Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 442. RIDLEY'S TREATISE AGAINST IMAGES.


A treatise of Master Nicholas Ridley, in the name, as it seemeth, of the whole clergy, to King Edward the Sixth, concerning images not to be set up, nor worshipped in churches.

            "Certain reasons which move us that we cannot with safe consciences give our assent, that the images of Christ, &c., should be placed and erected in churches.

            "First, the words of the commandment, Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, &c. And the same is repeated more plainly, Cursed is the man which maketh a graven or molten image, &c., and setteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall say, Amen.

            "In the first place, these words are to be noted: Thou shalt not make to thyself, that is, to any use of religion. In the latter place, these words, and setteth it in a secret place; for no man durst then commit idolatry openly. So that conferring the places, it doth evidently appear, that images, both for use of religion and in place of peril for idolatry, are forbidden.

            "God, knowing the inclination of man to idolatry, showeth the reason why he made this general prohibition, Lest peradventure thou, being deceived, shouldst bow down to them and worship them.

            "This general law is generally to be observed, notwithstanding that, peradventure, a great number cannot be hurt by them; which may appear by the example following. God forbade the people to join their children in marriage with strangers, adding the reason, For she will seduce thy son, that he shall not follow me.

            "Moses was not deceived nor seduced by Jethro's daughter, nor Boaz by Ruth, being a woman of Moab. And yet for all that, the general law was to be observed, Thou shalt join no marriage with them. And so likewise, Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, &c.

            "God giveth a special charge to avoid images. Beware, saith he, that thou forget not the covenant of the Lord thy God which he made with thee, and so make to thyself any graven image of any thing which the Lord hath forbidden thee; for the Lord thy God is a consuming fire, and a jealous God. If thou have children and nephews, and do well in the land, and being deceived, do make to yourselves any graven image, doing evil before the Lord your God, and provoke him to anger, I do this day call heaven and earth to witness, that you shall quickly perish out of the land which ye shall possess; ye shall not dwell in it any longer time, but the Lord will destroy you, and scatter you amongst all nations.

            "Note, what solemn obtestation God useth, and what grievous punishments he threateneth, to the breakers of the second commandment.

            "In the tabernacle and temple of God no image was by God appointed openly to be set, nor by practice afterwards used or permitted, so long as religion was purely observed; so that the use and execution of the law is a good interpreter of the true meaning of the same.

            "If by virtue of the second commandment images were not lawful in the temple of the Jews, then, by the same commandment, they are not lawful in the churches of Christians: for, being a moral commandment, and not ceremonial, (for by consent of writers, only a part of the precept of observing the sabbath is ceremonial,) it is a perpetual commandment, and bindeth us, as well as the Jews.

            "The Jews by no means would consent to Herod, Pilate, or Petronius, that images should be placed in the temple at Jerusalem, but rather offered themselves to the death, than to assent unto it; who, besides that they are commended by Josephus for observing the meaning of the law, would not have endangered themselves so far, if they had thought images had been indifferent in the temple of God. For, as St. Paul saith, Quid templo Dei cum simulacris, &c.

            "God's Scripture doth in no place commend the use of images, but in a great number of places doth disallow and condemn them.

            "They are called in the book of Wisdom, The trap and snare of the feet of the ignorant. It is said that the invention of them was the beginning of spiritual fornication; and that they were not from the beginning, neither shall they continue to the end. In the 15th chapter of the same book it is said, Umbra pictura, labor sine fructu, &c. And again, They are worthy of death, both that put their trust in them, and that make them, and that love them, and that worship them.

            "The Psalms and prophets are full of like sentences; and how can we then praise the thing which God's Spirit doth always dispraise?

            "Furthermore, an image made by a father (as appeareth in the same book) for the memorial of his son departed, was the first invention of images, and occasion of idolatry. How much more then shall an image made in the memory of Christ, and set up in the place of religion, occasion the same offence? Images have their beginning from the heathen, and of no good ground; therefore they cannot be profitable to Christians. Whereunto Athanasius agreeth, writing of images against the Gentiles: The invention of images came of no good, but of evil; and whatsoever hath an evil beginning, can never in any thing be judged good, seeing it is wholly naught.

            "St. John saith, My little children, beware of images. But to set them in the churches, which are places dedicated to the service and invocation of God, and that over the Lord's table, being the highest and most honourable place, where most danger of abuse both is, and ever hath been, is not to beware of them, nor to flee from them, but rather to embrace and receive them. Tertullian expounding the same words, writeth thus: 'Little children, keep yourselves from the shape itself, or form of them.'

            "Images in the church either serve to edify or to destroy. If they edify, then there is one kind of edification which the Scriptures neither teach nor command, but always disallow: if they destroy, they are not to be used; for in the church of God all things ought to be done to edify.

            "The commandment of God is, Thou shalt not lay a stumbling-block or a stone before the blind: and cursed is he that maketh the blind wander in his way.

            "The simple and unlearned people, who have been so long under blind guides, are blind in matters of religion, and inclined to error and idolatry. Therefore to set images before them to stumble at, (they be snares and traps for the feet of the ignorant,) or to lead them out of the true way, is not only against the commandment of God, but deserveth also the malediction and curse of God.

            "The use of images is, to the learned and confirmed in knowledge, neither necessary nor profitable: to the superstitious, a confirmation in error: to the simple and weak, an occasion of fall, and very offensive and wounding of their consciences; and therefore very dangerous. For St. Paul saith, offending the brethren, and wounding their weak consciences, they sin against Christ. And, Woe be to him by whom offence or occasion of falling cometh: it were better that a millstone were tied about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than to offend one of the little ones that believe in Christ. And whereas objection may be made, that such offence may be taken away by sincere doctrine and preaching; it is to be answered, that that is not sufficient; as hereafter more at large shall appear.

            "And though it should be admitted as true, yet should it follow, that sincere doctrine and preaching should always, and in all places, continue as well as images; and so wheresoever an image to offend were erected, there should also of reason a godly and sincere preacher be continually maintained: for it is reason that the remedy be as large as the offence, the medicine as general as the poison; but that is not possible in the realm of England, that images should be generally allowed, as reason and experience may teach.

            "As good magistrates, which intend to banish all whoredom, do drive away all naughty persons, specially out of such places as be suspected; even so images, being meretrices, i. e. whores, for that the worshipping of them is called in the prophets fornication and adultery, ought to be banished; and especially out of churches, which is the most suspected place, and where the spiritual fornication hath been most committed. It is not expedient to allow and admit the thing which is hurtful to the greatest number; but in all churches and commonwealths the ignorant and weak are the greatest number, to whom images are hurtful, and not profitable. And whereas it is commonly alleged, that images in churches do stir up the mind to devotion, it may be answered, that contrariwise they do rather distract the mind from prayer, hearing of God's word, and other godly meditations; as we read that in the council-chamber of the Lacedemonians no picture or image was suffered, lest in consultation of weighty matters of the commonweal, their minds, by the sight of the outward image, might be occasioned to be withdrawn, or to wander from the matter.

            "The experience of this present time doth declare, that those parts of the realm, which think and are persuaded that God is not offended by doing outward reverence to an image, do most desire the restitution of images, and have been most diligent to set them up again: restitution, therefore, of them by common authority, shall confirm them more in their error to the danger of their souls, than ever they were before. For as one man writeth, Nihil magis est cerium, quam quod ex dubio actum est certum: that is to say, 'Nothing is more certain or sure, than that which of doubtful is made certain.'

            "The profit of images is uncertain; the peril, by experience of all ages and states of the church, (as afore,) is most certain. The benefit to be taken of them (if there be any) is very small; the danger in seeing of them, which is the danger of idolatry, is the greatest of all other. Now, to allow a most certain peril for an uncertain profit, and the greatest danger for the smallest benefit, in matters of faith and religion, is a tempting of God, and a grievous offence."


Probations out of the fathers, councils, and histories.

            "First, it is manifest, that in the primitive church images were not commonly used in churches, oratories, and places of assembly for religion; but they were generally detested and abhorred, insomuch that the want of imagery was objected to the Christians for a crime.

            "Origen reporteth, that Celsus objected to the lack of images.

            "Arnobius saith also, that the ethnics accused the Christians, that they had neither altars nor images.

            "Zephirus, in his Commentary upon the Apology of Tertullian, gathereth thus of Tertullian's words: 'Which place of persuasion were very cold, and to no purpose at all, except we hold this always: that Christians in those days did hate most of all images, with their trim decking and ornaments.'

            "Irenĉus reproveth the heretics called Gnostici, for that they carried about the image of Christ made in Pilate's time after his own proportion (which were much more to be esteemed than any that can be made now); using also, for declaration of their affection towards it, to set garlands upon the head of it.

            "Lactantius affirmeth plainly, 'It is not to be doubted, that there is no religion, wheresoever is any image.' If Christians then had used images, he would not have made his proposition so large.

            "St. Augustine commendeth Varro the Roman in these words: 'When Varro thought religion might be kept more purely without images, who doth not see how near he came to the truth?' So that not only by M. Varro's judgment, but also by St. Augustine's approbation, the most pure and chaste observation of religion, and nearest the truth, is to be without images.

            "The same St. Augustine hath these words: Images have more force to bow down and crook the silly soul than to teach it.'

            "And upon the same psalm he moveth this question: 'Every child, yea every beast, knoweth that it is not God which they see: why then doth the Holy Ghost so oft give warning to beware of that thing which all do know?'

            "St. Augustine's answer [is this]: 'For when they are set in churches, and begin once to be worshipped of the multitude or common people, straightway springeth up a most filthy affection of error.'

            "This place of St. Augustine doth well open how weak a reason it is to say, images are a thing indifferent in chambers and in churches. For the alteration of the place, manner, and other circumstances, doth alter oftentimes the nature of the thing. It is lawful to buy and sell in the market, but not so in churches. It is lawful to eat and drink, but not so in churches. And therefore saith St. Paul, Have you not houses to eat and drink in? Do you contemn the church of God?

            "Many other actions there be, which are lawful and honest in private places, which are neither comely nor honest, not only in churches, but also in other assemblies of honest people.

            "Tertullian saith, he used sometimes to burn frankincense in his chamber, which was then used of idolaters, and is yet in the Romish churches. But he joineth withal, But not after such a rite or ceremony, nor after such a fashion, nor with such preparation or sumptuousness, as it is done before the idols.'

            "So that images placed in churches, and set 'in an honourable place of estimation,' as St. Augustine saith, and especially over the Lord's table, which is done (using the words of Tertullian) 'after the same manner and fashion,' which the papists did use, especially after so long continuance of abuse of images, and so many being blinded with superstitious opinion towards them, cannot be counted a thing indifferent, but a most certain ruin of many souls.

            "Epiphanius, in his epistle to John, bishop of Jerusalem, (which epistle was translated out of the Greek by St. Jerome, being a likelihood that Jerome misliked not the doctrine of the same,) doth write a fact of his own, which doth most clearly declare the judgment of that notable learned bishop concerning the use of images. His words are these: 'When I came to a village called Anablatha; and saw there, as I passed by, a candle burning, and inquiring what place it was, and learning that it was a church, and had entered into the same to pray, I found there a veil or cloth hanging at the door of the same church, dyed and painted; having on it the image of Christ as it were, or of some saint (for I remember not well whose it was). Then when I saw this, that in the church of Christ, against the authority of the Scriptures, the image of a man did hang, I cut it in pieces, &c., and commanded that such manner of veils or clothes, which are contrary to our religion, be not hanged in the church of Christ.'

            "Out of this place of Epiphanius divers notes are to be observed.

            "First, that by the judgment of this ancient father, to permit images in churches is against the authority of the Scriptures, meaning against the second commandment, Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, &c.

            "Secondly, that Epiphanius doth reject not only graven and molten, but also painted images; forasmuch as he cut in pieces the image painted in a veil banging at the church door; what would he have done, if he had found it over the Lord's table?

            "Thirdly, that he spareth not the image of Christ: for no doubt that image is most perilous in the church of all others.

            "Fourthly, that he did not only remove it, but with a vehemency of zeal cut it in pieces, following the example of the good King Hezekias, who brake the brazen serpent, and burnt it to ashes.

            "Last of all, that Epiphanius thinketh it the duty of vigilant bishops to be careful, that no such kind of painted images be permitted in the church.

            "Serenus, bishop of Marseille, broke down images, and destroyed them, when he did see them begin to be worshipped.

            "Experience of the times since hath declared, whether of these two sentences were better. For since Gregory's time, the images standing in the West church, it hath been overflowed with idolatry, notwithstanding his or other men's doctrine; whereas, if Serenus's judgment had universally taken place, no such thing had happened: for if no images had been suffered, none could have been worshipped; and consequently, no idolatry committed by them.

            "To recite the process of histories and councils about the matter of images, it would require a long discourse; but it shall be sufficient here briefly to touch a few.

            "It is manifest to them that read histories, that not only emperors, but also divers and sundry councils in the East church, have condemned and abolished images both by decrees and examples.

            "Petrus Crinitus, in his Book of Honest Discipline, wrote out of the emperor's books these words: 'Valens and Theodosius the emperors wrote to the high marshal or lieutenant in this sort: Whereas we are very careful that the religion of Almighty God should be in all things kept, we permit no man to cast, grave, or paint the image of our Saviour Christ, either in colours, stone, or other matter; but wheresoever it be found, we command it to be taken away, punishing them most grievously that shall attempt any thing contrary to our decrees and empire.'

            "Leo the Third, a man commended in histories for his excellent virtues and godliness, who (as is judged of some men) was the author of the book De Re Militari, that is, Of the Feat of War, being translated out of the Greek by Sir John Cheeke, and dedicated to King Henry the Eighth, your Highness's father, by public authority commanded abolishing of images; and in Constantinople caused all the images to be gathered together on a heap, and burned them unto ashes.

            "Constantine the Fifth, his son, assembled a council of the bishops of the East church, in which council it was decreed as followeth: 'It is not lawful for them that believe in God through Jesus Christ, to have any images, either of the Creator, or of any creatures set up in temples to be worshipped; but rather that all images by the law of God, and for the avoiding of offence, ought to be taken out of churches:' which decree was executed in all places where any images were, either in Greece or in Asia. But in all these times, the bishops of Rome rather maintaining the authority of Gregory, weighing like Christian bishops the peril of the church, always in their assemblies allowed images.

            "Not long after, the bishop of Rome, practising with Tharasius patriarch of Constantinople, obtained of Irene the empress, (her son Constantine being then young,) that a council was called at Nice, in the which the pope's legates were presidents, which appeared well by their fruits: for in that council it was decreed, that images should not only be permitted in churches, but also worshipped: which council was confuted by a book written by the emperor Charlemagne, calling it a foolish and an arrogant council.

            "Soon after this council, arose a sharp contention between Irene the empress, and her son Constantine the Sixth, the emperor, who destroyed images. And in the end, as she had before wickedly burned the bones of her father in law, Constantine the Fifth, so afterward unnaturally she put out the eyes of her son Constantine the Sixth. About which time, as Eutropius writeth, the sun was darkened most terribly for the space of seventeen days, God showing, by that dreadful sign, how much he misliked those kinds of proceedings.

            "To be short, there was never thing that made more division, or brought more mischief into the church, than the controversy of images: by reason whereof, not only the East church was divided from the West, and never since perfectly reconciled, but also the empire was cut asunder and divided, and the gate opened to the Saracens and Turks, to enter and overcome a great piece of Christendom. The fault whereof most justly is to be ascribed to the patrons of images, who could not be contented with the example of the primitive church, being most simple and sincere, and most agreeable to the Scripture; for, as Tertullian saith, 'What is first, that is true, and that which is later is counterfeit:' but with all extremity maintained the use of images in churches, whereof no profit nor commodity did ever grow to the church of God. For it is evident, that infinite millions of souls have been cast into eternal damnation by the occasion of images used in place of religion; and no history can record, that ever any one soul was won unto Christ by having of images. But lest it might appear that the West church had always generally retained and commended images, it is to be noted, that in a council holden in Spain, called the council of Elvira, the use of images in churches was clearly prohibited in this form of words: 'We decree, that pictures ought not to be in churches, lest that be painted upon the walls, which is worshipped or adored.'

            "But this notwithstanding, experience hath declared, that neither assembling in councils, neither writings, preachings, decrees, making of laws, prescribing of punishments, hath holpen against images, to the which idolatry hath been committed, nor against idolatry whilst images stood. For these blind books and dumb schoolmasters (which they call laymen's books) have more prevailed by their carved and painted preaching of idolatry, than all other written books and preachings in teaching the truth, and the horror of that vice.

            "Having thus declared unto your Highness a few causes of many which do move our consciences in this matter; we beseech your Highness most humbly not to strain us any further, but to consider that God's word doth threaten a terrible judgment unto us, if we, being pastors and ministers in his church, should assent unto the thing which in our learning and conscience we are persuaded doth tend to the confirmation of error, superstition, and idolatry: and finally, to the ruin of the souls committed to our charge, for the which we must give an account to the Prince of pastors at the last day. We pray your Majesty also not to be offended with this our plainness and liberty, which all good and Christian princes have ever taken in good part at the hands of godly bishops.

            "St. Ambrose, writing to Theodosius the emperor, useth these words: 'But neither is it the part of an emperor to deny free liberty of speaking, nor yet the duty of a priest not to speak what he thinketh.' And again: 'In God's cause whom wilt thou hear, if thou wilt not hear the priest, to whose great peril the fault should be committed? Who dare say the truth unto thee, if the priest dare not?' These and such-like speeches of St. Ambrose, Theodosius and Valentinian the emperors did always take in good part, and we doubt not but your Grace will do the like, of whose not only clemency, but also beneficence, we have largely tasted.

            "We beseech your Majesty also, in these and suchlike controversies of religion, to refer the discussment and deciding of them to a synod of your bishops and other godly learned men, according to the example of Constantine the Great, and other Christian emperors, that the reasons of both parts being examined by them, the judgment may be given uprightly in all doubtful matters.

            "And to return to this present matter, we most humbly beseech your Majesty to consider, that besides weighty causes in policy, which we leave to the wisdom of your honourable councillors, the stablishment of images by your authority shall not only utterly discredit our ministers, as builders up of the things which we have destroyed, but also blemish the fame of your most godly father, and such notable fathers as have given their life for the testimony of God's truth, who by public law removed all images.

            "The almighty and everliving God plentifully endue your Majesty with his Spirit and heavenly wisdom, and long preserve your most gracious reign and prosperous government over us, to the advancement of his glory, to the overthrow of superstition, and to the benefit and comfort of all your Highness's loving subjects."


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