THE Treatise on Relics by the great Reformer of Geneva: is not so generally known as it deserves, though at the time of its publication it enjoyed a considerable popularity. F1 The probable reason of this is, that the absurdity of the relics described in this Treatise has since the Reformation gradually become so obvious, that their exhibitors make as little noise as possible about their miraculous wares, whose virtues are no longer believed except by the most ignorant part of the population of countries wherein the education of the inferior classes is neglected. And, indeed, not only Protestants, but many enlightened Roman Catholics believed that all the miracles of relics, images, and other superstitions with which Christianity was infected during the times of mediaeval ignorance would be soon, by the progress of knowledge, consigned for ever to the oblivion of the dark ages, and only recorded in the history of the aberrations of the human mind, together with the superstitions of ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. Unfortunately these hopes have not been realized, and are still remaining amongst the pia desideria. The Roman Catholic reaction which commenced about half a century ago by works of a philosophical nature, adapted to the wants of the most intellectual classes of society, has, emboldened by success, gradually assumed a more and more material tendency, and at length begun to manifest itself by such results as the exhibition of the holy coat at Treves, which produced a great noise over all Germany, F2 the apparition of the Virgin at La Salette, the winking Madonna of Rimini, and, what is perhaps more important than all, the solemn installation of the relics of St Theodosia at Amiens; whilst works of a description similar to the Life of St Francis of Assisi, by M. Chavin de Malan, and the Lives of the English Saints, which I have mentioned on page 113 and 115 of my Introduction, are produced by writers of considerable talent and learning. These are significant facts, and prove, at all events, that in spite of the progress of intellect and knowledge; which is the boast of our century, we seem to be fast returning to a state of things similar to the time when Calvin wrote his Treatise. I therefore believe that its reproduction in a new English translation will not be out of date. On the other side, the politico-religious system of aggression followed by Russia has now taken such a rapid development, that the dangers which threaten the liberties and civilization of Europe from that quarter have become more imminent than those which may be apprehended from the Roman Catholic reaction. Fortunately England and France have taken up arms against the impious crusade proclaimed by the Imperial Pope of Russia. I think that the term impious, which I am advisedly using on this occasion, is by no means exaggerated; because how can we otherwise designate the proceedings adopted by the Czar for exciting the religious fanaticism of the Russians, as, for instance, the letter of the Archbishop of Georgia, addressed to that of Moscow, and published in the official Gazette of St. Petersburg, stating on the authority of the Russian General, Prince Bagration Mukhranski, that during an engagement between the Russians and the Turks, which recently took place in Asia, the Blessed Virgin appeared in the air and frightened the Turks to such a degree that they took to flight! F3 I have developed this subject in the last chapter of my Introduction, in order to show my readers the religious condition of the Russian people, because I think that without it a knowledge of the policy now followed by their Government cannot be well understood, or its consequences fully appreciated.
EDINBURGH, May 1854.
Origin of the worship of relics and images in the Christian Church
Compromise of the Church with Paganism
Position of the first Christian Emperors towards Paganism, and their policy in this respect
Infection of the Christian Church by Pagan ideas and practices during the fourth and fifth centuries — General state of the Christian society during that period — Opposition to the worship of angels, saints, images, and relics — Vigilantlus
Reaction against the worship of images and other superstitious practices by the Iconoclast Emperors of the East — Opposition to the same worship by Charlemagne
Origin and development of the pious legends, or lives of saints, during the middle ages
Analysis of the Pagan rites and practices which have been retained by the Roman Catholic as well as the Greco-Russian Church
Image-worship and other superstitious practices of the Graeco-Russian Church