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4. Of the worship of Martyrs, Saints and Angels

Antiquities of the Christian Church
CHAPTER X. Of the Prayers and Psalmody of the Church

4. Of the worship of Martyrs, Saints and Angels. 

The worship of these came into use in the fourth and fifth centuries. Some few traces of such worship at earlier periods may be found, and innumerable instances of a later date. It has been a great question whether such were invoked as direct mediators with God, or not; and again, whether these invocations imply the offering of such divine honors as are paid to Christ or to God. This the Catholic writers generally deny. Their assertion is, that these invocations are not acts of adoration, but only a means of grace to awaken pious feeling and to aid us in rendering due worship to God. Non sancti Dei appetunt indebitas laudes sed ut rationabile fiat obsequium nostrum. "The saints are not our immediate intercessors with God; but whatever they obtain for us from God, they obtain through Christ. We therefore invoke the saints to the end that they may do that which we also do, and which they are better able to do than we are; and the united prayer of both must be more influential than that of us alone. We only implore the saints to intercede with God for us, that the merits of Christ may be applied to us; and that through him we may obtain grace and glory." 

The evangelical church, on the other hand, contend that all worship of saints and images is idolatry. The primitive church, while they scrupulously worshipped Christ as God, rejected with abhorrence the worship of saints and of images. 

The history of the delusion above mentioned, is sketched by Gieseler in the following terms:

"The notion that the prayers of the dead availed for -the living was prevalent in the school of Origen even in the third century, but had not yet sufficient authority to influence directly the mode of honoring the martyrs.

"The more remote the times of the martyrs, the greater the adoration paid to them. The heathen converts, naturally enough, transferred to them the honors they had been used to pay their demigods, while the horror of creature-worship, which had hitherto operated as a check on the growing superstition, had been gradually dying away since the extinction of paganism. As men had long been accustomed to assemble for public worship at the graves of the martyrs, the idea of erecting churches (memoria*) over them would readily occur. In Egypt the Christians began to embalm the bodies of reputed saints, and keep them in their houses. The communion with the martyrs being thus associated with the presence of their material remains, these were dug up from the graves and placed in the churches, especially under the altars; and the popular feeling having now a visible object to excite it, became more extravagant and superstitious than ever. The old opinion of the efficacy of their intercession, who had died a martyr's death, was now united with the belief that it was possible to communicate with them directly; a belief founded partly on the popular notion that departed souls always lingered around the bodies they had once inhabited, and partly on the views entertained of the glorified state of the martyrs, a sort of omnipresence being ascribed to them. These notions may be traced to Origin, and his followers were the first who apostrophized the martyrs in their sermons, and besought their intercession. But though the orators were somewhat extravagant in this respect, they were far outdone by the poets, who soon took up this theme, and could find no expressions strong enough tt) describe the power and the glory of the martyrs. Their relics soon began to work miracles, and to be valuable articles of trade. In proportion as men felt the need of such intercession they sought to increase the number of the intercessors. Not only those, who, on account of services rendered the church, were inscribed in the Diptycha, but the pious characters from the Old Testament, and the most distinguished of the monks, were ranked among the saints. Martyrs before unknown announced themselves in visions, others revealed the place of their burial. From the beginning of the fifth century the prayers for the saints were discontinued as unbefitting their glorified state. Christians were now but seldom called upon to address their prayers to God; the usual mode being to pray only to sonne saint for his intercession. With this worship of the saints were joined many of the custonns of the heathen. Men chose their patron saints, and dedicated churches to their worship. The heathen, whom the Christians used to reproach with worshipping dead men, found now ample opportunity of retort.

"Throughout the fourth century there was no peculiar preference of the Virgin Mary above other saints. The church went as yet no further than to maintain the doctrine of her perpetual virginity, to which the monastic notions of the time naturally led. The opinion that she had ever borne other children than Jesus was declared to be heresy; as for instance by Epiphanius, in the case of the * in Arabia, A. D. 367, by Jerome in the case of Helvidius at Rome, A. D. 383, and by the Macedonian bishops in the case of Bonosus, bishop of Sardica, A. D. 391, while it was shown in what way she gave birth to our Saviour without ceasing to be a virgin. Neither did the teachers of the church in the fourth century scruple to attribute to her faults; and Epiphanius includes certain women in his catalogue of heretics, for their extravagant adoration of the Virgin. The Nestorian controversy first led men to set her above all other saints as the mother of God,*.

Though it was the general belief that the angels watched over men and brought their prayers to God, it was thought unallowable to worship them because of the passages Col. 2:18, Rev. 19:10, 22:8, 9. Ambrose is the first who seems to recommend such a worship; and after his time we find many marks of adoration paid them; though much fewer than to the saints." – Cunningham's Trans. Vol. I. pp. 173–4, 282–7.

Siegel, vol. ii. p. 261.

Radulphus Tungrensis. De canon, observat. propos. 17. p. 559,

Bellarmin. De Sanctorum beaiitudine, lib. ii. c 17: Compare c. 3. 12 hb. i. 11–20: Eman. a Schelstraii. De Disciplina Arcani.

Bingham, bk. xiii. c. 3: Concil. Trident. Sess. 25 p. 231. P. 3. 221–302: Augsburg. Confess. Art. 9. p. 425: Art. 21: Apolog. Art. 9: Schmalkald. Art. 1.2: Jo. Dallaei, De cuitu relig. lib. iii. c. 25: Stillingfleet's Defence of tiie discourse of idol. P. 1. c. 1: Lib. Caroliu. Caroli M. De impio imaginum outre, lib. iv.

Origines in Cant. Cant. lib. III. ed. de la Rue, T. III. p. 75: Sed et omnes sancti, qui de hac vita decesserunt, habenles adhuc cbaritatem erga eos qui in hoc mundo sunt, si dicantur curam gcrere salutiseorum,et juvare eos precibus suis atque; 5 (T. II. p. 437): Ego sic arbitror, quod omnes illi, qui dormierunt ante nos, patres pugnent nobiscum et adjuvent nos orationibus suis. Ita namque etiam quemdam de senioribus magistris audivi dicentem in eo loco, in quo scriptuoi est in J umeris (xxii.4), quia ahlinget synagoga ilia hanc synagogam, sicvt ablingit vitulus herbam viridem in campo. Dicebat ergo: Quare hujusmodi similitudo assurata est, nisi quia hoc est, quod inteliigendurn est in hoc loco, quod synagoga Domini, quae nos praecessit in Sanctis, ore et lingua conscimit adversariam synagogam, i.e. orationibus et precibus adversaries nostros absumit? – Idem, in Epist. ad Rom. Lib. II. J). 479: Jam vera si etiam extra corpus positi vel sancti, qui cum Christo sunt, agunt aliquid, et laborant pro nobis ad similitudinera Angelorum, qui salutis nostrae rainisteria proc rant: vel rursum peccatores etiam ipsi extra corpus positi agunt aliquid secundum propositum mentis suae, ad Angelorum nihilominus similitudinem sinistrorum, cum quibus et in aeternum ighem mittendi dicuntur a Christo: habeatur et hoc quoque inter occulta Dei, nee chartulae committenda mystcria. Origen's follower, Eusebius praep. Evang. XII c. 3, begins with referring to Plato de Legg. lib. XI. and then proceeds:*. Hence the custom, very early, of asking the living martyrs for their intercession after death. Thus Etiseb. de Martyr. Palaest. cap. 7, relates that a certain Theodocia in Caesarea approached the martyrs who were awaiting death, *. On the other hand, there is as yet no trace of prayers to the dead.

(* denotes Greek text in Rev. Lyman Coleman's translation.)


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