Against Idolatry & Superfluous Decking of Churches
An Homily against 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.