« PreviousContinue »
see what a man. Surely such passages as these ought at any rate to make all those who differ from us, however violent, moderate their language exceedingly when they speak of us, especially if they would only reflect whom it involves in the same condemnation with us.
This may suffice regarding our veneration for relics ; you see it has its ground-work in natural feelings ; it has a strong example in what God himself has done with them; and that it is completely borne out by the practice of the ancient church.
There is only another subject to which I will allude, and I will be very brief upon it: it is, THE PRACTICE OF THE CHURCH REGARDING
DAGES OR PICTURES IN CHURCHES.
The council of Trent has defined two things, as being the belief of the Catholic Church on this head. In the first place, that it is wholesome and expedient to have pictures and representations of the saints ; and, in the second place, that honour and respect are to be paid to them. That is, therefore, the whole of the Catholic doctrine. I should suppose, that no one will go the length of saying, that it is unlawful to make such things, or to place them in churches, on the ground that it is opposed to the Jewish commandment; because we are sometimes taxed with having corrupted the decalogue, by putting together into one commandment what should be two. The first commandment is supposed to apply to making images, the second to adoring or worshipping them. The question is, by the first, as a commandment by itself, without reference to the second, is the making of images under any circumstances forbidden, or are they only forbidden in places of worship? If the former, then no monument is allowed to be made, no altar-piece
It is well known that in many churches of the establishment there are altar-pieces, or representations of Scripture subjects over the altar. There is one at Greenwich, of St. Paul; at Nottingham, at Durham, of the crucifixion and ascension; and there are others in other places. Therefore, I suppose, that the idea is not that representations of human beings are to be excluded under any circumstances, but it must be for the purpose of worshipping them; that is, the first commandment, or, if you choose, the first part of the commandment, is modified essentially by the second, and it is only that which gives it its force. Well, then, we agree that no image, or no representation, is allowed to be made for the purpose of worshipping it; that is, adoring it as God; because, I should suppose, that no one doubts that the first commandment was against idolatry, against setting up images which were to be worshipped as God. The making of images, and the setting them up in boly places, was ordered by God. He desired Moses to make, in the tabernacle, two cherubims; to have the walls of the temple covered with images of cherubim and seraphim, and there was a fountain made, supported by twelve oxen. In short, nothing can be
more manifest, than that the temple was as richly covered and adorned with human countenances as it was possible to be ; therefore the whole question turns upon whether Catholics are justified in having them as sacred memorials on their person, and making use of them as means to excite their faith and their devotion. It may be asked, “ What warrant bave we in Scripture for the use of images ?” I require no warrant whatsoever; I want to see something to deprive me of the use of them, because it is a natural right belonging to every man, to make use of any thing innocent towards the worship of God, which is in no way forbidden. You might as well ask me, what warrant we have in Scripture for the building of churches, or, in the New Testament, for the erection of an organ in the church, for any other music, or for a thousand things that pertain to the worship of the church. Do I want a warrant for all these? Do I require a Scripture warrant for the use of an organ ? Certainly not. Why? Because, if the thing itself is innocent, and is directed towards raising our hearts before God, we consider that we have a natural right to use it, and nothing but a positive law can deprive us of it. It is a natural feeling to keep and love a representation of any one that we esteem. I should wish to know, would any one charge me with superstition, or any other bad feeling, if, upon coming before the image or representation of one I have long loved and have lost, I stood before it fixed with admiration, gazing upon the representation as if I had before me the very object of my affection, even with my eyes suffused with tears, and if I addressed it, as though I was addressing the individual to whom it referred? Would any one say that I was guilty of any thing, but, perhaps, an extravagant, an extraordinary, or a very enthusiastic expansion of mind and of feeling; and, perhaps, rather a warm declaration of natural sentiment? But, assuredly, no one will tax me with the slightest superstition, much less with idolatry in this regard. Now such is all that the Catholic believes; all he is taught with regard to his pictures, to his images, or any thing else set up in the church. They are memorials in the same way as those I have referred to, and they are, consequently, used to excite the same feelings. If, therefore, I find, that standing before the picture warms up those emotions, excites those affections, which might otherwise become stagnant and cold, and makes me once more enter into more familiar communion and converse with the cherished individual, whom it brings back to my imagination : assuredly, if I stand before it for the purpose of exciting these feelings, nobody will blame me for it. Just in like manner, if I find, not only a picture, or a representation of our Saviour, or of his blessed mother, or of his saints ; but if I find, that even any individual representation does go home more intimately to my affections than any other, and excites my feelings within me, I am justified and am right in going before it, and endeavouring sa to
excite them. It is precisely like the case I before mentioned, of going to one place of worship rather than another, because I find, from experience, that my feelings are most easily drawn to God therein.
It is, therefore, upon this simple and obvious ground, of our having a right to make use of them till that right is taken away, that we do use them. It is like the prohibition of the images of old, it is only a prohibition from the purpose of divine worship, of their being used as gods; and, therefore, this prohibition does not exist where there is no such end, which, as I before remarked, is proved from images having been made for sacred purposes, in the very temple of God. Whether images and paintings, therefore, were used of old in the church, is not a matter of so much interest as the points I before explained, because it is always considered, at most, a matter of mere discipline. The council of Trent does not decree, that you are obliged to use them, that you ought to use them ; it says, it is wholesome, inasmuch as it inspires devotion, and that they are to be treated with respect, with veneration, in the sam way that you would wish the portrait of your father, of a beloved wife, or any one whom you esteemed, to be treated with respect, both by yourself and others. The council of Trent, in its catechism, which is addressed to all parish priests, with an injunction to make it the ground of their exhortations to the faithful, is careful to tell them, that they must take the greatest care in instructing the faithful, expressly to warn them, and to make them understand, that there is no virtue whatsoever in an image; that it has no power, that it is nothing but a representation, that no honour whatsoever is to be shown it, except inasmuch as that honour is referred to the antitype; that is, the being of which it is the representative ; but that they are not to imagine that a dumb image or a statue can possibly help them, that it is of the slightest good in itself. However, we find the Christians were much more careful for the first centuries, when there was danger still of idolatry, from their being surrounded by it; and, in their anxiety to distinguish their religion from idolatry, to avoid many representations, yet we have it in the very earliest times. We have in the catacombs, for instance, a number of paintings, which must have been exceedingly old, as is proved by the circumstance of their being cut in two by the tombs of the martyrs; and, consequently, the paintings must have been made before the bodies of those martyrs were deposited there. D'agincourt, in his History of the Arts and Monuments, has carefully examined these paintings, and be has compared the Christian paintings, discovered in the catacombs, with those in the sepulchre of Arsoni, a sepulchre known to be of the second century, and he decides that the date is contemporary, and that it is a painting of that period. In the same manner Flaxman, in his Lectures on Art, acknowledges them to be of that period ; that is, of the very earliest centuries ; for he says, that even during the
reign of those emperors, by whom the Christians were cruelly persecuted, when they were obliged to perform their sacred worship in subterranean and sepulchral chambers, they ornamented those oratories with sacred portraits and subjects from Scripture; so that this practice of decoration was very ancient, and it is singularly confirmed throughout the catacombs, the representations. being uniformly almost the same. The writings of the fathers also describe them to have been used. Tertullian, the oldest Latin writer in the church, says, that on the sepulchres of the Christians it was the custom to sculpture, or to paint, the good shepherd carrying the sheep upon his shoulder ; and we find precisely the same through all these catacombs. This is one of the most common representations; even then this was used as emblematical of our Saviour, to excite feelings of affection in the people towards him. This very brief sketch must suffice for the present.
I shall, perhaps, be expected to say something upon the subject of abuses ; and, as I have already said, I am disposed to answer all difficulties. One more which I will notice is this : the charge of superstition or abuse in this practice arises, in great measure, from persons not taking the pains to understand or know the feelings of Catholics. If you go into other countries, you will find an outward demonstration of feeling, of a much warmer, of a more enthusiastic, more poetical character, than you will bere; and, consequently, nothing is more common than to see these exhibitions, which should only be considered as equivalent, to what corresponding ones would be, in a more phlegmatic character; and, consequently, they are condemned as superstitious, or even as idolatrous. The fact is, that any one who has the opportunity of conversing with the people, hearing them instructed, and knowing their common belief, would very soon, however warm the outward demonstration might be, have inwardly the conviction, that the belief was such as I have laid down to you.
This subject closes the present course of lectures, with the exception of the subject of the Eucharist, which, on Sunday night, I will bring to a close.
Before, however, concluding this evening, I wish to make one or two remarks, that seem connected with the subject of which we have been treating ; they relate to the vague form of declamation, which is often used in repelling our doctrines. I have not the least doubt, that this course of lectures will give rise also to others in a different sense; that is, it will be attempted to show, that the doctrines of Catholics are wbat is commonly called, superstitious and idolatrous, and deserving of every opprobrivus epithet. All I entreat of any one who should listen to any thing of the sort is, that they will keep their ingenuous minds exceedingly cool; that they do not allow themselves to be borne away by any eloquence, however warm, however earnest, however sincere;
but for every proposition which affects the character of Catholics, they will demand proof; and if they have not the opportunity of demanding it, that they will search for a proof; that they will make a point of verifying the doctrines impugned, before they yield up their minds to the arguments by which they are attempted to be overthrown. I am confident that this method will save a great deal of trouble, because I am quite sure, that in almost every instance it will be found, that the doctrine is not the Catholic doctrine; and that, consequently, all the arguments against it are thrown away. They may be good as confuting a doctrine, but still worth nothing as confuting Catholic doctrines; and, therefore, I am quite satisfied, that there is no danger to be feared by us, because, in reality, if I had to choose the character of the individual who should impugn the doctrines I have been advancing, it would be precisely one who should carry on bis discussion in the way I have just represented. I am confident that the time is completely gone by, when it will be possible to raise the war-cry of idolatry and superstition against us, as much as it is gone by for raising the cry of disloyalty, or want of allegiance to our sovereign. Both have had their day, and both are now past; and, I am confident, that no one can better serve our cause, no one can more thoroughly disgust those who hear him, than he who sball endeavour to found attacks upon Catholics upon such declamation, upon such grounds, such imputations as these.
Thank God, and thank the generosity and liberality of our countrymen, we may now say, that we stand openly and fairly before the public, and we are anxious not to shrink from any inquiry, but, on the contrary, to court it. We throw open our places of worship; let all come and hear the doctrines preached; let them hear the children when instructed in their catechisms, and when they are giving their answers, and see wbat it is that the priests inculcate upon them, and see what they are taught. I repeat, let them go into our schools, and interrogate either the masters or children; let them look into our books, let them look into our prayer-books, let them look into our theology, into all our writings and publications on the subject, and, if you please, let them even look into our hearts; for God knows we have nothing to dread, nothing to conceal. We have no difficulty in stating our belief in the simplest and the plainest terms; and, I am sure, that now no method of attacking our faith can be admitted by any sincere, by any reasonable, and especially by any generous or liberal minded man, except calm, cool investigation, based entirely upon our professed doctrines, and confuted exclusively, by not merely vague quotations from the Word of God, but a closely and strictly analyzed examination of their words.
These are merely concluding admonitions, which I wish to impress upon you. At our next meeting I shall conclude the course, with con