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of the gentiles. There was never any edict, any law, which commanded that idols should be adored; that they should be treated as gods, and regarded as gods. When the Roman and Carthaginian captains made a treaty, they called all their gods to witness. "It is in their presence," said they, "that we swear peace." Yet the statues of these gods, whose number was very great, were not in the tents of the generals. They regarded, or pretended to regard, the gods as present at the actions of men as witnesses and judges. And assuredly it was not the image which constituted the divinity.
In what view, therefore, did they see the statues of their false gods in the temples? With the same view, if we may so express ourselves, that the catholics see the images, the object of their veneration. The error was not in adoring a piece of wood or marble, but in adoring a false divinity, represented by this wood and marble. The difference between them and the catholics is, not that they had images, and the catholics have none: the difference is, that their images represented the fantastic beings of a false religion, and that the christian images represent real beings in a true religion. The Greeks had the statue of Hercules, and we have that of St. Christopher; they had Esculapius and his goat, we have St. Roch and his dog; they had Mars and his lance; and we have St. Antony of Padua, and St. James of Compostella.
When the consul Pliny addresses prayers to the immortal gods in the exordium of the panegyric of Trajan, it is not to images that he addresses them. These images were not immortal.
Neither the latest nor the most remote times of paganism offer a single fact which can lead to the conclusion that they adored idols. Homer speaks only. of the gods who inhabited the high Olympus. The palladium, although fallen from heaven, was only a sacred token of the protection of Pallas: it was herself that was venerated in the palladium. It was our ampoule, or holy oil.
But the Romans and Greeks knelt before their sta
tues, gave them crowns, incense, and flowers, and carried them in triumph in the public places. The catholics have sanctified these customs, and yet are not called idolaters.
The women in times of drought carried the statues of the gods after having fasted. They walked barefooted with dishevelled hair, and it quickly rained buckets full, says Petronius: "Et statim urceatim pluebat." Has not this custom been consecrated; illegitimate indeed among the gentiles, but legitimate among the catholics? In how many towns are not images carried to obtain the blessings of heaven through their intercession? If a Turk, or a learned Chinese, were a witness of these ceremonies, he would, through ignorance, accuse. the Italians of putting their trust in the figures which they thus promenade in procession?
Examination of the Ancient Idolatry.
From the time of Charles I. the catholic religion was declared idolatrous in England. All the presbyterians are persuaded that the catholics adore bread, whch they eat, and figures, which are the work of their sculptors and painters. With that which one part of Europe reproaches the catholics, they themselves reproach the gentiles.
We are surprised at the prodigious number of declamations uttered in all times against the idolatry of the Romans and Greeks; and we are afterwards still more surprised when we see that they were not idolaters.
They had some temples more privileged than others. The great Diana of Ephesus had more reputation than a village Diana. There were more miracles performed in the temple of Esculapius at Epidaurus, than in any other of his temples. The statue of the Olympian Jupiter attracted more offerings than that of the Paphlagonian Jupiter. But to oppose the customs of a true religion to those of a false one, have we not for several ages had more devotion to certain altars than to others?
Has not our lady of Loretto been preferred to our lady of Nieges, to that of Ardens, of Hall, &c. That is not saying there is more virtue in a statue at Loretto than in a statue of the village of Hall, but we have felt more devotion to the one than to the other; we have believed that she whom we invoked, at the feet of her statues, would condescend, from the height of heaven, to diffuse more favours and to work more miracles in Loretto than in Hall. This multiplicity of images of the same person also proves that it is the images that we revere, and that the worship relates to the person who is represented; for it is not possible that every image can be the same thing. There are a thousand images of St. Francis, which have no resemblance to him, and which do not resemble one another; and all indicate a single saint Francis, invoked, on the day of his feast, by those who are devoted to this saint.
It was precisely the same with the pagans, who supposed the existence only of a single divinity, a single Apollo, and not as many Apollos and Dianas as they had temples and statues. It is therefore proved, as much as history can prove anything, that the ancients believed not the statue to be a divinity; that worship was not paid to this statue or image, and consequently that they were not idolaters. It is for us to ascertain how far the imputation has been a mere pretext to accuse them of idolatry.
A gross and superstitious populace who reason not, and who know neither how to doubt, deny, or believe; who visit the temples out of idleness, and because the lowly are there equal to the great; who make their contributions because it is the custom; who speak continually of miracles without examining any of them; and who are very little in point of intellect beyond the brutes whom they sacrifice-such a people, I repeat, in the sight of the great Diana, or of Jupiter the thunderer, may well be seized with a religious horror, and adore, without consciousness, the statue itself. This is what happens now and then, in our own churches, to our ignorant peasantry, who however are informed that
it is the blessed mortals received into heaven whose intercession they solicit, and not that of images of wood and stone.
The Greeks and Romans augment the number of their gods by their apotheoses. The Greeks deified conquerors like Bacchus, Hercules, and Perseus. Rome devoted altars to her emperors. Our apotheoses are of a different kind: we have infinitely more saints than they have secondary gods, but we pay respect neither to rank nor to conquest. We consecrate temples to the simply virtuous, who would have been unknown on earth if they had not been placed in heaven. The apotheoses of the ancients were the effect of flattery, ours are produced by a respect for virtue.
Cicero, in his philosophical works, only allows of a suspicion that the people may mistake the statues of the gods and confound them with the gods, themselves, His interlocutors attack the established religion, but none of them think of accusing the Romans of taking marble and brass for divinities. Lucretius accuses no person of this stupidity, although he reproaches the superstitious of every class. This opinion, therefore, has never existed: there never have been idolaters
Horace causes an image of Priapus to speak, and makes him say, "I was once the trunk of a fig-tree, and a carpenter being doubtful whether he should make of me a god or a bench, at length determined to make me a divinity." What are we to gather from this pleasantry? Priapus was one of the subaltern divinities, and a subject of raillery for the wits, and this pleasantry is a tolerable proof that a figure placed in the garden to frighten away the birds could not be very profoundly worshipped.
Dacier, giving way to the spirit of a commentator, observes, that Baruch predicted this adventure. "They became what the workmen chose to make them :" but might not this be observed of all statues. Had Baruch a visionary anticipation of the Satires of Horace?
A block of marble may as well be hewed into a cis-, tern, as into a figure of Alexander, Jupiter, or any
being still more respectable. The matter which composed the cherubim of the holy of holies, might have been equally appropriated to the vilest functions. Is a throne or altar the less revered, because it might have been formed into a kitchen table?
Dacier, instead of concluding that the Romans adored the statue of Priapus, and that Baruch predicted it, should have perceived that the Romans laughed at it. Consult all the authors who speak of the statues of the gods, you will not find one of them allude to idolatry: their testimony amounts to the express contrary.. "It is not the workman," says Martial, “who makes the gods, but he who prays to them."
Qui finxit sacros auro vel marmore vultus
"It is Jove whom we adore in the image of Jove," writes Ovid:
Colitur pro Jove, forma Jovis.
"The gods inhabit our minds and bosoms," observe Statius, "and not images in the form of them :"
Nulla autem effigies, nulli commissa metallo. Forma Dei, mentes habitare et pectora gaudet. Lucan, too, calls the universe the abode and empire of God:
Estne Dei, sedes, nisi terra, et poutus, et aër ?
A volume might be filled with passages, asserting idols to be images alone.
There remains but the case in which statues became oracles;-notions that might have led to an opinion that there was something divine about them. The predominant sentiment, however, was, that the gods had chosen to visit certain altars and images, in order to give audience to mortals, and to reply to them. We read in Homer and in the chorus of the Greek trage-, dies, of prayers to Apollo, who delivered his responses on the mountains in such a temple, or such a town, There is not, in all antiquity, the least trace of a prayer addressed to a statue; and if it was believed that the divine spirit preferred certain temples and images, as he preferred certain men, it was simply an