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images? And when about to pray, why do they turn themselves towards them, as towards the ears of God? For it is true, as Augustine says, (d) "That no man prays or worships thus, looking on an image, who is not impressed with an opinion that he shall be heard by it, and a hope that it will do for him as he desires." Why is there so great a difference between images of the same god, that one is passed by with little or no respect, and another is honoured in the most solemn manner? Why do they fatigue themselves with votive pilgrimages, in, going to see images resembling those which they have at home? Why do they at this day fight, even to slaughter and destruction, in defence of them, as of their country and religion, so that they could part with the only true God more easily than with their idols? Yet I am not here enumerating the gross errors of the vulgar, which are almost infinite, and occupy nearly the hearts of all: I only relate what they themselves allege, when they are most anxious to exculpate themselves from idolatry. " We never," say they, "call them our gods." Nor did the Jews or heathens in ancient times call them their gods: and yet the Prophets, in all their writings, were constantly accusing them of fornication with wood and stone, only on account of such things as are daily practised by those who wish to be thought Christians; that is, for worshipping God, by corporeal adoration before figures of wood or stone.
XI. I am neither ignorant, nor desirous of concealing, that they evade the charge by a more subtile distinction, which will soon be noticed more at large. They pretend, that the reverence which they pay to images is n3»A« }*ki* (service of images), but deny that it is "hex, AaTgsia (worship of images). For in this manner they express themselves, when they maintain, that the reverence which they call bttoi*, may be given to statues or pictures, without injury to God. They consider themselves, therefore, liable to no blame, while they are only the servants of their idols, and not worshippers of them; as though worship were not rather inferior to service. And yet, while they seek to shelter themselves under a Greek term, they contradict themselves in the most childish manner. For since
(if) In Psalm cxUL.
the Greek word "rave" signifies nothing else but to worship; what they say is equivalent to a confession that they adore their images, but without adoration. Nor can they justly object, that I am trying to ensnare them with words: they betray their own ignorance in their endeavours to raise a mist before the eyes of the simple. But, however eloquent they may be, they will never be able, by their rhetoric, to prove one and the same thing to be two different things. Let them point out, I say, a difference in fact, that they may be accounted different from ancient idolaters. For, as an adulterer, or homicide, will not escape the imputation of guilt, by giving his crime a new and arbitrary name; so it is absurd that these persons should be exculpated by the subtle invention of a name, if they really differ in no respect from those idolaters, whom they themselves are constrained to condemn. But their case is so far from being different from that of former idolaters, that the source of all the evil is a preposterous emulation, with which they have rivalled them, by exercising their minds in contriving, and their hands in forming, visible symbols of the Deity.
,jiXII. Nevertheless, I am not so scrupulous as to think.that no images ought ever to be permitted. But since sculpture and painting are gifts of God, I wish for a pure and legitimate use of both; lest those things, which the Lord hath conferred on us for his glory and our benefit, be not only corrupted by preposterous abuse, but even perverted to our ruin. We think it unlawful to make any visible figure as a representation of God, because he hath himself forbidden it, and it cannot be done without detracting, in some measure, from his glory. Let it not be supposed that we are singular m this opinion; for that all sound writers have uniformly reprobated the practice, must be evident to persons conversant with their works. If, then, it be not lawful to make any corporeal representation of God, much less will it be lawful to worship it for God, or to worship God in it. We conclude, therefore, that nothing should be painted and engraved but objects visible to our eyes: the Divine Majesty, which is far above the reach of human sight, ought not to be corrupted by unseemly figures. The subjects of those arts consist partly of histories and transactions, partly of images and corporeal forms, without reference to any transactions. The former are of some use in information or recollection; the latter, as far as I see, can furnish nothing but amusement. And yet it is evident, that almost all the images, which have hitherto been set up in the churches, have been of this latter description. Hence it may be seen, that they were placed there, not with judgment and discrimination, but from a foolish and inconsiderate passion for them. I say nothing here of the impropriety and indecency conspicuous in most of them, and the wanton licentiousness displayed in them by the painters and statuaries, at which I have before hinted: I only assert, that even if they were intrinsically faultless, still they would be altogether unavailing for the purposes of instruction.
XIII. But passing over that difference also, let us consider, as we proceed, whether it be expedient to have any images at all in Christian temples, either descriptive of historical events, or representative of human forms. In the first place, if the authority of the ancient Church have any influence with us, let us remember, that for about five hundred years, while religion continued in a more prosperous state, and purer doctrine prevailed, the Christian churches were generally without images. They were then fi rst introduced, therefore, to ornament the churches, when the purity of the ministry had begun to degenerate. I will not.dispute what was the reason which influenced the first authors of them; but if you compare one age with another, you will see that they were much declined from the integrity of those who had no images. Who can suppose, that those holy fathers would have permitted the Church to remain so long destitute of what they judged useful and salutary for it? The fact was, that instead of omitting them through ignorance or negligence, they perceived them to be of little or no use,but, on the contrary, pregnant..with much danger; and, therefore, intentionally and wisely rejected them. This is asserted in express terms by Augustine: "When they are fixed," says he, "in those places in an honourable elevation, to attract the attention of those who are praying and sacrificing; though they are destitute of sense and life, yet, by the very similitude of living members and senses, they affect weak minds, so that they appear to them to live and breathe," &c. (e) And in another place: "For that representation of members leads, and, as it were, constrains, the mind, which animates a body, to suppose that body to be endued with perception which it sees to be very similar to its own," &c. And a little after: "Idols have more influence to bow down an unhappy soul, because they have a mouth, eyes, ears, and feet; than to correct it, because they neither speak, nor see, nor hear, nor walk." This indeed appears to be the reason of John's exhortation to "keep ourselves," not only from the worship of idols, but "from idols" themselves. And we have found it too true, that, through the horrible frenzy, which, almost to the total destruction of piety, hath heretofore possessed the world, as soon as images are set up in churches, there is, as it were, a standard of idolatry erected; for the folly of mankind cannot refrain from immediately filling into idolatrous worship. But even if the danger were less, yet, when I consider the use for which temples were designed, it appears to me extremely unworthy of their sanctity to receive any other images, than those natural and expressive ones, which the Lord hath consecrated in his word: I mean Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord, and the other ceremonies, with which our eyes ought to be more attentively engaged, and more sensibly affected, than to require any others formed by human ingenuity. Behold the incomparable advantages of images! the loss of which, if you believe the papists, nothing can compensate.
XIV. The remarks already made on this subject, I think, would be sufficient, if it were not necessary to take some notice of the Council of Nice; not that very celebrated one, which was convened by Constantine the Great, but that which was held about eight hundred years ago, by the command, and under the auspices, of the Empress Irene. For that Council decreed, not only that images should be had in, churches, but also that they should be worshipped. And, notwithstanding what I have advanced, the authority of the Council would raise a strong prejudice on the contrary side. Though, to confess the truth, I am not much concerned at this, as I am to shew the reader
(e) Episi. 49. De Civ. Dei, lib. 4. cap. 31. Vol. I. Q