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in the inheritance of that covenant which God had made with him: and perceiving that this would be the greatest of all blessings to them, he prays that they may be numbered among his children; which is only transmitting to them the succession of the covenant. They on their part, when they introduce the mention of this in their prayers, do not recur to the intercessions of the dead, but put the Lord in remembrance of his covenant, in which their most merciful Father hath engaged to be propitious and beneficent to them, for the sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. How little the saints depended in any other sense on the merits of their fathers, is evinced by the public voice of the Church in the prophet; “ Thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer.” (8) And when they thus express themselves, they add at the same time, “O Lord, return, for thy servants' sake:" yet not entertaining a thought of any intercession, but adverting to the blessing of the covenant. But now since we have the Lord Jesus, in whose hand the eternal covenant of mercy is not only made but confirmed to us: whose name should we rather plead in our prayers? And since these good doctors contend that the patriarchs are in these words represented as intercessors, I wish to be informed by them, why in such a vast multitude, no place, not even the lowest among them, can be allotted to Abraham, the father of the Church? From what vile source they derive their advocates, is well known. Let them answer me by proving it right, that Abraham, whom God hath preferred to all others, and elevated to the highest degree of honour, should be neglected and suppressed. The truth is, that since this practice was unknown in the ancient Church, they thought proper, in order to conceal its novelty, to be silent respecting the ancient fathers; as though the difference of names were a valid excuse for a recent and corrupt custom. But the objection urged by some, that God is entreated to have mercy on the people for the sake of David, is so far from supporting their error, that it is a decisive refutation of it. For if we consider the character sustained by David, he is selected from the whole company of the saints, that God
may fulfil the covenant which he made with him. So that it refers to the covenant rather than to the person, and contains a figurative declaration of the sole intercession of Christ. For it is certain that what was peculiar to David, as being a type of Christ, is inapplicable to any others.
XXVI. But it seems that some are influenced by the frequent declarations which we read, that the prayers of the saints are heard. Why? Truly because they have prayed. “ They cried unto thee,” says the Psalmist, “and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.” () Therefore, let us likewise pray after their example, that we may obtain a similar audience. But these men preposterously argue, that none will be heard but such as have been once already heard. How much more properly does James say? " Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” (u) What? does he infer any peculiar privilege of Elias, to which we should have recourse? Not at all: but he shews the perpetual efficacy of pure and pious prayers, to exhort us to pray in a similar manner. For we put a mean construction on the promptitude and benignity of God in hearing them, unless we be encouraged by such instances to a firmer reliance on his promises; in which he promises to hear, not one or two, or even a few, but all who call upon his name. And this ignorance is so much the less excusable, because they appear almost professedly to disregard so many testimonies of Scripture. David experienced frequent deliverances by the Divine power: was it that he might arrogate it to himself, in order to deliver us by his interposition? He makes some very different declarations: “The righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.” (x) Again, “They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." (y) The Psalms contain many such prayers, in which he implores God to grant his requests from this consideration, that the righteous
may not be put to shame, but may be encouraged by his example to entertain a good hope. Let us be contented at present with one instance; “ For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found:” (2) a text which I have the more readily cited, because the hireling and cavilling advocates of Popery have not been ashamed to plead it to prove the intercession of the dead. As though David had any other design than to shew the effect which would proceed from the Divine clemency and goodness when his prayers should be heard. And in this respect it must be maintained, that an experience of the grace of God, both to ourselves and to others, affords no small assistance to confirm our faith in his promises. I do not recite numerous passages, where he proposes to himself the past blessings of God as a ground of present and future confidence, since they will naturally occur to those who peruse the Psalms. Jacob by his example had long before taught the same lesson; “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.” (a) He mentions the promise indeed, but not alone; he likewise adds the effect, that he may in future confide with the greater boldness in the continuance of the Divine goodness towards him. For God is not like mortals, who grow weary of their liberality or whose wealth is exhausted; but is to be estimated by his own nature, as is judiciously done by David, when he says; “ Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” (6) After ascribing to him the praise of his salvation, he adds, that he is a God of truth: because, unless he were perpetually and uniformly consistent with himself, there could not be derived from his benefits a sufficient argument for confiding in him, and praying to him. But when we know that every act of assistance, which he affords us, is a specimen and proof of his goodness and faithfulness, we shall have no reason to fear lest our hopes be confounded or our expectations disappointed.
XXVII. Let us conclude this argument in the following manner. Since the Scripture represents the principal part of
Divine worship to be an invocation of God, as he refuses all sacrifices, and requires of us this duty of piety, no prayer can without evident sacrilege be directed to any other. Wherefore also the Psalmist says; “ If we have stretched out our hands to a strange god; shall not God search this out?” (c) Besides, since God will only be invoked in faith, and expressly commands prayers to be conformed to the rule of his word; finally, since faith founded on the word is the source of true prayer: as soon as the least deviation is made from the word, there must necessarily be an immediate corruption of prayer. But it has been already shewn, that if the whole Scripture be consulted, this honour is there claimed for God alone. With respect to the office of intercession, we have also seen, that it is peculiar to Christ, and that no prayer is acceptable to God, unless it bé sanctified by this Mediator. And though believers mutually pray to God for their brethren, we have proved that this derogates nothing from the sole intercession of Christ; because they all commend both themselves and others to God in a reliance upon it. Moreover we have argued, that this is injudiciously applied to the dead, of whom we no where read that they are commanded to pray for us. The Scripture frequently exhorts us to the mutual performance of this duty for each other; but concerning the dead there is not even a syllable: and James, by connecting these two things, “ Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another," tacitly excludes the dead. (d) Wherefore, to condemn this error, this one reason is sufficient, that right prayer originates in faith, and that faith is produced by hearing the word of God, where there is no mention of this fictitious intercession; for the temerity of superstition hath chosen itself advocates, who were not of Divine appointment. For whilst the Scripture abounds with many forms of prayer, there is not to be found an example of this advocacy, without which the Papists believe there can be no prayer at all. Besides, it is evident that this superstition has arisen from a want of faith, because they either were not content with Christ as their intercessor, or entirely denied him this glory. The latter of these is easily proved from their impudence; for they
(c) Psalm xliv. 20, 21. (d) James v.16.
adduce no argument more valid to shew that we need the mediation of the saints, than when they object that we are unwor. thy of familiar access to God. Which indeed we acknowledge to be strictly true; but we thence conclude, that they rob Christ of every thing, who consider his intercession as unavailing without the assistance of George and Hippolytus, and other such phantasms.
XXVIII. But though prayer is properly restricted to wishes and petitions, yet there is so great an affinity between petition and thanksgiving, that they may be justly comprehended under the same name. For the species which Paul enumerates, fall under the first member of this division. In requests and petitions we pour out our desires before God, imploring those things which tend to the propagation of his glory and the illustration of his name, as well as those benefits which conduce to our advantage. In thanksgiving we celebrate his beneficence towards us with due praises, acknowledging all the blessings we have received as the gifts of his liberality. Therefore David has connected these two parts together; “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”(@) The Scripture, not without reason, enjoins us the continual use of both: for we have elsewhere said that our want is so great, and experience itself proclaims that we are molested and oppressed on every side with such numerous and great perplexi. ties, that we all have sufficient cause for unceasing sighs, and groans, and ardent supplications to God. For though they enjoy a freedom from adversity, yet the guilt of their sins, and the innumerable assaults of temptation ought to stimulate even the most eminent saints to pray for relief. But of the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving there can be no interruption, without guilt; since God ceases not to accumulate on us his various benefits according to our respective cases, in order to constrain us, inactive and sluggish as we are, to the exercise of gratitude. 5. Finally, we are almost overwhelmed with such great and copious effusions of his beneficence; we are surrounded, whithersoever we turn our eyes, by such numerous and amazing miracles of his hand, that we never want matter of praise and
(e) Psalm 1. 15.