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1. This commandment requires us to receive the ordinances which God hath appointed. This implies that we know what they are; and to obtain this knowledge, it is our duty to study the word of God, in which we are taught, what are the ordinances that God hath appointed. Knowing what they are, it becomes us to approve of them in our minds, and to feel and acknowledge that they are binding upon us.
2. The second commandment requires us to observe the ordinances of God's appointment; that is to wait upon God and worship him in the use of them. Hence to observe his ordinances, is to pray unto him in secret and in our families, to unite in the public prayers of the congregation, to read and search his word, to attend upon the public preaching of it, to sing his praises, to meditate upon divine truth, to examine ourselves, to come to the sacraments, and in short, with a proper frame of mind, to wait upon God, in the use of all the means of grace, which he hath appointed.
3. This commandment requireth us to keep the ordinances which are of divine appointment, pure and entire. We are to observe all the ordinances of God's appointment, in the manner which he has pointed out, where he has prescribed the manner. We are to add no new ordinance of our own invention. And we are to disapprove of, and hate, and according to our place and calling, to oppose, prevent, and remove, as far as in us lies, all false worship, or all worship, either forbidden, or not warranted in the word of God.
II. To consider the sins forbidden in this commandment.
1. They sin against this commandment, who omit the duties required. Hence, they who despise the ordinances of divine worship, break this commandment; and they also who take away any of them. Hence they who deny baptism, the Lord's supper, and singing the praises of God are guilty of a breach of this commandment.
Further, they break this commandment, who, while they acknowledge the ordinances of worship to be obligatory, neglect to observe them. Hence they who neglect prayer, reading the Scriptures, attendance on the public worship of God's house, the sacraments, or
other of the ordinances which God has appointed, are guilty of a breach of this commandment. And further, they also are guilty of the same, who although they externally attend upon, and observe, the ordinances of worship, yet do not attend upon them with a holy frame of mind, and do not observe them with their hearts. The law is spiritual, and the second as well as all the other commandments, refers to the temper, thoughts, desires, and intentions of the mind, as well as to the outward actions. God requires, "My son, give me thine heart." Prov. xxiii. 26. "God is a Spirit; and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth," John iv. 24.
2. The worshipping of God by images is a transgression of this commandment. This is the principal sin forbidden. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them. This prohibits the making of any image of the Deity for any purpose, or any image whatever to be used in religious worship, whether it be intended to be the object of worship, or only a means to excite and assist in devotion. But it does not forbid the making of images of persons and things, whether by the sculpturist or the painter, if these images are not to be used in religious worship.
The use of images in worship has been for a long time, and still is practised in the Roman Catholic and Greek churches. They began to be introduced into some churches, as early as the fourth century of the christian era, and were for many centuries much opposed, and at times occasioned much disturbance; but were finally established. And here a question naturally arises. Is the use of images in worship, such as the representation of the Deity, and the image of the Saviour, of the Virgin Mother, of the cross, or of anything else when used as means of worship, right? This question, I would decidedly answer in the negative. In support of this decision, we may ob
1. The use of images in worship is directly contrary to the plain letter of the second commandment. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or the likeness of any thing" (anything whatever, whether, God or
the creature) "that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." It is evident that the making unto ourselves images to be used in worship, whether they are used as the object, or only as the means of worship, is in direct opposition to the plain letter of this commandment. Of the same import is the following passage Deut. iv. 15, 16, 23. "Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves, for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest ye corrupt yourselves. and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female. Take good heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the Lord your God which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing which the Lord thy God hath forbidden thee."
2. That the use of images as means of worship are wrong may be proved from some examples in Scripture. The calf which Aaron made at Horeb, appears to have been considered not as God, though it is called a God; but only as an image or representation of the true God, in whom they still believed; for Aaron built an altar before it; and made proclamation, and said, to-morrow is a feast to the Lord." Ex. xxxii. 5. And the same may be observed of the calves which Jeroboam king of Israel made. They appear to have been intended not as the objects of worship in themselves, but only as symbols of the Deity to assist them in their devotions. But both these instances are pointedly condemned in the Scriptures.
3. The same may be argued from this consideration, that any representation of the Deity or of the Saviour, must fall so far short of the reality, that it has a tendency rather to give us low and improper thoughts, than to animate our devotions.
4. Admitting that images are at first introduced only to be helps to devotion; yet they are very liable to be abused, and by degrees to become, especially to the ignorant, objects of worship. It is highly probable, if not certain, that the Pagan worship of images as gods, took its rise, from sensible representations or images of God, made at first with what may perhaps be called a pious intention, not to be the objects of worship, but means to remind them of the Supreme Being, and to assist their de
votions. But we know that the consequence was, that these images soon became the objects of worship, and had a religious homage paid to them. And whatever may have been the original intention of introducing images into christian churches, the history of the churches which have sanctioned and maintained them, abundantly prove, that an idolatrous veneration has often been paid to them.
5. We may observe once more that the christian church in the first centuries, did not admit the use of them; for they were not introduced until after the time of Constantine, when there were many innovations made; when vital piety was fast declining, and corruption rapidly increasing; and when the church was filled with worldly and wealthy men, who entered it from secular motives.And they were opposed by those whose doctrine and life declared them to be the real people of God. From all these considerations we conclude that the use of images of any kind, in worship, even when they are intended only to be the means of promoting devotion is wrong, and contrary to the law of God.
3. The second commandment forbids, not only the worshipping of God by images, but in any other way not appointed in his word. This class of sins against the second commandment, may be included under the general term superstition or will-worship, which signifies an excess in religion, or doing things not required by the word of God, or abstaining from things not forbidden. Superstition is expressly forbidden under the name of will-worship, Col. ii. 20, 22, 23. Why as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances-after the commandments and doctrines of men! Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship." The same is condemned Deut. iv. 2. "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." And Mat. xv. 9. "In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Of this superstition or will-worship we have many instances in the numerous rites and ordinances, which the Romish church, have either superadded to those taught in the Scripture, or substituted in their place. Such are the holding to seven sacraments instead of two;
the using of the wafer instead of bread, in the sacrament of the Lord's supper; the withholding the cup from the laity; the lifting up the bread in the sacrament of the Lord's supper, pretending that it is the real body of Christ, and bowing before it and worshipping it; the use of spit tle, salt, and cream, besides water, annointing with oil,and signing with the sign of the cross in badtism; the observance of stated fasts for a certain number of days; fasting stated. ly on certain days of the week; and abstaining from certain kinds of food while others are allowed. There are numerous other rites and ordinances of a similar kind.All these for which there is no command or warrant in the word of God, are superstition or will-worship, and are forbidden by the second commandment.
It is true there are certain circumstances respecting the ordinances of worship, concerning which, there is nothing determined in the word of God, but which are left to the discretion of the church; such are the time and place, and the like circumstances of worship. But for the church to fix and change these according as conveniency may require, is very different from undertaking to introduce new ordinaces, or to superadd to an ordinance something which the word of God does not warrant. We proceed,
III. To consider the reasons annexed to this commandment to enforce obedience to it. These reasons we have contained in the following words; "for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me ; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments."The reasons contained in these words may be included under three particulars, viz. God's sovereignty over us, his propriety in us, and the zeal he hath for his own wor ship.
1. God's sovereignty. "I the Lord." This expresses the essential existence of God. God's sovereignty is founded in his being what he is. He has an essential right to reign, and therefore to give us such laws as he pleases; and it is our duty to obey his commandments. This reason runs thus, I am the Lord, the sovereign of all my creatures, whose will is always law; therefore thou shalt obey my command, not to make unto thee any graven image or