Saint Worship - Part 10

I have shown that the intercession of the saints is no anomaly in the Creator’s plan, but is in strict accordance with His providence, which completes or perfects His works through the agency or ministry of second or created causes, Creatures can have no part in the production of existences, that is, in their creation from nothing, but God employs them in developing and completing [other] creatures. Hence it is that all existences are active, and strictly speaking there is no purely passive existence, no pure passivity, in nature.

In saying that God, in completing or perfecting His works, uses the ministry of angels and men, or employs created agencies – that is, natural causes, so called – I do not mean to be understood [as saying] that even to this end He never does anything immediately, directly by Himself, without other mediums than His eternal Word; for miracles are well-attested facts in all ages of the world, and prove, among other things, that God is His own law, the Master of nature, and not bound by it. The age has much to say of liberty, and no men are more clamorous for liberty than those who suppose that God is invincibly bound by what they call the laws of nature; but the basis of all liberty is the liberty of God Himself. To suppose Him bound by fate or destiny, as the heathen held their gods to be, and to deny all space for freedom in the universe. Whatever is fixed, invariable, immutable, in nature or the laws of nature is not nature but God, not something above Him, outside Him, and independent of Him, but He Himself, in the plenitude of His own necessary, eternal, and immutable Being. He is not free not to be, nor free to be other than He is; but He is always and everywhere free to act as He pleases, through ministries or out, as seems to Him good.

Supernatural intervention, or the direct and immediate action of God in the universe, which is what we call a miracle because it is inexplicable by any natural laws or second causes, as the conception of Our Lord in the Womb of the Virgin Mary, is not illogical or capricious; in relation to the Divine Mind, it is as orderly as the growth of a plant, or the gravitation of bodies toward the center of the earth. An act because free is not for that reason anomalous, and a principle value of miracles is that they vindicate to us the freedom of God, and prove to us that the laws of nature so called, depend on Him, and not He on them, as from their uniformity and constancy we are apt to suppose. They show us God acting freely, directly, without the agency of second causes, and therefore, [they show] His freedom, self-existence, and self-sufficingness; they are a direct answer to those who say, "There is no God," or who confound God with nature. They are as credible to him who believes in God as are any of the facts of nature, for they have the same cause, and a sufficient cause, and are provable by the same kind of evidence or testimony. They are no more incredible than creation, which from the nature of the case must be the direct act of God.

But the admission of miracles, the direct supernatural action of God, does not in any sense deny or abridge His action through second causes. A miracle is the act of a power above the laws of nature and not explicable by them; it leaves them to their ordinary operation, and simply proves that they do not exhaust the activity of the Creator, and that He survives them in all His infinity, and in all His inexhaustible freedom of action. The heathen believed in prodigies, the intervention of their gods, but had no conception of miracles in the Christian sense, because their gods were not believed by them to be God, and the God they dimly recognized in the darkness or of whom they retained some faint and fading reminiscences, was [to them] no creative God. He was for the most part in their mythologies resolved into fate, necessity, or destiny, which, says the Emperor Marcus Antoninus, "binds both gods and men." The Christian believes in God the Creator – Deus Creator – and therefore can rise to the true conception of a miracle, and understand that God may work a miracle without violating the so-called natural order. God can act through the things that He has made, and He can act without them, without their co-operation, as is evident from His having been able to create them from nothing. He in fact does act in both ways, and hence we have always present, in human life, both the natural and the supernatural.

The fundamental mistake of those who object to the invocation of the saints is in supposing that God, in the work of our sanctification and perfection in glory, works always without any created medium, or any co-operation on our part with Him. This was the great mistake of the reformers. In their theory the Incarnation, if not expressly denied, has really no place, and practically nothing to do with our regeneration, sanctification and perfection in glory. The most they can consistently [affirm] is that it [the Incarnation] was necessary to enable the Son to die on the cross, and that it was necessary that He should die on the cross to remove the abstract justice interposed to the pardon of the sinner, or to render it consistent with His Majesty for God to pardon and forgive those who had transgressed His law. It has, on their theory, so far as I can conceive, no practical effect on the sinner himself, in redeeming and elevating his nature, and infusing into him a new and higher life, and enabling him to fulfill his destiny, which is in union with God in the beatific vision. It is at best an expedient for getting rid of a difficulty which never existed, for it was always [possible] for God, if He chose, to pardon the sinner on repentance and reformation of life. That He does not do so without the Incarnation and redemption through the Passion and Cross of His Son, is not because He cannot, but because He chooses in His infinite love to do something far better for the sinner, and to make His fall the occasion of a far greater glory.

Hence we find them, in forgetting this, denying all mediate action of God. Faith is regarded as a direct gift. Regeneration, or the new birth, is the direct work of the Holy Ghost; so is the perseverance of the just, and their final salvation. In all, God works immediately, directly, sovereignly; and the creature is purely passive, and in no sense co-operative with the Holy Spirit. Hence they reject the priesthood, the sacraments, the whole office of the Church. All this grows out of their denial of the mediatorial system of grace, which has its origin and ground in the Holy Trinity; their rejection, virtual if not formal, of the entire ministry of angels and men. They are in principle, did they but know it, pantheists, denying the reality of second causes, and hence we see everywhere the world of the reformers developing into pantheism.