Monday, July 23, 2007

Roundtable 22: Worship of the Saints

Charles Porterfield Krauth notes that the doctrinal sections of the AC begin with God and end with the saints. Most fitting. There is undue fear of the saints in current Lutheranism (a bit of reaction, I suppose, to Roman excesses) that would have surprised and shocked the Augsburg Confessors. Instead of ignoring the saints (or pretending "they're just the same as you and me"), the Confession approves honoring the saints by telling their stories (the history of the saints) so that we may follow the example of their faith and of their good works, as appropriate to our calling.

Since the Emperor was the audience at the moment, they remind Charles V that he "may follow the example of David in making war to drive away the Turk from his country. For both are kings." But if the saints may be honored by the retelling in the Church their stories, yet the Confession is clear: "...the Scriptures do not teach that we are to call on the saints or ask the saints for help. Scripture sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Atoning Sacrifice, High Priest, and Intercessor. He is to be prayed to. He has promised that He will hear our prayer. This is the worship that He approves above all other worship, that He be called upon in all afflictions." The clincher is in 1 John: "If anyone does sin we have an advocate with the Father." The reserve of this article is astonishing and a testimony to the good will of the Confessors to try by all means to maintain unity with Rome to the furtherest extent conscience would allow. What is unstated here but clearly running in the background is that the Roman practice had made the faithful imagine that they could not come to Christ directly, for He was thought of as a stern judge, but must instead go to the saints who might soften Him up a bit, and lead to Him having mercy on us. Particularly was the Most Blessed Virgin called upon to accomplish this, though by no means her alone. "Saint Ann, help me and I will straightway become a monk!" the terrified young Luther had once cried. In the Larger Catechism Luther will comment that where we turn for help in time of need discloses who we are trusting as our God. If in time of need, we turn to the saints, because we think that they might give us a better hearing than our Lord Jesus, then we have indeed tragically turned the saints into idols and betrayed the very faith that they sought to hand onto us.

Two closing thoughts that are tangential to AC XXI, but explicit in Ap XXI: we do not deny that the saints in heaven intercede for the church in general. Granted, there is no explicit Scripture that teaches this outside of the dream in 2 Maccabees where Jeremiah is seen pleading for Jerusalem. But Scripture does teach that the angels intercede for us (Zechariah 1), and since we know that our Lord, the premier Saint, lives to intercede for His Church to the Father, it is quite sound to hold that the saints in heaven join Him in His intercession for the pilgrim church on earth.

Thus, do not allow yourself to be drawn into typical Roman or Eastern polemics about the intercession of the saints as though we denied it; we do not. Rather, what we have always denied is that the fact that they intercede for the Church in general justifies the practice of the saints on earth invoking the saints in heaven. And since this is so, it is contrary to the Gospel to require people to pray to the saints in heaven. Second, the joy of the saints' company is not that they invite us to focus on them. Rather, the very mark of the saints is that they invite us to focus with them upon the Lamb who redeemed them with His own blood, sanctified them in the waters of Baptism, and made them shining witnesses to the glory of His resurrection. They are not dead. They live in Him. Their spirits join us (and we them) in the Divine Liturgy (Hebrews 12!) and we sing a united song with angels, archangels, and with all the company of heaven. "Holy, holy, holy!"

P.S. Don't neglect to check out the fine introduction to the Commemorations in Lutheran Service Book on p. xii!


Paul T. McCain said...

Here is how the Roman Catholics responded to this article, from the Confutation of the Augsburg Confession:

In the last place, they present the twenty-first article, wherein they admit
that the memory of saints may be set before us, that we may follow their faith
and good works, but not that they be invoked and aid be sought of them. It is
certainly wonderful that the princes especially and the cities have allowed
this error to be agitated in their dominions, which has been condemned so
often before in the Church, since eleven hundred years ago St. Jerome
vanquished in this area the heretic Vigilantius. Long after him arose the
Albigenses, the Poor Men of Lyons, the Picards, the Cathari old and new: all
of whom were condemned legitimately long ago. Wherefore this article of the
Confession, so frequently condemned, must be utterly rejected and in harmony
with the entire universal Church be condemned; for in favor of the invocation
of saints we have not only the authority of the Church universal but also the
agreement of the holy fathers, Augustine, Bernard, Jerome, Cyprian,
Chrysostom, Basil, and this class of other Church teachers. Neither is the
authority of Holy Scripture absent from this Catholic assertion, for Christ
taught that the saints should be honored: "If any man serve me, him will my
Father honor," John 12:26. If, therefore, God honors saints, why do not we,
insignificant men, honor them? Besides, the Lord was turned to repentance by
Job when he prayed for his friends, Job 42:8. Why, therefore, would not God,
the most pious, who gave assent to Job, do the same to the Blessed Virgin when
she intercedes? We read also in Baruch 3:4: "O Lord Almighty, thou God of
Israel, hear now the prayers of the dead Israelites." Therefore the dead also
pray for us. Thus did Onias and Jeremiah in the Old Testament. For Onias the
high priest was seen by Judas Maccabaeus holding up his hands and praying for
the whole body of the Jews. Afterwards another man appeared, remarkable both
for his age and majesty, and of great beauty about him, concerning whom Onias
replied: "This is a love of the brethren and of the people Israel, who prayeth
much for the people and for the Holy city - to wit, Jeremiah the prophet." 2
Macc. 15:12-14. Besides, we know from the Holy Scriptures that the angels pray
for us. Why, then, would we deny this of the saints? "O Lord of hosts," said
the angels, "how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities
of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation? And the Lord answered the
angel that talked with me comfortable words." Zech. 1:12, 13. Job likewise
testifies: "If there be an angel with him speaking, one among a thousand, to
show unto man his uprightness, he will pity him and say, Deliver him from
going down to the pit." Job 33:23, 24. This is clear besides from the words of
that holy soul, John the Evangelist, when he says: "The four beasts and the
four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one of them
harps and golden vials, full of odors which are the prayers of saints," Rev.
5:8; and afterwards: "An angel stood at the altar, having a golden censer, and
there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the
prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And
the smoke of the incense, which came up with the prayers of the saints,
ascended up before God out of the angel's hand." Lastly, St. Cyprian the
martyr more than twelve hundred and fifty years ago wrote to Pope Cornelius,
Book I, Letter 1, asking that "if any depart first, his prayer for our
brethren and sisters may not cease." For if this holy man had not ascertained
that after this life the saints pray for the living, he would have given
exhortation to no purpose. Neither is their Confession strengthened by the
fact that there is one Mediator between God and men, 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 John 2:1.
For although His Imperial Majesty, with the entire Church, confesses that
there is one Mediator of redemption, nevertheless the mediators of
intercession are many. Thus Moses was both mediator and agent between God and
men, Deut. 5:31, for he prayed for the children of Israel, Ex. 17:11; 32:11f.
Thus St. Paul prayed for those with whom he was sailing, Acts 27; so, too, he
asked that he be prayed for by the Romans, Rom. 15:30, by the Corinthians, 2
Cor. 1:11, and by the Colossians, Col. 4:3. So while Peter was kept in prison
prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him, Acts 12:5.
Christ, therefore, is our chief Advocate, and indeed the greatest; but since
the saints are members of Christ, 1 Cor. 12:27 and Eph. 5:30, and conform
their will to that of Christ, and see that their Head, Christ, prays for us,
who can doubt that the saints do the very same thing which they see Christ
doing? With all these things carefully considered, we must ask the princes and
the cities adhering to them that they reject this part of the Confession and
agree with the holy universal and orthodox Church and believe and confess,
concerning the worship and intercession of saints, what the entire Christian
world believes and confesses, and was observed in all the churches in the time
of Augustine. "A Christian people." he says, "celebrates the memories of
martyrs with religious observance, that it share in their merits and be aided
by their prayers."

William Weedon said...

The Apology's corresponding article contains a powerful refutation of the arguments of the Roman Confutation - and Chemnitz also have a beautiful response to Trent's proposals on this topic. Examen III:357ff:

Vicelius and others argue laboriously that the saints who are already in their fatherland with Christ are together members of the one body whose head is Christ, and that, since they are not ignorant of the fact that a church on earth is at all times being gathered for the Son of God under the cross and various persecutions until the end of the world, there is no doubt that, since they live with God, they pray for all manner of good things from God for the church, of which they know that it is fighting on earth under the cross - as though this were denied or condemned by us." (p. 357)

Bror Erickson said...

I find it interesting that the Romanists equate honor with worship. It is wholly possible to honor without worshiping. I doubt God worships any of his saints. Though He certainly does honor them.
About a month ago I had opportunity to worship at an Anglican church. I had to obstain from most of the liturgy, not knowing to whom the prayer would be addresssed until the very end. I found that quite disturbing. Though, I have to say the priest gave a very good Christ centered sermon. The saint worship part, though, made me wonder to what extent any ecumenical agreements could be reached with these people, who do share many of the same concerns we do.
That said, I think the only saint Lutherans are comfortable honoring is Luther.(Yet at times even his blessed memory is slandered in our hallowed halls.) Some though also find a source of encouragment and godly examples of confession in the likes of Bo Giertz, Robert Preus, and Hermann Sasse, to name a few, and not to pump the egos of saints still living, in this church militant.

Paul T. McCain said...

I'm presently working on a presentation and bumped into this Luther quote, from "mature Luther," in which he offers a comment about the innovation of prayers to the saints. This is from his work: "Against Jack Sausage [Hanswurst]"

"Who has commanded you to set up this new idolatry of worshiping the saints, canonizing them, and appointing fast days and feast days on which to honor them, just as if they were God himself, so that men rely on and trust in their merit more than in Christ himself, his blood and his merit? You have portrayed him for us as a judge, whom we must appease, and whose grace we must win through the merit and intercession of his mother and all the saints, together with our worship of the saints. The result is that your church has become in this matter nothing less than a heathen church, praying to Jove, Juno, Venus, Diana, and other dead men. Just as the Romans built a Pantheon in their city of Rome, so you have built a pantheon in the church, which is the church of all devils. You will not find this in the writings of the apostles, nor in the nascent church, which in former times would not even allow pictures of the saints—and a lot of blood was spilt over this—not to mention invocations or prayers to them, things that belong to God alone.

Martin Luther, vol. 41, Luther's Works, Vol. 41 : Church and Ministry III, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther's Works, 41:204 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1966).

Mike Baker said...

There is a Roman Catholic church along the main road to and from my house. This complex of buildings has a large building with a massive golden dome that faces the street. From what I can tell, ti is a kind of entry hall that leads into the church. Glancing through the glass front, I was impressed by the statue of Christ standing in that entry hall.

At least ten feet tall and adorned in gold, the statue dominates the room. The posture of the statue is meek and sympathetic and his face seems to glow with hope and mercy. His head is wreathed in a gold halo and he stands on an elevated platform that is at least three feet high. It is placed in the center of the room so that no one can miss it and people on the street can see it as they drive past.

I have to admit that part of me was a little jealous of such beautiful art and I found myself looking at the statue each time that I drove by. There were always fresh flowers laid at its feet and there was a prayer bench that often had people looking up at and kneeling before the statue. Wow, those papists were really lucky to have such a beautiful depiction of our Lord in such a prominent place in their main entry hall.

...then I found out from a lady who attended services there that it was not a statue of Christ, but one of St. Jude of Thaddaeus instead.

Pastor Kevin Jennings said...

One of the posters to this list, whose initials are Will Weedon, once said that the saints, especially Mary, aren't the great exceptions (Rome and the whole invocation stuff), but the great examples. I hope this doesn't violate the spirit of this list.

This, I believe, is a quotable summary of this article. We don't worship the saints, but we find great hope and strength in their examples of faith, and have an opportunity to praise Christ for His faithfulness to them.

I just had the opportunity to officiate at the funeral of a brother in the ministry who was a WWII vet. When visiting his home to take him the Lord's Supper, I noticed a special frame on his wall. It contained two impressive medals: a purple heart (wounded in combat) and a bronze star (for bravery).

The point: the great examples of the saints are like combat medals and ribbons that have the stories of faith behind them. And, as we hear these, we have the opportunity to praise Christ and pray that He would bring us through similar circumstances.

William Weedon said...


Would to God that our churches more richly reflected in their artwork our belief that art can be a bearer of the Gospel proclamation! Our parish has a statue of our Lord above the altar and two large paintings of our Lord on either side of the Nave's front wall.


LOL. You are remembering correctly, but I didn't come up with that. I was just quoting Schmemann, who simply nails that point in one of his works - can't remember which one. Miss seeing you, old friend. Hope things are going well for you in your parish.

Carl Beckwith said...

Well said, Weedon. I especially like the reference to the Sanctus. As for the Commemorations in LSB, well, January 13 is regrettably blank. Seriously, though, how does Martin of Tours make the Commemorations and Hilary does not? Where would Martin be without his friend and benefactor, the sainted Hilary of Poitiers, doctor and confessor?

Paul T. McCain said...

Martin Chemnitz, in his great work, "The Examination of the Council of Trent" provides a thorough refutation of the heretical notion that we are to pray to the saints. This is from Volume 3. This teaching also very much refutes and rejects the practice in Eastern Orthodoxy which is as contrary to Scripture as is Roman doctrine on this point:

1 The testimonies and proofs of Scripture which disapprove and reject the invocation of saints who have departed this life, as we have hitherto described it from the books of the papalists, are not obscure, but furnish a clear and firm refutation, if only the chief points in which the invocation of the papalists consists are observed. For from the things which we have in the foregoing chapter copied at length, in the very words of the papalists, these chief points are clearly gathered.
I. That the saints who have departed this life are to be invoked in our needs, that prayer is to be directed to them, and indeed that they are to be adored in their way, as the Roman Catechism says.
II. That, because we are on account of our sins unworthy of being heard, the blessed in heaven are our advocates and patrons, who plead our cause before God; that because Christ, as Judge, and indeed a just one, is harder and more stern, we need to have other mediators to this Mediator; that for this reason the saints have been set before us as more mild, propitious, and merciful toward us, that we may flee to the protection of those who are more touched by our calamities, which they themselves also experienced in the flesh, and are therefore more ready to be implored than Christ.
III. That, because we are deficient in suitable and sufficient merits, therefore the saints are invoked, in order that they may apply and accommodate their merits, which are more than sufficient, to us, and place them between the justice of God and our unworthiness, that in this way we may become worthy of the promises of God.
IV. They teach that all benefits which we lack are bestowed on the blessed in heaven by God, so that, when they are implored, they may give, bestow, and distribute to us the things which pertain to grace in this life and to glory in the life to come, and which pertain to external or temporal benefits.
V. They specifically invoke the saints as givers and bestowers of benefits, both spiritual and bodily, in this life as well as in the life to come, likewise as helpers, preservers, guardians and deliverers in dangers and evils, both spiritual and bodily. Yes, the saints are in their invocations called our refuge, protection, defense, life, and salvation, etc.
VI. Men are taught to take refuge in their needs to the grace, mercy, aid, help, and protection of the saints, and to place their comfort, hope, and confidence in them.
VII. They think that the saints in heaven see, know, understand, and hear the specific wishes of everyone, and indeed the secret thoughts of the mind, yes, that they are present and assist everyone who prays.
VIII. They imagine that certain and particular charges have been committed to individual saints, as we have shown in the preceding.
2 That these axe the sinews and the substance of the invocation of the saints per se is well known, and we have now demonstrated it as though before all eyes on the basis of authentic documents and from the public practice of the papalist church. Nor is it difficult to judge about it according to the norm and rule of Scripture, provided only that the reader constantly recalls to mind what is here in controversy when there is dispute about the invocation of the saints. I judge, however, that the explanation will become plainer and easier if this distribution is employed, in order that it may be shown: first, that the invocation of saints is not taught in the Word of God; second, that it does not agree with the teaching of the true invocation revealed in Scripture, but departs from it; third, that it militates against the Word of God revealed in Scripture.
3 So far as the first point is concerned, it is certain and clear beyond controversy that the invocation of saints is not expressly taught in the canonical Scripture either of the Old or of the New Testament, as also Eck expressly confesses in his Enchiridion. Also the Jesuits are compelled to grant this, although they would gladly extend their implicit faith to the point that lay people would be obliged to believe that Scripture teaches also those things which are simply not found in it. But the matter is clear, as can be shown by enumeration: There is no statement in all Scripture which teaches the invocation of the saints; there is in it no command which teaches the invocation of saints who have departed this life; there is no promise that such invocation is pleasing to God and efficacious, that is, that it will be heard and procure grace and help; there is in Scripture no example where saints who had departed this life were invoked by godly persons; there is in Scripture no threat, no example of punishment against such as do not invoke the saints. And therefore the foremost among the papalists reckon the invocation of the saints among the things which were received without Scripture and outside of Scripture. Therefore also the Council of Trent does not quote Scripture, but only ancient usage, the consensus of the fathers, and the decrees of councils, of which we shall say some things later.
4 This is not a light argument, but one of great moment. For no dogma ought to be placed before the church or accepted concerning which no sure, firm, and clear testimonies are found in canonical Scripture, as we have shown in Part I [pp. 43–216] with many arguments.
First of all, in the topic of the invocation of the saints this is decisive. For Christ, speaking of the Samaritans (John 4:22), of true and false invocation, makes this distinction on the basis of the principle that the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth: You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, namely because the Jews had the Word of the true God concerning their worship. The worship of the Samaritans, however, granted that it was made with good intention and rested on a prescription that had grown old during a long time (for they appeal to ancient fathers, John 4:20, as also the Tridentine decree does), nevertheless lacked the testimony of the Word of God and was therefore rejected by Christ. And in Deut. 17:3 idolatry in worship or invocation is described with this mark, that it is done without a command of God. For He says that they worship other gods, sun, moon, and all the hosts of heaven, which He had not commanded. Thus in Matt. 6:6 ff. there is opposed to the vain prayers of the heathen and of the Pharisees, which do not please God, that form which is prescribed by the Son of God. For about forms of worship which are undertaken without the Word of God, God Himself pronounces: “Who requires of you this trampling of My courts?” (Is. 1:12). Likewise: “In vain do they worship me …” (Matt. 15:9).
Furthermore, Scripture itself, on the basis of the topic of faith, presents and forms the kind of argument which cannot be shaken or evaded by any reason. It does this, not in general only, as when it says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6), likewise: “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23); but concerning prayer or invocation it says specifically, James 1:6: “Let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts … must not think that he will receive anything from the Lord.” Mark 11:24: “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you are receiving it, and it will be yours”; Matt. 21:22: “Whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
5 It is, however, wholly certain that true faith is not conceived from private dreams or cogitations, nor from traditions of men, but solely from the Word of God, and that it rests on it. Paul in Rom. 10:17, where he speaks about true and salutary invocation, sets down this rule in express words: “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.” Therefore the conclusion is very certain and firm that the only true and God-pleasing invocation is that which is made on the basis of and according to the prescription of the Word of God, but that other invocations, which do not have a testimony, command, and promise in the Word of God, are vain, useless, and false, because they are made without faith. For how can a mind state certainly and rightly that such invocation is pleasing to God, accepted and heard, when it has no promise? And confidence without the Word and promise of God is not only vain, but is a sin against the First Commandment. Therefore it is clear from this brief account what should be thought of the invocation of saints for this reason alone, that it is not taught in Scripture.
6 Second, it is manifest that the invocation of the saints departs from the doctrine which is taught in Holy Scripture and is divinely commanded. This argument too is very strong. For although all heathen have their invocations (as Pliny says: “Prayers are in place when there is no hope”), these are vain and false because, without the Word of God, reason by nature does not know the doctrine of right invocation. Therefore it is certainly an immense and unspeakable benefit from God that He has revealed in His Word how He wants to be invoked, and what kind of invocation is accepted and efficacious.
However, how great a sin it is to depart from this revelation, and to mix in other kinds of invocation beside and outside of the Word of God, can easily be judged by the godly, since indeed the Christian church alone, before all religions of other nations, has the proper and particular benefit that it knows how to call on God rightly, namely in that manner which is revealed and shown in the Word of God. There is indeed invocation, as has been shown, also among the heathen, but the true church distinguishes its invocation from that of heathen, Turks, and Jews by these marks, that it calls upon God as He has revealed His essence and will in His Word, and calls upon Him in that way which has been prescribed and commanded in the Word. Therefore true invocation is set down as a mark of the church of God, in which are found those who have been sanctified in Christ and called saints with all who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:2). About other religions, even if they say that they invoke one God, Creator of heaven and earth, nevertheless, because they do not invoke Him according to the Word of God, Scripture says, Ps. 79:6 and Jer. 10:25: “Pour out Thy anger on the nations that do not know Thee, and on the kingdoms that do not call on Thy name.”
Since therefore the church has the wisdom that it knows from the Word and according to the Word how to call upon God rightly, and since invocation is the most proper glory of God, and there is no greater virtue and also no more powerful consolation than true invocation, that mode of invocation must be retained which has been divinely shown and commanded in Scripture, and there must be no departure from it for any reason whatsoever. And in order that this invocation may be retained pure and whole, other modes must not be mixed in with it which have not been confirmed by any command or proved example in the Scriptures.
7 Now the doctrine of invocation, as it is taught in the Word of God, is plain and clear, namely how one ought to pray, what should be asked, and that only the true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is to be adored and addressed in prayer, and that, in order to be heard, accepted, helped, guarded, delivered, and saved in our needs, only He is to be invoked, and that in the name of Christ, the Mediator. This invocation is true, for it has the Word and command of God; it also has approved examples in Scripture. This invocation is not uncertain, for it has the testimonies of Scripture that it pleases God and is efficacious, and has promises which enable those who pray thus to say with firm faith that they will certainly be accepted and heard. For God, whom we invoke, hears our prayers, because He searches the hearts (Rom. 8:27). He is able to help, because He is almighty, and He wants to help, because He is merciful and true. He has commanded that He be invoked, and has promised help to those who thus invoke Him (Ps. 50:15).
Although we are not worthy that we should be heard and helped by God, Scripture sets before us Christ, the Mediator, that we may pray and be helped in His name, that is, because of His intercessions and merits. And Scripture affirms that His intercession and merits are so pleasing and efficacious in the sight of God that it confidently asserts that for their sake those who pray, even though they are unworthy, are heard and helped. Also the Mediator Himself commands us to flee to Him, Matt. 11:28: “Come to Me,” etc. Concerning this Mediator Scripture declares that He enters into the holy of holies [cf. Heb. 9:12, 24], that is, into the secret counsels of God, searching the heart of the eternal Father, making intercession for us, looking upon the motions, griefs, groanings, and prayers of our heart, and carrying them to the Father.
8 What more could be desired for the certitude of invocation? From this royal road the invocation of saints departs, and as though this mode of intercession which Scripture prescribes were not enough or safe or sufficient or sure or efficacious or pleasing to God, it mixes in other and indeed various modes of invocation of the saints which it either prefers, as we have shown, or, where it acts most modestly, adds as a reserve to that invocation which has divine commands and promises, expressed in Scripture. These opinions and persuasions are in part wicked, in part unjust to the divine Word, commands, and promises taught in Scripture. And what punishment there should be for those who depart from the Word of God, and add something to it, is pronounced in Rev. 22:18. It is certainly of ways of worship and adoration that God says, Jer. 2:13: “My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the Fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves,” etc. And Rom. 1:25: “They worshiped the creature rather than the Creator,” that is, they worshiped not only the Creator, but besides also creatures. For so the word para is used in 1 Cor. 3:11 and Gal. 1:8. And the Samaritans are reprehended because they adored and worshiped both God and, besides God, also creatures (2 Kings 17:28–34).
9 Therefore the invocation of the saints is to be rejected, because it departs from the form of the true invocation which is divinely taught, shown, and commanded in Scripture, both in order that we may show our gratitude for this immense benefit of God, that in His Word He has revealed the doctrine of the true invocation, which is unknown to reason, and also that we may prove that we are truly strangers to corruptions of the true invocation. For the devil has, as far back as the beginning of the human race, in various ways sowed, and will always sow, seeds for corrupting the purity of the doctrine about invocation, with lighter beginnings indeed, but such from which afterwards manifest idolatrous madness follows, as has been shown by examples in the history of the invocation of the saints. We shall presently show this more fully.
10 But if the invocation of the saints had in it no other evil, it would nevertheless be dangerous to depart from the manner of invocation prescribed by God Himself in His Word. And among the papalists themselves many acknowledge that it is better, more right, more certain, and safer to invoke God Himself in the name of Christ than to direct prayers to the saints. Why, therefore, do we relinquish the things that are certain for those that are uncertain, or why do we prefer uncertain things to certain, or at least mix them in, although invocation ought to be practiced with the greatest care, and certainly ought to rest on a firm foundation?
I have heard from a very famous man that George Cassander, who was trying to put a good construction on the invocation of the saints, even as on certain other papalist practices, when he got into a discussion with some persons about this thing, finally, after much skirmishing, answered: “I, in my prayers, am not accustomed to invoke the saints, but direct my invocation to God Himself, and that in the name of Christ, for I consider this safer.” Thus Hofmeister, after he had heaped up many statements of the ancients about the invocation of the saints, finally concluded with the statement found in the books about visitation of the sick ascribed to Augustine, Bk. l, ch. 2: “More safely and happily I speak to my Jesus than to any one of the spirits of the saints of God,” etc.
I have heard on the basis of Sarcerius that when George, Duke of Saxony, had entered his death straggle, and the monks earnestly exhorted him, one that he should invoke Mary, another, the angels, still another, various saints as helpers, finally a certain nobleman, a servant of the duke, approached, and urged the duke as follows: “Your Highness always used this proverb in business of state, ‘To go straight forward without digression is by far the shortest way.’ Why then does your Highness on this most perilous journey follow such varied digressions and does not rather in his invocation go straight to God Himself through Christ, who certainly is both willing and able to help?”
Erasmus jokes after his custom that on the occasion of a shipwreck each one took refuge to his tutelary saint by invocation, as though he were God. One, however, when he saw that the danger was very threatening and would not permit a long and slow help, thought of various things. If he invoked his Nicholas, it would be uncertain whether he would hear, and perhaps, being occupied with hearing and attending to the prayers of others, he would not be able to take time for him so quickly, or, if he were willing, he might perhaps not be admitted so quickly to an audience with God. Therefore he finally decided that he would do what was surer and safer: he would take refuge straight to God through Christ, because it is written, Ps. 50:15: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me”; likewise, Heb. 4:16: “Let us with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
11 Third. The fault of the invocation of the saints is not only that it is undertaken without the Word of God, and departs from the norm of invocation taught in Scripture, but that, besides, it militates directly and as it were squarely against clear testimonies of Scripture. This is crystal clear, if only the things which the papalists ascribe to the saints in their invocations are compared with Scripture. There are, moreover, in the invocation of the saints some things which militate so crassly and enormously against the Word of God that the minds of the godly are shocked and even the papalists themselves are almost ashamed of this crass shamelessness, which can by no means be excused and defended from the accusation of superstition and idolatry. And yet they are retained in the public practice of their church.
We have shown at great length that the papalists invoke the saints as helpers, preservers, guardians, and deliverers in needs; yes, in their invocations they clearly call the saints “our refuge, defense, safety, life, and salvation.” This militates so clearly against Scripture that those among the papalists who still have some sense of shame are not able to deny it. For these things ought to be ascribed only to God in our invocations. Ps. 46:1, 5, 7: “God is our Refuge and Strength, a very present Help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change …. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God will help her right early …. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our Refuge.” Ps. 18:2–3, 6, 17–19, 35, 49: “The Lord is my Rock and my Fortress and my Deliverer, my God, my Rock, in whom I take refuge, my Shield, and the Horn of my salvation, my Stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies …. In my distress I called upon the Lord … and He heard me … about my enemies … and the Lord has become my Protector …. He delivered me, because He delighted in me …. And Thou hast given me the shield of Thy salvation, and Thy right hand supported me …. For this I will extol Thee among the nations, and sing praises to Thy name.” Ps. 144:2: “The Lord is my Mercy and my Fortress, my Stronghold and my Deliverer, and in Him do I hope.” John 14:6: “I am … the Life.” Ps. 36:9: “For with Thee is the fountain of life.” Ps. 62:5–7, 11–12: “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my Rock and my Salvation …. On God rests my deliverance … my refuge is God … Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this, that power belongs to God, and that to Thee, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.” Acts 4:12: “There is salvation in no one else.” Is. 45:20–21: “They keep on praying to a god that cannot save …. There is no God that saves but Me.” Hos. 13:9: “Only in Me is your help” [cf. KJV]. 2 Chron. 20:12: “When we do not know what we ought to do, we have only this left to us, that we lift up our eyes to Thee.” Additions to the Book of Esther 14:3: “Lord … help me who am alone and have no helper but Thee.”
But why do I labor to gather many such testimonies since all Scripture teaches nothing else? How enormously and how crassly the invocation of the saints among the papalists militates against these testimonies and against all Scripture a mere inspection and comparison of the things we have transcribed above in their own words teaches more than sufficiently.
12 Thus to place one’s hope, trust, and comfort in the saints, as the invocations of the papalists expressly do, is manifestly against the Word of God. For what do we hear in the whole Psalter except: “In Thee, Lord, have I hoped; I shall not be confounded Thou art my Hope. I trust in the Lord. My soul trusts in Thee”? And 2 Cor. 1:3–4: “The Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction.” Rom. 15:5: “The God of steadfastness and encouragement.” And all of sacred Scripture declares that hope and trust is worship which is owed only to God. Jer. 17:5: “Cursed is the man who trust in man.” Ps. 118:8–9: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” Ps. 146:3: “Put not your trust … in a son of man, in whom there is no help∙” Ps. 115:11: “You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their Help and their Shield.”
13 It also militates against Scripture to flee in invocation to the grace And mercy of the saints. That the papalists do this we have shown in their own words. Heb. 4:16: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” It is insulting and blasphemous that they imagine that God, as being harsh, had renounced mercy and turned its exercise over to Mary and the saints. For all Scripture says with one voice, as in Ex. 33:19, when He is about to show His glory and every good: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” And Ps. 145:8–9: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and His compassion is over all that He has made.”
14 Diametrically opposed to the Word of God is likewise this, that the papalists seek from the saints all the things which are divine benefits, which Scripture declares are given us by God alone. For in their prayers they expressly urge, implore, and invoke the saints as givers and bestowers of benefits and gifts, spiritual as well as bodily, both of this present, and of the future life, and they worship and venerate the saints in order to obtain these benefits from them. That the papalists do these things we have shown from their own authentic prayers. Such invocation, however, is clear and dreadful idolatry, for it transfers the glory of God to creatures (Is. 48:5, 11; Rom. 1:25).
15 These things in the invocation of the saints are so enormously and grossly wicked that many among the papalists do not dare to undertake their defense. And since they cannot escape by denying (for the matter is clear) they merely declaim a bit about the superstitions and abuses of the common people. But such things are publicly read in their churches in authentic prayer formulas; they are muttered, yes, sung with loud bellowing, and one reads that they have been confirmed by popes. If they now no longer approve these things, as indeed they cannot approve them, then why do they not publicly and expressly condemn them and cast them out of the church?
16 The remaining things in the invocation of the saints they attempt to paint with new colors, and to coat them over and hide them with sophistic disguises. For they say that they do not attribute to the saints that by their own power they are able to help those who invoke them, but that God confers all these benefits on the blessed in heaven in order that they, when they are invoked, may give, bestow, and distribute them to men. But this also is said without any testimony of Scripture; indeed, it militates against Scripture, which declares that it belongs to the glory of Christ, the Mediator, that He receives gifts for men (Ps. 68:18) and, sitting at the right hand of the Father, confers them on men (Eph. 4:8). “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear” (Acts 2:33). “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand” (John 3:35; 13:3). “… that we may receive of His fullness” (John 1:16). Therefore the Father gave Him as Head to the church, that divine gifts and benefits might flow from Christ, our Head, to the members (Eph. 1:22; 4:8 ff.; Col. 2:3, 19).
Therefore, because the invocation of the saints in part wholly takes away this glory from Christ, our Head and Mediator, and transfers it to the saints, and in part joins the saints to Christ in this office of Mediator and Head as if they were associates and companions, and that in such numbers and in such a way that Christ can hardly be recognized among so many associates in this office, as the prayers of the papalists show, it is clear that also this coatingover of the invocation of the saints is without the Word of God, yes, that it militates against Scripture and against the office of Christ, the Head.
17 Very many use this eye salve, that the saints are invoked only as intercessors with God, that they may by their intercessions and merits obtain from God for us, who are unworthy, the things we ask. But we shall show plainly that also this is against Scripture. For to the glory of the priesthood of Christ belongs also the duty of making intercession, namely that we may be heard, aided, and saved on account of His intercession and merits, as Scripture proves in many passages (Heb. 7 and 9). But because the living in this world are commanded to intercede or pray for one another (1 Tim. 2:1–2, 8), and Paul asks that prayers should be made to God for him in the church (Rom. 15:30–32), and it is certain that by such intercession nothing is taken away from the office of the priesthood of Christ the Mediator, therefore one must see how Scripture describes that intercession with God which it ascribes to Christ alone, our Mediator and High Priest, as the proper and particular office of His priesthood. For from that it will become manifest that no associate is to be joined to Christ in this office.
The sum of it all is this: Because on account of our sins we are unworthy to be admitted into the presence of God with our prayers, to be heard and received, and to find mercy and grace in time of need, therefore God Himself made Christ our High Priest, Mediator, Advocate, or Intercessor (Heb. 7). He is to appear in heaven in the presence of God in our behalf (Heb. 9), to be a merciful and faithful high priest in the things which must be done before God on our behalf in order to render God propitious to sinners (Heb. 2:14–17), so that we may approach and have access to God through Him (Eph. 3; Heb. 7) and that through and because of His intercession and merits “we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
In order that this intercession may be sufficient, pleasing to God, useful to us, certain and safe, the Epistle to the Hebrews (ch. 7 and 9) teaches that the office of redemption and intercession is connected in such a way as to show that the dignity, power, or efficacy of the intercession of Christ depends on the merits of His redemption.
Second, it adds that for this reason it was necessary that our Mediator or Advocate should be the Son of God.
Third. Having, according to His assumed [human] nature, been made higher than the heavens at the right hand of God, He entered into the holy of holies in order that He might appear before the face of God in our behalf.
Fourth, that God Himself, and that by an oath, made Him Mediator, Advocate, and Intercessor.
On these foundations it concludes: “Consequently He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25). On these foundations rest all the things that Scripture teaches concerning this part of the priesthood of Christ, such as John 16:23: “If you ask anything of the Father, He will give it to you in My name.” John 14:6: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.” John 10:9: “I am the door; if anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Eph. 3:12: Through Christ “we have boldness and confidence of access through our faith in Him.” Rom. 5:2: Through Christ we have access to grace by faith. 1 John 2:1–2: “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the expiation for our sins.” Rom. 8:33 ff: “Who shall accuse us? Who shall condemn? It is Christ Jesus who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, and indeed intercedes for us.”
Such advocates or mediators we ought not to make of any creature. For this is the proper office of Christ, the Mediator, alone, and belongs to His priesthood. Therefore Paul says, 1 Tim. 2:5: “There is one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” There he is not speaking only of the mediator of the redemption (the way the papalists seek to escape this passage by distinguishing between the mediator of redemption and of intercession), but he also clearly teaches on whose account our prayers axe accepted by God to salvation, namely on account of that one Mediator who gave Himself as a ransom for all. And Christ Himself expressly uses the exclusive particle, John 14:6: “No one comes to the Father but by Me.”
18 The papalist invocation of the saints clearly opposes, and militates against, this office of the priesthood of Christ, as is clear from what we have noted down above. For they expressly invoke the saints in such a way that they should interpose their merits between the justice of God and our unworthiness. And the sum and substance of all their prayers amounts to this, that they ask that they be heard, accepted, helped, protected, and saved through the intercessions and merits of the saints, as also the canon of their Mass says: “Grant to their prayers and merits that we may in all situations be defended by the help of Your protection.”
Of the intercession of Christ, however, they do not expressly make mention in their prayers. Rather, they clearly argue that Christ is not to be invoked in such a way that He should pray or intercede for us. In this way Christ is either cast down and thrust out completely from this part of His priesthood or, if He is dealt with most gently, many and various other associates are joined to Him in this office—which, as we have shown, militates against Scripture.
19 Just let the reasons be considered which they give why beside Christ also the saints are to be invoked as mediators and advocates or intercessors, namely because Christ is harder, sterner, and harsher, but the saints more favorable, mild, and merciful, yes, more ready to hear and help, as those who have also themselves experienced the same calamities in the flesh. This reasoning certainly not only joins the saints to Christ in the office of mediator, but clearly places them above Him, and militates diametrically against the clear statement of Scripture, Heb. 2:17–18: “He had to be made like His brethren in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God …. For because He Himself has suffered and been tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted.” Heb. 4:15–16: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Thus it also militates against the Scripture when they say that sinners, even though they repent, dare not come to Christ as mediator, although He Himself invites all with the sweetest voice to come to Him, Matt. 11:28: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” There is also the very gracious promise, John 6:37: “Him who comes to me I will not cast out.”
From these things it is clear that there is an immense and infinite difference between the intercession of Christ, our Head, High Priest, Mediator, and Advocate, and the common prayers in which the members of the church in this life pray for one another. And it has been shown that the papalists in their prayers ascribe to the saints that intercession which belongs to the priesthood of Christ and is His own.
20 Yes, this whole business, and indeed the very term “invocation and adoration of the saints,” militates against Scripture, which commands us to invoke and adore God. Ps. 18:3: “I call upon the Lord … and I am saved from my enemies.” Likewise v. 6: “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help,” etc. Ps. 50:15: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Ps. 86:3–5: “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to Thee do I cry all the day. Gladden the soul of Thy servant, for to Thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For Thou, O Lord, art good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on Thee.” Ps. 120:1: “In my distress I cry to the Lord, that He may answer me.” Ps. 145:18–19: “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He fulfills the desire of all who fear Him, He also hears their cry, and saves them,” etc. And lest it be necessary to go through every passage, Solomon, 1 Kings 8:22 ff., instituted an enumeration of every kind of need, to show that God is to be invoked in all necessities. And that the glory of answering prayer belongs to God, Pss. 18:6 and 50:15 testify. And briefly, Paul confirms on the basis of Joel [2:32] that salutary invocation is to be made to God through Christ: “All who call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered.” For one and the same is Lord of all riches [Rom. 10:12], that is, a treasury of goodness, grace, and beneficence, overflowing to all who call upon Him. And He so connects salutary invocation with faith that he expressly says: “How are men to call upon Him in whom they have not believed?” [Rom. 10:14].
Therefore we ought to call only on Him in whom Scripture commands us to believe. And even as we ought to believe in no one else than God only, so also we ought to pray only to God. Otherwise just as by faith, so also by invocation, if it is transferred to creatures, idolatry is committed. Scripture indeed says, Ex. 14:31: “The people … believed the Lord and His servant Moses” [KJV], but the fathers rightly say that it is one thing to believe someone, and another to believe in someone, which belongs only to God.
Hosius,24 seeing that by this argument from Rom. 10:13 ff. the cause of the invocation of saints is overturned from its foundation, seeking to come to its aid as it leans over and totters, is not afraid to say that one must also believe in the saints. And he tries to prove this from the Epistle to Philemon, where Paul says [v. 5]: “I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and all the saints.” However, Paul by no means says: “Believe in God and in all the saints,” but uses his usual division, which enumerates faith in God and love toward the neighbor. Scripture rightly proves from this that Christ is God, because we are commanded to believe in Him and to invoke Him. This argument concerning the divinity of Christ is entirely obscured and shaken by the invocation of the saints.
21 This also is a firm and clear argument against the invocation of the saints, that Christ, in prescribing a formula for true, godly, and salutary invocation, says: “When you pray, say: ‘Our Father, who art in heaven … For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory.’ ” Therefore He alone is to be invoked who is our Father in heaven, whose is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Since these belong to God alone, it is idolatry to ascribe them to the saints, either by word or by the act of invocation. By this mark the true invocation is certainly distinguished from the false, as David and Jeremiah declare. “Pour out Try anger on the nations … that do not call on Thy name” [Ps. 79:6; Jer. 10:25]. A description of the wicked is given Ps. 53:4: They “do not call upon God.”
All Gentiles think they call upon that God who is the creator of heaven and earth, but because they do not invoke Him as He has revealed Himself, namely Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in the name of Christ, but beside God call upon other, intermediate powers, as Augustine shows, De civitate Dei, Bk. 8, God declares that they do not call upon His name. For He wants only Himself to be called upon and worshiped, as Christ says, Matt. 4:10: “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’ ” And for this reason saints, both men and angels, forbade that they should be worshiped (Acts 10:25–26; 14:11–18; Rev. 19:10; 22:8–9). In what way the papalists try to frustrate these passages we shall presently tell in our refutation of their arguments.
22 Finally, also this militates against Scripture, that in their invocations they ascribe to the saints in heaven that they are ready to aid those who call upon them, that they look into the hearts of men, know, hear, discern, and judge their thoughts and their sighs. For it belongs to God alone, and to Christ, the Mediator, to be present to all, to look into and to search hearts, and to see thoughts. That this is done in prayer Paul declares expressly, Rom. 8:27: “He who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit.” Matt. 6:6: “Pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.” Ps. 18:6: “My cry to Him reached His ears.” Ps. 38:9: “My sighing is not hidden from Thee.” Ps. 79:11: “Let the groans of the prisoners come before Thee.” Ps. 145:18: “The Lord is near to all who call upon Him.” Deut. 4:7: “What other nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon Him?” But of the saints who have departed this life, Scripture teaches expressly that they do not know us and our affairs on earth. 2 Kings 22:20: “I will gather you to your fathers … and your eyes shall not see all the evil which I will bring upon this place.” Is. 63:16, 15: The people declare that they are taking refuge to God in prayer because “Abraham does not know us and Israel does not acknowledge us; Thou, O Lord, art our Father … look down from heaven.”
What is done in the invocation of the saints is simply contrary to these statements, as we have shown. That they indeed assign certain offices to individual saints is done without any Scripture, after a downright heathen example, as Mantuanus25 says:
As the Latins do to Mars, so do we to you, St. George.
23 These testimonies of Scripture, which show clearly and with certainty what should be thought and judged about papalist invocation of the saints, we have opposed to the chief errors that cling to the invocation of the saints. We have done this with only a bare, simple, and brief recitation, in order that the contrast might show the judgment from the Word of God.
Also other arguments could be fashioned against the invocation of the saints, namely that it is necessary that the one whom we invoke in our necessities knows and is willing and able to help those who call upon him, that the prayers of those who invoke him are able to reach him, and that he knows better what we have need of than we can explain. These things, however, belong only to God—unless we want to make the saints omnipotent and omniscient. But when testimonies of Scripture in the very words of God are set in opposition to errors, then not human arguments but the divine voice itself pronounces judgment concerning a controversy.

Chemnitz, Martin ; Kramer, Fred: Examination of the Council of Trent. electronic ed. St. Louis : Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1971, S. 3:406-421

William Weedon said...


LOL. Well, you know what Chemnitz said about him... ;)


GOOD GRIEF! That's like the whole chapter!!!

L P Cruz said...


I was in Bologna, Italy a few years ago and in that small medieval city there are plenty of churches, one every corner. One church I visited has a statue of Jesus which is about 3 stories tall in the center of the church. It was not even a cathedral or basilica, just one of those ordinary churches.

I got scared. Probably my phobia comes from being an RC boy who at one time kissed the feet of the statues of Jesus and prayed to them. You see as an RC boy I was told that Jesus does not like sinners (ok I know some RC person would again tell me that I was just a poor ignorant, mis-catechized RC kid).

May be the Calvinistic strain in me has not fully been exorcized yet. i get uneasy with statues, I still get scared when I see images/statues of Jesus. But may be it is rather my RC strain, I don't know. I am just scared.


William Weedon said...


You need to visit St. Paul's! The statue of our Lord is standing above the altar with hands raised in blessing - as at the Ascension. We don't kiss his feet or anything, but we are thankful for the visual arts that remind us that once the Eternal Word took on flesh and blood for our salvation.

Tony-Allen said...

Thanks a lot for posting this! It is appreciated.