The Controversy of Images. The Maturity of Antichrist.
In the year 727, the Greek emperor began open hostility with the bibhop of Rome, and, to use the words of Sigonius,* Rome and the Roman dukedom passed from the Greek to the Roman bishop. It would have been more accurate to say, that a foundation was then laid for the temporal power of that prelate, than that it was actually established. However, as it was established a few years after, and a rupture commenced at the period just mentioned, I shall assume this as the most proper date, that I know of, for the beginning •of popedom, which from this time is to be regarded as antichrist indeed; for it set itself by temporal power to support false doctrine, and particularly that, which deserves the name of idolatry.
The marvellous propensity of all ages to the sin of idolatry, which implies a departure of the heart from the one living and true God, must originate in some steady principles existing in the nature of fallen man. The true account of this extraordinary and lamentable fact seems to be as follows. God is an immaterial, selfexistent being, of infinite power and goodness, and, as our maker and preserver, he has an unquestionable claim to our supreme veneration and affection. Man, considered as a rational creature, is endowed with faculties abundantly sufficient for the discovery of this great and perfect Being, so far as his own duties and interests are concerned. This has frequently been proved, by able moralists, in the way of argument, and is expressly affirmed to be the case, by St. Paul, in the first chapter of the epistle to the Romans, where it is said, that " the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being under
' Si^on. Hist. Ae Rcgn. Italic, B. HI.
stood by the things that are made," and where it is added " that they are without excuse."
In fact, however, fallen man has never, by the mere use of his reason, found out God to any good purpose, and worshipped him accordingly; and even when God by special revelation has condescended to explain and manifest his true character to a particular people, few of that people have served him as they ought to have done for any great length of time; but they soon corrupted the divine religion, and were plunged in idolatry.
The Jehovah of the sacred writings, and the almighty and all perfect God, which may be discovered by sound reason, is an invisible being, and is to be honoured, as a spirit, with the heart and the understanding, and without the intervention of sensible objects, as stocks or stones. " Thou shalt love the Lord^ thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul:" but the history of our corrupted nature shows, that images and other sensible objects have, in all ages, offered themselves to men's minds as guides and helps to a conception of the Deity; and if, in some instances, these absurd inventions of gross idolatry have been rejected by men of learning and refinement, it has then generally happened, that intellectual figments of philosophical vanity have been substituted in their place, figments still more atheistical in their nature, and farther removed from the notion of a wise and authoritative Governor of the uerse, who enjoins the submission and dependence of his creatures, requires their obedience, and dispenses justice impartially.
The principles, which appear to account for this apostasy and opposition to the divine will, may be comprehended under the terms pride, selflove, selfrighteousness, and desire of independence, or, indeed, under the single term pride alone, if we use that expression according to its most extensive application. Fallen man is too proud, practically to feel and confess his relative ignorance and inanitv, when
Vol. HL 20
compared with the supreme Author of all things; and the same principle prevents him from placing his supreme regard and esteem on God, though reason dictate, and revelation command this duty. He loves himself and Ms own gratifications too well. Then it is easy to understand, that pride and selfrighteousness are nearly synonymous expressions: a proud being will never esteem his own " righteousnesses as filthy rags" (Isaiah lxiv. 6.); will never cordially beg for pardon of his sins: he has too good an opinion of his own labours, inventions, and performances; in a word, he is selfrighteous; and, in a similar way, it is plain, that the same being will aim at independence, and be impatient of control. In such a dangerous and corrupt state of human affections, the broad and crowded road to idolatry, which is the object we are seeking, is not ^difficult to be traced. For, whether we consider pride as a comprehensive principle, evolving itself, according to the explanation just given, in various mischievous operations, or, whether we choose to confine the meaning of the term, no one will doubt, but that, in fact, mankind in all ages have been grievously wanting in humility, have proudly set themselves up against God, have been actuated by inordinate selflove, and not submitting to the righteousness of God, have endeavoured to establish their own righteousness, and have been impatient of control. The existence of these principles and inclinations implies an absolute departure of the heart from the living God; and when that has once taken place through the action of some steady cause, the progress to idolatry, or to some species of atheism, nearly allied to idolatry, is the next step. Man has departed from the true God, and there must be some device to quiet conscience. Thus, in rude and barbarous times, the proud, selfrighteous devotee, will naturally have recourse to the sottish invention of the worship of wood, or stone, or metals, and become a gross idolater. He will burn part of the wood with fire, and of the rest he will make a god, and kneel before it. The discovery mightily pleases him: he has found out a god exactly suited to his taste; a god, who will easily pardon his vices, set a high value on his imagined virtues, and be constantly propitious to him; a god, who is not an uersal governor or benefactor, but who is particularly kind to himself and his countrymen; a god, whom he can see and handle, and in which he may pride himself, as having contrived and finished it with the tongs and hammer, or with the plane and compass; a god, which is local and tutelar, and over which he himself has considerable power: he can place it in his temple, in his chamber, or in the camp.
The ancient idolaters often represented, by their images, deceased chiefs, or heroes, or kings, who were still supposed to possess a superintending influence over the affairs of men; and, not unfrequently, these departed beings appear to have ranked amofl£ the most wicked of mankind. In more modern times, even christianity itself has been disgraced with the adoration of images, representations, and relics of saints; nor has the abominable superstition always sufficiently taken care, that the supposed saints themselves should have been reputable characters.
In ages of great learning and refinement, the same principles of pride, &c. which in religious concerns, blinding the understanding and corrupting the affections, effectually draw the heart from the living and true God, induce men to profess a reverence for abstruse and intellectual figments, as nature, a principle of order, or the soul of the uerse. These notions of God, which prevail in polished seasons of the world, in one sense merit the imputation of idolatry, in another of atheism; and, in any possible interpretation, they must be deemed equivocal, unintelligible, and pernicious. The species of idolatry are exceedingly various; but they differ not much either in their source or their tendency. In all circumstances, man is miserable and blind, if he be not seeking and worshipping the true God in spirit and truth. If, in breach of the second commandment, he represent the glory of Jehovah by images, or if, in breach of the first, he set up a divinity opposite to Jehovah, in both cases he forms a deceitful basis for salvation and happiness, and directly affronts the perfections of God. Such practices are, therefore, forbidden throughout the scripture, in the most positive manner.
The guilt of idolatry is not so apparent to natural conscience, as that of crimes committed against our fellow creatures; though no sin is so much spoken against through the old testament. Many are apt to wonder why the Israelites were so prone to it; not considering nor knowing their own idolatry, which works in a way more suited to present times and circumstances. But whoever understands, that idolatry implies the departure of the heart from the living God and a fixing of it on something else; that to refuse to trust his word, and to choose to put confidence in some sensible object, by which we would represent him to our minds; still further, to glory in our own strength and righteousness, instead of seeking salvation by grace through faith only, proceeds from pride, and pours all possible contempt on the divine Majesty, will not wonder at God's indignation against this sin, will see how naturally it operates on the human mind, and how it affords a complete demonstration of the apostasy of man.
The ancient church of God were distinguished from the nations all around by the most express prohibitions of this sin. They were directed not to worship any but the living God, nor even Jehovah himself by any images whatever; much less were they allowed to worship any creature by representations, which would be to break the two first commandments by the same act. He, who knows the propensity of his own heart to distrust the providence and grace of God, and how eagerly we catch at any human relief, instead of patiently waiting upon God in trouble, will not wonder that the Israelites worshipped the calf in the absence of Moses, nor think the sin small, because they -in* tended to honour Jehovah by the symbol.
Under the gospel dispensation the prohibition of images continued, and, in the purest times, there was litde occasion to dwell on the subject. God in Christ was worshipped, in spirit and in truth, by the primitive christians: and, while they called on the gentiles to turn from their idols to the living God, idolatry itself, in any of its forms, could scarce find a shadow of admission into the christian church.
For, while men's hearts were filled with peace and joy in believing, while the doctrines of justification and regeneration were precious and allimportant in their eyes, and they lived by the faith of Jesus, saw his glory, and felt in their souls the transforming power of his grace, the deceitful aids of idolatry had no charms. It was not till the knowledge of the gospel itself was darkened and adulterated, that the miserable spirits of men had recourse to such vain refuges, and' that the mind, no longer under the influence of the holy Spirit, betook itself to the arts of sculpture and painting, in order to inflame its affections, and to kindle a false fire of devotion. Christians then worshipped the true God with the understanding, and whoever was converted to the faith, ceased from idolatry. And, as we have seen, christian emperors, particularly Theodosius, destroyed image worship in their dominions. Origen, in his treatise against Celsus, observes, that it is not possible, that any, by worshipping images, should attain the knowledge of God. Athanasius and Lactantius* strongly inculcate the same truth. Toward the end of the fourth century some approach toward this evil appeared in the church. Epiphanius, bishop of Cyprus, observes,f that he found a linen cloth hanging on the church door painted, and having
• In the three homilies of the church of England against peril of idolatry, the controversy is handled with much solidity and historical information. I have made some use of them for my purpose. It seems proper that every protectant divine should acquaint himself with the fundamentals of the controversy, and be able satisfactorily to convince himself, that popery is not, what it pretends to be, founded on the precedents of christian antiquity,
f See vol. ii.
in it the image of Christ, or of some saint. " Observing this," says he, " so contrary to the authority of the scriptures, I tore the cloth." The famous Jerom published, in Latin, an epistle of Epiphanius concerning this subject, and added his own testimony on the point. So evident is it, that at that time images were absolutely prohibited in the church of Christ.
Augustine also gave his opinion against images. " They are of more force to pervert the soul than to instruct it." And " when images are once placed in temples, and had in honours, error creepeth in." Men, however, who had been lately turned from idols, began at length to paint or carve images of Christ, the virgin Mary, and the apostles; and Jerom observes, that the errors of images passed to the christians from the gentiles; and Eusebius, the historian, says that images of Peter and Paul, and of our Saviour himself, were made in his time, which he took "to be an heathenish custom." They were not, however, worshipped, nor publicly set up in churches. Paulinus, who died bishop of Nola in the year 431, caused the walls of a temple to be painted with stories taken from the old testament, that the people might thence receive instruction: the written word was neglected, and these poor substitutes were placed in its room. A strong sign of the growing ignorance! As the ignorance increased, these historical paintings and images increased also. Serenus, bishop of Marseilles, because of the danger of idolatry, brake to pieces the images then set up in the churches. And I have already noticed the imprudent concession made by Gregory, bishop of Rome, on this occasion, to the growing superstition. Thus, six hundred years after Christ, images had begun to appear in churches, but still without idolatry. The authority of Gregory, however had evil consequences: the spirit of idolatry grew stronger, as real spiritual knowledge decayed; and men, having nowmuch lost the divine way of applying to God through Christ, by faith, for the relief of their consciences, became still more prone to rely on idols. So closely connected is the doctrine of justification with purity of worship. In this respect the Roman* church advanced in corruption more rapidly than the eastern. And Grecian emperors employed themselves in destroying images and pictures, while in Italy they were held in idolatrous admiration. The evil, in truth, became incurable, because there was no clear and effectual knowledge of the gospel, that might dissipate the clouds of error. Yet were men's opinions divided both in the east and the west; and, at length, the crisis arose, when the christian world was formally broken into two parties on this question.
We are now advanced to the year 727, when Leo, the Isaurian, the Greek emperor, began openly to op-1 pose the worship of images, and produced the rupture with the Roman see, before mentioned. A Syrian, born of christian parents, named Beser, who had been taken by the mahometans, and afterwards returned to the Romans, had imbibed an opinion of the unlawfulness of the practice, having, very probably, observed the advantage which it had given to the infidels. He was in great favour with the emperor, and convinced him by his arguments, that image worship was idolatrous. But the most eminent defender of the purity of divine worship in this point, and whom Fleury therefore, in his popish zeal, calls the author of the heresy,-)was Constantine, bishop of Nacolia in Phrygia. Convinced in his judgment, and zealous to propagate what appeared to him to be right, Leo assembled the people, and with the frankness and sincerity, which marks his character, publicly avowed his conviction of the idolatry of the growing practice, and declared that images ought not to be erected for adoration. Such a declaration in the sixth century would have raised no ferment in christendom; but idolatry had been gradually advancing itself, as the simplicity and purity of christian faith had decayed: men of no religious solicitude naturally conformed themselves to the habits of
• I say the Romans; for in other parts of the w est, we shall see, that some opposition was made to idolatryt Fleury, b. xlii. 1. vol v
the times, and persons of some concern for the soul had been so long trammeled in a variety of superstitions for the relief of conscience, and the true relief of Christ's atonement was so little understood and relished, that the emperor was evidently in the minority through the christian world- As yet no synods had given a sanction to image worship. Precedents of antiquity were intirely against it. The word of God, which ought to have influenced the minds of men infinitely more than either, was in full opposition to the practice; but so deeply had error prevailed; so convenient did wicked men find it to commute for the indulgence of their crimes, by a zealous attachment to the idolatrous externals; and so little was the scripture then read or studied, that the subjects of Leo murmured against him, as a tyrant and a persecutor. Even Germanus, the bishop of Constantinople, with equal zeal and ignorance asserted, that images had always been used in the church, and declared his determination to oppose the emperor at all events. It is not necessary to give a detail of the paltry evasions and frivolous arguments, with which he endeavoured to support the idolatry. Desirous, however, of strengthening himself against the emperor, he wrote to the bishop of Rome, who warmly supported the same cause, and by reasonings of the same nature. Never was a more instructive lesson given to pastors, to teach the word of God in simplicity and faithfulness. Conscience will be disquieted at times in men not altogether given up to a reprobate mind; and, if peace by Jesus Christ, through faith alone, be not sedulously preached, men distressed for their sins will flee to idolatry with all their might, which will give them a false peace, and confirm them in sinful practices. By the knowledge of Christ crucified alone, can we be brought to a sound peace of conscience, and be constrained effectually to serve God and our neighbour in love. We have often seen this connexion of doctrine and practice in the course of this history, and we are now stating the re
verse of the picture. Nor can the spirit and principles of those christians, who supported divine truth in the world, be so clearly understood without some knowledge of the real grounds of popery.
He who filled the Roman see at that time was Gregory the second, whom for his open defence and support of idolatry, I shall venture to call the first Pope of Rome. Many superstitions and abuses had been growing;* and since the decease of Gregory I. I have for the most part been silent concerning the Roman bishops, because very little of godliness appeared among them. The most honourable part of their conduct related to the encouragement of missions and the propagation of the gospel among the gentiles; in which, many, who were actuated by the same spirit as those, who had been sent by Gregory I, were successful in their provinces; and pure religion, in the fundamentals, at least, was extended into distant regions, while Rome and Italy grew more and more corrupt. The open avowal, however, of idolatry, was
* One will deserve to be specified, as it marks the decline from evangelical purity of doctrine. It was not until the days of this Gregory, that churchyards had a beginning- The dead had been usually interred near the highways, according to the Roman laws, and christian congregations had followed the practice; at least, they had burial places remote from the city. But, in Gregory's time, the priests and monks began to offer prayers for the deceased, and received gifts from the relations for the performance of these services; on which account these ecclesiastics requested leave of Gregory, that the dead might be interred near the places of the monks' abode, or in the churches or monasteries; that the relations might have a better opportunity of joining in the funeral devotions. Cuthbert, archbishop of Canterbury, introduced the custom into England in 750; hence the origin of Chuhchyards in this island used as burial grounds. The practice itself is certainly innocent; though its first origin was extremely superstitious. The attentive reader will judge hence of the progress of the doctrine of purgatory, and the avarice of the ecclesiastics connected with it; above all, of men's departure from the article of justification; which, if it had remained in any degree of purity in the church, would have effectually excluded these abominations. See Newcome's Hist- of the Abbey of St. Albans, p. 109. While men rested in Christ, and dared to behold themselves complete in him, they had no temptation to apply to the false refuges of prayers for the departed. In the article of death they committed their souls and bodies to their Saviour. That hope of glory being lost, they struggled, in vain, through life, with doubts and fears, and departing in uncertainty, left to the charity of friends to eke their supposed defect of merit, and " found no end, in wandering mazes lost."
reserved for Gregory II, and from this time I look on the bishops of Rome as antichrist.
Rebellion trode on the heels of idolatry. Greece and its neighbouring islands opposed the emperor, and set up an usurper; so infatuated were men with image worship. But the rebels were routed; and the usurper Was taken and beheaded.
Leo has been so blackened by contemporary writers, that it is not easy to form a just idea of his character. The same observation may be extended to his son and successor, on the same account. All that can be advanced with certainty is, that his cause was just, and his zeal sincere, though his temper was too warm. He might be a pious christian; there is doubtless no proof to the contrary. He not only condemned the worshipping of images, but also rejected relics and the intercession of saints. But there lived none at that time capable of doing justice to the holiness of his motives, if indeed, as there is reason to hope, they were holy.
In the year 730 he published an edict against images, and, after having in vain endeavoured to bring over Germanus to his views, he deposed him, and set up Anastasius in his room, who supported the emperor. There was a porch in the palace of Constantinople, in which was an image of Christ on the cross. Leo, who saw that it had been made an engine of idolatry, sent an officer to pull it down. Some women, who were there, entreated that it might be spared, but in vain. The officer mounted a ladder and struck three blows with a hatchet on the face of the figure, when the women threw him down by pulling away the ladder, and murdered him on the spot:* however, the
• This first instance of idolatrous zeal which occurs in Christendom, shows that the worshippers of images naturally connect the idea of sanctity with the wood or stone; and therefore the charge of literally worshipping inanimate matter, which the scriptures make against pagan idolaters, is just when applied to popish. By an induction from particulars, it were easy to prove, that the cases are similar, and, that futile distinctions and evasions may equally be applied to both, to cover and soften what cannot be vindicated in either.
image was pulled down and burnt, and a plain cross set up in its room; for Leo only objected to the erection of an human figure. The women afterwards insulted Anastasius, as having profaned holy things. Leo put several persons to death, who had been concerned in the murder, and, such was the triumph of idolatry at length, that the murderers are honoured as martyrs, by the Greek church, to this day! More blood was spilt on the occasion, partly through the vehemence of the emperor, and partly through the obstinacy of the idolaters.
The news flew to Rome, where the same rage for idolatry prevailed, and the emperor's statues were pulled down, and trodden under foot. Italy was thrown into confusion: serious attempts were made to elect another emperor: and the pope encouraged these attempts. He also prohibited the Italians from paying tribute to Leo any longer, say the Greek writers, and some of the partisans of the Roman see, while the French writers represent him as endeavouring to quell the rebellion. It is difficult to give a fair statement of Gregory's conduct on this occasion: certain it is, that his obstinate defence of idolatry actually fomented the rebellion, and in the end, established the temporal power of his successors on the ruins of the imperial authority.* His conduct was indirectly rebellious, if it was not directly so; for he wrote to Anastasius, that if he did not return to the catholic faith, he should be deprived of his dignity.f Gregory must have known, that this was, in effect, to oppose the emperor himself. This was one of the last acts of the Roman prelate. He was succeeded by Gregory III. who wrote to the emperor in these arrogant terms. " Because you are unlearned and ignorant, we are obliged to write to you rude discourses, but full of sense and the word of God. We conjure you to quit your pride, and hear us with humility. You say that we adore stones, walls, and
* See Mosheim, cent. viii. c. iiit Fleury, c. xlii. 7.
boards. It is not so, my lord; but those symbols make us recollect the persons whose names they bear, and exalt our groveling minds. We do not look upon them as gods; but if it be the image of Jesus, we say, " Lord, help us." If it be the image of his mother, we say, " pray to your Son to save us." If it be of a martyr, we say, " St. Stephen, pray for us."* " We might, as having the power of St. Peter, pronounce punishments against you; but as you have pronounced the curse upon yourself, let it stick to you. You write to us to assemble a general council; of which there is no need. Do you cease to persecute images, and all will be quiet. We fear not your threats; for if we go a league from Rome, toward Campania, we are secure." Certainly this is the language of antichrist, supporting idolatry by pretences to infallibility, and despising both civil magistrates and ecclesiastical councils.
I cannot do justice to Leo, because we have not his answers to the pope. But perhaps the language of Gregory will enable the reader for himself to vindicate the emperor. It is not to be wondered at, that Leo refused to have any farther intercourse with the Roman prelate. In 732, Gregory, in a council, excommunicated all, who should remove or speak contemptuously of images. And Italy being now in a state of rebellion, Leo fitted out a fleet, which he sent thither; but it was wrecked in the Adriatic. He continued, however, to enforce his edict against images in the east, while the patrons of the fashionable idolatry sup
• From these specimens the reader may judge w hether the pope or the emperor was better acquainted with the scripture A pagan philosopher would have defended gentile idolatry much in the same manner; and the dependence, which both the pagan and the papist place on the image, demonstrates, that they imagine the power of the saint or demon to be intimately connected with the image, which represents, as it were, the body, of which the object of their worship is the soul, so justly do the scriptures describe idolaters as literally worshipping the works of their own hands, and the man of sin as worshipping demons (1 Tim. iv.) Sophistry may evade, but it cannot confute When men cease to hold the head and to be satisfied with Christ as their all, they fall into these or similar errors The heart, w hich feels not the want of the living God, as its proper nutriment, will f«ed on the ashes of idolatry.
ported it by various sophisms. In all his conduct Gregory now acted like a temporal prince: he supported a rebellious duke against Luitprand, king of the Lombards, his master, and fearing the vengeance of the latter, he applied to Charles Martel, mayor of the palace in France,* offering to withdraw his obedience from the emperor, and give the consulship of Rome to Charles, if he would take him under his protection.f Charles, however, by his wars with the Saracens, was prevented from complying with the pope's request. But he left his power and ambitious views to his son and successor Pepin. Charles, Gregory, and Leo, all died in the same year 741, and left to their successors the management of their respective views and contentions.
Constantine Copronymus inherited his father Leo's zeal against images: and, as both the east and the west were precipitating themselves into idolatry, hence neither of these princes have met with a fair and impartial historian.:): The Arabians persecuted the christians in the mean time with unrelenting barbarity in the east, while the real church of God was desolated on all sides, and suffered equally from enemies without and within her pale. Zachary was the next pope after Gregory III, an aspiring politician, who fomented discord among the Lombards, and, by his intrigues, obtained from the king Luitprand an addition to the patrimony of the church. The Roman prelates had ceased to worship God in spirit and in truth, and were now become mere secular princes. »
Zachary showed how well he merited the title of a temporal governor. He had the address to preserve still a nominal subjection to the Greek emperor, while
• This is he who had stopped the progress of the Saracen arms. Mayor of the palace, was the title of the prime minister in France, who during the reigns of a succession of weak princes, governed with sovereign power.
f This shows that the charge of rebellion against the emperor is not Unjustly made against this pope.
\ Theophanes relates some ridiculous things of Copronymus, which only prove the strength of his own prejudices- p. 346, and Fleury follows him u his guide.
he seized all the power of the Roman dukedom for himself, and looked out for a piotector both against his lawful sovereign and against the Lombards. This was Pepin, the son and successor of Charles Martel in France, who sent a case of conscience to be resolved by the pope, namely, whether it would be just in himself to depose his sovereign Childeric III, and foreign in his room?* Zachary was not athamed to answer in the affirmative: Pepin then threw his master into a monastery, and assumed the title of king. Zachary died soon after, viz. in the vear 752.
The Greek emperor was unable to cope with the subtlety of the pope and the violence of the Lombards. Ravenna the capital of his dominions in Italy was taken by king Astulphus, who had succeeded Rachis, the successor of Luitprand. This government, called the exarchate, had lasted in Italy about a hundred and fourscore years. Stephen, the successor of Zachary, finding the superior strength of the Lombards, now solicited the aid of Constantine, who was too much employed in the east, to send any forces into Italy. In the year 754, the emperor held a council of 338 bishops, to decide the controversy concerning images. They express themselves not improperly on the nature of the heresy.f " Jesus Christ," say they, " hath delivered us from idolatry, and hath taught us to adore him in spirit and in truth. But the devil not being able to endure the beauty of the church, hath insensibly brought back idolatry under the appearance of christianity, persuading men to worship the creature, and to take for God a work, to which they give the name of Jesus Christ."
Reinforced by the decrees of this council against image worship, Constantine burnt the images, and de
• Fleury, xliii. 1. calls him a weak and contemptible prince. So tiie French kings had been for some time. But Gregory I. would have told Pepin, that the weakness of the sovereign's faculties gave the servant no right to usurp the master's authority Gregory feared God: whereas idolatry had hardened the hearts of these popes, and left them no law but their own insatiable ambition.
t Fleury, xliii. ?
molished the walls, which were painted with representations of Christ or the saints; and seemed determined to exterminate all the vestiges of idolatry. In the mean time, in Italy, Stephen pressed by the victorious arms of Astulphus, applied himself to Pepin, and wrote to all the French dukes, exhorting them to succor St. Peter, and promising :hem the remission of their sins, a hundred told in this world, and in the world to come life everlasting. So rapidly advanced the popedom! A letter now was brought to the pope from the emperor, ordering him to go to Astulphus, and demand the restitution of Ravenna. Superstition was every where so strong, that there was no danger incurred by such a step; and the weakness of the emperor, and the distraction of his affairs allowed him not to give any other sort of succor to Italy. Stephen sent to the king of the Lombards, to demand a pass. This was granted, and he set out from Rome, to go to Astulphus. A short time before he undertook this journey, messengers had arrived to him from Pepin, encouraging him to go along with them into France. Stephen arrived at Pavia, the capital of Lombardy, and, after an ineffectual interview with the king, went into France, where Pepin treated him with all possible respect, and promised to undertake an expedition into Italy to relieve the Roman see Stephen anointed with oil the king of the Franks; - and, by the authority of St. Peter, forbade the French lords, on pain of excommunication, to choose a king of another race.
Thus did these two ambitious men support one another in their schemes of rapacity and injustice. In the pope the evil was aggravated by the pretence of religion.* " It is you," says Stephen, " whom God hath chosen for this purpose by his prescience from
* Fleury, a much better divine than Stephen, is struck with the absurdity of the allusion, xliii. 15- If I am somewhat more secular in this narration than in general, the importance of the subject, which is nothing less than the establishment of the papal power, and the vindication of faithful witnesses, who from age to age protested against it, may afford a sufficient apology. Popery once established, I shall not so minutely attend kar steps, but seek the children of God, wherever they are to be found.
all eternity. For whom he hath predestinated, them he also called; and, whom he called, them he also justified." It must be owned, that Stephen was fitter to conduct a negotiation, than to expound a text.
Pepin attacked Astulphus so vigorously, that, in the end, he obliged him to deliver the exarchate, that is Ravenna, and twenty-one ctfies besides, to the pope. Constantine, alarmed at the danger of his dominions in Italy, sent an embassy to king Pepin, to press him to deliver the exarchate to its rightful sovereign: but in vain. In the issue, the pope became the proprietor of Ravenna and its dependencies, and added rapacity to his rebellion.
From this time he not only assumed the tone of infallibility and spiritual dominion, but became literally a temporal prince. On the death of Astulphus, Desiderius, duke of Tuscany, in order to obtain the succession, promised Stephen, to deliver to him some other cities, which the Lombards had taken from the emperor. Stephen embraced the offer without hesitation, assisted Desiderius in his views, and obtained for the popedom the dutchy of Ferrara, and two other fortresses. The injured emperor, in the mean time, continued to exterminate idolatry in the east; but, whether his motives were pious or not, our ignorance of his private character will not suffer us to ascertain. The ambitious and successful Stephen held the popedom five years, and died in 757. His successor Paul, I even before his appointment to that dignity, had taken care to cultivate the friendship and secure the protection of Pepin. The maritime parts of Italy still obeyed the emperor, and these, together with the Lombards, threatened the pope, from time to time; whence he was induced to write frequently to the king of France for assistance.*
Constantine forbade every where the addressing of prayers to the virgin Mary, or to other saints, and discountenanced the monks through his dominions.
* It is remarkable, that Fleury blames this pope for representing his secular aff airs as if they were spiritual- p. 31.
He is said to have treated the worshippers of images "with great barbarity, and to have been profane and vicious in his own practice. But such censures were the natural and obvious effect of his conduct.
In the year 768 died Pepin, the great supporter of the popedom. Its grandeur was, however, not yet arrived at maturity. Adrian, who was elected pope in / 772, was not inferior to his predecessors in the arts of ambitious intrigue. He received the homage of Rieti and Spoleto, towns of Lombardy, and allowed them to choose a duke among themselves. Partly by these means, and still more by the powerful alliance of Charles, the son and successor of Pepin, commonly called Charlemagne for his great exploits, he strength- J ened himself against the hostilities of king Desiderius. He received from the French king a confirmation of Pepin's donative of the exarchate, with some considerable additions of territory. The friendship of ambitious men is cemented by views of interest. This was exactly the case of Charles and Adrian. The former derived from the sacred character of the latter the most substantial addition to his reputation in a superstitious age, and was enabled to expel Desiderius intirely from his dominions. In the year 774, he assumed the title of king of France and Lombardy. The last king of the Lombards was sent into a monastery in France, where he ended his days. In the next year, the emperor Constantine died, after having vigorously opposed image worship all his reign. At the same time also died the mahometan calif Almansor, the founder of Bagdad, which from that timebecame the residence of the Saracen monarchs; whose empire then began to carry more the appearance of a regular government, and ceased to be so troublesome to the remains of the old Roman empire, as it had formerly been.
Leo, the son and successor of Constantine, trode in 1 the steps of his father and grandfather, and exercised severities on the supporters of image worship. But.
Vol.. III. 22
as he died in the year 780,* his wife Irene assumed the government in the name of her son Constantine, who was only ten years old. She openly and zealously supported idolatry. The east was so eagerly addicted to it, that there wanted only the authority of a sovereign to render it triumphant. Images gained the ascendency; and the monastic life, which either the piety or the prudence of three emperors, (for I cannot ascertain their real character,) had much discouraged, became again victorious in Greece and Asia.f
In 784 Irene wrote to Adrian, desiring his presence at a council to be held for the support of image worship; at least that he would send legates to it. Tarasius, bishop of Constantinople, just appointed, and perfectly harmonizing with the views of the empress, wrote to the same purport. Adrian's answer is worthy of a pope. He expresses his joy at the prospect of the establishment of image worship; and at the same time, testifies his displeasure at the presumption of Tarasius, in calling himself uersal patriarch: he demands the restoration of St. Peter's patrimony, which during the schism, the emperors of Constantinople had withheld; and sets before the empress the munificent pattern of Charlemagne, who had given to the Roman church, to be enjoyed forever, provinces, cities, and castles, once in possession of the Lombards, but which of right belonged to St. Peter. Ambition and avarice were thus covered with the thin veil of superstition. But this was the age of clerical usurpations. Large domains were now commonly annexed, by superstitious princes, to the church, for the pardon of their sins; but the pope was the greatest gainer by this traffic. That, which is most to our purpose to observe, is the awful departure, which had commonly been made, throughout christendom, from the allimportant article of justification. While this is firmly be
• Fleury, xliy. 1G.
f If the plan, on which I have chosen to write a church history, need the authority of any writer to support it, the words of Fleury are very decisive. 15. xliv 17. •* The temporal affairs of the church, nay, of the RojTian church, do not belong to an ecclesiastical history."
lieved and reverenced, it is impossible for men to think of commuting for their offences with heaven; and it is itself the surest defence against clerical encroachments, superstition, idolatry, and hypocrisy. But the pulpits were silent on this doctrine: during this whole century, false religion grew without any check or molestation; and vices, both in public and private life, increased in proportion.
In the year 787 the second council of Nice was held under the empress: and, of such a council it is sufficient to say, that it confirmed idolatrous worship. Pope Adrian, having received the acts of the council, sent them to Charlemagne, that he might procure the approbation of the bishops of the west. But here his expectations were disappointed. United in politics by the coincidence of interested views, they were however found to disagree in religious sentiments. Charlemagne, though illiterate himself, was one of the greatest patrons of learning: and, if he may be supposed to have been in earnest in any opinions, he would naturally be much influenced by the famous Alcuin, an Englishman, whom he cherished and esteemed. The customs and habits of the west were far from uersally favouring the reigning idolatry. I am anxiously looking for the features of the church of Christ in this very gloomy period, and seem to think that her existence was most probably to be found in the churches lately planted, or, in those, which were then in an infant state. Our own island was decidedly, at that time, against idolatry. The British churches execrated the second council of Nice;* and some even of the Italian bishops protested against the growing evil. Nor is it probable, that the churches of Germany, now forming, were at all disposed to receive it. Men, who first receive christianity from zealous teachers, arc simple and sincere; nor is it easy to convince an ingenuous person, that idolatry, however qualified or explained, is allowable on the
* Hoveden Annal. pars prior- p. 232. Usher Annals- p. 19, 20. The former of these writer1! tells us, that Alotiin composed the Carolin books.
plan of tiie scriptures, either of the old or new testament. France itself had, as yet, shown no disposition positively in favour of idolatry. The Roman see alone, in Europe, had in form supported and defended it. And experience proves, that the greatest stages of degeneracy are to be found in the churches, which have subsisted the longest.
Charlemagne could not but be struck at the discordancy of the Nicene council with the habits of the west; and was therefore so far from receiving, with implicit faith, the recommendation of it by pope Adrian, that he ordered the bishops of the west to examine the merits of the question. The issue was, the publication of the Carolin books, in which the famous Alcuin had at least a distinguished share. In these the authors find fault with a former synod held in Greece, under Constantine, which forbade the use of images. For they held the dangerous opinion of Gregory 1st, namely, that these might be set up in churches, and serve as books for the instruction of the people. But they condemn, in very free terms, the late Grecian synod, which enjoined the worship of images. They find fault with the nattering addresses made by the Greek bishops to pope Adrian. They allow the primacy of St. Peter's see, but are far from founding their faith on the pope's decrees. They condemn the worship of images by scriptural arguments, by no means impertinent or contemptible, but which there is no occasion for me to repeat.*
Engilbert, the ambassador of Charles, presented these books to Adrian. This ambitious politician, who subsisted by the protection of Charlemagne, and who was concerned to maintain the honour of his see, replied with great prudence. It is evident, from his whole conduct, that his object was the temporal interests of the popedom. Hence his answer to Charles was tame and insipid, and his defence of image worship weak and inconclusive.f Charles and the French
• Sec Du Pin, Councils of 8th Century-
t This is allowed by Du Pin. Ibid.
churches persevered in their own middle practice: they used images, but they abhorred the adoration of them. In the year 794, at Frankfort upon the Maine, a synod was held, consisting of 300 bishops, who condemned the second council of Nice, and the worship of images. In this synod, Paulinus, bishop of Aquileia, in Italy, bore some share. Adrian, however, continued on good terms with Charlemagne, to the death of the former, which took place before the close of the century, when he was succeeded by Leo 111. Political \ intrigue, and secular artifice, not theological study, was then the practice of Roman bishops. The Irish, at this time, particularly excelled in divinity, travelled through various countries, and became renowned for knowledge; and the superior light of England and France, in the controversy concerning images, seems to show both those countries, in knowledge and in re-, gard for the doctrines of scripture, to have been far superior to Rome. Yet so strongly were men prejudiced in favour of the dignity of the Roman see, that it still remained in the height of its power, and was enabled in process of time to communicate its idolatrous abominations through Europe. In the east the worship of images was triumphant, but as yet not uersal.*
This chapter contains the narrative of the most fatal events, which the church had ever seen. The arian heresy had disfigured and deeply wounded her constitution, but she had recovered, and confounded this adversary. The pelagian poison had operated for a timebut its detection and expulsion had even contributed to recover her health, and to restore her to a great degree of apostolical purity. Other heresies, which affected the doctrine of the trinity, had been successfully opposed: superstition, for a number of centuries, had sullied her beautv, but had left her vitals untouched. Idolatry, at length, aided by the same superstitious
• Irene, toward the close of this century, dethroned her son Coustanline, and put out his eyes with such violence, that he lost his life. This monster, a worthy patroness of idolatry, then reigned alone, and cooperated with the pope of Rom«, in the support of Satan's kingdom
propensity, prevailed to disunite her from Christ, her living head. The reigning powers both in the east and the west, were overgrown with false worship: even those parts of the west, which as yet were not disposed to receive idolatry, were deeply prepared for the gradual admission of it, partly by the growing of superstition, and partly by the submission of all the European churches to the domination of the Roman see. There the seat of antichrist was firmly fixed. Rebellion against the lawful power of the magistrate, the most arrogant claims to infallibility, and the support of image worship, conspired with the temporal dominion lately obtained by the bishop of Rome, to render him the tyrant of the church. His dominions, indeed,. were not large; but, in conjunction with the proud pretensions of his ecclesiastical character, they gave him .a superlative dignity in the eyes of all Europe. It was evident, that the face of the whole church was altered: from the year 727, to about the year 2000, we have the dominion of the beast;* and the prophesying of the witnesses in sackcloth, which was to continue 1260 days, or forty and two months, that is, for 1260 years. We must now look for the real church, either, in distinct individual saints, who, in the midst of popery, were preserved by effectual grace in vital union with the Son of God, or in associations of true christians, formed in different regions, which were in a state of persecution and much affliction. Where then was the church in the eighth century? She still subsisted; and the opposition made to idolatry by Charles and the council of Frankfort, demonstrates her existence. Nothing but the influence of principles very opposite to those which were fashionable at Rome can account for such events at a time when the dignity of the Roman see was held in uersal veneration. After all, it is in the propagation of the gospel among the pagans, that the real church is chiefly to be seen in this century. Some real work of this kind was carrying on, while the popedom
was forming; and, by the adorable providence of God, pious missionaries, who entered not into the recent controversies, but were engaged in actions purely spiritual, were patronized and supported in preaching Christ among foreign nations, by the same popes of Rome who were opposing his grace in their own.* Their ambition led them to cherish the zeal of the missionaries, but with how different a spirit! To this scene let us now direct our attention.