صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

terials made, and formed by an artist, should be cast out of the Christian church, as a strange and abominable thing:" adding an anathema upon all such as should make images or pictures, or representations of God, or of Christ, or of the Virgin Mary, or of any of the saints; condemning the whole, as a vain and diabolical invention; and deposing all bishops, and subjecting to rigorous penalties all monks and orders of men, who should set up any sacred images in public or private.

The bishop of Rome, however, saw things in a different point of view. He, in opposition, asscmbled another council in the Lateran church at Rome, where he abrogated all these decrees, and even deposed all who had been ordained bishops by the impious emperors of Constantinople. He directed the immediate and unconditional restoration of statues and images, and anathematized the execrable and pernicious synod of his adversaries; and among others, fulminated this notable example of infallible reasoning; "That if it were lawful for emperors, and those who had deserved well of the commonwealth, to have their images erected, but not lawful to set up those of God, the condition

condition of the immortal God, would be worse than that of men." Almost the whole earth, in a word, saw five succeeding reigns distracted by the violent contentions of the worshippers and the breakers of images.

[blocks in formation]

LETTER XCVIII.

SOON after the civil wars between Cæsar and Pompey, the Haruspices ordered the temple of Isis and Osiris to be demolished; but after the death of Cæsar, it was restored at the public expence. When Augustus was in Egypt, although he revered the tutelary deity of Alexandria, yet within the Pomærium of Rome, and a mile round it, he prohibited any temple to be erected to Serapis, a god of Pontus, who had usurped the place and worship of Osiris, and who was, therefore, with the utmost difficulty, introduced by the first of the Ptolemies into his newly acquired kingdom. * And this continued a fashionable worship, during the reign of Augustus, and until Tiberius was induced to repress it by fome acts of severity.

This might be allowed, you will say, among the Romans and the Egyptians; where it was

easier

* Dion.

† Ovid.

† Tacitus.

easier, according to Petronius, to find a god than a man; and among all such other nations, as were denominated idolaters by the Christians. But, would not such instability be a foul blot in the followers of a pure and simple religion? It unquestionably would; and it unquestionably was: for in the long period of twelve hundred years, which elapsed between the reign of Constantine and the reformation of Luther, the worship of saints and relicts, corrupted, universally, the chaste theism of the gospel. The sublime theology of the primitive Christians was gradually corrupted; and the monarchy of Heaven, already clouded by metaphysical subtleties, was degraded by the introduction of a popular mythology, which tended to restore the reign of Polytheism. Some even of the most respectable bishops had persuaded themselves, that the ignorant rustics would more chearfully renounce the superstitions of Paganism, if they found some resemblance of them in the worship of Christianity.

*

The statues, or household Gods of the Romans, were originally Teraphim, after the eastern model they were supposed to protect the possessors from all approaches of harm, through

the

[blocks in formation]

the power of some demon, genius, or invisible agent, but their favour to cease with the actual possession. * Many, or most of these, were the images of ancestors, whose souls continued, after death, to watch over the fortunes of their descendants, and to be gracious to those who revered them, and trusted to their protection. The Platonists held, that the souls of men were demons; which, after death, became Lares, if good; Lemures, or Larva, which literally signifies masks, generally monstrous and uncouth, if bad; and Manes, while it was doubtful whether they were to be ranked with the good or bad. They have been compared by Plutarch to wrestlers and champions, who having finished their career, continué to encourage, and to enable their pupils, by their admonition, to arrive at honours and distinétion. They were considered as useful to drive away evil spirits, who roamed about seeking to do mischief; the spirits of those men, who, having led a life of wickedness, were restless after death, and were doomed, in order to expiate their offences, to haunt the earth during a certain time allotted for their atonement, and to terrify mankind, especially the profligate, with their apparitions and noises.

*President de Brosse.

+ St. Austin.

Memoires de l'Acad. de Scien.

The

« السابقةمتابعة »