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afterwards spread its cloud over the whole Christian world.
One of the great uses of repeating the facts found in the primitive ages of the Church, in every way in which they may be explanatory of scripture, is conspicuous in reference to the present subject. The following facts are stated, to the purpose.
First: It is not even alleged, that in the first four centuries, there is on record a single instance of an image or a picture found in a Church-much less made an object of worship. This may easily be seen by a reference to some of the best historians of the communion, in which such worship is contended for.
Secondly: With the Pagans, it was a reproach commonly cast on the Christians, that these manifested contempt of the images of the established worship; but they were never accused by the others of setting up images of their own, in rivalship. Indeed the standing objection of their being without temples and altars, shows that neither had they the accustomed appendages of them. In the persecutions, diligent search was made after the books of Christians, but none after images. Had these been a part of the religious furniture, they would have been no less than the other, an object of offence.
Thirdly: The Jews would unquestionably have reproached the Christians with their images, had any such been found among them. But this does not appear to have ever happened. And yet, there are various ways in which the objection would have been urged, had there been ground for it. To name one instance out of many: Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, describes him bringing against Christianity all the arguments, which the prejudices of his nation suggested. But there is not a syllable of a charge as to image worship. And yet we cannot doubt, that this would
have been the prominent charge, had there been room for it.
Fourthly: There are on record some facts, which show at how late a period of the Christian Church, the use of images in Churches, and much more the worship of them, was still a novelty. Three facts only of this description shall be mentioned.
Epiphanius, bishop of Cyprus in the fourth century, relates in a letter to John bishop of Jerusalem, that on a journey, visiting a Church adjacent to the road, and observing, on a curtain fastened to the door, the image of Jesus Christ, or of some saint [he did not recollect which, but] he tore the curtain from the place; and advised those who kept the Church, to apply it to the decent interment of some poor man. There is something remarkable in the manner, in which each of the two respectable historians, Fleury and Dupin, speak of this fact. The former says-"If this part of the letter really belongs to St. Epiphanius, it must be confessed, that he was in this point more scrupulous than other bishops." Here it shall only be remarked, that if so-of which, however, no evidence is producedthose other bishops must have been sensible of the novelty of their practice; since no one pretends, that any voice was raised against the said act of the venerable Iconoclast.* But Fleury adds soon after-" The customs of the Churches might be different in this point; and the great number of Jews who lived in Palestine might oblige them to use images with more caution, that they might not give offence, when there was no necessity for it." As if the offence would not have travelled from Rome, and from Alexandria, and from Antioch, into Judæa-not to say, have its effect on the minds of the Jews settled in those places, and in every part of the empire. Here however is a plain confession, that the practice was opposed to those objections of the Jews against image worship, which they had
He was faulted for violence offered to the property of the Church; but the offence was done away, by his presenting of another curtain.
gathered from the scriptures; which they had never opposed to the worship of the primitive Christians; but on the ground of which they complained loudly of the Church, in the times subsequent to the times now in question; and on which they continue to complain, to this day.
Dupin, writing on the same subject, recites objec tions brought by certain authors of his communion, against the authenticity of the said letter of Epiphanius. The historian answers all their objections; and then adds "Thus, though it be true, as appears by the testimony of Gregory of Nyssa, in his panegyrick on Theodorus, and in his treatise on the Son and the Holy Spirit, that from that time there were pictures in some Churches, which represented the histories of the Scriptures, and of the actions of saints and martyrs, yet it cannot be said that this custom was general; and it must be confessed, that St. Epiphanius disapproved of it, though without reason; and that he was mistaken in saying, that it did not agree with scripture. For I believe that it would be contrary to the candour and sincerity that religion requires of us, to attempt to give another sense to his words." Here, to the candid confession of the sense of Epiphanius, we have in contrast the custom of some Churches, confessedly not general. Even the partial custom is rested on the authority of a single writer; and is said to have existed, not before, but from that time—the latter end of the fourth century. And after all, the question is confined to the use of pictures; not extending to the adoration of them.
The second fact is this. In the beginning of the fourth century, there was held a council of nineteen bishops, at Eliberis, in Spain; Hosius, the most celebrated bishop in the world, presiding. The determinations of this body became much respected. The thirty-sixth of its Canons, is expressed thus-" We would not have pictures placed in Churches, lest the object of our worship and adoration should be painted on the walls." The comment of Fleury on this canon is-"Perhaps there were no paintings allowed in the time of persecution, lest they should be profaned by
infidels." Now it is certain, that persecution did not always rage; and that there were long intervals of peace. Besides, the canon speaks for itself, as to the reason on which it is founded. Some have gone so far, as to construe the canon into a concern for the pictures, lest they should be defaced by the weather, or dishonoured by the heathen: and there have not been wanting those, who thought they discovered image worship in the terms the object of our worship and adoration; contrary to the manifest meaning of the words; which suppose an object of worship distinct from the sensible representation of it. Such comments could not possibly have come from the pen either of Fleury or of Dupin. The latter gives his sense of the document as follows-" Many explications have been given of this passage: but to me, it seems better to understand it in its plainest sense; and to confess, that the fathers of this council did not approve the use of images, no more than that of wax candles, lighted in full day-light." Considering the celebrity of this council, and there not having been at the time a contradiction of the principle of the canon, it seems decisive of the faith and the custom of the Christian world. What Dupin says concerning wax-candles, alludes to another canon of the same council, concerning the lighting of them in cemeteries. He thinks the canon difficult to explain, but supposes it related to the lighting of them in the day time.
The third fact, is as follows. In the last year of the sixth century, Serenus, bishop of Marseilles, having broken down the images of his Church, because he perceived them to be adored by the people; Gregory, bishop of Rome, surnamed the great, wrote an expostulatory letter to his brother bishop; blaming him for breaking the images, but commending his zeal in restraining the people from adoring them. Serenus would not believe that the letter was genuine, until it was confirmed to him by another. Fleury and Dupin relate these circumstances, without noticing the obvious inferences which may be drawn from them. But in some books, there has been an essay to a drawback,
by referring to a letter which Gregory is said to have written to a certain Secundinus; in which the writer avows, that he had frequently prostrated himself before an image. But what says the candid Dupin to the said letter? He thinks, on the ground of its barbarism, its incoherence, and the variations in its copies, that it must have been forged. And he pronounces, that at least the passage concerning images must have been interpolated; because found in very few of the manuscripts.
In the controversy concerning images and pictures, much has been said of the respect paid in early times to the sign of the cross: and there are many passages, correctly given from the fathers, to this effect. But surely, there is a perceptible difference between the use of a material emblem, as significative of a certain truth, and the offering of worship to the emblem. Not only so, this very matter, so far as it is concerned, oversets the nice distinction between relative and terminative worship. If we prostrate ourselves before an ordinary cross; the real cross must be the object in which the worship terminates: for neither the one nor the other is considered as an image of the adorable Being, who suffered on it. Few are ignorant, how futile are the pretensions of the numerous bits of wood, to which are challenged the reputation of being fragments of the cross of Calvary. It is therefore the idea of the real cross, in which the worship terminates. But this is no figure of the blessed Person who suffered. The imitation of the original cross, or even the unimpressed sign of it, may be emblematical of the passion of the Saviour; as the figure of the crown of a particular kingdom may denote the royal sovereignty of the king. Of the person of the Saviour, or of the person of the king, they are not respectively representative.
There is scarcely any intrusive custom in the history of the Church, of which the progress can be more easily traced than this of image worship. In the fourth century, pictures began to be introduced into Churches; but without any worship of them-even of that which by a distinction subsequently invented, is called rela