CHAPTER XIV. MARIOLATRY AND IMAGE WORSHIP.
Before the light of Christianity dawned on ancient Rome, the Pantheon contained goddesses many and gods many. Chief of these deities to receive the worship of the people seems to have been Diana of the Ephesians, a goddess whose image fell down from Jupiter; the celestial Venus of Corinth, and Isis, sister to Osiris, the god of Egypt. These popular images, so universally worshipped, were naturally the aversion of the early followers of Christ. "The primitive Christians were possessed with an unconquerable repugnance to the use and abuse of images. The Jewish disciples were especially bitter against any but the triune God receiving homage, but, by a slow, though inevitable, progression, the honors of the original were transferred to the copy, the devout Christian prayed before the image of a saint, and the pagan rites of genuflexion, luminaries, and incense stole into the Christian Church." [Footnote: Gibbons' "Rome."]
Having Paul's masterly epistle to the Romans, in the first chapter of which he so distinctly portrays man's tendency to change "the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man," and worship and serve the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever, they were careful to remember that "God is a spirit," and to be worshipped only in spirit. Peter, in his epistle to them, also wrote of the One "whom having not seen ye love." As time wore on, however, the original inclination of man to worship a god he could see and feel (a trait seen all down the pages of history) asserted itself, and Mary, the mother of Christ, took the place in the eye and the heart previously occupied by her predecessors. [Footnote: Just as this work goes to press, the dally papers of the world announce that the oldest idol ever discovered has just been unearthed. The idol is a goddess, who is holding an infant in her arms.] Being in possession of the Acts of the Apostles, which plainly declares that Mary herself met with the rest of the disciples "for prayer and supplication," and, knowing from the four Gospels that no worship had been at first given to her, the innovation was slow to find favor; but, in the year 431, the Council of Ephesus decided that Mary was equal with God.
"After the ruin of paganism they were no longer restrained by the apprehension of an odious parallel" in the idol worship. Symptoms of degeneracy may be observed even in the first generations which adopted and cherished this pernicious innovation. "The worship of images had stolen into the Church by insensible degrees, and each petty step was pleasing to the superstitious mind, as productive of comfort and innocent of sin. But, in the beginning of the eighth century, in the full magnitude of the abuse, the more timorous Greeks were awakened by an apprehension that, under the mask of Christianity, they had restored the religion of their fathers. They heard with grief and impatience the name of 'idolaters,' the incessant charge of the Jews and Mahometans, who derived from the Law and the Koran an immortal hatred to graven images and all the relative worship." [Footnote: Gibbons' "Rome."]
It should be a most humiliating fact to the Romanists to have it recorded as authentic history that "the great miracle-working Madonna of Rome, worshipped in the Church of St. Augustina, is only a pagan statue of the wicked Agrippina with her infant Nero in her arms. Covered with jewels and votive offerings, her foot encased in gold, because the constant kissing has worn away the stone, this haughty and evil-minded Roman matron bears no possible resemblance to the pure Virgin Mary; yet crowds are always at her feet, worshipping her. The celebrated bronze statue of St. Peter, which is adored in the great Church, and whose feet are entirely kissed away by the lips of devotees, is but an antique statue of Jupiter, an idol of paganism. All that was necessary to make the pagan god a Christian saint was to turn the thunderbolt in his uplifted right hand to two keys, and put a gilded halo around his head. Yet, on any Church holiday, you will see thousands passing solemnly before this image (arrayed in gorgeous robes, with the Pope's mitre on its head), and after bowing before it, rise on their toes and repeatedly kiss its feet." [Footnote: Vickers' "Rome"]
This method of receiving heathen deities as saints has been common all over South America, and many Indian idols may be seen in the churches, now adored as Roman Catholic saints, while the worship of Mary has grown to an alarming extent. In Lima's largest church, printed right over the chancel, is the motto, "Glory to Mary."
In Cordoba, the Argentine seat of learning - a city so old that university degrees were being given there when the Pilgrim Fathers landed on the shores of New England - charms, amulets and miniature images of the Virgin are manufactured in large numbers. These are worn around the neck, and are supposed to work great wonders. As may be understood, the workers in these crafts stand up for Romanism, and are willing to cry themselves hoarse for Mary, just as the people of old cried for Diana of the Ephesians.
It is often told of the Protestant worker that he keeps behind his door an image of the Blessed Virgin, and, when entering or leaving the house, he spits in her face. No pains are spared to stamp out any dissenting work, and the missionary is made a by-word of opprobrium. I have repeatedly had the doors and windows of my preaching places broken and wrecked. The priests have incited the vulgar crowd to hoot and yell at me, and on these occasions I have been both shot at and stoned.
In Cordoba, there is a very costly image of Mary. Once every year it is brought out into the public square, while all the criminals from the state prison stand in line. By a move of her head she is supposed to point out the one whom she thinks should be given his liberty.