CHAPTER XIV. MARIOLATRY AND IMAGE WORSHIP.
What is called "Holy Week" gives proofs of the shallowness of Rome's piety. Priests and people alike can weep, fast and faint, because their God is suffering and dying; all traffic can stop because, they say, "God has died"; but as soon as the death of Judas is announced, at noon on Saturday, the noise of guns, pistols, squibs, etc., takes the place of the death-like quiet that had reigned. After an hour or two silence again prevails till Sunday morning, when all restraint is removed, and people seem to make up for lost time. Drinking and kindred evils run riot, and it is no uncommon thing on the Sunday night to see the people drinking and dancing by the light of the candles they were burning to their favorite virgin or saint.
In the large city of Lima, for centuries a very stronghold of image worship, the interest in the Church has of late years been waning. Perhaps one reason for this is the changing nature of the native population of the city, for the deaths there exceed the births. Seeing this falling away from the Church, the priests announced that they had decided to send for the Sacred Heart of the Virgin, and trusted that the presence of this holy relic would promote the more faithful attendance of the flock. The heart arrived and was with great solemnity hung from the roof of the cathedral as the incentive to piety. Thousands flocked into the sacred building with reverent awe. The women gazed upon the heart with tearful eyes, and as they thought of Mary's sufferings and goodness they were emulated to deeper acts of love and piety. One day the wind blew very strongly through the open doorway, and the Sacred Heart began to sway to and fro. Getting more and more momentum with every oscillation, the heart finally struck against a sharp cornice, when lo - all the sawdust fell out of the canvas bag they had worshipped as the heart of flesh of their goddess. How they reconciled the existence of the heart of the Virgin with their belief that she ascended to heaven in a bodily form I do not pretend to imagine. It may be remarked that this is surely Romanism corrupted. Nay, it is rather Romanism developed.
"Andacilli is a hamlet, at which there is an image of the Virgin. Every year pilgrims resort thither, and a great feast to the Virgin is celebrated, the most important day being December 26th. During the last few years there has been a falling off in the number of pilgrims, especially those of the better class, but this last year the clerical authorities have left no stone unturned in order to get together more people than ever. Six bishops were advertised to come, and they were to crown the Virgin with a crown which cost thousands of dollars. These proceedings rouse an incredible enthusiasm in the people." [Footnote: "Regions Beyond."]
Sometimes Mary's image is baptized in the river, while men and women line the bank, ready to leap into the holy water when she is lifted out. Afterwards the water in which she was immersed is sold as a cure for bodily ills. Sometimes the earth from under the building where she is kept is also sold for the same purpose.
Imagine a church like that in Tucuru! "It consists of a palm-leaf hut, with a bare floor and no furniture whatever. Round the sides stand twelve life-size figures, made of canvas and stuffed with husks of corn, which some one of the Indian worshippers has painted with the features and dress of his own race. When I went in two women lay prostrate on the floor, and one of them screamed in agonizing tones, 'My Lords, send the rod of your power to heal him!' - evidently praying to these apostles on behalf of some sick relative. Here, once a year, a priest celebrates mass, and when he last came he stuck a paper over the entrance, which read: Hoec est Domus Del et Porta Coeli (' This is the House of God and the Gate of Heaven.') In San Jose we have the four walls of a new church, consecrated to the 'Virgin,' where, recently, a raffle was held on behalf of the projected edifice. As we enter, the first thing seen is an inscription, professing to be a message to each visitor from the Virgin, which says, 'My son, behold me without a temple. Come, help in building it, and I shall reward thee with Eternal Life." [Footnote: Report of the British and Foreign Bible Society.]
Christ said: "I give unto My sheep eternal life"; but the record of that saying is jealously kept from them.
When the early colonists left Spain for the New World, they took with them the Creed of Pius IV. That creed expressly states that the Bible is not for the people. "Whoever will be saved must renounce it. It is a forbidden book."
"In 1850, when the Christian world was first being roused to the darkness of South America, and philanthropic men were desirous of sending Bibles there, Pope Pius IX. wrote an Encyclical letter in which he spoke of Bible study as 'poisonous reading,' and urged all his venerable brethren with vigilance and solicitude to put a stop to it. Thus has South America been denied the revelation of God. The priest has, because of this ignorance, been able to 'lord it over God's heritage.'" [Footnote: Guiness's "Romanism and the Reformation."]