by Martin Bucer
[superscript notations are linked to the Glossary at the end of the article]
All the whole company of them which at Argentoratum do preche and teache Christ unto the good and godly reders do wyth grace.
Because our most noble and also moste godlye Senatours dyde perceyve that the offensyuns51 and manyfolde evyls, which have been hytherto by the reason of pictures (& ymages), ar nat suffyciently taken away by the only exhortatyons of prechers. And again dyd consydre, that it was nat possyble for any man to decree or commaunde any thing concernyng them more wysely, than god had prescrybed and commanded in his lawe and prophetes: They decreed and ordained and gave forth a commandment, that whatsoever pycture or ymages hath ben wont93 to be worshypped in holye places shulde both they and their aulters9 be clene taken away and avoyded out of syght. Because 4 yeres ago, they had abrogated private masses, and a twelvemoneth ago foure commune18 and open masses. For fyrst consultatyon and delyberatyon of more pure ceremonyes to be brought into their places.
Secondarily they lokinge for certayne counsels and assembles, of whiche it was hoped, that some what shulde be decreed concerning the generall reformation of the churche. And thyrdly the wekeness of certayne parsones, whiche coulde nat yet se, how gret impyete and abusyon is in masses, hadde saved the resydewe of masses. And they hadde suspended theym upon this condityon, that if any man coulde prove by the Scryptures, that they were nat contrary to Christ, they shuld be restored againe everione.
Moreover seyng there are many men, which do nat yet perceyve nor knowe, how moche these thinges do hyndre fayth & trew godly lyvynge: we do easely coniecture, that there are nat a fewe, whiche shall accompte this dede of oure commune18 wele, to be folysshe and wycked presumption. And therefore, for as moch as it is the dutye of all christen men, as moch as in them lyeth to gyve dilygence & to prouvyde, that the thyng whiche they have godly done & wrought, may be accompted & knowen of other men, to be none other wyse than godly done. And also to take good hede, that no man may have occasyon worthely to speke evyl of their goodnesse (as Paul sayth) Herefore we have iudged it to be our parte and dutye which taught that the thynge ought to be done, which nowe our senate hath done in very dede, and brought to passe very dilygently to shewe the cause of all this whole dede: but with as moche brefenesse as maye be, that if it wolde be. we might happely pacify & apease the myndes, at the lest wyse of some persones, whom this discontented, & doubtelesse if we may optayn this one thymg (whiche is denyed to no man, be henever to gret a malefactour) that we maye have the one eare open to here what we shall saye: We feare nat, but that whosoever can fynde in their hertes, and abyde to know these fewe thinges, which we shall allege4 fyrst out of holy scriptures.
Secondarily of the writynges of the fathers. And thyrdly of the decrees of emperours agaynst pyctures and ymages. If it be shewed also of whom, & for what cause & consyderation both they were first brought up in the churches of christen men, and also beynge defended have contynued in the same. We doute nat (I say) but that all suche persones: if it be so, that it be graunted unto them to knowe the truthe, wyll also desyre with us, that this thynge whiche is done here with us, all other churches of christen men, dyd folowe & execute in lyke maner. Therefore we praye and beseche all those, whosoever can nat yet lyke nor alowe this our example (which thinge it is no merucyle46 thoughe it happen to many men, if a man consydre what thinges have everywhere goten strengthe amonge Christen men) that they wyll vouchesafe to rede this shorte lytell treatyse to the ende, which fyrst was made in our maternall tongue, and nowe by oure most welbeloved brother, James Bedrote, is translated into laten. But let them furst before they begynne to rede, call for the spyrite of Christ, which only ledeth into all berytie and truth, & that done let them gyve sentence of us. Christ the Sauyour of mankynde graunt to all those which bere his name, grace to reiect all suche thinges which do call away the mynd from him: that they maye lyfte up their myndes unto him syttynge in heven, and worshippe the father by him, in spiryte and truth. Amen.
Albeit, there are verye manye causes, whyche mighte suffycyently satisfy the minds of christen men, and persuade them to take awaye images out of theire churches: yet no man wyll deny this cause to be without dout chefe and princypall, because it is forbydden in the fyrste of goddes commaundementes, that any maner of images shulde be had among his peple. For thus we rede in the scrypture:
“I am that everlastyng god. I am thy god whih have delyvered the from Aegypt. the house of thraldom and bondage. Thous shalt have no straunge goddes besydes me. Thou shalt make unto thy selfe no graven or carven image, nor the symilytude of any maner thinge which is above in heven or beneth in the erth: nor of those thynges whiche are in the waters under the erthe. Thou shalt nat bowe thy self before them, neither worship them: For I am thy lord god everlasting, stronge & mighty, punysshynge the fautes of the fathers in the children, even unto the thyrd generatyon of them which do hate me. & powringe forthe my goodnes, even unto the thousanth generation of them which do love me, and do observe & kepe my commaundementes.” Lo, here are 2 laws of the lord set forth unto the whiche natte without good cause among other, do chalenge unto them selves the fyrst place. The fyrst of them requyreth of us, that we do take this eternall and everbeynge god (so as he is in very dede) for oure god. The later doth nat only forbyd straunge goddes but also it forbyddeth bothe theymages of them, & also of all other thynges, to be hadde amonge the people of god, unto which people doutlesse, that is to wytte78 unto all true belevers, all such maner preceptes do apperteyne. For these ar the trewe Israelites, as it appereth in the scryptures. For Christ came nat to breke the lawe: but to fulfyll it fyrst of any man. Nowe in very dede ther ar annexed to the lawe of god, & also enclosed and conteyned in it, whatsoever things do bring any cause or occasyon unto the love of god or of the neyghboure, to shewe or put forth it selfe more and more.
In dede god commaunded very many thynges to his olde people which were greatly avaylable & helpynge to the princypall poynte and ende of his lawe. But after that christ was ones exalted to the right hande of his father, and the holighost was sent all abrode into the worlde, we ar delyvered & free from a great parte of suche maner legall ceremonyes. As for example it was goddes wyll & commaundement, that the Jewes shulde lyve togyther by theym selves, abstaynyng from companyeng and dealynge with the gentyles (for he dyd nat yet vouchesafe that they shuld have knowlege of hys doctryne) to thentent, no dout of it, that they shulde by somoche, be the more obedyent to his commaundement, by how moche they were the lesse corrupted & infected with the company of the gentyls, worshippyng false goddes. But after that, the wall whiche departed the one people from the other was throwen downe, & both the gentyls & also the Jewes grewe togyther in to one people. This lawe whiche forfended the Israelytes, companyenge with the gentyls. coulde do no servyce not profyte at all. Wherfore it was convenyent that it shulde be abrogated. Suche another lyke thynge is cyrcumcysyon, & also the rytes, ceremonyes of purifycations, the choyse of metes, the diversyties of places & persones, & whatsoever besydes these is red to have ben commaunded in the olde lawe, concernynge outwarde sacryfyces. For these thynges in as moche as nether fayth nor charytie doth nowe requyre them: it shalbe lawfull & free for us either to observe & kepe them, orels to leve them undone. For the trewe honoure & worshippynge of god, which hath ben by the prechynge of the Apostels indifferently publysshed to the whole worlde, wyll in no wise suffre it selfe to be thruste so narowly into suche maner streyghtes of places, dayes, metes, and persons.
But as concernynge ymages, the thyng is farre other wyse: For these beynge ones forbidden must nedes stande alwayes styll forbydden, specyally for this cause. Bycause the trewe honouring of god can nat be but either mynisshed, orels dyverse wayes letted: as sone as we shall suffre the sayde ymages, contrary to the commaundement of god in churches, or in other places, where they be honoured or els maye be honoured. For substancyall & parfyte fayth, & the parfyte honouryng of god requyreth, that we shulde do our dilygence to cause this only god to be knowen in all places, that we shulde drede and honour him: that we shulde in all places and at all tymes with full mouth, prayse & magnify the workes of him alone. But ymages ar so farre from helpynge unto this thyng, that the same do dyverse wayes hyndre & let every man from the trewe honouring of god. For who is he (I beseche you) whom ymages set up in churches, or in other more narowe places, have nat rather made neglygent about the trewe honouring of god, than holpen him any whyt to honoure god trewly. Ye, moreover (if it be lawfull to speke the truth) the true honour of god, beynge subverted and overthrowen, they have quite blotted out of menes myndes the remembrance of these thinges, for whose cause it is fayned, that they were fyrst set up. And though it be so, that other whyles peradventure52 by the occasyon of these godly adthonytours3, some thought and remembrance of god doth come into our mynde: yet the same thought is soner banyshed away, than that it can gether sufficient rotes in the brestes or myndes of men. For as it is but a thyng of mans devising, and receyved without the commaundement of god: even so was it never able to move or stere oure hertes & mynds with the quycke & lyvely perceyvynge, either of the workes or of the benefytes of god. By the reason of which thynge it hath come to passe, that no place hath ben lefte to the lyvely admonition, which is by the creatures of god: nat withstandinge that these sayd creatures, bycause in all places we do se them, & handell them ought also in all places to styre up and renewe in us the remembrance of goddes infynite goodnesse.
Brefly, there is no cause, why we may more rightfully impute, shall I say or neglygence, orels our comtempte towards the trewe honour which is acceptable to god, unto any other thynge than unto images. For after that these began to be worshipped in certayne places, forthwith flowed in an unmeasurable see of all evyls. For though we passe over, that god by the reason herof, was many wayes grevously offended & displeased, because contrary to his open & evydent commuandement, nat only we have worshipped them, but also puttyng our trust in such maner worshippinge have persuaded unto oure selves, that herewith we do wynne to our selves the favour of god, & trustyng unto these vayne & tryflynge workes, have either utterly nat mynded, or at the lest wyse, have lothsomly & disdaynefully done those workes, with whiche only a christen mynde may be pleasynge and acceptable to god. And who is he but he knoweth that by the reason hereof, very many men have ben so tyckled82 with a merveylouse47 vayne hope, to get of the lorde I wot94 nat what great hepes and treasures of merits: that if thet had nat thought these maner tryfles to be most acceptable to god. Nat the godesse Pitho55 herselfe, with all her swete eloquence, shuld have ben able to bringe them in mynde, beyng slowe inough, & to moche unto all other workes of charyte besydes, to have pleasure to lasshe out so great tychesse81, partly upon the makyng and partely upon the payntynge, gyldynge, or otherwyse garnysshynge and deckynge of ymages.
Besydes all this, I say (which is a thinge more to be sorowed for) this vayne honouryng of images hath engendred such a confydencea nd trust in a greate sorte of men, that those workes which ar in very dede good & godly, layde clene asyde: they have taken occasyon to lyve a gret dele the more at large and more lycentiously, bycause they ar perswaded & in stedfast belefe, that with these workes they have so gotten the favour of god, that at all other synnes72 & vyciouse lyvynge, he doth wynke and wyll nat se them, & as though havynge lybertie graunted ti synne72 unppunysshed, they might gyve themselves at large to all maner vyces, even as they lyst43 themselves. If this thynge were nat well inough knowen unto all men by experyence: we coulde prove it with suche maner examples & proufes, that even he that were blynde, shuld perceyve playnly, that ther hath nat lyghtely42 any other more perilouse mischefe cropen21 into the churche, thn this of hounourynge ymages.
Who is he than, that doth nat here somwhat smell and perceyve the false wyly craftes of oure olde enemy, which hath never cessed to drive the worlde unto suche madnesse, that puttyng away the true honour of god, men shuld receyve and embrace this honour, which maketh them to go the cleane contrary waye from god, disceyvyng all maner men with the vayne apparence & outward syght of ymages, as though (god wot94) men by them were put in remembrance of godly thiges, whan in very dede by then nothinge els hath ben brought in, but an innumerable hepe of all evylls. Moreover, that man, who heven, erth, & whatsoever is conteyned in them, & moste specyally man, which is created to the image of god, fynally whom god himselfe, the worker of all these thynges, doth nat waken & stere up to love him & prayse him: no man, unlesse he be madder than a man of Bedlem, wyll beleve that this man wyll be moved greatly with deed and unsensyble images. Yf so many workes of god, if so many creatures, no lesse profytable than merveylouse47, which set the goodnesse of god before thyne eyes, can nat enflame the, thou arte doutlesse to unsensyble for to be admonysshed and styred71 ever of unsensyble ymages. The goodnesse of god shineth & appereth in all his creatures. There is nothynge, but it expresseth god hiself. All the world is full of thynges, which do nat cesse to put us in remembrance of oure duty, that is to wyt, that we shuld contynue to be unto other men as god is unto us, & that we shulde resemble him by a certaine endles goodnesse. But verily that thys thing hath the lesse esely ben brought to passe hitherto, we may thanke ymages for a grete parte thereof: for suche expenses which ought to have ben made upon poore nedy folke (whom as beynge the very lyve images of god, it was convenyent to have socoured & made our frendes with our lyberalyte) we have wastfully bestowed upon stockes and stones. You se therefore that the trew honour, & that which only is accepted to god, hath ben by no other thinge moch backed & hindred as it hath by the vayne superstition of images: & that the devil bi these craftes hath brought in the contempt of god, the overthrowing of faith a more large lybertie to do whatsoever one lyst43 unpunysshed, false confydence in merytes, lothfulnesse to exercyse charite towardes our neybours: brefly in excedynge greate hepe of all maner evylles hath ben brought in: & to make an ende, a wyndowe opened to all maner vyce & synne72: which thinge although it might be esely pved58 by examples out of nombre: yet at this present tyme let one example of the king of Israell suffyce. For howe many so ever of those kyngs thistorie of the Byble doth nombre among wycked & ungodly persons, the same kyngs it doth recorde to have ben also idolaters & worshippers of ymages. On the other syde agayne, whosoever ar commended for their love and exercyse of vertue & godlynesse: they wolde gyve evydent testymonie & wytnesse by distroyenge & ryddig ymages shortly out of the way, the they were ruled by the holyghost, and coulde nat but hate all maner thynges, which are abomynable in the syght of god.
And as for that which some men do fayne, that ymages are the bookes of laye men. (for so they say) it is nat onely a weyke reason, but also a folysthe: as who shuld say, that god, of all most wysest, and which is very wysdoome itself, either dyd nat know these bokes, or els through malyce dyd withhold from his owne people such maner bokes & monumentes, whereby they might be put in remembrance of godly thinges. Forsoth it is a wicked thynge, even ones to thynke, that god (which according to his goodness towardes us, lefte none of those thynges unshewed, & as they say, poynted with his fynger which might help to further & encrease the knowledge of him selfe, (& to styrre us up also to the love of him selfe) I can nat tell of what evyll wyll & hatred had kept this worshippynge of ymages from his owne people For nat only he dyd nat teche the worshyppinge of images, but also he dyd with expresse and plaine wordes utterly forbyd it, as it appereth evydently by the fyrst lawe of all. Nowe what is more unreasonable and unlykely, than if the use of ymages be so profytable, as these men do fayne it to be, that god dyd nothynge esteme25 theym, seynge that in the meane season33 he had begon to tech his people, beynge yet but yonge begynners, & having but small knolege with so many outward thinges, even as one shuld enduce a chylde, seing also that we wold his works and benefytes to be openly knowne by so many wonderfull myracles, and by so many manyfolde ceremonies., besydes this, dyd induce the peple with holy dayes, & other rytes innumerable. Fynally lefte nothing behynde to the shadowing & fyguringe of himselfe largely unto them. I say, how fortuned it, if ymages be so profitable, that god for all this insomoch dyd nothinge esteme25 them that he wold in no wise suffre them to be among his people. Syth73 than it is so, that it was nat lawful for the people, which was yet rude and ignorante to have any maner ymages, althoughe the lorde dyd by many other dyverse ceremonies by lytle & lytle teche and facyon the same people. Howe moch lesse shall it be lawfull for us, whom the truth succeded into the place of shadowes, hath nowe made free frome outwarde ceremonies, requyryng non other honour or servyce of us, than that whiche standeth in spirit and truth.
Let us therfore have ymages, nat of stone, nat of wood, nat graven, or cast in any moulde (al whiche god hath ones for ever forbydden, as well to us, as to the Jues) But let us rather consyder the verye worde of god, let us occupye and busye oure selves in it bothe night and daye: Besydes this, let all the whole frame of this world be unto us amonument and token to put us in remembrance of god, that whatsoever trewe godlynesse is remaynynge in us, it maye nat by the workes of men, but by the workes of god wel & after a godly facyon consydre, enflame & kyndle us to the praysyng & lovyng of him.
Nowe as touchyng to this reason, that some men do make for to excuse the use of ymages, bycause (as they say) after that god takige the nature of man upon him, had vouchesafed to lyve amonge men, and to be nayled fast to the crosse, and wylled the knowledge of him selfe to be egall22 publysshed and declared unto all men: there is no causey it shuld not be lawfull to use ymages, but yet most specyally of Christ crucified, to the entent that we might oftentymes be put in remembrance, how by his deth we have gotten redemptyon & salvatyon. Verily we do nat denye, whatsoever holsome & profitable thinge hath come to us by the deth of Christ, which he suffryng whan he was conversaunte amonge men, reconsyled mankinde to his father: yet that natwithstandyng the same Christ dyd playnly witnesse, that his bodily presence was nothynge profytable. It is the spyrit (sayth he) that quyckeneth. It was therefore for our profyte, that he shulde bodily departe from us. And for that cause after his resurrection he ascended up to heven to the right hande of his father, to the ende that he might cary us also up to the same place, if it be so that we have rysen with him by fayth. Besydes this, whan Paule, according to the same sentence, dothe openly esaye, that he doth no lengre know Christ, as touchinge the flesshe: he sygnifyeth rthat another maner of worshippynge is requyred of us, that is to wyt, a spirytuall honour and suche one, which may effectually and strongly transforme oure heartes, which thinge syth73 it can nat be done by the benefyte & helpe of ymages, let us saye a due66 for ever to these tryfelynge & unprofytable helpes, which ar rather hynderers of true fayth & godly lyvynge, than monumentes & tokens to put us in remembraunce of godly thynges.
It is undoutedly starke madnesse to desyre to be put in remembrance of the benefytes of Christ by images, whan Christ himselfe ought to worke the same in our myndes, which in us & all creatures worketh all thinges. Let us (I saye) have this Jesus nayled faste upon the crosse, set up before the eyes of our mynde, as oftentymes as he tryeth us & layeth his crosse upon us, by pacyence of trybulations & adversyte. Let Christ so possesse & fyll the brest of a christen man, of whom he hath his name, that ther be no thinge but it do put him in remembrance of his lorde, the creatour & maker, the governour, and the savyour, & preserver of al thinges. Wherefore so oftentymes as he loketh up towardes the skye, he can nat chuse but remembre forthwith his savyour Christe, which raygneth above all hevens on the right hande of his father. As sone as he beholdeth the sonne, by & by he thinketh upon Christ the sonne of rightuousnes, and the lyght of the worlde, which with his beames lyghteneth the herte. Whan he seeth a man, he remembreth that Christ was made man for our sake. If he do mete48 with a kynge or a prince, anon5 Christ the kynge of kynges, and lorde of lordes, is in hys remembrance. Whan he hereth any precher or techer, to, streight ways70 his mynde is upon Christe the hevenly doctour and maister: as the garment done upon the body profyte & honestye: even so doth a godly mynde thinke that Christ is the very weddynge garment, whom all those persons have done on theym selves, howe many soever have ben baptysed. A christen man never eteth or drinketh, but forthwith he is put in remembrance that christ is the only and the very meate, which fedeth and nouryssheth us into eternall lyfe. If at any tyme he doth occupye water, forthwith it cometh to his mynde, that Christ is the fountayne, out of which we may draw drinke agaynst unfaciable85 thurst. Brefly, so oftentymes as he shall see either a shepe or a shepherde, a gate, a way, a vynetree, or a stone, forthwith he conceyveth an image and symilytuve of his lorde christ which wyllyngly suffred him selfe to be slayne & offred up for the reconcylyation of the worlde, which bosteth12 him selfe to be a good shepherde, whiche is the waye and the yate96, by whiche men go & entre in to heven, which wytnesseth hiselfe to be the trewe vynetre88, the cornerstone, & set for a foundatyon. Finally, if thou before bred with adversyte, orels seest any other man to be in afflyction & calamyte: besydes this, if thou be troubled with passyons & noughtye affectyons & desyres: forthwith (if there be any percell53 of Christe in the) set afore the eyes of thy mynde, bothe the deth & the resurrectyon of Christ, & stedfastly and depely consydre them, by the meanes wherof thou maist in suche wyse arme and fence thy mynde with complete harnesse, so sure and so full of moste effectuall consolations, that thou shalt be able casely14 to abyde and overcome whatsoever adversytie shall fall unto the.
So than if after this maner & facyon we wold have lust and pleasure to lerne Christe parfytely in all thinges, & his workes with a certaine lyvely felynge and iugement of the minde, which shuld transsforme & chaunge us: without dout the love of god shuld be merveylously augmented in us, & we shulde also (as it were in a glasse) see, with what comlynesse17, & after what maner & facyon the course of this lyfe ought to be passed over & brought to an ende, which thinge none ymages can ever be able to teache us. For these (whatsoever maner they be) can nat set before thyne eyes any symulytude of god: but rather with a vayne imagynation, whan thou wenest91 that thon arte warme with a certayne hote love & desyre, to consydre and thynke upon godly thinges: sodenly this heate & ferventnesse vanisheth awaye, and it shall make the more neglygent to all trew works semely67 for a christen man, than ever thou wast before. We do therefore pituously56 disceyve our owne selves with this flyeng28 devotion, as thei call it For whan we have thought our selves to be fed & full of better thinges: we fynde by experyence, sooner than we wolde have thoughte, that we have ben fedde with wynde (as it is sayde in the proverbe) and that we are emptye and voyde of meate, whiche doth nourysshe and make fatte in vertue and godly lyvynge.
But as for these persones, whiche trustynge and berynge theymselves bolde upon the law of christen lybertie, doo excuse ymages, sayenge, that for this cause they ar nat unlawfull, bycause we maye use them lawfully at our owne plesure, as well as we may other outward thinges, & therefore that it is better that there be imags of Christ than to have ymages of prophane thynges: I wolde that these men shuld fyrst lerne, that whatsoever ymages are honoured or maye be honoured, ar nat to be compted in the nombre of outward thinges, & therfore they ar used both to the iniury of the divyne maiesty, which only ought to be honoured, & also to the labefactacion38 & decay of the fayth. There is no cause therfore why the consyderation of christen libertye, may suffre in any wyse suche maner ymages. For the lybertie of a Christen man, is nat a lycence to do what soever he lyste43, but it is rather a voluntary execution of vertuouse workes, which ar done by the motyon of charytie, & nat by the commaundmente and compulsyon of the lawe.
Nowe as touchyng the obiectyou of some men, that there is no cause why it may nat be lawfull for us to use pyctures & standynge ymages. For lykewyse we wyse men, & those persones which have ben sufficiently instructed in the trew doctryne & fayth of Christ, ar nothing offended nor do take any hurte by images: even so weke persones, and suche as be nat yet well skylled in godlye thinges, eyther whan they have better instruction and are taught the truthe, shall be nothynge hurte by the reason of ymages, or if they be sturdy & such as wyll nat be taught, they shalbe no whyt better, though all images were clene taken away. So than neither for the weke persons cause neither for their cause whiche are parfyte, is it necessarye to take away ymages. Doutlesse, whosoever with suche forked reasons do colleyte16 to defende & mayntayne images: they have nat verye well consydered nor waied the counsell and entent of Paule, whan he saith “All thynges ar lawfull for me: but all thynges are nat expedient or profytable. All thynges are lawfull to me: but all thynges do nat edyfye.” (1 Cor. 9) And agayne in another place, “knowledge maketh a man proud, but charyte doth edify. Also there is no knowledge in all men. And agayne: Take hede that your lybertye be nat an occasyon of offense and hurte to them which ar weke. (1 Cor. 8) We do nat saye naye verily: but that there is nothynge, whiche letteth39 Images to be hadde, so that they be natte worshypped. (1 Cor. 8) We do graunte also, that carvers and paynters crafte, are craftes both gyven by god, and also lawfull. But syth73 it is so that in churches every were, ymages are honoured, and namely roodes62. It is nat possyble though thou prech never so ofte, nor never so ernestly unto the people, that ymages ar nat to be honoured: but that there wyll be some, whiche wyll hold on styl to put of their cappes unto them orels to lowte and make curtesye to them. For suche is the strength of an olde rooted custome, and the devyll agayne exercyseth and putteth forthe his craftes & disceytes so busely, that they which be ones snarled in his bondes, wyll never refrayne from worshippinge of ymages. Now both the occasyons and also the provocations & entisementes of al such maner evyls must nedes be taken awaye, if ymages were ones put downe. And albeit truth it is, whiche they saye comenly, that where this vayne perswasyon of images is nat plucked out of menes myndes by the word of god, there can nat the same be taken awaye neither by puttynge downe of ymages: yet is it nat generally trew, so that we may thinke it to be trewly sayde by all maner men indyfferently, as moch by one as by a nother. For by wicked men you maye well and truly say the same, which contynue always lyke to them selves, & chaunge nat their mynde, whether thou doest with wordes make playne the abomynation of ymages with wordes, orels dost in very dede ryd all ymages oute quite of syght. But to them that are weke, & in whom there is remaynyge any, be it never so lytell sparke of godly love and reverence: it shall nat be unprofytable nor in vaine, to witnes and confyrme their doctryne with their dede, that is for to saye, after that thou hast discrybed & paynted ymages so as they oughte to be with theyr owne coloures, borowed of the scrypture, than dilygently to provide, that the same also be ryd oute of mennes syght. For by that dede weke men shalbe confyrmed, as in other thinges, so lyke wyse in this. For thy techynge shalbe all in vayne, unless the example of thy dede do forthwith folowe, which shall cause thy doctrine to be of strength and auctoryte. Paule doutles thought it nat sufficient that the Corinthians knewe an idole to be nothing: but he wold also that the same people shuld i any wyse absteyne from etynge of the meates offred to idoles, and that for the weke persones sake, to whom full knowledge of suche maner thinges was natte yet gyven. Therefore he hadde the Corinthyans to confyrme and fortifye this doctryne with the auctoritye of their dede, and to refrayne nat onely from eatynge of the fleshe offred up in sacrifyce to idoles: but also from all maner thynges that might appere evyll, or anye maner waye mighte offende weke persones.
(1 Co. 9) For albeit he gave them leave to eat all maner fleshe, even that whiche was offered to Idoles, if it were solde in the fleshe market: yet in the churches where they were offred uppe to ydoles, he wolde in no wyse graunte them lybertye to eat suche metes.
Even lyke wyse do we iuge, that it is to be thought of images, whiche lykewyse, as peradventure52 som man maye have at home within his owne house, so that it be done without offendynge of his neyghboure: even so the use of theym, in churches or in other places, where either they maye be worshypped or offende & hurt their neyghbour is no wyse longer to be suffred.
Paule doutlesse had lever41 never (1 Co. 8) eate the fleshe in all his lyfe, than to gyve hys brother occasyon to be offended: And shall we carelesse wynke at so many occasyons bothe of offensyons and also of ydolatrye. If Christ dothe byd the eye to be plucked oute of the heed, which is an obstacle & impedyment to us: how moch more than ought pyctures and ymages to be plucked out of the churches, by which we do nat only offende weke parsones, but also do sette forthe oure religyon to be scorned & evyl spoken of amonge the Turkes & iues which do convince, that in this behalfe we do agaynst the princypall poyntes of the christen fayth. Wolde god that with this superstitton & vayne honourynge of ymages we dyd nat stoppe & kepe awaye a great menye bothe of the iewes and also of the Turkes, from receyvynge and takinge of the crysten fayth upon them.
Now, if any man wyll obiecte that for the abuse (which peradventure52 no man wyll denye) ymages are nat altogyther to be taken away (for els the souper68 of the lorde, and baptyme, with many other thinges, which ar encombred with dyverse abuses, ought also in lyke maner to be abrogated) this answere we do make unto him: That christen men shulde nat wynke at any abuse, & therfore whatsoever is brought into the church, contrary to scripture, it is to be amended, & to be tryed by the squyer69 & rule of goddes worde, if any thing doth nat agree with it, it is to be cut away, with all spede that may be. And onely that thinge, which is right, whiche is holesome32, is to be restored to his owne place, and taken in his owne place, specyally in the souper68 of the lorde, in baptyme, & other thinges also whiche have ben instytuted by the lorde. But ymages ar all maner wayes to be taken awaye, nat only for the abuses, but moch more for the worde of god, to which they ar playne contrarye and repugnaunte. For we can nat ymagyn anye maner utylitie, which may be sayd to have come by the reason of ymages. On the other syde, that the superstityon of images doth draw with it an hepe of all evylles: we have here to fore decclared.
To make shorte, god never forbad any of those thinges, wherof any commodytte or profyte might tyse83 but rather whatsoever thinge is profytable, and may make us better, he taught full as largely, as wytnesseth Paule verye evydently. (2 Timothy 3).
But if any folyssthe wyse man both thynke, that ymages ar therfore nat to be taken awaye, bycause he fereth that those weake persones, which now supersticiously do worshippe ymages, wolde be offended with the puttinge downe of ymages: this man doutlesse, whyles he goth aboute to avoyde from the smoke (as it is sayde in the proverbe) is fallen into the flaming fyre. For whyles he feareth to offende disperate persons: with hurtefull offensyons of ymages, he backeth and hindreth better men whiche have begonne to ronne the waye of the lorde withoute anye tournynge agayne.
Who so ever dothe this, shall be gyltye of that cryme, of whiche Paule accuseth Peter, in the epystle to the Galatyans. For Peter whyles he was afrayde to offende certayne Jewes of Hierusalem at Antyoche, and for that cause wolde natte use the lybertye of etynge all maner meates, as he was wonte93 to doo before: Paule withstode him to his face in the presens of the whole multytude, bycause he walked nat the ryght way accordynge to the truth of the gospell. For as moch as was in him with his unwyse desyre to avoyde offfendynge the Jewes, he febled26 the right fayth, & also nourysthed the incredulyte and unbelefe of them, whom he studyed to please in the meane season33. Brefly he dyd noting els, than whyles he wente about unwysly to avoyde one ioperdy34, he cast himself into twayne80. Doutlesse after this maner to desyre to avoid occasyons of offensyons51, is the full cause of offensyons51. And wold god it were nat of so great strength as it is amonge very many men now in these days. For a man shall se very many men which bycause they wold ymagen some honest cloke and coloure15 of their unbelefe do fayne them selves bothe to do & also to eschew very many thinges lest they might gyve any man occasyon to be offended, whan in very dede they do it rather to kepe the crosse of Christ from themselves. For aht this fayned desyre to wyn certayne curable persons, they shifte well for themselves, that they may neither have the evyll wyll of desperate persons, neyther any displeasure or hurt done unto them by the same. We do nat deny verily, that suche maner of doctryne and lyvynge is most to be embraced and folowed, whiche is an obstacle or lettynge40 to no man, whiche doth purposely angre no man, whiche doth turn no mans mynde away from the truth: yet neverthlesse great dilygence ought to be given in the meane season33, that none of those thyngs be lefte of and omytted wherby the glorye of god and the helth of our neyghtbours, may be furthered and encreased. Christe himselfe is the stomblynge stone unto the unbelevers: but he is a precyouse stone, unto them which are fore ordeyned to lyfe. (1 Pe. 2)
After that we ourselves do know the wyll & pleasure of the lorde, we must dilygently labour that other men also may lyke and prayse the same, and that other men also maye have luste and pleasure to confyrme theymselves unto the same, yf we can nat obtayne thus than ought we rather to forsake father & mother & all our goodes: yea, moreover to renounce our owne selves than to resyst or grudge against the wyll & pleasure of god. But most communely we se it come to passe, that a great parte of men have lever41 both to get, & to mayntayne & kepe the favour of men with the minisshement of goddes honour: albeit, yet it were better to wyn both the favour of god and also of men, with honest maners & honest lyvynge, and with redy desyre & wyl to do good unto all men, if we wold begyn this maner of wynnynge the favour of men and in other thinges wold lyve in this worlde faultlesse, as nere as we coulde doutlesse there shulde be no man so parcyall in iugement, but he wolde by and by gather in mynde, that he wolde neither presumptuously not without good cause done of us, that we have banyshed pictures and ymages cleane out of churches. But wherto shulde we make many wordes, syth73 it is evydent ynough nowe, that ymages do dyminyshe the true honour of god, and that it is nat possyble, but that weke men be gretly offended, and do take moch hurt by them. For they (I meane weke persons) wolde passe lytell upon the takynge awaye of ymages, if they wer taught playnly for what consyderation and skyll they were taken awaye. On the other syde if they be nat taken awaye, forthwith they conceyve an opinion, as though it were nat laufull to put them away. Nowe after obstinate and uncurable persons, nat onely we can nat with saving, and wynkyng at images, bringe theym to goodnesse: but also with oure sufferaunce and slacknese we shal confyrme and establysshe them the more in idolatyre.
Brefely, if thou haste so great desyre and love to wynne manye men to thy lorde, ordre thy lyfe so that other men may in very dede see and perceyve experynce and proufe that Christ is alyve in the, and that all thy dedes and sayengs do breth and savoure of him. Without doubte, if thou wylt ordre thy selfe in this wyse. thou shalt cause even wicked men also, that they can nat chuse, but at the lestwyse closely in their hertes confesse (their conscyence dryvynge theym therunto) that thou wast nat only moved, but also compelled by the zele98 of god to put away images. And though in the meane season33, many thynges be wanting in us: yet nat withstandynge we oughte to be nevertheless dilygent, to provyde that all suche maner thinges be putte awaye, whiche forever are repugnaunte to the worde of god.
Let us take no thoughte for anye maner thynge, which may cast us out any maner way of the favoure of men: & let us go streyght forth, and take the nexte waye to fulfyll the rule of a Christen mans lyfe, For a true Christen man, although he doth in many thinges acknowledge himselfe to be a synner (as he is in very dede) yet doth he neither alowe nor excuse any maner thing which doth minysshe or deface the honour of his lord & maister Christ.
Of the abuse of ymages we have spoken somewhat here to fore. But if any man do somwhat dilygently consyder & way the mater, he shall perceyve undoutedly, that ymages are fallen into a farre greter abuse amonge Christen men, than ever was amonge any heathen men. Images have gyven answeres wt95 us, they have wepte, one of them hath ben thought more holy and of more power than another. One more lovely & more gratious than another, a man shalt fynde some whiche in a certayne place have shewed forth theor power in workyng of miracles, whan they have ben translated & removed into another place, they have cessed to do the same. Of the ymage at Lauretum and dyverse other, syth73 the mater is knowen wyll inoughe: we nede nat to saye anythynge at all. And I praye you, howe moche richesse in the meane season33 hath this superstition of ymages gathered togyther, nat without plentuouse occasyon of offensyons51: which sayd ryches the glotony & pompe of a sort of unthrifty belyes hath destroyed & wastefully consumed. In as moche therfore, as trewe, full and perfyte fayth can nat suffre so great abhominatyon, & syth73 it can nat be plucked up by the rootes with the worde alone (for with the goodly & gloriouse apparaunce of holynesse, and also by the reason of long custome and contynuance it hath gotten so great auctoritye & estimatyon to it selfe) it is to be put awaye by the dede selfe. And wherto nedeth it to suffre those things amonge christen men, whiche as they can nat but engendre evylles out of nombre, so can they cause no hope nor lokynge of any maner profyte to come by them unto any man, unlesse it be to the ydle visciouse belyes that receyven the offrynges87. It did become us christen men most of al to be moved & styred71 with the worde of god, which doth so playnly and so expressely forbyd all maner of ymages. Whatsoever is redde concernynge ymages in the lawe, in the Prophettes, in the Pslames dothe moch more rightefully apperteyne unto us whiche are taughte by Christe that god is to be worshipped in spyrite and truthe and that Christe also is nat to be worshypped in ymages of wood, of stone, of sylver or of other metall: but that he is to be worshypped raither syttynge on the right hande of his father, and that all the membres of the sayde Christ, that is to wytte78 & oure neyghbours are to be socoured with dedes of charite.
And these fewe thinges amonge many it hath lyked us to borowe of the scryptures agaynst pyctures and images, which scriptures alone, a christen man hathe regarde unto, as unto the shote ankre75 in all thinges both which are to bed esyred, & also which ar to be eschewed. But yet bycause it can nat be but pleasure and conforte to the same Christen man what soever eyther doctryne or examples he shall fynde in the sayntes of god, which is consonant and agreyenge to the scryptures. We have thought it expedyente to bringe forth a fewe thynges of the writyngs of the fathers, by which the godly reder shall easely perceyve that the apostles, martyrs, and all the best lerned & most auncyent fathers taughte the same thinge, whiche is ordeyned & commanded by the word of god, untyll such tyme as by the Gothyans & the Vandalyans74, the chrysten faythe and the more pure knowledge of the truthe began to be gretly minysshed and brought in dekay. For in the time of saynte Hieronymie31, and certayne yeres after him, we doo nat rede that anye bysshop beynge of wyse iugement, dyd suffre pictures or images in the churches of christen men. Of whiche thynge Epiphanius, the moste holy byshoppe of Salamine, in the yle97 of Cyprus sheweth an evydent examople in his epystle to Johan the bysshoppe of Hierusalem, which epystle saynte Hieronyme translated into Latyn. For thus he writeth: Whan we wente togyther to the holye place which is called Bethell, to make a collectyon there for the poore people with the, accordynge to the custome and maner of the churche: and I was come unto the vyllage which is called Anablatha & as I passed by dyd see a burnynge lampe, and I had asked what place it was, & had lerned that it was a churche, and had entred into it to praye. I dyd fynde there a vayle hangynge in the church dores, coloured and paynted, & havyng as it were the image of Christ, or some saynt (for I do nat well remembre whose ymage it was) I say whan I had sene that in the churche of Christ, there dyd hange the ymage of a man agaynst the auctoritie of the scriptures: I dyd cutte it, & gave counsel rather to the kepers of that place, that they shulde wynde some poore man that were deed, & bury him in it. And they agayne grudgynge, sayd by me: If he had mynded to cutte it, it was reason & right that he shuld gyve another vayle and chaunge this, which thinge whan I had herde, I promysed that I wolde gyve one, and send it forthwith. However I deserted the sending of it som what the longer, by the reason that I entended for to sende a very good vaile in the sted of it, & I thought that I shulde have had one sent unto me out of Ciprus. Nowe I have sent suche one as I coulde get, & I pray you, that you wyll byd the prestes of that same place, to receyve this vayle of the bringer, which we have sent, and afterwarde to command, that no suche maner vayles, which ar contrary to our relygyon, be hangen up in the churche of Christ. Lo, here the sentence of the moost vertuouse bysshop in which he gyveth iugemente by expresse and playne wordes, that it is agaynst scrypture & our relygion, that ymages of christ ar had in the churches of christen men & whereof we may gather evidently that in this mater, bothe Jerome & also other bisshops were of the same mynde that Epiphanius was of. Herfore Eusebius also reherseth, as a strange & an unwonte thing, that in Cesarea Philippe (in which cyte the woman was borne, whom Christ healed from the fluxe of blode) He dyd see two images of brasse, the one of the woman, thother of christ our savyour, whiche ymages yet were set up at churche dores, nat in the churche selfe, as the same Eusebius recordeth. And at the last, he sayeth thus: It is no merucyle46 if those persones of the gentyles which dyd beleve, were sene for suche benefytes as they had receyved of the savyor, to offre as you wolde saye, suche a maner rewarde or recompense, syth73 it is so that we do see ymages & tables of the apsotles Peter & Paule & also of Christ our savyour to be carven and paynted, even these dates also we have sene moreover olde ymages of them kepte of certayne persones, which thinge me thinke is observed, according to the custom of the gentyles, without any dyfference, bycause they ar wont93 in suche wyse to honour them, whom they thought worthye of honour. For that the armes or ymages of olde men are reserved and kepte for a remembrance to theym that shall come after: it is a sygne and token both of theyr honoure, and also of those mennes love towwardes them. Thus sayth Eusebius in the ecclesyasticall historie. The vii boke the xiiii.ca.
Hereof we do easely perceyve, that the ymages which Eusebius dyd se were set up, nat within the churches, but at the church dores.
Agayne, nat to thentent that they shulde be honored, but rather that they shulde be a testmony & recorde howe great & valiaunt men they were somtyme, & therfore worhty to be had in perpetuall memorie, whose ymages were reserved & kepte: All whiche thynges neverthelesse Eusebius dothe not hyde, to have taken their begynning of the gentyles & heathen people. But what thynke ye that he wolde have sayd if he hadde seen ymages set up in churches, and no lesse worshypped of christen men, than ever they were of any gentyles, whiche thynge (a lacke for petye54) it is undoubted both than to have be done: yea, & to be done even now in these dayes also. Of these thynges therfore we may gather what is that cause, why the old fathers dyd write nothyng agaynst suche maner of images for there was no man at that tyme whiche dyd so moche as ones dreme, that ever so gret a multytude of images shulde crepe into churches as hath cropen21 in: for asmoch as they knowe it to be forbydden with so open and evydent wordes of god, and playne testimonies of scrypture. But agaynst the ymages of the gentyles, a man shal fynde many thinges written by the fathers, very connyngly20 & eloquently bycause the supersticyon of theym dyd reygne everywhere even at the same tyme, in which those holy men were lyvynge. Yea and was defended of the gentyles with the same wepens, with whiche both in oure tyme, and also in the tyme of our fathers, certayne christen men have gone aboute to defende & maynteyn their images. What so ever thynge Lactantius wrot against the idoles & images of the gentyles, we may by very good right apply the same againste our images: albeit in his tyme (as we have sayde) they were nat yet used amonge christen men. Amonge manye places it lyketh me36 at this tyme to allege4 one. Lactantius (Lib.ii. cap, ii.) For thus he demaundeth of the gentyles: If you do therfore fere your doddes, because you do iuge them to be in heven: who doo you mat than lyfte up youre eyes in to heven? Why do you rather loke to walles, to stockes & stones: than to that place, where you do beleve that they be? This same question in lyke maner may we demaunde of our superstityouse christen men: If they do beleve that god & sayntes ar in heven: why doo they nat rather lyfte up theire eyes to that place, than to the deed ymages? But let us here also Athanase, writyng in this wyse agaynst the gentyls. Let them say (I besech you) howe or after what maner god is knowen by images: whether is it by the mater & stuffe put round about them: orels is it by that shape and facyon brought in to the stuffe? If it be for the stuffe of the images that he is knowen, than what nedeth any shape or facyon to be brought in by the workeman? & why dyd nat god appere as well by all maner of stuffe, before that any ymages were made: syth73 all things do wytnesses to his glorie. But if the shape and facyon brought into the stuffe, be the cause of the knowledge of god: what nedeth than any payntynge, or any other stuffe at all? And why is nat god knowen rather by the very lyve creatures, whose shapes of ymages? for doutles the glori of god shuld be more clerely & evydently knowen, if it were shewed by the lyve creatures both resonable & unresonable, than by deed & unmoveable creatures. Therefore whan you do grave or paynte ymages, for the entente to have understandynge & knowledge of god: forsoth you do an unworthy & unmete49 thinge, &c. Now Athanasius wold never have puposed in his mynde, to write any suche maner thinge agaynste the gentyles, if he had sene the christen men of his tyme, entangled and wrapped in suche superstityon of ymages, as we do se a great parte of the worlde to be pytuously snarled now in our tyme: but he wold rather have exercysed his penne agaynst christenmen, if they had ben lyke our chrysten men now adayes. But nothynge letteth39, but that we may very accordigly apply that same thing agaynst our superstityous christen men: for they pretende the same cause of havyng images, with which Athanasius reherseth, that the gentyles were moved, that is to wit77, that by images they may be put in remembrance of god: which thynge, syth73 the creatures of god (whether we do consider the stuffe or the shape & facyon of them) may do moch more strongly (as Athanasius iugeth full wel) there is no nede that we shuld ronne unto the workes of men, which do represent but onely I wot94 nat what false ymage unto us. For whom soever trees, stones, sylver, golde, & other stuffe, wherof ymages are made, fynally whom the syght of man, to whom god hath given lyfe & reason, can nat styre nor put in remembrance of god: surely images shal natte styre up that man with anye frute or profyte: for they (as Origen writeth agaynst Selsus) doo rather plucke awaye the memorie of man from god, & do tourne the eyes of the mynde bacwardes, to behold & consider erthly thinges. For every man knoweth, that the more nere that one thynge resembleth another in nature and proprietie, so moche strongly it doth renewe the remembraunce in us of that thynge, to whom it is lyke. For trees or stones do more surely and lyvely putte us in remembraunce of god, whan they consydered of us, havyng their owne naturall shape & facyon, so as they were fyrst created of god: than whan by the worke and craft of men beynge beryved11 of theire owne naturall shape, they doo expresse & resemble unto us the image and lykenesse of man, or of any other thynge. For soner shall the remembraunce come to thy mynde of the Carver or Paynter, whose workmanship thou dost marveyle at, than the remembraunce of god the creatour & maker of all things. It is therfore nothynge els but a pure disceyte of the devyll, which calleth us from the praisynge and charytable lovynge of the lyve ymages of god, unto deed ymages of wood or stone, which some man a folysshe counterfaiter of god, hath folysshlye carven or paynted. We coulde also allege4 manye other testymonyes oute of the writynges of the fathers: but it shulde be all in vayne, to recyte any mo to him whiche is nat moved with these which we have all redy rehersed.
Here we have thoughte it very expedyent & necessary to declare & make playne, according to the truth of hystories, whan, & by what begynners ymages begane to come up a monge Christen men: & who agayne on the other syde did their endevour to put them downe and with howe moche busynesse, and howe great ieoerdy, good & well dysposed men have attempted this thinge, untyl the church was brought into this present condition and state of thynges fallynge incessantly to worse & worse. Undoutedly the lawes, as well of the christen emperours, as of the christen counsels, made agaynst images, came than first forth, whan through the slouthfulnesse & neglygence of bysshops, & their vayne curyouse desyres to wyn the favour of god, nat only images & pictures crepte into the churches, but also (which is wonte93 comenly to chaunce) they began to be worshippsed of the peple. We rede that Serenus, the bysshop of Massilia45, a very holy man, was so displeased, & toke it so grevousely (as reason was7) that ymages were set up in churches: that he dyd caste down all the ymages at ones whiche were in his churche, dyd breke them, & at the laste dyd also burne theym. We do nat deny, but that this dede of Serenus was fore rebuked of Gregory which was called Gregorius magnus30, and that the seyd Serenus was admonysshed & counselled of the sayd Gregorye, that he shulde nat forbyd or let images to be had but that he shulde teche the honourynge of them in any wise to be avoyded. But what other thynge shuld the standredberer of relyion and vertue vertue fallyng in decay, do in this mater, as well as in many other for about that tyme the churche of Rome beganne to thretten, and gyve lykelyhood of gret ruyne of the fayth afterward to folowe.
But amonge the Grekes, Leo themperour, the iii. of that name, a man both well learned, and also vertuouse and godly (he raygned in the yere of our lorde. vii.C.lccciiii) distroied al images universally, & commaunded Gregori the iii. of that name by his letters, that he shuld do the same thinge lykewyse at Rome. But this Gregorie nat onely refused to be obedyent to themperours76 commaundement, but also at Ravenna was the authour & begynner of sedition, to which cytie he called a certayne menye of byshoppes & made a counsel, in whiche he decreed agaynste themperours76 commaundement, that images ought to be had in moche more honoure, than ever they were before.
And to the entente that he might the moore boldely instytute thys thynge agaynst themperour with oute any punyshmente: nat very longe before, he had gone aboute traytorously to forsake themperour, and to fall unto the parte of the frenche kynge. After the deth of Leo, Constantyne his sonne, the fyth of that name, wyllyng to confyrme his fathers comaundement & decre, called togyther all the lerned men and bysshoppes, oute of all Grece lande, beyng in nombre. CCC.ccc. which comparyng the scryptures to the reasons of the counsell, which we spake of before, called by Gregorie: determyned with one consent That it is nat lauful to them which by christ do beleve in god, to have any images, either of the creator, or the creatures to honour theym: but rather of the ieoperdyes of the offensyons51, that they were all to be taken away at ones. So th the begynnynge of Leo Constantyne his sonne, and all his successoures dyd cleve & abyde by it: untyll suche tyme, that the cruell woman Hirene35 went about that horryble and ercedynge23 wicked tragedye, whereof we shall speke, nat longe hereafter. But the decrees of that wycked woma, were vertuously abrogated by Constantynes sonne, the fyrte29 of that name. There cometh nowe happely to my mynde, the decre of Theodosius & Valens whiche Petrus Trinitus, a man that had red many thynges, doth recyte in the ix boke, De honesta disciplina. His own very wordes I shall faythfully & truly reherse.
Valens & Theodosius the noble emperours wrot to that officer called Prefectus pretorius: forasmoch as our dilygent study & care is, in all things to maynteyne & uphold the faith & honour of god: we forbid any maner man to grave or make the image of christ our savyour of stone, of wood, or of any other stuffe, orels to paynte the same with colours. Yea, and whersoever any such ymage be founde, we commaunde that it be taken awaye, and they fore punysshed, who so ever shall attempte any thynge contrarye to our decrees and commaundement, in whiche thynge if anye man do requyre an authoure: let him rede the decrees and commaundements of Emperoures, which have ben collected and gathered by a satyre65 of the righte connynge19 men Trybunianus, Basylydes, Theophilus, Dioscorus79, and other at the commaundement of the most noble Emperoure Justiniane.
Thus farre saythe Trinitus: It is therfore evydente and manyfest, that themperours76 also whiche were before the tyme of Leo, dydde dilygentlye provyde, that the superstityon of Images shulde natte by anye manner meanes pollute and defyle the churches of Christen men. The fyrste of all other (as far as we can gather of histories) which did cause images to be paynted in churches: was Pontius Paulinus57 byshoppe of Nola50, about the yere of our lorde ccccl. For he solemnysing yerely the byrthe daye of Saynt Felix, was wonte93 to make a great and a costly fest27 unto the churche, and to thentent that they whiche sate64 at the seyd fest27 shulde be the sooner and more easely provoked to temperaunce, & to the consyderatyon of godlye thinges: he paynted on the churche walles , ymages of the histores of the old testament, that they shulde have somwhat also where with they mighte fede, and delyte their eyes frutefully. Afore this Paulinus, you shall nat lyghtly fynde, that any suche thynge, was attempted by any man, at the lest wyse, beyng of any famous memorye. For in suche wyse by lytell & lytell, this superstityon must nedes crepe in: lykewyse as other thynges did, whichhave corrupted the puryte & prefection of the churche. Nowe who is he, that dothe nat perceyve and se, that Paulynus dyd two maner waies offende. For fyrst agaynste the commaundement of saynte Paule, he was bolde, & toke upon him selfe to make open fested in the churche. And (which agayne was as great an offence, and suche as can nat be excused) he began with ymages to exhorte men unto the love & exercisynge of temperaunce: whan he beynge a christen man, ought rather to have gone about to do the same with holesome32 doctryne and good example. Wherfore it doth evidently appere that this bysshoppe dyd in no wise begyn that thynge of a pure godly spiryte: but if a man do well consydre & way every thinge, he shall fynde, that with the same spyrite, that is to wytte78 most retchlesse61, & dispisyng of godly thinges, other men also have taken upon them to defende images. For the popes & bisshops (I wot94 nat whether throgh evyll wyll orels through a certayn pride) began with toth & nayle to defende the use, or rather the abuse of ymages against the greke emperours: untyll suche tyme as by the labour & helpe of Hyrenes (which after the decesse of Leo her husband had that rule & governance of thempyre many yeres) a counsel was assembled at Nice, in whiche counsell she caused to be abrogated & dysanulled, whatsoever was before decreed by Constantyne, concernyng the puttynge away of ymages. Neither coulde this wyckednesse suffyce & content her mynde: but she did cause the bodye of Constantyne to be digged up agayne out of the grounde to be brente to asshes & laste of all to be throwen into the see.
This very same Hyrene, after that she was by her sonne deposed from her tyrannous empire, lefte nothinge unassaid84 nor never rested untyll by abhominable & traytorous craftes, she wan89 agayn thempire unto her selfe: which thing whan she had brought to passe, accordinge to her owne mynde. she dyd caste her sonne in to prison, plucked out his eyes, & in conclusion slewe him also. But whan she feared that her tiranny shulde nat contynue nor last long she made labours (the pope of Rome beyng broker & spokesman) to be maried unto Charles the great, otherwise called Charlemayn, kinge of France: & for this cause she gave lycence to the bysshop of Rome to translate the crown of thempire of Rome unto Charles, hopyng verily that her owne tiranny shuld be safe, if by translatyng thempire of the Grekes traytourously unto the frenchmen, she dyd bynde, nat onely Charles, but also the bisshoppe of Rome, & make theym her frendes with this great benefyte.
But whan Nicephorus, which then was capitayne of the army of the Grekes perceyved these traitorouse disceytes, forthwith in all hast he did cast Hirene35 into prison, as she had deserved, in which she made a wretched ende, & changed this lyfe with deth, worthy & mete49 for suche goodly acts as she had done. This same Hirene35 which digged up the deed body of her father in lawe, & brent it. Which put out her owne sones eyes, & slewe him in prison: which betraied themperour of the Grekes: & this same bisshoppe, the counseller & helper of the most wicked & ungrattouse86 womans purposes & enforcementes: which bisshop toke awaye from the right & lawfull emperour his empier, & did put in another into thempier whom it pleased himselfe: but yet upon this condition, that he himselfe shuld have Rome & Italy for his parte: This worshipful couple (I sai63) avaunced ymages unto this estymation & hononour. For whatsoever ymages or pictures are in estymation: they may nat without good cause thanke these 2 for it, as fyrst begynners. Howbeit, the successoures also of Charles, dyd afterwards their dilygent endevour to maynteyne & uphold these abhominations: lest the foundation & groundworke of idolatrye, which Charles had layde, shuld have lacked building to garnisshe it full of all impyetie & wickednes. Howbeit those men in tymes past, dyd never than pollute & defyle temples & churches with so many images, & shewing so many fest44 apperance of ydolatry (which thinge we may perceyve & se even yet by those which they bylded) as have ben set up everiwher in these laste .C. yeres1, to the occasyon of most vaine honour: which honour to thentent to make it the more accepted with false & lieng wonders he styred71 up & moved suprstitiouse persones in every place, to begyn pylgrymages to suche ymages, to their gret hynderance, both of godes & of faythe & godlynesse. For (I praye you) tell me what other thynge shall a man fynde in suche maner churches of the blessed vyrgin: than certayne fylthy & smoky ymages? For god (such is his excedyng goodnesse) leste any occasyon of ydolatry shuld be left unto men: he wolde that the body of the blessed virgin shuld nat be knowen. Likewise as he did by the body of Moses. We wyl say nothing here of the ymages of saynte Anne, of sayntes, nor of the images of Angels: which men with lyke superstityon, have begon to set up welnere90 in every corner, & to worshyp them. And (which is as gret a folysshnes as may be) whan there ar so many images oftentymes in one church: to one they do gyve I wot94 nat what power of workynge myracles, to the great hynderaunce & contempte of all the resydue60. Brefly, so gret is the vanyte of images that though in very dede thei could put us in remembrance of god: yet neverthelesse for dyverse occasyons of offensyons51 & ydolatrye, it were expedient & necessari to have them taken awaye in all the hast, accordyng to the example of Esechias24 the most holy kyng. whiche did cast down & breke the brasen serpent, which was set up by the commaundement of god: whan he had parceyved that it was worshypped contrary to the commaundement of god.
These thynges, which we have hytherto recyted, if he that favoureth ther glori of Christ, wyll dilygently way & consyder in his mynd he shall undoutedly perceyve, that whatsoever ymages ar honoured in churches, or anye maner waye maye be honoured: neither ought neither maye be suffred amonge chrysten men unlesse we wyl do against the manifest precepte of god, & despyse & set at nought both the faith and also the examples of the apostels, martyrs, and also of holy fathers. Fynally except we can fynde in our herte in the sted of the lawes, which have ben made both by christen emperours, & also counsels to receyve the traditions of the bisshop of Rome, & of the most wycked woman, whose delyte & plesure both of them was in traison, robbries, & contynuall study to devide & distroy the empire.
Fynally as concerning the takyng down & putting away of altres, erecte and dedycate unto images or sayntes they which have knowen the wicked abusyons2 of the masse, may & wyll be sone satisfied & contented without any gret busynes, they which do nat know, can nat be pacifyed with moch busynes: unlesse thei be taught first, how gret abhomination the masse is in the sight of god. Therfore this one thinge we desyre to be consydered of them that fere & drede god, in what maner & for what ende & entent, christ our savyour did institute his holy souper68. Truly to thentent, that his discyples (that is to say, they which wil lyve accordinglye to his doctryne and commaundement) assemblynge togyther, shuld take that misticall breed13 & misticall drinke in comen, & everyone put other in remembrance of that incomparable charytie of christ, by which he suffred deth for their salvation: & by the reason therof, their fayth & trust in god beinge encreased, shuld be enflamed both with the hatred of sines, & also with love of all vertues, professing themselves to be one body & one breed13 in Christ. By this meanes onely holy men ar nourysshed with christ the meate of lyfe. Now compare unto these things, that which is done commenly in masses. Masses most specyally ar done for the belyes sake: orels at the lestwise to purchase some merite afore god, which thing even itselfe alone, although al this busynes were commaunded by god, shuld yet make it abhomynable to god. Besydes this, there ar sayd & done so many thinges, whiche do turne away our myndes from christ which raigneth in heven, unto the worke of the prest. The congregation hereth no doctryne or exhortatyon in their mother tongue, that they might be edifyed therby. Ther is no communion had, although the wordes whiche the prest reherseth do make mentyon of it. And whyles the prest alone dothe receyve the breed13 & the cuppe of the lorde: there is natte, as Paule sayth, the souper68 of the lorde represented.
There ar sayd also many thinges which ar playne repugnant to the scripture: for they do teche to trust unto the merytes & intercessyon of saintes. And (which thing is most highly to be abhorred) where as the oblation of Christ (by whiche only beyng made upon the crosse, we ar assoiled8 & sanctified for ever more) ought to be preached: The prest bosteth12, that as oftentymes as he doth his masse, so oftentimes he doth offre Christ to his father, and therfore doth by it obtayne the puttyng away of all evyls, & a hepe of al good thinges to them only, which by gyvyng any thinge to the prest do make themselves partakers of the masse, by the, reason wherof it is come to passe, that so many men, al care of innocencye layde aparte, do hope that heven shalbe opened unto them, even by masses alone. Whosoever acknowlegeth the lorde Jesus as our only savyour & sanctyfyer, if he do consyder these thinges dilygently, & with the same do compare those things, which our lorde both sayd & dyd: and besydes that, dyd betake to us for to be reiterated, & oftentimes put in use: he shal esely perceyve & se, that there was never anye superstityon in tymes past, which had in itselfe so great impyetie & wickednesse so gret contempte of god, so gret distruction of all vertues, as hath the detestable & abhominable abuse of the masse, so as it hath ben abused these certayne yeres. And hereof when he knoweth, that nothing is so moch to be hated & abhorred of christen men: he shall perceyve that all remembrance of it is utterly to be taken away: & therfore thabused alters, the very open shoppes of so great idolatrye, and the ryches of these sacrifyces, even the pernicyouse sumptouse wyves of prests but very hurtfull to all christen peple wer in no wyse to be suffred of that governour & ruler, which princypally entended to execute his offyce to the honour & pleasure of christ. Let christen men know the truth of the mater, & than afterwards let them iuge.
Last of all, this thing also is to be observed in this matter, though never so gret offensyons51 & occasyons of evyls come through pyctures & images, that yet for all that, it is nat laufull for any man but the hed offycer & ruler to caste them out, namely out of open & comen places. For in asmoche as they are outward things, no man ought to take upon him more power over them than the condition & state of every man shall requyre, that it is to wit77, that every man privatly banysh them out of his owne mynde, reiecting59 the folyshe estimation of them. Now to an housholder it belongeth, accordynge to the example of James the patriarch37, to clense & rid his house of them. But to cast them out of churches & comen places, is the duty of the hed officer & governour, which duty (thanke be to Christ) our governour hath knowen, & hath executed with crysten gravyte. And one thinge is to be eschewed in this busynes, lykewise as in al other, whiche it belongeth to christen mennes charge for to do (& it is the counsell of S. Paule) that we do nat betraye & set forth our good to the evyll words of men: & that the thing which was instytuted to the helth and salvation of many men, be nat an occasyon of hurte to any man. Wherfore if any man in distroyeng of ymages, shulde do any thynge presumputuously, outragyously, & past the mesure of charite, he shuld bynde himself by so moch to the more grevouse synne72, by howe moch the thynge is more holy, in which he foloweth hiw owne sensuall lust, & the offycer ought (nat without good cause) to punysthe him for brekinge of love & charite. Also it ought nat to be ascribed to any outragiousnesse, though unsensyble ymages be nat so softely & so tenderly handled, as certayn men (through a folish imagination, as though with the fygure & similitude of man, they had also mannes wyttes & reason) are wont93 to have compassyon, and sowore somwhat whan they ar broken. For if we were dysposed to take awaye images, after suche maner and facyon as scripture techeth and commaundeth, which facyon doutlesse must nedes be best: we ought to breke them, yea, and that all to pouder, that they might never be made whole agayne, nor be restored into so wycked an use in which we ought nat to have so gretly regarded the labour & craft of man, syth73 it is our duty to offre even oure owne selves also to the crosse, and to all maner afflyction, rather than to be wyllynge to gyve occasyon of fallynge to any man that walketh in the waye of vertue and godlynesse. And wolde god there were in all men as moch care and dilygence to make moche of, and to beware of offendynge or hurtynge the verye lyve ymages, which god him selfe hathe made to his owne lykenesse: as we doo see to be in very manye men, that those deed & dombe ymages shuld nat be hardlye, nor unreverently entreated. To conclude shortlye to plucke downe ymages and pictures, and to ryd them quyte oute of churches, is an holy thynge, and ought to be begon accordyng to the commaundmante of god. It is convenyente therefore and mete49, that it be performed and fulfylled in suche wyse, that it maye be accepted and alowed of all mightye god. That is to wytte78, that they be so taken away, that there be no whytte92 of them remaynynge, namely to lyke use, and also that yet nevertheles no thinge be done presumptuousely, nor outragyousely, nothynge that maye gyve anye man good cause to be troubled: but that all thynges be done charytably, of pure and perfyte love, and desyre to de profyte to all men. And after this facyon god graunte that his people maye be delyvered fro ydoles and ymages, throughout the whole world, from the tone ende to the tother.
Printed for W. Marshall
With the Kynges moost gratiuose privylege
Martin Bucer (early German: Martin Butzer) 11 November 1491 – 28 February 1551 was a Protestant reformer based in Strasbourg who influenced Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican doctrines and practices. Bucer was originally a member of the Dominican Order, but after meeting and being influenced by Martin Luther in 1518 he arranged for his monastic vows to be annulled. He then began to work for the Reformation, with the support of Franz von Sickingen.
In 1549, Bucer was exiled to England, where, under the guidance of Thomas Cranmer, he was able to influence the second revision of the Book of Common Prayer. He died in Cambridge, England, at the age of 59. Although his ministry did not lead to the formation of a new denomination, many Protestant denominations have claimed him as one of their own. He is remembered as an early pioneer of ecumenism.
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