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sanctify the Sunday: Meditations on death, the pains of hell, and the joys of Paradise. Time should be given to reading the lives of the saints, to saying Matins, and studying the Paternoster and the Creed. Others should be exhorted to enter into God's service, and fathers of families are bound to see that "their children, servants, and families go to church and hear the preachings." 1
By far the most interesting and important part of any inquiry on the subject of pre-Reformation instructions, regards of course their nature and effect. We are asked to believe that the people were allowed to grow up in ignorance of the true nature of religion, and with superstitions in their hearts which the clergy could easily have corrected; but which they, on the contrary, rather fostered as likely to prove of pecuniary value to themselves. To keep the people ignorant (it is said) was their great object, as it was through the ignorance of the lay folk that the clergy hoped to maintain their influence and ascendency, and, it is suggested, to draw money out of the pockets of the faithful. The reverence which was paid at this time to images of the saints, and in an especial manner to the crucifix, is often adduced as proof that the people were evidently badly instructed in the nature of religious worship; and the destruction of statues, paintings, and pictured glass by the advanced reformers is thought to be explained, if not excused, by the absolute need of putting a stop once for all to a crying abuse. The explanation given to the people by their religious teachers on the eve of the religious changes on this matter of devotion to the saints, and of the nature of the reverence to be paid to their representations, may be taken as a good sample of the practical nature of the general instructions imparted in those times. The question divested of all ambiguity is really this: Were the people taught to understand the nature of an image or representation, or were they allowed to regard them as
1 The art of good lyuyng and good deyng. Paris, 1503, f. g. 2.
objects of reverence in themselves—that is, as idols? The material for a reply to this inquiry is fortunately abundant. The Dyalogue of Sir Thomas More was written in 1528, in order to maintain the Catholic teaching about images, relics, and the praying to saints. To this, then, an inquirer naturally turns in the first place for an exposition of the common belief in these matters; for Sir Thomas claims that in his tract he is defending only " the common faith and belief of Christ's Church." "What this is," he says, "I am very sure; and perceive it well not only by experience of my own time and the places where I have myself been to, with the common report of other honest men from all other places of Christendom." After having explained that the commandment of God had reference to idols or images worshipped as gods, and not to mere representations of Christ, our Lady, or the Saints,1 he continues "but neither Scripture nor natural reason forbids a man to reverence an image, not fixing his final intent on the image, but referring the honour to the person the image represents. In such reverence shown to an image there is no honour withdrawn from God; but the saint is honoured in his image, and God in His saint. When a man of mean birth and an ambassador to a great king has high honour done to him, to whom does that honour redound, to the ambassador or to the king? When a man on the recital of his prince's letter puts off his cap and kisses it, does he reverence the paper or his prince? . . . All names spoken and all words written are no material signs or images, but are made only by consent and agreement of men to betoken and signify such things, whereas images painted, graven, or carved, may be so well wrought and so near to the life and the truth, that they will naturally and much more effectually represent the thing than the name either spoken or written. . . . These two words, Christus crucifies, do not represent to us, either to laymen or to the learned,
1 English Works, p. 116.
so lively a remembrance of His bitter Passion as does a blessed image of the crucifix, and this these heretics perceive well enough. Nor do they speak against images in order to further devotion, but plainly with a malicious mind to diminish and quench men's devotions. For they see clearly that no one who loves another does not delight in his image or in anything of his. And these heretics who are so sore against the images of God and His holy saints, would be right angry with him that would dishonestly handle an image made in remembrance of one of themselves, whilst the wretches forbear not to handle villainously, and in despite cast dirt upon the holy crucifix, an image made in remembrance of our Saviour Himself, and not only of His most blessed Person, but also of His most bitter Passion."1
Later on, in the same tract, rejecting the notion that people did not fully understand that the image was intended merely to recall the memory of the person whose image it was, and was not itself in any sense the thing or person, More says: "The flock of Christ is not so foolish as those heretics would make them to be. For whereas there is no dog so mad that he does not know a real coney (i.e., rabbit) from a coney carved and painted, (yet they would have it supposed that) Christian people that have reason in their heads, and therefore the light of faith in their souls, would think that the image of our Lady were our Lady herself. Nay, they be not so mad, I trust, but that they do reverence to the image for the honour of the person whom it represents, as every man delights in the image and remembrance of his friend. And although every good Christian man has a remembrance of Christ's passion in his mind, and conceives by devout meditation a form and fashion thereof in his heart, yet there is no man I ween so good nor so learned, nor so well accustomed to meditation, but that he finds himself more
1 English Works, p. 117.
moved to pity and compassion by beholding the holy crucifix than when he lacks it."1
In his work against Tyndale, More again takes up this subject in reference to the way in which the former in his new translation of the Bible had substituted the word idol for image, as if they were practically identical in meaning. "Good folk who worship images of Christ and His saints, thereby worship Christ and His saints, whom these images represent." Just as pagan worshippers of idols did evil in worshipping them, " because in them they worshipped devils (whom they called gods and whom those idols represented), so Christian men do well in worshipping images, because in them they worship Christ and His holy Saints."2
Roger Edgworth, the preacher, describes at Bristol in Queen Mary's reign how the Reforming party endeavoured to confuse the minds of the common people as to the meaning of the word idol. "I would," he says, "that you should not ignorantly confound and abuse those terms 'idol' and 'image,' taking an image for an idol and an idol for an image, as I have heard many do in this city, as well fathers and mothers (who should be wise) as their babies and children who have learned foolishness from their parents. Now, at the dissolution of the monasteries and friars' houses many images have been carried abroad and given to children to play with, and when the children have them in their hands, dancing them in their childish manner, the father or mother comes and says, ' What nase, what have you there?' The child answers (as she is taught), 'I have here my idol.' Then the father laughs and makes a gay game at it. So says the mother to another, ' Jugge or Tommy, where did you get that pretty idol?' 'John, our parish clerk, gave it to me,' says the child, and for that the clerk must have thanks and shall not lack good cheer. But if the folly were only in the
insolent youth, and in the fond unlearned fathers and mothers, it might soon be redressed." The fact is, he proceeds to explain, that the new preachers have been doing all in their power to obscure the hitherto wellrecognised difference in meaning between an image and an idol. He begs his hearers to try and keep the difference in meaning between an image and an idol clearly before their minds. "An image is a similitude of a natural thing that has been, is, or may be," he tells them. "An idol is a similitude of what never was or may be. Therefore the image of the crucifix is no idol, for it represents and signifies Christ crucified as He was in very deed, and the image of St. Paul with a sword in his hand as the sign of his martyrdom is no idol, for the thing signified by it was a thing indeed, for he was beheaded with a sword." 1
In another part of the Dialogue Sir Thomas More pointed out that what the reforming party said against devotion to images and pilgrimages could be summed up under one of three heads. They charge the people with giving "to the saints, and also to their images, honour like in kind to what they give to God Himself;" or (2) that "they take the images for the things themselves," which is plain idolatry; or (3) that the worship is conducted in a "superstitious fashion with a desire of unlawful things." Now, as to these three accusations, More replies: "The first point is at once soon and shortly answered, for it is not true. For though men kneel to saints and images, and incense them also, yet it is not true that they for this reason worship them in every point like unto God. . . . They lack the chief point (of such supreme worship). That is, they worship God in the mind that He is God, which intention in worship is the only thing that maketh it latria, and not any certain gestures or bodily observance." It would not be supreme or
Sermons, fol. 40.