Against the ‘Invocation of the Saints’

zwingliI have seen meanwhile a pamphlet by a certain great theologian§ among the French (if you take him at his own valuation), but I have been prevented from reading it carefully both by my occupations and by pity for the pamphlet and its author. For the unhappy man is so ignorant of what is meant by God, by man, by faith, hope, saint, pilgrim, advocate, mediator, everything, that if I had never before had faith in the saying, “No man can come to me except the Father draw him” [Jn. 6:44], and that other, “Everyone that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, cometh unto me” [Jn. 6:45], I should, nevertheless, now be forced to recognize them as most true; since I see so great a theologian taking the Holy Scriptures in hand like a donkey running a solemn ceremony, as the saying goes.

I call God to witness that I am sorry for his efforts, which I have not seen. But why should I be sad? The ape is as proud as a peacock of his offspring. Certain good and learned men from France had suggested that I should write a reply to him by name; but when my brother, Oswald Myconius, had carefully examined the book, because I had not time to make a résumé of it, and had put the main points together, we both of us had to laugh, for there was such a complete absence of anything solid in it anywhere that we thought the author and his pamphlet quite unworthy of attention.

This babyish person does not know that “sancti” are not the same thing as “divi,” since those also are called “sancti” who are still on earth; as, “To the saints (sancti) who are at Rome” [Rom. 1:7]. He does not know what the church is, but thinks that by authority of the church it can be decided that “sancti” are to be invoked and to make intercession. Suppose the church should decree some time that they are all at one and the same time to come down to us!

zwingliDo things take place in heaven so exactly in accordance with the pronouncements of the church? The fact that Moses prayed, and Abraham, and others, he twists into, “Therefore the saints (divi) are to be worshipped.” The way he decks out a worship for them, you would think he had been Master of Ceremonies. He speaks of the saints in heaven as he would of a little brother. He makes no distinction between the promises to the fathers, which all pointed to Christ and concerned things to come, and the promises to us, which likewise point to Him, but have been already fulfilled and are immovable.

They had to remind God often of the fathers with whom He had made the covenant; we already enjoy the fruits of the covenant and have no need to pray to God through any save Christ. “For there is none other name under heaven wherein we must be saved but the name of Christ” [Acts 4:12]; and He Himself tells us: “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, he will give it you,” etc. [Jn. 16:23]. But when he [Clichtove] tries to demolish the arguments of his opponents, he so sinks in with one foot while pulling out the other that in spite of his sweating and struggling he is forced to give himself up as lost. And when he brings in Jerome arguing thus:† “Stephen prayed here, therefore he prays in heaven also,” and when he does the same with Paul, he is as pleased with himself as if he were riding in a triumphal chariot. Yet meantime he is not equal to upsetting such a frivolous argument as this: If this is logical, “Paul prayed here, therefore he prays there,” this also is logical, “Paul wrote epistles here, therefore he writes them there.” For if he should send down from heaven to us epistles by which the biggest disputes between theologians could be settled, he would do quite as much good as by interceding.

But why ridicule with many words a man who ought rather to be wept over? The man who truly possesses and truly teaches faith will not need many words to refute such a notion; for by faith is learned disregard of the saints in this respect, and by faith is learned the true “worship of the saints.” We “worship” them rightly when we all cling firmly to that God to whom they also in their lifetime clung and taught others to cling. For how could it be that while they were still under the weakness of the flesh they should arrogate nothing to themselves, and now when they are utterly removed from all such weakness should have changed their minds, and having previously led men to the one and only God should now bid them come for refuge to themselves?

zwingliI want my friends, therefore, not to take it ill that I have not gratified them by reducing that pamphlet to pulp, for it was quite superfluous. Faith, as I have said, will of itself thoroughly eradicate the error; though every position that he supports in his whole pamphlet will be found so completely overthrown by these few considerations urged in reply to Emser, if only one will read and weigh them faithfully, that no one will want anything further. God is such that He is sufficient unto all. He is so kind a Father that He refuses nothing, so bountiful that He loves to bestow Himself. Whom, then, are we procuring as our advocates? Faith does not know this spurious foresight. Hence it is perfectly plain that those who still cling to the creature do not lean on the one true and holy God.

What, then, does their faith amount to? Would it not have been better to keep silent than to make such a shameless zwingli_laptopdisplay of want of faith? I know the Jeromes and the Augustines and the rest, but I know also Christ and the Apostles, and none of them ever taught any such thing. And what is gained by violently twisting Scripture to such purpose, or by refusing to understand the underlying allegorical sense when such sense is present?

Faith leans upon one God, clings to One, trusts in One, hopes on One, flies to One for refuge, knows for certain that it will find with One everything that it needs. May He who draweth hearts to Himself grant that we may cleave to Him alone, and may that hypocrisy which parades as piety be banished from the souls of all! Amen.

So the great and learned Huldrych Zwingli.  So, Mother Teresa, perhaps sick people praying to you isn’t such a good idea after all…

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