THE THIRD COMMANDMENT.
THIRTY-SIXTH LORD’S DAY.
Question 100. Is then the profaning of God s name by swearing and cursing, so heinous a sin, that his wrath is kindled against those who do not endeavour, as much as in them lies, to prevent and forbid such cursing and swearing?
Answer. It undoubtedly is; for there is no sin greater, or more provoking to God, than the profaning his name, and therefore he has commanded this sin to be punished with death.
God, in the first and second commandments, framed the mind and heart for his worship; in the third and fourth the external members and actions.
The third commandment consists of two parts: a prohibition and threatening. It first prohibits a rash and inconsiderate use of the name of God; yea, every abuse of the name of God, in whatever false, vain or trifling thing, which tends to cast a reproach upon God, or which does not at least have respect to his glory. The name of God signifies in the Scriptures, 1. The attributes of God. “Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my Name.” "Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob hath sent me unto you; this is my Name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” “The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his Name.” (Gen. 32:29. Ex. 3:15; 15:3.) 2. It signifies God himself. “Let them that love thy Name be joyful in thee.” “I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord.” “I will sing praise to the Name of the Lord most high.” “Thou shalt sacrifice the passover unto the Lord thy God, of the flock and the herd in the place which the Lord shall choose to place his Name there.” “I purpose to build an house unto the Name of the Lord my God.” (Ps. 5:11; 116:13; 7:17. Deut. 16:2. 1 Kings 5:5.) 3. It signifies the will or commandment of God, and that either revealed and true, or feigned by men. “And i t shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words, which he shall speak in my Name, I will require it of him.” “I come to thee in the Name of the Lord of hosts.” (Deut. 18:19. 1 Sam. 17:45.) 4. It signifies the worship of God, confidence, prayer, praising and professing God. “All the people will walk every one in the Name of his God; and we will walk in the Name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.” “Baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.” “I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the Name of the Lord Jesus.” (Micah 4:5 Acts 21:13.)
Take the name of the Lord. God does not forbid us to take or to use his name; but he forbids us to do it rashly, which is to use it lightly, falsely, and reproachfully. To use the name of the Lord lightly, is to make use of it as in ordinary talk and conversation, contrary to what Christ says, “Let your communication be yea, yea; nay, nay.” (Matt. 5:37.) Falsely, as in unlawful oaths and perjury; reproachfully, as in cursing, blasphemy and sorcery, in which the works of the devil are cloaked under the name of God. The sense then, is, Thou shalt not use the name of the Lord thy God rashly; that is, thou shalt not only not forswear, but thou shalt not make any mention of the name of God that would not be honor able to him.
This negative precept has an affirmative included in it; for in prohibiting the wrong use of the name of God, it at the same time enjoins upon us that use which is lawful and honorable, which consists in using the name of God reverently, solemnly, religiously and honorably, and in making no mention of God or of his works and revelations in our conversation, but such as comports with his divine majesty. Hence, the end of this third commandment is, that we all render unto God, both publicly and privately, that immediate external worship which consists in confessing and praising his name.
God adds a threatening to this commandment, to declare thereby, that this part of obedience is also one of those things, the violation of which is peculiarly displeasing to him, and which he will severely punish. For since praising and glorifying God is the chief and ultimate end for which man was created, God justly demands in the most rigid manner from us that, on account of which he commands all other things; and since man s chief good and enjoyment consists in glorifying God, it follows that the greatest evil consists in reproaching God and taking his name in vain, and so merits the heaviest punishment, according as it is said, “Because, that when they knew not God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened,” &c. “Whosoever curseth his God, shall bear his sin; and he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death.” (Rom. 1:21. Lev. 24:15, 16.)
The virtues of this commandment consists in the lawful and honorable use of the name of God; of which these are parts:
I. THE PROPAGATION OF THE TRUE DOCTRINE
respecting the essence, will and works of God, not, indeed, that which belongs to the office of teaching publicly in the church, of which mention is made in the fourth commandment; but that by which every one in his own peculiar sphere i& bound to instruct others privately, and which contributes to the true knowledge- and worship of God, as it is said: “Teach them thy sons, and thy son s sons.” “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another. ^ “And when thou art converted strengthen thy brethren.” “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another, in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs.” (Deut. 4:9; 11:19. 1 Thes. 5:11. Luke 22:32. Col. 3:16.)
That which is opposed to the propagation of the doctrine concerning the true God includes, 1. An omission or a neglect to instruct others, especially our children, and to spread a knowledge of the true doctrine according to our ability, and as opportunity presents itself. “I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth,” &c. (Matt. 25:25.)
2. Abstaining or refraining from conversation respecting God and divine things. u Salvation is far from the wicked, for they seek not thy statutes.” (Ps. 119:155.)
3. Corrupting religion and the doctrine revealed from heaven, which consists in asserting and propagating what is false concerning God, his will and works. “The prophets prophesy lies in my name.” (Jer. 14:14.)
II. PRAISING AND GLORIFYING GOD,
which consists in an acknowledgement of the divine attributes and works, joined with approbation and admiration thereof in the presence of God and creatures, with the design that we may declare our love and reverence to God, in order that he may be exalted above all things, and that our subjection to him may be made manifest. “I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.” “Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth.” “Let the heavens and the earth praise him,” &c. (Ps. 22:22; 8:1; 69:34.)
Those things which are opposed to this virtue are, 1. Contempt of God r a neglect of his praise, worship and divine works. “They glorified him not as God.” (Rom. 1:21.) 2. Blasphemy, which is to speak such things of God as are opposed to his nature and will, either through ignorance, or through hatred to the truth and to God himself. “Whosoever shall curseth his God shall bear his sin.” (Lev. 24:15.)
3. All cursing, by which men speak and ask wicked things of God, against their neighbor, as if God were their executioner to carry into effect their desire of vengeance upon those with whom they are at variance. To curse is to ask and desire evil to any one from God. All cursing, now, which proceeds from hatred, and from a desire of private revenge leading to the destruction of our neighbor, is unbecoming and wicked; because it desires that God should be made the executioner of our corrupt wishes and
passions. Certain imprecations of the saints against their enemies are, indeed, found in the Psalms and elsewhere; but these are not to be positively condemned, because they are in a great measure prophetical denunciations of punishment against the enemies of God. From these examples we may infer that execrations are at particular times lawful, but with these conditions, 1. If we desire evil things to come upon those upon whom God denounces them, viz., his enemies. 2. If it is done on account of God,
without any private hatred, or desire of revenge. 3. If we ask it upon the condition that these things come upon them only in case they remain incorrigible. 4. If we so desire these things, as not to rejoice in their destruction, but merely to desire that the divine glory be vindicated, and the church delivered.
III. THE CONFESSION OF THE TRUTH KNOWN CONCERNING GOD,
which consists in declaring what we know with certainty from the holy Scriptures of God and his will, because we declare and make known from a consideration of duty, our knowledge of God, that so we may glorify him and advance the salvation of our fellow men. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (Rom. 10:10, 11. 1 Pet. 3:15.
To this confession of the truth there is opposed, 1. A denial of the truth, or an unwillingness on the part of any one to declare what he knows concerning religion for fear of hatred, or the cross, or reproach. This denial is of two kinds. The first is an entire apostacy from true religion, which is to cast away the profession of the truth to whatever extent it may have been known and received, which is done with the determined counsel and desire of the heart to oppose God, and which is also accompanied with no grief or sorrow for having rejected the truth, and without any purpose to obey God by individually applying the promise of grace or shewing signs of repentance. Such a denial of the truth is that of which hypocrites and the reprobate are guilty, concerning which it is said, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.” “Which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” (1 John 2:19. Luke 8:13.) If this denial be made after the truth has once been certainly known, it becomes the sin against the Holy Ghost, of which none repent, so that no forgiveness is obtained neither in this, nor in the life to come. The other denial of the truth is particular. It is that which is committed by those who are of weak faith, and results either from error, without being willful and intentional, or from fear of the cross, whilst there is still remaining in the heart an inclination to cleave to God, and a sorrow on account of this wickedness and denial, with a certain purpose to struggle out of it, and to assent to and obey God by applying individually the promise of grace, and shewing signs of true penitence. The regenerate and elect may be guilty of this denial of the truth; but they struggle out of it, and return again to the confession of the truth in this life. So Peter denied Christ through weak ness; but repented of his sin before God.
2. Dissembling or keeping back the truth, where the glory of God and the salvation of our neighbor require a confession of it, which is necessary when false views of God, of his word and of the church seem to be con firmed in the minds of men by our silence; or when those things remain unknown, which God will have known for the purpose of vindicating his glory against the calumnies of the wicked, for convincing the obstinate and instructing those who are disposed to learn; or when our silence lays us open to the suspicion of approving what is said and done by the wicked. It was in this way, that the parents of the man born blind, of whom we have an account in the ninth chapter of the gospel of John, dissembled, and also those chief rulers who would not confess Christ for fear of the Jews, lest they should be put out of the synagogue. (John 12:42.)
3. An abase of Christian liberty , or giving offence in things which are indifferent, which is done when by the use of such things we confirm the adversaries of God in error, or alienate them from true religion, or by our example provoke them to an imitation accompanied with an evil conscience, of which Paul treats largely in the fourteenth chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, and also in the eighth and tenth chapters of his first Epistle to the Corinthians.
4. All scandals and offences in morals, as, for instance, when those who profess the true religion, lead shameful and offensive lives, denying in works what they profess in words, and so laying the church open to reproach, and the name of God to the foul blasphemies of unbelievers. “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him,” as if he would say, they pretend a knowledge of God without faith. “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.” (Tit. 1:16. Rom. 2:24. See also Ps. 50:16. Is. 52:5. 2 Tim. 3:5.)
5. An untimely or unseasonable confession of the truth, by which men stir up and excite the enemies of religion either to contemn or revile the truth, or to bitterness and cruelty against the godly, without advancing the glory of God and the salvation of any one. and without any necessity demanding a confession of the truth at the time and under the circumstances under which it was made. Such an untimely confession Christ prohibits when he says, u Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine.” (Matt. 7:6.) Paul also says: “A man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” (Tit. 3:10, 11.) Nor is the declaration of the apostle Peter chap. 3, v. 15, in which he commands us “to be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh a reason of the hope that is in us, with meekness and fear,” at variance with what we have just said, as though no confession were untimely; for the Apostle commands us always to be ready and well prepared to give an answer concerning the sum and foundation of the doc trine of the church, and to repel the calumnies and sophisms by which this doctrine is perverted and evil spoken of by the enemies of religion. But he does not command us to profess and declare all things at all times and before every one; but merely before those who ask a reason or a defence of the hope that is within us, for the purpose of learning, knowing, or judging in reference to it. Hence, if any one should make a mock of religion, or deride the doctrine of the gospel after it has once been sufficiently declared and explained to him, and should ask a reason of our hope, we should not return an answer to him, but leave him to himself. So Christ himself after he had sufficiently confessed and confirmed his doctrine, made no reply to the High Priest and Pilate with reference to the false witnesses, and gave as a reason of his silence, “If I tell you, ye will not believe.” (Luke 22:67.)
which consists in acknowledging and confessing what, and how great benefits we have received from God, and to what obedience we are bound in view of these blessings, and that we will, therefore, cheerfully and heartily yield it unto God to the extent of our power, according as it is said: “Whatsoever ye do in word, or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” “In every thing give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.” (Col. 3:17. 1. Thos. 5:18. Ps. 107:1.)
There is opposed to this virtue, 1. Ingratitude, which is when any one either seldom or never thinks and talks of the benefits of God, or if he does think and speak of them, he does it with coldness and dissimulation, so that there is no love to God, or desire of gratitude kindled in his heart. “When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful.” (Rom. 1:21.)
2. The want of a proper appreciation of the benefits of God, or not placing such a value upon them as we ought. This occurs whenever any one regards himself, or ethers, as being the authors of his mercies. “What hath thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it.” (1 Cor. 4:7.)
3. A neglect of the gifts of God, which occurs whenever they are not so employed as to promote the divine glory. The same may also be said of, the abuse of these gifts. “Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed; thou oughtest, therefore, to have put my money to the ex changers,” &c. (Matt. 25:26, 27.)
which is an ardent love of God, and sorrow on account of any reproach or contempt cast upon God, with an attempt to throw it from him, and to vindicate the honor of his name. “Phineas hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them.” “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, » &c. (Num. 25:11. 1 Kings 19:10.)
Timidity, or a want of firmness, is opposed to this zeal for God on the side of want, and consists in not being affected with grief on account of reproach cast upon God, and so not caring for the divine glory, and in not having or showing any desire in word and deed to prevent this reproach. Those are guilty of this sin, who, when they might prohibit cursing, and foul blasphemies, by which the name of God is dishonored, do, nevertheless, not prevent them, not being led to it by any zeal for the glory of God.
An erring^ false zeal, is opposed to this virtue as it respects the opposite extreme, viz., that of excess. This Paul calls a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (Rom. 10:3.) It consists in being displeased with such words and actions as are erroneously conceived to im pair the glory of God. This now may take place whenever we suppose that to be the glory of God, and attempt to defend it, which is not the glory of God, and ought not to be defended; or, when we regard that as detracting from the glory of God and endeavor to repel it, which is not in consistent with the divine glory, and ought not to be repelled; or still further when it is attempted to prevent an offence, or injury to the divine glory in a way different from that in which it ought to be done.
IV. CALLING UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD,
which consists in asking of the true God those good things which he has commanded us to ask at his hands. It proceeds from a sense of want on our part, and from a de sire to share in the divine bounty; and commences with true conversion to God and faith in the divine promises, for the mediator s sake. “give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name.” “Ask and ii shall be given you.” “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.” (Ps. 105:1. Matt. 7:7. John 5:14.)
There is opposed to invocation, 1. A neglect of calling upon the name of the Lord, which the Scriptures represent and condemn as the fountain of all ungodliness. “And call not upon the name of the Lord.” (Ps. 14:4.)
2. All unlawful calling upon Cod, which is the case whenever any condition necessary to acceptable prayer is wanting; under which may be comprehended idolatrous invocation, which is either directed to some imaginary deity, or to creatures; or else it restricts the divine presence, and an answer to our prayers to a certain place or thing without any command and promise from God. Such are the prayers of the Heathen, Turks, Jews and all others, who imagine unto themselves another god, beside the true God revealed unto us in his word and works. “Ye worship, ye know not what.” (John 4:22.) The same thing may also be said of those among the Papists, who pray to the angels and to the saints who have de parted this life; because in so doing they attribute to them the honor due to God alone.
3. The asking of such things as are contrary to the will and law of God. “Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” (James 4:3.)
4. A. mere lip service, or such prayers as consist merely in words, or in the motion of the body, without enlisting the feelings of the heart, and in which there is no real desire to obtain the blessing of God prayers which are without true repentance, without any assurance of being heard, without a subjection of the will to the will of God, without any reference to or thought of the divine promise, without any confidence in Christ, the only mediator, and without any true sense or acknowledgment of unworthiness in the sight of God. “When ye pray, use not vain repetitions as the heathen do, for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” “When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make your prayers I will not hear.” “Let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” (Matt. 6:7. Ps. 1:15. James 1:7.)
The objections which the Papists bring against us in favor of the Invocation of the Saints.
Obj. 1. The saints, on account of their Virtues, are to be honored with the worship either of adoration (latreia) or of veneration (souleia). But it is not in the former sense that they are to be worshipped; because this form of worship is due to God alone, inasmuch as it attributes to him universal power, providence and dominion, which can be ascribed to God alone. Therefore veneration is due to the saints, or such worship as that which we ascribe to them for their holiness. Ans. We deny the consequence; because the major proposition is incomplete; for besides the worship of adoration and veneration, which is the distinction here made, there is another kind of veneration, such as is proper to the saints, which is the acknowledgment and celebration of the faith, holiness and gifts for which they were distinguished, obedience to the doctrine which they taught, and an imitation of their lives and piety, concerning which Augustin says: “They are to be honored by imitation, but not by adoration” This veneration is due to the saints, and we have no desire to take it from them, whether living or dead; but, on the other hand, willingly attribute it to them according to the command of the Apostle: “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God; whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.” (Heb. 13:7.) We also deny the minor proposition; because the distinction which they make between the worship of adoration and veneration is of no force, inasmuch as these are not different forms of worship, but one and the same; neither do they belong to the saints, or to any creature, but to God alone, because he knows and hears in all places and at all times the thoughts, the groans and desires of those who call upon him, and relieves their necessities. No one but God can hear those who call upon him. Therefore this honor must be ascribed to him alone, because he hears them that pray. This honor belongs also to Christ, because it is on account of his merits and intercession that God grants unto us the forgiveness of sins, eternal life and all other good things. Hence this honor cannot be transferred to the saints without manifest sacrilege and idolatry, whether it be under the name of adoration, or veneration, or whatever name it may be. This distinction, too, which they make, is of no account, since the words are used indifferently in the original to signify the same thing, both in the Scriptures and in profane writers. Concerning God it is said (Matt. 4:10), “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” Here the Greek word latqeuseij is used. And in Matt. 6:25, it is said, “He cannot serve God and Mammon; “in which place the word souleuein is used. Which word is also used in the following places, where it is said, “Ye turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God.” “They that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thes. 1:9. Rom. 16:18.) Paul also every where calls himself the servant of God (soulon qeou). In the Greek text, servile or slavish work is every where termed latqjuton. Suidas writes that latqeujin means the same thing as to serve for wages. Valla shows that this same word signifies to serve man as well as to serve God, adducing a passage from Xenophon, where a man says that he is ready to risk his life, sooner than his wife should be made to serve. And the wife, on the other hand, says that she would rather lose her life, than that her husband should serve, where the word souleuh is used. Hence these words upon which the Papists base the above distinction do not differ, but express one and the same thing.
Obj. 2. We ought to honor those whom God honors. God honors the saints: “Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Matt. 19:28.) Therefore they are to be honored by us. Ans. We admit the argument, in as far as it has respect to the honor which God attributes to the saints. In this, however, invocation is never included. God himself says, “I am the Lord: that is my name, and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” (Is. 42:8.)
Obj. 3. The hearing of our secret sighs and groans, which belongs to God by nature, is through grace communicated to the saints. Therefore they are to be invoked. Ans. We deny the antecedent: for God does not communicate those properties by which he desires to be distinguished from creatures; such as immensity, omnipotence, infinite wisdom, seeing and knowing the heart, hearing prayer, &c. these are properties which God communicates to no creature, neither by nature nor by grace.” “For thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men.” (2 Chron. 6:30.)
Obj. 4. God has communicated to the saints the power of working miracles, which is, nevertheless, a property belonging to himself alone. Therefore, he communicates to the saints at least some of the properties by which he is distinguished from creatures, so that they may have a knowledge of the thoughts and desires of those who pray unto them. Ans. 1. The consequence which is here drawn is of no force; for it does not follow, even though it were true (which we do not admit) that God had communicated some of his properties to the saints, and that the hearing of prayer is included amongst them, if the Scriptures do not teach the fact. 2. Nor la the reason which is assigned of any force, that the saints have a knowledge of the desires of those who invoke them, because they have been endowed with the gift of working miracles. For the power of working miracles is not transfused into the saints; nor do they perform these miracles by their own power, but merely as ministers. Hence, the saints are said to do these things in a figurative sense, when God employs them as ministers, and joins the working of a miracle, as the sign of his presence, power and will.
Obj. 5. Some prophets seemed to know the thoughts and counsels of other men: so Ahijah knew the thoughts of the wife of Jeroboam; Elisha knew the thoughts of the king of Syria; Peter knew the thoughts of Ananias and Sapphira, &c. (1 Kings 14:6. 2 Kings 6:12. Acts 5:3.) Therefore, God has communicated to the saints a knowledge of the hearts of men. Ans. 1. Examples that are few in number and of an extraordinary character do not constitute a general rule. 2. These persons knew these things by the gift of prophecy with which they were endowed; and yet they did not know them always, but only at that time, when the good of the church required it: nor was it by any power lodged within them, by which they were enabled to know the heart, but by a divine revelation; nor did they know all things, but only such as God was pleased to reveal to them. Hence, it does not appear that the saints, after death, are also endowed with the gift of prophecy, since there is no need of it in eternal life.
Obj. 6. The angels in heaven rejoice over the repentance of sinners. (Luke 15:10.) Therefore, they know when men exercise true penitence, and must also have a knowledge of the desires of those who call upon them in prayer. Ans A cause that is inferred from an effect which may result from other causes, is riot of much force or consequence. For it is not necessary that the angels should know the repentance of the sinner by looking into the heart, inasmuch as they may know it either from the effects and sign s which accompany it, or from a divine revelation.
Obj. 7. The soul of the rich man when in hell saw Abraham in heaven, and addressed prayer to him, whom Abraham also heard. The rich man likewise knew the state and condition of his five brethren who were still on earth. Therefore, the saints in heaven see and know the desires and condition of those who are upon the earth, and are to be invoked. Ans. No doctrine can be established from allegories and parables. That that, now, is an allegory, by which Christ desired to express the thoughts, torments and condition of the ungodly who are suffering punishment, is evident from this, that it possesses all the parts of a parable. Hence, it establishes nothing in favor of the invocation of the saints. And even though all these things had been done as they are represented, yet they prove nothing as it respects the doctrine of the invocation of the saints, since Abraham is said to have known these things by speech, and not because he had a knowledge of the secret thoughts of the heart.
Obj. 8. Christ knows all things, according to his human nature. There fore, the saints also have a knowledge of all things. Ans. The examples are not the same. Christ’s human understanding perceives and knows, and his bodily eyes and ears hear and see all things which he, according to his human nature, desires to perceive, either with his mind or external senses, on account of its personal union with the divine nature which reveals these things, or on account of his office as mediator. But it cannot be proven from the Scriptures that all things are revealed to the angels and saints, which are made known to the human understanding of Christ, by his Divinity.
Obj. 9. The images of all things are reflected, or appear in the vision and face of the Trinity. The holy angels and blessed men who have de parted this life see the face of the Deity, as it is said, “In heaven the angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 18:10.) Therefore they, in this way, see and know all that we do, suffer, think, &c. Ans. 1. The major proposition is uncertain, and cannot be proven from the Scriptures. 2. Nor can the minor be established; for it is said, “No man hath seen God at any time.” (John 1:18.) 3. Al though the angels and saints in heaven have a clear knowledge of God, yet we are not to suppose that they naturally know all things, which are in God. For if this were the case their knowledge would be infinite, or in other words, it would be equal to the knowledge of God, which is absurd, and contrary to the testimony of Scripture, which declares that the angels are ignorant of the day of judgment. God reveals to every one, both in heaven and on earth, as much as he will according to his own good pleasure.
Obj. 10. The friendship and intercourse of the saints with God and Christ is so great, that it is not possible that a revelation of those things which we ask at their hands should be withheld from them. Ans. That consequence which is drawn from an insufficient cause, is of no force. For this friendship and intercourse will continue, although God does not reveal to the saints as much as they desire, but merely those things which it is profitable for them to know, for his glory and for their own happiness. Obj. 11. Christ is the mediator of redemption; the saints are mediators of intercession. Therefore there is nothing detracted from Christ, if the saints are invoked as intercessors, and as those who plead with God in our behalf. Ans. We deny the distinction that is here made; because the Scriptures teach that Christ is the only mediator, and that he has not only redeemed us by once offering himself for us upon the cross, but that he also continually appears before the Father, and makes intercession for us. (See Heb. 5:7,9; 7:27. John 19:9. Rom. 8:34. Heb. 9:24. 1 John:2.)
Obj. 12. Christ alone is mediator by virtue of his own merit and inter cession; the saints are mediators and intercessors by virtue of the merit and intercession of Christ: that is, their intercessions with God in our behalf avail for the sake of the merit and intercession of Christ. Therefore that which is peculiar to Christ is not transferred to the saints. Ans. Those who make intercession in this way, detract from the honor of Christ as much as in the former case, which will appear by making in the antecedent a full enumeration of the ways in which the honor of Christ is transferred to others; for not only those who by their own virtue, but even those who, by the virtue of Christ, are said to merit for us from God those good things promised for the sake of Christ’s merits alone, are substituted in the place of Christ. And again: if the prayers of the saints are pleasing to God, and heard on account of the merit and intercession of Christ, they cannot please God, nor obtain anything for us by their own holiness and merits, as the Papists teach; for he who stands in need of a mediator and intercessor, cannot appear as an intercessor for others, although he may pray for others. Hence our adversaries overthrow, by their own argument, the doctrine which they vainly attempt to establish. Obj. 13. Those who pray for us in heaven are to be invoked. The saints offer prayers in our behalf in heaven. Therefore they are to be addressed in prayer. Ans. There is here an error in taking that as a cause which is none; for the mere fact that any one prays for another is not a sufficient reason why we should address prayer to him. We readily grant that the saints in heaven do ardently desire the salvation of the church militant, and that their prayers are heard according to the counsels of God; but that the saints know the misfortunes and business of every one in particular, and that they hear the prayers which may be addressed to them, we deny.
Obj. 14. God said, Jer. 15:1: “Though Moses and Samuel stood be fore me, yet my mind could not be towards this people.” Therefore the saints stand before God, and make intercession for us. Ans. 1. But even though we were to grant the whole argument, yet it does not, therefore, follow, as we have already shown, that we ought to pray unto them. 2. The language which is here quoted is figurative. It introduces the dead, and represents them praying, as though, they were living; so that the sense is, if Moses and Samuel were yet living, and would pray for this wicked people, as they prayed for them and were heard when they lived upon earth, yet they could not obtain grace and pardon for them. There is a similar passage found in Ez. 14:4, which must be explained in like manner.
Obj. 15. The Lord said through Isaiah: “I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David s sake.” (2 Kings 19:34.) Therefore God confers benefits upon men upon the earth, for the sake of the merits and intercessions of David, and of other saints after death. Ans. But it was not in respect to the merits of David, but in respect to the promise of the Messiah, who was to be born from the house of David, that God promised to protect and defend the city referred to. And if any one should object, and say that the deliverance of the city of David from the assault of the Assyrians might have been effected without the benefit and promise of the Messiah, and was therefore promised on account of the merits of David: we reply that they err who imagine that the benefits of Christ extend merely to those things or promises, upon the performance of which the promises made to David with reference to the Messiah could only be preserved, and receive their fulfillment For all the benefits of God, including those that are temporal as well as those that are spiritual those that were granted before the coming of the Messiah as well as those which have been granted since those without which the promise of the Messiah could, as well as those without which it could not be fulfilled, are all conferred upon the church for the sake of Christ. “For the promises of God in him [Christ] are yea, and in him, Amen.” (2 Cor. 1:20.)
Obj. 16. Jacob said of the sons of Joseph, “Let my name be on them, and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac.” (Gen. 48:16.) There fore it is lawful to call upon the saints who have departed this life. Ans. This is to misunderstand the figure of speech which is here employed, which is a Hebrew phrase, meaning not adoration, bat an adoption of the children of Joseph; so that the sense is, Let them be called after my name, or let them take their name from me: that is, let them be called my sons, and not my grand-children. The phrase is similar to that found in Isaiah 4:1, where it is said: “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, Let us be called by thy name:” that is, let us be called thy wives.
Obj. 17. Eliphaz says to Job, chapter 5, v. 1, Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; and to which of the saints wilt thou turn.” Therefore Job is commanded to implore help from some one of the saints. Ans. This passage is evidently at war with the doctrine of the invocation of the saints: for it affirms that the angels so far excel men in purity, that they will not make answer, or appear when addressed or invoked by men.
Obj. 18. Christ says, Matt. 25:40, “Inasmuch as ye have done it, unto one of the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” There fore the invocation of the saints is an honor, which is showed to Christ him self. Ans. Christ does not speak of the invocation of the saints; but of the duty of love which it becomes us to perform towards the afflicted members of his church in this life. The passage, therefore, furnishes no proof in favor of the invocation of the saints.
Obj. 19. “The Angel of the Lord answered and said, Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem, and on the cities of Judah against which thou hast indignation these three score and ten years?” (Zech. 1:2.) Therefore the angels pray for men in their times of need and distress, and so are to be prayed unto. Ans. 1. But this passage furnishes no proof that all the angels know the wants and afflictions of all men. The calamities of the Jews were manifest not only to the sight of angels, but also to men. 2. V/s deny the consequence which is here drawn from the angels to the saints who have departed this life: for the care and defence of the church, in this world, has been committed to the angels. They are, therefore, conversant with the things of this world, and see our wants and necessities, which the saints do not, inasmuch as this charge is not committed to their care. 8. The consequence which is here drawn, that we must pray unto the angels, because they pray for us, is in like manner, of no force, as we have already shown. Obj. 20. Judus Maccabeus saw in a vision the High Priest, Onias, and Jeremiah the prophet, praying for the people. (2 Mac. 15:14.) There fore the saints who have departed this life pray for us, and are to be invoked. Ans. No doctrine can be established by the authority of an apocryphal book. We also deny the consequence which is here deduced; for not every one that prays for us, is to be prayed to by us.
Obj. 21. Baruch says, “Hear now the prayers of the dead Israelites.” (Bar 3:4.) Therefore the saints pray for us, and are to be invoked. Ans. We may return the same answer to this objection that we did to the preceding one, that an apocryphal book proves nothing. There is also a misunderstanding of the figure of speech here used; for those who are called the dead Israelites are not such as had departed this life, but such as were living and calling upon God, but who, on account of their calamities, were similar to those who were dead.
Obj. 22. It is not permitted to come into the presence of a prince without the intercession of some one. Therefore much less can we come into the presence of God, without some one to appear before him as our intercessor. Ans. We grant the whole argument; for without Christ, the mediator, no one can have access to God, as Christ himself says, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6.) Ambrose very appropriately and forcibly answers the above objection in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, where he thus writes: “Some men are wont to use a miserable excuse, saying that we obtain access to God through his righteous saints in the same way i\z which any one comes into the presence of a prince, which is through his attendants. Well: is any one so mad and unmindful of his own safety, as to transfer the honor of the King to any of his attendants, since those who have been found to do this, have been condemned as guilty of treason. And yet these persons suppose that those are not guilty of treason against God, who transfer the honor of his name to creatures, and forsaking their Lord, worship their fellow servants, as if this accomplished any thing in the way of assisting them in the service of Cod. We come into the presence of a king through his nobles and attendants, because he is a man as we are, and does not know to whom he ought to entrust the affairs of his kingdom. But as it respects God from whom nothing is concealed, and who knows the merits of all, we need no one to secure us an access to him, but a devout mind. For wherever such an one speaks, he will answer nothing,” &c. Chrysostrom writes “The Canaanitish woman did not ask of James, nor did she beseech John, nor did she go to Peter, nor did she come to the whole corps of the Apostles, nor did she seek any Mediator: but instead of all these, she took repentance for her companion, which repentance supplied the place of an advocate, and in this way she went to the chief fountain. So much concerning the sixth virtue comprehended in this commandment, which virtue we have defined as invocation, or calling upon God.
VII. LAWFUL OR RELIGIOUS SWEARING,
which is comprehended in calling upon God. By this the person who takes an oath desires that God would be a witness to what he affirms, that he has no desire to deceive in the thing concerning which he makes oath, and that God may punish him if he practices any deception. This form of swearing is authorized by God, who designs that it may be a bond of truth between men, and a testimony that he is the author and defender of truth.
That which is opposed to swearing religiously includes, 1. A refusing to take an oath when the glory of God and the safety of our neighbor require it at our hands. “An oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife” (Heb. 6:16.)
2. Perjury or forswearing, as when any one knowingly and willingly deceives by an oath, or does not keep a lawful oath; for to forswear is either to swear to that which is false, as for instance, that thou art not guilty of murder when thou hast slain a man; or not to perform a thing lawfully sworn.
3. An idolatrous oath, which is taken not by the true God alone.
4. An oath taken in regard to that which is unlawful, as the oath of Herod.
5. Oaths which are made rashly, and from levity, without any necessity or sufficient cause. It is of this that the Scriptures speak when they for bid swearing. (See Matt. 5:23. James 5:12.) The doctrine respecting the oath is contained and explained in the following Questions of the Catechism.
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