Homily Against the Peril of Idolatry
... and superfluous decking of churches.
In what points the true ornaments of the Church or Temple of God do consist and stand, hath been declared in the two last Homilies, entreating of the right use of the Temple or house of God, and of the due reverence that all true Christian people are bound to give unto the same. The sum whereof is, that the Church or house of God, is a place appointed by the holy Scriptures, where the lively word of God ought to be read, taught, and heard, the Lords holy name called upon by public prayer, hearty thanks given to his Majesty for his infinite and unspeakable benefits bestowed upon us, his holy Sacraments duly and reverently ministered, and that therefore all that be godly indeed, ought both with diligence at times appointed, to repair together to the said Church, and there with all reverence to use and behave themselves before the Lord. And that the said Church thus godly used by the servants of the Lord, in the Lords true service, for the effectual presence of God’s grace, wherewith he doeth by his holy word and promises, endue his people there present and assembled, to the attainment, as well of commodities worldly, necessary for us, as also of all heavenly gifts, and life everlasting, is called by the word of God (as it is indeed) the Temple of the Lord, and the house of God, and that therefore the due reverence thereof, is stirred up in the hearts of the godly, by the consideration of these true ornaments of the said house of God, and not by any outward ceremonies or costly and glorious decking of the said house or Temple of the Lord, contrary to the which most manifest doctrine of the Scriptures, and contrary to the usage of the Primitive Church, which was most pure and incorrupt, and contrary to the sentences and judgements of the most ancient, learned and godly Doctors of the Church (as hereafter shall appear) the corruption of these latter days, hath brought into the Church infinite multitudes of images, and the same, with other parts of the Temple also, have decked with gold and silver, painted with colours, set them with stone and pearl, clothed them with silks and precious vestures, fancying untruly that to be the chief decking and adorning of the Temple or house of God, and that all people should be the more moved to the due reverence of the same, if all corners thereof were glorious, and glistering with gold and precious stones. Whereas indeed they by the said images, and such glorious decking of the Temple, have no thing at all profited such as were wise and of understanding: but have thereby greatly hurt the simple and unwise, occasioning them thereby to commit most horrible idolatry. And the covetous persons, by the same occasion, seeming to worship, and peradventure worshipping indeed, not only the images, but also the matter of them, gold and silver, as that vice is of all others in the Scriptures peculiarly called idolatry or worshipping of images. (Eph 5, Col 3) Against the which foul abuses and great enormities shall be alleged unto you: First, the authority of God’s holy word, as well out of the old Testament, as of the new. And secondly, the testimonies of the holy and ancient learned Fathers and Doctors, out of their own works and ancient histories Ecclesiastical, both that you may at once know their judgements, and withal understand what manner of ornaments were in the Temples in the Primitive Church in those times, which were most pure and sincere. Thirdly, the reasons and arguments made for the defence of images or idols, and the outrageous decking of Temples and Churches, with gold, silver, pearl, and precious stone, shall be confuted, and so this whole matter concluded. But lest any should take occasion by the way, of doubting by words or names, it is thought good here to note first of all, that although in common speech we use to call the likeness or similitude of men or other things images, and not idols: yet the Scriptures use the said two words (idols and images) indifferently for one thing always. They be words of divers tongues and sounds, but one in sense and signification in the Scriptures. The one is taken of the Greek word Ei¶dwlon; an Idol, and the other of the Latin word Imago, and Image, and so both used as English terms in the translating of Scriptures indifferently, according as the Septuagint have in their translation in Greek Ei¶dwla, and St. Jerome in his translation of the same places in Latin hath Simulachra, in English, Images. And in the new Testament, that which St. John calleth Ei¶dwlon (1 Jn 5), St. Ierome likewise translateth Simulachrum, as in all other like places of Scripture usually he doeth so translate. And Tertullian , a most ancient Doctor, and well learned in both the tongues, Greek and Latin, interpreting this place of St. John , Beware of Idols, that is to say (saith Tertullian ) of the images themselves: the Latin words which he useth, be Effigies and Imago, to say, an Image (Lib. de corona militis). And therefore it skilleth not, whether in this process wee use the one term or the other, or both together, seeing they both (though not in common English speech, yet in Scripture) signify one thing. And though some to blind men’s eyes, have heretofore craftily gone about to make them to be taken for words of divers signification in matters of Religion, and have therefore usually named the likeness or similitude of a thing set up amongst the Heathen in their Temples or other places to be worshipped, an Idol. But the like similitude with us, set up in the Church, the place of worshipping, they call an Image, as though these two words (Idol and Image) in Scripture, did differ in propriety and sense, which as is afore said) differ only in sound and language, and in meaning be in deed all one, specially in the Scriptures and matters of Religion. And our Images also have been, and be, and if they be publicly suffered in Churches and Temples, ever will be also worshipped, and so Idolatry committed to them, as in the last part of this Homily shall at large be declared and proved. Wherefore our Images in Tem ples and Churches, be in deed none other but Idols, as unto the which Idolatry hath been, is, and ever will be committed.
And first of all, the Scriptures of the old Testament, condemning and abhorring as well all Idolatry or worshipping of Images, as also the very Idols or Images themselves, specially in Temples, are so many and plentiful; that it were almost an infinite work, and to be contained in no small volume, to record all the places concerning the same. For when God had chosen to himself a peculiar and special people from amongst all other Nations that knew not God, but worshipped Idols and false God’s, he gave unto them certain ordinances and laws to be kept and observed of his said people. But concerning none other matter did he give either more, or more earnest and express Laws to his said people, then those that concerned the true worshipping of him, and the avoiding and fleeing of Idols and Images, and Idolatry: for that, both the said Idolatry is most repugnant to the right worshipping of him and his true glory, above all other vices, and that he knew the proneness and inclination of mans corrupt kind and nature, to that most odious and abominable vice. Of the which ordinances and Laws, so given by the Lord to his people concerning that matter, I will rehearse and allege some that be most special for this purpose, that you by them may judge of the rest.
In the fourth Chapter of the Book named Deuteronomy, is a notable place, and most worthy with all diligence to be marked, which beginneth thus: And now Israel hear the Commandments and Judgements which I teach thee (saith the Lord) that thou doing them, mayest live, and enter and possess the land which the Lord God of your Fathers will give you. Ye shall put nothing to the word which I speak to you, neither shall ye take any thing from it. Keep ye the Commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you. And by and by after he repeateth the same sentence three or four times, before he come to the matter that he would specially warn them of, as it were for a Preface, to make them to take the better heed unto it. Take heed to thy self (saith he) and to thy soul, with all carefulness, lest thou forgettest the things which thine eyes have seen, and that they go not out of thine heart all the days of thy life, thou shalt teach them to thy children and nephews, or posterity. And shortly after, The Lord spake unto you out of the middle of fire, but you heard the voice or sound of his words, but you did see no form or shape at all. And by and by followeth, Take heed therefore diligently unto your souls, you saw no manner of Image in the day in the which the Lord spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire, lest peradventure, you being deceived, should make to yourselves any graven Image, or likeness of man or woman, or the likeness of any beast which is upon the earth, or of the birds that flee under heaven, or of any creeping thing that is moved on the earth, or of the fishes that do continue in the waters: least peradventure thou lifting up thine eyes to heaven, do see the Sun and the Moon, and the Stars of heaven, and so thou, being deceived by error, shouldest honour, and worship them which the Lord thy God hath created to serve all Nations that be under heaven. And again: Beware that thou forget not the covenant of the Lord thy God, which he made with thee, and so make to thy self any carved Image of them which the Lord hath forbidden to be made: for the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, and a jealous God. If thou have children and nephews, and do tarry in the land, and being deceived do make to yourselves and similitude, doing evil before the Lord your God, and provoke him to anger: I do this day call upon heaven and earth to witness, that ye shall quickly perish out of the land which you shall possess, you shall not dwell in it any long time, but the Lord will destroy you, and will scatter you amongst all Nations, and ye shall remain but a very few amongst the Nations, whither the Lord will lead you away, and then shall you serve God’s which are made with mans hands, of wood and stone, which see not, and hear not, neither eat nor smell, and so forth. This is a notable chapter, and entreateth almost altogether of this matter. But because it is too long to write out the whole, I have noted you certain principal points out of it. First, how earnestly and oft he calleth upon them to mark and to take heed, and that upon the peril of their souls, to the charge which he giveth them. Then how he forbiddeth by a solemn and long rehearsal of all things in heaven, in earth, and in the water, any Image or likeness of any thing at all to be made. Thirdly, what penalty and horrible destruction, he solemnly, with invocation of heaven and earth, for record, denounceth and threatneth to them, their children and posterity, if they contrary to this Commandment, do make or worship any Images or similitude, which he so straightly hath forbidden. And when they, this notwithstanding, partly by inclination of mans corrupt nature most prone to Idolatry, and partly occasioned by the Gentiles and heathen people dwelling about them, who were Idolaters, did fall to the making and worshipping of Images: God according to his word, brought upon them all those plagues which he threatened them with, as appeareth in the books of the Kings and the Chronicles, in sundry places at large. And agreeable hereunto are many other notable places in the old Testament, Deuteronomy 27. Cursed be he that maketh a carved Image, or a cast or molten Image, which is abomination be fore the Lord, the worke of the artificers hand, and setteth it up in a secret corner, and all the people shall say, Amen.
Read the thirteenth and fourteenth Chapters of the book of Wisdom, concerning Idols or Images, how they be made, set up, called upon, and offered unto, and how he praiseth the tree whereof the gibbet is made, as happy, in comparison to the tree that an Image or Idol is made of, even by these very words, Happy is the tree where through righteousness commeth, (meaning the gibbet) but cursed is the Idol that is made with hands, yea, both it, and he that made it, and so forth. And by and by he sheweth how that the things which were the good creatures of God before (as Trees or Stones) when they be once altered and fashioned into Images to bee worshipped, become abomination, a temptation unto the souls of men, and a snare for the feet of the unwise. And why? the seeking out of Images, is the beginning of whoredom (saith he) and the bringing up of them, is the destruction of life: for they were not from the beginning, neither shall they continue for ever. The wealthy idleness of men hath found them out upon earth, therefore shall they come shortly to an end: and so forth to the end of the Chapter, containing these points, Now Idols or Images were first invented, and offered unto, how by an ungracious custom they were established, how tyrants compel men to worship them, how the ignorant and the common people are deceived by the cunning of the workman, and the beauty of the Image, to do honour unto it, and so to err from the knowledge of God, and of other great and many mischiefs that come by Images. And for a conclusion he saith, that the honouring of abominable Images, is the cause, the beginning, and end of all evil, and that the worshippers of them be either mad, or most wicked. See and view the whole Chapter with diligence, for it is worthy to be well considered, specially that is written of the deceiving of the simple and unwise common people by Idols and Images, and repeated twice or thrice lest it should be forgotten. And in the Chapter following be these words (Wis 15): The painting of the picture and carved Image with divers colours, entiseth the ignorant so, that he honoureth and loveth the picture of a dead image that hath no soul. Nevertheless, they that love such evil things, they that trust in them, they that make them, they that favour them, and they that honour them, are all worthy of death, and so forth.
In the book of Psalms, the Prophet curseth the Image honourers, in divers places (Ps 47, Ps 135). Confounded be all they that worship carved Images, and that delight or glory in them. Like be they unto the Images that make them, and all they that put their trust in them.
And in the Prophet Isaiah, saith the Lord (Isa 42): Even I am the Lord, and this is my Name, and my glory will I give to none other, neither my honour to graven Images. And by and by: Let them be confounded with shame that trust in Idols or Images, or say to them, you are our God’s, And in the xl. Chapter after he hath set forth the incomprehensible Majesty of God, he asketh, To whom then will ye make God like? Or what similitude will ye set up unto him? Shall the carver make him a carved Image? and shall the Goldsmith cover him with gold, and cast him into a form of silver plates? And for the poor man, shall the Image maker frame an Image of timber, that he may have somewhat to set up also? And after this he crieth out: O wretches, heard ye never of this? Hath it not been preached unto you since the be ginning, and so forth, how by the Creation of the world, and the greatness of the work, they might understand the Majesty of God, the Creator and maker of all, to be greater then that it should be expressed, or set forth in any Image or bodily similitude? And besides this preaching, even in the law of God written with his own finger (as the Scripture speaketh) and that in the first Table, and the beginning there (Ex 20) of, is this doctrine aforesaid against Images (not briefly touched) but at large set forth and preached, and that with denunciation of destruction to the contemnors and breakers of this Law, and their posterity after them. And lest it should yet not be marked or not remembered, the same is written and reported not in one, but in sundry places of the Word of God (Lev 26, Dt 5, Ex 20), that by oft reading and hearing of it, wee might once learn and remember it, as you also hear daily read in the Church, God spake these words, and said, I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt have none other God’s but me. Thou shalt not make to thy self any graven Image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in Heaven above, nor in the Earth beneath, nor in the water under the Earth, Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them: For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, and visit the sin of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and show mercy unto thousands in them that love me, and keep my Commandements. All this notwithstanding, neither could the notableness of the place, being the very beginning of the very loving Lords Law, make us to mark it, nor the plain declaration by recounting of all kind of similitudes, cause us to understand it, nor the oft repeating and reporting of it in divers and sundry places, the oft reading and hearing of it, could cause us to re member it, nor the dread of the horrible penalty to ourselves, our children, and posterity after us, fear us from transgressing of it, nor the greatness of the reward to us and our children after us, move us anything to obedience, and the observing of this the Lords great Law: But as though it had been written in some corner, and not at large expressed, but briefly and obscurely touched, as though no penalty to the transgressors, nor reward to the obedient, had been adjoined unto it, like blind men without all knowledge and understanding, like unreasonable beasts, without dread of punishment or respect of reward, have diminished and dishonoured the high Majesty of the living God, by the baseness and vileness of sundry and divers images of dead stocks, stones, and metals. And as the Majesty of God, whom we have left, forsaken, and dishonoured, and therefore the greatness of our sin and offence against his Majesty, cannot be expressed: So is the weakness, vileness, and foolishness, in device of the images (whereby we have dishonoured him) expressed at large in the Scriptures, namely the Psalms,the book of Wisedom, the Prophet Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Baruch, specially in these places and Chapters of them: Psalm 115 and 134, Isaiah 40 and 44, Ezekiel 6, Wisdom 13, 15, Baruch 6. The which places, as I exhort you often and diligently to read, so are they too long at this present to be rehearsed in an Homily. Notwithstanding, I will make you certain brief or short notes out of them, what they say of these idols or images. First, that they be made but of small pieces of wood, stone, or metal, and therefore they cannot be any similitudes of the great Majesty of God, whose seat is heaven, and the earth his footestool. Secondarily, that they be dead, have eyes and see not, hands and feel not, feet and cannot go, & c. and therefore they cannot be fit similitudes of the living God. Thirdly, that they have no power to do good nor harm to others, though some of them have an axe, some a sword, some a spear in their hands, yet do thieves come into their Temples and rob them, and they cannot once stir to defend themselves from the thieves: nay, if the Temple or Church be set afire, that their Priests can run away and save themselves, but they cannot once move, but tarry still like blocks as they are, and be burned, and therefore they can be no mete figures of the puissant and mighty God, who alone is able both to save his servants, and to destroy his enemies everlastingly. They be trimly decked in Gold, Silver, and Stone, as well the images of men, as of women, like wanton wenches (saith the Prophet Baruch ) (Bar 6) that love paramours, and therefore can they not teach us, nor our wives and daughters any soberness, modesty, and chastity. And therefore although it is now commonly said that they be the laymen’s books, yet wee see they teach no good lesson, neither of God, nor godliness, but all error and wickedness. Therefore God by his word, as he forbiddeth any idols or images to be made or set up: so doth he command such as we find made and set up to be pulled down, broken, and destroyed.
And it is written in the book of Numbers, the xxiii. Chapter, that there was no idol in Jacob , nor there was no image seen in Israel, and that the Lord God was with the people. Where note, that the true Israelites, that is, the people of God, have no images among them, but that God was with them, and that therefore their enemies can not hurt them, as appeareth in the process of that Chapter. And as concerning Images already set up, thus saith the Lord in Deuteronomy (Dt 7 & 12). Overturn their altars, and break them to pieces, cut down their groves, burn their images: for thou art an holy people unto the Lord. And the same is repeated more vehemently again in the twelfth Chapter of the same book. Here note, what the people of God ought to do to images, where they find them.
But lest any private persons, upon colour of destroying images, should make any stir or disturbance in the common wealth, it must always be remembered, that the redress of such public enormities pertaineth to the Magistrates, and such as be in authority only, and not to private persons, and therefore the good Kings of Judah, Asa, Hezekia, Johshaphat, and Josiah, are highly commended for the breaking down and destroying of the altars, idols, and images. And the Scriptures declare that they, specially in that point, did that which was right before the Lord. And contrariwise, Jeroboam, Ahab, Joash, and other Princes, which either set up, or suffered such altars or images un-destroyed, are by the word of God reported to have done evil before the Lord (1 Ki 16, 2 Chr 14, 15 & 31). And if any, contrary to the commandment of the Lord, will needs set up such altars or images, or suffer them un-destroyed amongst them, the Lord himself threatneth in the first Chapter of the book of Numbers, and by his holy Prophets, Ezekiel, Micah and Habakkuk., that he will come himself and pull them down. And how he will handle, punish, and destroy the people that so set up, or suffer such altars, images, or idols un-destroyed, he denounceth by his Prophet Ezekiel on this manner (Ezek 6): I myself (saith the Lord) will bring a sword over you, to destroy your high places, I will cast down your altars, and break down your images, your slain men will I lay before your God’s, and the dead carcases of the children of Israel will I cast before their idols, your bones will I straw round about your altars and dwelling places, your Cities shall be desolate, the hill Chapels laid waste, your altars destroyed and broken, your God’s cast down and taken away, your Temples laid even with the ground, your own works clean rooted out, your slain men shall lye amongst you, that ye may learn to know how that I am the Lord, and so forth to the Chapters end, worthy with diligence to be read: that they that be near, shall perish with the sword, they that be far off, with the pestilence, they that flee into holds or wilderness, with hunger: and if any be yet left, that they shal be carried away prisoners to servitude and bondage. So that if either the multitude, or plainness of the places might make us to understand, or the earnest charge that God giveth in the said places move us to regard, or the horrible plagues, punishments, and dreadful destruction, threatened to such worshippers of images or idols, setters up, or maintainers of them, might engender any fear in our hearts, wee would once leave and forsake this wickedness, being in the Lords sight so great an offence and abomination. Infinite places almost might be brought out of the Scriptures of the old Testament concerning this matter, but these few at this time shall serve for all.
You will say peradventure these things pertain to the Jews, what have wee to do with them? Indeed they pertain no less to us Christians, then to them. For if we be the people of God, how can the Word and Law of God not appertain to us? Saint Paul alleging one text out of the old Testament, concludeth generally for other Scriptures of the old Testament as well as that, saying, Whatsoever is written be fore (meaning in the old Testament) is written for our instruction (Rom 15): which sentence is most specially true of such writings of the old Testament, as contain the immutable law and ordinances of God, in no age or time to be altered, nor of any persons of any nations or age to be disobeyed, such as the above rehearsed places be. Notwithstanding, for your further satisfying herein, according to my promise, I will out of the Scriptures of the new Testament or Gospel of our Saviour Christ , likewise make a confirmation of the said doctrine against Idols or Images, and of our duty concerning the same. First the Scriptures of the new Testament do in sundry places make mention with rejoicing, as for a most excellent benefit and gift of God, that they which received the Faith of Christ , were turned from their dumb and dead Images, unto the true and living God, who is to be blessed for ever: namely in these places, the 14th and 17th of the Acts of the Apostles, the eleventh to the Romans, the first Epistle to the Corinthians, the twelfth Chapter, to the Galatians, the fourth, and the first to the Thessalonians the first Chapter.
And in likewise the said is Idols, Images, and worshipping of them, are in the Scriptures of the new Testament by the spirit of God much abhorred and detested, and earnestly forbidden, as appeareth both in the forenamed places, and also many other besides, as in the seven, and fif teenth of the Actes of the Apostles, the first to the Romanes, where is set forth the horrible plague of Idolaters, given ouer by God into a re probate sense to worke all wickednes and abominations not to be spoken, as usually spirituall and carnall Fornication goe together.
In the first Epistle to the Corinthians the fifth Chapter, we are forbid den once to keep company, or to eat and drink with such as be called brethren or Christians that do worship Images. In the fifth to the Galatians, the worshipping of Images is numbered amongst the works of the flesh. and in the first to the Corinthians the tenth, it is called the service of devils, and that such as use it, shall be destroyed. And in the sixth Chapter of the said Epistle, and the fifth to the Galatians, is denounced, that such Image worshippers shall never come into the inheritance of the Kingdome of heaven. And in sundry other places is threatened, that the wrath of God shall come upon all such. And therefore Saint John in his Epistle exhorteth us as his dear children to beware of Images 1 Jn 5). And Saint Paul warneth us to flee from the worshipping of them (1 Cor 10), if we be wise, that is to say, if wee care for health, and fear destruction, if we regard the Kingdome of God and life everlasting, and dread the wrath of God, and everlasting damnation. For it is not possible that wee should be worshippers of Images, and the true servants of God also, as St. Paul teacheth, in the second to the Corinthians the sixth Chapter, affirming expressly that there can be no more consent or agreement between the Temple of God (which all true Christians be) and Images, then between righteousness and unrighteousness, between light and darkness, between the faithful and the unfaithful, or between Christ and the devil. Which place enforceth both that wee should not worship Images, and that we should not have Images in the Temple, for fear and occasion of worshipping them, though they be of themselves things indifferent: for the Christian is the holy Temple and lively Image of God, as the place well declareth, to such as will read and weigh it. And whereas all godly men did ever abhor that any kneeling and worshipping or offering should be used to themselves when they were alive (for that it was the honour due to God only) as appeareth in the Acts of the Apostles by S. Peter forbidding it to Cornelius (Acts 10) , and by St. Paul and Barnabas forbidding the same to the Citizens in Lystra (Acts 14) : Yet we like mad men fall down before the dead idols or images of Peter and Paul , and give that honour to stocks and stones, which they thought abominable to be given to themselves being aliue. And the good Angel of God, as appeareth in the book of St. Johns Revelation, refused to be kneeled unto, when that honour was offered him of John : Beware (saith the Angel) that thou do it not, for I am thy fellow servant. But the evil angel Satan, desireth nothing so much as to be kneeled unto, and thereby at once both to rob God of his due honour, and to work the damnation of such as make him so low curtsies, as in the story of the Gospel appeareth in sundry places. Yea, and he offered our Saviour Christ all earthly goods, on the condition that he would kneel down & worship him. But our Saviour repelleth Satan by the Scriptures (Mtt 4, Lk 4), saying, It is written, thou shalt worship thy Lord God, and him alone shalt thou serve. But we by not worshipping and serving God alone (as the Scriptures teach us) and by worshipping of images, contrary to the Scriptures, pluck Satan to us, and are ready without reward to follow his desire: yea, rather then fail, we will offer him gifts and oblations to receive our service. But let us brethren, rather follow the counsel of the good Angel of God, then the suggestion of subtle Satan, that wicked angel and old Serpent: Who according to the pride where by he first fell, attempteth always by such sacrilege to deprive God (whom he envieth) of his due honour: and (because his own face is horrible and ugly) to convey it to himself by the mediation of gilt stocks and stones, and withal to make us the enemies of God, and his own suppliants and slaves, and in the end to procure us for a reward, everlasting destruction and damnation. Therefore above all things, if wee take ourselves to be Christians indeed (as we be named) let us credit the word, obey the law, and follow the doctrine and example of our Saviour and master Christ , repelling Satan’s suggestion to idolatry, and worship ping of Images, according to the truth alleged and taught out of the Testament and Gospel of our said heavenly Doctor and Schoolmaster Jesus Christ , who is God to be blessed for ever.
The Second Part of the Homily against Idolatry
You have heard (wellbeloved) in the first part of this Homily, the doctrine of the word of God against idols and images, against Idolatry, and worshipping of images, taken out of the Scriptures of the old Testament and the New, and confirmed by the examples as well of the Apostles as of our Saviour Christ himself. Now although our Saviour Christ taketh not, or needeth not any testimony of men, and that which is once confirmed by the certainty of his eternal truth, hath no more need of the confirmation of mans doctrine and writings, then the bright sun at noontide hath need of the light of a little candle to put away darkness, and to increase his light: yet for your further contentation, it shall in this second part be declared (as in the beginning of the first part was promised) that this truth and doctrine concerning the forbidding of images and worshipping of them, taken out of the holy Scriptures, as well of the old Testament as the new, was believed and taught of the old holy Fathers, and most ancient learned Doctors, and received in the old Primitive Church, which was most incorrupt and pure. And this declaration shall be made out of the said holy Doctors own writings, and out of the ancient history Ecclesiastical to the same belonging.
Tertullian, a most ancient Writer and Doctor of the Church, who lived about one hundred and threescore years after the death of our Saviour Christ, both in sundry other places of his works, and specially in his book written against the manner of crowning (Contra corandi morem.), and in another little treatise entitled, Of the soldier’s crown or garland, doth most sharply and vehemently write and inveigh against images or idols. And upon St. John’s words, the first Epistle and fifth Chapter, saith thus, St. John (saith he) deeply considering the matter, saith: My little children, keep yourselves from images or idols. He saith not now, keep yourselves from idolatry, as it were from the service and worshipping of them: but from the images or idols themselves, that is, from the shape and likeness of them. Four it were an unworthy thing, that the image of the living God should become the image of a dead idol. Do you not think those persons which place images and idols in Churches and Temples, yea shrine them even over the Lords table, even as it were of purpose to the worshipping and honouring of them, take good heed to either of St. John’s counsel, or Tertullian’s? Four so to place images and idols is it to keep themselves from them, or else to receive and embrace them. Origen’s in his book against Celsus, saith thus : Christian men and Jews, when they hear these words of the Law (Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and shalt not make any image) do not only abhor the Temples, Altars, and Images of the gods, but if need be, will rather die then they should defile themselves with any impiety. And shortly after he saith: In the common wealth of the Jews, the carver of idols and image maker, was cast far off and forbidden, lest they should have any occasion to make images, which might pluck certain foolish persons from God, and turn the eyes of their souls to the contemplation of earthly things. And in another place of the same book: It is not only (saith he) a mad and frantic part to worship images, but also once to dissemble or wink at it. And a man may know God and his only son, and those which have had such honour given them by God, that they be called gods: But it is not possible that any should by worshipping of images get any knowledge of God.
Athanasius in his book against the Gentiles, hath these words: Let them tell, I pray you, how God may be known by an image. If it be by the matter of an image, then there needeth no shape or form, seeing that God hath appeared in all material creatures which do testify his glory. Now if they say he is known by the form or fashion: Is he not better to be known by the living things themselves, whose fashions the images express? Four of surety, the glory of God should be more evidently known, if it were declared by reasonable and living creatures, rather then by dead and unmoveable images. Therefore when ye do grave or paint images, to the end to know God thereby, surely ye do an unworthy and unfit thing. And in another place of the same book he saith, The invention of images came of no good, but of evil, and whatsoever hath an evil beginning, can never in any thing be judged good, seeing it is altogether naught. Thus Athanasius, an ancient, holy, and learned Bishop and Doctor, who judgeth both the first beginning and the end, and altogether of images or idols, to be naught.
Lactantius likewise, an old and learned writer, in his book of the Origen of error, hath these words, God is above man, and is not placed beneath, but is to be sought in the highest region. Wherefore there is no doubt, but that no religion is in that place wheresoever any image is: Four if religion stand in godly things, (and there is no godliness but in heavenly things) then be images without religion. These be Lactantius words, who was above 13 hundred years ago, and with in three hundreth years after our Saviour Christ (Book 2. chapter 16).
Cyrillus, an old and holy doctor, upon the Gospel of Saint John hath these words, Many have left the creator, and have worshipped the creature, neither have they been abashed to say unto a stock: Thou art my father, and unto a stone, Thou begottest me. Four many, yea, almost all (alas for sorrow) are fallen unto such folly, that they have given the glory of deity or Godhead, to things without sense or feeling.
Epiphanius Bishop of Salamine in Cyprus, a holy and learned man, who lived in Theodosius the Emperor’s time, about three hundred and ninety years after our Saviour Christ’s ascension, writeth this to John Patriarch of Jerusalem : I entered (saith Epiphanius ) into a certain Church to pray: I found there a linen cloth hanging in the Church door, painted, and having in it the image of Christ, as it were, or of some other Saint, (I remember not well whose image it was) therefore when I did see the image of a man hanging in the Church of Christ, contrary to the authority of the Scriptures, I did tear it, and gave counsel to the keepers of the Church, that they should wind a poor man that was dead in the said cloth, and to bury him.
And afterwards the same Epiphanius sending another unpainted cloth, for that painted one which he had torn, to the said Patriarch, writeth thus, I pray you will the Elders of that place to receive this cloth which I have sent by this bearer, and command them that from henceforth no such painted clothes contrary to our religion, be hanged in the Church of Christ . For it becommeth your goodness rather to have this care, that you take away such scrupulosity, which is unfitting for the Church of Christ, and offensive to the people committed to your charge. And this Epistle, as worthy to be read of many, did St. Jerome himself translate in to the Latin tongue. And that ye may know that St. Jerome had this holy and learned Bishop Epiphanius in most high estimation, and therefore did translate this Epistle, as a writing of authority: hear what a testimony the said St. Jerome giveth him in another place, in his Treatise against the errors of John Bishop of Jerusalem, where he hath these words: Thou hast (saith Saint Jerome ) Pope Epiphanius, which doth openly in his letters call thee an heretic. Surely thou art not to be preferred before him, neither for age nor learning, nor godliness of life, nor by the testimony of the whole world. And shortly after in the same treatise saith St. Jerome: Bishop Epiphanius was ever of so great veneration and estimation, that Valens the Emperor, who was a great persecutor, did not once touch him. Four heretics, being princes, thought it their shame if they should persecute such a notable man. And in the tripartite Ecclesiastical history, the ninth book and xlviii. Chapter, is testified, that Epiphanius being yet alive did work miracles, and that after his death devils, being expelled at his grave or tomb, did roar. Thus you see what authority St. Jerome and that most ancient history give unto the holy and learned Bishop Epiphanius, whose judgement of images in Churches and Temples, then beginning by stealth to creep in, is worthy to be noted (Book 9 chapter 48).
First, he judged it contrary to Christian religion and the authority of the Scriptures, to have any images in Christ’s Church. Secondly, he rejected not only carved, graven, and molten images, but also painted images, out of Christ’s Church. Thirdly, that he regarded not whether it were the image of Christ, or of any other Saint, but being an image, would not suffer it in the Church. Fourthly, that he did not only re move it out of the Church, but with a vehement zeal tare it in sunder and exhorted that a corpse should be wrapped and buried in it, judging it meet for nothing but to rot in the earth, following herein the example of the good king Hezekiah, who brake the brazen Serpent to pieces, and burned it to ashes, for that idolatry was committed to it. Last of all, that Epiphanius thinketh it the duty of vigilant Bishops, to be careful that no images be permitted in the Church, for that they be occasion of scruple and offence to the people committed to their charge. Now whereas neither St. Jerome, who did translate the same Epistle, nor the authors of that most ancient history Ecclesiastical tripartite (who do most highly commend Epiphanius, as is aforesaid) nor any other godly or learned Bishop at that time, or shortly after, have written any thing against Epiphanius judgement concerning images: it is an evident proof, that in those days, which were about four hundred years after our Saviour Christ, there were no images publicly used and received in the Church of Christ, which was then much less corrupt, and more pure then now it is.
And whereas Images began at that time secretly and by stealth to creep out of private men’s houses into the Churches, and that first in painted clothes and walls, such Bishops as were godly and vigilant, when they spied them, removed them away, as unlawful and contrary to Christian religion, as did here Epiphanius, to whose judgement you have not only Saint Jerome the translator of his Epistle, and the writer of the history tripartite, but also all the learned and godly Clarks, yea and the whole Church of that age, and so up ward to our Saviour Christ’s time, by the space of about four hundred years, consenting and agreeing. This is written the more largely of Epiphanius, for that our image maintainers now-a-days, seeing themselves so pressed with this most plain and earnest act and writing of Epiphanius, a Bishop and Doctor of such antiquity, and authority, labour by all means (but in vain against the truth) either to prove that this Epistle was neither of Epiphanius writing, nor Saint Jerome’s translation: either if it be, say they, it is of no great force: for this Epiphanius, say they, was a Jew, and being converted to the Christian faith, and made a Bishop, retained the hatred which Jews have to images still in his mind, and so did and wrote against them as a Jew, rather then as a Christian. A Jewish impudence and malice of such devisers, it would be proved, and not said only, that Epiphanius was a Jew. Further more, concerning the reason they make, I would admit it gladly. For if Epiphanius judgement against Images is not to be admitted, for that he was borne of a Jew an enemy to Images, which be God’s enemies, converted to Christ’s religion, then likewise followeth it, that no sentence in the old Doctors and Fathers sounding for Images, ought to be of any authority: for that in the primitive Church the most part of learned writers, as Tertullian, Cyprian, Ambrose, Austen, and infinite others more, were of Gentiles (which be favourers and worshippers of Images) converted to the Christian faith, and so let somewhat slip out of their pens, sounding for Images, rather as Gentiles then Christians, as Eusebius in his History Ecclesiastical, and Saint Jerome saith plainly, that Images came first from the Gentiles to us Christians. And much more doth it follow, that the opinion of all the rablement of the Popish Church, maintaining Images, ought to be esteemed of small or no authority, for that it is no marvel that they which have from their childhood been brought up amongst Images and Idols, and have drunk in idolatry almost with their mothers milk, hold with Images and Idols, and speak and write for them. But in deed it would not be so much marked whether he were of a Jew or a Gentile converted unto Christ’s Religion, that writeth, as how agreeable or contrary to God’s word he doth write, and so to credit or discredit him. Now what God’s word saith of Idols and Images, and the worshipping of them, you heard at large in the first part of this Homily.
Saint Ambrose in his treatise of the death of Theodosius the Emperor, saith, Helene found the Crosse and the title on it. She worshipped the King, and not the wood surely (for that is an heathenish error, and the vanity of the wicked) but she worshipped him that hanged on the Crosse, and whose name was written in the title, and so forth. See both the godly Empress fact, and Saint Ambrose judgement at once: They thought it had been an heathenish error and vanity of the wicked, to have worshipped the Cross itself which was with our Saviour Christ’s own precious blood. And we fall down before every Cross piece of imbrued timber, which is but an Image of that Crosse.
Saint Augustine, the best learned of all ancient doctors, in his 44th Epistle to Maximus saith, know thou that none of the dead, nor any thing that is made of God, is worshipped as God of the Catholic Christians, of whom there is a Church also in your Town. Note that by Saint Augustine, such as worshipped the dead, or creatures, be not Catholic Christians.
The same Saint Augustine teacheth in the 12th book of the City of God, the tenth Chapter, that neither Temples or Churches ought to be builded or made for Martyrs or Saints, but to God alone: and that there ought no priests to be appointed for Martyr or Saint, but to God only. The same Saint Augustine in his book of the manners of the Catholic Church, hath these words: I know that many be worshippers of tombs and pictures, I know that there be many that banquet most riotously over the graves of the dead, and giving meat to dead carcases, do bury themselves upon the buried, and attribute their gluttony and drunkenness to religion. See, he esteemeth worshipping of Saints tombs, and pictures, as good religion as gluttony and drunkenness, and no better at all. Saint Augustine greatly alloweth Marcus Four, affirming that religion is most pure without images, and saith himself: images be of more force to crooken an unhappy soul, then to teach and instruct it (Lib. de civi. dei chapter 43). And saith further: Every child, yea every beast knoweth that it is not God that they see. Wherefore then doeth the holy Ghost so often admonish us of that which all men know? (In Psal. 36. & 113) Whereunto Saint Augustine himself answereth thus. Four (saith he) when images are placed in Temples, and set in honourable sublimity and begin once to be worshipped, forthwith breedeth the most vile affection of error. This is Saint Augustine’s judgement of Images in Churches; that by and by they breed error and idolatry. It would be tedious to rehearse all other places, which might be brought out of the ancient Doctors against Images and idolatry. Wherefore we shall hold ourselves contented with these few at this present. Now as concerning histories Ecclesiastical, touching this matter, that ye may know why and when, and by whom Images were first used privately, and afterwards not only received into the Christians Churches and Temples, but in conclusion worshipped also, and how the same was gain-said, resisted, and forbidden, as well by godly Bishops and learned Doctors, as also by sundry Christian Princes: I will briefly collect into a compendious history, that which is at large and in sundry places written by diverse ancient writers and history concerning this matter.
As the Jews, having most plain and express commandment of God, that they should neither make nor worship any Image (as it is at large before declared) did notwithstanding, by the example of the Gentiles or Heathen people that dwelt about them, fall to the ma king of Images, and worshipping of them, and so to the committing of most abominable idolatry, for the which God by his holy Prophets doeth most sharply reprove and threaten them, and afterward did accomplish his said threatnings by extreme punishing of them (as is also above specified: ) Even so some of the Christians in old time, which were converted from worshipping of Idols and false Gods, un to the true living God, and to our Saviour Jesus Christ, did of a certain blind zeal (as men long accustomed to Images) paint or carve Images of our Saviour Christ, his Mother Marie, and of the Apostles, thinking that this was a paint of gratitude and kindness to wards those, by whom they had received the true knowledge of God, and the doctrine of the Gospel. But these pictures or Images came not yet into Churches, nor were not yet worshipped of a long time after. And lest you should think that I do say this of mine own head only without authority, I allege for me Eusebius Bishop of Ceesarea, and the most ancient Author of the Ecclesiastical history, who lived about the three hundred and thirtieth year of our Lord in Constantinus Magnus days, and his son Constantius Emperors, in the seventh book of his history Ecclesiastical, the 14th Chapter, and Saint Jerome upon the tenth Chapter of the Prophet Jeremiah: who both expressly say, that the errors of Images (for so Saint Jerome calleth it) hath come in and passed to the Christians from the Gentiles, by an Heathenish use and custom. The cause and means Eusebius sheweth, saying, It is no marvel if they which being Gentiles before, and did believe, seemed to offer this, as a gift to our Saviour, for the benefits which they had received of him, Yea and we do see now that Images of Peter and Paul, and of our Saviour himself be made, and tables to be painted, which me think to have been observed and kept indifferently by an Heathenish custom. Four the Heathen are wont so to honour them whom they judged honour worthy, for that some tokens of old men should be kept. Four the remembrance of posterity is a token of their honour that were before, and the love of those that come after.
Thus far I have rehearsed Eusebius words. Where note ye, that both Saint Jerome and he agreeth herein, that these Images came in amongst Christian men by such as were Gentiles, and accustomed to idols, and being converted to the faith of Christ, retained yet some remnants of Gentility not thoroughly purged: for Saint Jerome calleth it an error manifestly. And the like example we see in the Acts of the Apostles, of the Jews, who when they were converted to Christ, would have brought in their circumcision (whereunto they were so long accustomed) with them, into Christ’s Religion. With whom the Apostles (namely Saint Paul ) had much ado for the staying of that matter (Acts 15). But of Circumcision was less marvel, for that it came first in by God’s ordinance and commandment. A man may most justly wonder of Images so directly against God’s holy word and straight commandment, how they should enter in. But Images were not yet worshipped in Eusebius time, nor publicly set up in Churches and Temples, and they who privately had them, did err of a certain zeal, and not by ma lice: but afterwards they crept out of private houses into Churches, and so bread first superstition, and last of all Idolatry amongst Christians, as hereafter shall appear.
In the time of Theodosius and Martian, Emperors, who reigned about the year of our Lord 460, and 1117. years ago, when the people of the city of Nola once a year did celebrate the birth day of Saint Felix in the Temple, and used to banquet there sumptuously, Pontius Paulinus Bishop of Nola caused the walls of the Temple to be painted with stories taken out of the old Testament, that the people beholding and considering those pictures, might the better abstain from too much surfeiting and riot. And about the same time Aurelius Prudentius, a learned and Christian Poet, declareth how he did see painted in a Church, the history of the passion of Saint Cassian, a Schoolmaster and Martyr, whom his own scholars at the commandment of the tyrant, tormented with the pricking or stabbing in of their pointels or brazen pens into his body, and so by a thousand wounds and more (as saith Prudentius ) most cruelly slew him. And these were the first paintings in Churches that were notable of antiquity. And so by this example came in painting, and afterward Images of Timber and Stone, and other matter, into the Churches of Christians. Now and ye well consider this beginning, men are not so ready to worship a picture on a wall, or in a window, as an embossed and gilt Image, set with pearl and stone. And a process of a story, painted with the gestures and actions of many persons, and commonly the sum of the story written withal, hath another use in it, then one dumb idol or image standing by it self. But from learning by painted stories, it came by little and little to idolatry. Which when godly men (as well Emperors and learned Bishops as others) perceived, they commanded that such pictures, images, or idols, should be used no more. And I will for a declaration thereof, begin with the decree of the ancient Christian Emperors, Valens and Theodosius the second, who reigned about four hundred years after our Saviour Christ’s ascension, who forbad that any Images should be made or painted privately: for certain it is, that there was none in Temples publicly in their time. These Emperors did write unto the captain of the army attending on the Emperors, after this sort, Valens and Theodosius Emperors, unto the captain of the army: Whereas we have a diligent care to maintain the religion of God above, in all things, we will grant to no man to set forth, grave, carve, or paint the image of our Saviour Christ in colours, stone, or any other matter, but in whatsoever place it shall be found, we command that it be taken away, and that all such as shall attempt any thing contrary to our decrees or commandment herein, shall be most sharply punished. This decree is written in the books named Libri Augustales, the Imperial books, gathered by Tribonianus, Basilides, Theophilus, Dioscorus, and Satira, men of great authority and learning, at the commandment of the Emperor Iustinian, and is alleged by Petrus Crinitus, a notable learned man, in the 9th book and 9th Chapter of his work, intituled, De honesta disciplina, that is to say, of honest learning. Here you see what Christian Princes of most ancient times decreed against images, which then began to creep in amongst the Christians. Four it is certain that by the space of three hundred years and more, after the death of our Saviour Christ, and before these godly Emperors reigned, there were no images publicly in Churches or Temples. How would the idolaters glory, if they had so much antiquity and authority for them, as is here against them?
Now shortly after these days, the Goths, Vandals, Huns, and other barbarous and wicked nations, burst into Italy, and all parts of the West countries of Europe, with huge and mighty armies, spoiled all places, destroyed Cities, and burned Libraries, so that learning and true Religion went to wrack, and decayed incredibly. And so the Bishops of those latter days, being of less learning, and in the midst of the wars, taking less heed also then did the Bishops afore, by ignorance of God’s word, and negligence of Bishops, and specially barbarous Princes, not rightly instructed in true Religion bearing the rule, images came into the Church of Christ in the said West parts, where these barbarous people ruled, not now in painted clothes only, but embossed in stone, timber, metal, and other like matter, and were not only set up, but began to be worshipped also. And therefore Serenus Bishop of Massile, the head Town of Gallia Nabonensis (now called the Province) a godly and learned man, who was about six hundred years after our Saviour Christ, seeing the people by occasion of images fall to most abominable idolatry, brake to pieces all the images of Christ and Saints which were in that City, and was therefore complained upon to Gregory, the first of that name, Bishop of Rome, who was the first learned Bishop that did allow the open having of Images in Churches, that can be known by any writing or history of antiquity. And upon this Gregory do all image-worshippers at this day ground their defence. But as all things that be amiss, have from a tolerable beginning grown worse and worse, till they at the last became intolerable: so did this matter of images. First, men used privately stories painted in tables, clothes, and walls. Afterwards, gross and embossed images privately in their own houses. Then afterwards, pictures first, and after them embossed images began to creep into Churches, learned and godly men ever speaking against them. Then by use it was openly maintained that they might be in Churches, but yet forbidden that they should be worshipped. Of which opinion was Gregory, as by the said Gregory’s Epistle to the forenamed Serenus Bishop of Massile, plainly appeareth. Which Epistle is to be found in the book of Epistles of Gregory, or Register, in the tenth part of the fourth Epistle, where he hath these words: That thou didst forbid images to be worshipped, we praise altogether, but that thou didst break them, we blame. Four it is one thing to worship the picture, and another thing by the picture of the story, to learn what is to be worshipped. Four that which Scripture is to them that read, the same doth picture perform unto idiots or the unlearned beholding, and so forth. And after a few words: therefore it should not have been broken, which was set up, not to be worshipped in Churches, but only to instruct the minds of the ignorant. And a little after, thus thou shouldest have said, If you will have images in the Church for that instruction wherefore they were made in old time, I do permit that they may be made, and that you may have them, and show them, that not the sight of the story, which is opened by the picture: but that worshipping which was inconveniently given to the pictures, did dislike you. And if any would make images, not to forbid them, but avoid by all means to worship any image. By these sentences taken here and there out of Gregory’s Epistle to Serenus (for it were too long to rehearse the whole) ye may understand where unto the matter was now come six hundred years after Christ : that the having of Images or pictures in the Churches, were then maintained in the West part of the world (for they were not so forward yet in the East Church) but the worshipping of them was utterly forbidden. And you may withal note, that seeing there is no ground for worshipping of Images in Gregory’s writing, but a plain condemnation thereof, that such as do worship Images, do unjustly allege Gregory for them. And further, if Images in the Church do not teach men according to Gregory’s mind, but rather blind them: it followeth, that Images should not be in the Church by his sentence, who only would they should be placed there, to the end that they might teach the ignorant. Wherefore, if it be declared that Images have been and be worshipped, and also that they teach nothing but errors and lies (which shall by God’s grace here after be done) I trust that then by Gregory’s own determination, all images and image worshippers shall be overthrown. But in the mean season, Gregory’s authority was so great in all the West Church, that by his encouragement men set up images in all places: but their judgement was not so good to consider why he would have them set up, but they fell all on heaps to manifest idolatry by worshipping of them, which Bishop Serenus (not without iust cause) feared would come to pass. Now if Serenus his judgement, thinking it meet that images, whereunto Idolatry was committed, should be destroyed, had taken place, idolatry had bin overthrown: Four to that which is not, no man committeth idolatry. But of Gregory’s opinion, thinking that images might be suffered in Churches, so it were taught that they should not be worshipped: what ruin of religion, and what mischief ensued afterward to all Christendom, experience hath to our great hurt and sorrow proved. First, by the schism rising between the East and the West Church about the said images. Next, by the division of the Empire into two parts by the same occasion of images, to the great weakening of all Christendom, where by last of all, hath followed the utter overthrow of the Christian religion and noble Empire in Greece and all the East parts of the world, and the increase of Mohammed’s false religion, and the cruel dominion and tyranny of the Saracens and Turks, who do now hang over our necks also and that dwell in the West parts of the world, ready at all occasions to overrun us. And all this do we owe unto our idols and images, and our idolatry in worshipping of them.(Eutrop. 51. de rebus, Rom. 23)
But now give you ear a little to the process of the history, wherein I do much follow the history of Paulus Diaconus, and others joined with Eutropius an old writer. Four though some of the authors were favourers of images: yet do they most plainly and at large prosecute the history of those times whom Baptist Platina also in his history of Popes, (Platina in vitis Constantiani & Grego. 2.) as in the lives of Constantine, and Gregory the second, Bishops of Rome, and other places (where he entreateth of this matter) doth chiefly follow. After Gregory’s time, Constantine Bishop of Rome assembled a council of Bishops in the West Church, and did condemn Philippicus then Emperor, and John Bishop of Constantinople of the heresy of the Monothelites, not without a cause indeed, but for justly. When he had so done, by the consent of the learned about him, the said Constantine Bishop of Rome, caused the images of the ancient fathers, which had been at those six councils which were allowed and received of all men, to be painted in the entry of Saint Peters Church at Rome . When the Greeks had knowledge hereof, they began to dispute and reason the matter of images with the Latins, and held this opinion, that images could have no place in Christ’s Church, and the Latins held the contrary, and took part with the images. So the East and West Churches which agreed evil before, upon this contention about images fell to utter enmity, which was never well reconciled yet. But in the mean season Philippicus and Arthemius, or Anastatius, Emperors, commanded images and pictures to be pulled down, and rased out in every place of their dominion. After them came Theodosius the third, he commanded the defaced images to be painted again in their places: but this Theodosius reigned but one year. Leo the third of that name succeeded him, who was a Syrian borne, a wise, godly, merciful, and valiant prince. This Leo by proclamation commanded, that all images set up in Churches to be worshipped, should be plucked down and defaced: and required specially the Bishop of Rome that he should do the same, and himself in the mean season caused all images that were in the imperial city Constantinople, to be gathered on an heap in the midst of the city, and there publicly burned them to ashes, and whited over, and rased out all pictures painted upon the walls of the Temples, and punished sharpely divers maintainers of images. And when some did therefore report him to be a tyrant, he answered, that such of all other were most justly punished, which neither worshipped God aright, nor regarded the imperial Majesty and authority, but maliciously rebelled against wholesome and profitable laws. When Gregorius, the third of that name, Bishop of Rome, heard of the Emperors doings in Greece concerning the images, he assembled a council of Italian Bishops against him, and there made decrees for images, and that more reverence and honour should yet be given to them then was before, and stirred up the Italians against the Emperor, first at Ravenna, and moved them to rebellion. And as Uspurgensis and Anthonius Bishop of Florence testify in their Chronicles, he caused Rome and all Italy, at the least to refuse their obedience and the payment of any more tribute to the Emperor: and so by treason and rebellion maintained their idolatry. Which example, other Bishops of Rome have continually followed, and gone through withal most stoutly.
After this Leo, who reigned 34 years, succeeded his son Constantine the fifth, who after his fathers example, kept images out of the Temples, and being moved with the council which Gregory had assembled in Italy for images against his father: he also assembled a council of all the learned men and Bishops of Asia and Greece, although some writers place this Council in Leo Isauricus his fathers latter days. In this great assembly they sat in council from the fourth of the Idus of February, to the sixth of the Idus of August, and made concerning the use of images this decree. It is not lawful for them that believe in God through Jesus Christ, to have any images, neither of the creator, nor of any creatures, set up in Temples to be worshipped: but rather & that; all things by the Law of God, and for the auoyding of offence, ought to be taken out of the Churches. And this decree was executed in all places where any images were found in Asia or Greece . And the Emperor sent the determination of this council held at Constantinople, to Paul then Bishop of Rome, and commanded him to cast all images out of the Churches: which he (trusting in the friendship of Pipine a mighty prince) refused to do. And both he and his successor Stephanus the third (who assembled another council in Italy for images) condemned the Emperor and the council of Constantinople of heresy, and made a decree that the holy images (for so they called them) of Christ the blessed Virgin, and other Saints, were in deed worthy honour and worshipping. When Constantine was dead, Leo the fourth his son reigned after him, who married a woman of the city of Athens, named Theodora, who also was called Irene, by whom he had a son, named Constantine the sixth, and dying whilst his son was yet young, left the regiment of the Empire and governance of his young son to his wife Irene . These things were done in the Church about the year of our Lord 760. Note here I pray you in this process of the story, that in the Churches of Asia and Greece, there were no images publicly by the space of almost seven hundred years. And there is no doubt but the primitive Church next the Apostles time was most pure. Note also, that when the contention began about images, how of six Christian Emperors, who were the chief Magistrates by God’s law to be obeyed, only one, which was Theodosius, who reigned but one year, held with images. All the a ther Emperors, and all the learned men and Bishops of the East Church, and that in assembled councils condemned them, besides the two Emperors before mentioned, Valence and Theodosius the second, who were long before these times, who straightly forbade that any images should be made. And universally after this time, all the Emperors of Greece (only Theodosius excepted) destroyed continually all images. Now on the contrary part, note ye, that the Bishops of Rome, being no ordinary Magistrates appointed of God, out of their diocese, but usurpers of Princes authority contrary to God’s word, were the maintainers of images against God’s word, and stirrers up of sedition and rebellion, and workers of continual treason against their sovereign Lords, contrary to God’s Law, and the ordinances of all humane laws, being not only enemies to God, but also rebels and traitors against their Princes. These be the first bringers in of images openly into Churches, These be the maintainers of them in the Churches, and these be the means whereby they have maintained them: to wit, conspiracy, treason, and rebellion against God and their Princes.
Now to proceed in the history, most worthy to be known. In the nonage of Constantine the sixth, the Empress Irene his mother, in whose hands the regiment of the Empire remained, was governed much by the advise of Theodore Bishop, and Tharasius Patriarch of Constantinople, who practised and held with the Bishop of Rome in maintaining of images most earnestly. By whose counsel and entreaty, the Empress first most wickedly digged up the body of her father in law Constantine the fifth, and commanded it to be openly burned, and the ashes to be thrown into the sea. Which example (as the constant report goeth) had like to have been put in practice with Princes’ corpses in our days, had the authority of the holy father continued but a little longer. The cause why the Empress Irene thus used her father in law, was, for that he, when he was alive, had destroyed images, and had taken away the sumptuous ornaments of Churches, saying that Christ, whose Temples they were, allowed poverty, and not pearls and precious stones. After ward the said Irene at the persuasion of Adrian Bishop of Rome, and Paul the Patriarch of Constantinople and his successor Tharasius, assembled a council of the Bishops of Asia and Greece, at the City Nicea where the Bishop of Rome’s legates, being presidents of the council, and ordering all things as they listed, the council which were assembled be for under the Emperor Constantine the fifth, and had decreed that all images should be destroyed, was condemned as an heretical council and assembly: And a decree was made, that images should be put up in all the Churches of Greece, and that honour and worship also should be given unto the said images. And so the Empress sparing no diligence in setting up of images, nor cost in decking them in all Churches, made Constantinople within a short time altogether like Rome it self. And now you may see that come to pass which Bishop Serenus feared, and Gregory the first forbade in vain: to wit, that images should in no wise be worshipped. Four now not only the simple and unwise (unto whom images, as the Scriptures teach, be specially a snare) but the Bishops and learned men also, fall to idolatry by occasion of images, yea and make decrees and laws for the maintenance of the same. So hard is it, and in deed impossible any long time to have images public lie in Churches and Temples without idolatry, as by the space of little more then one hundred years betwixt Gregory the first, forbidding most straightly the worshipping of images, and Gregory the third, Paul, and Leo the third, Bishops of Rome, with this council commanding and decreeing that images should be worshipped, most evidently appeareth.
Now when Constantine the young Emperor came to the age of twenty years, he was daily in less and less estimation. Four such as were a bout his mother, persuaded her, that it was God’s determination that she should reign alone, and not her son with her. The ambitious woman believing the same, deprived her son of all Imperial dignity, and compelled all the men of war, with their Captains, to swear to her that they would not suffer her Son Constantine to reign during her life. With which indignity the young Prince being moved, recovered the regiment of the Empire unto himself by force, and being brought up in true religion in his fathers time, seeing the superstition of his mother Irene, and the Idolatry committed by images, cast down, brake, and burned all the idols and images that his mother had set up. But within a few years after, Irene the Empress, taken again into her sons for, after she had persuaded him to put out Nicephorus his uncles eyes, and to cut out the tongues of his for other uncles, and to forsake his wife, and by such means to bring him into hatred with all his subjects; now further to declare that she was no changeling, but the same woman that had before digged up and burned her father in law’s body, and that she would be as natural a Mother as she had been a kind Daughter, seeing the images, which she loved so well, and had with so great cost set up daily destroyed by her son the Emperor, by the help of certain good companions deprived her Son of the Empire: And first, like a kind and louing mother, put out both his eyes, and laid him in prison, where after long and many torments, she at the last most cruelly slew him.
In this history, joined to Eutropius, it is written, that the Sun was darkened by the space of 17 days most strangely and dreadfully, and that all men said, that for the horribleness of that cruel and unnatural fact of Irene, and the putting out of the Emperors eyes, the Sun had lost his light. But indeed, God would signify by the darkness of the Sun, into what darkness and blindness of ignorance and idolatry, Christendom should fall by the occasion of Images. The bright Sun of his eternal truth, and light of his holy word, by the mists and black clouds of men’s traditions being blemished and darkened, as by sundry most terrible earthquakes that happened about the same time, God signified, that the quiet estate of true religion, should by such idolatry be most horribly tossed and turmoiled. And here may you see what a gracious and virtuous Lady this Irene was, how loving a niece to her husbands uncles, how kind a mother in law to her sons wife, how loving a daughter to her father in law, how natural a mother to her own son, and what a stout and valiant Captaine the Bishops of Rome had of her, for the setting up and maintenance of their idols or images. Surely, they could not have found a meeter patron for the maintenance of such a matter, then this Irene, whose ambition and desire of rule was insatiable, whose treason continually studied and wrought, was most abominable, whose wicked and unnatural cruelty passed Medea and Progne, whose detestable parricides have ministered matter to Poets, to write their horrible tragedies.
And yet certain History, who do put in writing all these her horrible wickedness, for love they had to images, which the maintained, do praise her as a godly Empress, and as sent from God. Such is the blindness of false superstition, if it once take possession in a mans mind, that it will both declare the vices of wicked princes, and also com mend them. But not long after, the said Irene being suspected to the princes and Lords of Greece of treason, in alienating the Empire to Charles king of the Francons, and for practising a secret marriage between her self and the said king, and being convicted of the same, was by the said Lords deposed and deprived again of the Empire, and carried into exile into the Island Lesbos, where she ended her lewd life.
While these tragedies about images were thus working in Greece, the same question of the use of images in Churches began to be moved in Spain also. And at Eliberi, a notable city, now called Granate, was a council of Spanish Bishops and other learned men assembled, and there, after long deliberation and debating of the matter, it was concluded at length by the whole council, after this sort, in the 36th Article: We think that pictures ought not to be in Churches, lest that which is honoured or worshipped be painted on walls. And in the 41st Canon of that council it is thus written: We thought good to admonish the faithful, that as much as in them lieth, they suffer no images to be in their houses, but if they for any violence of their servants, at the lest let them keep themselves clean and pure from Images, if they do not so, let them be accounted as none of the Church. Note here, I pray you, how a whole and great country in the West and South parts of Europe, nearer to Rome a greater deal then to Greece in situation of place, do agree with the Greeks against Images, and do not only forbid them in Churches, but also in private houses, and do excommunicate them that do the contrary: And an other council of the learned men of all Spain also, called Concilium Toletanum Duodecimum, decreed and determined likewise against Images and Image worshippers. But when these decrees of the Spanish council at Eliberi came to the know ledge of the Bishop of Rome and his adherents, they fearing lest all Ger many also would decree against Images, and forsake them, thought to prevent the matter, and by the consent and help of the prince of Francons (whose power was then most great in the West parts of the world) assembled a council of Germans at Frankford, and there procured the Spanish council against Images afore mentioned, to be condemned by the name of the Foelician heresy, (for that Foelix Bishop of Aquitania was chief in that council) and obtained that the acts of the second Nicene council, assembled by Irene (the holy Empress whom ye heard of before) and the sentence of the Bishop of Rome for images might be received. Four much after this sort do the Papists report of the history of the council of Frankford . Notwithstanding the book of Carolus Magnus his own writing, as the title sheweth, which is now put in print, and commonly in mens’ hands, showeth the judgement of that Prince, & of the whole council of Frankford also, to be against Images, and against the second council of Nice assembled by Irene for Images, and calleth it an arrogant, foolish, and ungodly council, and declareth the assembly of the council of Frankford, to have been directly made and gathered against that Nicene council, and the errors of the same. So that it must needs follow, that either there were in one Princes time two councils assembled at Frank ford, one contrary to the other, which by no history doth appear, or els that after their custom, the Popes and Papistes have most shamefully corrupted the council, as their manner is to handle, not only councils, but also all history and writings of the old Doctors, falsifying and corrupting them for the maintenance of their wicked and ungodly purposes, as hath in times of late come to light, and doth in our days more and more continually appear most evidently. Let the forged gift of Constantine, and the notable attempt to falsify the first Nicene council for the Pope’s Supremacy, practised by Popes in Saint Augustines time be a witness hereof: which practise in deed had then taken effect, had not the diligence and wisdom of St. Augustine and other learned and godly Bishops in Africa, by their great labour and charges also, resisted and stopped the same.
Now to come towards and end of this history, and to show you the principal paint that came to passe by the maintenance of images. Where as from Constantinus Magnus time, until this day, all authority imperial and princely dominion of the Empire of Rome, remained continually in the right and possession of the Emperors, who had their continuance and seat Imperial at Constantinople the City royal. Leo the third, then Bishop of Rome, seeing the Greek Emperors so bent against his gods of gold and silver, timber and stone, and having the king of the Francons or Frenchmen, named Charles, whose power was exceeding great in the West Countries, for appliable to his mind, for causes hereafter appearing, under the pretence that they of Constantinople were for that matter of images under the Popes ban and curse, and therefore unworthy to be Emperors, or to bear rule, and for that the Emperors of Greece being far off, were not ready at a beck to defend the Pope against the Lombards his enemies, and other with whom he had variance: this Leo the third, I say, attempted a thing exceeding strange and unheard of before, and of incredible boldness and presumption: Four he by his Papal authority doth translate the government of the Empire, and the crown and name Imperial, from the Greek, and giveth it unto Charles the great, King of the Francons, not without the consent of the forenamed Irene, Empress of Greece, who also sought to be joined in marriage with the said Charles . Four the which cause the said Irene was by the Lords of Greece deposed and banished, as one that had betrayed the Empire, as ye before have heard. And the said princes of Greece did, after the deprivation of the said Irene, by common consent, elect and create (as they always had done) an Emperor, named Nicephorus, whom the Bishop of Rome and they of the West would not acknowledge for their Emperor; Four they had already created them another: and so there became two Emperors. And the Empire which was before one, was divided into two parts, upon occasion of idols and images, and the worshipping of them: even as the kingdom of the Israelites was in old time four the like cause of idolatry divided in King Roboam his time. And so the Bishop of Rome, having the four of Charles the great by this means assured to him, was wondrously enhanced in power and authority, and did in all the West Church (especially in Italy) what he lust, where images were set up, garnished, and worshipped of all sorts of men. But Images were not to fast set up, and so much honoured in Italy and the West: but Nicephorus Emperor of Constantinople, and his successors Scauratius, the two Michaels, Leo, Theophilus, and other Emperors their successors in the Empire of Greece, continually pulled them down, brake them, burned them, and destroyed them as fast. And when Theodorus Emperor, would at the Council of Lions have agreed with the Bishop of Rome, and have set up images: he was by the Nobles of the Empire of Greece deprived, and another chosen in his place, and so rose a jealousy, suspicion, grudge, hatred, and enmity between the Christians and Empires of the East countries and West, which could never be quenched nor pacified. So that when the Saracens first, and afterward the Turks, invaded the Christians, the one part of Christendom would not help the other. By reason whereof at the last, the noble Empire of Greece, and the city imperial Constantinople, was lost, and is come into the hands of the Infidels, who now have overrun almost all Christendom, and possessing past the middle of Hungary, which is part of the West Empire, do hang over all our heads, to the utter danger of all Christendom.
Thus we see what a sea of mischief the maintenance of Images hath brought with it, what an horrible Schism between the East and the West Church, what an hatred between one Christian and another, Councils against Councils, Church against Church, Christians against Christians, Princes against Princes, rebellions, treasons, unnatural and most cruel murders, the daughter digging up & burning her father the Emperors body, the mother for love of idols most abominably murdering her own son, being an Emperor, at the last, the tearing in sunder of Christendom and the Empire into two pieces, till the Infidels, Saracens, and Turks, common enemies to both parts, have most cruelly vanquished, destroyed and subdued the one part, the whole Empire of Greece, Asia the less, Thracia, Macedonia, Epirus, and many other great and goodly countries and Provinces, and have won a great piece of the other Empire, and put the whole in dreadful and most horrible danger. For it is not without a just and great cause to be dread, left as the Empire of Rome was even for the like cause of Images and the worshipping of them torn in pieces and divided, as was for Idolatry the kingdom of Israel in old time divided: so like punishment, as for the like offence fell upon the Jews, will also light upon us: that is, left the cru ell tyrant and enemy of our common wealth and Religion the Turk, by God’s just vengeance, in likewise partly murder, and partly lead away into captivity us Christians, as did the Assyrian and Babylonian Kings murder and lead away the Israelites, and left the Empire of Rome and Christian Religion be so utterly brought under foot, as was then the kingdom of Israel and true Religion of God, whereunto the matter already (as I have declared) shrewdly inclineth on our part, the greater part of Christendom within less then three hundred years space, being brought into captivity and most miserable thraldom under the Turk, and the noble Empire of Greece clean everted. Whereas if the Christians, divided by these Image matters, had holden together, no Infidels and miscreants could thus have prevailed against Christendom. And all this mischief and misery, which we have hitherto fallen into do we owe to our mighty gods of gold and silver, stock and stone, in whose help and defence (where they can not help themselves) we have trusted so long, until our enemies the Infidels have overcome and overrun us almost altogether. A just reward for those that have left the mighty living God, the Lord of hosts, and have stooped and given the honour due to him, to dead blocks and stocks, who have eyes and see not, feet and cannot go, and so forth, and are cursed of God, and all they that make them, and put their trust in them.
Thus you understand (welbeloved in our Saviour Christ ) by the judgement of the old learned and godly Doctors of the Church, and by ancient history Ecclesiastical, agreeing to the verity of God’s word, alleged out of the old Testament and the new, that Images and Image worshipping were in the Primitive Church (which was most pure and incorrupt) abhorred and detested, as abominable and contrary to true Christian Religion. And that when Images began to creep into the Church, they were not only spoken and written against by godly and learned Bishops, Doctors, and Clerks, but also condemned by whole Councils of Bishops and learned men assembled together, yea, the said Images by many Christian Emperors and Bishops were defaced, bro ken, and destroyed, and that above seven hundred and eight hundred years ago, and that therefore it is not of late days (as some would bear you in hand) that images and image worshipping have been spoken and written against. Finally, you have heard what mischief and misery hath by the occasion of the said Images fallen upon whole Christendom, besides the loss of infinite souls, which is most horrible of all. Wherefore let us beseech God, that we, being warned by his holy word, for bidding all Idolatry, and by the writing of old godly Doctors and Ecclesiastical history written, and preserved by God’s ordinance for our admonition and warning, may flee from all Idolatry, and so escape the horrible punishment and plagues, as well worldly, as ever lasting, threatened for the same, which God our heavenly Father grant us, for our only Saviour and Mediator Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
The Third Part of the Homily against Idolatry
The third part of the Homily against Images, and the worshipping of them, containing the confutation of the principal arguments which are used to be made for the maintenance of Images. Which part may serve to instruct the Curates themselves, or men of good understanding.
Now ye have heard how plainly, how vehemently, and that in many places, the word of God speaketh against not only idolatry and worshipping of images, but also against idols and images themselves: (I mean always thus herein, in that we be stirred and provoked by them to worship them, and not as though they were simply for bidden by the New Testament, without such occasion and danger.) And ye have heard likewise out of histories Ecclesiastical, the beginning, proceeding, and success of idolatry by images, and the great contention in the Church of Christ about them: to the great trouble and decay of Christendom: and withal ye have heard the sentences of old ancient Fathers and godly learned Doctors and Bishops, against images and idolatry, taken out of their own writings. It remaineth, that such reasons as be made for the maintenance of images, and excessive painting, gilding and decking, as well of them, as of the Temples or Churches, also be answered and confuted, partly by application of some places before alleged, to their reasons, and partly, by otherwise answering the same. Which part hath the last place in this Treatise, for that it cannot be well understood of the meaner sort, nor the arguments of image maintainers, can without prolixity too much tedious, be answered without the knowledge of the Treatise going before. And al though divers things before mentioned, be here rehearsed again: yet this repetition is not superfluous, but in a manner necessary, for that the simple sort cannot else understand how the foresaid places are to be applied to the arguments of such as do maintain images, wherewith other wise they might be abused.
First, it is alleged by them that maintain images, that all laws, prohibitions, and curses, noted by us out of the holy Scripture, and sentences of the Doctors also by us alleged, against images and the worshipping of them, appertain to the idols of the Gentiles or Pagans, as the idol of Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, etc. and not to our images of God, of Christ , and his Saints. But it shall be declared both by God’s word, and the sentences of the ancient Doctors, and judgement of the Primitive Church, that all images, as well ours, as the idols of the Gentiles, be forbidden and unlawful, namely in Churches and Temples. And first this is to be replied out of God’s word, that the images of God the Father, the Son, and the holy Ghost, either severally, or the images of the Trinity, which we had in every Church, be by the Scriptures expressly and directly forbidden, and condemned, as appeareth by these places: (Deut 4) The Lord spake unto you out of the middle of fire, you heard the voice or sound of his words, but you did see no form or shape at all, lest peradventure you being deceived, should make to your self any graven image or likeness: and so forth, as is at large rehearsed n the first part of this treatise against images. And therefore in the old Law, the middle of the propitiatory, which presented God’s seat, was empty, lest any should take occasion to make any similitude or likeness of him. Isaiah, after he hath set forth the incomprehensible Majesty of God, he asketh (Isa 40), to whom then will ye make God like? or what similitude will ye set up unto him? Shall the carver make him a carved image? and shall the goldsmith cover him with gold, or cast him into a form of silver plates? And for the poor man, shall the image maker frame an image of timber, that he may have somewhat to set up also? And after this he crieth out: O wretches, heard ye never of this? Hath it not been preached to you since the beginning, how by the creation of the world, and the greatness of the work, they might understand the Majesty of God, the maker and creator of all, to be greater then that it could be expressed or set forth in any image or bodily similitude? Thus far the Prophet Isaiah, who from the 44th Chapter, to the 49th intreateth in a manner of no other thing. And St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 17) evidently teacheth the same, that no similitude can be made unto God, in gold, silver, stone or any other matter. By these and many other places of Scripture it is evident, that no image either ought or can be made un to God. For how can God, a most pure spirit, whom man never saw, be expressed by a gross, bodily, and visible similitude? How can the infinite Majesty and greatness of God, incomprehensible to man’s mind, much more not able to be compassed with the sense, be expressed in a small and little image? How can a dead and dumb image express the living God? What can an image, which when it is fallen, cannot rise up again, which can neither helpe his friends, nor hurt his enemies, express of the most puissant and mighty God, who alone is able to re ward his friends, and to destroy his enemies everlastingly? A man might justly cry with the Prophet Habakkuk (Hab 2), Shall such Images instruct or teach any thing right of God? or shall they become Doctors? Where fore men that have made an image of God, whereby to honour him, have thereby dishonoured him most highly, diminished his Majesty, blemished his glory, and falsified his truth. And therefore St. Paul saith (Rom 1), that such as have framed any similitude or Image of God like a mortal man, or any other likeness, in timber, stone, or other matter, have changed his truth into a lie. For both they thought it to be no longer that which it was, a stock or a stone, and took it to be that which it was not, as God, or an image of God. Wherefore an image of God, is not only a lie, but a double lie also. But the devil is a liar, and the fa ther of lies (Jn 8): wherefore the lying Images which be made of God, to his great dishonour, and horrible danger of his people, came from the devil.
Wherefore they be convicted of foolishness and wickedness in making of images of God, or the Trinity: for that no image of God ought or can be made, as by the Scriptures and good reason evidently appeareth: yea, and once to desire an image of God commeth of infidelity, thinking not God to be present, except they might see some sign or image of him, as appeareth by the Hebrews in the wilderness willing Aaron to make them God’s whom they might see go before them.
Where they object, that seeing in Isaiah and Daniel be certain descriptions of God, as sitting on a high seat, etc. Why may not a painter likewise set him forth in colours to be seen, as it were a Judge sitting in a throne, as well as he is described in writing by the Prophets, seeing that Scripture or writing, and picture, differ but a little? First, it is to be answered, that things forbidden by God’s word, as painting of images of God, and things permitted of God, as such descriptions used of the Prophets, be not all one: neither ought, nor can mans reason (although it show never so goodly) prevail any thing against God’s express word, and plain statute Law, as I may well term it. Furthermore, the Scripture although it have certain descriptions of God, yet if you read on forth, it expoundeth itself, declaring that God is a pure spirit, infinite, who replenisheth heaven and earth, which the picture doth not, nor expoundeth itself, but rather when it hath set God forth in a bodily similitude, leaveth a man there, and will easily bring one into the heresy of the Anthropomorphites , thinking God to have hands and feet, and to sit as a man doth. which they that do (saith St. Augustine in his book de fide & symbolo Chap.7.) fall into that sacrilege which the Apostle detesteth, in those, who have changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into the similitude of a corruptible man. For it is wickedness for a Christian to erect such an image to God in a Temple, and much more wickedness to erect such a one in his heart by believing of it.
But to this they reply, that this reason notwithstanding, Images of Christ may be made, for that he took upon him flesh, and became man. It were well that they would first grant, that they have hitherto done most wickedly in making and maintaining of Images of God, and of the Trinity in every place, whereof they are by force of God’s word and good reason convicted: and then to descend to the trial for other images.
Now concerning their objection, that an Image of Christ may be made, the answer is easy. For in God’s word and religion, it is not only required whether a thing may be done or no: but also, whether it be lawful and agreeable to God’s word to be done, or no. For all wickedness may be and is daily done, which yet ought not to be done. And the words of the reasons above alleaged out of the Scriptures are, that Images neither ought, nor can be made unto God. Wherefore to reply that Images of Christ may be made, except withal it be proved, that it is lawful for them to be made, is, rather then to hold ones peace, to say somewhat, but nothing to the purpose. And yet it appeareth that no Image can be made of Christ , but a lying image (as the Scripture peculiarly calleth Images lies) for Christ is God and man (Rom 1). Seeing therefore that for the Godhead, which is the most excellent part, no Images can be made, it is falsely called the image of Christ . Wherefore images of Christ be not only defects, but also lies. Which reason serveth also for the Images of Saints, whose souls, the most excellent parts of them, can by no Images be presented and expressed. Wherefore, they be no Images of Saints, whose souls reign in joy with God, but of the bodies of Saints, which as yet lie putrified in the graves. Further more, no true image can be made of Christ’s body, for it is unknown now of what form and countenance he was. And there be in Greece and at Rome , and in other places, divers Images of Christ , and none of them like to other, and yet every of them affirmeth, that theirs is the true and lively image of Christ , which cannot possible be. Wherefore, as soon as an image of Christ is made, by and by is a lie made of him, which by God’s word is forbidden. Which also is true of the images of any Saints of antiquity, for that it is unknown of what form and countenance they were. Wherefore seeing that Religion ought to be grounded upon truth, Images which cannot be without lies, ought not to be made, or put to any use of Religion, or to be placed in Churches and Temples, places peculiarly appointed to true Religion and service of God. And thus much, that no true image of God, our Saviour Christ , or his Saints can be made: wherewithal is also confuted that their allegation, that Images be the Laymen’s books. For it is evident by that which is afore rehearsed, that they teach no things of God, or our Saviour Christ , and of his Saints, but lies and errors. Where fore either they be no books, or if they be, they be false and lying books, the teachers of all error.
And now if it should be admitted and granted, that an image of Christ could truly be made, yet it is unlawful that it should be made, yea, or that the Image of any Saint should be made, specially to be set up in Temples, to the great and unavoidable danger of Idolatry, as hereafter shall be proved.
And first concerning the Image of Christ ; that though it might be had truly, yet it were unlawful to have it in Churches pub likely, is a notable place in Irenaeus (Book 1 Ch 24) , who reproved the Heretics called Gnostics , for that they carried about the Image of Christ , made truly after his own proportion in Pilates time (as they said) and therefore more to be esteemed, then those lying Images of him which we now have. The which Gnostics also used to set garlands upon the head of the said Image, to show their affection to it.
But to go to God’s word. Be not, I pray you, the words of the Scripture plain? (Lev 26, Deut 5) Beware lest thou being deceived, make to thy self (to say, to any use of Religion) any graven Image, or any similitude of any thing, etc. And cursed be the man that maketh a graven or molten Image, abomination before the Lord, etc. Be not our Images such? Be not our Images of Christ and his Saints, either carved or molten, or cast, or similitudes of men and women? (Dt 27) It is happy that we have not followed the Gentiles in making of Images of beasts, fishes, and vermin also. Notwithstanding, the Image of an Horse, as also the Image of the As that Christ rode on, have in divers places been brought into the Church and Temple of God. And is not that which is written in the beginning of the Lords most holy Law, and daily read unto you, most evident also? Thou shalt not make any likeness of any thing in heaven above, in earth beneath, or in the water under the earth, etc. Could any more be forbidden, and said, then this? either of the kindes of Images, which be either carved, molten or other wise similitudes? or of things whereof images are forbidden to be made? Are not all things either in heaven, earth, or water under the earth? (Ex 20) And be not our Images of Christ and his Saints, likenesses of things in heaven, earth, or in the water? If they continue in their former answer, that these prohibitions concern the idols of the Gentiles, and not our Images: First that answer is already confuted, concerning the Images of God and the Trinity at large, & concerning the Images of Christ also, by Irenaeus . And that the Law of God is likewise to be under stood against all our Images, as well of Christ , as his Saints, in Temples and Churches, appeareth further by the judgement of the old Doctors, and the Primitive Church. Epiphanius renting a painted cloth, wherein was the picture of Christ , or of some Saint, affirming it to be against our Religion, that any such image should be had in the Temple or Church (as is before at large declared) judged that not only idols of the Gentiles, but that all Images of Christ and his Saints also, were for bidden by God’s word and our Religion. Lactantius affirming it to be certain that no true Religion can be where any Image or picture is (as is before declared) judged, that aswell all Images and pictures, as the idols of the Gentiles were forbidden, else would he not so generally have spoken and pronounced of them. And Saint Augustine (as is before alleaged) (Book 4, Ch 3, De Civ. Dei.) greatly alloweth M. Varro, affirming that Religion is most pure without Images: and saith himself, Images be of more force to crook an unhappy soul, then to teach and instruct it. (In Ps 36 & 113) And he saith further, Every childe, yea every beast knoweth that it is not God that they see. Wherefore then doth the holy Ghost so often admonish us of that which all men know? Whereunto Saint Augustine answereth thus. For (saith he) when Images are placed in Temples, and set in honourable sublimity, and begin once to be worshipped, forthwith breedeth the most vile affection of error. This is Saint Augustine’s judgement of Images in Churches, that by and by they breed error and Idolatry. The Christian Emperors, the learned Bishops, all the learned men of Asia, Greece, and Spain, assembled in Councils at Constantinople and in Spain , seven and eight hundred years ago and more, condemning and destroying all Images, as well of Christ , as of the Saints, set up by the Christians (as is before at large declared) testify, that they understood God’s word so, that it forbad our Images, as well as the idols of the Gentiles. And as it is written (Wis 14) that images were not from the beginning, neither shall they continue to the end: so were they not in the beginning in the Primitive Church, God grant they may in the end be destroy ed. For all Christians in the Primitive Church, as Origen against Celsus , Cyprian also and Arnobius do testify (Origen contra Celsum 51; 4&8, Cyprian contra Dementrium), were sore charged and complained on, that they had no Altars nor Images. Wherefore did they not (I pray you) conform themselves to the Gentiles in making of Images, but for lack of them sustained their heavy displeasure, if they had taken it to be lawful by God’s word to have Images? It is evident therefore that they took all Images to be unlawful in the Church or Temple of God, and therefore had none (though the Gentiles there fore were most highly displeased) following this rule, We must obey God rather then men (Acts 5). And Zephirus in his notes upon the Apology of Tertullian , gathereth, that all his vehement persuasion should be but cold, except we know this once for all, that Christian men in his time did most hate Images, with their ornaments. And Irenaeus (as is above declared) reproveth the Heretics called Gnostics , for that they carried a bout the image of Christ . And therefore the Primitive Church, which is specially to be followed as most incorrupt and pure, had publicly in Churches neither idols of the Gentiles, nor any other Images, as things directly forbidden by God’s word. And thus it is declared by God’s word, the sentences of the Doctors, and the judgement of the Primitive Church, which was most pure and sincere, that all Images, as well ours, as the Idols of the Gentiles, be by God’s word forbidden, and therefore unlawful, specially in Temples and Churches.
Now if they (as their custom is) flee to this answer, that God’s word forbiddeth not absolutely all Images to be made, but that they should not be made to be worshipped, and that therefore we may have Images, so we worship them not, for that they be things indifferent, which may be abused, or well used. Which seemeth also to be the judgement of Damascene (Damas. book 4 The Orthodox Faith, chap 17) and Gregory (Epist. ad Screnum Massil) the first, as is above declared. And this is one of their chief allegations for the maintenance of Images, which have been alleaged since Gregory the first his time.
Well, then we be come to their second allegation, which in part we would not stick to grant them. For we are not so superstitious or scrupulous, that we do abhor either flowers wrought in carpets, hangings, and other arras, either Images of Princes printed or stamped in their coins, which when Christ did see in a Roman Coin, we read not that he reprehended it, neither do we condemn the arts of painting and image making, as wicked of themselves. But we would admit and grant them, that Images used for no religion, or superstition rather, we mean Images of none worshipped, nor in danger to be worshipped of any, may be suffered. But Images placed publicly in Temples, cannot possibly be without danger of worshipping and idolatry, wherefore they are not publicly to be had or suffered in Temples and Churches. The Jews, to whom this Law was first given (and yet being a moral commandment, and not ceremonial, as all Doctors interpret it, bindeth us as well as them) the Iewes I say, who should have the true sense and meaning of God’s Law so peculiarly given un to them, neither had in the beginning any Images publicly in their Temple, as Origen (Contra Celsum book 4) and Josephus (Antiquities Book 17 ch 8, book 18 chs 5 & 15) at large declareth, neither after the restitution of the Temple, would by any means consent to Herod, Pilate or Petronius , that Images should be placed only in the Temple at Jerusalem , although no worshipping of Images was required at their hands: but rather offered themselves to the death, them to assent that Images should once be placed in the Temple of God, neither would they suffer any Image-maker among them. And Origen added this cause, lest their minds should be plucked from God, to the contemplation of earthly things. And they are much commended for this earnest zeal, in maintaining of God’s honour and true religion. And truth it is, that the Jews and Turks, who abhor Images and Idols as directly forbidden by God’s word, will never come to the truth of our religion, whiles the stumbling blocks of Images remain amongst us, and lie in their way. If they object yet the brazen serpent which Moses did set up, or the Images of the Cherubim, or any other Images which the Jews had in their Temple, the answer is easy. We must in religion obey God’s general Law, which bindeth all men, and not follow examples of particular dispensation, which be no warrants for us; else we may by the same reason resume circumcision and sacrificing of beasts, and other rites permitted to the Jews. Neither can those Images of Cherubim, set in secret where no man might come nor behold, be any example for our public setting up of Images in Churches and Temples. But to let the Jews go. Where they say that I mages, so they be not worshipped, as things indifferent may be tolerable in Temples and Churches: We infer and say for the adversative, that all our Images of God, our Saviour Christ, and his Saints, publicly set up in Temples and Churches, places peculiarly appointed to the true worshipping of God, be not things indifferent, nor tolerable: but against God’s Law and Commandment, taking their own interpretation and exposition of it.
First, for that all Images, so set up publicly, have been worshipped of the unlearned and simple sort shortly after they have been publicly so set up, and in conclusion, of the wise and learned also.
Secondly, for that they are worshipped in sundry places now in our time also.
And thirdly, for that it is impossible that Images of God, Christ , or his Saints can be suffered (especially in Temples and Churches) any while or space, with out worshipping of them: and that idolatry, which is most abominable before God, cannot possibly be escaped and avoided, without the abolishing and destruction of Images and pictures in Temples and Churches, for that idolatry is to Images, specially in Temples and Churches, an inseparable accident (as they term it) so that Images in Churches, and idolatry, go always both together, and that therefore the one cannot be avoided, except the other (specially in all public places) be destroyed. Wherefore, to make Images, and publicly to set them up in the Temples and Churches, places appointed peculiarly to the service of God, is to make Images to the use of religion, and not only against this precept, Thou shalt make no manner of Images: but against this also, Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them. For they being set up, have been, be, and ever will be worshipped. And the full proof of that which in the beginning of the first part of this treaty was touched, is here to be made and performed: To wit, that our Images, and idols of the Gentiles be all one, as well in the things themselves, as also in that our Images have been before, be now, and ever will be worshipped, in like form and manner, as the idols of the Gentiles were worshipped, so long as they be suffered in Churches and Temples. Whereupon it followeth, that our Images in Churches have been, be, and ever will be none other but abominable Idols, and be therefore no things indifferent. And every of these parts shall be proved in order, as hereafter followeth.
And first, that our Images and the idols of the Gentiles be all one concerning themselves, is most evident, the matter of them being gold, silver, or other metal, stone, wood, clay, or plaster, as were the idols of the Gentiles, and so being either molten or cast, either carved, graven, hewn, or other wise formed and fashioned after the similitude and likeness’ of man or woman, be dead and dumb works of mans hands, having mouths and speak not, eyes and see not, hands and feel not, feet and go not, and so as well in form as matter, be altogether like the idols of the Gentiles. Insomuch that all the titles which be given to the idols in the Scriptures, may be verified of our Images. Wherefore, no doubt but the like curses which are mentioned in the Scriptures, will light upon the makers and worshippers of them both. Secondly, that they have been and be worshipped in our time, in like form and manner as were the idols of the Gentiles, is now to be proved. And for that idolatry standeth chiefly in the mind, it shall in this part first be proved, that our Image maintainers have had, and have the same opinions and judgement of Saints, whose Images they have made and worshipped, as? Gentiles idolaters had of their God’s. And afterwards shall be declared, that our Image-maintainers and worshippers, have used, and use the same outward rites and manner of honouring and worshipping their Images, as the Gentiles did use before their idols, and that therefore they commit idolatry, as well inwardly and outwardly, as did the wicked Gentiles idolaters.
And concerning the first part of the idolatrous opinions of our Image maintainers. What I pray you be such Saints with us, to whom we attribute the defence of certain countries, spoiling God of his due honour herein, but Dii Tutelares of the Gentiles idolaters? Such as were Belus to the Babilonians and Assyrians, Osiris and Isis to the Egyptians, Vulcan to the Lemnians , and to such other. What be such Saints to whom the safeguard of certain cities are appointed, but Dii Praesides , with the Gentiles idolaters? Such as were at Delphos, Apollo; at Athens Minerva , at Carthage, Juno; at Rome, Quirinus, &c. What be such Saints, to whom, contrary to the use of the Primitive Church, Temples and Churches be builded, and Altars erected, but Dii Patroni, of the Gentiles Idolaters? Such as were in the Capitol, Jupiter; in Paphus Temple, Venus; in Ephesus Temple, Diana , and such like. Alas, we seem in thus thinking and doing to have learned our religion not out of God’s word, but out of the Pagan Poets, who say,
Excessere omnes, adytis arisque relictis,
Dii, quibuis imperium hoc steterat, &c.
That is to say, All the God’s by whose defence this Empire stood, are gone out of the Temples, and have forsaken their Altars. And where one Saint hath Images in divers places, the same saint hath divers names thereof, most like to the Gentiles. When you hear of our Lady of Walsingham , our Lady of Ipswich , our Lady of Wilsdon, and such other: what is it but an imitation of the Gentiles idolaters? Diana Agrotera, Diana Coriphea, Diana Ephesia. & c. Venus Cypria, Venus Paphia, Venus Gnidia? Whereby is evidently meant, that the Saint for the Image sake, should in those places, yea, in the Images themselves, have a dwelling, which is the ground of their idolatry. For where no Images be, they have no such means. Terentius Varro sheweth, that there were three hundred Jupiters in his time, there were no fewer Veneres and Dianae, we had no fewer Christophers , Ladies, and Marie Magdalens, and other Saints. Oenomaus and Hesiodus shew, that in their time there were thirty thousand gods. I think we had no fewer Saints, to whom we gave the honour due to God. And they have not only spoiled the true living God of his due honour, in Temples, Cities, Countries, and lands, by such devices and inventions as the Gentiles idolaters have done be fore them: but the Sea and waters have as well special Saints with them, as they had God’s with the Gentiles, Neptune, Triton, Nereus, Castor and Pollux, Venus, and such other. In whose places be come Saint Christopher, Saint Clement, and divers other, and specially our Lady, to whom shipmen sing Ave, maris stella. Neither hath the fire scaped the idolatrous inventions. For in stead of Vulcan and Vesta , the Gentiles God’s of the fire, our men have placed Saint Agatha , and make letters on her day for to quench fire with. Every Artificer and profession hath his special Saint, as a peculiar god. As for example, Scholars have Saint Nicholas and Saint Gregory, Painters Saint Luke , neither lack soldiers their Mars, nor lovers their Venus, amongst Christians. All diseases have their special Saints, as gods the curers of them. The pocks Saint Roche, the falling evil Saint Cornelis, the tooth ache Saint Appolin, & c. Neither do beasts and cattle lack their gods with us, for Saint Loy is the horseleech, and Saint Anthony the swineherd &c. Where is God’s providence and due honour in the mean season? who saith, The heavens be mine, and the earth is mine, the whole world and all that in it is, I do give victory, and I put to flight, of me be all counsels and help &c. Except I keep the city, in vain doth he watch that keepeth it, thou Lord shalt save both men and beasts. But we have left him neither heaven, nor earth, nor water, nor country, nor city, peace nor war to rule and govern, neither men, nor beasts, nor their diseases to cure, that a godly man might justly for zealous indignation cry out, O heaven, O earth, and seas, what madness and wickedness against God are men fallen into? What dishonour do the creatures to their Creator and maker? And if we remember God sometime, yet because we doubt of his ability or will to help, we join to him another helper, as he were a known adjective, using these sayings: such as learn, God and Saint Nicholas be my speed: such as neese (sneeze), God help and Saint John: to the horse, God and Saint Loy save thee. Thus are we become like horses and Mules, which have no understanding. For, is there not one God only, who by his power and wisdom made all things, and by his providence governeth the same? and by his goodness mainteineth and saveth them? Be not all things of him, by him, and through him? Why dost thou turn from the Creator to the creatures? This is the manner of the Gentiles idolaters: but thou art a Christian, and therefore by Christ alone hast access to God the Father, and help of him only.
These things are not written to any reproach of the Saints themselves, who were the true servants of God, and did give all honour to him, taking none unto themselves, and are blessed souls with God: but against our foolishness and wickedness, making of the true servants of God, false God’s, by attributing to them the power and honour which is God’s, and due to him only. And for that we have such opinions of the power and ready help of Saints, all our legends, hymns, sequences and msses did contain stories, lauds, and praises of them, and prayers to them: yea, and sermons also altogether of them, and to their praises, God’s word being clean laid aside. And this we do altogether agreeable to the Saints, as did the Gentiles idolaters to their false God’s. For these opinions which men have had of mortal persons, were they never so holy, the old most godly & learned Christians have written against the feigned gods of the Gentiles, and Christian Princes have destroyed their images, who if they were now living, would doubtless likewise both write against our false opinions of Saints, and also destroy their images. For it is evident, that our Image-maintainers, have the same opinion of Saints, which the Gentiles had of their false God’s, and thereby are moved to make them images as the Gentiles did. If answer be made, that they make Saints but intercessors to God, and means for such things as they would obtain of God: that is even after the Gentiles idolatrous usage, to make them of Saints, God’s, called Dii Medioximi, to be mean intercessors and helpers to God, as though he did not hear, or should be weary if he did all alone. So did the Gentiles teach, that there was one chief power working by other, as means, and so they made all God’s subject to fate or destiny: as Lucian in his dialogues feigneth that Neptune made suite to Mercury , that he might speak with Jupiter . And therefore in this also, it is most evident that our Image maintainers be all one in opinion with the Gentiles idolaters.
Now remaineth the third part, that their rites and ceremonies in honouring and worshipping of the Images or Saints be all one with the rites which the Gentiles idolaters used in honouring their idols. First, what meaneth it, that Christians, after the example of the Gentiles idolaters, go on pilgrimage to visit Images, where they have the like at home, but that they have a more opinion of holiness and virtue in some Images, then other some, like as the Gentiles idolaters had? which is the readiest way to bring them to idolatry by worshipping of them, and directly against God’s word, who saith (Amos 5), Seek me, and ye shall live, and do not seek Bethel , enter not into Gilgal, neither go to Bersheba . And against such as had any superstition in holiness of the place, as though they should be heard for the places sake, saying, Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and ye say, that at Jerusalem is the place where men should worship, our Saviour Christ pronounceth (Jn 4), Believe me, the hour commeth when you shall worship the father neither in this mountain, nor at Jerusalem, but true worshippers shall worship the father in spirit and truth. But it is too well known, that by such pilgrimage going, Lady Venus and her son Cupid , were rather worshipped wantonly in the flesh, then God the Father and our Saviour Christ his Son truly worshipped in the spirit.
And it was very agreeable (as Saint Paul teacheth - Rom 1) that they which fell to Idolatry, which is spiritual fornication, should also fall into carnal fornication, and all uncleanness, by the just judgements of God, delivering them over to abominable concupiscences.
What meaneth it that Christian men, after the use of the Gentiles Idolaters, cap and kneel before images? which if they had any sense and gratitude, would kneel before men, Carpenters, Masons, Plasterers, Founders, and Goldsmiths, their makers and framers, by whose means they have attained this honour, which else should have been evil-favoured and rude lumps of clay, or plaster, pieces of timber, stone, or metal. without shape or fashion, and so without all estimation and honour, as that Idol in the Pagan Poet confesseth (Horatius), saying, I was once a vile block, but now I am become a God, etc. What a fond thing is it for man, who hath life and reason, to bow himself to a dead and insensible image, the work of his own hand? (1 Ki 1, Gen 23 & 33) is not this stooping and kneeling before them, adoration of them, which is forbidden so earnestly by God’s word? Let such as so fall down before images of Saints, know and confess that they exhibit that honour to dead stocks and stones, which the Saints themselves, Peter, Paul, and Barnabas would not to be given them being alive (Acts 10,14): which the Angel of God forbiddeth to be given to him (Rev 19). And if they say, they exhibit such honour not to the Image, but to the Saint whom it representeth, they are convicted of folly, to believe that they please Saints with that honour, which they abhor as a spoil of God’s honour: for they be no changelings: but now both having greater understanding, and more fervent love of God, do more abhor to deprive him of his due honour; and being now like unto the Angels of God, do with angels flee to take unto them by sacrilege the honour due to God, And herewithal is confuted their lewd distinction of Latria & Dulia , where it is evident, that the Saints of God cannot abide, that as much as any outward worshipping be done or exhibited to them. But Satan, God’s enemy, desiring to rob God of his honour, desireth exceedingly that such honour might be given to him (Mtt 4). Wherefore those which give the honour due to the creator, to any creature, do service acceptable to no Saints, who be the friends of God, but unto Satan, God and mans mortal and sworn enemy. And to attribute such desire of divine honour to Saints, is to blot them with a most odious and devilish ignominy and villainy, and in deed of Saints, to make them Satans and very devils, whose property is to challenge to themselves the honour which is due to God only.
And furthermore, in that they say that they do not worship the Images, as the Gentiles did their Idols, but God and the Saints whom the Images do represent, and therefore that their doings before Images, be not like the Idolatry of the Gentiles before their Idols, Saint Augustine (on Ps 135), Lactantius, and Clemens , do prove evidently, that by this their answer, they be al one with the Gentiles Idolaters. The Gentiles (saith S. Augustine ) which seem to be of the purer religion say, We worship not the Images, but by the corporal Image, we do behold the signs of the things which we ought to worship.
And Lactantius saith (Book 2), The Gentiles say, we fear not the Images, but them after whose likeness he images be made, and to whose names they be consecrated. Thus far Lantantius.
And Clemens saith (Book 5, ad Jocob, Domini fratrem) That serpent the devil uttereth these words by the mouth of certain men, Wee to the honour of the invisible God, worship visible images: Which surely is most false. See how in using the same excuses which the Gentiles Idolaters pretended, they show themselves to join with them in Idolatry. For notwithstanding this excuse, Saint Augustine, Clemens , and Lactantius prove them Idolaters. And Clemens saith, that the Serpent the devil putteth such excuses in the mouth of Idolaters. And the scriptures say, they worship the stocks and stones (notwithstanding this excuse) even as our Image maintainers doe. And Ezekiel therefore calleth the gods of the Assyrians , stocks and stones, although they were but images of their gods. So are our images of God and the Saints named by the names of God and his Saints, after the use of the Gentiles. And the same Clemens saith thus in the same book, They dare not give the name of the Emperor to any other, for he punisheth his offender and traitor by and by: but they dare give the name of God to other, because he for repentance suffereth his offenders. And even so do our Image worshippers give both names of God and the Saints, and also the honour due to God, to their images, even as did the Gentiles, Idolaters to their Idols. What should it mean that they, according as did the Gentiles Idolaters, light candles at noon time, or at midnight, before them, but therewith to honour them? for other use is there none in so doing. For in the day it needeth not, but was ever a proverb of foolishness, to light a candle at noon time. And in the night, it availeth not to light a candle before the blind: and God hath neither use nor honour thereof.
And concerning this candle lighting, it is notable that Lactantius above a thousand years ago hath written, after this manner (Book 6 Instit chap 2), If they would behold the heavenly light of the Sun, then should they perceive that God hath no need of their candles, who for the use of man hath made so goodly a light. And whereas in so little a circle of the Sun, which for the great distance, seemeth to be no greater then a mans head, there is so great brightness, that the sight of mans eye is not able to behold it, but if one steadfastly look upon it a while, his eyes will be dulled and blinded with darkness. Now great light, how great clearness may we think to be with God, with whom is no night nor darkness? and so forth. And by and by he saith, Seemeth he therefore to be in his right mind, who offereth up to the giver of light the light of a ware candle for a gift? He requireth another light of us, which is not smoky, but bright and clear, even the light of the mind and understanding. And shortly after he saith, But their gods, because they be earthly, have need of light, lest they remain in darkness, whose worshippers, because they understand no heavenly thing, do draw religion, which they use, down to the earth, in the which being dark of nature, is need of light. Wherefore they give to their gods no heavenly, but the earthly understanding of mortal men. And therefore they believe those things to be necessary and pleasant unto them, which are so to us, who have need either of meat when we be hungry, or drink when we be thirsty, or clothing when we be cold, or when the Sun is set, candle light, that we may see.
Thus far Lactantius , and much more, too long here to write, of candle lighting in Temples before images and Idols for religion: whereby appeareth both the foolishness thereof, and also, that in opinion and act, we do agree altogether in our candle religion, with the Gentiles idolaters. What meaneth it that they, after the example of the Gentiles idolaters, burn incense offer up gold to images, hang up crouches, chains, and ships, leg, arms, and whole men and women of wax, before images, as though by them, or Saints (as they say) they were delivered from lameness, sickness, captivity, or shipwreck? Is not this Colere imagines, to worship images, so earnestly forbidden in God’s word? If they deny it, let them read the 11 Chapter of Daniel the Prophet, who saith of Antichrist: He shall worship God whom his fathers knew not, with gold, silver, and with precious stone, and other things of pleasure. in which place the Latin word is Colet. And in the second of Paralipomenon the xxix. Chapter, all the outward rites and ceremonies, as burning of incense, and such other, wherewith God in the Temple was honoured, is called Cultus (to say) worshipping, which is forbidden straitly by God’s word to be given to images. Do not all stories Ecclesiastical declare, that our holy Martyrs, rather then they would bow and kneel, or offer up one crumb of incense before an image or idol, have suffered a thousand kinds of most horrible and dreadful death?
And what excuses soever they make, yet that all this running on pilgrimage, burning of incense and candles, hanging up of crouches, chains, ships, arms, legs, and whole men and women of wax, kneeling and holding up of hands, is done to the images, appeareth by this, that where no images be, or where they have been, and be taken away, they do no such things at all. But all the places frequented when the images were there, now they be taken away, be forsaken and left desert, nay, now they hate and abhor the place deadly, which is an evident proof, that that which they did before, was done in respect of the images. Wherefore, when we see men and women on heaps to go on pilgrimage to images, kneel before them, hold up their hands before them, set up candles, burn incense before them, offer up gold and silver unto them, hang up ships, crutches, chains, men and women of wax before them, attributing health and safeguard, the gifts of God, to them, or the Saints whom they represent, as they rather would have it: who I say, who can doubt, but that our Image maintainers, agreeing in all idolatrous opinions, outward rites, and ceremonies with the Gentiles idolaters, agree also with them in committing most abominable idolatry? And to increase this madness, wicked men which have the keeping of such images, for their more lucre and advantage, after the example of the Gentiles idolaters, have reported and spread abroad, as well by lying tales, as written fables, divers miracles of images. As that such an Image miraculously was sent from heaven, even like Paladium, or magna Diana Ephesiorum. Such an other was as miraculously found in the earth, as the mans head was in Capitol , or the horse head in Capua. Such an Image was brought by Angels. Such an one came it self far from the East to the West, as dame Fortune fled to Rome . Such an Image of our Lady was painted by Saint Luke , whom of a Physician they have made a Painter for that purpose. Such an one an hundred yokes of oxen could not move, like bona Dea, whom the ship could not carry, or Jupiter Olympus , which laughed the artificers to scorn that went about to remove him to Rome . Some images, though they were hard and stony, yet for tender heart and pity, wept. Some like Castor and Pollux , helping their friends in battle, sweat, as marble pillars do in dankish weather. Some spake more monstrously then ever did Balaam’s Ass, who had life and breath in him. Such a cripple came and saluted this Saint of oak, and by and by he was made whole, and lo, here hangeth his crutch. Such an one in a tempest vowed to Saint Christopher, and scaped, and behold here is his ship of wax. Such an one by St. Leonard’s help brake out of prison, and see where his fetters hang. And infinite thousands more miracles, by like or more shame less lies were reported. Thus do our Image maintainers, in ear nest apply to their images, all such miracles as the Gentiles have feigned of their Idols. And if it were to be admitted, that some miraculous acts were by illusion of the devil done where images be: (For it is evident that the most part were feigned lies, and crafty juggling of men) yet followeth it not therefore, that such images are either to be honoured, or suffered to remain, no more than Hezekiah left the brazen Serpent undestroyed, when it was worshipped, although it were both set up by God’s commandment, and also approved by a great and true miracle, for as many as beheld it, were by and by healed: neither ought miracles persuade us to do contrary to God’s word. For the Scriptures have for a warning hereof foreshowed, that the kingdom of Antichrist shall be mighty in miracles and wonders, to the strong illusion of all the reprobate. But in this they pass the folly and wickedness of the Gentiles, that they honour and worship the relics and bones of our Saints, which prove that they be mortal men and dead, and therefore no Gods to be worshipped, which the Gentiles would never confess of their gods for very shame. But the relics we must kiss and offer unto, specially on relic Sunday. And while we offer (that we should not be weary or repent us of our cost) the music and minstrelsy goeth merrily all the offertory time, with praising and calling upon those Saints, whose relics be then in presence. Yea, and the water also wherein those relics have been dipped, must with great reverence be reserved, as very holy and effectual. Is this agree able to Saint Chrysostom , who writeth thus of relics? (Homily de septem Machabaeis) Do not regard the ashes of the Saints bodies, nor the relics of their flesh and bones, consumed with time: but open the eyes of thy faith, and be hold them clothed with heavenly virtue, and the grace of the holy Ghost, and shining with the brightness of the heavenly light. But our idolaters found too much vantage of relics and relic water, to follow Saint Chrysostom’s counsel. And because relics were so gainful, few places were there but they had relics provided for them. And for more plenty of relics, some one Saint had many heads, one in one place, and another in another place. Some had six arms, and 26 fingers. And where our lord bare his cross alone, if all the pieces of the relics thereof were gathered together, the greatest ship in England would scarcely bear them, and yet the greatest part of it, they say, doeth yet remain in the hands of Infidels, for the which they pray in their bead’s bidding, that they may get it also into their hands, for such godly use and purpose. And not only the bones of the Saints, but every thing appertaining to them was an holy relic. In some place they offer a sword, in some the scabbard, in some a shoe, in some a saddle that had been set upon some holy horse, in some the coals wherewith Saint Laurence as roasted, in some place the tail of the Ass which our Lord Jesus Christ sat on, to be kissed and offered unto for a relic. For rather then they would lack a relic, they would offer you a horse bone, in stead of a virgins arm, or the tail of the Ass to be kissed and offered unto for relics. O wicked, impudent, and most shameless men, the devisers of these things, O silly, foolish, and dastardly daws, and more beastly then the Ass whose tail they kissed, that believe such things. Now God be merciful to such miserable and silly Christians, who by the fraud and falsehood of those which should have taught them the way of truth and life, have been made not only more wicked then the Gentiles idolaters, but also no wiser then asses, horses, and mules, which have no under standing.
Of these things already rehearsed, it is evident, that our Image maintainers have not only made images, and set them up in Temples, as did the Gentiles idolaters their Idols: but also that they have had the same idolatrous opinions of the Saints, to whom they have made I mages, which the Gentiles idolaters had of their false gods, and have not only worshipped their images with the same rites, ceremonies, superstition, and all circumstances, as did the Gentiles Idolaters their Idols: but in many points also have far exceeded them in all wickedness, foolishness, and madness. And if this be not sufficient to prove them Image worshippers, that is to say, Idolaters: lo, you shall hear their own open confession, I mean, not only, the decrees of the second Nicene council under Irene , the Roman council under Gregory III. in which, as they teach that images are to be honoured and worshipped - as is before declared – so yet do they it warily an fearfully, in comparison to the blasphemous bold blazing of manifest idolatry to be done to images set forth of late, even in these our days; the light of Gods truth so shining, that, aove other there abominable doings and writings, a man would marvel most at their impudent, shameless and most shameful blustering boldness: who would not at the least have chosen them a time of more darkness, as meeter to utter their horrible blasphemies in: but have now taken an harlots face, not purposed to blush, in setting abroad the furniture of their spiritual whoredom. And hear the plain blasphemy of the reverend father in God, James Naclantus Bishop of Clugium , written in his exposition of Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and the first Chapter, and put in print now of late at Venice , may stand instead of all, whose words of image worship ping be these in Latin, as he did write them, not one syllable altered.
Ergo non solum fatendum est, fideles in Ecclesia adorare coram imagine, ut nonnulli ad cautelam forte loquuntur; sed et adorare imaginem, sine quo volueris scrupulo. Quin et eo illam venerantur cultu, quo et prototypon ejus. Propter quod, si illud habet adorare latria, et illa latria; si dulia, vel hyperdulia, et illa pariter ejusmodi cultu adoranda est.
The sense whereof in English is this: Therefore it is not only to be confessed, that the faithful in the Church do worship before an Image (as some peradventure do warily speak) but also do worship the I mage it self, without any scruple or doubt at all: Yea, and they worship the Image with the same kind of worship, wherewith they worship the copy of the Image, or the thing whereafter the Image is made. Wherefore if the copy it self is to be worshipped with divine honour (as is God the Father, Christ , and the holy Ghost) the Image of them is also to be worshipped with divine honour. If the copie ought to be worshipped with inferior honour, or higher worship: the Image al so is to be worshipped with the same honour or worship.
Thus far hath Naclantus , whose blasphemies let Pope Gregorius the first confute, & by his authority damn them to hell, as his successors have horribly thundered. For although Gregory permitteth images to be had, yet he for biddeth them by any means to be worshipped, and praiseth much Bishop Serenus for the forbidding the worshipping of them, and willeth him to teach the people to avoid by all means to worship any Image (Gregory Epist. add Serenum Massil). But Naclantus bloweth forth his blasphemous Idolatry, willing images to be worshipped with the highest kind of adoration & worship: and least such whole some doctrine should lack authority, he groundeth it upon Aristotle, in his book De Somno et Vigilia, that is, of sleeping and waking, as by his printed Book noted in the margin, is to be seen: whose impudent wickedness and idolatrous judgement, I have therefore more largely set foorth, that yee may (as Virgil speaketh of Simon ) of one know all these Image - worshippers and idolaters, and understand to what point in conclusion the public having of images in Temples and Churches hath brought us: comparing the times and writings of Gregory the first, with our days, the blasphemies of such idolaters as this instrument of Belial , named Naclantus , is.
Wherefore, now it is by the testimony of the old godly Fathers and Doctors, by the open confession of Bi shops assembled in Councils, by most evident signs and arguments, opinions, idolatrous acts, deeds, and worshipping done to their images, and by their own open confession and doctrine set forth in their books, declared and showed, that their images have been, and be commonly worshipped, yea, and that they ought so to be: I will out of God’s word make this general argument against all such makers, setters up, and maintainers of images in public places.
And first of all I will begin with the words of our Saviour Christ (Mtt 18) , Woe be to that man by whom an offence is given, woe be to him that offendeth one of these little ones, or weak ones: better were it for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the middle of the sea and drowned, then he should offend one of these little ones, or weak ones. And in Deut. God himself denounceth him accursed that maketh the blind to wander in his way (Dt 27). And in Levit. Thou shalt not lay a stumbling block or stone before the blind (Lev 19). But images in Churches and Temples have been, and be, and (as afterward shall be proved) ever will be offences and stumbling blocks, specially to the weak, simple, and blind common people, deceiving their hearts by the cunning of the artificer (as the Scripture expressly in sundry places doeth testify) and so bringing them to Idolatry. Therefore woe be to the erecter, setter up, and maintainer of images in Churches and Temples, for a greater penalty remaineth for him then the death of the body (Wis 13,14).
If answer be yet made, that this offence may be taken away by diligent and sincere doctrine and preaching of God’s word, as by other means: and that images in Churches and Temples therefore be not things absolutely evil to all men, although dangerous to some: and therefore that it were to beholden, that the public having of them in Churches and Temples, is not expedient, as a thing perilous, rather then unlawful, and a thing utterly wicked. Then followeth the third article to be proved, which is in this.
That it is not possible, if images be suffered in Churches and Temples, either by preaching of God’s word, or by any other means, to keep the people from worshipping of them, and so to avoid Idolatry.
And first concerning Preaching.
If it should be admitted, that although images were suffered in Churches, yet might Idolatry by diligent and sincere preaching of God’s word be avoid: It should follow of necessity, that sincere doctrine might al wayes be had and continue, as well as images, and so that wheresoever, to offence, were erected an Image, there also, of reason, a godly and sincere Preacher should and might be continually maintained. For it is reason, that the warning be as common as the stumbling block, the remedy as large as is the offence, the medicine as general as the poison: but that is not possible, as both reason and experience teacheth. Where fore preaching cannot stay Idolatry, images being publicly suffered. For an Image, which will last for many hundred years, may for a little be bought: but a good Preacher cannot without much be continually maintained. Item, if the Prince will suffer it, there will be by and by many, yea, infinite images: but sincere Preachers were and ever shall be but a few in respect of the multitude to be taught. For our Saviour Christ saith, The harvest is plentiful, but the workmen be but few: which hath been hitherto continually true, and will be to the worlds end: And in our time, and here in our country so true, that every Shire should scarcely have one good Preacher, if they were divided.
Now images will continually to the beholders preach their doctrine, that is, the worshipping of images and Idolatry, to the which Preaching mankind is exceeding prone, and inclined to give ear and credit: as experience of all nations and ages doth too much prove. But a true Preacher to stay this mischief, is in very many places scarcely heard once in a whole year, and some where not once in seven years, as is evident to be proved. And that evil opinion which hath been long rooted in men’s hearts, cannot suddenly by one Sermon be rooted out clean. And as few are inclined to credit sound doctrine: as many, and almost all, be prone to superstition and idolatry. So that herein appeareth not only a difficulty, but also an impossibility of the remedy.
Further, it appeareth not by any story of credit, that true and sincere Preaching hath endured in any one place above one hundred years: But it is evident, that images, superstition, and worshipping of images and idolatry, have continued many hundred years. For all writings and experience do testify, that good things do by little and little ever decay, until they be clean banished: and contrariwise, evil things do more and more in crease, till they come to a full perfection and wickedness. Neither need we to seek examples far off for a proof hereof, our present matter is an example. For Preaching of God’s word (most sincere in the be ginning) by process of time, waxed less and less pure, and after corrupt, and last of all, altogether laid down and left off, and other inventions of men crept in place of it. And on the other part, images among Christi an men were first painted, and that in whole stories together, which had some signification in them: Afterwards, they were embossed, and made of timber, stone, plaster, and metal. And first they were only kept privately in private men’s houses: And then after, they crept into Churches and Temples, but first by painting, and after by embossing: and yet were they no where at the first worshipped. But shortly after, they began to be worshipped of the ignorant sort of men: as appeareth by the Epistle that Gregory the first of that name Bishop of Rome, did write to Serenus Bishop of Marcelles . Of the which two Bishops, Serenus for idolatry committed to images, brake them, and burned them, Gregory although he thought it tolerable to let them stand: yet he judged it abominable that they should be worshipped, and thought (as is now alleaged) that the worshipping of them might be stayed, by teaching of God’s word, according as he exhorteth Serenus to teach the people, as in the same Epistle appeareth. But whether Gregory’s opinion, or Serenus judgement were better here in, consider ye, I pray you, for experience by and by confuteth Gregory’s opinion. For notwithstanding Gregory’s writing, and the Preaching of others, images being once publicly set up in Temples and Churches, simple men and women shortly after fell on heaps to worshipping of them: And at the last, the learned also were carried away with the public error, as with a violent stream or flood. And at the second Council Nicene , the Bishops and Clergy decreed, that images should be worshipped: and so by occasion of these stumbling blocks, not only the unlearned and simple, but the learned and wise, not the people only, but the Bi shops, not the sheep, but also the shepherds themselves (who should have been guides in the right way, and light to shine in darkness) being blinded by the bewitching of images, as blind guides of the blind, fell both into the pit of damnable Idolatry. In the which all the world, as it were drowned, continued untill our age, by the space of above eight hundred years, unspoken against in a manner. And this success had Gregory’s order: which mischief had never come to pass, had Bishop Serenus way been taken, and all idols and images been utterly destroyed and abolished: for no man worshippeth that that is not.
And thus you see, how from having of images privately, it came to public setting of them up in Churches and Temples, although without harm at the first, as was then of some wise and learned men judged: and from simple having them there, it came at the last to worshipping of them. First, by the rude people, who specially (as the Scripture teacheth) are in danger of superstition and idolatry, and afterwards by the Bishops, the learned, and by the whole Clergy. So that Laity and Clergy, learned and unlearned, all ages, sects, and degrees of men, women, and children, of whole Christendom (an horrible and most dreadful thing to think) have been at once drowned in abominable idolatry, of all other vices most de tested of God, and most damnable to man and that by the space of eight hundred years and more. And to this end is come that beginning of set ting up of images in Churches then judged harmless, in experience proved not only harmful, but exitious and pestilent, and to the destruction and subversion of all good religion universally. So that I conclude, as it may be possible in some one City or little Country, to have I mages set up in Temples and Churches, and yet idolatry by earnest and continual preaching of God’s true word, and the sincere Gospel of our Saviour Christ , may be kept away for a short time: So is it impossible, that (images once set up and suffered in Temples and Churches) any great countries, much less the whole world, can any long time be kept from idolatry. And the godly will respect, not only their own City, country and time, and the health of men of their age: but be careful for all places and times, and the salvation of men of all ages. At the least, they will not lay such stumbling blocks and snares, for the feet of other countrymen and ages, which experience hath already proved to have been the ruin of the world.
Wherefore I make a general conclusion of all that I have hitherto said: If the stumbling blocks, and poisons of men’s souls, by setting up of images, will be many, yea, infinite if they be suffered, and the warnings of the same stumbling blocks, and re medies for the said poisons by preaching but few, as is already declared: if the stumbling blocks be easie to be laid, the poisons soon provided, and the warnings and remedies hard to know or come by: if the stumbling blocks lie continually in the way, and poison be ready at hand everywhere, and warnings and remedies but seldom given: and if all men be more ready of themselves to stumble and be offended, then to be warned, all men more ready to drink of the poison, then to taste of the remedy (as is before partly, and shall hereafter more fully be declared) and so in fine, the poison continually and deeply drunk of many, the remedy seldom and faintly tasted of a few: How can it be but that infinite of the weak and infirm shall be offended, infinite by ruin shall break their necks, infinite by deadly venom by poisoned in their souls? And how is the charity of God, or love of our neighbour in our hearts then, if when we may remove such dangerous stumbling blocks, such pestilent poisons, we will not remove them: What shall I say of them which will lay stumbling blocks, where before there was none, and set snares for the feet, nay, for the souls of weak and simple ones, and work the danger of their everlasting destruction, for whom our Saviour Christ shed his most precious blood, where better it were that the arts of painting, plastering, carving, graving, and founding, had never been found nor used, then one of them, whose souls in the sight of God are so precious, should by occasion of image or picture perish and be lost.
And thus is it declared that Preaching cannot possibly stay Idolatry, if images be set up publicly in Temples and Churches.
And as true is it, that no other remedy, as writing against idolatry, Councils assembled, Decrees made against it, severe Laws likewise and Proclamations of Princes and Emperors, neither extreme punishments and penalties, nor any other remedy could or can be possible devised for the avoiding of idolatry, if images be publicly set up and suffered. For concerning writing against images, and Idolatry to them committed, there hath been alleaged unto you in the second part of this Treatise a great many places, out of Tertullian, Origen, Lactantius, S. Augustine, Epiphanius, S. Am brose, Clemens , and divers other learned and holy Bishops and Doctors of the Church. And besides these, all histories Ecclesiastical, and books of other godly and learned Bishops and Doctors are full of notable examples and sentences against images and the worshipping of them. And as they have most earnestly written, so did they sincerely and most diligently in their time teach and preach, according to their writings and examples. For they were then Preaching Bishops, and more often seen in Pulpits, then in Princes palaces, more often occupied in his legacy, who said, Goe ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to all men, then in embassages and affairs of Princes of this world. And as they were most zealous and diligent, so were they of excellent learning and godliness of life, and by both of great authority and credit with the peo ple, and so of more force and likelihood to persuade the people, and the people more like to believe and follow their doctrine. But if their preachings could not help, much less could their writings, which do but come to the knowledge of a few that be learned, in comparison to continual preaching, whereof the whole multitude is partaker. Neither did the old Fathers, Bishops, and Doctors, severally only by preaching and writing, but also together, great numbers of them assembled in Synods and Councils, make Decrees and Ecclesiastical Laws against images, and the worshipping of them, neither did they so once or twice, but divers times, and in divers ages and Countries, assembled Synodes and Councils, and made severe Decrees against images and worship ping of them, as hath been at large in the second part of this Homily be fore declared. But all their writing, preaching, assembling in Councils, decreeing and making of Laws Ecclesiastical, could nothing help, either to pull down images to whom Idolatry was committed, or against Idolatry whilst images stood. For those blind books and dumb Schoolmasters, I mean images and Idols (for they call them Laymen’s books, and Schoolmasters) by their carved and painted writings, teaching and preaching Idolatry, prevailed against all their writ ten books, and preaching with lively voice, as they call it.
Well, if preaching and writing could not keep men from worshipping of images and Idolatry, if pen and words could not do it, you would think that penalty and sword might do it, I mean, that Princes by severe Laws and punishments, might stay this unbridled affection of all men to idolatry, though images were set up and suffered. But experience proveth, that this can no more help against Idolatry, then writing and preaching. For Christian Emperors (whose authority ought of reason, and by God’s Law, to be greatest) above eight in number, and six of them successively reigning one after another (as is in the histories before rehearsed) making most severe Laws and Proclamations against Idols, and Idolatry, images, and the worshipping of images, and executing most grievous punishments, yea, the penalty of death, upon the maintainers of images, and upon Idolaters and Image-worshippers: could not bring to pass, that either images once set up, might thoroughly be destroyed, or that men should refrain from the worshipping of them, being set up. And what think you then will come to pass, if men of learning should teach the people to make them, and should maintain the setting up of them, as things necessary in religion?
To conclude: it appeareth evidently by all stories and writings, and experience in times past, that neither preaching, neither writing, neither the consent of the learned, nor authority of the godly, nor the decrees of Councils, neither the Laws of Princes, nor extreme punishments of the offenders in that behalf, nor any other remedy or means, can help against Idolatry, if images be suffered publicly. And it is truly said, that times past are Schoolmasters of wisdom to us that follow and live after. Therefore if in times past, the most virtuous and best learned, the most diligent al so, and in number almost infinite, ancient Fathers, Bishops, and Doctors, with their writing, preaching, industry, earnestness, authority, assemblies and Councils could do nothing against images and Idolatry, to images once set up: what can we, neither in learning, nor holiness of life, neither in diligence, neither authority, to be compared with them, but men in contempt, and of no estimation (as the world goeth now) a few also in number, in so great a multitude and malice of men. What can we doe, I say, or bring to pass to the stay of Idolatry or worshipping of images, if they be allowed to stand publicly in Temples and Churches? And if so many, so mighty Emperors, by so severe Laws and Proclamations, so rigorous and extreme punishments and executions could not stay the people from setting up and worshipping of images: what will ensue, think you, when men shall commend them as necessary books of the lay men. Let us therefore of these latter days learn this lesson of the experience of ancient antiquity, that Idolatry can not possibly be separated from images any long time: but that as an inseparable accident, or as a shadow followeth the body when the Sun shineth, so Idolatry followeth and cleaveth to the public having of images in Temples and Churches. And finally, as Idolatry is to be abhorred and avoid, so are images (which can not be long without Idolatry) to be put away and destroyed.
Besides the which experiments and proof of times before, the very nature and origin of images themselves draweth to Idolatry most violently, and men’s nature and inclination also is bent to Idolatry so vehemently, that it is not possible to sever or part images, nor to keep men from Idolatry, if images be suffered publicly. That I speak of the nature and origin of images, is this: Even as the first invention of them is nought, and no good can come of that which had an evil beginning, for they be altogether nought, as Athanasius in his book against the Gentiles declareth, and Saint Jerome also upon the prophet Jeremiah the sixth Chapter, and Eusebius the seventh book of his Ecclesiastical Historie the xviii. Chapter testifieth, that as they first came from the Gentiles, which were idolaters and worshippers of images, unto us, and as the invention of them was the beginning of spiritual fornication, as the word of God testifieth: Sapi. 14. So will they naturally (as it were of necessity) turn to their origin from whence they came, and draw us with them most violently to Idolatry, abominable to God and all godly men. For if the origin of images, and worshipping of them, as it is recorded in the eight Chapter of the book of Wisedome, began of a blind love of a fond father, framing for his comfort an Image of his son, being dead, and so at the last men fell to the worshipping of the Image of him whom they did know to be dead: How much more will men and women fall to the worshipping of the images of God, our Saviour Christ , and his Saints, if they be suffered to stand in Churches and Temples publicly? For the greater the opinion is of the maiestie and holiness of the person to whom an Image is made, the sooner will the people fall to the worshipping of the said Image. Wherefore the images of God, our Saviour Christ , the blessed virgin Marie, the Apostles, Martyrs, and other of notable holiness, are of all other images most dangerous for the peril of Idolatry, and therefore greatest heed to be taken that none of them be suffered to stand publicly in Churches and Temples. For there is no great dread lest any should fall to the worshipping of the images of Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, or Judas the traitor, if they were set up. But to the other, it is already at full proved, that Idolatry hath been, is, and is most like continually to be committed.
Now as was before touched, and is here most largely to be declared, the nature of man is none otherwise bent to worshipping of images (if he may have them, and see them) then it is bent to whore dome and adultery in the company of harlots. And as unto a man given to the lust of the flesh, seeing a wanton harlot, sitting by her, and embracing her, it profiteth little for one to say, Beware of fornication, God will condemn fornicators and adulterers (1 Cor 6, 1 Thes 4, Heb 13) for neither will he, being overcome with greater enticements of the strum pet give ear or take heed to such godly admonitions, and when he is left afterwards alone with the harlot, nothing can follow but wickedness: even so, suffer images to be set in the Churches and Temples, ye shall in vain bid them beware of images, as Saint John doeth (1 Jn 5), and flee Idolatry, as all the Scriptures warn us, ye shall in vain preach and teach them against Idolatry. For a number will not withstanding fall headlong unto it, what by the nature of images, and what by the inclination of their own corrupt nature.
Wherefore as for a man given to lust, to sit down by a strumpet, is to tempt God: So is it likewise to erect an Idol in this proneness of mans nature to Idolatry, nothing but a tempting.
Now if any will say that this similitude proveth nothing, yet I pray them let the word of God, out of the which the similitude is taken, prove something. Doeth not the word of God call Idolatry spiritual fornication? (Lev 17 & 20, Num 25, Dt 31, Baruch 6) Doeth it not call a gilt or painted Idol or Image, a strumpet with a painted face? Bee not the spiritual wickednesses of an Idols enticing, like the flatteries of a wanton harlot? Bee not men and women as prone to spiritual fornication (I mean Idolatry) as to carnal fornication? If this be denied, let all nations upon the earth which have been Idolaters (as by all Stories appeareth) prove it true. Let the Jewes and the people of God which were so often and so earnestly warned, so dreadfully threatened concerning images and idolatry, and so extremely punished therefore (and yet fell unto it) prove it to be true: as in almost all the books of the old Testament, namely the Kings and the Chronicles, and the Prophets, it appeareth most evidently. Let all ages and times, and men of all ages and times, of all degrees and conditions, wise men, learned men, Princes, idiots, unlearned, and commonalty, prove it to be true. If you require examples: For wise men, ye have the Egyptians, and the Indian Gymnosophistes, the wisest men of the world, you have Solomon the wisest of all other. For learned men, the Greeks, and namely the Athenians, exceeding all other nations in superstition and idolatry, as in the history of the Acts of the Apostles S. Paul chargeth them (Acts 17, Rom 1). For Princes and governors, you have the Romans, the rulers of the roast, (as they say) you have the same forenamed king Solomon , and all the kings of Israel and Judah after him, saving David, Hezekiah and Josiah, and one or two more. All these (I say) and infinite others, wise, learned, Princes, and Governors, being all Idolaters, have you for examples and a proof of men’s inclination to idolatry. That I may pass over with silence in the mean time, infinite multitudes (Ps 32) and millions of idiots and unlearned, the ignorant and gross people, like unto Horses and Mules in whom is no understanding, whose peril and danger to fall on heaps to Idolatry by occasion of images, the Scriptures specially foreshow and give warning of (Wis 13,14). And indeed how should the unlearned, simple, and foolish scape the nets and snares of idols, and images, in the which the wisest and the best learned have been so en tangled, trapped, and wrapped?
Wherefore the argument holdeth this ground sure, that men be as inclined of their corrupt nature to spiritual fornication, as to carnal, which the wisdom of God foreseeing, to the general prohibition, that none should make to them selves and Image or similitude, addeth a cause, depending of mans corrupt nature. Lest (saith God) thou being deceived with error, honour and worship them (Dt 4). And of this ground of mans corrupt inclination, as well to spiritual fornication, as to carnal, it must needs follow, that as it is the duty of the godly Magistrate, loving honesty, and hating whoredom, to remove all strumpets and harlots, specially out of places notoriously suspected, or resorted unto of naughty packs, for the avoiding of carnal fornication: so it is the duty of the same godly Magistrate, after the examples of the godly Kings, Hezekiah and Josiah, to drive away all spiritual harlots, (I mean Idols and images) especially out of suspected places, Churches and Temples, dangerous for idolatry to be committed to images placed there, as it were in the appointed place and height of honour and worship (as Saint Augustine saith - Ps 36 & 13 & Book 4 ch 3) where the living God only (and not dead stones and stocks) is to be worshipped: It is (I say) the office of godly Magistrates likewise to avoid images and Idols out of Churches and Temples, as spiritual harlots out of suspected places for the avoiding of Idolatry, which is spiritual Fornication. And as he were the enemy of all honesty, that should bring strumpets and ha lots out of their secret corners into the public market place, there freely to dwell and practise their filthy merchandise: So is the enemy of the true worshipping of God, that bringeth idols and images into the Temple and Church, the house of God, there openly to be worshipped, and to rob the zealous God of his honour, who will not give it to any other, nor his glory to carved images, who is as much forsaken, and the bond of love between man and him as much broken by idolatry, which is spiritual Fornication, as is the knot and bond of marriage broken by carnal Fornication.
Let all this be taken as a lie, if the word of God enforce it not to be true. Cursed be the man, saith God in Deuteronomy (Dt 27), that maketh a carved or molten image, and placeth it in a secret corner: and all the people shall say, Amen. Thus saith God, for at that time no man durst have or worship images openly, but in corners only: and the whole world being the great Temple of God, he that in any corner thereof robbeth God of his glory, and giveth it to stocks and stones, is pronounced by God’s word accursed. Now he that will bring these spiritual harlots out of their lurking corners, into public Churches and Temples, that spiritual Fornication may there openly of all men and women without shame be committed with them, no doubt that person is cursed of God, and twice cursed, and all good and godly men and women will say, Amen, and their Amen will take effect also.
Yea, and furthermore the madness of all men professing the Religion of Christ , now by the space of a sort of hundred years, and yet even in our time in so great light of the Gospel, very many running on heaps by sea and land, to the great loss of their time, expense and waste of their goods, destitution of their Wives, Children, and Families, and danger of their own bodies and lives, to Compostella, Rome, Jerusalem , and other far countries, to visit dumb and dead stocks and stones, doeth sufficiently prove the proneness of mans corrupt nature to the seeking of idols once set by, and the worshipping of them. And thus as well by the origin and nature of idols and images themselves, as by the proneness and inclination of mans corrupt nature to Idolatry, it is evident, that neither images, if they be publicly set up, can be separated, nor men, if they see images in Temples and Churches, can be staid and kept from idolatry.
Now whereas they yet alleadge, that howsoever the people, Princes, learned, and wise of old time, have fallen into idolatry by occasion of images, that yet in our time the most part, specially the learned, wise, and of any authority, take no hurt nor offence by idols and images, neither do run into far countries to them, and worship them: And that they know well what an idol or Image is, and how to be used, and that therefore it followeth, images in Churches and Temples to be an indifferent thing, as the which of some is not abused: and that therefore they may justly hold (as was in the beginning of this part by them alleadged) that it is not unlawful or wicked absolutely to have images in Churches and Temples, though it may for the danger of the simple sort seem to be not altogether expedient.
Whereunto may be well replied, that Solomon also the wisest of all men, did well know what an idol or Image was, and neither took any harm thereof a great while himself, and also with his godly writings armed others against the danger of them. But yet after ward the same Solomon suffering his wanton Paramours to bring their idols into his Court and Palace, was by carnal harlots persuaded, and brought at the last to the committing of Spiritual Fornication with idols, and of the wisest and godliest Prince, became the most foolishest and wickeddest also (Wis 13&14). Wherefore it is better even for the wisest to regard this warning, he that loveth danger shall perish therein (Eccl 3): and Let him that standeth, beware lest he fall (1 Cor 10), rather then wittingly and willingly to lay such a stumbling block for his own feet and others, that may perhaps bring at last to break neck. The good King Hezekiah did know well enough, that the brazen Serpent was but a dead Image (2 Ki 18), and therefore he took no hurt himself thereby through idolatry to it: Did he therefore let it stand, because himself took no hurt thereof? No not so: but being a good King, and therefore regarding the health of his silly subjects, deceived by that Image, and committing idolatry thereto, he did not only take it down, but also brake it to pieces. And this he did to that Image that was set up by the commandment of God, in the presence whereof great miracles were wrought, as that which was a figure of our Saviour Christ to come, who should deliver us from the mortal sting of the old serpent, Satan. Neither did he spare it in respect of the ancientness or antiquity of it, which had continued above seven hundred years, nor for that it had been suffered, and preserved by so many godly Kings before his time. Now (think you) would that godly Prince (if he were now living) handle our idols, set up against God’s commandment directly, and being figures of nothing but folly, and for fools to gaze on, till they become as wise as the blocks themselves which they stare on, and so fall down as dared larks in that gaze, and being themselves alive, worship a dead stocke or stone, gold or silver, and so become idolaters, abominable and cursed before the living God, giving the honour due unto him which made them when they were nothing, and to our Saviour Christ who redeemed them being lost, to the dead and dumb idol, the work of mans hand, which never did nor can do any thing for them, no, is not able to stir nor once to move, and therefore worse then a vile worm which can move and creep? The excellent King Josiah also did take him self no hurt of images and idols, for he did know well what they were: did he therefore because of his own knowledge let idols and images stand? much less did he set any up? Or rather did he not by his know ledge and authority also succour the ignorance of such as did not know what they were, by utter taking away of all such stumbling blocks as might be occasion of ruin to his people and subjects? Will they be cause a few took no hurt by images or idols, break the general Law of God, Thou shalt make to the no similitude, etc. They might as well, because Moses was not seduced by Jethro’s daughter, nor Boaz by Ruth , being strangers, reason, that all the Jews might break the ge neral Law of God, forbidding his people to join their children in marriage with strangers, lest they seduce their children that they should not follow God.
Wherefore they which thus reason, thought it be not expedient, yet it is lawful to have images publicly, and do prove that lawfulness by a few picked and chosen men: if they object that in differently to all men, which a very few can have without hurt and of fence, they seem to take the multitude for vile souls (as he saith in Virgil ) of whose los and safeguard no reputation is to be had, for whom yet Christ paid as dearly as for the mightiest Prince, or the wisest and best learned in the earth. And they that will have it generally to be taken for indifferent, that a very few take no hurt of it, though infinite multi tudes beside perish thereby, show that they put little difference between the multitude of Christians and bruit beasts, whose danger they do so little esteem. Besides this, if they be Bishops or Parsons, or otherwise having charge of men’s consciences that thus reason, It is lawful to have images publicly, though it be not expedient, what manner of pastors show they themselves to be to their flock, which thrust unto them that which they themselves confess not to be expedient for them, but to the utter ruin of the souls committed to their charge, for whom they shall give a strait account before the Prince of Pastors at the last day? For indeed to object to the weak, and ready to fall of themselves, such stumbling blocks, is a thing not only not expedient, but unlawful, yea, and most wicked also. Wherefore it is to be wondered how they can call images, set up in Churches and Temples to no profit or benefit of any, and to so great peril and danger, yea hurt and destruction of many, or rather in finite, things indifferent. Is not the public setting up of them rather a snare for all men, and the tempting of God? I beseech these reasoners to call to mind their own accustomed ordinance and Decree, whereby they determined that the Scripture, though by God him self commanded to be known of all men, women, and children, should not be read of the simple, nor had in the vulgar tongue, for that (as they said) it was dangerous, by bringing the simple people into errors. And will they not forbid images to be set up in Churches and Temples, which are not commanded, but forbidden most straitly by God (Dt 31), but let them still be there, yea, and maintain them also, see ing the people are brought, not in danger only, but in deed into most abominable errours and detestable idolatry thereby? Shall God’s word, by God commanded to be read unto all, and known of all, for danger of Heresie (as they say) be shut up? and idols and images, not withstanding they be forbidden by God, and notwithstanding the dan ger of idolatry by them, shall they yet be set up, suffered, and maintai ned in Churches and Temples? O worldly and fleshly wisedome, even bent to maintaine the inuentions and traditions of men by carnal rea son, and by the same to disanull or deface the holy ordinances, Laws, and honour of the Eternall God, who is to be honoured and praised for ever. Amen.
The Conclusion of Homily against Idolatry
Now it remaineth for the conclusion of this treaty, to declare as well the abuse of Churches and Temples, by too costly and sumptuous decking and adorning of them, as also the lewd painting, gilding, and clothing of idols and images, and so to conclude the whole treaty.
In Tertullians time, an hundreth and threescore years after Christ , Christians had none other Temples but common houses, whither they for the most part secretly resorted (Tertul. Apol. ch 39). And so far off was it that they had before his time any goodly or gorgeous decked Temples, that Laws were made in Antonius, Verus and Commodus the Emperors times, that no Christians should dwell in houses (Euseb. Book 5 Eccl Hist), come in public bathes, or be seen in streets, or any where abroad, and that if they were once accused to be Christians, they should by no means be suffered to escape. As was practised on Apolonius a noble Senator of Rome , who being accused of his own bondman and slave that he was a Christian (Hieronymus), could neither by his defence and apology learnedly and eloquently written and read publicly in the Senate, nor in respect that he was a Citizen, nor for the dignity of his order, nor for the vileness and unlawfulness of his accuser, being his own slave, by likelihood of malice moved to forge lies against his Lord, nor for no other respect or help, could be delivered from death. So that Christians were then driven to dwell in caves and dens: so far off was it that they had any public Temples adorned and decked as they now be. Which is here rehearsed to the confutation of those, which report such glorious glossed fables, of the goodly and gorgeous Temple, that Saint Peter, Linus, Cletus , and those thirty Bishops their successors had at Rome , until the time of the Emperor Constantine , and which Saint Polycarp should have in Asia , or Irenaeus in France, by such lies, contrary to all true Histories, to maintain the superfluous gilding and decking of Temples now a days, wherein they put almost the whole sum and pith of our religion. But in those times the world was won to Christendom, not by gorgeous, gilded, and painted Temples of Christians, which had scarcely houses to dwell in: but by the godly, and as it were golden minds, and firm faith of such as in all adversity and persecution professed the truth of our religion.
And after these times in Maximinian and Constantius the Emperors proclamation, the places where Christians resorted to public prayer, were called conventicles (Euseb. Book 8 ch 19 & Book 9 ch 9). And in Galerius Maximinus the Emperors Epistle, they are called Oratories and , to say, places dedicate to the service of the Lord. And here by the way it is to be noted, that at that time there were no Churches or Temples erected unto any Saint, but to God only, as Saint Augustine also recordeth, saying, Wee build no Temples unto our Martyrs (De civitate Book 8 ch 1) And Eusebius himself calleth Churches, houses of prayer, and showeth that in Constantine the Emperors time, all men rejoiced, seeing in stead of low conventicles, which tyrants had destroyed, high Temples to be builded. Lo, unto the time of Constantine , by the space of above three hundred years after our Saviour Christ , when Christian religion was most pure, and indeed golden, Christians had but low and poor conventicles, and simple Oratories, yea caves under the ground, called Crypt' , where they for fear of persecution assembled secretly together. A figure whereof remaineth in the vaults which yet are builded under great Churches, to put us in remembrance of the old state of the primitive Church before Constantine, whereas in Constantine’s time, and after him, were builded great and goodly Temples for Christians, called Basilicae, either for that the Greeks used to call all great and goodly places Basilicas, or for that the high and everlasting King God and our Saviour Christ was served in them.
But although Constantine , and other Princes, of good zeale to our religion, did sumptuously deck and adorn Christians Temples, ye did they dedicate at that time all Churches and Temples to God or our Saviour Christ , and to no Saint, for that abuse began long after in Justinians time (Novel Constit. 3 & 47). And that gorgeousness then used, as it was borne with, as rising of a good zeal: so was it signified of the godly learned even at that time, that such cost might otherwise have been better bestowed. Let Saint Jerome (although otherwise too great a liker and allower of external and outward things) be a proof hereof, who hath these words in his Epistle to Demetriades, Let other (saith Saint Jerome ) build Churches, cover walls with tables of marble, carry together huge pillars, and gild their tops or heads, which do not feel or understand their precious decking and adorning, let them deck the doors with ivory, and silver, and set the golden altars with precious stones, I blame it not, let every man abound in his own sense, and better is it so to doe, then carefully to keep their riches laid up in store. But thou hast another way appointed the, to clothe Christ in the poor, to visit him in the sick, feed him in the hungry, lodge him in those who do lack harbour, and especially such as be of the household of faith.
And the same Saint Jerome toucheth the same matter somewhat more freely in his treaty of the life of Clerks to Nepotian , saying thus, Many build walls, and erect pillars of Churchers, the smooth Marbles do glister, the roof shineth with gold, the altar is set with precious stones: But of the ministers of Christ, there is no election or choice. Neither let any man object and alleadge against me the rich Temple that was in Jewry, the table, candlesticks, incense, ships, platters, cups, mortars, and other things all of gold. Then were these things allowed of the Lord, when the Priests offered sacrifices, and the blood of beasts was accounted the redemption of sins. Howbeit all these things went be fore in figure, and they were written for us, upon whom the end of the world is come. And now when that our Lord being poor, hath dedicate the poverty of his house, let us remember his cross, and we shall esteem riches as mire and dung. What do we marvel at that which Christ calleth wicked Mammon? Whereto do we so highly esteem and love that which St Peter doeth for a glory testify that he had not? Hitherto St Jerome .
Thus you see how St. Jerome teacheth the sumptuousness amongst the Jews to be a figure to signify, and not an example to follow, and that those outward things were suffered for a time, until Christ our Lord came, who turned all those outward things into spirit, faith and truth. And the same Saint Jerome upon the seventh Chapter of Jeremiah saith, God commanded both the Jews at that time, and now us who are placed in the Church, that we have no trust in the goodliness of building and guilt roofs, and in walls covered with tables of marble, and say: the Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord. For that is the Temple of the Lord, wherein dwelleth true faith, godly conversation, and the company of all virtues. And upon the Prophet Haggai, he describeth the true and right decking or ornaments of the Temple after this sort: I (saith Saint Jerome ) do think the Silver wherewith the house of God is decked, to be the doctrine of the Scriptures, of the which it is spoken, The doctrine of the Lord is a pure doctrine, Silver tried in the fire, purged from dross, purified seven times. And I do take gold to be that which remaineth in the hid sense of the Saints, and the se cret of the heart, and shineth with the true light of God. Which is evident that the Apostle also meant of the Saints that build upon the foundation of Christ , some silver, some gold, some precious stones: that by the gold, the hid sense, by silver, godly utterance, by precious stones, works which please God, might be signified. With these metals, the Church of our Saviour is made more goodly and gorgeous, then was the Synagogue in olde time.
With these lively stones, is the Church and house of Christ builded, and peace is given to it for ever. All these be Saint Jerome’s sayings.
No more did the old godly Bishops and Doc tours of the Church allow the over sumptuous furniture of Temples and Churches, with plate, vessels of gold, silver, and precious vestments. St. Chrysostom saith, in the ministry of the holy sacraments, there is no need of golden vessels, but of golden minds. And Saint Ambrose saith (2 Offic ch 28), Christ sent his Apostles without gold, and gathered his Church with out gold. The Church hath gold, not to keep it, but to bestow it on the necessities of the poor. The sacraments look for no gold, neither do they please God for the commendation of gold, which are not bought for gold. The adorning and decking of the Sacraments, is the redemption of Captives. Thus much saith Saint Ambrose .
Saint Jerome commendeth Exuperius Bishop of Toulouse , that he carried the sacrament of the Lord’s body in a wicker basket, and the Sacrament of his blood in a glass, and so cast covetousness out of the Church. And Bonifacius Bishop and Martyr, as it is recorded in the decrees (Tit. de consecra. can. Triburien), testifieth, that in old time the ministers used wooden, and not golden vessels. And Zepherinus the sixteenth Bishop of Rome made a decree, that they should use vessels of glass. Likewise were the vestures used in the Church in old time very plain and single, and nothing costly. And Rabanus at large declareth (Book 1 Insti. ch 14), that this costly and manifold furniture of vestments of late used in the Church, was set from the Jewish usage, and agreeth with Aarons apparelling almost altogether. For the maintenance of the which Innocentius the Pope pronounceth boldly, that all the customs of the old Law be not abolished, that we might in such apparel, of Christians the more willingly become Jewish. This is noted, not against Churches and Temples, which are most necessary, and ought to have their due use and honour, as is in another Homily for that purpose declared, nor against the convenient cleanness & ornaments thereof: but against the sumptuousness and abuses of the Temples and Churches. For it is a Church or Temple also that glittereth with no marble, shineth with no Gold nor Silver, glistereth with no Pearls nor precious stones: but with plaineness and frugality, signifieth no proud doctrine nor people, but humble, frugal, and nothing esteeming earthly and outward things, but gloriously decked with inward ornaments, according as the Prophet declareth, saying, The kings daughter is altogether glorious inwardly.
Now concerning excessive decking of images and idols, with pain ting, gilding, adorning, with precious vestures, pearl, and stone, what is it else, but for the further provocation and enticement to spiritual fornication, to deck spiritual harlots most costly and wantonly, which the idolatrous Church understandeth well enough. For she being in deed not only an harlot (as the Scripture calleth her) but also a foul, filthy, old withered harlot (for she is indeed of ancient years) and understanding her lack of nature and true beauty, and great loathsomeness which of her self she hath, doeth (after the custom of such harlots) paint her self, and deck and tyre her self with gold, pearl, stone, and all kind of precious jewels, that she shining with the outward beauty and glory of them, may please the foolish fantasy of fond lovers, and so entice them to spiritual fornication with her. Who, if they saw her (I will not say naked) but in simple apparel, would abhor her, as the foulest and filthiest harlot that ever was seen, According as appeareth by the discription of the garnishing of the great strumpet of all strumpets, the Mother of Whoredom, set forth by Saint John in his Revelation (Rev 17), who by her glory provoked the Princes of the earth to commit whoredom with her. Whereas on the contrary part, the true Church of God, as a chaste matron, espoused (as the Scripture teacheth) to one husband, our Saviour Jesus Christ , whom alone she is content only to please and serve, and looketh not to delight the eyes or fantasies of any other strange lovers, or wooers is content with her natural ornaments, not doubting, by such sincere simplicity, best to please him, who can well skill of the difference between a painted visage, and true natural beauty.
And concerning such glorious gilding and decking of images, both God’s word written in the tenth Chapter of the Prophet Jeremiah, and Saint Jerome’s commentaries upon the same, are most worthy to be noted. First, the words of the Scriptures be these (Jer 10), The workman with his axe hewed the timber out of the wood with the work of his hands, he decked it with gold and silver, he joined it with nails and pins, and the stroke an hammer, that it might hold together. They be made smooth as the palm, and they can not speak: if they be borne they remove, for they cannot go. Fear ye them not, for they can neither do evil nor good: thus saith the Prophet, Upon which text, Saint Jerome hath these words, This is the description of idols, which the Gentiles worship, their matter is vile and corruptible. And whereas the Artificer is mortal, the things he maketh must needs be corruptible: he decketh it with silver and gold, that with the glittering or shining of both metals, he may deceive the simple. Which error indeed hath passed over from the Gentiles, that we should judge Religion to stand in riches. And by and by after he saith, They have the beauty of metals, and be beautified by the Arte of Painting, but good or profit is there none in them. And shortly after again, They make great promises, and devise an Image of vain worshipping of their own fantasies, they make great brags to deceive every simple body, they dull and amaze the understanding of the unlearned, as it were with golden sentences, and eloquence, shining with the brightness of silver. And of their own devisers and makers are these images advanced and magnified, in the which is no utility nor profit at all, and the worshipping of the which, properly pertaineth to the Gentiles and Heathen, and such as know not God.
Thus far of Saint Jerome’s words. Whereupon you may note as well his judgement of images themselves, as also of the painting, gil ding, and decking of them: that it is an error which came from the Gentiles, that it persuadeth Religion to remain in riches, that it amazeth and deceiveth the simple and unlearned with golden sentences, and silver shining eloquence, and that it appertaineth properly to the Gen tiles and Heathens, and such as know not God. Wherefore the having, painting, gilding, and decking of images, by Saint Jerome’s judgement, is erroneous, seducing and bringing into error (specially the simple and unlearned) heathenish, and void of the knowledge of God.
Surely the Prophet Daniel in the eleventh Chapter declareth such sumptuous decking of images with gold, silver, and precious stones, to be a token of Antichrists kingdom, who (as the Prophet foreshoweth) shall worship God with such gorgeous things. Now usually such excessive adorning and decking of images, hath risen and been maintained, either of offerings prouoked by superstition and given in idolatry, or of spoils, robberies, usury, or goods otherwise unjustly gotten, whereof wicked men have given part to the images or Saints, (as they call them) that they might be pardoned of the whole: as of divers writings and old monuments concerning the cause and end of certain great gifts, may well appear. And in deed such money so wickedly gotten, is most meet to be put to so wicked a use. And that which they take to be amends for the whole before God, is more abominable in his sight, then both the wicked getting, and the more wicked spending of all the rest. For how the Lord alloweth such gifts, he declareth evidently in the Prophet Esaias (Isa 61) , saying, I, saith the Lord, do love judgement, and I hate spoil and raveny offered in Sacrifice: which the very Gentiles understood. For Plato showeth (Dialog. de legib. 10), that such men as suppose that God doeth pardon wicked men, if they give part of their spoils and rapine to him, take him to be like a dog, that would be entreated and hired with part of the pray, to suffer the wolves to weary the sheep.
And in case the goods wherewith images be decked, were justly gotten, yet it is extreme madness, so foolishly and wickedly to bestow goods purchased by wisdom and truth. Of such lewdness Lactantius writeth thus (Book 2 Inst. ch 4), Men do in vain deck images of the Gods with gold, ivory, and precious stone, as though they could take any pleasure in those things. For what use have they of precious gifts, which understand nor feel nothing? Even the same that dead men have. For with like rea son do they bury dead bodies, farced with spices and odours, and clothed with precious vestures, and deck images, which neither felt or knew when they were made, nor understand when they be honoured, for they get no sense and understanding by their consecration. Thus far Lactantius , and much more, too long here to rehearse, declaring, that as little girls play with little puppets, so be these decked images great pup pets for old fools to play with.
And that we may know what, not only men of our religion, but Ethnicks also, judge of such decking of dead images, it is not unprofitable to hear what Seneca , a wise and excellent learned Senator of Rome , and Philosopher, saith concerning the foolishness of ancient and grave men, used in his time in worship ping and decking of images: Wee (saith Seneca ) be not twice children (as the common saying is) but always children: but this is the difference, that we being elder, play the children: and in these plays they bring in before great and well decked puppets (for so he calleth images) ointments, incense, and odours. To these puppets they offer up sacrifice, which have a mouth, but not the use of teeth. Upon these they put attiring and precious apparel, which have no use of clothes. To these they give gold and silver, which they who receive it (meaning the images) lack, as well as they that have given it from them. And Seneca much commendeth Dionysius king of Sicily , for his merry robbing of such decked and jewelled puppets.
But you will ask, what doeth this appertain to our images, which is written against the idols of the Gentiles? Altogether surely. For what use or pleasure have our images of their decking and precious ornaments? Did our images understand when they were made? or know when they be so trimmed and decked? Bee not these things bestowed upon them, as much in vain, as upon dead men which have no sense? Wherefore it followeth, that there is like foolishness and lewdness in decking of our images, as great puppets for old fools, like children, to play the wicked play of idolatry before, as was among the Ethnicks and Gentiles. Our Churches stand full of such great puppets, wondrously decked and adorned, Garlands and Coronets be set on their heads, precious pearls hanging about their necks, their fingers shine with rings, set with precious stones, their dead and stiff bodies are clothed with garments stiff with gold. You would believe that the images of our men Saints, were some Princes of Persia land with their proud apparel, and the idols of our women Saints, were nice and well trimmed harlots, tempting their paramours to wantonness: Whereby the Saints of God are not honoured, but most dishonoured, and their godliness, soberness, chastity, contempt of riches, and of the vanity of the world, defaced and brought in doubt by such monstrous decking, most differing from their sober and godly lives. And because the whole pageant must thoroughly be plaid, it is not enough thus to deck idols, but at the last come in the Priests themselves, likewise decked with gold and pearl, that they may be meet servants for such Lords and Ladies, and fit worshippers of such gods and goddesses. And with a solemn pace they pass forth before these golden puppets, and fall down to the ground on their marrow bones before these honourable idols, and then rising up again, offer up odours and incense unto them, to give the people and example of double idolatry, by worshipping not only the idol, but the gold also, and riches wherewith it is garnished. Which things, the most part of our old Martyrs rather then they would doe, or once kneel, or offer up one crumb of incense before an image, suffered most cruell and terrible deaths, as the histories of them at large do declare.
And here again their allegation out of Gregory the first and Damascen , that images be the Lay-mens Books, and that pictures are the Scripture of idiotes and simple persons, is worthy to be considered. (Greg. Epist. ad Serenum Massil Damas de Fide Ortho. book 4 ch 17) For as it hath been touched in divers places before, how they be books teaching nothing but lies, as by Saint Paul in the first Chapter to the Romans evidently appeareth, of the images of God: So what man ner of books and Scripture these painted and gilt images of Saints be unto the common people, note well I pray you. For after that our preachers shall have instructed and exhorted the people to the following of the virtues of the Saints, as contempt of this world, poverty, sober ness, chastity, and such like virtues, which undoubtedly were in the Saints: Think you, as soon as they turn their faces from the Preacher, and look upon the graven books and painted Scripture of the glorious gilt images and idols, all shining and glittering with met tall and stone, and covered with precious vestures, or else with Chaerea in Terence , behold a painted table, wherein is set forth by the arte of the painter, an image with a nice and wanton apparel and countenance, more like to Venus or Flora , then Mary Magdalen, or if like to Mary Magdalen , it is when she played the harlot, rather then when she wept for her sins. When I say they turn about from the preacher, to these books and schoolmasters and painted scriptures: shall they not find them lying books? teaching other manner of lessons, of esteeming of riches, of pride, and vanity in apparel, of niceness and wantonness, and peradventure of whoredom, as Chaerea of like pictures was taught. And to Lucian , one learned of Venus Gnidia a lesson, too abominable here to be remembered. Bee not these think you pretty books and scriptures for simple people, and especially for wives and young maidens to look in, read on, and learn such lessons of? What will they think either of the preacher, who taught them contrary lessons of the Saints, and there fore by these carved Doctors, are charged with a lye, or of the Saints themselves, if they believe these graven books and painted scriptures of them, who make the Saints now reigning in heaven with God, to their great dishonour, schoolmasters of such vanity, which they in their life time most abhorred? For what lessons of contempt of riches and vanity of this world, can such books, so besmeared with gold, set with precious stones, covered with silks, teach? What les sons of soberness and chastity, can our women learn of these pictured scriptures, with their nice apparel and wanton looks?
But away, for shame, with these coloured cloaks of idolatry, of the books and scriptures of images and pictures, to teach idiots, nay to make idiots and stark fools and beasts of Christians. Do men, I pray you, when they have the same books at home with them, run on pilgrimage to seek like books at Rome, Compostella , or Jerusalem , to be taught by them, when they have the like to learn at home? Do men reverence some books, and despite and set light by other of the same sort? Do men kneel before their books, light candles at noon time, burn incense, offer up gold and silver, and other gifts to their books? Do men either feign or believe miracles to be wrought by their books? I am sure that the new Testament of our Saviour Jesus Christ , containing the word of life, is a more lively, express, and true Image of our Saviour, then all carved, graven, molten, and painted images in the world be, and yet none of all these things be done to that book or scripture of the Gospel of our Saviour, which be done to images and pictures, the books and scriptures of lay men and idiots, as they call them. Wherefore call them what they list, it is most evident by their deeds, that they make of them no other books nor scripture, then such as teach most filthy and horrible idolatry, as the users of such books daily prove by continual practising the same. O books and scriptures, in the which the devilish schoolmaster Satan, hath penned the lewd lessons of wicked idolatry, for his dastardly disciples and scholars to behold, read, and learn, to God’s most high dishonour, and their most horrible damnation. Have not we been much bound, think you, to those which should have taught us the truth out of God’s book and his holy Scripture, that they have shut up that book and Scripture from us, and none of us so bold as once to open it, or read on it? and in stead thereof, to spread us abroad these goodly, carven, and gilten books and painted scriptures, to teach us such good and godly lessons? Have not they done well, after they ceased to stand in pulpets themselves, and to teach the peo ple committed to their instruction, keeping silence of God’s word, and become dumb dogs (as the Prophet calleth them) to set up in their stead. on every pillar and corner of the Church, such goodly Doctors, as dumb, but more wicked then themselves be? We need not to complain of the lack of one dumb Parson, having so many dumb devilish Vicars (I mean these idols and painted puppets) to teach in their stead. Now in the mean season, whilst the dumb and dead idols stand thus decked and clothed, contrary to God’s law and commandment, the poor Christian people, the lively images of God, commended to us so tenderly by our Saviour Christ as most dear to him, stand naked, shivering for cold, and their teeth chattering in their heads, and no man covereth them, are pined with hunger and thirst, and no man giveth them a penny to refresh them, whereas pounds be ready at all times (contrary to God’s will) to deck and trim dead sticks and stones, which neither feel cold, hunger nor thirst.
Clemens hath a notable sentence concerning this matter (Book 5 ad Jacobum Domini.), saying thus, That serpent the Devil doth by the mouth of certain men utter these words: We for the honour of the invisible God, do worship visible images: which doubtless is most false. For if you will truly honour the image of God, you should by doing well to man, honour the true image of God in him. For the image of God is in every man: But the likeness of God is not in every one, but in those only which have a godly heart and pure mind. If you will therefore truly honour the I mage of God, we do declare to you the truth, that ye do well to man, who is made after the image of God, that you give honour and reverence to him, and refresh the hungry with meat, the thirsty with drink, the naked with clothes, the sick with attendance, the stranger harbour less with lodging, the prisoners with necessaries: and this shall be ac counted as truly bestowed upon God. And these things are so directly appertaining to God’s honour, that whosoever doth not this, shall seem to have reproached and done villainy to the image of God. For what honour of God is this, to run to images of stick and stone, and to honour vain and dead figures of God, and to despise man, in whom is the true image of God? And by and by after he saith, Understand ye therefore that this is the suggestion of the serpent Satan, lurking within you, which persuadeth you that you are godly, when you honour insensible and dead images, and that you be not ungodly, when you hurt or leave unsuccoured the lively and reasonable creatures. All these be the words of Clemens .
Note, I pray you, how this most ancient and learned Doctor, with in one hundred years of our Saviour Christ’s time, most plainly teacheth, that no service of God, or Religion acceptable to him, can be in honouring of dead images: but in succouring of the poor the lively images of God, according to Saint James , who saith, This is the pure and true Religion before God the Father, to succour fatherless and motherless children, and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself undefiled from this world.
True Religion then and pleasing of God, standeth not in making, setting up, painting, gilding, clothing and decking of dumb and dead images (which be but great puppets and babies for old fooles in dotage, and wicked idolatry, to dally and play with) nor in kissing of them, cap ping, kneeling, offering to them, in sensing of them, setting up of candles, hanging up of legs, arms, or whole bodies of wax before them, or praying, and asking of them or of Saints, things belonging only to God to give. But all these things be vain and abominable, and most damnable before God. Wherefore all such do not only bestow their money and labour in vain: but with their pains and cost purchase to themselves God’s wrath and utter indignation, and ever lasting damnation both of body and soul. For yee have heard it evidently proved in these Homilies against idolatry, by God’s word, the Doctors of the Church, Ecclesiastical histories, reason, and experience, that images have been and be worshipped, and so idolatry committed to them by infinite multitudes, to the great offence of God’s Majesty, and danger of infinite souls, and that idolatry can not possibly be separated from images set up in Churches and Temples, gilded and decked gloriously, and that there fore our images be in deed very idols, and so all the prohibitions, Laws, curses, threatenings of horrible plagues, as well temporal as eternal, contained in the holy Scripture, concerning idols, and the makers, and maintainers, and worshippers of them, appertain also to our images set up in Churches and Temples, and to the makers, maintainers, and worshippers of them. And all those names of abomination, which God’s word in the holy Scriptures giveth to the idols of the Gentiles, appertain to our images, being idols like to them, and having like idolatry committed unto them. And God’s own mouth in the holy Scriptures calleth them vanities, lies, deceits, uncleanness, filthiness, dung, mischief, and abomination before the Lord.
Wherefore God’s horrible wrath, and our most dreadful danger can not be avoided, without the destruction and utter abolishing of all such images and idols out of the Church and Temple of God, which to accomplish, God put in the minds of all Christi an princes. And in the mean time, let us take heed and be wise, O ye beloved of the Lord, and let us have no strange gods, but one only God, who made us when we were nothing, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ , who redeemed us when we were lost, and with his holy Spirit who doeth sanctify us. For this is life everlasting, to know him to be the only true God, and Iesus Christ whom he hath sent (Jn 17). Let us honour and worship for Religions sake none but him, and him let us worship and honour as he will himself, and hath declared by his word, that he will be honoured and worshipped, not in, nor by images or idols, which he hath most straightly forbidden, neither in kneeling, lighting of candles, burning of incense, offering up of gifts unto images and idols, to believe that we shall please him, for all these be abomination before God: but let us honour and worship God in spirit and truth (Jn 4), fearing and loving him above all things, trusting in him only, calling upon him, and praying to him only, praising and lauding of him only, and all other in him, and for him. For such worshippers doeth our heavenly Father love, who is a most pure Spirit, and therefore will be worshipped in spirit and truth. And such worshippers were Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Peter, Paul, John , and all other the holy Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, and all true Saints of God, who all, as the true friends of God, were enemies and destroyers of images and idols, as the enemies of God and his true Religion. Wherefore take heed and be wise, O ye beloved of the Lord, and that which others, contrary to God’s word, bestow wickedly, and to their damnation, upon dead stocks and stones, (no images, but enemies of God and his Saints) that bestow ye, as the faithful servants of God, according to God’s word, mercifully upon poore men and women, fatherless children, widows, sick persons, strangers, prisoners, and such others that be in a ny necessity, that ye may at that great day of the Lord, hear that most blessed and comfortable saying of our Saviour Christ : Come ye blessed into the kingdom of my father, prepared for you before the beginning of the world. For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat, thirsty, and ye gave me drink, naked, and ye clothed me, harbourless, and ye lodged me, in prison, and ye visited me, sick, and ye comforted me. For whatsoever ye have done for the poor and needy in my name, and for my sake, that have ye done for me. To the which his heavenly kingdom, God the Father of mercies bring us, for Jesus Christ’s sake our only Saviour, Mediator, and Advocate, to whom with the holy Ghost, one immortal, invisible and most glorious God, be all honour and thanksgiving, and glory, world without end. Amen.