Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33


Of Invocation of Saints,

By Patrick Symson.

Anno Dom. 1615.

TrueCovenanter.com Editor’s Introduction.

The following Treatise is extracted from Patrick Symson’s history of the first nine centuries of the Christian Church, specifically from the second part, titled, A Short Compend, of the Arian and Eutychian Persecutions, Comprised in the 4th, 5th, and 6th Centuries.  For each century in this History, Mr. Symson provides three useful Treatises relating to the time.  This treatise on the Invocation of Saints and Angels is the first provided in relation to the fourth century.


IT is more easy in this TREATISE to disapprove the doctrine of Invocation of Saints, than accurately to point out the minute of time wherein this abuse sprang up: for the envious man, who sowed tares in the husbandry of GOD, he did it while men were asleep. [Matth. 13.]  And no good Christian, how vigilant soever he be, can be at one, and the self-same time both sleeping and waking.  Nevertheless, albeit the sowing time be unknown to us, the time wherein the blade springeth up, and manifesteth itself unto the sight of men, may be known: And therefore I have referred this Treatise unto the fourth CENTURY.  It is true, that Origen about the year of our LORD 240, like as he disputed curiously of all things without any certainty of sacred Scripture, yea even of plurality of worlds, so in like manner he disputed of the charity and affection that good Christians departed [from] this life, might possibly bear to the members of the MILITANT CHURCH of CHRIST.[1]  {86} And he thought it not inconvenient to suppose, that they had a care of our salvation, and supported us with their prayers.  Nevertheless he spake doubtsomely, Ego sic arbitrior, that is, I suppose it is so: but he durst not with full assurance affirm any such thing.

In the third CENTURY also we read of a commemoration of the names of holy Martyrs, in time of ministration of the holy Sacrament, but neither of purpose to pray for them, who were already possessed into their rest, nor of purpose to request them to pray for us: for such gross error was not yet admitted into the bosom of the Church: But rather of purpose by such a commemoration, to animate the godly to follow the footsteps of those men in well-doing, whose names were thought worthy at solemn times to be commemorated in the Church.

The Rhetorical liberty of Basilius Magnus [Basil the Great] and [Gregory] Nazianzenus,[2] brought invocation of Saints in the mouths of all the people: for it is their custom, after they have commended the patient suffering of Martyrs, in end they desire to be supported by the prayers of the holy Martyrs.  These glorious Orators learned not this lesson in the books of holy Scripture: but rather in the school of Libanius, whose frequent incalling upon ηρωες [heros] in his declamations, accustomed Basilius & Nazianzenus to call upon the Martyrs, to the end that δαιμονες and ηρωες [demons (or patron spirits) and heros] of the Gentiles might be forgotten, and the holy Martyrs, by whose example men might be led into the foot-steps of virtue and godliness, might be remembered.  Always seeing these learned Fathers had no warrant in Scripture for invocation of Saints, they are compelled to speak doubtsomely ως οιμας, that is, as I suppose.[3]  And again, ει μη τολμηρον τουτο ειπειν, that is, if it be not too much boldness so to speak.  And again, ει τις αισθησις, that is, if there be any sense, to wit, in those that are dead.  If they had followed the certainty of Scripture, what needed such doubtsome and staggering speeches?  When a tall Cedar falleth, many little trees are bruised by the fall of it: and when worthy men do fall into an errour, it is offensive to many.  The dolorous examples of Jacob, David, Solomon, and the plurality of their wives, contrary to the first institution of GOD, [Gen. 2,] {87} proveth this to be true.  Helcana the father of Samuel was not free of this fault. [1 Sam. 1.]  And when the Apostle Paul writeth of the gifts that are requisite in a bishop, he would have him to be the husband of one wife, [1 Tim. 3.2]: which exhortation had been unnecessary, except the preposterous following of the faults of holy Fathers had been so universally overspread, that scarce the Pastors themselves were free of the contagion of this disease.  But the GOD of Heaven hath permitted this to be for our trial, even to try whether we love the LORD our GOD with all our heart, or no: for if we love the LORD with all our heart, we will never prefer men to GOD, nor men’s examples, to GOD’s Commandments, how holy and godly soever they have been.  But now to return to these two learned Fathers, of whom I began to speak: Some excuse this weakness, by the liberty of Rhetorical ornaments. And indeed, in case a lap of this transparent-covering be not spread over the speeches of Nazianzenus, who preferreth [Monodia in Basilium,] the painful travails of Basilius, to the travails of the Apostle Paul, who filled the world with the preaching of the Gospel, from Judea to Ilyricum, If (I say) this form of speaking be not excused by Rhetorical ornaments, and namely the figure Hyperbole, no Christian man could gladly lend his ear to such speeches.

But now to leave the sandy ground of men’s speeches, & to convert ourselves to the doctrine of divine Scriptures, as to a sure foundation, whereupon if we lean, we shall not be deceived.  The LORD saith in his word, Call upon me in the day of thy trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me. [Psalm 50.15.]  From this ground of holy Scripture let our Treatise arise, wherein GOD willing, first we shall consider the purpose of the Prophet: next we shall declare, that Prayer is a part of spiritual worship, only belonging to GOD: thirdly, that JESUS CHRIST is the only mediator of our intercession: and last, that prayers to Angels, to the blessed Virgin the mother of our LORD, and to the Saints departed, hath no ground in Scripture, and this custom was disliked by many of the ancient Fathers.

Now the purpose of the Prophet in the fiftieth Psalm is manifest, namely this, to convict Hypocrites, who contenting themselves with outward sacrifices, neglected the spiritual worship {88} of GOD, wherein GOD hath principal delight, as CHRIST saith, GOD is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and truth. [John 4.24.]  But Hypocrites will needs present unto GOD chaff instead of Corn, & dross instead of Gold, and an outward scroof [scab] of external worship instead of the very substance of his spiritual service.  To draw them from this gross imagination, he brings in GOD himself, speaking from his holy Sanctuary, and declaring, that outward sacrifices have been oft times intermitted, without any reproof of them who being compelled by necessity, and not willingly, left off the offering of sacrifices.  In Egypt the Jews could not offer such beasts, as the Egyptians worshipped, else they would have stoned them to death. [Exod. 8.26.]  In Babylon they had not an Altar, whereupon they could offer sacrifices to GOD lawfully.  And at some times, when both Altar and sacrifices were at hand, yet David complaineth, that by violence he was debarred from the Courts of the LORD. [Psalm 42, 84.]  All these times GOD did not reprove his people, for omitting of external sacrifices, because they were constrained by necessity to intermit such outward exercises.  In the mean time they worshipped GOD in spirit and truth, and it lay not in the power of their hateful enemies to hinder them from worshipping GOD spiritually.

Secondly, the Prophet brings in the LORD, declaring, that he had no pleasure in bloody sacrifices, because he neither eateth flesh, nor drinketh blood: and in case he delighted in such things, he would not require them at men’s hands, seeing that all the fowls in the Mountains, and all the beasts in the Forest are the LORD’s, and he may use them according to his own will and blessed pleasure.  But the LORD did institute such kind of sacrifices to last for a time, as shadows of things to come, but they could never sanctify the commers thereunto. [Hebr. 10.1.]  Therefore if they be separated from CHRIST, to whom they led the people, as Types and Figures of his everlasting sacrifice, the LORD had no kind of regard to them.  True it is, that Satan hath a delight in bloody sacrifices, even insofar as they are bloody, and a destruction of the creatures of GOD, as the sacrifices in the valley of Ben-hinnom [Jer. 7.31] do testify, and the sacrifices offered to Diana in Tauriea chersonesus, and the bloody {89} tribute paid by the Athenians to Minos King of Candie, by the express advice and counsel of Apollo, as Chrysostom clearly affirmeth.[4]  And this declareth that the devil, who was a murderer from the beginning, hath a delight in bloody sacrifices.  But God delighted not in such sacrifices, except only insofar as they were types and figures, leading to the sacrifice of Christ.  Yea, the sacrifices of the Law were like unto the fire set upon the top of the marble tower of Pharos for the welfare of ships, and to direct them unto the right harbour of Alexandria: and like unto the fire set up upon the uttermost wall of JERUSALEM, on the North side, called by Cosmographers, Turris furnorum: This served to direct the footsteps of them, who in the night season were journeying to the holy City, that they should not aberr [go astray] from the right entry of the gates of JERUSALEM.  Notwithstanding children sat about these fires and warmed themselves, and knew none other use, wherefore they were appointed, save only to warm those, who were a-cold in winter nights: even so carnal Jews reposed upon sacrifices, but marked not the right end wherefore they were appointed by God.

But the Prophet leads a carnal people from external sacrifices, unto spiritual exercises: and namely, unto prayer and thanksgiving: and consequently to the obedience of faith, the very undoubted ground of prayer, and thanksgiving: for in these exercises consist deeper points of the worship of God, than in outward sacrifices, whether we look to God, or to our selves. When we look to God, he is a spirit, and consequently he delighteth in spiritual service: and when we look unto ourselves, we have an earthly body, and a spiritual soul, and if we present unto God the service of the most base part of our person, and not the best part, then we fall under the curse threatened by Malachi, who saith, Cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth unto the LORD a corrupt thing. [Mal. 1.14.]  This ground being first laid, that the principal purpose whereat the Prophet aimeth, is not unknown, it is the more easy to step too to the words.

The Prophet brings in the Lord, saying, Call upon me, in the day of thy trouble, &c.  This presupposeth, that we shall be {90} exercised with manifold troubles, as our master CHRIST JESUS was crowned with thorns, before he was crowned with glory, [Matth. 27.29.]: yea, and that we shall be so dashed with the vehement tempest of troubles, that except we be well taught in the School of GOD, we shall not know what hand to turn us unto: as the shipmen did, who sailed with Jonas, every man prayed to his own GOD: only Jonas, who was taught in the right School, directed his prayers to the living GOD, who made the Heaven & the Earth, and was heard when he prayed out of the Whale’s belly.  Now seeing that GOD inviteth us to be his Disciples, and he will teach us, to whom and in what manner we should pray in time of our troubles: let us lend our ear to our great School-master, & not be ashamed to open our ear and to bind up our mouth with silence, when the LORD speaketh, and count all the speeches of Fathers, that repugn unto this great Oracle of GOD, to be like unto ears of corn withered, thin, and blasted with the East wind, wherein there is no nourishing food.

In the second part of this Treatise, it is to be proved, that Prayer is a spiritual sacrifice, only to be offered to GOD, and to none other, neither in Heaven, nor in earth, for three principal reasons.  First, in Scripture we are taught, to pray to him only, in whom we trust, and consequently to pray only to GOD.  The Apostle Paul saith, But how shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? [Rom. 10.14.]  Yea, and the Prophet Jeremy saith, Cursed be he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and withdraweth his heart from the LORD. [Jer. 17.5.]  GOD is the just proprietor and owner of our souls: for he hath bought and purchased them with his own blood, [Acts 20.28]: and the LORD will part stakes with no man, neither can he admit a co-rival in points of his honour: as the natural mother could not abide to see her son divided, because he appertained totally and wholly unto herself, [1 Kings 3.26]: so can not GOD abide, that his glory be given unto another, [Isa. 42.8,] or yet that any part of that thing that is once dedicated to GOD should be converted to another use. [Acts 5.4.]

In holy Scripture we read of three most abominable Altars, to wit, of the Altar of Damascus, [2 Kings 16.10,] and the Altar of Bethel, and the Altar at Athens to the unknown GOD.  The Altar of {91} Damascus was abominable, because it was builded to the worship of a false god.  The Altar of Bethel was abominable, [2 Kings 23.15,] because on it the true GOD was worshipped in a forbidden manner.  And the Altar of Athens to the unknown GOD was abominable, because they neither knew whom they worshipped, nor yet the right manner of his worshipping. [Acts 17.23.]  Therefore in the matter of the worshipping of GOD, let us set our compass right, lest a little aberration procure a great shipwreck: and in the matter of Prayer let us call upon him only, in whom we trust, as we are taught by the holy Apostle, And let us offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to GOD through JESUS CHRIST. [1 Pet. 2.5.]

The second argument, whereby I prove, that our prayers should be made only to GOD, is this: We should pray only to him, who is Omnipotent, and can support us in all our distresses: ergo, we ought to pray only to GOD.  The antecedent [proposition] of this argument is evident, by the latter part of that short prayer indited by CHRIST to his Disciples, For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory, for ever [Matth. 6.13.]  In that short form of perfect prayer the first words leadeth us to a consideration of the love of GOD toward us, who is content to be our Father in JESUS CHRIST.  In the last words his power is described to be infinite, such as becometh him, who is King of Heaven and Earth: who like as he hath made all things, so likewise hath he an absolute Sovereignty over all things, both in Heaven and in Earth.  Now, that Omnipotency is an attribute only belonging to the divine nature, the very Gentiles could not deny it, who attributed the word παντοκρατως only to God.  And it is certain, that all the Angels of Heaven could not have supported the disastrous estate of man after his fall, [Gen. 3,] if God himself had not put hand to work, who only knew the way how his justice and mercy could kiss one another, in the person of the Mediator.  Therefore seeing God only is Omnipotent, and none but he, what fools are we to put our trust under the shadow of the bramble, as the Shechemites did, [Judges 9.15,] and not to dwell in the secret of the most High, and abide in the shadow of the Almighty? [Psalm 91.1.]  I do no wrong to the Angels in Heaven, when I compare them to brambles, in comparison of the eternal God: their power is finite and bounded, their {92} provident care over us hath a beginning, namely, the time of their employment, whereinto GOD appointed them to attend upon us, [Psalm 34.7]: but the power of GOD is infinite, & in his provident care he appointed a kingdom for us before the foundation of the world was laid. [Matth. 25.34.]  Let us therefore trust under this shadow of the Almighty, and call upon him, in whom we trust.

Thirdly, it may be proved, that we should pray to GOD only, and to none other, because there is neither commandment, nor example, nor promise, to be heard in Scripture, except that prayers be made to the Creator only, and not unto the creatures of GOD.  And in this argument I find that some learned Papists give over reasoning in the contrary, and they render reasons wherefore there is no example in the old or new Testament, of Invocation of Saints: namely this, that in the old Testament, the Patriarchs and Prophets, who departed this life, went not presently to Heaven, and had not the fruition of the presence of GOD incontinent [immediately]: but they went to Limbus patrum, where their souls remained until CHRIST died, and arose again from death, and then he carried their souls to Heaven.  And this is the cause (say they) wherefore there is no example found in the old Testament of Invocation of Saints.  Likewise, they say concerning the new Testament, that if the Apostles had set down any precept concerning Invocation of Saints, it would have seemed unto the people, that they were desirous that this honour should be done unto themselves after their death.  These are the foolish conjectures of Eccius.  Nevertheless the places that Papists cite out of Scripture to prove invocation of Saints, declare with what conscience a great number of them entreat this argument.

In like manner the facts and words of ancient Fathers are miserably abused.  When Papists read in the Epistles of Augustine,[5] that the Emperour went unto the tomb of the Apostle Peter, sometime a fisher, and laid aside his Emperial Diadem, and humbly bowed his knees, and prayed at the sepulchre of Peter, they clap their hands, and shout for joy, as if their cause were won.  But such transparent visards will blind no man’s eyes, except only the eyes of simple ignorant people, and the eyes of those who are wilfully blinded, because the praying {93} at the sepulchre of Peter, will not prove, that the Emperour prayed unto Peter, but only to GOD.  And this custom was the more tolerable, because Christians, for the space of three hundred years, were accustomed to hear GOD’s word preached, to receive the Sacraments, yea, and to pray in such places, wherein Martyrs had glorified GOD by patient suffering of death for CHRIST’s sake.  In all these actions they worshipped GOD, whose word they heard preached in that place, whose blessed Sacraments they received also in that place, and they bowed their knees, and prayed to GOD, and not to the Martyrs in that place: yea, and when the persecution ceased, and Temples were builded, there was a reverent commemoration of the names of the Martyrs, without any invocation and praying unto them, as Augustine expressly declareth.[6]

Now let this ground be deeply settled and rooted in our hearts, that GOD is the only Fountain and giver of all good gifts, who also knoweth all our miseries, and is Omnipotent, and can support them at such time as his Majesty knoweth to be expedient: For the vision of GOD (as saith the prophet, Hab. 2.3,) hath [its] own appointed time, and at the last it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait, for it shall surely come, and shall not stay.  And so much the more let us with patient expectation, await upon the support, that cometh from the throne of the Grace of GOD, because the LORD never cometh to us with an empty hand, and never visiteth us out of season, as earthly physicians do oft times: but even when he findeth us lying in our graves, and rotting in the stink of a tabernacle forsaken by the ghost [spirit], who was wont to dwell in it, then can he raise us out of graces, as he did LAZARUS. [John 11.43,44.]

This ground being deeply fixed in our hearts, I proceed to the next head, to declare, that no man can approach near to GOD without a MEDIATOR: and that CHRIST is the only MEDIATOR, both of our Redemption, and also of our Intercession, and none other, except he only.  As concerning the first assertion, that we have need of a MEDIATOR, there is no man so {94} void of understanding, who will deny it.  Like as in the fabrick of the world, fire and water are elements of so discrepant qualities, that the Lord would not set them contiguously together, lest the one should have consumed the other. Therefore the Lord in his unspeakable wisdom, hath set an element of a mid nature betwixt them, to wit, the Air: In the uppermost part of it, not abhorring from the qualities of the fire, and in the lower region of it conforming to the qualities of the water: Even so there can be no fellowship between the holy God and sinful man, without a Mediator.  And it was well said by Joshua, Ye cannot serve the Lord, for he is an holy God, he will not pardon your iniquity, nor your sins. [Josh. 24.19.]  Therefore necessity driveth us in the Treatise of Invocation to speak of the Mediator.

I will not pain myself to prove the thing that is not denied: Papists themselves grant two things: First, that Christ is the only Mediator of our redemption: Secondly, that Christ is the only Mediator of intercession betwixt God and us.  But herewithall they affirm that the Saints are mediators betwixt Christ & us.  Of that which is fully granted, that Christ is the only Mediator of our redemption, I infer according to the grounds of holy Scripture, that Christ is also the only Mediator of intercession: For these two are unseparably linked together, and he who hath the one honour hath both.  In the Epistle to the Hebrews it is said, that Christ is the only Mediator of our redemption: and hereof it is inferred, that he is the only Mediator of our intercession: the words of the Apostle are these, speaking of Christ, But this man, because he endureth for ever, hath an everlasting Priesthood. [Heb. 7.24.]  In these words Christ is set down as the only Mediator of our redemption.  Now mark that which followeth as a necessary consequence upon the fore-mentioned ground, Wherefore he is able also perfectly to save them, that come to GOD by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. [verse 25.]  Here Christ is pronounced to be the only Mediator of our intercession: and this conclusion is gathered upon this ground, because he hath saved us by his everlasting sacrifice, which is as much as to say, because he is the Mediator of our redemption.  Again holy Scripture will invert this order, and set intercession in the first place, and upon this ground, that Christ is the only Mediator {95} of our intercession, will conclude that Christ is also the only Mediator of our redemption.  Mark the words of the holy Apostle, My babes, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not: and if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, JESUS CHRIST the Just, and he is the reconciliation of our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. [1 John 2.1,2.]  In these words Christ is first called our Advocate: and hereof is inferred, that he is our propitiation, which is all one, as if he had said, CHRIST is the only Mediator of our redemption.

In the Law of Moses the high Priest was only but a type of the true Mediator of intercession, [Lev. 16.17]: yet while he was presenting the blood of the sacrifice of propitiation in the most holy place, all the people stood without, and neither Priest nor people remained within the court, where the Altar of burnt offering was, until the high Priest came forth out of the most holy place.  Now seeing our Lord Jesus hath offered a sacrifice for our sins, and hath carried the blood of the everlasting Covenant unto the most holy place, that is, unto Heaven, and is actually performing the office of our great Advocate, and making intercession for us, let no man presume to step to the Altar, and to take upon him to be a Mediator of redemption or intercession: our high Priest is doing that work in his own person, tarry until he come forth out of the most holy place, and then there shall be no more disputation anent Mediators of intercession.  Augustine utterly excludeth Peter and Paul from this honour, to be counted Mediators of our intercession, because like as they prayed for others, even so in like manner they craved that others should make supplications to God for them.[7] [Eph. 6.19.]  But he who is Mediator of intercession, he prayeth for us, and hath no need that any man should pray for him.  In like manner, Chrysostom writing upon these words of the Apostle, For there is one GOD, and one Mediator of GOD and man, the man CHRIST JESUS, [1 Tim. 2.5,] plainly affirmeth that the Mediator of our intercession must be partaker both of the divine and human nature:[8] And consequently there is no Mediator of intercession, except Christ only, who is both God and man.  In like manner, speaking of the Canaanitish woman, he saith, that she went not to Peter, nor to James, nor to John, but she went directly to Christ, bringing {96} with her repentance as an advocate: and being moved with unspeakable admiration of the goodness of Christ, he saith, O amiranda res! sursum tremor, & Deorsum fiducia, miserere mei, non opus habeo mediatore: that is, O admirable thing! there is trembling above, and confidence below, have mercy upon me, I have no need of a mediator, to wit, betwixt Christ and me.[9]  Thus we see, that when ancient Fathers spake of a mediator of intercession, they spake of a mediator betwixt God and us, and not betwixt Christ and us.

But now let us take up out of grounds of holy Scripture a true description of the mediator of intercession: Out of two principal places of Scripture the description shall be grounded.  In the Gospel of Matthew [3.17] it is said, This is my well-beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  And in the Epistle of Peter we are warned, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God, through Jesus Christ. [1 Pet. 2.5.]  Of these two places of Scripture I gather a description of a mediator of intercession, in this manner: He for whose sake only our persons are in favour with God, and for whose merits only our prayers are acceptable to God, he is the only mediator of our intercession: But so it is, that in Christ only God is pleased with our persons, and for his sake only God accepteth our prayers, ergo, Christ is the only mediator of our intercession.

The similitude that is used by Papists instead of an argument, is to be discussed.  Like as subjects should not step rudely to the King, but by mediate persons, who are in favour and credit, present their suits unto his Highness: Even so (say they) we should not be so bold as to present our prayers to Christ at the first instant, without the intercession of Saints.  To this similitude Origen himself[10] (albeit the first inventor of the seminary of this error) he answereth by another similitude: That like as the shadow doth follow the body in most absolute manner, so that if the body be moved, the shadow also moveth; and if the body rest, the shadow also resteth: Even so, if a man can be in favour with the eternal God, then shall he also be in friendship with all the creatures of God.  And this agreeth well with the words of holy Scripture, That the stones in the field shall be in league with us, and the beasts of the field shall be at peace {97} with us, [Job 5.23,] to wit, when we are reconciled to our GOD.  To this same similitude both used of old by some, and rejected by the learned, S. Ambrose giveth this answer, writing upon the words of Paul, They served the creature, forsaking the Creator, who is blessed for ever. [Rom. 1.25.]  Upon these words he writeth,[11] that men who have neglected praying to GOD, they defend themselves with a miserable excuse, saying, that by Saints they may have access to GOD, like as by noble Courtiers access unto the King is purchased: but go to (saith he) is any man so foolish or so unmindful of his own safety, that he dare give unto the foresaid noble Courtier that honour, which is due to the King: for if any man be found trafficking about such business, he will be justly condemned of treason.  Yet these men count them not guilty, who give the honour due to GOD, unto a creature, and forsaking GOD, they worship their own fellow-servants, as if there were any greater service that could be exhibited to GOD (to wit, than Invocation of his blessed NAME) For this cause, saith he, men procure access to the King by Nobles and Tribunes, because the King is but a man, and knoweth not to whom he should concredit the affairs of the kingdom; but to purchase the favour of GOD, to whom nothing is unknown (because he knoweth the deservings of all men) there is no need of suffragants, but of a devout mind.  And in his book written of Isaac and the soul, he writeth of CHRIST very holily, and according to Scripture.[12] CHRIST is our mouth, by whom we talk with the Father, he is our eye, by whom we see the Father, he is our right hand, by whom we offer ourselves unto the Father, who if he intercede not for us, neither we nor the Saints have any thing to do with GOD.  Albeit it may be sufficiently proved, that even Ambrose himself was somewhat entangled with the errour universally overspread amongst the common people: for they were so fond upon Invocation of Saints, that learned Preachers yielded somewhat to the madness of an evil disposed people, as Aaron did to the carnal Jews, when they worshipped the golden Calf. [Exod. 32.]  Nevertheless, any man who readeth the fore-mentioned places of Ambrose, may perceive, that in heart and mind he disliked the Invocation of Saints. {98}

The more particularly that we descend into this argument, the truth shall be the more clearly manifested: Let us therefore search out whether or no it was counted lawful of old to pray to the Angels, to worship the Virgin Mary, and to invocate the Saints.  In holy Scripture we find, that under colour of humility, some did worship the Angels, and pray unto them.  But the holy Apostle Paul, who was taught immediately by CHRIST, calleth this form of devotion rashness, and the conceit of an heart puffed up with a fleshly mind. [Col. 2.18.]  There is no pride comparable to the pride of a fool, he will speak of things he never saw nor heard, and of things whereof he can render no reason.  The Angel who revealed great mysteries to the Apostle John, would not be content to be worshipped by him, but rebuked him at two divers times, for presuming to worship him & said at both times he should worship GOD. [Rev. 19.10; 22.8,9.]  And the Council of Laodicea damned the worshipping of Angels, as Idolatry, and a forsaking of CHRIST.[13]  The Angel who blessed Jacob [Gen. 32.31,] was not one of the ministering Spirits, but the great Angel of the Covenant of GOD, even CHRIST JESUS, to whom all knees should be bowed. [Phil. 2.10.]

Concerning the adoration of the blessed Virgin the mother of our LORD, it is grounded upon the fabulous narration of her assumption written by Nicephorus,[14] whereunto the less credit is to be given, because in it the glory only due to CHRIST is given to the Virgin Mary: namely, that her body saw no corruption. [Psalm 16.10.]  Always she died, and was buried in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and she did not bear the chastisement of our transgressions, as her Son CHRIST JESUS did.  [Acts 2.29-31.]  How then could she die, if she had been free both of original & actual sin, as Papists affirm?  Juvenalis Bishop of Jerusalem, is said to have made narration of the assumption of the blessed Virgin to Pulcheria Empress and wife of the Emperour Martianus at that time when the General Council of Chalcedon was assembled.  But there are so many circumstances, derogating credit to that alleged history of the assumption of the Virgin Mary, that it is hard for a Christian to lean upon such uncertain and doubtsome grounds.  First, the writer of it is Nicephorus, the father of many fables.  Secondly, the reporter of it was Juvenalis, {99} Patriarch of Jerusalem, an Eutychian Heretick, until the fear of the authority of the General Council compelled him to revoke his errour.  Thirdly, in what place and to whom made Juvenalis this narration: namely, in the chamber secretly to Pulcheria: not in the General Council openly, where many learned Fathers, well acquainted with holy Scriptures, were present, who could have controlled him, & declared, that amongst those who died, one only, to wit, the holy One of GOD, hath that privilege not to see corruption.  Epiphanius, for causes known to himself (for he had heard this narration long before the days of Juvenalis) standeth not upon the refutation of the assumption of the blessed Virgin: but he utterly damneth the Collyridians as Hereticks, who worshipped the Virgin Mary.[15]  And in the matter of worshipping he compareth her to the fruit of the forbidden tree: It was a fair fruit, but herewith a fruit forbidden to be eaten: So was the mother of our LORD, a blessed woman above all women, yet was she not GOD, and consequently not to be worshipped.  So that Epiphanius passeth by the ground of the argument: giving, and not granting that the tradition of her assumption were true, yet this consequence can not follow, that she should be adored and worshipped.  In like manner Ambrose saith, that the Virgin Mary was the Temple of GOD, but not the GOD of the Temple.[16]  In which words, like as he alloweth the worshipping of the Holy Ghost, so in like manner he disalloweth the worshipping of the Virgin Mary.  The Book of Augustine, De assumptione beatæ Mariæ Virginis, together with a Sermon of his In festo assumptionis beatæ Mariæ, are known to be supposititious: and Censura Lovaniensis in the frontispiece of that book, prefixeth this superscription, NON EST AUGUSTINI.

The honourable titles and styles given unto the Virgin Mary by Ecclesiastical Writers, is another ground whereupon they do lean, who worshippeth the mother of our LORD: she is called Θεοτοκος, δεσποινα, αμιαντος, παναγια, αειπαρθενος, αχραντοσ, παραδεισος, εμψυχον θυσιαστηριον, του πιευματος αγιου κατασκιον ορος: that is to say, The mother of GOD, our Lady, undefiled, complete holy, a perpetual Virgin, unspotted, Paradise, a living Altar, the mountain over-shadowed by the holy {100} Spirit.  All these honourable styles (I say) were given unto her in the writings of ancient Fathers, not of purpose to Deify the blessed Virgin, nor to bring in plurality of Gods, but to magnify the work of the LORD’s Incarnation.  Methodius is so prodigal in his styles, that he calleth her αρτος ξωης, that is, the bread of life, attributing to her the honour due to CHRIST only. [John 6.35.]  It were better done to abstain from words of superlative honours, belonging only to CHRIST, than after they are uttered, to be compelled by tolerable interpretations to lenify the absurdity of uncompetent speeches.  The blessed Virgin while she was conversant with mortal men directed such as came to herself, to go to her Son, and to depend upon his blessed will and pleasure, saying unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it, [John 2.5]: much more now when she dwelleth in celestial mansions, it is her will that we should depend upon JESUS CHRIST her son, & her Saviour, her son & her GOD, her son & the creator of her body, whereinto he was content to be conceived by the Holy Ghost.

As concerning the Invocation of other Saints, Papists rejoice in the multitude of Fathers, who invocate Saints, not only Orators, such as Basilius and Nazianzenus: and Poets, such as Prudentius, who prayed unto S. Laurence, Vincentius, the Virgin Agnes, the Martyr Cassianus, S. Cyprian, S. Fœlix, and the Martyrs called Calaguritani, Spanish Martyrs, and Vaſcones, as appeareth, but also many others were entangled with this error: of whom I may justly say that thing which our master CHRIST spake of the Samaritans, who worshipped GOD upon mount Garizim, Ye worship that which ye know not, [John 4.22]: in which words CHRIST declareth, that whatsoever worship is exhibited unto GOD, without the warrant of his own commandment, it is naught: And in that point, the Fathers who prayed unto Saints, they also worshipped that which they knew not: For like as the Sun when he riseth, and spreadeth his beams throughout the world, then the light of the Stars gives place to the glorious light of the Sun: even so, all the writings of the Fathers must needs give place unto the written word of GOD, wherein we are commanded to call only upon GOD in the day of our trouble, [Psalm 50.15]: and there is neither {101} commandment, promise, nor example in Scripture, to warrant the doctrine of Invocation of Saints, as hath been already declared.

Now the authors of the doctrine of Invocation of Saints, if they would search out the first original of it, they have cause to be ashamed: for it came not from the Apostles, but from the Gentiles.  No man, who hath read the Dialogues of Plato,[17] can be ignorant, that upon consideration of the dissimilitude that is betwixt mortal men, and the immortal GOD, he imagined some mid-creatures, whose endeavour was this, to carry the prayers and sacrifices of men to GOD: and again, to carry the commandments and oracles of GOD to men: these mediate persons he called them δαιμοες and ηρωες, of whom he saith, that they are μεταξυ Θεου, και Θνητου, that is, betwixt GOD and mortal man (to wit, mediators). No such doctrine is contained in holy Scripture: Yea, the ancient Fathers, who attribute too much unto Martyrs, in calling them αλεξικακους, ιατρους, Θεου Φιλου, και ευνους ϑεραποντας, that is, helpers, physicians, GOD’s friends and beloved servants, yet they abhorred from the words of Plato to call them δαιμονες, and μεταξυ θεου, και ϑνητου [between God and mortal]: for Theodoretus saith, μη ουτω λυττησαιμεν, that is, Let us not be so mad.[18]  Yet Papists rush forward to this excess of madness, not only to call the Saints departed Intercessors, but also mediators of intercession, which is Plato his errour, vively [vividly] expressed in the words above mentioned, μεταξε θεου, και ϑνητου.

To conclude the question of Invocation of Saints, it is not unlike to the controversy that was betwixt Jephthah and the king of Ammon, [Judges 11,] for the lands lying betwixt the Rivers Arnon, Jordan, and Jabbok: by one apparent right the king of Ammon claimed that these lands should be restored unto the Ammonites, to whom of old they did belong: but Jephthah refused to give over the possession of these lands, wherein the Reubenites and Gadites dwelt, and that for three great reasons: First, they received these lands out of the hands of their GOD, by whose express commandment and warrant MOSES fought against Sihon king of Heshbon, [Numb. 21]: Secondly, since the days of MOSES until the days of the government of JEPHTHAH, that is, {102} the space of three hundred years, the people of Israel peaceably possessed those lands.  And thirdly, even in the days of Moses these lands were taken out of the hands of the Ammorites, who were possessors of them at that time, and not from the Ammonites.  For the like reasons (I say) we cannot agree to the doctrine of Invocation of Saints.  First, because we have received a perfect form of prayer out of our LORD’s hands, wherein we are taught to pray only to our Heavenly Father, and not to Saints. [Matth. 6.]  Secondly, because the Church for the space of three hundred years after the LORD’s ascension, used no other form of prayer than this, to pray to GOD alone through JESUS CHRIST.  Thirdly, if Papists will needs make any controversy in this matter, let them controvert with CHRIST’s Apostles, who have left unto their true successors this form of prayer, which we now use: and such new & young school-masters as Papists are, we cannot admit.  Against the second of the three preceding reasons, if they object, that in the days of Cyprian the Christian Virgin, whom Cyprian before his conversion pursued, with Magical arts labouring to circumvene her,[19] she prayed for help to the Virgin Mary, as Nazianzenus writeth;  To this I answer, that this narration which Nazianzenus hath found in some Apocryphal book, is rejected by the learned as an uncertain thing: whereof Jerome, writing of the conversion of Cyprian, maketh no mention.[20]  Secondly, this form of prayer that a weak and timorous Virgin used, was no liturgy nor form of prayer used amongst Christian people in their holy assemblies: and that thing which any one person doth of infirmity and weakness, is not to be counted an ancient doctrine in the Church.

Seeing the Apostle warneth us to abstain from all appearance of evil, [1 Thess. 5.22,] at least Papists in their Invocation of Saints should have abstained from forms of speaking used in prayers made unto the eternal GOD, lest they should seem to give the glory only due to the Creator, to the creatures.  But in the matter of Invocation of Saints, they have set themselves forward with such impetuous speat [outburst], that they cannot abstain from the honourable styles given to GOD, but these also must be given to the Saints.  The Prophet David calleth the LORD {103} his Rock, his Fortress, his Strength, his Shield, the Horn of his Salvation, and his Refuge. [Psalm 18.2.]  And in another Psalm, GOD is our hope and help, & strength, in troubles ready to be found. [Psalm 46.1.]  Are not all these honourable styles, and many more, attributed to the Saints in the ordinary prayers of the Roman Church?  Is not the Virgin Mary called the Queen of Heaven? the provident governor of Heavenly and Earthly powers? the mother of mercy? obtainer of pardon? mediatrix to GOD-ward? restorer of the grace to be hoped for? the mother of the militant Church? the advocate of the world?[21]  Such precious ointment as this, is more meet to be poured out upon the feet of CHRIST, than upon the head of the Virgin Mary: but a prodigal waster neither regardeth what he giveth, nor to whom: they are but one step from calling the Virgin Mary directly eternal GOD, for they put the government of Heavenly and Earthly things upon her shoulder, [Isa. 9.6]: they call her Queen of Heaven, and the prince of peace.  What remaineth to be said, but one word, that she is almighty GOD, and this style also will be necessarily inferred upon the preceding honourable titles attributed to her.

The honourable style of an Advocate, Bellarmine is the bolder to attribute unto the Virgin Mary, because that Ireneus writeth, Et sicut illa seducta est ut effugeret DEUM, sic hæc suasa est obedire Deo, uti Virginis Euæ Virgo Maria fieret advocata:[22] that is, “And like as she (to wit, Eve) was seduced to depart from GOD, even so this woman (to wit, the Virgin Mary) was persuaded to obey GOD, to the end, that the Virgin Mary might be an advocate for the Virgin Eve.”  I am certain that Bellarmine understood not the meaning of Irenæus better than he understood the sense and meaning of his own words.  In the words immediately preceding[23] Irenæus, declares, that like as sin came in by disobedience, in eating of the fruit of the forbidden tree, even so righteousness came in by him who manifested his obedience in another tree, that is, in suffering death upon the Cross.  What need had Bellarmine to wrest the words of Irenæus, after he had set down so clear a commentary of his own words?  for he calleth the Virgin Mary an advocate, in respect of her blessed birth, who by his obedience [Rom. 5.18,19,] satisfied for the sin that {104} Adam brought in by his disobedience.  Now it is true, that superstition is like unto the Fever called Hectica, in the beginning hardly discerned, but easy to be cured: and in end easily discerned, but not easily cured.  Even so it was hard to know what would be the issue of the disputation of Origen, when he disputed concerning the affection that Saints departed carried toward the members of the Militant CHURCH of GOD: but it was easy to stay the course of this errour, when he who was the first author of it durst not avow it, but in secret disputations said that possibly such a thing might be.  But in our days the Fever is grown to such an height, that it is easier to discern the errour, than to find out a way to correct it.

What is then to be done at this time, wherein errour hath prevailed so far, and of so long time, that it is like unto a Gangrene, daily becoming worse and worse, so that it is apparently a remediless evil? shall we cease from damning superstition, and let the people pray as they list?  It is better to follow the example of the holy Prophet Elias, [1 Kings 18,] albeit Idolatry was universally overspread in the kingdom of Israel, yet he reproved the people for halting between two opinions: and he bowed his knees to GOD, and prayed, that the LORD would send fire from Heaven to burn the sacrifice, and to seal up in the hearts of the people, that the GOD who made the Heaven and the Earth, was the only true GOD, and only to be worshipped.  Even so, beside reproving of superstitious Invocation of Saints, which also I have done, according to the measure of my knowledge, in this Treatise, I pray to the eternal GOD, that he would send from Heaven, the divine flame of his celestial love, to the end that the fleshly conceits of men’s hearts may be burnt up, and that they may be fully persuaded, that the LORD, who made the Heaven and the Earth, is he alone, to whom spiritual sacrifices are to be offered, and that through JESUS CHRIST, to whom with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be praise and glory, now and ever, AMEN.


1. Origen, homily 3 in Cant.

2. Basil, in 40 Martyrs. [See a related article from an Encyclopaedia of the Roman church.]

3. In the case of Basil, the reader may consult pages lxx-lxxi, including the lengthy footnote, in the Second Series of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, volume 8.  James Ussher has similarly traced the invocation of saints to Basil’s Panegyric homilies as the “breedings of this disease, and as it were the grudgings of that ague that afterwards brake out into a pestilential feaver.” But it should be noted he further acknowledges that by Basil the “Martyr is here vocatus only, not invocatus yet, not called upon by being prayed unto, but called to join with others in putting up the same petition unto his and their God, &c.” (Ussher, Works, Edition London, 1631. p. 444.)  Of Basil, likewise, it may be observed that he was very much a student of Scripture, and a teacher thereof.  How much soever he may have failed to see that some of his doctrines and practices were at odds with a doctrine of Sola Scriptura, yet his writings demonstrate that this is the principle he desired to go by: “I learned from a babe the Holy Scriptures, which led me to a knowledge of the truth.... I saw a great and exceeding discord on the part of many men both in their relations with one another and their views about the divine Scripture.” (De Iudicio). And quite plainly, “But if ‘the Lord is faithful in all his words’ and ‘all his commandments are faithful, stablished for ever and ever, done in truth and uprightness,’ it is a manifest lapse from faith and incurs the charge of arrogance, if one disregards anything of what is written or introduces anything not written; for our Lord Jesus Christ said: ‘My sheep hear my voice,’ and before that He had said: ‘And a stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers.’ And the apostle, taking an example from human life, sternly forbids adding or subtracting anything in the inspired Scriptures, when he says: ‘Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed, no one maketh it void, or addeth thereto.’  So we have decided to avoid always and especially now every word and thought foreign to the teaching of the Lord.” (De Fide).  And again, “Every word or thing should be confirmed by the testimony of inspired Scripture, for the assuring of the good and the rebuking of the bad.” (The Morals or Ethics 26.1).—JTKer.

4. Chrysostom in epist. Pauli, ad Titus cap. 3. homily 5.

5. Augustine epist. 42.

6. Augustine de civitate Dei, lib. 22. cap. 10.

7. Augustine contra Parmenianum, lib. 2.

8. Chrysostom in 1 Tim. cap. 2. homily 7.

9. Chrysostom ex variis in Matthæum locis, homily 16. [17.]

10. Origen contr. Celsum [book 8, chapter 64.]

11. [Pseudo]-Ambrose in epist. ad Romans cap. [1].

12. Ambrose de Isaack & anima.

13. Council. Laodic. [Canon 35.]

14. Nicop. lib. 15 cap. 14.

15. Epiphan. contra hereses.  [ Epiphanius. Panarion. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV. 2013. Translated by Frank Williams. Section 79, Against the Collyridians, who make offerings to Mary. This section is much to our author’s purpose, although it may be admitted that the Collyridians went further than most Papists would.  But take for example: “Even though Mary is all fair, and is holy and held in honor, she is not to be worshipped.”  And again, “Yes, of course Mary’s body was holy, but she was not God.  Yes, the Virgin was indeed a virgin and honored as such, but she was not given us to worship; she worships Him who, though born of her flesh, has come from heaven, from the bosom of his Father.” ]

16. Ambrose de spirit. lib. 3 cap. 12. [ Or chapter 11, paragraph 80.]

17. Plato dialog. SymposionIdem de legib. [On the Laws.] lib. 4.

18. Theodoret ad Græcos infideles serm. 8.

19. Nazian. in laudem Cypr.

20. Jerome catal. script. Eccles.

21. Die 7. de est. visitationis lect. 3.

22. Ireneus lib. 5. adversus valent. [chapter 19.]

23. Ireneus ibid.