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CHRIST JESUS THE ONLY MEDIATOR BETWEEN GOD AND MEN.
For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all.—1 Tim. ii. 5, 6.
IN these words are four propositions: three expressed, and the fourth implied.
I. That “there is one God.”
II. That “there is one mediator between God and men: Christ Jesus.”
III. That he “gave himself a ransom for all.”
IV. That the mediation or intercession of Jesus Christ, is founded in his redemption of mankind: that because he “gave himself a ransom for all men,” therefore he, and he only, is qualified to intercede for all men, in virtue of that sacrifice which he offered for the salvation of all mankind.
The second of these I spake to the last time, and endeavoured to shew,
1. That God hath appointed but “one mediator,” or advocate or intercessor in heaven for us; by whose mediation we are to offer up all our prayers and services to God.
2. That this doctrine of one mediator is most agreeable to one main end and design of the Christian religion, and of our Saviour’s coming into the world, which was to destroy idolatry.
3. That from the nature and reason of the thing (viz. because intercession for sinners is founded in 336the merit of that sacrifice, by which expiation of sin is made), there can be no other mediator of intercession, but he who hath made expiation for sin, by a sacrifice offered to God for that purpose; and this Jesus Christ only hath done. Thus far I hare gone: I proceed now to
The fourth thing which I proposed in the hand ling of this argument, namely, To shew how contrary to this doctrine of the Christian religion, concerning one only mediator and intercessor in heaven for us, the doctrine and the practice of the church of Rome is in this matter; namely, in their invocation of angels, and the blessed Virgin, and the saints, and flying to their help, and making use of their mediation and intercession with God for sinners.
And that I may proceed more distinctly in this argument, I shall handle it under these particular heads.
First, I shall endeavour to shew, that the doctrine and practice of the church of Rome, in this matter, is contrary to the doctrine of the Christian religion, concerning one only mediator and intercessor in heaven for us.
Secondly, That it is contrary to the doctrine and practice of the Christian church, for several of the first ages of it.
Thirdly, I shall endeavour to answer their chief pretences and excuses for this doctrine and practice.
Fourthly, To shew that this doctrine and practice of theirs is not only needless, being no where commanded by God, but useless also, and unprofitable.
Fifthly, And not only so, but very dangerous and impious; because contrary, to the Christian religion, 327and greatly derogating from the virtue and merit of Christ’s sacrifice, and from the honour of “the only mediator between God and men.”
First, I shall endeavour to shew, that the doctrine and practice of the church of Rome in this matter, is contrary to the doctrine of the Christian religion concerning one only mediator and intercessor in heaven for us; namely, in their invocation of angels, and the blessed Virgin, and the saints, and flying to their help, and making use of their mediation and intercession with God for sinners.
That Jesus Christ is our only mediator and intercessor with God in heaven, by whom we have access to God in any action of religious worship, and that all our prayers and services are to be offered up to God only by him, and in his name and mediation, and no other, I have plainly shewed from Scripture, and proved it by an invincible argument, taken likewise from Scripture; namely, because the efficacy and prevalency of his mediation and intercession is founded in the virtue and merit of his sacrifice; and, that he is, therefore, “the only mediator between God and men,” because he only “gave himself a ransom for all;” he is therefore “our only advocate with the Father,” because “he only is the propitiation for our sins, and for the sins of the whole world.”
I have shewed likewise, that the Scripture excludes angels from being our mediators with God, from the main scope and design of the Epistle to the Colossians; and much more are the saints departed excluded from this office, being inferior to the an gels, not only in the dignity and excellency of their beings, but very probably in the degree of their knowledge.328
In short, prayer is a proper act of religious worship, and therefore peculiar to God alone, and we are commanded to a worship the Lord our God, and to serve him only;” and no where in Scripture are we directed to address our prayers and supplications and thanksgivings to any but God alone, and only in the name and mediation of Jesus Christ. Our blessed Saviour himself hath taught us, to put up all our prayers to God our heavenly Father: (Luke xi. 12.) “When you pray, say, Our Father, which art in heaven.” Which plainly shews, to whom all our prayers are to be addressed; and unless we can call an angel, or the blessed Virgin, or a saint, “Our Father,” we can pray to none of them. And elsewhere he as plainly directs us, by whom we are to apply ourselves to God, and in whose name and mediation we are to put up all our requests to him: (John xiv. 6.) “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me:” and then it follows, (ver. 13, 14.) “And what soever you shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” Nothing is clearer in the whole Bible, than “one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus;” and that he is “our only advocate and intercessor” with God in heaven for us.
Secondly, I shall endeavour to shew, that the doctrine and practice of the church of Rome in this matter, is contrary to that of the Christian church, for several of the first ages of it.
As for the ages of the apostles, it hath been already proved out of their writings. That it was not practised in the three first ages, we have the acknowledgment of Cardinal Perron, and others of their 329learned writers; and they give a very remarkable reason for it; namely, because the worship and in vocation of saints and angels, and addressing our prayers to God by them, might have seemed to have given countenance to the heathen idolatry. From whence I cannot forbear, by the way, to make these two observations. 1. That the invocation of saints and angels, and the blessed Virgin, and addressing ourselves to God by their mediation, was not in those primitive ages esteemed a duty of the Christian religion; because, if it had, it could not have been omitted for fear of the scandal consequent upon it; and if it was not a duty then, by what authority or law can it be made so since? 2. That this practice is very liable to the suspicion of idolatry; and surely every Christian cannot but think it fit, that the church of Christ should, like a chaste spouse, not only be free from the crime, but from all suspicion of idolatry.
And for the next ages after the apostles, nothing is plainer, than that both their doctrine and practice were contrary to the doctrine and practice of the present church of Rome in this matter. The most ancient fathers of the Christian church do constantly define prayer to be an address to God; and therefore it cannot be made to any but God only: and after the rise of Arianism, they argued for the divinity of Christ, against the Arians, from our praying to him; which argument were of no force, if prayers might be made to any but God; and this was in the beginning of the fourth age.
And we no where find any mention of those distinctions, of gods by nature, and gods by participation (as Bellarmine calls the angels and saints), or of a supreme and inferior religious worship; or of a 330mediator of redemption, and a mediator of intercession; which are so commonly made use of by the church of Rome in this controversy.
And, which is as considerable as any of the rest, the ancient fathers were generally of opinion, that the saints were not admitted to the beatific vision till after the day of judgment; and this is acknowledged by the most learned of the church of Rome. But this very opinion takes away the foundation of praying to saints; because the church of Rome grounds it upon their reigning with Christ in heaven, and upon the light and knowledge which is communicated to them in the beatific vision; and if so, then they who believed the saints not yet to be admitted to this vision, could have no reason or ground to pray to them.
And lastly, The ancient church prayed for saints departed, and for the blessed Virgin herself; and therefore, could not pray to them, as intercessors for them in heaven, for whom they themselves interceded upon earth. And therefore the church of Rome, in compliance with the change which they have made in their doctrine, have changed the Missal in that point, and instead of praying for St. Leo (one of their popes) as they were wont to do in their ancient Missal, in this form, “Grant, O Lord, that this oblation may be profitable to the soul of thy servant Leo;” the collect is now changed in the present Roman Missal into this form, “Grant, O Lord, that, by the intercession of blessed Leo, this offering may be profitable to us:” and (as the gloss upon the canon law observes) this change was made in their Missal upon very good reason; “because anciently they prayed for Leo, but now they pray to him:” which is an ingenious acknowledgment, that both the doctrine and practice 331of their church are plainly changed, from what they anciently were in this matter.
What the doctrines and practices of the church of Rome are in this matter, all the world sees; and they themselves are so ashamed of them, that of late all their endeavours have been, to represent them otherwise than in truth they are, and to obtrude upon us a new popery, which they think themselves better able to defend than the old; which yet they have not shewn that they are so well able to do; and therefore now, instead of defending the true doctrines and practices of their own church, they would fain mince and disguise them, and change them into something that comes nearer to the protestant doctrine in those points: as if they had no way to defend their own doctrines, but by seeming to desert them, and by bringing them as near to ours as possibly they can.
But take them, as they have mollified them and pared them, to render them more plausible and tenable; that which still remains of them, I mean the solemn invocation of saints and angels, as mediators and intercessors with God in heaven for us, is plainly contrary both to the doctrine and practice of the primitive ages of Christianity.
As for the age of the apostles, I have already shewn it; and the matter is as clear for several of the next following ages, as I shall briefly shew, from a few very plain testimonies.
In the next age to the apostles, we have an epistle of one of the seven churches (I mean the church of Smyrna); in which, in vindication of themselves from that calumny which was raised against them by the Jews, among the heathen, “that if they permitted the Christians to have the body of the 332martyred Polycarp, they would leave Christ to worship Polycarp;” I say, in vindication of themselves from this calumny, they declare themselves thus: “Not knowing (say they) that we can neither leave Christ, who suffered for the salvation of the world of those that are saved, nor worship any other;” or (as it is in the old Latin translation) “nor offer up the supplication of prayer to any other person; for as for Jesus Christ, we adore him, as being the Son of God, but as for the martyrs, we love them, as the disciples and imitators of the Lord.” So that they plainly exclude the saints from any sort of religious worship, of which prayer or invocation was always esteemed a very considerable part.
Irenaeus likewise tells us, (l. 2.) that “the church doth nothing (speaking of the miracles which were wrought) by the invocation of angels, nor by enchantment, nor by any other wicked arts; but by prayers to the Lord, who made all things, and by calling on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here all invocation of angels, and, by the same or greater reason, of the saints, is excluded. And Clemens Alexandrinus delivers it as the doctrine of the church, that “since there is but one good God, therefore both we and the angels pray to him, both for the giving, and the continuance of good things.”
In the next age, Origen is so full and express in this matter, that it is not possible for any protestant to speak more positively and clearly, l. 8. contr. Celsum; where he does on set purpose declare and vindicate the Christian doctrine and practice in this matter: “We worship (says he) the one only God, and his one only Son, and word, and image, with our utmost supplications and honours, bringing our prayers to the God of all things, through his only-begotten 333Son;” and afterwards: “Away (says he) with Celsus’s counsel, that says, we must pray to demons (or angels); for we must pray only to God, who is above all; we must pray to the only begotten and first born of every creature, and we must beseech him to offer up our prayers which we make to him to his God and our God:” and again (speaking of an gels), “As for the favour of others ( if that be to be regarded) we know, that thousands of thousands stand before him, and ten thousand times ten thousand minister unto him; these are our brethren, and friends; who, when they see us imitating their piety towards God, work together to the salvation of those who call upon God, and pray as they ought to do, (that is) to God only:” and (l. 5.) where Celsus urges him with this, that “the Scriptures call angels gods;” he tells him, that “the Scriptures do not call the angels gods, with any design to require us to worship and adore them instead of God, who are ministering spirits, and bring messages and blessings down to us from God; for (says he) all supplications and prayer, and intercession, and giving of thanks, must be sent up to God, who is above all, by the high priest who is above all angels, and is the living Word and God.” And though angels be only here mentioned, yet, by the same reason, all other creatures are excluded, from being the objects of our religious worship and invocation, or mediators of intercession with God for us; because “all supplication and prayer, and intercession, and thanksgiving, must be sent up to God by our high priest who is the living Word and God. Let us then also (as he goes on) make supplication to the Word himself: and intercession, and giving of thanks, and prayer: but to invocate angels is not reasonable; since we do not comprehend the 334knowledge of them, which is above us; and if we could comprehend the knowledge of them, which is wonderful and secret, this very knowledge, which declares to us their nature and office, would not al low us to presume to pray to any other, but to the God who is Lord over all, and abundantly sufficient for all, by our Saviour the Son of God;” where he gives two plain reasons why we ought to pray only to God, and to offer up our prayers only by the mediation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and our Saviour: First, because he only “is Lord over all,” and therefore the worship of prayer is to be given to him only. And then, Secondly, because we have no need of any other patron and benefactor, or of any other mediator and advocate, “he is abundantly sufficient for all, by our Saviour the Son of God.”
In the same age Novatian, in his book concerning the Trinity, makes use of this argument to prove the divinity of Christ; because he hears our prayers, when we call upon him. “If Christ (says he) be only a man, how can he be present every where to those that call upon him; since this is not the nature of man, but of God, to be able to be present every where? If Christ be only a man, why do we in our prayers call upon him as mediator; since prayer to a man is deemed ineffectual to help or save us? If Christ be only man, why do we put up our hope in him; since hope in a man is accursed in Scripture.”
In the fourth century, apostolical constitutions, under the name of Clemens Romanus (but undoubtedly written in that age) give us a pregnant negative testimony in this matter; for though a great many of the public prayers are there set down at large, yet they are all directed to God alone, and not the least intimation there of any prayer made to the angels or saints, 335or even to the Virgin Mary; not of their intercession or aid; which now makes so great a part of the public devotions of the church of Rome.
Athanasius, in his fourth oration against the Arians, proves the unity of the Father and the Son from 1 Thess. iii. 11. “Now God himself and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.” From whence he argues thus: “One would not pray to receive any thing from the Father and the angels, or from any other creature; nor would one say, God and the angels give thee this; but one would pray to receive any thing from the Father and the Son because of their unity and uniform gift; for all things that are given by the Father, are given by the Son, and there is nothing which the Father doth not work by the Son;” and then concludes, “that it doth not belong to any, but to God alone, to bless and grant deliverances.” This I take to be a very remarkable testimony against the church of Rome, who in their public offices join the blessed Virgin with God, and our Saviour, in the same breath, and sometimes put her before her Son—“Let Mary and her Son bless us,” as it is in the office of the blessed Virgin; in direct contradiction to what I just now cited out of Athanasius: and nothing so common in their mouths as Jesu Maria; Jesus and Mary; nothing more frequent in their most eminent writers, than to join them together in their doxologies and thanksgivings; “Glory be to God, and the blessed Virgin, and to Jesus Christ,” says Gregory de Valencia. And Bellarmine himself concludes his disputations, concerning the worship of saints, in these words: “Praise be to God and the blessed Virgin mother Mary; likewise to Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the eternal Father, be praise and glory.” And 336in the very Roman Missal itself, they make confession of their sins to God Almighty, and the blessed Virgin Mary, to St. Michael the archangel, and to all the saints. And in their absolution they join together the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and the merits of the blessed Virgin, and of all the saints, for the remission of sins. And is not this the very thing which Athanasius doth so severely condemn?
I have mentioned before the council of Laodicea; which, about the middle of this century, condemns the worship of angels, and praying to them, as down right idolatry; and towards the end of this fourth age, and in the beginning of the fifth, when it is pretended that praying to saints did begin (though it was rather by way of apostrophe and rhetorical address, than of formal invocation), there are express testimonies against it of the most eminent fathers of that time. I will instance but in three, Epiphanius, St. Chrysostom, and St. Augustine.
Epiphanius, in his confutation of the heresy of the Collyridians (which he calls the heresy of the women, because they first began the worship of the Virgin Mary), declares most expressly against the worship of any creature whatsoever; “for neither (says he) is Elias to be worshipped, though he is reckoned among the living (meaning that he was taken up into heaven, body and soul) nor John, nor any other of the saints:” and as for the Virgin Mary, he particularly adds, that “if God will not have us to worship the angels, how much more would he not have us to worship her that was born of Anna?” and concludes, “Let Mary be had in honour; but let the Lord be worshipped.”
St. Chrysostom, in a long discourse, persuades men to address their prayers immediately to God, 337and not as we address ourselves to great men by their officers and favourites; and tells us, that “there is no need of such intercessors with God, who is not so ready to grant our petitions, when we intreat him by others, as when we pray to him ourselves.”
Lastly, St. Augustine, because the Scriptures pronounce him accursed that putteth his trust in man; from thence he argues that, “therefore we ought not to ask of any other, but of our Lord God, either the grace to do well, or the reward of it.” The contrary to which I am sure is done in several of the public prayers used in the church of Rome. And, (lib. 22. de civ. Dei) he expressly tells us, that “the names of the martyrs were recited in their prayers at the altar; but they were not invocated by the priest who did celebrate Divine service. And in the third council of Carthage (which was in St. Augustine’s time) it is enjoined (can. 33.) that, “all prayers that were made at the altar should be directed to the Father.” Which how it is observed in the church of Rome we all know.
To conclude this matter, it cannot be made appear, that there were any prayers to saints in the public offices of the church, till towards the end of the eighth century; for in the year 754 the invocation of saints was condemned by a council of three hundred and thirty-eight bishops at Constantinople, as is acknowledged by the second council of Nice, which first established this superstition in the year 787; and this very council was condemned seven years after, in a council at Francfort, and declared void, and to be no otherwise esteemed of, than the council of Ariminum.
Thus you see, when this doctrine and practice, 338so contrary to the doctrine and practice of a great many of the first ages of the Christian church, was first established, namely, at the same time with the worship of images, and when the first foundation of transubstantiation was laid; which, as they began at the same time, so they are very fit to go together.
I should now have proceeded to the next thing which I proposed, namely, to answer the chief pretences which are made for this doctrine and practice; but of that in the following discourse.339
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