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our practice : whereas if image-worship should be here forbid to us Christians, which, to speak modestly, seems highly probable, the Church of Rome must practise and enjoin that worship which provokes God to jealousy, exhort and force her members to perform that worship, from which God doth exhort them to abstain, “lest they corrupt themselves :” she must enjoin that action upon pain of her displeasure, and of the wrath of God, which he commands us to avoid, “because he is a jealous God;” she must imprison, and cut off by excommunication, and by the sword, Christ's servants, because they will not, by doing that which God so frequently and so directly hath forbid, incur the hazard of his wrath, who saith,* “ If ye corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish :” and it is easy to determine which we ought most to fear, the wrath of God
* Deut. iv. 25, 26.
SECOND COUNCIL OF NICE.
WHICH FIRST INTRODUCED AND ESTABLISHED IMAGE
WORSHIP IN THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH, A.D. 787.
THE PUBLISHER TO THE READER. UPON sight of a book lately published, called “ The Fallibility of the Roman Church demonstrated from the manifest Error of the Second Nicene and Trent Councils,” &c. I thought the labours of this author might have been thereby prevented : but upon perusal of both, I find them so consistent, that had our author seen that work (as he had not), he would have found no just reason to have laid aside this design, or treated of it in another order than he has observed. For the design of the former is to shew, “that the Church of Rome and her Councils have actually erred, in making the worship of images a tradition of the Apostles, and to have been received by all Christians from the beginning:” and this that author has effectually done by producing the undeniable authorities of the Fathers in this matter from age to age, and shewing the repugnancy between them and the decrees of these Councils. But this book solely applies itself to the second Council of Nice; and after an historical narration of the occasion, and the characters of the persons chiefly concerned in it, doth further, from the acts of it, discover the mistakes, impostures, and falsifications : and how at last it was of no authority, and though received as a General Council by the Church of Rome, doth in many instances notoriously contradict it. But though this book doth not intrench
upon the former, but rather with it make one complete book, yet there are some things, which it was not so consistent with this author's design to enlarge upon, that may be met with in the other. Which, together with the other references, the reader will find for the most part noted in the margin, as he goes along
The religious veneration which is now by the Roman Church said to be due to images, cannot be grounded upon Scripture, because it was expressly forbid in the Old Testament, and is not once mentioned in the writings of Christ and his Apostles, who taught all men to worship God in spirit and in truth: nor can it be derived from any universal ecclesiastical tradition, because then (according to Lirinensis' rule) that tradition must have been held in all ages, and in all places, and among all Christians. But the primitive Christians, during the Ten Persecutions, had no images at all in their churches, as appears by the testimony both of heathens and Christians.* +The very use of pictures in churches was forbid by a Council in those ages :I and five of the first General Councils do not so much as name them. After the Church began to flourish in peace and plenty, we find images and pictures were first used only to adorn the Christian oratories, and to keep in memory some history of Scripture, or some eminent acts of saints and martyrs : but in Pope Gregory's time - (that is about 600 years after Christ), some superstitious people began to adore them; yet still they were reproved for so doing by that Pope and by others : however, as ignorance increased, by the irruption of the barbarous nations into Christendom, this superstition increased also, and grew to that height, that the Emperor, by the advice of his bishops in a Council at Constantinople, was forced to take away all pictures and images, to prevent that idolatry which was practised by the vulgar. All this being done without the consent of the Bishop of Rome, he took very ill ; and after this Emperor was dead, and a woman, as tutoress to her infant son, governed the empire ; a layman being hastily advanced to be patriarch at Constantinople, Pope Adrian chooses that lucky juncture to procure a Council to be called for the restoring images in the East. Now lest the great and venerable name of a General Council (as they call this assembly) should impose upon any unwary persons, or give credit to the superstitious adoration of images , which they first established by a law : I have briefly repre
Lamprid. in Vit. Alexan. Severi. + Minut. Felix. p. 92. Lactantius de Morte persec. cap. 12. p. 11. [vol. 1. p. 199. Lut. Par. 1748.]
# Concil. Elib. Can. 36. Ann. 303. [Labbe, Concil. vol. 1. p. 974. Lut. Par. 1671.]
sented this famous Council in its own words and sense, and shewed upon what weak grounds they proceeded to make this establishment: and if I have any where mistaken the meaning of these doctors, it was not by design, but by reason of those many barbarisms in the style, and the frequent obscurity of the sense, which will plead my excuse to all that have read this Council in the original. I could easily have noted more mistakes, and have urged those which are observed more to our adversaries' disadvantage : but we need not multiply instances, when there are a few so full and plain, nor is there any occasion to aggravate those matters, which are exposed by the bare relating of them. It is certain that the most learned, and consequently the most moderate Romanists, are much ashamed of this Council ; and many of them wished and endeavoured in the last century for a reformation in this point: but interest prevailed more than arguments, and so this practice was established by a new decree : in obedience to which, the writers of that side are obliged to palliate it as well as they can, and much artifice is used by their great historian, and the editors of their Councils, to make it seem a catholic tradition ; but they are so conscious to themselves that it is not so, that they are forced to conceal very many things which would utterly confute that pretence if they did appear. For example, in Labbe's edition of the Councils, that part of the letter of Charles the Great to Offa is left out, wherein he mentions the sending him a copy of this pretended General Council,* and both in Binius's edition and his, the collections of that famous assembly at Paris against images are left out, because (as the notes inform us) they smell of the heresy of the ancient Gallican Church, who would not allow adoration of images. Yet,t after all their policy in suppressing that which makes againt them, there is (praised be God) enough extant in Scripture and uncorrupted antiquity, to convince all disinterested men, that the use of images in religious worship, is not only a corruption of the original Christian way of worshipping God, but also a manifest innovation.
* Labbe, Conc. tom. 7. p. 1131.
+ Ibid. p. 1585.
CHAP. I. Of the Occasion and Proceedings of this Council. The Christians had continued for three centuries without any images in their places of worship ; and it was in the fourth age, when some began first to adorn churches with the histories of the Gospel, and the passions of the martyrs represented in pictures; which well-meant and innocent custom gave occasion to some ignorant and superstitious people afterwards to give too great reverence to them. And though many eminent Fathers, and particularly Gregory the Great, bishop of Rome, utterly disliked this, and declared these pictures were only placed in churches for memory and history, not to be adored : yet the vulgar proceeded so far toward idolatry, that the very Jews and Saracens were highly scandalized at it; and divers pious Christian bishops advised the Emperor Leo Isaurus (otherwise called Iconomachus) rather to take both images and pictures out of churches, than to give occasion to superstition and idolatry,* by letting them stand in those sacred places. Whereupon the Emperor writes to Gregory II. then bishop of Rome, to advise with him about calling a General Council on this occasion ;but the Pope opposed this fair motion, and wrote back an abusive and ill-penned letter, which hindered not the good Emperor (being studious of the church's peace) from writing again ;£ yet he obtained only a return like the former: which so provoked the Emperor that by the advice of his neighbouring bishops, he proceeds to the other extreme: and orders all pictures and images of Christ and the saints to be pulled down, and defaced, and with the consent of the ecclesiastics, deposeth Germanus, patriarch of Constantinople, who opposed this order; and placeth Anastasius in his room. Pope Gregory, glad of this occasion to make his terms with the Western Franks, who were nearer and more likely to defend him, and promote all the interests of his See, excommunicates the Eastern emperor Leo Isaurus, as an enemy of the Church, and unworthy of the empire; and persuades his subjects in Italy to pay him no more tribute, and to renounce his government and authority. Not long after this Gregory || dies, being succeeded
* Anno 726.
+ Concil. Gen. &c. editio Lab. p. 18. C. # Vid. Spanhemii Histor. Imag. sect. 2. p. 71, &c. Concil. p. 3. D.
|| An. 731.