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Introduction, worship, and persecution of images.
-Revolt of Italy and Rome. - Temporal dominion of the popes.—Conquest of Italy by the Franks.--Establishment of images.-Character and coronation of Charlemagne.— Restoration and decay of the Roman empire in the West.Independence of Italy.—Constitution of the Germanic body.
In the connexion of the church and state, I have CHAP.
XLIX. considered the former as subservient only, and relative, to the latter; a salutary maxim, if in fact, Introducas well as in narrative, it had ever been held sacred. images The oriental philosophy of the Gnostics, the dark Christian abyss of predestination and grace, and the strange transformation of the Eucharist from the sign to the substance of Christ's body“, I have purposely abandoned to the curiosity of speculative divines. But I have reviewed, with diligence and pleasure, the objects of ecclesiastical history, by which the decline and fall of the Roman empire were materially affected, the propagation of Christianity, the constitution of the Catholic church, the ruin of Paganism, and the sects that arose from the mysterious controversies concerning the Trinity and incarnation. At the head of this class, we may justly rank the worship of images, so fiercely disputed in the eighth and
• The learned Selden has given the history of transubstantiation in a comprehensive and pithy sentence. “ This opinion is only rhetoric turned into logic.” (His Works, vol. iji. p. 2073, in his Table-Talk).
CHAP. ninth centuries; since a question of popular supersti
tion produced the revolt of Italy, the temporal power of the popes, and the restoration of the Roman empire in the West.
The primitive Christians were possessed with an unconquerable repugnance to the use and abuse of images; and this aversion may be ascribed to their descent from the Jews, and their enmity to the Greeks. The Mosaic law had severely proscribed all representations of the Deity; and that precept was firmly established in the principles and practice of the chosen people. The wit of the Christian apologists was pointed against the foolish idolaters, who bowed before the workmanship of their own hands; the images of brass and marble, which, had they been endowed with sense and motion, should have started rather from the pedestal to adore the creative powers of the artist. Perhaps some recent and imperfect converts of the Gnostic tribe might crown the statues of Christ and St. Paul with the profane honours which they paid to those of Aristotle and Pythagoras; but the public religion of the Catholics. was uniformly simple and spiritual; and the first notice of the use of pictures is in the censure of the council of Illiberis, three hundred years after the Christian æra. Under the successors of Constantine, in the
peace of the triumphant church, the more prudent bishops condescended to indulge a visible superstition, for the benefit of the multitude: and, after the ruin of Paganism, they were no longer restrained by the ap
b Nec intelligunt homines ineptissimi, quòd si sentire simulacra et moveri possent, adoratura hominem fuissent à quo sunt expolita. (Divin. Institut. I. ii. c. 2). Lactantius is the last, as well as the most eloquent, of the Latin apologists. Their raillery of idols attacks not only the object, but the form and
c See Irenæus, Epiphanius, and Augustin (Basnage, Hist. des Eglises Reformées, tom. ii. p. 1313). This Gnostic practice has a singular affinity with the private worship of Alexander Severus (Lampridius, c. 29. Lardner, Heathen Testimonics, vol. iii. p. 34).
prehension of an odious parallel. The first introduc- CHAP. tion of a symbolic worship was in the veneration of the cross, and of relics. The saints and martyrs, whose intercession was implored, were seated on the right hand of God; but the gracious and often supernatural favours, which, in the popular belief, were showered round their tomb, conveyed an unquestionable sanction of the devout pilgrims, who visited, and touched, and kissed, these lifeless remains, the memorials of their merits and sufferings. But a memorial, more interesting than the skull or the sandals of a departed worthy, is the faithful copy of his person and features, delineated by the arts of painting or sculpture. In every age, such copies, so congenial to human feelings, have been cherished by the zeal of private friendship, or public esteem: the images of the Roman emperors were adored with civil, and almost religious, honours; a reverence less ostentatious, but more sincere, was applied to the statues of sages and patriots; and these profane virtues, these splendid sins, disappeared in the presence of the holy men, who had died for their celestial and everlasting country. At first, the experiment was made with Their
worship caution and scruple; and the venerable pictures were discreetly allowed to instruct the ignorant, to awaken the cold, and to gratify the prejudices of the heathen proselytes. By a slow though inevitable progression, the honours of the original were transferred to the copy: the devout Christian prayed before the image of a saint; and the Pagan rites of genuflexion, luminaries, and incense, again stole into the Catholic church. The scruples of reason, or piety, were silenced by the strong evidence of visions and miracles; and the pictures which speak, and move, and bleed, must be endowed with a divine energy, and may be considered as the proper objects of religious adoration.
d See this History, vol. ii. p. 449; vol. iii. p. 162; 529_539.
CHAP. The most audacious pencil might tremble in the rash XLIX.
attempt of defining, by forms and colours, the infinite Spirit, the eternal Father, who pervades and sustains the universe. But the superstitious mind was more easily reconciled to paint and to worship the angels, and, above all, the Son of God, under the human shape, which, on earth, they have condescended to assume. The second person of the Trinity had been clothed with a real and mortal body: but that body had ascended into heaven; and, had not some similitude been presented to the eyes of his disciples, the spiritual worship of Christ might have been obliterated by the visible relics and representations of the saints. A similar indulgence was requisite, and propitious, for the Virgin Mary; the place of her burial was unknown; and the assumption of her soul and body into heaven was adopted by the credulity of the Greeks and Latins. The use, and even the worship, of images, was firmly established before the end of the sixth century: they were fondly cherished by the warm imagination of the Greeks and Asiatics: the Pantheon and Vatican were adorned with the emblems of a new superstition; but this semblance of idolatry was more coldly entertained by the rude barbarians and the Arian clergy of the West. The bolder forms of sculpture, in brass or marble, which peopled the temples of antiquity, were offensive to the fancy or conscience of the Christian Greeks: and a smooth surface of colours has ever been esteemed a more decent and harmless mode of imitation.
• Ου γαρ το θειον απλουν υπαρχον και αληπτον μορφαις τισι και σχημασιν απεικαζομεν. ουτε κηρω και ξυλοις την υπερουσιον και προαναρχον ουσιαν τιμων ημεις disyvwxa pery (Concilium Nicenum, ii. in Collect. Labb. tom. viii. p. 1025. edit. Venet.). Il seroit peutêtre à-propos de ne point souffrir d'images de la Trinité ou de la Divinité; les defenseurs les plus zelés des images ayant condamné celles-ci, et le concile de Trente ne parlant que des images de Jesus Christ et des Saints (Dupin, Bibliot. Eccles. tom. vi. p. 154).
f This general history of images is drawn from the xxiid book of the Hist. des Eglises Reformées of Basnage, tom. ii. p. 1310–1337. He was a Protestant, but of a manly spirit; and on this head the Protestants are so notoriously in the
The merit and effect of a copy depends on its re- CHAP. semblance with the original; but the primitive Christians were ignorant of the genuine features of the Son The image of God, his mother, and his apostles: the statue of Christ at Paneas in Palestine was more probably that of some temporal saviour; the Gnostics and their profane monuments were reprobated; and the fancy of the Christian artists could only be guided by the clandestine imitation of some heathen model. In this distress, a bold and dexterous invention assured at once the likeness of the image and the innocence of the worship. A new superstructure of fable was raised on the popular basis of a Syrian legend, on the correspondence of Christ and Abgarus, so famous in the days of Eusebius, so reluctantly deserted by our modern advocates. The bishop of Cæsarea records the epistle, but he most strangely forgets the picture, of Christ;' the perfect impression of his face on a
right, that they can venture to be impartial. See the perplexity of poor Friar Pagi, Critica, tom. i. p. 42.
8 After removing some rubbish of miracle and inconsistency, it may be allowed, that as late as the year 300, Paneas in Palestine was decorated with a bronze statue, representing a grave personage wrapt in a cloak, with a grateful or suppliant female kneeling before him, and that an inscription-τω Σωτηρι, τω ευεργετη —was perhaps inscribed on the pedestal. By the Christians, this group was foolishly explained of their founder and the poor woman whom he had cured of the bloody flux (Euseb. vii. 18. Philostorg. vii. 3, &c.) M. de Beausobre more reasonably conjecturės the philosopher Apollonius, or the emperor Vespasian : in the latter supposition, the female is a city, a province, or perhaps the queen Berenice (Bibliothéque Germanique, tom. xiii. p. 1–92).
h Euseb. Hist. Eccles. 1. i. c. 13. The learned Assemannus has brought up the collateral aid of three Syrians, St. Ephrem, Josua Stylites, and James Bishop of Sarug; but I do not find any notice of the Syriac original or the archives of Edessa (Bibliot. Orient. tom. i. p. 318. 420. 554); their vague belief is probably derived from the Greeks.
i The evidence for these epistles is stated and rejected by the candid Lardner (Heathen Testimonies, vol. i. p. 297–309). Among the herd of bigots who are forcibly driven from this convenient, but untenable, post, I am ashamed, with the Grabes, Caves, Tillemonts, &c. to discover Mr. Addison, an English gentleman (his Works, vol. i. p. 528. Baskerville's edition); but his superficial tract on the Christian religion owes its credit to his name, his style, and the interested applause of our clergy.
j From the silence of James of Sarug (Asseman. Bibliot. Orient. p. 289. 318), and the testimony of Evagrius (Hist. Eccles. 1. iv. c. 27), I conclude that this fable was invented between the years 521 and 594, most probably after the siege