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we are not bound to use them. They are not necessary appendages to our service, and may be dispensed with, when it is judged proper. Except the Crucifix, an image is hardly ever seen in our Chapels in England, for fear of giving scandal to our Protestant brethren: in this we act in conformity to the advice of St. Paul, who recommends conceding to the weaknesses of others, when concession is no sacrifice of our duty. The Clergy of Catholic countries are the best judges how far the use of images is liable to be abused, and whether any mischief arises from the toleration of them; and, as they are not condemned, where there can be no sinister motive for continuing them, it is but charity to suppose, that they are not worthy of condemnation. In
(6) That it is in itself no impiety to pay religious veneration to inanimate objects, is to be deduced from the commands of Almighty God himself, in the Old Testament. Moses was ordered to put off his shoes on Mount Horeb, and walk barefoot, because it was holy ground. The Israelites were, in several instances, commanded to show a high respect to the Ark of the Covenant, and severe punishments were inflicted upon those who either touched it, or looked upon it with irreverence or inattention. In the New Testament we are commanded to bend the knee at the name of Jesus; and why may we not pay the same mark of respect to the representation of his sufferings, without the imputation of Idolatry? By both we only honour the Redeemer of Mankind.
England we pray to Saints, without their images before us, and we invoke the assistance of the Mother of God, without the aid of a picture to enliven our devotion. Protestants take off their hats out of respect before a sinful man; they pay homage to the portrait of their sovereign, in the halls of his ambassadors, and to the empty throne in the house of peers ; they rise from their seats, and stand uncovered, during the performance of music in honour of the King; they bow the head when the name of Jesus is pronounced; they kiss the Bible when they have sworn by it, they decorate their Churches with images painted upon glass; they even kneel before their consecrated bread and wine; “mere bodily elements, of earthly manufacture ;" (C)—and all this without incurring the charge of idolatry. But why similar marks of respect and veneration may not be shown to the image of the Mother of God, or of the Prince of the Apostles, without subjecting those who show them to the odious imputation of superstition and idolatry, is only conceivable to the minds of men who come forward with so groundless and uncharitable a charge. It evinces a degree of ignorance and credulity, equalled only by the want of charity which it betrays. Those who see with a superficial eye, and without a due knowledge of the circum
(e) Bishop of Durham's Charge.
stances, may doubtless be scandalized. The Jews were so even in regard to our Saviour, whom, in the ignorance or the blindness of their hearts, they called a drinker of wine, and the companion of publicans. Idolatry is an act of the mind, and not of the body: and it is a crying injustice to presume that a Catholic is praying to an image, because he is praying before it.(a)
(d) Speaking of the conduct of the people towards a supposed miraculous image in the Pantheon, in 1817, Mr. Hobhouse, in his learned researches into the Antiquities of Rome, observes :
“ The veneration for a miraculous image which has lately crowded the Rotunda, has not bettered the condition of the pavement; nor does it help the general effect of the interior prospect, to be aware that we see exactly the same idolatry which was practised in the same spot sixteen centuries ago. A philosopher may smile, but a less indifferent spectator is shocked at the inexplicable credulity which stares in the stedfast faces of a hundred worshippers, seated in chairs for hours before the image, in the wish--the hope—the certainty-of some indication of omnipotence from the dirty cobweb-covered block which has been preferred into divinity."
Now, leaving the credulity to be dealt with as it may deserve, I certainly must exonerate these individuals from the heavy charge of idolatry here brought against them. Had Mr. Hobhouse, whom I most sincerely admire as the steady and uncompromising advocate of civil and religious liberty, employed the same spirit of research in respect to
But such things are stumbling blocks to those only whose mind is darkened : that darkness may
the grounds of the religious tenets of the Romans, as he has done in support of his reasons for and against the identity of the various and interesting antiquities of their capital, it is impossible that his acute and penetrating mind, should not have discovered enough to have divested him of all predisposition to judge so hastily and so wrongfully of his neighbour, as he most assuredly has done in this instance: and had he, with this knowledge, applied himself to the particular case before him, I am quite satisfied, that he would have felt as convinced as I do, that no imputation of idolatry could be borne out. Whether any miracle was to be seen in the image is a different question, and depends solely upon the evidence of the senses; but supposing that there was, that miracle was not attributed to the statue, but to the omnipotent power of Him who gave efficacy to the brazen serpent in the wilderness—to the shadow of St. Peter-to the handkerchiefs which had touched the body of St. Paul--and to numerous animate and inanimate objects, in every period of sacred history. No divine attribute was imagined to exist in the statue—no worship was paid to it--no efficacy was attributed to it: it was supposed, in all probability, by over-heated imaginations, that the Almighty had made use of it to express in a supernatural manner, either his displeasure or his satisfaction upon some particular occasion, or to add one more to the many miraculous attestations in favour of the religion of Rome. That Catholics are often predisposed to lend too easy a belief to miracles, is unquestionably the case : it arises from a firm,
proceed only from ignorance; that ignorance from prejudice; and that prejudice from the erroneous impressions of our youth: and however pardonable it may be in some cases, yet it becomes our bounden duty to dispel it by the light of reason, and by the more invigorated powers of the understanding. But it is always most unjust and uncharitable for men, with minds prepared forexaggerated impressions, to pass judgment upon questions on which they are quite incompetent to decide for want of information ; and still more so to publish those judgments to the world ; thereby inflaming the passions of men, and giving weight to that mass of prejudice which already exists in so lamentable a degree, in this country, against the most numerous, the most enlightened, but most calumniated body of Christians in the universe : and this, too,
unhesitating faith in the truth of their religion. Under this impression, they are necessarily more inclined to look for supernatural testimonials in its favour, and to receive them with but little investigation. This, however, is not the case when they undergo the scrutinizing test recommended by the Council of Trent, and which is resorted to on all occasions before a miracle is officially announced to have taken place.
It is by such means as these, that false impressions are produced upon the minds of the people of England, respecting the religion of Ireland, and the cause of religious liberty is unintentionally impeded.