To execute on them the judgment written: this honor have all his saints. Praise you the LORD.
The honour here alluded to is that of being special favourites with heaven and instruments in the hand of God for the conversion of sinners to repentance. "Saint," in its original meaning, is a person set apart for the service of God, and in that sense "holy." This was the general title of Christians in the New Testament. They were considered as persons separating themselves from the rest of the world, professing and practising holiness in all manner of conversation.
I. WHAT HONOUR IN FACT WAS PAID TO THEM AFTER THEIR DECEASE.
1. From the records of the primitive Church it appears that, whilst the number of converts in each place of worship would admit of it, the names of all who had departed this life in communion with their brethren were particularly recited with praise to God, and offered with great solemnity at the altar in the Eucharistical service.
2. As the increase of numbers soon rendered this usage impracticable, a general oblation of them was substituted in the room of it.
(1) The general oblation of praise to God for all His saints departed we make upon a peculiar festival, marked out by our Church for this pious purpose. Even for the glorious company of the apostles, for the goodly fellowship of the prophets, for the noble army of martyrs; and indeed for the holy Church which hath been throughout all the world.
(2) Our more particular acknowledgments of praise to Him for the illustrious examples and pious labours of His most eminent and renowned champions we reserve (as Christians did in the time of ) for the yearly return of their respective martyrdoms.
(3) By both we plainly symbolize with the practice of the Church in her earliest and purest ages.
II. WHAT OF THIS KIND IS, OR IS NOT, PROPER TO BE PAID THEM.
1. The limitations to be set to it.
(1) The saints departed are no fit objects of our prayer to them, are entitled to no sort of religious worship from us (Matthew 4:10; Revelation 22:8, 9).
(2) But may we not be permitted to ask the intercession of saints departed, and through their mediation with the Lord of all things, in whose Presence we may suppose them standing, to seek a redress of our several grievances, and a supply of our respective wants? No! not this! For as we have but one God, so we have but one Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).
(3) If any degrees of a supposed uneasiness in departed souls, upon the delay of the resurrection, should be conceived to require our prayers and intercessions that God would remove or lighten them, these the charity of our Church hath indulged to us in her burial office, where we beseech Almighty God that it may please Him of His gracious goodness shortly to accomplish the number of His elect, and to hasten His kingdom; that so we, with all those who are departed in the true faith of His holy Name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss both in body and soul in His eternal and everlasting glory.
2. What of this sort may with safety be allowed to us?
(1) We are to praise God for the benefit of their labours, through which we have been brought out of darkness and error into His marvellous light.
(2) The lustre of their example is another circumstance deserving our praises to God, which will best be expressed in our imitation of it.
(3) From the rest which they now enjoy from their labours, and from the blessedness of those who die in the Lord, we may comfort ourselves with the prospect of following them, and of partaking with them in the joy of our common Master.
(N. Marshall, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints. Praise ye the LORD.