Friday, November 22, 2013


A thing that greatly surprises and shocks English and American visitors in Venice, is to find in so many of its churches, statues and images, as well as pictures, of the Madonna and child. The images, which cause the deepest feeling of revulsion and even disgust, consist of the form of a woman dressed up in old faded bits of silk, ribbons and laces, and having an abundance of tinsel ornaments about her, and a glittering crown with seven stars on her head, and a mock sceptre in her hand; whilst on her knee sits her babe similarly gotten up, but generally without the crown and sceptre. These 'idols' are perfectly hideous, and yet they are set up on thrones in prominent parts of the churches, and oftentimes on side altars, and sometimes even on the chief altar itself. Generally beside them is a box into which you are invited to put money to save your soul, and the souls of your friends, by having prayers said to the "Mother of God." The whole thing is repulsive, not only to one's sense of religion, but to one's common intelligence.

These images are only a sign of the wide extent to which Mariolatry has spread in the Church of Rome, and of the desire of those in authority to maintain it, and to extend it still further. I have noticed that in churches it is often only the chapel of Mary that has any worshippers, and it is only her image that is kissed and adored, and it is at her altar that masses are most frequently said. To a large extent modern popery in continental countries is Mariolatry. This is the idolatry that has supplanted the worship of God and of Jesus. And there is a tendency to spread Mariolatry wherever Romanism exists, and many ritualists in Protestant churches second their efforts. Dr. Vaughan went through the farce the other day of dedicating England to her, and many Romanizing clergymen have set up her image and superscription in their churches. In view of these things it may be worth while to ask and answer these two questions. (1) How did Mariolatry begin? and (2) Who is mainly responsible for its present increase?

These questions I purpose answering briefly in this paper.

1. Mariolatry began, strange to say, in something that was done in the fifth century in honor not of Mary, but of Christ. Early in that century pictures of the Madonna and child, such as everyone is familiar with in the present day, began to be made. This was intended to show that Jesus Christ was divine in his nature, and that therefore even as a babe he was worthy of receiving worship. The device was thought of in order to protest against, and controvert, the heretical opinion that Christ only differed from other men in having received the Divine Spirit in more abundant measure. The intention was good, and the pictures may, for a time, have served the purpose of their inventors, but by and by, not only did they fail in this, but they served the very opposite purpose. Worship began to be transferred from the babe to the mother, from Jesus to Mary. In the eleventh century we find the Church of Rome appointing a canonical service in honor of Mary; in the fourteenth, Popes and Councils making bulls and decrees for the regulation of her worship; in the sixteenth, the Jesuits came upon the scene, who devoted themselves to the extension of Mariolatry.

Thus it began and has flourished down the centuries to our own day, when it has monopolized worship in the Roman Church almost completely. During the last fifty years the spread and growth of this idolatry, has been more marked than during any previous period in its history.

2. Pope Leo XIII is mainly responsible for this. The Pope not very long ago issued an Encyclical Letter on Mariolatry, which if one had been told only of its existence, and had not seen it, would have seemed incredible. The letter is entitled "De Rosario Mariali,'' "concerning the Rosary of Mary," and it is addressed to the Primates, Archbishops, shops and others in connection with the Apostolic See. I give only a part of it, and follow the translation that was given in the Anglican Church Magazine. The letter begins:
As often as the occasion permits me to rekindle and augment the love and devotion of Christian people towards the great Mother of God I am penetrated with a wondrous pleasure and joy! dealing with a subject which is not only most excellent in itself, and blessed to me in many ways, but is also in tenderest accord with my inmost feelings. For indeed, the holy affection towards Mary, which I imbibed almost with my mother's milk, has vigorously increased with growing years, and become more deeply rooted in my mind. The many and remarkable proofs of her kindness and good will towards me, which I recall with deepest thankfulness, and not without tears, kindle and inflame more and more strongly my responsive affection. For in the many varied and terrible trials that have befallen me, I have always looked up to her with eager and imploring eyes: all my hopes and fears, my joys and sorrows, have been deposited in her bosom, and it has been my constant care to entreat her to show to me a mother's kindness, to be always at my side, and to grant especially that I, on my part, may be enabled to manifest toward her the proofs of the most devoted love of a son. When, then, it was brought about that I should be raised to this Chair of the Blessed Peter, to rule his Church, I strove in prayer with more ardent desire for divine assistance, trusting in the maternal love of the blessed virgin. And this my hope (my heart delights to tell it) throughout all my life, has never failed to help and console me. Hence under her auspices and with her mediation I am encouraged to hope for still greater blessings. It is, therefore, right and opportune to urge all my children to set apart carefully the month of October to the celebration of our lady and august queen of the Rosary, with the more lively exercises of piety.
For when we betake ourselves in prayer to Mary, we betake ourselves to the mother of mercy, well disposed toward us, that whatever trials we may be afflicted with, she may lavish on us the treasure of that grace, which from the beginning was given to her in full plenty from God. Therefore, let us not approach Mary timidly or carelessly, but pleading those maternal ties wherewith she is most closely united with us through Jesus, let us piously invoke her ready help, in that method of prayer which she herself has taught us, and accepts.
I desire to conclude this present exhortation, as I began it, by again and with greater insistence, testifying the feelings which I cherish toward the great parent of God, mindful of her kindness, and full of the most joyful hope. Our hope in Mary, our mighty and kind Mother, grows wide, day by day, and ever beams upon us more brightly. 
Such is the gist of this encyclical letter of Pope Leo XIII. He claims to be the Vicar of Christ, but here he avows himself to be a worshipper of Mary, and talks irrationally and blasphemously about her. And yet considered neither a bad man, as Popes, go, nor a man lacking in intelligence. But there is such a thing as a man and a Church so rejecting truth and propagating falsehood, so professing to be spiritual and living carnal, so trading and trafficking in a lie, that God gives them over to strong delusion, so that they believe a lie.

What a pity it is that so many Protestants talk with vated breath of His holiness. The Church of Rome needs the gospel as any Pagan institution does. In Italy also this is recognized, and Italians are accepting the Bible as they did not and could not do formerly, and having put off a system which was external to them, consisting of rites and ceremonies, of meats and drinks, are puttting on that which enters into their hearts and lives, and consists of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.

~REV. ALEXANDER ROBERTSON, VENICE. The Church at Home and Abroad, Volumes 15-16

Sunday, November 17, 2013

William Craig Brownlee on making images of Christ

It is impossible to represent in visible materials, the invisible God. Every image of this nature, does represent the Deity infinitely different from what he is. Hence these images are designated by divine inspiration, "a Lie." For they utter the most glaring, and most pernicious Falsehood, that can possibly be conceived. Rom. i. 25. "They changed the truth of God," the true representation of the infinite and omnipresent one, "into a lie, and worshipped, and served the creature, more than the Creator."

But you insist on making, and adoring images of Christ: and you carry this into practice to such an extent, that these images, and those of the Madonna and the child, are as numerous in your chapels as the Jupiters, and Venus, with her Cupids, were in the pagan temples of old. Now, any image you can make of Christ, must exhibit an imaginary countenance, and features; no man, or church on earth, has retained his true likeness. As portraits, or statues of him, therefore, what you show off, are actually mere fictions; mere impositions; and they are, like all idols, a lie. Besides, no christian in his sound senses ever did, or ever will worship the manhood of Jesus Christ. We worship him exclusively, and only, as "The eternal Son of God," or "the Great God our Savior." And in this character, in which we do worship him, no image, no painting, no similitude, ever can be made of him. A few rude materials of straw and dust, can never represent the invisible, eternal, and omnipresent Deity! To worship an image of a man, which you are pleased, without reason, or propriety, to style a "Christ," is the grossest idolatry! And according to the above argument, it is doubly "a lie." First, as to his manhood: and second, as to his Godhead! Hence our answer to your vulgar reason, in behalf of using images,—namely, that they are "picture books,"—"the instructive books," to lead and guide the illiterate and vulgar into truth:—"and that they exhibit, at one view, what it would take volumes to express." Yes! they are the illiterate man's picture books: but they mislead, and impose on him most scandalously. They are the infamous tools of a reckless pagan priestcraft, to crush intellect, reason, knowledge, piety, and if possible, the pure christian religion! Yes!—"They are the books of the unlearned." And be it so:—but whoever saw a man in his senses, fall down, and worship, and pray to "his books," out of which he was reading!
~William Craig Brownlee

The Worship of the Virgin Mary and of the Popes of Rome

At ROME, in almost every shop or dwelling is to be found an image of the blessed Virgin with an infant Saviour, before which the devout will seldom pass without saluting them with respect; and many a poor artisan would rather go to bed supperless, than not have wherewith to purchase oil for the lamp of his Madonna. ["Baron Geramb's Journey from La Trappe to Rom." p. 224.] During Christmas, the shrines and images of the Virgin are serenaded, generally by Calabrian peasants. Dr. Moore, in his "View of Society and Manners in Italy," has recorded an anecdote in reference to these serenades, which shows how readily adoration, through images, become direct image-worship. He says:—

"Here it is a popular opinion that the Virgin Mary is very fond, and an excellent judge, of music. I received this information on a Christmas morning, when I was looking at two poor Calabrian pipers, doing their utmost to please her and the infant in her arms. They played for a full hour to one of her images, which stands at the corner of a street. All the other statues of the Virgin, which are placed in the streets, are serenaded in the same manner every Christmas morning. On my inquiring into the meaning of the ceremony, I was told the above-mentioned circumstances of her character. My informant was a pilgrim, who stood listening with great devotion to the pipers. He told me, at the same time, that the Virgin's taste was too refined to have much satisfaction in the performance of these poor Calabrians, which was chiefly intended for the infant; and he desired me to remark that the tunes were plain, simple, and such as might naturally be supposed agreeable to the ear of a child at his time of life."- (Vol. ii. pp. 77, 78.)

Such is the popular belief. But how completely does it discard all real reference to HIM who is thus represented! who is not now, as more than eighteen hundred years ago, an infant: but, having suffered for our sins, has "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." (Heb. i. 3, 4.) How completely does this representation of Christ, as an infant of days, keep out of view the great work of the atonement, and promote the error of applying to his mother as a mediator, having authority over him. ["The spirit of Letters from a Father to his Children," p. 212. London: 1810. Though chiefly designed for the young, these ably written letters may be advantageously read by students of a larger growth; nor do we know a more useful present which can be made to youth, who are about to visit countries where Popery is dominant, in order to forewarn them against its seductive witchery.]
~Thomas Hartwell Horne (, The Worship of the Virgin Mary and of the Popes of Rome. via The Quarterly Review of the American Protestant Association

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Thomas Ridgley on the unlawfulness of representing any of the Persons in the Godhead

It must be inquired whether it be unlawful to represent any of the persons in the Godhead, by pictures or carved images? We answer, that, God being infinite and incomprehensible, it is impossible to frame any image like him. [Isaiah 40:18; 46:5; Acts 17:29] Moreover, he assigns as a reason why Israel should make no image of him, that 'they saw no manner of similitude when he spake to them in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire;' and adds, 'lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image.' [Deuteronomy 4:15, 16] And the apostle styles the representing of God by an image, an offering the highest affront to him, when he speaks of some who 'changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man.' [Romans 1:23] But there are some who, though they do not much care to defend the practice of making pictures of God, yet plead for describing an emblem of the Trinity, such as a triangle, with the name Jehovah in the midst of it. Now, I would observe concerning this practice, that if the design of it be to worship God by the emblem, it is idolatry; but if not, it is unwarrantable, and, indeed, unnecessary; since a Trinity of persons in the unity of the divine essence, is to be understood as revealed in scripture, and not brought to our remembrance by an emblem, which is an ordinance of our own invention. It is farther inquired whether we may not describe our Saviour, as he sometimes is by the Papists, in those things which respect his human nature? whether we may not portray him as an infant in his mother's arms, or as conversing on earth, or hanging on the cross? The Papists not only describe him thus, but adore the image or representation of Christ crucified, which they call a crucifix. But whatever of Christ comes within the reach of the art of man to delineate or describe, is only his human nature, which is not the object of divine adoration; so that the practice of describing him in the way mentioned tends rather to debase, than to give us raised and becoming conceptions of him as such.
~Thomas Ridgley, A Body of Divinity, wherein the doctrines of the Christian religion are explained and defended: being the substance of several lectures on the Assembly's Larger catechism

The ineffectual image of Jesus as a baby

Babylon had systematized idolatry. Nimrod and his queen, Semiramis, instated a great system of idolatry. At his death, Nimrod was deified as the sun god, and Semiramis thereupon inaugurated the worship of a trinity-father, mother, and son. After her death she was venerated as "Queen of Heaven," and the sun-god came to be regarded as her child. Thus, mother and son became the prominent deities.

Satan, anticipating the incarnation of the Son of God, and the time when the seed of the woman would bruise his head, initiated the worship of mother and child with a view to nullifying the redemptive work of God through Christ.

Satan is trying to give the ineffectual image of Jesus as a baby or dead on a cross instead of as our risen Saviour.
~W.E. Vine