Posts Tagged ‘Works of Arminius’
People often base their views of others based on preconceived opinions about them. Consider politics. If I say Republican what do you think of: white people, all for corporate America, lower taxes. If I say Democrat what do you think of: pro-abortion, liberals, welfare party. I know I just wrote those based on my own preconceived thoughts about those two political parties neither of which I am a member by the way.
The same is true theologically. If I could ask Arminians to describe Calvinists what would many say: sovereignty of God, God hates the non-elect, decrees all things and causes all things, wrathful, unfair, arrogant. I know that some of them are wrong and some are right but you see my point. We view each other through our lenses, our theology. The same is true of Arminianism. If I could ask say the angry Calvinists I have met (at times) on Twitter or other social media places, how would they describe Arminians: hates the sovereignty of God, free will, human centered, exalts the love of God above the holiness of God, denies the grace of God, denies unconditional election, foreknowledge, open theism. Again, some of those are correct and most of them are wrong.
Let me deal with some of the misconceptions I often encounter about Arminianism.
1. Arminianism is Man-Centered Theology.
I am not sure where this comes from other than Calvinists who would either A) have not read any works of Arminius or other Arminian theologians, or B) don’t really know Arminians. All the Arminians I know would clearly seek to avoid making human beings the center of our theology. Our passion should rightly be the Lord Jesus. Jesus is the center of all true biblical theology. There is no doubt that we do teach two truths about humanity that would differ with Calvinism. First, Arminianism does teach that Jesus died for all people. Secondly, Arminianism does teach that God does allow the person that hears the gospel the will, through grace, to either reject the gospel or accept the gospel. We believe God’s grace frees the will to believe. Where we stand with our Calvinist brethren is that we believe that all people are bound in sin and cannot earn their salvation apart from the grace of God. Like Calvinists, we believe that sinners are bound in their sins and apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, they will not believe.
However, I would deny that Arminianism is man-centered. Arminius wrote:
The Object of our Theology being clothed in this manner, so abundantly fills the mind and satisfies the desire, that the apostle openly declares, he was determined “to know nothing among the Corinthians save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. ii, 2.) To the Phillipians he says, that he “counted all things but lost for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus; for whom he had suffered the loss of all things, and he counted them but dung that he might know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings.” (Phil. iii, 8, 10.) Nay, in the knowledge of the object of our theology, modified in this manner, all true glorying and just boasting consist, as the passage which we before quoted from Jeremiah, and the purpose to which St. Paul has accommodated it, most plainly evince. This is the manner in which it is expressed: “Let him. that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth.” (Jer. ix, 24.) When you hear any mention of mercy, your thoughts ought necessarily to revert to Christ, out of whom “God is a consuming fire” to destroy the sinners of the earth. (Deut. iv, 24; Heb. xii, 29) The way in which St. Paul has accommodated it, is this: “Christ Jesus is made unto us by God, wisdom, righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption; that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord!”(1 Cor. i, 30, 31.) Nor is it wonderful, that the mind should desire to “know nothing save Jesus Christ,” or that its otherwise insatiable desire of knowledge should repose itself in him, since in him and in his gospel “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom, and knowledge.” (Col. ii, 3, 9.)
Arminius wrote further about the study of God:
In God, who is the primary object of the Christian religion, three things come in order under our consideration:
(1.) The nature of God, of which the excellence and goodness is such that religion can honourably and usefully be performed to it.
(2.) The acts of God, on account of which religion ought to be performed to him.
(3.) The will of God, by which he wills religion to be performed to himself, and that he who performs it be rewarded; and, on the contrary, that the neglecter of it be punished.
So God is the object of true theology.
2. Arminianism Focuses on Free Will.
How often have I heard that Arminians champion free will. In fact, this may be what we are most known for. The reality is that free will only comes into play concerning the nature of the gospel and whether sinners can reject the free offer of the gospel. Otherwise, Arminians hold that the will of mankind is bound in sin. Notice this from an often quoted section of Arminius:
In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace. For Christ has said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: “Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.” That this may be made more manifestly to appear, we will separately consider the mind, the affections or will, and the capability, as contra-distinguished from them, as well as the life itself of an unregenerate man.
You’ll notice that Arminius clearly held that humans are dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1-3). Humans are not running around with their free will and doing what they like and then coming to Christ for salvation when they want to come. No! We all need the divine aid of God. We need His grace to be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9). None can come to Christ apart from the drawing power of the Holy Spirit (John 6:44). Yet we teach that if the gospel is preached, the Spirit of God works through the gospel to draw sinners to the Savior (John 12:32). We believe the gospel draws the lost (Romans 10:17). We would differ with our Calvinist brethren over the issue of irresistible grace. Calvinists would say that once God has sovereignty chosen a person to be saved (unconditional election) then that person will come and be saved once God graciously calls them (effectual calling). We deny this. Yet we equally deny the Pelagian view that man is born innocent and can freely come to God by their own free will powers when they so desire.
Exactly correspondent to this darkness of the mind, and perverseness of the heart, is the utter weakness of all the powers to perform that which is truly good, and to omit the perpetration of that which is evil, in a due mode and from a due end and cause. The subjoined sayings of Christ serve to describe this impotence. “A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.” (Matt. vii, 18.) “How can ye, being evil, speak good things?” (xii, 34.) The following relates to the good which is properly prescribed in the gospel: “No man can come to me, except the Father draw him.” (John vi, 44.) As do likewise the following words of the Apostle: “The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be;” (Rom. viii, 7;). Therefore, that man over whom it has dominion, cannot perform what the law commands. The same Apostle says, “When we were in the flesh, the motions of sins wrought in us,” or flourished energetically. (vii, 5.) To the same purpose are all those passages in which the man existing in this state is said to be under the power of sin and Satan, reduced to the condition of a slave, and “taken captive by the Devil.” (Rom. vi, 20; 2 Tim. ii, 26.)
3. Arminianism Denies the Sovereignty of God in Salvation.
For a while there I was being sent one YouTube video after another from various Calvinists featuring sermons from Calvinist preachers on the issue of the sovereignty of God in relation to salvation. These clips were meant to show that Calvinism truly exalts the sovereignty of God in salvation while Arminians deny this. Yet that is not accurate. Like our Calvinist brethren, we are monergists in salvation and synergists in sanctification. We believe that the work of regeneration is done by God (John 3:3). God is the one who must give new life to a sinner (2 Corinthians 5:17; Titus 3:5-7). The sinner does not contribute to salvation. The work of salvation is accomplished sorely through Christ alone (Romans 4:5).
Arminius said that the vocation of God to salvation comes through the preaching of the Word of God:
The external cause, which outwardly moves God, is Jesus Christ by his obedience and intercession. (2 Tim. i, 9.) But the instrumental cause is the word of God, administered by means of men, either through preaching or writing, which is the ordinary method; (1 Cor. xii, 28-30; 2 Thess. ii, 14;) or without human assistance, when the word is immediately proposed by God inwardly to the mind and the will, which is extraordinary. And this is in fact both the word of the law and that of the Gospel, which are subordinate in the operations apportioned to each other.
And here humans can resist the Word of God by their sins:
The accidental result of vocation, and that which is not of itself intended by God, is the rejection of the word of grace, the contemning of the divine counsel, the resistance offered to the Holy Spirit. The proper and per se cause of this result is, the malice and hardness of the human heart. But this result is, not seldom, succeeded by another, the just judgment of God, avenging the contempt shewn to his word and call, and the injury done to his Holy Spirit; and from this judgment arise the blinding of the mind, the hardening of the heart, “the giving over to a reprobate mind,” and “the delivering unto the power of Satan.” (Acts xiii, 46; Luke vii, 30; Acts vii, 51; 2 Thess. iii, 2; 2 Cor. iv, 4; Psalm lxxxi, 11-14; Isa. lxiii, 10; vi, 9, 10; John xii, 37-40.)
Yet those who hear the gospel and believe the gospel do so because of God’s sovereignty:
But, because “known unto our God are all his works from the beginning of the world,” (Acts xv, 18,) and as God does nothing in time which He has not decreed from all eternity to do, this vocation is likewise instituted and administered according to God’s eternal decree. So that what man soever is called in time, was from all eternity predestinated to be called, and to be called in that state, time, place, mode, and with that efficacy, in and with which he was predestinated. Otherwise, the execution will vary from the decree; which charge of mutability and change cannot be preferred against God without producing mischievous effects. (Ephes. iii, 5, 6, 9-11; James i, 17, 18; 2 Tim. i, 9.)
4. Arminians Believe in Works-Righteousness.
I once had a talk with a Calvinist on the Internet and he continued, despite my saying no, to say that I held to works-righteousness. I would respond with Scripture such as 2 Corinthians 5:21 and he would come back and say, “You still hold to works-righteousness.” And why? Because I was not a Calvinist. He honestly believes that only Calvinism holds to true salvation by grace through faith (though I would argue that he holds to salvation by grace unto faith).
I have been saved for over 20 years and I have never met a person who was truly saved who held that we are saved by grace but kept by works. I have had long discussions with people who believed we had to keep the commandments to remain saved and I have had to clarify that teaching but I have never met anyone who was truly in love with Jesus Christ who would teach that Jesus saves us but we keep ourselves. It doesn’t take a theologian to read the New Testament and see that Jesus is our salvation. Period. Salvation is found only in Christ and kept only in Christ. We don’t keep ourselves. We didn’t earn our salvation and nor can we keep it by our flesh. We must look to Christ alone to keep us forever.
Now Jesus did say that if we love Him, we will obey His commandments (John 14:15; 1 John 5:1-4) and Jesus did say that we are to hear His voice and follow Him (John 10:27-29) which requires we read and study His Word (John 8:31-32). Jesus did say that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood which means that He is our total life (John 6:56). Paul called Jesus our life in Colossians 3:4. Jesus must be our love, our passion, our Savior, our God, our Lord. He is our everything (Galatians 2:20).
The vocation or calling to the communion of Christ and its benefits, is the gracious act of God, by which, through the word and His Spirit, he calls forth sinful men, subject to condemnation and placed under the dominion of sin, from the condition of natural life, and out of the defilements and corruptions of this world, to obtain a supernatural life in Christ through repentance and faith, that they may be united in him, as their head destined and ordained by God, and may enjoy the participation of his benefits, to the glory of God and to their own salvation.
How then can we sinful people love God? Arminius wrote:
The principal cause is the Holy Spirit, who infuses into man, by the act of regeneration, the affections of love, fear, trust, and honour; by exciting grace, excites, moves and incites him to second acts, and by co-operating grace, concurs with man himself to produce such second acts.
Through the Holy Spirit we are enabled to love God, fear God, and humbly obey Him as Lord. In my flesh, I will not love God nor obey Him (Romans 3:10-18) but through His Spirit, I can love God and obey Him. I am not perfect at this but the Spirit of God convicts and sanctifies me in this life.
I know this is just a little of the many misunderstandings about Arminianism and I know that I left much unsaid. I am sure that my critics could find holes in my reasoning and theology. However, I simply ask to be heard. I do love Christ. I love Jesus above Arminius or above Wesley. I am not saved by grace through faith in man but in Christ alone (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Christ alone is the One who stands before the Father for me (Hebrews 7:25). Christ alone is the One who saved me by His own blood on the cross (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:14). I know that I don’t deserve His grace. I deserve His wrath but praise God for Romans 5:8-11:
8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
For more information on Arminianism please see my page for recommended reading.
First let me allow Arminius to state his views regarding baptism.
ON BAPTISM AND PAEDO-BAPTISM
I. Baptism is the initial sacrament of the New Testament, by which the covenant people of God are sprinkled with water, by a minister of the church, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost — to signify and to testify the spiritual ablution which is effected by the blood and Spirit of Christ. By this sacrament, those who are baptized to God the Father, and are consecrated to his Son by the Holy Spirit as a peculiar treasure, may have communion with both of them, and serve God all the days of their life.
II. The author of the institution is God the Father, in his Son, the mediator of the New Testament, by the eternal Spirit of both. The first administrator of it was John; but Christ was the confirmer, both by receiving it from John, and by afterwards administering it through his disciples.
III. But as baptism is two-fold with respect to the sign and the thing signified — one being of water, the other of blood and of the Spirit — the first external, the second internal; so the matter and form ought also to be two-fold — the external and earthy of the external baptism, the internal and heavenly of that which is internal.
IV. The matter of external baptism is elementary water, suitable, according to nature, to purify that which is unclean. Hence, it is also suitable for the service of God to typify and witness the blood and the Spirit of Christ; and this blood and the Spirit of Christ is the thing signified in outward baptism, and the matter of that which is inward. But the application both of the blood and the Spirit of Christ, and the effect of both, are the thing signified by the application of this water, and the effect of the application.
V. The form of external baptism is that ordained administration, according to the institution of God, which consists of these two things:
(1.) That he who is baptized, be sprinkled with this water.
(2.) That this sprinkling be made in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Analogous to this, is the inward sprinkling and communication both of the blood and the Spirit of Christ, which is done by Christ alone, and which may be called “the internal form of inward baptism.”
VI. The primary end of baptism is, that it may be a confirmation and sealing of the communication of grace in Christ, according to the new covenant, into which God the Father has entered with us in and on account of Christ. The secondary end is, that it may be the symbol of our initiation into the visible church, and an express mark of the obligation by which we have been bound to God the Father, and to Christ our Lord.
VII. The object of this baptism is not real, but only personal; that is, all the covenanted people of God, whether they be adults or infants, provided the infants be born of parents who are themselves in the covenant, or if one of their parents be among the covenanted people of God, both because ablution in the blood of Christ has been promised to them; and because by the Spirit of Christ they are engrafted into the body of Christ.
VIII. Because this baptism is an initiatory sacrament, it must be frequently repeated; because it is a sacrament of the New Testament, it must not be changed, but will continue to the end of the world; and because it is a sign confirming the promise, and sealing it, it is unwisely asserted that, through it, grace is conferred; that is, by some other act of conferring than that which is done through typifying and sealing: For grace cannot be immediately conferred by water.
Let me state first that I agree with Arminius at the beginning of his disputation on baptism in that I agree that baptism is given to the people of God. That is about as much as I agree with him over this issue other than that we are justified before God through faith and not baptism. Baptism expresses the reality of salvation through Christ and of itself, does not save us. Jesus saves us. Jesus is our salvation. Baptism is a beautiful picture of what Christ has done for us (1 Peter 3:21-22). It is not the reality itself.
That said, Arminius simply makes too many assumptions here for me. He states that the mode of baptism is sprinkling. On what basis? The Greek word literally means “to immerse or dip” and never sprinkling. The King James Version avoided any theological issues by translating the Greek word as a transliteration in the English with the word “baptism” or “baptize.” All English translations have followed this tradition.
Further, Arminius does not defend his views regarding sprinkling. He no doubt did this because Calvinists in his day would have practiced the same. There was no serious debate at this time over this issue. The Catholics, Lutherans, and the Calvinists all practiced infant baptism by sprinkling. It was the Anabaptists who were, at this time, under great persecution from nearly all of Christendom for their views regarding adult, immersion baptism. In other places Arminius called for the Anabaptists to be allowed to practice their faith in freedom. Most in Arminius’ day were calling the Anabaptists “heretics” and were seeking their deaths.
Lastly, the practice of infant baptism has no warrant. It is never taught in the New Testament. We have not one example of infants being baptized. The practice is based on tradition and not upon the teaching of the New Testament. In his book, A Biblical Critique of Infant Baptism by Matt Waymeyer, Waymeyer makes three main observations about infant baptism. First, we have the absence of a direct command to baptize infants. Second, we have the absence of a biblical example. Third, we have the absence of compelling evidence.
The command of baptism in Matthew 28:19 and Acts 2:38 both imply clear repentance and the commitment to be Jesus’ disciple. Infants would not be included in this category at all.
Arminius makes the following interesting comments concerning sin and the fact that God permits evil. Arminius is clear that God does not cause evil nor does He create evil but He does permit evil in His divine providence and His infinite wisdom. We humans will never comprehend the wisdom of God nor His ability to take free decisions that are sinful and use them for His glory and honor such as in the case of Judas’ betrayal of Christ or the crucifixion itself as an act of indescribable love (Acts 2:22-24). That God permits evil is the view of the Arminian. That God causes evil must be the view of Calvinism.
X. The permission of sin succeeds, which is opposed to hindering. Yet it is not opposed to hindering, as the latter is an act which is taken away from the power of a rational creature by legislation; for, in that case, the same act would be a sin, and not a sin. It would be a sin in reference to its being a forbidden act; and it would be no sin in reference to its being permitted in this manner, that is, not forbidden. But permission is opposed to hindrance, in reference to the latter being an impediment placed on the capability and will of an intelligent creature. But permission is the suspension, not of one impediment or two, which may be presented to the capability or the will, but of all impediments at once, which, God knows, if they were all employed, would effectually hinder sin. Such necessarily would be the result, because sin might be hindered by a single impediment of that kind.
(1.) Sin therefore is permitted to the capability of the creature, when God employs none of those hindrances of which we have already made mention in the 8th Thesis: for this reason, this permission consists of the following acts of God who permits, the continuation of life and essence to the creature, the conservation of his capability, a cautiousness against its being opposed by a greater capability, or at least by one that is equal, and the exhibition of an object on which sin is committed.
(2.) Sin is also permitted to the will; not because no such impediments are presented by God to the will, as are calculated to deter the will from sinning; but because God, seeing that these hindrances which are propounded will produce no effect, does not employ others which He possesses in the treasures of his wisdom and power. (John xviii, 6; Mark xiv, 56.) This appears most evidently in the passion of Christ, with regard not only to the power but also to the will of those who demanded his death. (John xix, 6.) Nor does it follow from these premises, that those impediments are employed in vain: for though such results do not follow as are in accordance with these hindrances, yet God in a manner the most powerful gains his own purposes, because the results are not such as ought to have followed. (Rom. x, 20, 21.)
XI. The foundation of this permission is
(1.) The liberty of choosing, with which God formed his rational creature, and which his constancy does not suffer to be abolished, lest he should be accused of mutability.
(2.) The infinite wisdom and power of God, by which he knows and is able out of darkness to bring light, and to produce good out of evil. (Gen. i, 2, 3; 2 Cor. iv, 6.) God therefore permits that which He does permit, not in ignorance of the powers and the inclination of rational creatures, for he knows them all, not with reluctance, for he could have refrained from producing a creature that might possess freedom of choice, not as being incapable of hindering, for we have already seen by how many methods he is able to hinder both the capability and the will of a rational creature; not as if at ease, indifferent, or negligent of that which is transacted, because before anything is done he already ["has gone through"] has looked over the various actions which concern it, and, as we shall subsequently see, [§ 15-22,] he presents arguments and occasions, determines, directs, punishes and pardons sin. But whatever God permits, He permits it designedly and willingly, His will being immediately occupied about its permission, but His permission itself is occupied about sin; and this order cannot be inverted without great peril.
There are a few Calvinists on Twitter who like to create tweets aimed at Arminians. They hash tag the comments with #Arminianism in them. Nearly all the posts are aimed at “self-righteousness” or “self salvation” as they see it. These men honestly believe that Arminians teach and believe that we save ourselves, that we are responsible for our own salvation, or that an element of human pride exists in us so that we want credit for our own salvation before God. Of course, none of this is true. I have been saved over 20 years and have never, not once even, heard an Arminian say that they saved themselves or that they were responsible to keep themselves saved. I have had long discussions with both Arminians and Calvinists over issues such as eternal security or salvation in general and we all agree that salvation and our security is based on the work of Christ.
Yet these men on Twitter continue to promote lies about Arminianism. I finally had a talk with one of them. We went back and forth discussing his tweets. He admitted to me that he has never read Arminius. He stated that he didn’t know if John Wesley was saved or not (though I suspect he thinks Wesley is in hell because of his rejection of Calvinism). He said that he is not against evangelical Arminians (which is what Wesley was by the way) but against self-righteous people who teach that we are saved by grace but kept by works. I agreed with him, that the Church should preach that this is untrue. However, in the end I felt like he was going to start avoiding tweeting that Arminians or Arminianism was self-righteousness or we teach that we are saved by grace through faith but keep ourselves saved by good works.
He did not. He went right back to tweeting that Arminians believe this or that when none of it is true.
Here is my suggestion for him and for any other Calvinists who are interested in Arminianism or in studying Arminianism: read Arminius. While it is true that some aspects of both Arminianism and Calvinism don’t entirely come from Arminius or Calvin, I would argue that it is helpful to at least start with these two men. For instance, Arminius never taught that we save ourselves, that we should take pride in saving ourselves by our own free will, or that mankind is free to just choose God whenever they desire to. Arminius, like Calvin before him, taught that salvation is a work of God’s grace, His mercy, His Son, and that the will of mankind is bound by sin and apart from the Spirit of God opening our eyes to the gospel (John 6:44), none could be saved. Arminius wrote,
In reference to Divine Grace, I believe, 1. It is a gratuitous affection by which God is kindly affected towards a miserable sinner, and according to which he, in the first place, gives his Son, “that whosoever believers in him might have eternal life,” and, afterwards, he justifies him in Christ Jesus and for his sake, and adopts him into the right of sons, unto salvation. 2. It is an infusion (both into the human understanding and into the will and affections,) of all those gifts of the Holy Spirit which appertain to the regeneration and renewing of man — such as faith, hope, charity, &c.; for, without these gracious gifts, man is not sufficient to think, will, or do any thing that is good. 3. It is that perpetual assistance and continued aid of the Holy Spirit, according to which He acts upon and excites to good the man who has been already renewed, by infusing into him salutary cogitations, and by inspiring him with good desires, that he may thus actually will whatever is good; and according to which God may then will and work together with man, that man may perform whatever he wills.
In this manner, I ascribe to grace the commencement, the continuance and the consummation of all good, and to such an extent do I carry its influence, that a man, though already regenerate, can neither conceive, will, nor do any good at all, nor resist any evil temptation, without this preventing and exciting, this following and co-operating grace. From this statement it will clearly appear, that I by no means do injustice to grace, by attributing, as it is reported of me, too much to man’s free-will. For the whole controversy reduces itself to the solution of this question, “is the grace of God a certain irresistible force?” That is, the controversy does not relate to those actions or operations which may be ascribed to grace, (for I acknowledge and inculcate as many of these actions or operations as any man ever did,) but it relates solely to the mode of operation, whether it be irresistible or not. With respect to which, I believe, according to the scriptures, that many persons resist the Holy Spirit and reject the grace that is offered.
It should be clear from the above that God’s grace alone brings salvation and it is the grace of God that keeps us saved.
I would stress the importance of reading Arminius. I urge you, my brethren, let us not make up things about one another and send them into the world on Twitter. Let us be honest, admit when we are wrong, and admit when we just don’t know if Arminians or Calvinists believe such and such. We are called to love one another deeply (John 13:34-35) and I just don’t see this when we lie about one another. This is not Christian but pagan when we do so.
ON THE INVOCATION OF SAINTS
RESPONDENT: JAMES A. PORT
I. From the hypothesis of the papists, we denominate those persons “saints,” whom the Roman pontiff has by his canonization transferred into the book of saints. (Bellarm. de Beat. Sanct. lib. 1, c. 8.) From the truth of the matter, we also call those persons “saints,” who being sprinkled with the blood of Jesus Christ, (1 Pet. i, 2,) and sealed with the characters of the Holy Spirit, the sacred fountain of all holiness, have been illustrious in this world by the sanctity of their lives, which flows from their spiritual union with Christ; but who, as it regards the body, being now dead, still live in heaven with Christ as it regards the soul. (Rev. xiv, 13.) Of this description were the patriarchs of old, the prophets, the apostles, the martyrs, and others like them. The invocation of saints is that by which men have recourse to their intercessions, interest, patronage and assistance, for the sake of imploring, entreating, and obtaining their aid.
II. But the papists assert, that the saints are invoked for three reasons:
(1.) That they may vouchsafe to intercede by their prayers and their suffrages.
(2.) That, through their merits, and on account of them, they may obtain by their petitions the things which are asked of them.
(3.) That they may themselves bestow the benefits which are required. For the papists have invested departed saints with these three qualities; that, being nearer to God, they have greater freedom of access to him and to Christ, than the faithful who are yet their survivors in the present life; that, by works of supererogation performed in this life, they have obtained by their merits [the privilege] that God shall hear and grant their prayers; and that they have been constituted by God the administrators of those blessings which are asked of them: And thus are they appointed mediators, both by merit and efficacy, between God, nay between Christ and living believers.
III. Yet upon all these things the papists have not had the hardihood to erect, as a superstructure, the necessity of invoking the saints: They only say that “It is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them;” and that “those persons hold an impious opinion who deny that the saints ought to be invoked.” (Can. and Dec. Coun. of Trent, Sess. 25, c. 2.) But perhaps by these last words, which have an ambiguous meaning, they wished to intimate the existence of this necessity. For not only does he deny that saints ought to be invoked, who says that it is not necessary to invoke them, but likewise he who says that it is not lawful: The words, when strictly taken, bear the former signification, that invocation is not necessary; but the latter meaning of its unlawfulness, when they are understood as opposed to the words which preceded. Even Bellarmine, when he had affixed this title, “The saints ought to be invoked,” immediately subjoined the following thesis: “The saints are piously and usefully invoked by the living.” (De Beat. Sanct. lib. 1, c. 19.) But that most subtle and evasive council often trifled with ambiguous expressions, being either compelled into such a course on account of the dissensions among its chief members, or else being perversely ingenious on account of its adversaries, whose blows it would not otherwise have been able, with any degree of speciousness, to avoid. We will, therefore, inquire concerning the invocation of saints, Is it necessary? Is it lawful and useful?
IV. With regard to the First of these questions, we say, (whether the papists assent to our affirmation or dissent from it,) that it is not necessary for believers in the present state of existence to invoke the saints who are engaged with Christ in heaven. And since this necessity is — either according to the duty which surviving believers are bound to perform to the saints who have departed out of this life, and who are living with Christ; or according to the end for the sake of obtaining which, invocation is laid down as a necessary means; we affirm that, by neither of these methods is the invocation of saints necessary.
(1.) It is not necessary in reference to duty; because the invocation of saints has neither been commanded by God, nor is it sanctioned with any promise or threatening, which it would of necessity have been if it had to be performed as a duty by the faithful during their continuance in the world.
(2.) It is not necessary in reference to the means; because neither the merits nor the intervening administration of the saints is necessary to solicit and to obtain the blessings which the faithful in the present life make the subject of their prayers; for otherwise, the mediation and administration of Christ either are not sufficient, or they cannot be obtained except through the intercession of departed saints, both of which are false; and that man who was the first of the saints to enter heaven, neither required nor employed any saint as a previous intercessor.
VI. Since, therefore, it is not necessary, that believers now living upon earth should invoke the saints who reign with Christ, if the papists take any pleasure in the approval of a good conscience, they ought to employ the utmost circumspection in ascertaining, whether it is not the better course to omit this invocation than to perform it, even though it might be made a subject of disputation whether or not it be lawful, about which we shall afterwards inquire. We affirm that it is preferable to omit all such invocation, and we support this assertion by two arguments,
(1.) Since “whatever is not of faith,” that is, whatsoever does not proceed from a conscience which is fully persuaded that the thing performed is pleasing to God, “is sin;” and since that may, therefore, be omitted without sin, about which even the smallest doubt may be entertained respecting its lawfulness, since it is found that it is not necessary; it follows from these premises, that it is better to omit than to perform invocation.
(2.) Since the papists themselves confess, “that the difference between the worship of latria and that of dulia, or between divine and human adoration, is so great, that the man who presents that of latria to any object to which no more than dulia is due, is guilty of idolatry;” and since it is a matter of the greatest difficulty for the common people, who are ignorant and illiterate yet full of devotion to the saints, to observe this difference at all times and without any error; there is much danger lest those who invoke saints should fall into idolatry. This is a reason which also militates against the invocation of saints, even though it were proved that such invocation is lawful.
VII. The next inquiry is, “Is the invocation of saints lawful and useful?” Or, as the Council of Trent has expressed it, “Is it good and useful to invoke the saints?” Or, according to Bellarmine’s phraseology, “Are the saints piously and usefully invoked?” (De Beat. Sanct. lib. 1, cap, 19.) We who hold the negative, say, that it is neither pious nor useful to invoke the saints. We prove this assertion, first, generally; secondly, specially, according to the particular respects in which the papists invoke the saints, and maintain that they may be invoked.
VIII. First. We prove generally, that it is not pious, thus: Since no action can, of itself and properly, come under the appellation of piety or godliness, except that which has been prescribed by God, by whose word and institution alone every action is sanctified, otherwise it will be common; and since it is certain, that the invocation of saints has not been commanded by God, it follows that such an action cannot be called “pious.” Some action may, however, be called “pious” by a metalepsis, because it has been undertaken for the sake of performing a pious action. But such a case as this does not here occur. By the same argument, we demonstrate that it is not useful; because all religious worship, not prescribed by God, is useless, (Lev. x, 1,) according to the express declaration of God, (Isa. xxix, 13,) and of Christ: “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt. xv, 9.) But the papists say, that the invocation of saints is religious worship.
IX. Secondly. We prove the same thing, specially, according to the relations in which the papists invest the saints when they invoke them.
(1.) We say, the saints cannot be piously and usefully invoked as the donors of benefits; because God has not constituted the saints dispensers of blessings either celestial or terrestrial; for this is the office bestowed on Christ, to whom the angels are under subjection as his servants in this ministration. Besides, if even, in imitation of angels, the saints did, in this world, perform their subordinate service to Christ at the command of God; yet they ought not on this account to be invoked; for, before this can be done, a full power of dispensing is required, which may distribute blessings as it pleases; but the angels render in this world only a ministerial and instrumental service to Christ, for which reason neither is it lawful to invoke them as the donors of blessings. But the saints cannot, in imitation of the angels, perform a service to Christ ministerially and instrumentally, unless we assert that they all ascend and descend after the manner of angels. Since, therefore, they possess neither the power nor the capability of bestowing blessings, it follows that they cannot be either piously or usefully invoked as the donors of benefits. 10.
(2.) The saints cannot be piously and usefully invoked as those who by their own merits have obtained the privilege of being heard and answered by God; because the saints have not been able to merit any thing for themselves or for others. For they have accounted it needful to exclaim, with David, “Our goodness extendeth not to thee.” (Psalm xvi, 2.) And “when they had done all those things which were commanded them,” they felt the necessity of confessing, not only with humility but with the greatest truth, “We are unprofitable servants;” (Luke xvii, 10;) and truly to entreat God “to forgive the iniquity of their sins,” and “not to enter into judgment with his servants.” (Psalm xxxii, 5; cxliii, 2.) Therefore, we cannot piously plead, in our own behalf, that which is falsely attributed to the saints; and that cannot be usefully bestowed upon others, of which the saints themselves had not a sufficiency.
(3.) Lastly, they cannot be piously and usefully invoked in the capacity of those who, as our friends, unite their prayers with ours, or who intercede before God by their prayers in our behalf; because the saints in heaven are ignorant of our particular necessities, and of the prayers of the faithful who are dwellers upon earth. (Isa. lxii, 16; 1 Kings viii, 36; 2 Kings xxii, 20.) For the assertions about the mirror or glass of the trinity, is a very vain fable, and receives its refutation from this very circumstance, that those angels who always behold the face of God the Father, (Matt. xviii, 20,) are said to be ignorant of the day of judgment. (Mark xiii, 32.) Those assertions about a divine revelation [to the saints and angels] have a foolish and ridiculous circle; and those about the explanation which may be given by means of angels, or of the spirits of persons recently deceased, are equally vain; because the Scriptures make no mention of those tokens or indications, even in a single word: without such mention, we feel scrupulous, in matters of such vast importance, about receiving any thing as true, or about undertaking to do any thing as pious and useful.
XII. We add, finally, that by the invocation of saints, the papists are injurious towards Christ, and, therefore, cannot engage in such invocation without sacrilege. They are unjust to Christ in two ways:
(1.) Because they communicate to the saints the office of our Mediator and Advocate, which has been committed by the Father to Christ alone; and the power conferred [on that office]. (1 Tim. ii, 5; Rom. viii, 34; 1 John ii, 1.) Neither are they excused by what they say about the saints being subordinate to Christ; for by the circumstance of their alleging the merits of saints, and of their invoking them as the dispensers of blessings, they destroy this subordination and establish a collaterally.
(2.) Because they detract greatly from that benevolent affection of Christ towards his people, from his most merciful inclination, and from that most prompt and ready desire to commiserate, which he manifests. These properties are proposed to us in the Scriptures in a manner the most lucid and plain, that, not being terrified with the consideration of our own unworthiness, we may approach, with confidence and freedom, to the throne of grace, “that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. iv, 16.)
XIII. When we say that the saints must not be invoked, we do not take away all veneration from them, as the papists calumniously assert. For we confess that their memory is to be venerated with a grateful celebration. But we circumscribe our veneration within these bounds: First. We commemorate with thanksgiving the eminent gifts which have been conferred on them, and commend them for having faithfully used those gifts in the exercises of faith, hope and charity. Secondly. As much as in us lies, we imitate their examples, and endeavour to demonstrate, by our works, that the holy conversation which they had in this world is grateful to us who aspire to be like them. Lastly. We congratulate them on the felicity which they enjoy with Christ in the presence of God; and with devotion of soul we earnestly pray for the same felicity for ourselves, while we hope and trust that we shall enjoy it through the all-sufficient intercession of Christ, through which, alone, they also themselves have been made partakers of eternal happiness.
In the invocation of saints, do the papists commit idolatry? We decide in the affirmative.