be the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost adored; let no one adore Mary,' &c., &c,‡ 2 X. 'If the apostles and martyrs, while still in the body, can pray to others, at a time when they must still be anxious for themselves, how much more after their crowns, victories, and triumphs won?'§
* 2 Peter i. 16.
† 2 Peter iii. 16, 17.
St Epiphanius (4th Century); Faith of Catholics, vol. iii. p. 359. § St Jerome (4th Century); Faith of Catholics, vol. iii. p. 365.
be found to contradict himself, by affording his sanction to an opinion and a practice which throughout his whole life he had distinctly condemned. The quotation of such an isolated expression is only another instance of the unscrupulous craft of the advocates of Romanism, which too easily succeeds with the unlearned and unstable,' and all who are imbued with that leaning towards Popery which characterizes many persons in the present day. A leaning towards truth has never been natural, or so common as a leaning towards error: the reverse, from the evil bias of our nature, has in all periods distinguished our race.1
XII. The unguarded language of this highly poetical address can only be explained by a reference to the declining state of the Church, noticed in a former head, during which, in consequence of the invasion and ravage of Alaric (A.D. 400), Genseric (A.D. 429), Attila (A.D. 450), and Odoacer (A.D. 476), the Roman empire fell, and the Church ceased to retain the primitive faith.
The extracts in reference to Purgatory' will be considered in my next Letter, which, I trust, will not run out into the inordinate length which this has undesignedly extended.—I am truly yours,
1 XI. 'A most delightful picture is this; where you behold St Stephen being stoned, you behold Saul holding the garments of those who cast the stones. With him whom thou didst stone thou reignest with Christ. You both there behold each other; you both now hear my discourse, both pray for us.'*
2 XII. Hail, Holy Trinity, which has called us together into this Church of Mary, mother of God. Hail, Mary, mother of God, venerable treasury of the whole world, inextinguishable lamp; crown of virginity, sceptre of orthodoxy; indestructible temple, repository of the illimitable; mother and virgin, through whom he who cometh in the name of the Lord, is in the Holy Gospel called blessed. . . . And who amongst men is able to proclaim (worthily) the thrice glorious Mary. . . . . . Be it ours to worship the undivided Trinity, beginning the praises of Mary ever virgin (the holy temple, to wit, of God) and of her Son.'+
*St Augustine (5th Century); Faith of Catholics, vol iii. p. 376. ↑ St Cyril (5th Century); Faith of Catholics, vol. iii. p. 392.