Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes

Chapter xlv

Of Demonology and Other Relics of the Religion of the Gentiles

THE impression made on the organs of sight by lucid bodies, either in one direct line or in many lines, reflected from opaque, or refracted in the passage through diaphanous bodies, produceth in living creatures, in whom God hath placed such organs, an imagination of the object from whence the impression proceedeth; which imagination is called sight, and seemeth not to be a mere imagination, but the body itself without us; in the same manner as when a man violently presseth his eye, there appears to him a light without, and before him, which no man perceiveth but himself, because there is indeed no such thing without him, but only a motion in the interior organs, pressing by resistance outward, that makes him think so. And the motion made by this pressure, continuing after the object which caused it is removed, is that we call imagination, and memory, and, in sleep, and sometimes in great distemper of the organs by sickness or violence, a dream, of which things I have already spoken briefly in the second and third Chapters.

This nature of sight having never been discovered by the ancient pretenders to natural knowledge, much less by those that consider not things so remote (as that knowledge is) from their present use, it was hard for men to conceive of those images in the fancy and in the sense otherwise than of things really without us: which some, because they vanish away, they know not whither nor how, will have to be absolutely incorporeal, that is to say, immaterial, or forms without matter (colour and figure, without any coloured or figured body), and that they can put on airy bodies, as a garment, to make them visible when they will to our bodily eyes; and others say, are bodies and living and living creatures, but made of air, or other more subtle and ethereal matter, which is, then, when they will be seen, condensed. But both of them agree on one general appellation of them, demons. As if the dead of whom they dreamed were not inhabitants of their own brain, but of the air, or of heaven, or hell; not phantasms, but ghosts; with just as much reason as if one should say he saw his own ghost in a looking-glass, or the ghosts of the stars in a river; or call the ordinary apparition of the sun, of the quantity of about a foot, the demon or ghost of that great sun that enlighteneth the whole visible world: and by that means have feared them, as things of an unknown, that is, of an unlimited power to do them good or harm; and consequently, given occasion to the governors of the heathen Commonwealths to regulate this their fear by establishing that demonology (in which the poets, as principal priests of the heathen religion, were specially employed or reverenced) to the public peace, and to the obedience of subjects necessary thereunto; and to make some of them good demons, and others evil; the one as a spur to the observance, the other as reins to withhold them from violation of the laws.

What kind of things they were to whom they attributed the name of demons appeareth partly in the genealogy of their gods, written by Hesiod, one of the most ancient poets of the Grecians, and partly in other histories, of which I have observed some few before, in the twelfth Chapter of this discourse.

The Grecians, by their colonies and conquests communicated their language and writings into Asia, Egypt, and Italy; and therein, by necessary consequence, their demonology, or, as St. Paul calls it, their doctrines of devils: and by that means the contagion was derived also to the Jews, both of Judaea and Alexandria, and other parts, whereinto they were dispersed. But the name of demon they did not, as the Grecians, attribute to spirits both good and evil; but to the evil only: and to the good demons they gave the name of the Spirit of God, and esteemed those into whose bodies they entered to be prophets. In sum, all singularity, if good, they attributed to the Spirit of God; and if evil, to some demon, but a kakodaimen, an evil demon, that is, a devil. And therefore, they called demoniacs, that is, possessed by the devil, such as we call madmen or lunatics, or such as had the falling-sickness; or that spoke anything which they, for want of understanding, thought absurd. As also of an unclean person in a notorious degree, they used to say he had an unclean spirit; of a dumb man, that he had a dumb devil; and of John the Baptist, for the singularity of his fasting, that he had a devil;1 and of our Saviour, because he said, he that keepeth his sayings should not see death in aeternum, "Now we know thou hast a devil; Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead."2 And again, because he said they went about to kill him, the people answered, "Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?"3 Whereby it is manifest that the Jews had the same opinions concerning phantasms; namely, that they were not phantasms, that is, idols of the brain, but things real, and independent on the fancy.

Which doctrine, if it be not true, why, may some say, did not our Saviour contradict it, and teach the contrary? Nay, why does He use on diverse occasions such forms of speech as seem to confirm it? To this I answer that, first, where Christ saith, "A spirit hath not flesh and bone,"4 though he show that there be spirits, yet he denies not that they are bodies. And where St. Paul says, "We shall rise spiritual bodies,"5 he acknowledgeth the nature of spirits, but that they are bodily spirits; which is not difficult to understand. For air and many other things are bodies, though not flesh and bone, or any other gross body to be discerned by the eye. But when our Saviour speaketh to the devil, and commandeth him to go out of a man, if by the devil be meant a disease, as frenzy, or lunacy, or a corporeal spirit, is not the speech improper? Can diseases hear? Or can there be a corporeal spirit in a body of flesh and bone, full already of vital and animal spirits? Are there not therefore spirits, that neither have bodies, nor are mere imaginations? To the first I answer that the addressing of our Saviour's command to the madness or lunacy he cureth is no more improper than was his rebuking of the fever, or of the wind and sea; for neither do these hear: or than was the command of God to the light, to the firmament, to the sun, and stars, when He commanded them to be; for they could not hear before they had a being. But those speeches are not improper, because they signify the power of God's word: no more therefore is it improper to command madness or lunacy, under the appellation of devils by which they were then commonly understood, to depart out of a man's body. To the second, concerning their being incorporeal, I have not yet observed any place of Scripture from whence it can be gathered that any man was ever possessed with any other corporeal spirit but that of his own by which his body is naturally moved.

Our Saviour, immediately after the Holy Ghost descended upon Him in the form of a dove, is said by St. Matthew to have been "led up by the Spirit into the wilderness";6 and the same is recited, Luke, 4. 1, in these words, "Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost, was led in the Spirit into the wilderness": whereby it is evident that by Spirit there is meant the Holy Ghost. This cannot be interpreted for a possession; for Christ and the Holy Ghost are but one and the same substance, which is no possession of one substance, or body, by another. And whereas in the verses following he is said "to have been taken up by the devil into the holy city, and set upon a pinnacle of the temple," shall we conclude thence that he was possessed of the devil, or carried thither by violence? And again, "carried thence by the devil into an exceeding high mountain, who showed him thence all the kingdoms of the world": wherein we are not to believe he was either possessed or forced by the devil; nor that any mountain is high enough, according to the literal sense to show him one whole hemisphere. What then can be the meaning of this place, other than that he went of himself into the wilderness; and that this carrying of him up and down, from the wilderness to the city, and from thence into a mountain, was a vision? Conformable whereunto is also the phrase of St. Luke, that he was led into the wilderness, not by, but in the Spirit: whereas, concerning his being taken up into the mountain, and unto the pinnacle of the temple, he speaketh as St. Matthew doth, which suiteth with the nature of a vision.

Again, where St. Luke says of Judas Iscariot that "Satan entered into him, and thereupon that he went and communed with the chief priests, and captains, how he might betray Christ unto them";7 it may be answered that by the entering of Satan (that is, the enemy) into him is meant the hostile and traitorous intention of selling his Lord and Master. For as by the Holy Ghost is frequently in Scripture understood the graces and good inclinations given by the Holy Ghost; so by the entering of Satan may be understood the wicked cogitations and designs of the adversaries of Christ and his Disciples. For as it is hard to say that the devil was entered into Judas, before he had any such hostile design; so it is impertinent to say he was first Christ's enemy in his heart, and that the devil entered into him afterwards. Therefore the entering of Satan, and his wicked purpose, was one and the same thing.

But if there be no immaterial spirit, nor any possession of men's bodies by any spirit corporeal, it may again be asked why our Saviour his Apostles did not teach the people so, and in such clear words as they might no more doubt thereof. But such questions as these are more curious than necessary for a Christian man's salvation. Men may as well ask why Christ, that could have given to all men faith, piety, and all manner of moral virtues, gave it to some only, and not to all: and why he left the search of natural causes and sciences to the natural reason and industry of men, and did not reveal it to all, or any man supernaturally; and many other such questions, of which nevertheless there may be alleged probable and pious reasons. For as God, when He brought the Israelites into the Land of Promise, did not secure them therein by subduing all the nations round about them, but left many of them, as thorns in their sides, to awaken from time to time their piety and industry: so our Saviour, in conducting us toward his heavenly kingdom, did not destroy all the difficulties of natural questions, but left them to exercise our industry and reason; the scope of his preaching being only to show us this plain and direct way to salvation, namely, the belief of this article, that he was the Christ, the Son of the living God, sent into the world to sacrifice himself for our sins, and, at his coming again, gloriously to reign over his elect, and to save them from their enemies eternally: to which the opinion of possession by spirits or phantasms is no impediment in the way, though it be to some an occasion of going out of the way, and to follow their own inventions. If we require of the Scripture an account of all questions which may be raised to trouble us in the performance of God's commands, we may as well complain of Moses for not having set down the time of the creation of such spirits, as well as of the creation of the earth and sea, and of men and beasts. To conclude, I find in Scripture that there be angels and spirits, good and evil; but not that they are incorporeal, as are the apparitions men see in the dark, or in a dream or vision, which the Latins call spectra, and took for demons. And I find that there are spirits corporeal, though subtle and invisible; but not that any man's body was possessed or inhabited by them, and that the bodies of the saints shall be such, namely, spiritual bodies, as St. Paul calls them.

Nevertheless, the contrary doctrine, namely, that there be incorporeal spirits, hath hitherto so prevailed in the Church that the use of exorcism (that is to say, of ejection of devils by conjuration) is thereupon built; and, though rarely and faintly practised, is not yet totally given over. That there were many demoniacs in the primitive Church, and few madmen, and other such singular diseases; whereas in these times we hear of, and see many madmen, and few demoniacs, proceeds not from the change of nature, but of names. But how it comes to pass that whereas heretofore the Apostles, and after them for a time the pastors of the Church, did cure those singular diseases, which now they are not seen to do; as likewise, why it is not in the power of every true believer now to do all that the faithful did then, that is to say, as we read "in Christ's name to cast out devils, to speak with new tongues, to take up serpents, to drink deadly poison without harm taking, and to cure the sick by the laying on of their hands,"8 and all this without other words but "in the name of Jesus," is another question. And it is probable that those extraordinary gifts were given to the Church for no longer a time than men trusted wholly to Christ, and looked for their felicity only in his kingdom to come; and consequently, that when they sought authority and riches, and trusted to their own subtlety for a kingdom of this world, these supernatural gifts of God were again taken from them.

Another relic of Gentilism is the worship of images, neither instituted by Moses in the Old, nor by Christ in the New Testament; nor yet brought in from the Gentiles; but left amongst them, after they had given their names to Christ. Before our Saviour preached, it was the general religion of the Gentiles to worship for gods those appearances that remain in the brain from the impression of external bodies upon the organs of their senses, which are commonly called ideas, idols, phantasms, conceits, as being representations of those external bodies which cause them, and have nothing in them of reality, no more than there is in the things that seem to stand before us in a dream. And this is the reason why St. Paul says, "We know that an idol is nothing": not that he thought that an image of metal, stone, or wood was nothing; but that the thing which they honored or feared in the image, and held for a god, was a mere figment, without place, habitation, motion, or existence, but in the motions of the brain. And the worship of these with divine honour is that which is in the Scripture called idolatry, and rebellion against God. For God being King of the Jews, and His lieutenant being first Moses, and afterward the high priest, if the people had been permitted to worship and pray to images (which are representations of their own fancies), they had had no further dependence on the true God, of whom there can be no similitude; nor on His prime ministers, Moses and the high priests; but every man had governed himself according to his own appetite, to the utter eversion of the Commonwealth, and their own destruction for want of union. And therefore the first law of God was: they should not take for gods, alienos deos, that is, the gods of other nations, but that only true God, who vouchsafed to commune with Moses, and by him to give them laws and directions for their peace, and for their salvation from their enemies. And the second was that they should not make to themselves any image to worship, of their own invention. For it is the same deposing of a king to submit to another king, whether he be set up by a neighbour nation or by ourselves.

The places of Scripture pretended to countenance the setting up of images to worship them, or to set them up at all in the places where God is worshipped, are, first, two examples; one of the cherubim over the Ark of God; the other of the brazen serpent: secondly, some texts whereby we are commanded to worship certain creatures for their relation to God; as to worship His footstool: and lastly, some other texts, by which is authorized a religious honouring of holy things. But before I examine the force of those places, to prove that which is pretended, I must first explain what is to be understood by worshipping, and what by images and idols.

I have already shown, in the twentieth Chapter of this discourse, that to honour is to value highly the power of any person, and that such value is measured by our comparing him with others. But because there is nothing to be compared with God in power, we honour Him not, but dishonour Him, by any value less than infinite. And thus honour is properly of its own nature secret, and internal in the heart. But the inward thoughts of men, which appear outwardly in their words and actions, are the signs of our honouring, and these go by the name of worship; in Latin, cultus. Therefore, to pray to, to swear by, to obey, to be diligent and officious in serving; in sum, all words and actions that betoken fear to offend, or desire to please, is worship, whether those words and actions be sincere or feigned: and because they appear as signs of honouring are ordinarily also called honour.

The worship we exhibit to those we esteem to be but men, as to kings and men in authority, is civil worship: but the worship we exhibit to that which we think to be God, whatsoever the words, ceremonies, gestures, or other actions be, is divine worship. To fall prostrate before a king, in him that thinks him but a man, is but civil worship: and he that but putteth off his hat in the church, for this cause, that he thinketh it the house of God, worshippeth with divine worship. They that seek the distinction of divine and civil worship, not in the intention of the worshipper, but in the words douleia and latreia, deceive themselves. For whereas there be two sorts of servants: that sort which is of those that are absolutely in the power of their masters, as slaves taken in war, and their issue, whose bodies are not in their own power (their lives depending on the will of their masters, in such manner as to forfeit them upon the least disobedience), and that are bought and sold as beasts, were called Douloi, that is properly, slaves, and their service, Douleia; the other, which is of those that serve for hire, or in hope of benefit from their masters voluntarily, are called Thetes, that is, domestic servants; to whose service the masters have no further right than is contained in the covenants made betwixt them. These two kinds of servants have thus much common to them both, that their labour is appointed them by another: and the word Latris is the general name of both, signifying him that worketh for another, whether as a slave or a voluntary servant. So that latreia signifieth generally all service; but douleia the service of bondmen only, and the condition of slavery: and both are used in Scripture, to signify our service of God, promiscuously. Douleia, because we are God's slaves; latreia, because we serve Him: and in all kinds of service is contained, not only obedience, but also worship; that is, such actions, gestures, and words as signify honour.

An image, in the most strict signification of the word, is the resemblance of something visible: in which sense the fantastical forms, apparitions, or seemings of visible bodies to the sight, are only images; such as are the show of a man or other thing in the water, by reflection or refraction; or of the sun or stars by direct vision in the air; which are nothing real in the things seen, nor in the place where they seem to be; nor are their magnitudes and figures the same with that of the object, but changeable, by the variation of the organs of sight, or by glasses; and are present oftentimes in our imagination, and in our dreams, when the object is absent; or changed into other colours, and shapes, as things that depend only upon the fancy. And these are the images which are originally and most properly called ideas and idols, and derived from the language of the Grecians, with whom the word eido signifieth to see. They are also called phantasms, which is in the same language, apparitions. And from these images it is that one of the faculties of man's nature is called the imagination. And from hence it is manifest that there neither is, nor can be, any image made of a thing invisible.

It is also evident that there can be no image of a thing infinite: for all the images and phantasms that are made by the impression of things visible are figured. But figure is quantity every way determined, and therefore there can be no image of God, nor of the soul of man, nor of spirits; but only of bodies visible, that is, bodies that have light in themselves, or are by such enlightened.

And whereas a man can fancy shapes he never saw, making up a figure out of the parts of diverse creatures, as the poets make their centaurs, chimeras, and other monsters never seen: so can he also give matter to those shapes, and make them in wood, clay, or metal. And these are also called images, not for the resemblance of any corporeal thing, but for the resemblance of some fantastical inhabitants of the brain of the maker. But in these idols, as they are originally in the brain, and as they are painted, carved, moulded, or molten in matter, there is a similitude of the one to the other, for which the material body made by art may be said to be the image of the fantastical idol made by nature.

But in a larger use of the word image is contained also any representation of one thing by another. So an earthly sovereign may be called the image of God, and an inferior magistrate the image of an earthly sovereign. And many times in the idolatry of the Gentiles there was little regard to the similitude of their material idol to the idol in their fancy, and yet it was called the image of it. For a stone unhewn has been set up for Neptune, and diverse other shapes far different from the shapes they conceived of their gods. And at this day we see many images of the Virgin Mary, and other saints, unlike one another, and without correspondence to any one man's fancy; and yet serve well enough for the purpose they were erected for, which was no more but by the names only to represent the persons mentioned in the history; to which every man applieth a mental image of his own making, or none at all. And thus an image, in the largest sense, is either the resemblance or the representation of some thing visible; or both together, as it happeneth for the most part.

But the name of idol is extended yet further in Scripture, to signify also the sun, or a star, or any other creature, visible or invisible, when they are worshipped for gods.

Having shown what is worship, and what an image, I will now put them together, and examine what that idolatry is which is forbidden in the second Commandment, and other places of the Scripture.

To worship an image is voluntarily to do those external acts which are signs of honouring either the matter of the image (which is wood, stone, metal, or some other visible creature), or the phantasm of the brain for the resemblance or representation whereof the matter was formed and figured, or both together as one animate body composed of the matter and the phantasm, as of a body and soul.

To be uncovered, before a man of power and authority, or before the throne of a prince, or in such other places as he ordaineth to that purpose in his absence, is to worship that man or prince with civil worship; as being a sign, not of honouring the stool or place, but the person, and is not idolatry. But if he that doth it should suppose the soul of the prince to be in the stool, or should present a petition to the stool, it were divine worship, and idolatry.

To pray to a king for such things as he is able to do for us, though we prostrate ourselves before him, is but civil worship, because we acknowledge no other power in him but human: but voluntarily to pray unto him for fair weather, or for anything which God only can do for us, is divine worship, and idolatry. On the other side, if a king compel a man to it by the terror of death, or other great corporal punishment, it is not idolatry; for the worship which the sovereign commandeth to be done unto himself by the terror of his laws is not a sign that he that obeyeth him does inwardly honour him as a god, but that he is desirous to save himself from death, or from a miserable life: and that which is not a sign of internal honour is no worship, and therefore no idolatry. Neither can it be said that he that does it scandalizeth or layeth any stumbling block before his brother: because how wise or learned soever he be that worshippeth in that manner, another man cannot from thence argue that he approveth it, but that he doth it for fear; and that it is not his act, but the act of his sovereign.

To worship God in some peculiar place, or turning a man's face towards an image or determinate place, is not to worship or honour the place or image, but to acknowledge it holy; that is to say, to acknowledge the image or the place to be set apart from common use, for that is the meaning of the word holy; which implies no new quality in the place or image, but only a new relation by appropriation to God, and therefore is not idolatry; no more than it was idolatry to worship God before the brazen serpent; or for the Jews, when they were out of their own country, to turn their faces, when they prayed, toward the temple of Jerusalem; or for Moses to put off his shoes when he was before the flaming bush, the ground appertaining to Mount Sinai, which place God had chosen to appear in, and to give His laws to the people of Israel, and was therefore holy ground, not by inherent sanctity, but by separation to God's use; or for Christians to worship in the churches which are once solemnly dedicated to God for that purpose by the authority of the king or other true representant of the Church. But to worship God as inanimating or inhabiting such image or place; that is to say, an infinite substance in a finite place, is idolatry: for such finite gods are but idols of the brain, nothing real, and are commonly called in the Scripture by the names of vanity, and lies, and nothing. Also to worship God, not as inanimating, or present in the place or image, but to the end to be put in mind of Him, or of some works of His, in case the place or image be dedicated or set up by private authority, and not by the authority of them that are our sovereign pastors, is idolatry. For the Commandment is, "Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image." God commanded Moses to set up the brazen serpent; he did not make it to himself; it was not therefore against the Commandment. But the making of the golden calf by Aaron and the people, as being done without authority from God, was idolatry; not only because they held it for God, but also because they made it for a religious use, without warrant either from God their Sovereign, or from Moses that was His lieutenant.

The Gentiles worshipped, for gods, Jupiter and others that, living, were men perhaps that had done great and glorious acts; and, for the children of God, diverse men and women, supposing them gotten between an immortal deity and a mortal man. This was idolatry, because they made them so to themselves, having no authority from God, neither in His eternal law of reason, nor in His positive and revealed will. But though our Saviour was a man, whom we also believe to be God immortal and the Son of God, yet this is no idolatry, because we build not that belief upon our own fancy or judgement, but upon the word of God revealed in the Scriptures. And for the adoration of the Eucharist, if the words of Christ, "This is my body," signify that he himself, and the seeming bread in his hand, and not only so, but that all the seeming morsels of bread that have ever since been, and any time hereafter shall be, consecrated by priests, be so many Christ's bodies, and yet all of them but one body, then is that no idolatry, because it is authorized by our Saviour: but if that text do not signify that (for there is no other that can be alleged for it), then, because it is a worship of human institution, it is idolatry. For it is not enough to say, God can transubstantiate the bread into Christ's body, for the Gentiles also held God to be omnipotent, and might upon that ground no less excuse their idolatry, by pretending, as well as others, a transubstantiation of their wood and stone into God Almighty.

Whereas there be, that pretend divine inspiration to be a supernatural entering of the Holy Ghost into a man, and not an acquisition of God's graces by doctrine and study, I think they are in a very dangerous dilemma. For if they worship not the men whom they believe to be so inspired, they fall into impiety, as not adoring God's supernatural presence. And again, if they worship them they commit idolatry, for the Apostles would never permit themselves to be so worshipped. Therefore the safest way is to believe that by the descending of the dove upon the Apostles, and by Christ's breathing on them when he gave them the Holy Ghost, and by the giving of it by imposition of hands, are understood the signs which God hath been pleased to use, or ordain to be used, of his promise to assist those persons in their study to preach His kingdom, and in their conversation, that it might not be scandalous, but edifying to others.

Besides the idolatrous worship of images, there is also a scandalous worship of them, which is also a sin, but not idolatry. For idolatry is to worship by signs of an internal and real honour; but scandalous worship is but seeming worship, and may sometimes be joined with an inward and hearty detestation, both of the image and of the fantastical demon or idol to which it is dedicated; and proceed only from the fear of death or other grievous punishment; and is nevertheless a sin in them that so worship, in case they be men whose actions are looked at by others as lights to guide them by; because following their ways, they cannot but stumble and fall in the way of religion: whereas the example of those we regard not, works not on us at all, but leaves us to our own diligence and caution, and consequently are no causes of our falling.

If therefore a pastor lawfully called to teach and direct others, or any other, of whose knowledge there is a great opinion, do external honour to an idol for fear; unless he make his fear and unwillingness to it as evident as the worship, he scandalizeth his brother by seeming to approve idolatry. For his brother arguing from the action of his teacher, or of him whose knowledge he esteemeth great, concludes it to be lawful in itself. And this scandal is sin, and a scandal given. But if one being no pastor, nor of eminent reputation for knowledge in Christian doctrine, do the same, and another follow him, this is no scandal given (for he had no cause to follow such example), but is a pretence of scandal which he taketh of himself for an excuse before men. For an unlearned man that is in the power of an idolatrous king or state, if commanded on pain of death to worship before an idol, he detesteth the idol in his heart: he doth well; though if he had the fortitude to suffer death, rather than worship it, he should do better. But if a pastor, who as Christ's messenger has undertaken to teach Christ's doctrine to all nations, should do the same, it were not only a sinful scandal, in respect of other Christian men's consciences, but a perfidious forsaking of his charge.

The sum of that which I have said hitherto, concerning the worship of images, is this, that he that worshippeth in an image, or any creature, either the matter thereof, or any fancy of his own which he thinketh to dwell in it; or both together; or believeth that such things hear his prayers, or see his devotions, without ears or eyes, committeth idolatry. And he that counterfeiteth such worship for fear of punishment, if he be a man whose example hath power amongst his brethren, committeth a sin. But he that worshippeth the Creator of the world before such an image, or in such a place as he hath not made or chosen of himself, but taken from the commandment of God's word, as the Jews did in worshipping God before the cherubim, and before the brazen serpent for a time, and in or towards the temple of Jerusalem, which was also but for a time, committeth not idolatry.

Now for the worship of saints, and images, and relics, and other things at this day practised in the Church of Rome, I say they are not allowed by the word of God, nor brought into the Church of Rome from the doctrine there taught; but partly left in it at the first conversion of the Gentiles, and afterwards countenanced, and confirmed, and augmented by the bishops of Rome.

As for the proofs alleged out of Scripture; namely, those examples of images appointed by God to be set up; they were not set up for the people or any man to worship, but that they should worship God Himself before them; as before the cherubim over the Ark, and the brazen serpent. For we read not that the priest or any other did worship the cherubim. But contrarily we read that Hezekiah broke in pieces the brazen serpent which Moses had set up,9 because the people burnt incense to it. Besides, those examples are not put for our imitation, that we also should set up images, under pretence of worshipping God before them; because the words of the second Commandment, "Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image," etc., distinguish between the images that God commanded to be set up, and those which we set up to ourselves. And therefore from the cherubim or brazen serpent, to the images of man's devising; and from the worship commanded by God, to the will-worship of men, the argument is not good. This also is to be considered, that as Hezekiah broke in pieces the brazen serpent, because the Jews did worship it, to the end they should do so no more; so also Christian sovereigns ought to break down the images which their subjects have been accustomed to worship, that there be no more occasion of such idolatry. For at this day the ignorant people, where images are worshipped, do really believe there is a divine power in the images; and are told by their pastors that some of them have spoken, and have bled; and that miracles have been done by them; which they apprehend as done by the saint, which they think either is the image itself, or in it. The Israelites, when they worshipped the calf, did think they worshipped the God that brought them out of Egypt, and yet it was idolatry, because they thought the calf either was that God, or had Him in his belly. And though some man may think it impossible for people to be so stupid as to think the image to be God, or a saint, or to worship it in that notion, yet it is manifest in Scripture to the contrary; where, when the golden calf was made, the people said, "These are thy gods, O Israel";10 and where the images of Laban are called his gods.11 And we see daily by experience in all sorts of people that such men as study nothing but their food and ease are content to believe any absurdity, rather than to trouble themselves to examine it, holding their faith as it were by entail unalienable, except by an express and new law.

But they infer from some other places that it is lawful to paint angels, and also God Himself: as from God's walking in the garden; from Jacob's seeing God at the top of the ladder; and from other visions and dreams. But visions and dreams, whether natural or supernatural, are but phantasms: and he that painteth an image of any of them, maketh not an image of God, but of his own phantasm, which is making of an idol. I say not, that to draw a picture after a fancy is a sin; but when it is drawn, to hold it for a representation of God is against the second Commandment and can be of no use but to worship. And the same may be said of the images of angels, and of men dead; unless as monuments of friends, or of men worthy remembrance: for such use of an image is not worship of the image, but a civil honouring of the person; not that is, but that was: but when it is done to the image which we make of a saint, for no other reason but that we think he heareth our prayers, and is pleased with the honour we do him, when dead and without sense, we attribute to him more than human power, and therefore it is idolatry.

Seeing therefore there is no authority, neither in the Law of Moses nor in the Gospel, for the religious worship of images or other representations of God which men set up to themselves, or for the worship of the image of any creature in heaven, or earth, or under the earth; and whereas Christian kings, who are living representants of God, are not to be worshipped by their subjects by any act that signifieth a greater esteem of his power than the nature of mortal man is capable of; it cannot be imagined that the religious worship now in use was brought into the Church by misunderstanding of the Scripture. It resteth therefore that it was left in it by not destroying the images themselves in the conversion of the Gentiles that worshipped them.

The cause whereof was the immoderate esteem and prices set upon the workmanship of them, which made the owners, though converted from worshipping them as they had done religiously for demons, to retain them still in their houses, upon pretence of doing it in the honor of Christ, of the Virgin Mary, and of the Apostles, and other the pastors of the primitive Church; as being easy, by giving them new names, to make that an image of the Virgin Mary and of her Son our Saviour, which before perhaps was called the image of Venus and Cupid; and so of a Jupiter to make a Barnabas, and of Mercury, a Paul, and the like. And as worldly ambition, creeping by degrees into the pastors, drew them to an endeavour of pleasing the new-made Christians; and also to a liking of this kind of honour, which they also might hope for after their decease, as well as those that had already gained it: so the worshipping of the images of Christ and his Apostles grew more and more idolatrous; save that somewhat after the time of Constantine diverse emperors, and bishops, and general councils observed and opposed the unlawfulness thereof, but too late or too weakly.

The canonizing of saints is another relic of Gentilism: it is neither a misunderstanding of Scripture, nor a new invention of the Roman Church, but a custom as ancient as the Commonwealth of Rome itself. The first that ever was canonized at Rome was Romulus, and that upon the narration of Julius Proculus, that swore before the Senate he spoke with him after his death, and was assured by him he dwelt in heaven, and was there called Quirinus, and would be propitious to the state of their new city: and thereupon the Senate gave public testimony of his sanctity. Julius Caesar, and other emperors after him, had the like testimony; that is, were canonized for saints: for by such testimony is canonization now defined, and is the same with the apotheosis of the heathen.

It is also from the Roman heathen that the popes have received the name and power of Pontifex Maximus. This was the name of him that in the ancient Commonwealth of Rome had the supreme authority under the Senate and people of regulating all ceremonies and doctrines concerning their religion: and when Augustus Caesar changed the state into a monarchy, he took to himself no more but this office, and that of tribune of the people (that is to say, the supreme power both in state and religion); and the succeeding emperors enjoyed the same. But when the Emperor Constantine lived, who was the first that professed and authorized Christian religion, it was consonant to his profession to cause religion to be regulated, under his authority, by the bishop of Rome: though it do not appear they had so soon the name of Pontifex; but rather that the succeeding bishops took it of themselves, to countenance the power they exercised over the bishops of the Roman provinces. For it is not any privilege of St. Peter, but the privilege of the city of Rome, which the emperors were always willing to uphold, that gave them such authority over other bishops; as may be evidently seen by that, that the bishop of Constantinople, when the Emperor made that city the seat of the Empire, pretended to be equal to the bishop of Rome; though at last, not without contention, the Pope carried it, and became the Pontifex Maximus; but in right only of the Emperor, and not without the bounds of the Empire, nor anywhere after the Emperor had lost his power in Rome, though it were the Pope himself that took his power from him. From whence we may by the way observe that there is no place for the superiority of the Pope over other bishops, except in the territories whereof he is himself the civil sovereign; and where the emperor, having sovereign power civil, hath expressly chosen the Pope for the chief pastor under himself of his Christian subjects.

The carrying about of images in procession is another relic of the religion of the Greeks and Romans, for they also carried their idols from place to place, in a kind of chariot, which was peculiarly dedicated to that use, which the Latins called thensa, and vehiculum Deorum; and the image was placed in a frame, or shrine, which they called ferculum. And that which they called pompa is the same that now is named procession; according whereunto, amongst the divine honours which were given to Julius Caesar by the Senate, this was one, that in the pomp, or procession, at the Circaean games, he should have thensam et ferculum, a sacred chariot and a shrine; which was as much as to be carried up and down as a god, just as at this day the popes are carried by Switzers under a canopy.

To these processions also belonged the bearing of burning torches and candles before the images of the gods, both amongst the Greeks and Romans. For afterwards the emperors of Rome received the same honor; as we read of Caligula, that at his reception to the Empire he was carried from Misenum to Rome in the midst of a throng of people, the ways beset with altars, and beasts for sacrifice, and burning torches; and of Caracalla, that was received into Alexandria with incense, and with casting of flowers, and dadouchiais, that is, with torches; for dadochoi were they that amongst the Greeks carried torches lighted in the processions of their gods. And in process of time the devout but ignorant people did many times honour their bishops with the like pomp of wax candles, and the images of our Saviour and the saints, constantly, in the church itself. And thus came in the use of wax candles and was also established by some of the ancient councils.

The heathens had also their aqua lustralis, that is to say, holy water. The Church of Rome imitates them also in their holy days. They had their bacchanalia, and we have our wakes, answering to them; they their saturnalia, and we our carnivals and Shrove Tuesday's liberty of servants; they their procession of Priapus, we our fetching in, erection, and dancing about Maypoles; and dancing is one kind of worship. They had their procession called Ambarvalia, and we our procession about the fields in the Rogation week. Nor do I think that these are all the ceremonies that have been left in the Church, from the first conversion of the Gentiles, but they are all that I can for the present call to mind. And if a man would well observe that which is delivered in the histories, concerning the religious rites of the Greeks and Romans, I doubt not but he might find many more of these old empty bottles of Gentilism which the doctors of the Roman Church, either by negligence or ambition, have filled up again with the new wine of Christianity, that will not fail in time to break them.

1 Matthew, 11. 18

2 John, 8. 52

3 John, 7. 20

4 Luke, 24. 39

5 I Corinthians, 15. 44

6 Matthew, 4. 1

7 Luke, 22. 3, 4

8 Mark, 16. 17

9 II Kings, 18. 4

10 Exodus, 32

11 Genesis, 31. 30


Last updated Saturday, April 23, 2016 at 13:15