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THE AGE OF FAITH IN THE WEST-(Continued).
IMAGE-WORSHIP AND THE MONKS.
Origin of IMAGE-WORSHIP.-Inutility of Images discovered in Asia and
Africa during the Saracen Wars.-Rise of Iconoclasm. The Emperors prohibit Image-worship.-The Monks, aided by court
Females, sustain it.— Victory of the latter. Image-worship in the West sustained by the Popes.—Quarrel between the
Emperor and the Pope.-The Pope, aided by the Monks, revolts and allies himself with the Franks. THE MONKS.—History of the Rise and Development of Monasticism.
Hermits and Conobites.-Spread of Monasticism from Egypt over Europe.—Monk Miracles and Legends.-Humanization of the monastic Establishments.—They materialize Religion, and impress their Ideas on Europe.
THE Arabian influence, allying itself to philosophy, was henceforth productive of other than military results. To the loss of Africa and Asia was now added a disturbance impressed on Europe itself, ending in the decom- Influence of position of Christianity into two forms, Greek the Arabians. and Latin, and in three great political events—the emancipation of the popes from the emperors of Constantinople, the usurpation of power by a new dynasty in France, the reconstruction of the Roman empire in the West.
The dispute respecting the worship of images led to those great events. The acts of the Mohammedan khalifs and of the iconoclastic or image-breaking emperors occasioned that dispute.
Nothing could be more deplorable than the condition of southern Europe when it first felt the intellectual influence of the Arabians. Its old Roman and Greek populations
had altogether disappeared; the races of half-breeds and Worship of
mongrels substituted for them were immersed
in fetichism. An observance of certain cereimages.
monials constituted a religious life. A chip of the true cross, some iron filings from the chain of St. Peter, a tooth or bone of a martyr, were held in adoration; the world was full of the stupendous miracles which these relics had performed. But especially were painted or graven images of holy personages supposed to be endowed with such powers. They had become objects of actual worship. The facility with which the Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, had given an aristocratic fashion to this idolatry, showed that the old pagan ideas had never really died out, and that the degenerated populations received with approval the religious conceptions of their great predecessors. The early Christian fathers believed that painting and sculpture were forbidden by the Scriptures, and that they were therefore wicked arts; and, though the second Council of Nicea asserted that the use of images had always been adopted by the Church, there are abundant facts to prove that the actual worship of them was not indulged in until the fourth century, when, on the occasion of its occurrence in Spain, it was condemned by the Council of Illiberis. During the fifth century the practice of introducing images into Churches increased, and in the sixth it had become prevalent. Its rapid
The common people, who had never been able spread in to comprehend doctrinal mysteries, found their Christendom.
religious wants satisfied in turning to these effigies. With singular obtuseness, they believed that the .saint is present in his image, though hundreds of the same kind were in existence, each having an equal and exclusive right to the spiritual presence. The doctrine of invocation of departed saints, which assumed prominence in the fifth century, was greatly strengthened by these graphic forms. Pagan idolatry had reappeared.
At first the simple cross was used as a substitute for the amulets and charms of remoter times; it constituted a fetich able to expel evil spirits, even Satan himself. This Being, who had become singularly debased from what he was in the noble Oriental fictions, was an imbecile
and malicious though not a malignant spirit, affrighted not only at pieces of wood framed in the shape of a cross, but at the form of it made by the finger in the air. A subordinate dæmon was supposed to possess Simple feevery individual at his birth, but he was cast tiches replac
ed by images. out by baptism. When, in the course of time, the cross became a crucifix, offering a representation of the dying Redeemer, it might be supposed to have gathered increased virtue ; and soon, in addition to that adorable form, were introduced images of the Virgin, the apostles, saints, and martyrs. The ancient times seemed to have come again, when these pictures were approached with genuflexions, luminaries, and incense. The doctrine of the more intelligent was that these were aids to devotion, and that, among people to whom the art of reading was unknown, they served the useful purpose of recalling sacred erents in a kind of hieroglyphic manner. But among the vulgar, and monks, and women, they were believed to be endowed with supernatural power. Bleeding and Of some, the wounds could bleed; of others, winking the eyes could wink; of others, the limbs could images. be raised. In ancient times, the statues of Minerva could brandish spears, and those of Venus could weep.
In truth, the populations of the Greek and Latin countries were no more than nominally converted and superficially Christianized. The old traditions
Idolatry and practices had never been forgotten. A never extintendency to idolatry seemed to be the necessary Greece and incident of the climate. Not without reason Italy. have the apologists of the clergy affirmed that imageworship was insisted on by the people, and that the Church had to admit ideas that she had never been able to eradicate. After seven hundred years of apostolic labour, it was found that the populace of Greece and Italy were apparently in their old state, and that actually nothing at all had been accomplished; the new-comers had passed into the track of their predecessors. It is often said that the restoration of image-worship was owing to the extinction of civilization by the Northern barbarians. But this is not true. In the blood of the German nations the taint of idolatry is but small. In
Influence of the barbarians.
their own countries they gave it little encouragement, and, indeed, hastened quickly to its total rejection. The sin lay not with them, but with the Mediterranean people.
Nor are those barbarians to be held accountable for the so-called extinction of civilization in Italy. The true Roman race had prematurely died; it came to an untimely
end in consequence of its dissolute, its violent life. Its civilization would have spontaneously died
with it had no barbarian been present; and, if these intruders produced a baneful effect at first, they compensated for it in the end. As, when fresh coal is added to a fire that is burning low, a still further diminution will ensue, perhaps there may be a risk of entirely putting it out; but in due season, if all goes well, the new material will join in the contagious blaze. The savages of Europe, thrown into the decaying foci of Greek and Roman light, did perhaps for a time reduce the general heat; but, by degrees, it spread throughout their mass, and the bright flame of modern civilization was the result. Let those who lament the intrusion of these men into the classical countries, reflect upon the result which must otherwise have ensued—the last spark would soon have died out, and nothing but ashes have remained.
Three causes gave rise to Iconoclasm, or the revolt Origin of against image-worship: 1st, the remonstrances Iconoclasm. and derision of the Mohammedans; 2nd, the good sense of a great sovereign, Leo the Isaurian, who had risen by his merit from obscurity, and had become the founder of a new dynasty at Constantinople; 3rd, the detected inability of these miracle-working idols and fetiches to protect their worshippers or themselves against an unbelieving enemy. Moreover, an impression was gradually making its way among the more intelligent classes that religion ought to free itself from such superstitions. So important were the consequences of Leo's actions, that some have been disposed to assign to his reign the first attempt at making policy depend on theology; and to this period, as I have elsewhere remarked, they therefore refer the commencement of the Byzantine empire. Through one hundred and twenty years, six emperors
covered in the
devoted themselves to this reformation. But it was premature. They were overpowered by the populace and the monks, by the bishops of Rome, and by a superstitious and wicked woman.
It had been a favourite argument against the pagans how little their gods could do for them when the hour of calamity came, when their statues and images were insulted and destroyed, and hence how vain was such
Inutility of worship, how imbecile such gods. When Africa miraculous and Asia, full of relics and crosses, pictures and images disimages, fell before the Mohammedans, those Arab invaconquerors retaliated the same logic with no Sions. little effect. There was hardly one of the fallen towns that had not some idol for its protector. Remembering the stern objurgations of the prophet against this deadly sin, prohibited at once by the commandment of God and repudiated by the reason of man, the Saracen khalifs had ordered all the Syrian images to be destroyed.
Destruction Amid the derision of the Arab soldiery and the and sale of tears of the terror-stricken worshippers, these idols by the orders were remorselessly carried into effect, except in some cases where the temptation of an enormous ransom induced the avengers of the unity of God to swerve from their duty. Thus the piece of linen cloth on which it was feigned that our Saviour had impressed his countenance, and which was the palladium of Edessa, was carried off by the victors at the capture of that town, and subsequently sold to Constantinople at the profitable price of twelve thousand pounds of silver. This picture, and also some other celebrated ones, it was said, possessed the property of multiplying themselves by contact with other surfaces, as in modern times we multiply photographs. Such were the celebrated images “made without hands.”
It was currently asserted that the immediate origin of Iconoclasm was due to the Khalif Yezed, who had completed the destruction of the Syrian images, and to two Jews, who stimulated Leo the Isaurian to his task. However that may be, Leo published an edict, A.D.,
The emperor 726, prohibiting the worship of images. This prohibits imwas followed by another directing their de- age-worship. struction, and the whitewashing of the walls of churches