Page images



Second Commandment.


E are now come to the fecond Commandment: which the Church of Rome would perfuade Men is only Part of the firft. But they plainly relate to different Things. The first appoints, that the Object of our Worfhip be only the true God: the next, that we worship not him under any vifible Refemblance or Form. And befides, if we join thefe two into one, there will be no tenth left; though the Scripture itself hath called them ten: to avoid which Abfurdity, the Romanifts have committed another, by dividing the tenth into two. And they might as well have divided it into fix or feven; as I fhall fhew you, in difcourfing upon it. For thefe Reafons, the oldeft and moft confiderable, both of the Jewish and Chriftian Writers, who diftinguish the Commandments by their Number, diftinguish them in the fame Manner, that we do. Perhaps it may feem of small Confequence, how that before us is counted, provided it be not omitted. And we must own, that Tome Perfons before the Rife of Popery, and fome Proteftants fince the Reformation, have, without any ill Defign, reckoned it as the Papifts do. But what both the former have done by mere Miftake, these last endeavour to defend out of Policy: well knowing, that when once they have got the fecond to be confidered as only a Part of the firft, they can much more eafily pafs it over, as a Part of no great feparate Meaning of Importance, than if it were thought a diftinét Precept

2 Exod. xxxiv. 28. D.ut. iv. 13. X. 41

G 6


And accordingly, in fome of their fmall Books of Devotion, they pass it over, and leave it out entirely". But it deferves, as I fhall now fhew you, another Sort of Regard.

The Prophet Ifaiah very juftly puts the Queftion : To whom will ye liken God? Or what Likeness will ye compare unto him? He is an invifible Spirit: therefore reprefenting him in a vifible Shape, is reprefenting him to be fuch as he is not. He is every where prefent: therefore a Figure, confined by its Nature to a particuJar Place, muft incline Perfons to a wrong Conception of him. He is the living, wife, and powerful Governor of the World: therefore to exprefs him by a dead Lump of Matter must be doing him Difhonour. We are unable indeed, at beft, to speak or think worthily of him: and we cannot well avoid ufing some of the fame Phrases, concerning him and his Actions, which we do concerning the Parts and Motions of our own Bodies. But we can very well avoid making vifible Images of him and the plaineft Reafon teaches, that we ought to avoid it; because they lower and debafe Mens Notions of God; lead the weaker Sort into fuperftitious and foolish Apprehenfions and Practices; and provoke thofe of better Abilities, from a Contempt of fuch childish Reprefentations, to difregard and ridicule the Religion, into which they are adopted.

Therefore, in the early Ages of the World, many of the Heathens themselves had no Images of the Deity. Particularly, the ancient Perfians had none. Nor had the firft Romans; Numa, their fecond King, having, as the Philofopher Plutarch, himself a Roman Magiftrate, though a Greek by Birth, tells us, forbidden them to reprefent God in the Form, either of a Man or any other Animal. And accordingly, he faith, they had neither any painted

This they do in the Latin Office of the Virgin, and in fome of their English devotional Books. Indeed there they omit likewife all but the first Sentence of our fourth Commandment, and the Promise in our fifth: perhaps to palliate their preceding Omiffion.

Ifa. xl. 18.

d Herodot, L. 1. §. 131.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

nor engraved Figure of him for 170 Years; but Temples, void of any Image of any Shape: thinking it impious to liken a fuperior Nature to inferior ones; and impoffible to attain the Notion of God other wife, than by the Understanding. And Varro, one of the most learned of their own Authors, after acknowledging, that during more than 170 Years they worshipped the Gods without any vifible Reprefentation, added, that had they never had any, their Religion had been the purer: for which Opinion, among ft other Evidences, he brought that of the Jewish People; and fcrupled not to fay in Conclufion, that they who first fet up Images of the Gods in the feveral Nations, leffened the Reverence of their Countrymen towards them, and introduced Error concerning them. So much wifer were these Heathen Romans in this Point, than the Chriftian Romans are now.

But when fome of the Eaftern Kingdoms had fallen into this Corruption; particularly the Egyptians, who claimed the Invention as an Honour, the great Care of God was to preferve or free his own People from it. The Words of this Commandment express that Purpose very ftrongly: and very clearly forbid not only making and worfhipping Reprefentations of falfe Gods, but any Representation of God at all. And to fhew yet more fully, that even thofe of the true God are prohibited by it, Mofes, in Deuteronomy, immediately after mentioning the Delivery of the ten Commandments, adds with refpect to the fecond: Take therefore good Heed unto yourfelves: for ye faw no Manner of Similitude, on the Day that the Lord Spake unto you in Horeb, out of the Midst of the Fire: left ye corrupt yourselves, and make you the Similitude of any Figure. And when the Ifraelites made a golden Calf in the Wilderness, though evidently their Defign was

e Plut. in Num. P. 65. Ed. Par. 1624.

f Aug. de Civ. Dei, 1. 4. c. 31. Dionyfius Halicarnaffenfis indeed faith, 1. 2. c. 15. p. 87. that Romulus erected Images. But as he mentions them. no otherwife than incidentally, an ongft the Provifions made by that Prince for divine Worship, his Affertion is not fo much to be regarded, as the two contrary more formal ones. Or we may fuppofe, that Numa took them down.

Herodot, 1. 2. §.4.

Deut. iv. 12-15, 16.

[ocr errors]


to reprefent by it, not a falfe Object of Worship, but the Lord (in the Original it is Jehovah) who brought them out of the Land of Egypt; yet they were charged with it, and punished for it, as a Breach of their Covenant with God: and Mofes accordingly broke, on that Occafion, the two Tables of the Commandments, which were, on their Part, the Conditions of that Covenant i. Again, in After-times, when the Kings of Ifrael set up the fame Representation of the fame true God at Dan and Bethel; the Scripture conftantly speaks of it, as the leading Sin, from which all the rest of their Idolatries, and at last their utter Destruction proceeded. For, from worshipping the true God by an Image, they foon came to worship the Images of falfe Gods too; and from thence fell into all Sorts of Superstition, and all Sorts of Wickedness.

Yet the Church of Rome will have it, that we may now very lawfully and commendably practife what the Jews were forbidden. But obferve: not only the Jews, but the Heathens alfo, who never were fubject to the Law of Mofes, are condemned in Scripture for this Mode of Worship. For St. Paul's Accufation against them is, that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God; but became vain in their Imaginations; and changed the Glory of the incorruptible God into an Image, made like to corruptible Man. And in another Place he argues with the Athenians thus. Forafmuch as we are the Offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto Gold or Silver or Stone, graven by Art and Man's Device. And the Times of this Ignorance God winked at: but now commandeth all Men every where to repent'.

Where then is, or can be, the Allowance of that Image Worship in the Bible, for which Multitudes of the Romish Communion are as earneft, as if it was commanded there? Nor is Antiquity more favourable to it, than Scripture. For the primitive Chriftians abhorred the very Mention of Images: holding even the 1 Acts xvii. 29, 30.

¡Exod. xxxii.

* Rom. i. 21, 23.



Trade of making them to be utterly unlawful. And indeed pretending to frame a Likeness of God the Father Almighty, whom no Man ever hath feen or can fee, as fome of that Church have done, without any Cenfure from the Rulers of it, liberal as they are of Cenfures on other Occafions, is both a palpable and a heinous Breach of this Commandment. For, though we find in the Old Testament, that an Angel hath fometimes appeared, reprefenting his Perfon, as an Ambaffador doth that of his Prince; and though, in a Vifion of the Ancient of Days, his Garment was white as Snow, and the Hair of his Head like pure Wool"; yet thefe Things gave the Jews no Right then, and therefore can give us none now, to make other, or even the like, Reprefentations of him, contrary to his exprefs Order.

Our bleffed Saviour indeed exifted in a human Form. But we have not the leaft Knowledge of any one Part or Feature of his Perfon. And therefore all Attempts of exhibiting a Likeness of him are utterly vain. Befides, he hath appointed a very different Memorial of himself, the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: and we ought to think that a fufficient one. These others can ferve no good Purpose, but what, by due Meditation, may be attained as well without them. And there is great and evident Danger of Evil in them, from that unhappy Pronenefs of Mankind to fix their Thoughts and Affections on fenfible Objects, instead of raifing them higher; which if any one doth not feel in himself, he must however fee in others. But particularly in this Cafe, long Experience hath given fad Proof, that from fetting up Images of our gracious Redeemer, the holy Virgin, and other Saints, to remind Perfons of them and their Virtues, the World hath run on to pay fuch imprudent and extravagant Honours to the Figures themselves, as by Degrees have arifen to the groffeft Idolatry.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »