Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume III/Apologetic/On Idolatry/Elucidations
(The Second Commandment, p. 64.)
Tertullian’s teaching agrees with that of Clement of Alexandria and with all the Primitive Fathers. But compare the Trent Catechism, (chapter ii., quest. 17.)—“Nor let any one suppose that this commandment prohibits the arts of painting, modelling or sculpture, for, in the Scriptures we are informed that God himself commanded images of cherubim, and also of the brazen serpent, to be made, etc.” So far, the comparison is important, because while our author limits any inference from this instance as an exception, this Catechism turns it into a rule: and so far, we are only looking at the matter with reference to Art. But, the Catechism, (quest. xxiii. xxiv.), goes on to teach that images of the Saints, etc. ought to be made and honoured “as a holy practice.” It affirms, also, that it is a practice which has been attended with the greatest advantage to the faithful: which admits of a doubt, especially when the honour thus mentioned is everywhere turned into worship, precisely like that offered to the Brazen Serpent, when the People “burned incense to it,” and often much more. But even this is not my point; for that Catechism, with what verity need not be argued, affirms, also, that this doctrine “derives confirmation from the monuments of the Apostolic age, the general Councils of the Church, and the writings of so many most holy and learned Fathers, who are of one accord upon the subject.” Doubtless they are “of one accord,” but all the other way.
(Military service, cap. xix., p. 73.)
This chapter must prepare us for a much more sweeping condemnation of the military profession in the De Spectaculis and the De Corona; but Neander’s judgment seems to me very just. The Corona, itself, is rather Montanistic than Montanist, in the opinion of some critics, among whom Gibbon is not to count for much, for the reasons given by Kaye (p. 52), and others hardly less obvious. Surely, if this ascetic opinion and some similar instances were enough to mark a man as a heretic, what are we to say of the thousand crotchets maintained by good Christians, in our day?
(Passive idolatry, cap. xxii., pp. 74, 75.)
Neander’s opinion as to the freedom of De Idololatria from Montanistic taint, is mildly questioned by Bp. Kaye, chiefly on the ground of the agreement of this chapter with the extravagances of the Scorpiace. He thinks “the utmost pitch” of such extravagance is reached in the positions here taken. But Neander’s judgment seems to me preferable. Lapsers usually give tokens of the bent of their minds, and unconsciously betray their inclinations before they themselves see whither they are tending. Thus they become victims of their own plausible self-deceptions.
(Tacit consents and reservations, cap. xxiii., p. 75.)
It cannot be doubted that apart from the specific case which Tertullian is here maintaining, his appeal to conscience is maintained by reason, by the Morals of the Fathers and by Holy Scripture. Now compare with this the Morality which has been made dogmatic, among Latins, by the elevation of Liguori to the dignities of a “Saint” and a “Doctor of the Church.” Even Cardinal Newman cannot accept it without reservations, so thoroughly does it commit the soul to fraud and hypocrisy. See Liguori, Opp. Tom. II., pp. 34–44, and Meyrick, Moral Theology of the Church of Rome, London, 1855. Republished, with an Introduction, by the Editor of this Series, Baltimore, 1857. Also Newman, Apologia, p. 295 et seqq.
- ↑ See vol. II., p. 186, this series.