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whole system of Protestantism, which was 'not heard of in the world till more than one thousand five hundred years after Christ, and which, at this day, can boast only, under any of its forms, the duration of three centuries. But the assertion, that the veneration of relics was not known till near four hundred years after Christ, is manifestly untrue, and proves the catéchist to be as deficient in the knowledge of ecclesiastical antiquity, as he has shown himself, by the preceding objections, ignorant of the plainest facts recorded in Scripture.
In the year 166 of the Christian era, St. Polycarp, the illustrious bishop of Smyrna, suffered a glorious martyrdom for the name of Christ; a distinct account of which was published in a circular letter, addressed to the churches established in various parts of the Christian world, and particularly to the church of Philadelphia-. Scaliger, speaking of this remarkable document, declares, that he knows nothing more truly affecting in the whole compass of Christian antiquity? In this celebrated performance, the authors says: “ We adore him, (meaning Christ our Lord) as the Son of God; but as to the martyrs, we bear them a deserved affection, as the disciples and imitators of our Lord, in con
See Russel Patr. Apostol. tom. ii. 322—369.
sequence of their unparalleled benevolence towards their King and their Master; and may we become their associates and fellow disciples. The centurion, seeing a commotion arise among the Jews, placed the martyr in the midst of the fire, and consigned him to the flames. Thus we afterwards took up his bones, more precious than the most precious stones, and more valued than gold, and deposited them in a proper place. On that spot shall we assemble, and by the bounty of the Lord, celebrate the birth-day of his martyrdom, both in remembrance of the departed combatant, as well for the instruction and trial of future ages.” If this quotation, from the illustrious document under consideration, does not excite in the catechist some feeling of shame, we may safely pronounce that all delicacy is extinguished in his breast.
IV. The next objection, that there is no mention made in the Acts of the Apostles, of the manner in which the relics of St. Stephen were disposed of, is worthy of its author. This is barely a negative argument, and by no means destroys the force of the positive demonstration, drawn from the miracles, with which God honoured the shade of Peter, or the aprons that had touched the body of Paul. Though St. Luke is silent as to the precaution taken about the relics of St. Stephen, they were unquestionably honoured and preserved with care ; for at a subsequent period, they were
discovered; and the great St. Augustine records many miracles performed by means of these relics, of some of which he was an ocular witness?
V. As to the assertion, that there have been false relics, that circumstance cannot destroy the value of those that are genuine. The church takes the most prudent precaution to guard against imposition”; and this is all that can be required. If base money is circulated in the dominions of his Majesty, by artifice and knavery, that deplorable abuse does not impair the value of the legitimate coin.
VI. Again it is said, that the miracles attributed to these relics have often been found to be delusions of the devil. To this it may be safely replied, that they have often been found to be true ; and that no doubt can be entertained of the reality of those, which the pastors of the Catholic church, after a juridical examination, have admitted?. Again let it be observed, that if base coin has sometimes been circulated, or false cures credited in the history of medicine, those occurrences do not impair the value of good money, or diminish the credit of the successful physician.
VII. The superstition here charged on the
1 See the whole of the long chapter on the subject, c. viii. lib. 22 de Civit. Dei. Conc. Trident. Sess. 25.
See St. Aug. loc. cit.
Catholic church, exists only in the imagination of the writer
VIII. As to the abuse of the veneration paid to relics, it is evident that the abuses here referred to, are not committed by persons well informed of their duty, and if the ignorant and uninformed pervert it to improper purposes, that is no fairer argument for the suppression of the legitimate practice, than the excess of the drunkard would be for prohibiting the general use of wine, and other inebriating liquors.
See the fair explanation in the body of the present article.
Why may not the images of God, of Christ, of the Virgin
Mary, and of the saints, be venerated or worshipped ?
1. Because, as to images of God, God declares his anger
against those that pretend to make any similitude of him, Deut. iv. 15, 16; Isa. xi. 18. And if it he not lawful to
make them, it must be more unlawful to worship them. 2. This worship or veneration is peremptorily forbid in the
second commandment, and under very severe penalties. 3. Even the worship of the true God by an image, is unlawful,
and called idolatry, as is evident from the example of the Israelites worshipping the true God by the figure of the
golden calf, 1 Cor. x. 7. 4. The Primitive Christians would not suffer images so much
as to be painted on the walls of their churches, so far they
were from thinking their worship lawful. 5. Several councils of old have condemned this worship. 6. The Carpocratians were counted heretics in the Primitive
Church, for worshipping the images of Christ and St. Paul. 7. God doth not only forbid placing divine virtue in images,
but falling down before them in a religious way; and whatever men's pretensions are, he interprets their falling down before them as worshipping the image itself, Jer. ii. 26,
27; Isa. xliv. 17. 8. The heathens excused their worshipping of images, with the
same argument the Church of Rome makes use of, that they did not worship the image, but the person represented by
the image, yet the Christians charged them with idolatry. 9. So great an aversion had the Primitive Christians to all such
worship, that St. Epiphanius, bishop of Salamine, who lived in the fourth century, tore a vail in the church, on